The battle belongs to God

My pastor just started a new sermon series at church this past week called “Do We All Have to Agree?” and in his first message he addressed the issue of how a lot of times Christians are more well-known for all the stuff they are against rather than being known as a loving and welcoming kinda crowd.  And he’s surely onto something there when you think how often Christians are described as hateful, closed-minded, and hypocritical as opposed to loving, kind, compassionate.  It was a great sermon really (you can give it a listen here), and after talking through it with my friend Jenn, it surely gave me lots to think on.

In our highly opinionated society with our various social media platforms by which we often express those opinions, it’s easy for grace to get lost in the mix.  Given opportunity to get on our technological soap boxes and throw hard words at the world under the guise of “speaking truth in love,” we invariably fail to draw people nearer to Jesus…if that’s really our intention in the first place.  Sometimes I think we really just want others to know how right we are.  I’m the first to admit guilt there.

And Jenn and I came to the conclusion that in all our well-worded Facebook statuses or clever Twitter posts, how likely are we really to change someone’s thoughts or opinions with a few witty sentences in our timeline?  I mean, can you really draw someone to your “side” in 140 characters or less?  If anything, it seems the internet’s false sense of anonymity brings out the worst in people and the resulting debates that will surely ensue via replies and shares and retweets often does nothing more than further polarize people.  So rather than always having a comment for everything, how about just…don’t?

And I realized, wow…there’s a lot of freedom in not feeling compelled to express your thoughts and opinions about every stinking thing.

And something that sort of hit me like a brick in the midst of that realization is that God doesn’t need me to go out there and fight His battles.  If I don’t make certain to “set straight” every person who posts a contrary opinion or declaration on Facebook, it doesn’t change what’s true and it doesn’t take God’s glory away.  He is still good, He is still sovereign, and He is still God.

My job is to love God and love my neighbor as myself (Matthew 22:37-40).  So while it may take me a bit of time to adjust to my newfound freedom from needing to always speak my mind, I’m finding comfort in having been reminded that the battle belongs to the Lord.

And for that, I am grateful.

…Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.

For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

2 Chronicles 20:15

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Joseph: Husband of the Year

My oldest son and I watched the movie The Nativity Story a couple of nights ago.  I can’t really attest to the accuracy of the movie – particularly because it portrayed the Magi as having been at the stable/cave at the same time as the shepherds and it is more commonly believed now that the Magi didn’t actually arrive until Jesus was a little older.

But at any rate, it did get me thinking a lot about Joseph.  The Bible doesn’t have a whole lot to say about Joseph.  In fact, he all but disappears after the incident when Jesus was 12 and was found by his parents teaching in the temple (Luke 2:42-52).  And actually, we don’t that hear much about Mary either after then until the time of the crucifixion.

But back to Joseph.  Given the lack of information we have, we could make all sorts of assumptions about Joseph.  In the Catholic church, it is believed that Mary and Joseph never had “relations” and she remained a virgin throughout her entire life.  Along with this assumption is that the siblings of Jesus that the Bible refers to were either Joseph’s children from a previous marriage or else they weren’t really siblings but rather were cousins or just “brothers and sisters” in the faith.  It is thought by some in this case that if these siblings were from a previous marriage, then it was possible that Joseph was quite a bit older than Mary (so I guess then that would explain the lack of sex/children between M and J?).  Personally, I think the idea that Mary remained a virgin her entire life is questionable and you know, either way it doesn’t take away from the miracle of the birth of Jesus in any way.   And if she and Joseph had 20 other kids besides Jesus, it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that God chose her out of all the women in history to be the mother of Christ.

But again, back to Joseph.  So I never put a lot of thought into Joseph before.  I mean, yes he was a great man – obviously there must have been something to him for God to have chosen him to be the earthly father of Jesus.  And inasmuch as God chose Mary, He chose Joseph too.  Never really considered that before.  I know, I know…duh.  But it wasn’t like out of all the eligible bachelors in Nazareth that God just lucked up that it was Joseph that Mary wound up with.  God wouldn’t have left that one to chance.  He handpicked Joseph.  God saw into Joseph’s heart, just as He did with Mary, and knew that this man would be upright and obedient before the Lord. 

So anyhow, Mary’s pregnant and Joseph knew it wasn’t by him…at most he could have had her stoned for adultery and at the least, she and her family would have been disgraced by her “sin.”  But Joseph really was a good and decent man.  He planed to divorce Mary quietly.  God, however, had other plans and He made those plans known to Joseph in a dream.  So Joseph tosses the divorce idea and takes Mary as his wife.  You can read all about that in the first chapter of Matthew.

So in thinking a minute about Joseph’s character, he most assuredly was a man of grace.  To just let that thing go like that.  To not demand retribution for what he at first deemed to be Mary’s unfaithfulness to him.  (Remember, his decision to divorce her quietly was before he’d heard from God.  His immediate response was grace.)  And too, you have to think now that not only did people most certainly taunt Mary and call her all sorts of names behind her back (well, and probably to her face) but I image that many people who were close to Joseph probably thought he was nuts for marrying what they believed was an adulteress.  They probably talked about him behind his back too.  Maybe they called him weak or foolish.  Maybe they said he wasn’t a real man since he didn’t even stand up for his rights.  One can only speculate, but I would guess this was the toughest yet most blessed decision he ever made in his life.

There’s lots more to say about Joseph so I’ll save the rest and do some more tomorrow, but just one more thing about Joseph.  We are blessed to know the whole story…we know who that Child was that Mary carried in her womb.  We know about the calling God placed on her life.  And she knew it too.  She knew in her heart she had nothing to be ashamed of.  And you know, even if somehow it had been demanded that she be stoned for her infidelity, God would have protected her.  She carried The Christ inside of her.  But isn’t it sweet just the same that God sent a man who would cover her, be her husband, and care for her so that she would not bear the shame of being pregnant, unmarried and alone?  I think that’s pretty awesome. 

No one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame… – Psalm 25:3

To be continued…

I don’t know Him…

When Jesus started calling Peter “Peter” it was because He said Peter was the rock on which the church would be built.  (Peter means “rock” by the way.)  Peter is in fact considered to be the first pope by the Catholic church. 

Ok but wait, isn’t Peter the one who denied Jesus just prior to the crucifixion?  Not just once but three times??  Yep, that was him.

Have you ever really considered the fact that Jesus already knew that was going to happen before He ever even met Peter face to face?  That when Jesus said to him – upon you Peter, I will build My church – Jesus already knew then that Peter would blatantly deny Him in the face of adversity. 

I don’t know Him.

That’s what Peter said when questioned. 

Yet even in knowing this about His disciple, Jesus didn’t deny Peter the opportunity to serve Him.  Although Jesus rebuked Peter sometimes, He never took away his place in the ministry of the gospel.

I don’t know Him, he said.

Peter was a common fisherman.  A Jewish man who wasn’t good enough to make it through rabbi school.  But Jesus saw something in him.  Jesus saw past Peter’s loud mouth, his quick temper, his arrogance.  Jesus even saw past the moment that Peter would pretty much chunk Him under the bus to save his own skin.  Jesus saw past all Peter’s mistakes and straight into his heart.  He saw Peter through  grace-colored  glasses.

I don’t know Him.

And I can see Jesus thinking to Himself,

you say you don’t know Me…

but you will

I have great plans for you, Peter.  Yep, big big plans.

He’s got big plans for you too.

And He’s still wearing those grace specs.