Advent…God with Us, Immanuel

Matthew 1:20-25 is the rich account of how God told Joseph in a dream of His Son that was to be born to Mary, Joseph’s fiancé. Yesterday we looked at Joseph’s character that shone with faith and obedience to God. Today I want to focus on this Son of God that was to be born of Mary.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

Joseph was told by God in a dream that the child conceived within Mary was God’s Son by His Holy Spirit. He would be named Jesus, which means God with us. This Son was coming with a purpose which was to save all mankind from their sins. All men inherited their sinful nature from Adam and Eve when they sinned in the garden. God’s plan was one of restoration and redemption though the coming of His Son Jesus. This was a lot of information for Joseph to process. He was righteous, which meant he was learned in the scriptures and laws of Moses which he practiced faithfully. Joseph would have known the quote in verse 23 is from Isaiah 7:14. He would have known of God’s promised Messiah who was to save His people. Joseph must have been overwhelmed by the responsibility and privilege God was placing upon him to be the earthly father of His Son. He took all this in and stepped out in obedient faith to follow the command God gave him. He married Mary immediately and did not stop to count the cost. The cost as we will see was significant but the blessings and privileges of serving the Lord would have been immense.

What obstacles are you facing in your service to God? Are they ones you create in your mind, the what ifs? Are they circumstances that you feel are too big for God to overcome? If so, think about Joseph and all he had in front of him, and yet he trusted God and walked in obedience. Jesus is the key- He came to be with us ‘Immanuel’ and to save us from our sins. Take His hand and walk with Him. When things get hard He promises to never leave you nor forsake you, He’s got this!

Linda

Advent…Joseph’s Example=faith & obedience

Today we shift from Mary and her relatives to Joseph’s encounter with God and his journey of faith and obedience. Matthew 1:18-25

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. This portion of the Advent story tells us a lot about Joseph’s character and their customs. Being betrothed in those times was more binding than an engagement today and they were considered husband and wife even though they did not live together or have relations. To end a betrothal it was necessary to sign divorce papers. Joseph knew because he was righteous, meaning he followed the laws of Moses and abided by them in his daily life, that announcing publicly that Mary was with child would lead to her public judgement and stoning. He cared for Mary and decided to do this quietly to save her life.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

Joseph was given directions from God through a dream. This was not an unusual way for God to speak with someone as he appeared to Jacob, Joseph, Gideon and others in Old Testament times and Joseph would have known these stories. The angel specifically said he was to take Mary as his wife as her son was of the Holy Spirit. She had not been unfaithful but was being used by God for a greater purpose. He would have known of the promised Messiah and that his coming was to be by supernatural means through the line of David. Isaiah who lived hundreds of years before Joseph had prophesied in Isaiah 7:14 of this coming event. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. As the angel spoke these words to Joseph, he knew the truth of Mary’s circumstances and stepped out in faith to do as God commanded. He was immediately obedient.

Joseph’s character was one of shining faith and obedience. He did not question, argue or doubt God and His request. He did not doubt God’s ability to cause Mary to be pregnant though His Holy Spirt. He did not seek help with family problems over marrying an already pregnant fiancée. He stepped out in total faith doing just as God commanded him to do. I thank God for this glimpse into Joseph’s character as it gives a picture of the faith and obedience God desires of me also.

What about you? Will you step out in obedient faith and follow God’s direction this Advent season? Look for those God given opportunities to show your faith in Jesus.

Linda

Advent…Expect the Unexpected

Mary enters our Advent story today. She is a young virginal woman who is engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. An angel appears to her with a startling message. Luke 1:26-34

 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!””

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” 34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.

God is gracious to us in that we know the time this takes place. It is only 6 months after Zachariah was in the temple and Elizabeth conceived. The angel messenger sudden and miraculous appearance caused Mary to be afraid. That is understandable as the appearance of an angelic heavenly being was most unusual and would have been cause for fear. The angel had a special message just for Mary that was one of hope and wonder. Being a Jewish girl, she knew of the coming Messiah- the anointed holy one to come. But, she was perplexed as to how this could happen as she was pledged but unmarried and had not had relations with Joseph. Her question was one of How can this be? She was not doubting God’s ability to cause this to happen as Zachariah had in the temple. Her doubts were answered by the messenger factually as we’ll see tomorrow.

What lessons can we take away from this portion of Mary’s story? Mary was open and receptive to God’s message. She was willing to listen and desired to know more about God’s will for her life. Are you open minded towards God? Do you look expectantly for His work in your life? Unexpected things can happen to each of us and they are solely dependent upon God’s mercy and grace. We need to trust in God’s providential care just as Mary did to receive the blessings God has in store for us.

Will you look God’s hand of care in your life today and praise Him?

Linda

Aftermath Continues- Gifts fit for a King!

After the Wise Men met with King Herod and got further directions on where to find this possible child born ‘king of the Jews’, they proceeded to Bethlehem. Matthew 2:9-12 “After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.”

Here we see the provision, protection and love God has for His Son who is now on earth. We know the Magi did not visit on the night of Jesus’ birth as in verse 2 we were told they came to see Herod after Jesus’ birth. Also there is no mention of a stable or animals but a house. (When visiting Bethlehem, guides took us to a house believed to be where Mary and Joseph lived during this time period. It is very near to the stable cave and had several rooms where they could have lived comfortably.) The Magi followed the Star and found where Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus were living. The gifts they presented to them were very costly and befitting a king. We see God’s Sovereignty in the fact that He warned the kings not to go back to Herod. God knew what was in Herod’s heart and protected His Son.

Have you experienced the provision, protection and love of God during this pandemic year of 2020? I know I have. God has provided comfort and connection that I so desperately crave during these times of isolation. He has protected me from the virus and kept me in good health. I have felt His love through His Word and the kindness of others. God loves each of us and reaches down to touch us in ways we recognize and then some we don’t. Reflect as we end this year on ways God has met your needs and thank Him for His provision.

Linda

Advent Shows God’s Perfect Place at the Perfect Time

Nothing shows us the Sovereignty of God like the birth of Christ. God being Sovereign means that all things, circumstances, people and governments are under God’s control. He sees all things and knows how they fit together to complete His plan. Luke records the events that led Mary and Joseph and their unborn child to be present in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth. The prophecy of where the Messiah was to be born is found in Micah 5:2. “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,  who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old,  from ancient days.” The promised Messiah would also be from the line of David, as God had promised David’s kingdom would be eternal.(2 Chronicles 7:18) God had also promised Abraham, David’s ancestor, in Genesis 12:3b “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” All of these promises came together miraculously at the birth of Christ because of the love of our Sovereign God.

Luke 2:1-5 “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

God in His Sovereignty knew the timing was perfect for the arrival of His Son. Both Mary and Joseph were of the line of David and would have been required to register in the census decreed by the Roman emperor. All those over the age of 12 were made register and pay a poll tax to Caesar. Mary being 9 months pregnant was not excuse to not travel to Bethlehem for this census. It was 3 days journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and I can imagine it was an uncomfortable and tiring trip for both Mary and Joseph.

What does this teach us about God? Truly, God is sovereign as He orchestrated all the events to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for the birth of His Son. He chose the people- Mary and Joseph both godly people of the family of David in the tribe of Judah. The chose the time, Rome just happened to want a census and demanded all comply. He chose the event- the birth of His Son. That covers the who, when, where and what of Christ’s birth. The why? God told Mary and Joseph through the angel He was sending His only Son to ‘save their people from their sins’ and that ‘all the world through Him would be saved.’ Jesus would be ‘God with us, Immanuel.’

Today as you meditate on the arrival of this young couple in Bethlehem, ponder anew the sovereignty of God. Have you seen God work things out in amazing ways in your own life? Have you seen things happen in perfect order you would never have orchestrated? Have you been in the right place at the right time and wondered how that happened? In life are no accidents, there are no coincidences in God’s kingdom, only the providence or divine care and direction of Almighty, Sovereign God. As we walk with Him, we learn that God can use all things that happen in our lives for our good and His glory.

Linda

Advent Reveals Messages of Power and Hope

Joseph was such an important person in Jesus’ life, I wanted to take another day with the scripture of God’s intervention on Joseph and Mary’s behalf. Matthew 1: 18-25 NLT

“This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus,  for he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!     She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel,    which means ‘God is with us.’”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

The angel’s message to Joseph, in addition to the words he spoke to Mary gave them confirmation that the child she carried and that they would raise was from God. The angel told him his name was to be Jesus and his purpose in coming was to save his people from their sins. The angel did not want any confusion concerning his name, since like Zechariah the friends and family would expect the baby to be named Joseph after his father. The confirmation of the child’s purpose was something only God could do-saving from sin. The reference to the Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 is one Joseph and Mary would have known and would have been further confirmation that the messages were from God.

The information this new husband and wife had is amazing about their unborn child: He was to be called Jesus, meaning God with us. He was coming as Savior to redeem people from sin. He was be called Son of the Most High and Son of God (Luke 1:32,35). He would reign on the throne of David (Luke 1:32). His kingdom would be eternal (Luke 1:33) and He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). I’m sure Mary and Joseph discussed this miracle and the future effect on their lives. As the story continues to unfold, they would have to draw on their strength of faith and fully trust in the power of God.

Is God asking you to step out in faith and walk with Him in some area of your life today? What evidence can you draw from to gain perspective and hope so you can continue walking in faith? Mary and Joseph had the angel’s messages, confirmation in scripture and the Holy Spirit abiding within Mary to guide them. Where can you look for guidance? We have the whole Bible and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Dive into scripture, pray and ask God to reveal His answers to you. I am confident Mary and Joseph clung to their faith and decided to walk with God in faith even though they did not know all the ins and outs of what lay ahead. God has confirmation, hope and assurance for you just as He provided for Mary and Joseph. Choose faith and walk with Him.

Linda

Advent, A Love Story Unfolding

Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, and John are all major players in the coming of Christ and are portrayed in Luke. Today we are switching to Matthew to read the story of Joseph who is the betrothed young man to Mary and we will see God’s intervention on his behalf. Matthew 1:18-25

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,  and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

I am captivated by the thoughtfulness and concern Joseph had for his fiancé, Mary. Custom dictated that she would be stoned for adultery, Deuteronomy 22:24-25. In their culture the betrothal was much more binding and could only be broken by divorce, thus Mary was referred to as his wife and he her husband. Joseph knew they were not yet married physically and that he had not yet slept with her. Her being with child meant she had committed adultery in the eyes of the Jewish law. Joseph cared for Mary and did not want to see her disgraced and killed. Scripture says “he considered these things.” His heart must have been heavy and troubled as he thought about these grave circumstances. I’m sure he thought about the Mary he knew and could not understand her ‘betrayal’ with another man. In comes the angel bringing answers to his questions and restoration of his hope, love and devotion for Mary. Isn’t that just like God to send an answer just when we need it most? His timing is perfect and no harm was done to Mary, Joseph and the growing child within her. Their faith was increased and their relationship strengthened as they stepped out together in faith.

God’s reassuring message to Joseph led him from doubt to faith, from fear to trust, and from worry to resolve. Being a good Jew, Joseph would have known about the promised Messiah, about His birth by a virgin and the power of God. Joseph was a man of conviction, courage and faith. Look how he responded to the angel’s message in verse 24 “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him”. He took Mary as his wife. His response was obedience. Consider these:

Joseph’s faith, courage and conviction speak to me today. As great as those character qualities are in us without obedience they are lost. 1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” God desires that our faith will bring us to obedience. Joseph’s part in this story shows the great blessings instore for him through obedience. God has no less for us. Let your faith bring you to greater obedience as you seek to walk with Him today.

Linda

Anna, one who sees what Jesus will do

Mary and Joseph had just encountered Simeon and now they faced an old woman who was known as a prophetess.  There are a few women who speak for God under His guidance in the Bible.  Deborah (Judges 4:4) and  Aaron’s sister Miriam (Exodus 15:20) are the most well known.  Anna was known for her devotion to the Lord and constancy in prayer and worship.

anna“There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.  Going up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”  Luke 2:36-38

Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there that day and heard what she said about Jesus and what He would accomplish?  Her focus was on the redemption of Jerusalem, meaning the Jewish people.  She knew that God was just and that He would redeem and rescue her people with this child  just as He had promised.

justHow is God just?  God’s justice is perfect.  His decisions are always based on His righteous character.  God cannot ignore sin because He is holy.  It would be unjust to ignore wickedness, rebellion and sin. God is just and does not show favoritism.  Every penalty will be fair and right.  God does not treat His children as their sins deserve because Jesus suffered the full punishment for our sins.  Because God is just and merciful, He will never punish His children for the sins for which Jesus paid on the cross.  Anna could see this sacrifice in Jesus’ future that day and knew He was the key to the redemption of all God’s people.

justice__a_cross__by_540_edalbHow are you and I affected by God’s justice?  We can count on God to always be Holy and intolerant of sin.  We can trust that His justice is and has always been perfect as He is unchanging in character and does not show favorites.  God is true to His Word and will do as He promised in Scripture.  He will be victorious over Satan and Jesus will return again.  We have proof of God’s justice.  He dealt with our sin through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus.  Now that our sin has been dealt with, it is over and God’s justice is done!  Praise Him for His Justice and keep pointing others to Jesus.  Live focused on things with eternal value that glorify God.  Cling to God’s promises prayer for justice and mercyin Scripture and pray for those that do not know Jesus as Savior.  Do not judge others but leave justice to God. Trust in God’s justice and mercy it is and always will be perfect and always enough.

Linda

 

Seeing the Savior is life changing, just ask the shepherds

shepherd mangerLuke 2:15-20  “When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The shepherds had a glorious encounter with angels that prompted them to go and seek the child born in Bethlehem.  Their second encounter that day was seeing their Lord and Savior in the flesh, the one that had come to earth to save mankind.  Luke 2:11 was the glorious message they had received, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  People were amazed when they heard their message and Mary treasured what they said and stored it away in her heart.   They all had personally encountered the Savior, Jesus.

jesus saviorGod showed the world their Savior and proclaimed his work on earth even at this humble beginning.  God reached down and rescued sinners from the penalty of death and hell that our sin deserves.  We cannot save ourselves from sin because we are dead in our sin.  God had a plan from eternity past to save His children fully from sin- from the penalty, power and presence of sin.  He sent His Son to live the perfect life we cannot live and die in our place for our sin.  Savior Jesus took all the punishment for our sin and saves us completely.  Romans 5:8 reminds us of God’s motivation for sending His Son and our true condition, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  I love the explanation of why and how God did what He did in Titus 3:4-7 “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”  Through faith we reap the benefits of His love, eternal life, His righteousness in our lives, the indwelling Holy Spirit, His grace, mercy, hope and become heirs with Christ.   We know and serve an amazing Savior.  Thank you Jesus.

What do you do with the message of Jesus the Messiah, Savior who is the Christ? Are you excited, awed and motivated to tell everyone of your Savior?  As you go through your day, think about the message the shepherds received.  Ask yourself, what am I jesus reason for the seasondoing about the Savior who is Christ the Lord?  Am I telling others of His wonderful love, salvation, hope and eternal life?  If not, why not?  Christ is the reason for this season as His is the message of Hope for all mankind.  Spread the word!

Linda

Provider God gives exactly what is needed. See it?

The story continues in Luke 2:4-7 with scenes that could have been filled with confusion, despair, hopelessness and desperation but God.  I always love that whenever you see But, or Therefore in scripture you see the results of what God did or will do in a situation.  Here Mary and Joseph could have experienced all those emotions BUT God intervened. And Joseph mary and joseph journeyalso went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

Mary and Joseph had to make the 60 mile journey by walking or riding a donkey.  The government required they travel to Bethlehem to register for the ordered census. (God provided protection for them during their journey.)   When they got there, the city was crowded with other travelers,  and there was no room at any of the inns.  The inn keeper having mercy upon them let them stay in his stables. (God provided a place when none existed and a merciful innkeeper.)  Her time to deliver the child came when they got to Bethlehem, not before on the road,  but mercifully after they arrived. (God provided the perfect timing.) They had no crib so they laid Jesus in a manger which is used to hold hay when feeding animals. (God provided a special place for the child.)  They were safe and The-Providerout of the elements because God provided what they needed.  God is our ProviderGod provides for every creature He has made.  He feeds the birds and gives us our daily food. We do not have strength or goodness of our own,  but God gives it to us generously.  He provides a way out of temptation and protects us from evil.  God’s greatest provision was sending His Son Jesus.  Because He gave us Jesus, we can trust Him for everything else we need.

Where do you see God’s provision for you in your life?  We live in a world driven by wants and desires, greed and power.  Sometimes we have to step back and look at our lives, what we have, the people, places and things that our ours.   Where did they come from?  If you say, “I did it”, aren’t you fooling yourself?  Who gave you the opportunities to achieve, who gave you the strength, desire and power to overcome?  God promises that He will meet our needs, not necessarily all our wants.  Philippians 4:19 reminds us of God’s power to provide, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  God knows what we need even before we ask as He is our all-knowing provider.

psalm 23 1Here are a few other verses to ponder as you consider God, your provider.  Psalm 23 :1 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”  Psalm 34:9 “O [reverently] fear the Lord, you His saints (believers, holy ones);  For to those who fear Him there is no want.”  1 Corinthians 2:9 ““No eye has seen, no ear has heard,    and no mind has imagined what God has prepared  for those who love him.”

no lackPraise and give thanks to your great Provider.  God alone can and does provide what we need physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Thank you Jesus!

Linda