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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, including my desire to no longer feel lost, but to feel found, to feel loved, to feel wanted, to feel taken care of. I am all of those things already in Jesus. 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.

Summer of The Leviathan

God often prepares His children before something happens. Revealing a key part of His Truth so that we can be ready for when the storm hits-or for being thrust into the icy, isolated, darkness, which is a more fitting description in this case. Several things that were my biggest dreams in life were stripped away around the same time that we left the tropical island of Okinawa and moved to Alaska, a week before the snow hit. This on top of me never having lived anywhere where the snow actually stays longer than a day. The psychological shock of being thrust against my will by the military into an environment that felt like an icy trap mirrored the trauma I felt in my soul.

During that first year of trying to have a baby, while we were still in the tropical “paradise” of Okinawa, God laid on my heart an urgency to read the book of Job. Even though I was beginning to realize that there was indeed a problem with my fertility, I really had no idea and I thought we could just get help after the first year and have our baby soon after that. Oh, how little did I know that 5 years later there would still be no cigars, no sweet baby coos, no staring in wonder into the eyes of my baby. No baby.

God knew though. He knew all the different emotions, all the different parts of my heart and soul that would be laid bare under his refining fire. He knew this, and He knew that a lot of it would hurt and that I had to be ready. I had to know that He was God and that I was not. God knew that I was going to have to hold onto this key, foundational Truth in order to submit to Him and let Him fully have His way in me. Even when it felt like “all my dreams” were being taken away.

 Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Declare to Me, if you have and know understanding. Who determined the measures of the earth, if you know? Or who stretched the measuring line upon it?…

…Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, saying, Gird up your loins now like a man; I will demand of you, and you answer Me. Will you also annul (set aside and render void) My judgment? Will you condemn Me [your God], that you may [appear] righteous and justified?

Have you an arm like God? Or can you thunder with a voice like His? [Since you question the manner of the Almighty’s rule] deck yourself now with the excellency and dignity [of the Supreme Ruler, and yourself undertake the government of the world if you are so wise], and array yourself with honor and majesty…

…“No one is so fierce [and foolhardy] that he dares to stir up Leviathan;
Who then is he who can stand before Me [or dares to contend with Me, the beast’s creator]? “Who has first given to Me that I should repay him?
Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine. [Who can have a claim against Me who made the unmastered beast?]

Job 38:1-7, 40:6-10, 41:10-11 AMP

These passages from Job deeply impressed upon my soul. I cannot stand before God. God alone has the power and might to create, to give or to take away. God does not “owe me” anything. Like it says in Job “Who has first given to Me that I should repay him?”-no one. No one has given anything to God so that God owes them. In fact God has richly blessed us, the undeserving, by sending His son while we were still in rebellious hostility toward Him. Even if literally every dream and everything that I love was taken from me I would still have Jesus, and I would still be rich because I am His. He is my Redeemer. Like Boaz who redeemed Ruth out of destitution, shame, and sorrow into wealth, love, and joy. God redeems us out of sin and death into eternal life as His adopted children, purchased by the precious blood of His Son, and that is the only gift that we need.

It was vitally important from the beginning that I set my mind on the task of trusting God. Jesus said His burden is light and His yoke is easy. He desires to clothe us in His righteousness and strengthen us with His joy, but first we must entrust Him with our life and trust Him wherever He leads. To desire nothing-but Christ alone, is to have all that you need. He is more than enough. I remember forcing myself to sing “Enough” by Chris Tomlin after we’d moved to Alaska and began to become more acquainted with the reality of infertility. He is more than enough. With a tightly constricted throat, and tears forcing their way down my cheeks, “All of You is more than enough for all of me / For every thirst and every need / You satisfy me with Your love / And all I have in You is more than enough”.

Sometimes the rocky mountain paths or the dark valleys don’t make sense from our perspective, but we can be like Habakkuk, who after He asked God “why” He resolved:

I will stand on my guard post
And station myself on the rampart;
And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me,
And how I may reply when I am reproved.

It’s ok to ask God why, as long as our heart is right. Are we asking Him so He can reprove and correct us, or are we challenging Him? There is a distinct difference.

God wanted me to be in a posture of submission so that He could transform me according to His will, not mine. So that He could bless me with the portion of His presence that is reserved for those that declare, no matter what, that He is all that we need, and that He is more than enough. And, believe me, I needed that presence, because it was Him, my Father, my Anchor, that I was clinging to; hiding in the Cleft of the Rock.

To choose to trust in God and let Him take the lead means being able to abide in His presence. To be blessed with His ever comforting Spirit. He is the Good Shepherd, He does not push us into the valley, He walks ahead of us and protects us. But in order to be satisfied as with the fatness and marrow (Psalm 63:5) of His presence we have to be in close proximity and that means following Him right on His heels. When we enter the valley of the shadow of death we must press in closer ’cause it is harder to see. Maybe the death in that valley means the death of our dreams. But we can trust Him with the thoughts and the plans that He has for us, He Who is the Author and the Perfecter of our Faith.

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. – Hebrews 12:1-2

 

Important Questions

How much time doImportantQuestions we spend making ourselves look pretty in the eyes of man in comparison to tending to a heart attractive to God?

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

How much effort do we put into our decaying body in comparison to being about our Father’s business to preach the gospel to every person?

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:15-16

Could it be that we are about the business of a different father?

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires… John 8:42-44

O Lord, please help me to be attractive to you, for my motivation, my time, my everything to be in submission to Christ as Lord so the Holy Spirit can glorify Christ through me, a jar made of clay.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

How much time do we spend shopping for, preparing, and eating food in comparison to how much time we spend eating up the Word of God, the Bread of Life?

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35

How much time do we spend consuming drinks for energy, drinks for relaxing, drinks for hydration, drinks for fun, in comparison to the time we spend drinking in the Living Water?

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14