faithfulness

Trustworthy Joseph

Photo by  Liane Metzler  on  Unsplash

Who would you trust?

If you were God—you’re not nor am I—but imagine what it would be like for God to consider who He would entrust as a father for His newborn Son.

We live in a world where trust appears as a fragile virtue—when trust is scarce. But the world is not so different now, in that sense, as when Jesus was born almost 2000 years ago.

Israel—God’s people—were a nation under occupation by the powerful pagan Roman empire, including its ruthless soldiers.

Not so special

Look at the attention given to the British Royal family and the Queen’s grandchildren! We might expect a lot more attention and fanfare for the birth of God’s only Son (John 1:14). But it wasn’t so.

A remarkable facet of the Christmas story is how the birth of Jesus took place.

No special national attention was given to His birth until two years later (Matthew 2:1–12). And that attention proved to be tragic (Matt 2:16–18).

Sure, there was an awesome angelic announcement outside of Bethlehem (Luke 2:8, 14), but who heard it? A group of nomadic—not-so-clean nor trustworthy—shepherds. They were not people of honorable status.

Shepherds were the equivalent of the old range cowboys of America — not exactly who you’d want your daughter to marry. Not quite the royal announcement you’d expect for the birth of the King of Kings!

No ordinary man

One of the fascinating parts of the Christmas story to me is the father of the Savior of the world. Actually, Joseph was the stepfather (Luke 1:26–38).

This is made clear by Joseph’s initial plan when he heard his bride-to-be was pregnant. He knew it wasn’t his child. But here’s where the story takes an unexpected turn.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was engaged to marry Joseph, but before they married, she learned she was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because Mary’s husband, Joseph, was a good man, he did not want to disgrace her in public, so he planned to divorce her secretly. (Matt 1:18–19 NCV)

Joseph was not an ordinary man. At first, he may appear ordinary, as a carpenter from a small town in northern Palestine (Israel). What makes Joseph extraordinary is the trust God places in him.

Joseph was a trustworthy man

Photo by  Filip Mroz  on  Unsplash

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

Consider Joseph the man

The first thing I notice is Joseph’s character. He was “a good man.” Other Bible versions use the words just, righteous, upright, and honorable to describe Joseph. He had integrity. The kind of character God could trust.

Joseph was a compassionate and humble man

When Joseph finds out Mary—the woman he is legally promised to marry—is pregnant, he doesn’t want to publicly disgrace her. Though it was humiliating, he wasn’t vindictive. He still loved his wife-to-be.

Joseph was spiritually perceptive

His plan to quietly divorce Mary is interrupted by a dream. In the dream, an angel of the Lord informs Joseph what’s taking place.

While Joseph thought about these things, an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, descendant of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit.

She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this happened to bring about what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and they will name him Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.” (Matt 1:20–23 NCV)

Consider this remarkable message to Joseph

  • Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit, not another man

  • Joseph is to go forward with the marriage

  • The child will be a son, to be named Jesus, because He will be a Savior

  • This was planned by God long ago

  • The Son’s name means “God is with us”

A final insight into Joseph’s trustworthiness is his response to all of this.

Joseph responded in faith to the message from God’s angel

When Joseph woke up, he did what the Lord’s angel had told him to do. Joseph took Mary as his wife, but he did not have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to the son. And Joseph named him Jesus. (Matt 1:24–25 NCV)

  • Joseph takes Mary as his wife

  • He accepts and bears the scandalous appearance of illegitimacy

  • He abstains from sexual relations with Mary until after the child’s birth

  • He names the child Jesus

Joseph was a faithful and responsible man

More to the story

There is more to the story, of course, but you can read it yourself. The story of Christmas is found in the first two chapters of both the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Joseph’s qualities as a man — good character, compassion and humility, spiritual perception, and faithfulness — add up to a trustworthy man.

These are qualities to be admired in any man

God is still looking for men like Joseph. Men who are trustworthy to bring the message of God’s redemption to a dark, insecure, and untrusting world.

This Christmas, think about the man to whom God entrusted as a father to care for His Son — the Savior of the world.

The Savior — crucified and risen, now seated in power in heaven — will transform any person who puts their trust in Him above all.

God is still looking for men like Joseph who are trustworthy

Are you willing to become a person like Joseph?

Personal Application Question

Which of Joseph’s virtues do you most identify with and which one do you least identify with—his integrity of character, compassion, humility, spiritual perception, faithfulness, or his trust in God?


This post was first published in Publishous on Medium— Trustworthy Joseph

Fresh Mercy

Photo by  Roman Kraft  on  Unsplash

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Every morning God’s mercy is fresh and new

Have you ever smelled fresh-baked bread as it comes out of the oven?

I remember mornings in the Philippines when I’d walk by a bakery and smell the fresh pan de sal rolls baked fresh every day. It makes me hungry just thinking about it!

Living near the beach in North Florida, I enjoy taking in the fresh salt air drifting in from the ocean or the rain evaporating with the first rays of daybreak.

These images come to mind as I read these verses about the Lord’s mercies being new every morning. They bring great assurance though written during a very dark time in the history of Israel.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22–23)

Read more…

This post was originally published in Publishous on Medium—click on the link “Read more…” for the rest of the post… Thanks!

Refreshing Souls in a Cynical World

Photo by  Ethan Sykes  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash

Becoming consistent, credible, and faithful people with a message of life

Most of us like consistency but not monotony. We want to be able to count on something but don’t want it to be repetitious. So, how do you get the one without the other?

We’ve all experienced the fickleness of people saying one thing but doing another. It can make us wonder if there’s anyone who can be faithful and consistent in what they say and do.

For example, take politics. It’s easy to become cynical when a politician makes promises they don’t keep after their election to office. For that matter, we’ve seen this in other aspects of life, including the church.

So, how can this change? How can we find consistency, credibility, and faithfulness in our life?

The trite old expression comes to mind — become the solution. But how?

How can we find consistency, credibility, and faithfulness?

The coolness of snow

Like the coolness of snow on a harvest day, ⌊so⌋ is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him: He refreshes his masters. (Proverbs 25:13 GW)

At first glance, the idea of the coolness of snow and harvest time might not make sense. Wouldn’t the snow be bad for the harvest? It probably would be, but this is a figurative picture to stimulate the mind’s senses.

You probably have some idea of what a harvest is like when workers bring in a new crop. It’s hot and dusty work, and the dust gets caked onto the worker’s sweaty bodies.

If you were one of the workers in the field, what would you want at that point? How about an ice-cold drink of water from a snow-fed stream? Sounds good, doesn’t it?

This is the idea of a faithful messenger or servant who refreshes the soul of his master. This needs to be true of us as followers of Jesus.

Our master isn’t a boss or a parent or any other authority figure—it’s Jesus, the humble servant-leader who laid His life down for all people everywhere (Mark 10:45).

We need to be a refreshment to those with whom we share the life-giving message of the gospel and to whom we are accountable—at work, at home, in relationships in our daily life. This extends God’s kingdom on earth.

The world needs living refreshment

People in the world around us also need refreshment. When we are a refreshing bright spot in the lives of others, this reflects upon our Lord Jesus — our Master.

I imagine it also refreshes Him.

Jesus sends us believers out with His message written in our hearts. It’s a message of hope, love, and restoration that refreshes the hearts of a thirsty world. A world thirsty for compassion, faithfulness, and hope.

When we are faithful in all we do in this life, we become a refreshment to others. We are also faithful messengers of our gracious Master — Jesus.

Have you found yourself getting cynical about people, and your purpose in life?

It’s hard not to get cynical and bitter but we are called to something better as followers of Jesus.

How we can begin changing the world around us

Look around at the people in your life. How do you see them?
Do you see people through cynical eyes or through the eyes of Jesus?

Think of the ways other people have refreshed you. This gives you insight into how you can be a refreshment to others. Start with simple things and do it without expectations of anything in return.

Look for ways you can be a refreshment in the lives of people around you. Here are 3 ways to get you started—

  1. Say an encouraging word to those who serve you in some way—a server at a restaurant, someone at work, anyone who does something for you. Look them in the eye and let them know you see them and appreciate them.
  2. Greet people along the way of life each day. Again, look them in the eye, show them respect, say something encouraging about the day, them, and the Lord.
  3. Give someone a call—perhaps someone you’ve lost touch with for a while or someone you’ve recently met who needs encouragement. Invite someone for a cup of coffee or whatever. Offer to pray for someone while you’re with them.

Even if the world doesn’t seem to change as much as you’d like, when you refresh others you’ll be refreshed and blessed, and I’m pretty sure it will bless the Lord and others you’re unaware of in the process.


This post was originally published on Faith Hacking in Medium

Here's another post of mine on Faith Hacking in Medium— The Problem with Stinginess

Call to Remember

kutrovski.jpg

kutrovski.jpg

Eating breakfast with my dad

Most mornings my dad would have Tasters Choice instant coffee and some type of bread or toast for breakfast. As we ate together, he would share stories from his life growing up in the Soviet Union. Most of these were about the trials and tribulations of following Jesus.

My dad witnessed and heard stories of ministers imprisoned in Siberia for their faith. When my dad was drafted into the Red Army, he suffered persecution for not bearing arms. He shared stories of allegiance to one kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven.

My father's stories and many other faith stories from my grandmother had a strong impact on me. They reminded me God is always faithful and He is always good.

These stories also remind me that my faith is not only personal but a part of God's story from generations before me and will continue generations after me.

Remember everything God has done

Moses commanded the people to remember everything God did. The repetitive theme in chapter eight is to remember the relationship between God and His people.

"Remember that for 40 years the LORD your God led you on your journey in the desert." (Deut 8:2 GW)

Moses didn't just remind the people of all the good times. The exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt wasn't all rainbows and butterflies. These people went through harsh times. Yet, in the midst of their hardship, God was never absent.

"So he made you suffer from hunger and then fed you with manna, your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t swell these past 40 years." (Deut 8:3-4 GW)

Remembering that leads to hope in the future

Remembering what God has done throughout our lives and the generations before gives us hope and a future.

Moses reminded the people of the 40 years they wandered in the desert. Even as the Israelites went through a time of refinement God was present. 

Remembering God's goodness in the past leads us to God's goodness in the future.

After Moses reminded the Israelites of God's faithfulness, he commanded them to follow the Lord and told them of the glorious promise to come. 

"The land will have enough food for you, and you will have everything you need." (Deut 8:9 GW)

The call to remember keeps us anchored in God's plan and purpose. His story is grand and dynamic.

The bigger picture

When we look back at what God has done in our lives, and the generations before us we begin to understand that it's not "all-about-me" and the present circumstances.

There is a big picture and a dynamic purpose. It started before us and will continue after us.

My Dad's stories of his faith and God's faithfulness in his life spurred me on to seek and know God. They reminded me that God was writing my story before I was even born.

God's story, me, and you

What God started years before me, he continues to work out through me and will continue to do so many generations after me.

“You saw with your own eyes all these spectacular things that the LORD did.” (Deut 11:7 GW)

Reflect on all that God's done in your life, and receive the promise of what God will do.

This is a guest post by Sergei Kutrovski (@kutrovski)

Ready to Engage

Photo by–Jordan McQueen_Unsplash
Photo by–Jordan McQueen_Unsplash

Faithfulness is a virtue. That's what I was taught when I was young. But as I grew older, I wondered why I didn't see much of it. Now I wonder if it's considered a virtue worth valuing.

Faithfulness is valuable, more than ever. Its value is seen in two important ways—our character and in relationships. In a world where we may wonder if integrity counts for anything, those who are faithful, those who can be counted on, are especially valuable.

And then there are relationships. Faithfulness in relationships may seem naive, but oh how valuable it is. Anyone who has been wounded by unfaithfulness or violated trust knows this.

The world is looking for people who are faithful in life and relationships. This should be commonplace for people of the Christian faith—for God is always faithful.

Keep alert for opportunities

Last week, we looked at the value of getting personal and connecting with people and their life stories. I've posted about this before, but it bears repeating. It's easy to discount the value of our life story, but over the years I've been enriched hearing the stories of other people.

There's always more to people than first impressions and appearances. When we're able to connect our own life story and that of others to God's story of redemption, a wonderful depth and dimension is added.

This week, I want to wrap this series up by looking at how to be alert for opportunities to engage people, and be ready to share your faith.

Look for opportunities in everyday life

The routine of every day life can lull us into a dull stupor, if we're not careful. If you find yourself sleep-walking through life, it's time to stop and look around at life passing you by. When you do, you'll start seeing the people you cross paths with in a different light. But this requires an additional step.

This additional step needs to be intentional. It's a step requiring us to look beyond ourself. There's a place for introspection, a small place in life. When we look inside for too long, we lose perspective and all we begin to see is our self. Jesus calls us to deny our self (Luke (9:23), not study our self. Once we get our eyes off our self, we'll be able to see people in our life.

As mentioned last week, we need to be open to getting personal with people. Not nosy and getting in their business, but interested in them. This means asking questions about them and showing genuine interest in them and their life story. This usually opens up opportunities to share our own life story, or better, God's story.

Get more familiar with various stories in the Bible

Bible stories aren't just for children in Sunday School. When I tell people about biblical storying, the first reaction is often dismissing it as too simple and childlike. Funny, I remember Jesus saying we need to become like children to be included in God's kingdom (Matt 18:1-5).

But stories are loved by everyone—everyone. I shared last week about my experience overseas and in a village church in Ethiopia. My first awareness of the power of telling stories came while teaching children, and especially overseas. And then there's Jesus who often taught with stories called parables to convey the truth of God's kingdom.

How do you become more familiar with the stories of the Bible? Again, we need to be intentional. You can start by reading and listening through the Bible. I recommend using various Bible versions so you can hear it in other words than whatever version you normally use.

There are several resources for learning stories in the Bible, and for learning how to tell biblical stories well. Here's one online site where you will find several resources—International Orality Network (ION)

Photo by– Nicolai Bernsten_Unsplash
Photo by– Nicolai Bernsten_Unsplash

Pray and trust God for opportunities

One simple way to be alert for opportunities to engage people with stories is to pray. It's amazing how simplistic this may sound, and yet how effective it is. In our DIY era, we sometimes overlook the simplest, most essential things. Prayer is one of those simple essentials in the kingdom of God.

Start each day with a simple prayer for God to open doors with people. Once you pray, trust God to do so. Then be alert to the people He puts in your path. They may not be the people you expect. When you're aware of the people in your day's path, look for opportunities to engage them in conversation.

If you're not sure about this, refer back to last week's post—Getting Personal. Once you engage people in conversation, silently pray for God's guidance when He opens the door for you to share your life story of faith and God's story.

Follow up with people

You need to follow-up with the people with whom you share your faith. This should be obvious, but just in case it's not, it is important. This is not a one-and-done effort, we need to see it through beyond casual encounters. People talk about wanting genuine community today. Community requires long-term commitment. There are no short cuts.

The kingdom of God on earth is seen in the early church (Acts 2:42-47) as they learned how to live out their new life as believers. Sharing about their faith was natural for them. When my wife and I were new believers, no one needed to prompt us to share our faith with others. It came out of us naturally. Our life changed and we told others about it.

Not everyone we engage in conversation is ready to hear our story or God's story of redemption. It may require us to continue talking with them on various occasions, to build relationship and trust with them. Your genuine interest in people will do more to open doors than clever things to say.

So, pray, trust God, step out and engage people and build relationship with them. When opportunities come up, step through the open door. Be a good friend. And be a faithful friend, first to Jesus, then to others.

Give it a try. Even when things don't go as you want or expect, remember—the example of your life speaks loudest of all.

This is the final (for now) post on how to be an evangelist without really trying. I may do a follow-up post on how to learn and tell a biblical story to fit with your own life story or the life story of others.

If you'd like to know more about learning and telling biblical stories, let me know by sending me an email through my contact page.

Thanks for reading and feel free to share this post with others!