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Joseph and Mary

In New Mexico, on Christmas Eve, we have a beautiful tradition where we light the way for Joseph and Mary so they can find the inn with the stable to have baby Jesus. Imagine yourself walking in a small New Mexican village, a beautiful blanket of majestic stars overhead and surrounded by hundreds to thousands of these lights, it is still, it is quiet and it is beautiful. That was my Christmas Eve growing up. We would put out about 500 of the luminarias ourselves in addition to what the 4H club would do around the catholic church and the village park, not to mention their live manger scene across from the church…but late at night, after all the sightseeing cars had cleared and after we were done eating our fill of pozole, tamales and impanaditas at our grandmother’s house we would walk home and find ourselves immersed amongst the beautiful lights. Beautiful luminarias lighting the way for Joseph and Mary, lighting the way for Jesus.

Today at church, during our Christmas Eve service the pastor talked about something that I hadn’t ever thought about before. Joseph had brought Mary to Bethlehem for a census because that was his family’s place of origin…but there was no place for them to be found! If a family member was bringing his 9 to 10 month pregnant fiancé with him surely she would have a priority spot…unless the family was ashamed of them. The stark silence in scripture left by Joseph’s family in Bethlehem is a silent reminder of the shame and rejection that both Joseph and Mary accepted as they together submitted to God’s plan for their lives. Joseph was willing to be put to shame and to be rejected by his own family in order for Mary to become his wife. That is a big deal. However, Joseph did not simply stay betrothed to Mary because he loved her, had made a commitment to her or found her to be attractive, in fact the Bible tells us that Joseph planned to “quietly put Mary away” and divorce her because of the public shame she was sure to endure due to her pregnancy before marriage. God stepped in though and intervened. When God wants something to be accomplished He will sometimes intervene and for Joseph that meant a dream. Most of us also know that Mary had the incredible blessing of an actual angel visiting her, the angel Gabriel, but Joseph had the actual Angel of God visit him in a dream. I feel like this was a higher honor because the Angel of God refers to God himself rather one of the angels under God. I personally feel like this is a beautiful picture of God honoring the authority He was giving Joseph over Mary and Jesus as their earthly father and husband. God appeared to Joseph in a dream and commanded him to stay engaged to Mary in spite of her pregnancy. Joseph did not dismiss the dream or allow doubt to have a foothold, instead he submitted to God which meant submitting to a situation where both himself and Mary would be shamed and rejected by family, friends and society. It would have been a lot easier for Joseph to dismiss the dream and to move on and marry another woman and live a quiet life as a carpenter…to become Mary’s husband meant to become an outcast in the eyes of his family and probably in the eyes of others as well…the decision Joseph made was a big deal, something we should not take lightly, and can you imagine the emotional turmoil this meant for Mary? She had already submitted to God and was pregnant! If Joseph decided to not marry her because of the shame it would bring upon them both then she would have been a single mother and a “damaged virgin” for life most likely! She was hinging her entire life and her heart’s desire to be a wife and a godly mother on faith. That is a big deal too! If I was in Mary’s shoes and if Joseph rejected me because of the irreversible, life-altering faith decision I had made then my heart would have been shattered. But, Praise God, Both Jospeh and Mary responded in faith, in a manner of submission to God’s authority over their lives even though that meant allowing themselves to be put to shame in the eyes of people that they cared about:

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the LORD had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” Matthew 18:24-25

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.” Luke 1:38

The submission to a situation where they were willing to be put to shame for God’s will to be done in their lives was a foreshadowing of Jesus Himself. In the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 50:6-7 it reads:

“I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting, For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.”

If God calls us to do something that requires us to allow ourselves to be put to shame by smiters, whether they be our own family members like Joseph and Mary experienced in Bethlehem or whether it be by religious leaders like Jesus experienced before and during the cross, we can either choose to accept their proclamations of shame or we can despise their shame and choose to not be ashamed in spite of their actions as we set our faces likes flint upon Jesus, the Author and Perfect of Faith.

Hebrews 12:1-3 puts it this way:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Yes there was shame for Jesus hanging naked on the cross. Yes there was shame for Jesus having His beard ripped out in chunks and being spit upon. Yes there was shame for Joseph, marrying a woman that was pregnant out of wedlock. Yes there was shame for Mary being impregnated as a virgin in a society where sex before marriage was very shameful indeed. Yes there was shame….but Joseph, Mary and Jesus all submitted to God and allowed the shame for the joy set before them, to honor and to glorify God.

Ultimately Mary, Joseph and Jesus found themselves in situations where they no longer belonged. Where they had to either be accepted by religious people and go against God or be rejected by family and society in order to belong to God. We can either belong to God or we can belong to people. I would rather be put to shame and feel a bit like a lost toy that no longer belongs to people, but does belong to God, I would rather set my eyes upon Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of my Faith and trust Him to provide for my every need. I choose to walk by faith and to continually remind myself that God loves me and that God is for me, not against me. He loves me a lot…I have to remember that He loves me so much that He was spit on for me. That He was hung, naked on a tree for me. He gave His life for me…He was put to shame for me.

I cannot imagine that love all the way…all I know is that I am madly in love with Him in return.

I love Him.

I adore Him.

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Jubilee is Coming

In 2014 God gave me a model for how to effectively teach the Bible to both teenagers and kids at once. I would write a Bible study to go with the weekend’s church-wide topic and then the teenagers would do the study and then apply what they learned by writing a puppet skit and performing it. It was a great way to help make sure the teenagers understood what they had learned as we carefully tried to make sure that the scripts honored God’s revealed truth through scripture. It was also a great way for the kids to learn on Sunday because puppets are an extremely fun and effective module for children to learn through. In January 2016, as I was working on a Bible Study about communion the Lord helped me see something in scripture that I had never seen before. He showed me how the season of singleness, when we are waiting for God to match us with our spouse, can be a picture of how we are waiting for our heavenly Bridegroom. We are waiting for Jesus to come back to earth. We aren’t just waiting for Him, we are longing for His return and we desire Him, as David wrote in the Psalms, as the deer pants after the water we pant for Christ. Whether we are a teenager or an adult, if we are experiencing this thirst for our spouse from God’s will for our lives then we can actually be an example or use our longing for our future spouse on earth to help us teach about the longing for Jesus, our Bridegroom. I remember how excited I was for this new revelation and wishing I had realized this when I was a teenager because I could have used my singleness for God’s glory in that capacity. I was in a marriage covenant and never imagined that I would ever be single again, or at least for a very long time. I thought the opportunity for this witness had passed so here I was excitedly telling teenagers about how awesome it was that they could use their time of singleness as they wait for their future spouse to bring glory to God. Here is the excerpt from the study:

Isaiah 61:10 side-note: Just as the bridegroom and bride are pure while waiting for the marriage covenant, so are we, the church to actively abide in purity/ righteousness while waiting for our bridegroom (the second coming of Christ). Just as the bride/bridegroom are pure in their bodies, God makes us, our souls, a pure, brand-new creation through the imputed righteousness of Christ when we are saved. God adorns, or spiritually clothes us, in His beautiful righteousness. Purity is beautiful, the purity of Christ protects us from God’s wrath and it also is revealed through us as a light to the world as we are transformed to bear His fruit. (To view the whole study check it out here: CommunionPart2 (2)).

Fast forward 3 years and here I am, single, and God has taken me up on how excited I was about how my life as a single could be used to show and teach others how we are all waiting for the Bridegroom’s return. For the return of Jesus.

I mentioned a few weeks ago in my blog “Remember How Beautiful You Are” that God has called me into a new covenant with Him to be a eunuch for 7 years for His kingdom and His glory. He has also called me to allow this season of my life to be a picture of how, just as I long for my future bridegroom, I also long for THE Bridegroom, for Jesus.

In 2013 God promised me that I would have a daughter named Jubilee someday. She has yet to be born and I believe her name also has to do with pointing toward the second coming of Christ….when “lands” that Jesus has purchased will be returned to Him, the rightful owner (us, His children and our physical lands and nations we represent).

I was recently listening to an old playlist of worship music on my computer, “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble” by Hillsong came up and I noticed the lyrics at one point say:

“And here we see that God, you’re moving
A time of jubilee is coming
When young and old return to Jesus
Fling wide you heavenly gates
Prepare the way of the risen Lord”

A part of waiting for for Jesus is to prepare the way for Him under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. He will do things and lead us in ways that we might not even realize is all about preparing us for Himself. In fact, if we submit to the written will of God’s plan for our lives then that means He began working in our lives before we even existed because he wrote about us before we even lived one day. I personally believe this means even our first day in utero after conception. Psalm 139:16 says that before we even lived one day that God had written and ordained all of our days — we must submit to His story for our lives. 

How can we prepare the way for the return of Jesus? By fulfilling the great commission. When young and old return to Jesus we are paving the way for His return. In fact the Bible says that Jesus will not return until every tongue and nation has heard the gospel. When young and old return to Jesus it creates jubilee, lost souls are being returned to their rightful owner, to Christ their creator! Jubilee prepares the way for the risen Lord, for Jesus.

I just learned in church this past weekend that there are 3 billion people in the world that have never heard the gospel or the name of Jesus at all…these are referred to as the unreached. The passion of Christ is to come for his bride, His bride must be prepared and made ready for her King, for Jesus to come for her.

Are you ready for Jesus to come back? What are we doing to prepare the way for His return?

One organization that I highly recommend getting involved with for this mission is “Teach to Transform“. It is headquartered in Louisville, KY and focuses on sending medical, agriculture and other professionals out into the mission field to teach basic skills to local Christians and empower them to then use these skills to gain access to sharing the gospel within their own culture. This has led to exponential growth as local Christians across the globe have been able to bring the gospel to unreached communities simply by being able to deliver babies or take blood pressure for example. This prevents burn-out for missionaries as well as preventing reliance on western culture. The locals know their culture, their language and dialects, they know so much more and when they are empowered they can bring the gospel in powerful ways. I attended a dinner recently for this organization and was blown away by the numbers of people their model is reaching as well as how fast it is growing and reaching the unreached populations which are their focus.

Let’s prepare the way for our Bridegroom. A time of Jubilee is coming!



References:

Teach to Transform

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