Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Joseph...I'm pregnant.

This was written as Desiring God's monthly newletter by director, Jon Bloom. Cassie pointed it out to me and we both agree that it gives us so much to think on this Christmas and so much to hope in as we go forward thinking about her college plans. How we long to know deep within us that we won't get this wrong. How comforting for her today to be reminded that God Himself has pledged to keep her from stumbling. I hope it blesses you...

Mary wasn’t herself. Joseph had sensed some urgency in her request that he meet her at “their” tree. She was staring at the ground. She seemed burdened.

“Mary, is something wrong?”

She looked up at him intensely. “Joseph… I’m pregnant.”

A blast of shock and disbelief hit him, blowing away all his coherent thoughts for a moment. His legs quavered. He grabbed at the tree to steady himself. It felt solid, rooted.

He stared at her. He was numb. No words came. Everything seemed surreal.

Mary was still looking at him with her intense eyes. He saw no shame in them. No defensiveness, no defiance. Not even tears. They looked…innocent. And they were searching his eyes for an answer.

Mary broke the charged silence. “What I need to tell you next I don’t even know how to say.”

Joseph leaned harder into the tree, bracing himself. He looked down to Mary’s feet. Her feet. They looked just the same as they did when he believed she was pure.

That was what made everything so strange. Mary looked as chaste as she ever did. If she had been the flirtatious type or had some discernible character weakness, this news might have been comprehendible. But Mary was literally the very last person Joseph would have suspected of unfaithfulness. He could not imagine her with another lover. He didn’t want to know who it was.

“What I’m going to say is will be very difficult to believe. But will you hear me out?” Still looking at Mary’s feet, Joseph’s nod was barely detectable.

“I have not been unfaithful to you.”

Joseph lifted his eyes to hers. Rape? That might explain her innocence. But why wouldn’t she tell me—

“God has caused me to become pregnant.”

This statement flew around his mind, looking for a place to land. It found none.

“Joseph, I know how it sounds. But I’m telling you the truth.” Then Mary described an angelic visit and the message she had received. She was to bear a son, conceived by the Holy Spirit, who would be called the Son of the Most High who would sit on David’s throne forever. God was the baby’s father. Mary was pregnant with the Messiah.

Mary sounded as sane as ever. Nothing about her was different—except that she was claiming to be pregnant with God’s child. He felt like his brain was exploding. Was she adding blasphemy to adultery? He could not conceive of her being capable of either.

“I…I don’t even know what to say to you, Mary. I can’t even think straight. I need to be alone.”

Joseph spent the late afternoon walking up on the brow of the hill that overlooked Nazareth. Things were clear up there. From this 500-foot perspective he could see the Sea of Galilee to the east, and to the west he could just see the blue Mediterranean on the horizon. But he could not see how Mary’s story could be true. He could not recall anything like it in the Torah. “God, show me what to do,” he pleaded.

The sun was setting as Joseph walked back toward the nearly finished house that was to be their home—the house he had dreamed just that morning would someday know the happy voices of his and Mary’s children. That dream was now dead. He decision was made. Mary’s claims were too incredible, maybe even delusional. He needed to end the betrothal, but he resolved to do it as quietly as possible, shielding Mary from avoidable shame. He still loved her.

That night he fell asleep, exhausted from grief. And then the angel came to him and his world was again flipped right side-up.

There is an encouraging lesson to draw from this story. Joseph was a just man (Matt. 1:19) and assessed the situation in the integrity of his heart, and, I assume, with a deep trust in God. He made the best decision regarding Mary that he could, which turned out to be the wrong one. But God, full of mercy, intervened and gave Joseph the guidance he needed. And he will do the same for us as we trust him.

To encourage your trust in God’s merciful disposition toward your imperfect, sin-tainted decision-making ability, let me point you to John Piper’s message, “The Goodness of God and the Guidance of Sinners.”

Notice that God, through the angel, did not rebuke Joseph. He gently corrected him. As we prayerfully approach our difficult decisions, let’s be bold in our faith. God will guide us, and knows how to lovingly correct us if we get it wrong.

Princess Sydni

Mom, here's what I couldn't describe well on the phone. At least I can show you why I didn't post Thursday-Saturday...

To my in-the-know readers, please remember anytime you view one of my creations (which will be a rarity given the spread of fun on the internet), CakeWrecks only takes submissions from baking professionals! Though I think I at least beat this one.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A baby who is larger than the universe

A short time ago, our associate pastor, Stephen Cheung gave a sermon on 1 John 4:1-6 (number 9 on the list) in which he talked about the amazing understanding that God became flesh and dwelt among us. One thought spoke deeply to me when he expounded on the idea that in that manger scene we had the ultimate melding of sacred and secular. Now everything we do is no longer one or the other, but in Christ everything we do, say, think, feel is sacred. Everything we do is out of faith in Jesus Christ whether that's eating and drinking or whatever I do either in words or actions.

When I heard him say that I immediately thought of a video I saw recently. Do this with me in preparation for Christmas...
  1. Watch the video here when you get a few minutes.
  2. Think about this Scripture.
  3. Then, finally, ponder and treasure this unbelievable thought as Mary must have done every time she felt her baby kick .

Monday, December 8, 2008

Really? A month?

Doesn't seem possible. Truly. And I really have nothing to explain why I've not posted even an update. It just didn't make the cut. Can anyone relate? Got a few things that seem like really good ideas, but given their position on the daily to-do list...well, they remain in the theoretical realm.

But a couple of huge gaffs have been included...I have so much to be thankful for and will post about that soon. And I didn't post on Aisley's birthday...shame upon my head...but I'll make up for it soon, promise. Then there's the end of football (thus the screams of joy that shook windows in the nearby neighborhoods!). Now the challenge and joy of reintegrating Wayne into our lives (I forgot how much I get done in the evenings when he's not here!).

But for now, how about just what I've been pondering on today? I meet on Mondays with three amazing women who I met through a mutual friend (stay in bed, Jenn!). We're starting to look at 1 Peter which means that we might finish by the time their husbands are out of residency in 18 months! So, today, we blazed through the first 5 verses! But they know not to get excited...I may spend a week on vs. never know.

We noticed a couple of things that made us pause and think...first of all, here's the text...
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
We covered the basics of background, geography and moved to pondering the vastness of the foreknowledge of God, how the Spirit sanctifies us and what difference it would make if we truly understood that we are exiles FOR obedience to Jesus Christ...much less if I could grasp more fully today that I have been truly sprinkled by His blood and made clean.

But it was the next line...8 little words...that struck me. How often have you prayed for grace to be multiplied to someone? As we thought about it, it seemed that we were alike in asking for not grace. Grace felt like something that we got before. Like Ephesians grace you have been saved. But Peter doesn't treat it like it's something behind him, but something he has and wants more of.

Then there's the nebulous definitions we give to help us remember the difference between mercy and grace. You've heard it, I'm sure. Mercy is not getting what you do deserve. Grace is getting what you do not deserve. But again, Peter's not speaking of it like it's just the favor of God, but of something that we need...would desire more and more of if we just new more of it.

Then God brought to mind 2 Corinthians 9:8
And God is able to make all grace abound to you,
so that having all sufficiency
in all things
at all times,
you may abound in every good work.
Which means that Paul also saw what I never put together fully. Grace isn't just what got us to life in Christ, but what sustains us, strengthens us, supplies us, moves us to abound in every good work. Can you imagine what a different Christmas season this would be if I was all sufficient in all things at all times? Can you imagine if I believed in the power and promise of God to grant what I ask? I want that...and I want that for you.

So, here's my Christmas gift to you...believe with me...May grace and peace be multiplied to you in Jesus name. Can I hear an amen?