Joseph: Model of Obedience- Matthew 1.18-25

Try to imagine the situation of Joseph. He is about to marry the woman he loves then he has found out that she is pregnant and he is sure that he is not the father. If the situation leaks to other people, they would accuse Mary of committing adultery and they could stone her to death. Following the Jewish custom, their betrothal vows bind them both and only a writ of divorce can set either of them free. It could have been a very painful experience. What will he do? Perhaps, any normal man would be enraged thinking that his fiancée has been unfaithful. However, in Matthew’s account, Joseph has decided in his heart to save Mary’s honor by releasing her from her vow by secretly filing a divorce.

Suddenly, an angel appears to him in a dream and tells him that the baby Mary bears in her womb is of the Holy Spirit; that she will give birth to the long-expected Messiah. It could have been the biggest shock of his life. He, being an ordinary Jewish carpenter would have the great task of taking care of the Savior child as his foster father.

Awaking from sleep, he has shown an extra-ordinary step in faith. He has done as the angel has bid him. He has modeled the kind of obedience a true believer ought to show. He has done exactly what God has told him to do: he took Mary to be his wife.

Joseph is a model of obedience for all Christians today. It is unconditional and without any hesitation. He has not even asked any question. He has received the message from the angel of the Lord in faith and has acted bravely, fully trusting the wisdom of God’s purpose.

However, how was he able to act with such a level of selfless obedience? Where did he draw his strength to trust and obey?

Image borrowed from: iamthewordthecomforter.blogspot.com

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The Handmaid of the Lord- Luke 1.34-38

“(And Mary said…) Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.” -Luke 1:38

Angel Gabriel told Mary the good news that she had found favor in God’s eyes and she was going to conceive and give birth to the Savior Jesus Christ. It must have had been scary and shocking for her. First, she was not going to bear an ordinary child; it would be the Savior of the world- God incarnate. Second, she was a virgin and espoused to marry Joseph. It would have had been difficult for her to imagine how Joseph would feel and think if she would get pregnant even before they got together.

She asked, “How could it be, seeing that I know not a man?”

Sometimes, it is not wrong to ask the Lord about things we do not understand especially in particular endeavors, which He wants us to accomplish. Perhaps, He affirms within us the burden to do mission work in a distant place but we do not have enough funds at hand to sustain such a venture. Are we going to stop then? Perhaps like Mary, we would like to inquire of God about His will.

Angel Gabriel told Mary, in verse 35, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you…” The same message goes to all of us. God shall come upon us and His power shall go with us. We only need to obey and He will take care of the rest. For with God, nothing is impossible (v.37).

Like Mary, let us become “handmaids” or servants of the Lord, ready and willing to take on whatever the Lord commands us to do no matter how inconvenient, uncertain or dangerous it may seem for us.

Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All- Luke 1.26-33

“And behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name- JESUS.” –Luke 1:31

Christmas in the Philippines

Here in the Philippines, we hold the longest and the most festive Christmas celebration in the whole world. It starts from December 16 to January 6 of the following year. People adorn their houses with lanterns of different styles and sizes, Christmas trees with all sorts of lights, glitters and balls. Even the streets come alive at night with the different lights that dance with the cool December breeze. People fill marketplaces and shopping malls to buy special food like ham, cheese, and fruits for family reunions on Christmas Eve noche buena; and gifts for their friends and loved ones using their Christmas bonuses. There are Christmas parties and kris kringle almost in every corner, in schools and workplaces to celebrate the special holiday. People fill churches to hear mass or worship services to relive the biblical story of Christmas.

It is indeed the happiest season of all!

However, people has become so preoccupied will the festivities more than the birthday celebrator. They trouble themselves so much, with what they will prepare for Christmas and New Year’s Eve and the gifts that they are going to give and receive. What will Christmas be if there are no festive meals on Christmas Eve? Will it be the same if you do not have money to buy gifts for your loved ones? What will Christmas be in evacuation centers while a volcano threatens to erupt and destroy livelihood and human settlement? Will there be Christmas after a loved one has just passed away two days before Christmas Day? Will there be Christmas after losing your home and everything you have from fire one day before Christmas Eve?

For a Christian, Christmas brings tidings of great comfort and joy. It is a fulfillment of a promise that God has made and the tangible evidence of God’s amazing love. Whatever situation you may be in right now, the message of Christmas will renew your strength and empower your faith. Christ the Savior is born and He will save you from your hardship and pain.

On the first Christmas, sometime in 4BC, God has incarnated and has dwelt among men to save us from sin and give us eternal life with Him. The Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest gift humanity has ever received from the boundless grace and love of the Father, the Lamb of God that has taken away the sin of the world at the cross in Calvary.

Image from: www.flickr.com

The Nativity Story

We can find the record or account of the birth of our Lord Jesus only in two books in the New Testament. The first is in the gospel according to Matthew 1:8-25-2:1-23, which, records events before and after Christ’s birth. Second, the gospel according to Luke 2:1-40, which, records the events prior to Mary’s conception, the actual conception and the birth of the Lord Jesus.

We can read the account of the visit of the Magi in Matthew 2:1-12. A careful study of the record indeed reveals important facts that differ from the traditional story we have always known. The visit of the magi is historically, a post Christmas event (v.1 NIV) and they have found the child Jesus in a house (v.11), not in a stable, contrary to what traditional Bethlehem scenes depict, almost two years after His birth (v.16).

You would notice in the account of St Luke particularly starting in chapter 2:21 and the following that 40 days after the birth, Mary and Joseph presented Jesus to the temple. Then in verse 39, Luke wrote that when the ceremony of presenting the child, and purifying the mother, was all over, they returned into Galilee. Luke related no more concerning them until Jesus was twelve years old. There seemed a twelve years gap. However, it appears in the gospel according to St. Matthew particularly in the second chapter that they returned to Bethlehem in those silent years, stayed there for nearly two years before the wise men from the east found them.

Enemies of the gospel say that either Luke was wrong in his writing or the wise men’s story was only a mere concoction of the early Christians. I adamantly disagree to that notion. I would like to share this article to help us defend our faith against those who refute the infallibility of the holy Bible.

Image:
nativity_scene.jpg
available for free download at http://www.tnpsc.com

Destructive Pride- Proverbs 16.18

“Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” –Proverbs 16:18

Christ Our Pilot by Warner Sallman

Leaning on our own wisdom and judgment might just lead us toward an ice burg and crash senselessly. Man is prone to error and miscalculations no matter how good he thinks he has prepared for the life long travel. If he will insist to be the captain of his own ship, he might end up under the sea of life.

The Pharos of Alexandria in its grandeur and beauty may also symbolize man’s quest for glory and recognition. By nature, man boasts about accomplishments, which sometimes deludes him in thinking that he is self-made or self-sufficient.

In the earthquake of 1303, the towering monument of Ptolemy, the Pharos of Alexandria crumbled to the ground, and never rose again. It only proves that anything that the human hands build is but temporary. Anyone who takes pride on himself might share the same fate.

Keep on steering the wheel of life with confidence as an obedient pilot. Take pride not in the countless successes you gain in your journey but in the wisdom, power, and faithfulness of the Lord Jesus- the Captain of your ship.

In this life, God designs our course and destination and we navigate toward the completion. He does not make the decisions for us but He can guide our decisions through his prompting. He will not drag us down to accomplish His will; He will only show us the vision and the way then He will give us the chance to follow and reap the reward of our obedience. If you we know the Lord, we will recognize His prompting and if we trust Him as the captain of our ship, we will obey.

Faith is neither complacent nor passive. It is not a passenger seat voyage. Faith requires action and participation for everything we do is an act of worshipful obedience.

In this life’s voyage, is Jesus the captain of your ship? Do you follow Him or you still navigate on your own?

Image: Christ Our Pilot by Warner Sallman

Principle of the Lighthouse- Psalm 27.1

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” –Psalm 27:1

a depiction of the pharos of Alexandria

One of the seven wonders of the ancient world is the Pharos of Alexandria, a tall tower that has approximately measured to about 440 feet high, which has served as a landmark and a lighthouse for seafarers in the island of Alexandria.

Alexander the Great envisioned the lighthouse tower in Alexandria however, after his early demise in 323 BC, his most trusted general Ptolemy, ordered the building of the tower after pronouncing himself as king as a monument for himself. The construction ended sometime between 285 and 247 BC. Traveler Ibn Jubayr who visited the city in 1183 AD described it as: “Description of it falls short, the eyes fail to comprehend it, and words are inadequate, so vast is the spectacle.”

The essential purpose of a lighthouse is to guide seafarers away from rocks, sand bars, shorelines, or coral reefs and other dangerous spots that are not readily visible especially at night time or under a dark sky. The lighthouse can give the warning sign to ships that they are closing in to such places. It can also serve as a landmark so that seafarers would not get lost in their travel.

Life, too, is a distant travel. We need a guiding light so that we can steer away from trouble, hard knocks, and bumps that throw us out of a straight course. The psalmist has sung, “The Lord is my light.” The Lord should be our light as well. He will remove the darkness away and will lead us in the right direction.

We only need to follow our navigational instrument. Seafarers have maps, compass, rulers, radar, sonar, landmarks, and lighthouses in order to have a secure travel. We, have the Bible. The psalmist has sung, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” We do not need to know and see what lies in the future; we only need to follow him in each step of the way.

Center Photo:   http://www.users.bigpond.com/msn/gary_fletcher/pharos5.jpg

Lighthouse of Alexandria

At the Crossroad- Proverbs 14.12

“There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” Proverbs 14:12.

facing a crossroad

In an organizational training about road mapping, the speaker used in his slide show presentation an excerpt of the animation movie, Alice in Wonderland. It shows Alice trekking down a road. When she arrives at a crossroad, she could not decide which road to take to carry on her journey. At the side of the road, she sees a Cheshire cat sitting on a branch so she asks the cat:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” The cat answered.

“I don’t much care where.” She replied.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” The cat said.

If we do not know where we want to go, then it really would not matter which road to take and a haphazard choice could lead us into messy situations along the way. Solomon said, “There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” Proverbs 14:12.

Often, the one, which looks smooth and easy, attracts us. We would always prefer the short cut because we are not willing to wait but apparently, the longer route, which looks difficult at first, is the one that truly leads to the right destination.

The Israelites could have reached the Promised Land in eleven days had they gone through the land of the Philistines but God did not lead them that way because they might just return to Egypt so easily when they start to feel the difficulty of war. Instead, God led them through the wilderness of the Red Sea so that they could learn to depend on His power for victory. Where is God leading you?

At a crossroad experience, it is only fitting to take a short breather to pause and pray. We only need the wisdom of God that enables us to see the light that leads toward the right direction and let the Spirit of God direct our options.

Photo: “facing a crossroad” c/o –http://www.brownsgallery.co.uk/

Facing Blank Walls- John 21.1-14

“Simon Peter said unto them, I am going fishing. They said unto him, we also will go with you…” – John 21:3

Sometimes, life gives us choices but there are times when it takes us to a seeming dead end.

A good friend has lamented about an experience he has had before. He said, “Some complain about reaching a crossroad in life. They do not know, which way to go. At least, they can choose unlike me, I face a blank wall, I have nowhere to go.”

Often, we find ourselves in situations where we do not know what to do or where to go next. Sometimes, life gives us choices but there are times when it takes us to a seeming dead end.

Peter might have experienced the same when his Master died. All his strength, joy, and aspirations centered on the Lord alone and you could just imagine the grief and frustration that he had when he had seen him die. “What would we do?” “Where else could we go?” It was as if a huge blank wall suddenly stood in their way. Peter had decided to go back and return to fishing. The other apostles went with him but to their further frustration, on their first fishing expedition, they had no catch.

They lost their focus when they thought that the Lord had failed their expectations so the Lord had to lead them back on track not as fishermen but fishers of men. He revealed himself unto them through the miraculous catch of fish; one hundred fifty three in all yet the net did not break. He reminded them of their calling and restored their strength. It emboldened them once again, having the assurance that the Lord is living and looking after them.

In this life’s journey, we need to stay focused on our God-given goal. We may face blank walls every now and then but we should not allow these situations to stop us from becoming what God wants us to be. God has never failed our expectations. Often, we are victims of our own finite perception but as long as we let the Lord lead the way, we can break through any blank wall.