Very little is said in Scriptures about Joseph the carpenter, the foster father of Jesus. But, from the few facts we can gather, we find a man who can be an exemplar of good parenting, particularly that of a father. Here are some points to consider:
1. He was faithful to the law.
Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law… (Matthew 1:19).
In other translations it’s stated as he was righteous; in essence he sought to follow both human and divine laws. In seeking to follow divine laws, this meant he sought to follow the hundreds of ordinances of good moral conduct and of worship, plus being fair to his fellowmen. Thus, we can say that Joseph was conscientious, meaning he was careful in all that he did; or he was mindful of God and his words and actions before God. And, because he was faithful to the law, this meant he sought forgiveness when he sinned. He sought to always reconcile himself to whoever he offended whether it be God or man.
2. He was honorable.
…and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly (Matthew 1:19).
One of the rights a husband had during those days was to come before the Sanhedrin and bring a charge of adultery against his wife. Joseph was honorable because he chose the higher law of compassion and mercy — he didn’t want Mary to be disgraced in public and even possibly be stoned for adultery. We have laws in the land, but many times the higher law of God must dictate on our conscience.
For example, during WWII when the Nazis rose to power in Germany, the Chancellor Adolf Hitler issued an edict to arrest Jews and bring them to concentration camps where they were experimented on and eventually killed. But there were a few Germans who chose to defy that edict and instead hid Jews or helped them escape at the risk of their own lives. They chose a higher law.
So did Joseph.
3. He was sensitive to God’s voice.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20).
An angel never does anything out of his own will, but is always instructed by God. Thus, an angel’s voice is God’s voice. Joseph could have ignored or not even heard the angel. He could have been preoccupied by the thought that his wife was pregnant not by him.
Many times our problems can overwhelm us so that we may no longer be hearing what God might be saying to us. What if Joseph disregarded the warning of the angel? It would have been disastrous, to say the least, and fatal for the child Jesus.
God may no longer speak to us audibly or through an angel, but he can speak through Scriptures. To heed Scriptures is to heed the voice of God.
It can be safely concluded that Joseph sought to live a Godly life. The fact alone that God chose him to be the foster father of Jesus already reveals this. Godliness is for everyone. Yet, if it begins with fatherhood, then he becomes an example for the family to follow.
Godliness is the right foundation upon which to build a family.
Israel had just lost a battle against the Philistines. They lost not only the battle, but the ark of the covenant as well. The statement above was uttered by the wife of Hophni when told that her husband, along with his brother Phinehas, had died in the battle and the ark taken by the enemy.
Yet, it was because of Hophni and Phinehas that Israel lost the battle and the ark, for they were defiling the offering to God:
Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the LORD. Now it was the practice of the priests that, whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being boiled and would plunge the fork into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot. Whatever the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. But even before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the person who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast; he won’t accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.” If the person said to him, “Let the fat be burned first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would answer, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.” This sin of the young men was very great in the LORD’s sight, for they were treating the LORD’s offering with contempt (1 Samuel 2:12-17).
Their defilement had three factors.
How? They were not being true to their priesthood. The mandate of the priesthood was to be mediators between God and man. They ministered to God and then to man. Out of the priesthood came the High Priest. Thus, the priesthood was held to the most stringent of standards and behavior.
Hophni and Phinehas failed to live up to those standards.
We, too, as Christians have a calling or purpose from God if we have professed a commitment to follow Christ. When we refuse to heed God’s calling, it is akin to defiling that calling. If we do not know our calling or purpose from God, than we must seek to know it. When we are true to our calling or purpose, God’s glory shines upon us.
Along with their calling, Hophni and Phinehas had a heritage to keep. First, they had the heritage of being sons of the present judge who was Eli; yet they defied their own father by not obeying God.
Second, they had the heritage of being Levitical priests. The Levites were called to be priests because of their loyalty to God, being the first to side with Moses against those who were worshipping the Golden Calf. Yet, they showed disloyalty when they defiled the offering.
Third, they carried the heritage of being victorious in battle. Israel had the reputation of always being victorious in battle because they had the one true God on their side. Their enemies were deathly afraid of them. So, when they lost the battle, they lost their reputation, their integrity, their credibility and, of course, the glory of the Lord
They defiled their heritage by assuming that, in spite of sinning against God, they could still carry the ark into battle believing they would be invincible. But God had already judged them and the ark became merely an empty ornate container.
As Christians, we too have a heritage to keep. It is the heritage of being children of God, saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is a heritage that brings with it the Transfiguration, the Ascension, the various miracles of Jesus, the death on Calvary, the Resurrection and not the least the hope of his return as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Does the world see us as a glorious heritage of Christianity? Or does the world see us as an empty, ornate container?
By misusing the offering and then by misusing the Ark, they defiled their worship of God. To them God was merely an instrument instead of them being instruments of God. To them God was not worthy; they were. To them God was not the most valuable factor in their lives; it was their stomachs.
In their act of defilement, they were not worshipping God, they were worshipping themselves. In effect, they were robbing God of what belonged to him.
Worship is to declare that God is worthier than all things in that he is more valuable than anything we own, and more valuable even than our own lives. (Read how David worshipped God in this post.)
Yet, we can be guilty of not giving God the glory due his name by not giving the correct tithes, our time and our talents. We come late for the Sunday worship service and thereby miss out on the time of corporate worship. Singing songs of praise and worship is an integral part of the service.
Have we been defiling the offering as Hophni and Phinehas did? In doing so, we cheapen God.
We make him less than who he truly is, the Most High God!
(I’d love to read what you think about this article. Please comment below.)
Who doesn’t know the actor Christopher Reeve, he of the Superman movies? Although he became famous from his portrayal of Superman, he starred in numerous other movies, the most popular of which was not as Superman, but as a love-struck time traveller in “Somewhere in Time,” with the hauntingly beautiful Jane Seymour.
On May 27, 1995, Reeve became a quadriplegic after being thrown from a horse during an equestrian competition in Culpeper, Virginia. He was confined to a wheelchair and required a portable ventilator for the rest of his life.
But this did not stop him from being active. He lobbied on behalf of people with spinal cord injuries and for human embryonic stem cell research, founding the Christopher Reeve Foundation and co-founding the Reeve-Irvine Research Center. He also continued to be involved in Hollywood, directing and producing movies.
Christopher Reeve never allowed himself to wallow in misery and self-pity after his accident. He became a beacon of hope instead to disabled people everywhere, especially those afflicted with spinal cord injuries. He was a true super hero off-screen and here are three characteristics of Christopher Reeve that we can emulate in spite of what difficulties we may encounter, whether we are male or female.
The late U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”
Nelson Mandela echoed this when he stated, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Reeve took up the fight of spinal cord injured people. That was most important for him. His own injury propelled him to fund research to find a cure for this type of affliction. Was he fearless? I don’t think so. He once contemplated suicide. Rather, he triumphed over his fears.
Reeve did not despair. He may have fallen into depression time and again as would anyone with severe injuries. But we can safely conclude he had a healthy dose of optimism. Otherwise he would not have started projects to seek a cure for his kind of injury. You cannot start a project from a point of despair or hoplessness. Too many mistakes can be committed.
He was optimistic that his foundation and research center would eventually find a cure. In fact, even in a wheelchair, he continued to exercise to build body strength in anticipation of eventually being able to stand up and walk.
Because of his foundation and research center, countless others afflicted with spinal cord injury now have hope and can be optimistic of a cure. Of Christopher Reeve, UC Irvine said, “in the years following his injury, Christopher did more to promote research on spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders than any other person before or since.”
Even with restrictive mobility and difficulty in breathing, Christopher Reeve surged on. He continued to be involved in movie-making in front and behind the camera, winning awards along the way. He sat on the Boards of associations and organizations that help the disabled as well as on medical company Boards. He gave interviews and speeches on his advocacy.
He knew exactly what he wanted to do and set out to do them despite his handicap.
On October 10, 2004, Reeve died at the age of 52 from cardiac arrest. But his legacy lives on. The research center he co-founded is now one of the leading spinal cord research centers in the world. Many disabled people can now walk again because of the work of his research center.
Christopher Reeve was a superman in more ways than his movie role. We may not be able to do the immense work that Christopher Reeve did in his lifetime. But, as long as we are courageous, optimistic and self-determined, we can be heroes in our own right.
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The Book of Joshua doesn’t speak about stress nor about being stress-free. But it talks about prosperity in an emphatic way.
Then you will be prosperous and successful. -Joshua 1:8
It was a promise made by God to Joshua and his people. Prosperity and success was theirs for the taking. And if we read the rest of the text that leads to that promise, we’ll discover that God set forth conditions that would allow them to claim that promise. But they were not stressful conditions. They were, in contrast, stress-free. Let us examine them.
…Get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them–to the Israelites. -Joshua 1:2
Getting ready is actually about having a healthy dose of optimism. Quell your fears, quell your worries, for they can only bring stress. Fear and worry are useless emotions. Joshua was given a vision of conquest. God was in essence saying, “Now go for it!”
What is your vision of life? Is it fraught with doubts? That’s not vision; that’s myopism. Your vision will consist of what you already have by way of talents and gifts and the self-determination to use them wisely.
When God told Joshua to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6), we understand strong to be an act of the heart, while courageous to be an act of the mind. We cannot allow our heart and mind to go different paths. While we build inner strength, we must also cast out doubts that lead to fear. We must not overthink and rationalize ourselves to immobility. Claiming success and prosperity must be done holistically with the full confidence and assuredness that we will.
Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. -Joshua 1:7
In this instance it’s to be focused on the word of God, for what better instructional manual about life is there than the Bible?
It is in the Bible where we can find the source of inner strength and the courage to gird up the loins of your mind (1 Peter 1:13). This doesn’t mean that we cannot read any other books; but rather the Bible must take supreme authority over everything else. After all, God is the God of success and prosperity.
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. -Joshua 1:8
To meditate is to replace our thoughts with the word of God. Our minds are constantly filled with thoughts, at times mostly negative. Thus it’s our thoughts that can bring stress. But we must first create the environment of meditation and that is to spend time in quietude.
Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10) is a worthwhile command. When we talk about “quiet time.” It’s not just to shut up, but to shut up the world around us.
The first chapter of Joshua doesn’t say this, but it goes without saying. The essence of prayer is not asking God what you want or need, but to align ourselves with the will of God. Why stress ourselves out by striving for success and prosperity? God already has success and prosperity lined up for us. Align with his will and we’ll have it!
When King David began the trek to bring the Ark of the Covenant up Mt. Zion, he stripped himself of his outer clothing, put on a linen ephod and “danced with all his might” in celebration.
As he approached the city, his wife Michal saw him and was scandalized by his actions.
When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” -2 Samuel 6:20
And how did David answer?
David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel–I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” -2 Samuel 6:21-22
For Michal, David wasn’t acting in a royal fashion (pun intended). This is because he was before God, the greatest of all kings. David did not place importance in himself. He placed importance on God. If dignity meant placing himself at the level or even above God, David would have none of it.
David wore a linen ephod showing himself to be a priest first and foremost, one who serves God and his fellowmen. Jesus Christ, who was his descendant, would echo the same sentiment.
“…Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” -Matthew 20:28
David stripped himself of being honored as king; honoring instead the One who ordained him king. He celebrated, not his ascension to the throne, but the ascension of the Ark of the Covenant, the manifest presence of God. He praised not himself, but the One who was worthy of all praise.
He would not take the glory for himself. He would give it all to God the almighty.
Dignity is not about who you are. It’s about who God is in your life.
Yet there are some who carry grievances as if they were badges of honor. They’re not honorable and have no redeeming value to anyone whatsoever.
Grievances are akin to a dark mass that surrounds those who carry them. What can they do?
1. They can subdue the light. It is contrary to that great exhortation:
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. -Matthew 5:16
What will people see when we carry grievances? They will see a person who cannot forgive, who is bitter and who is lacking in love; certainly not a person of light.
2. They can suppress joy. It is notable that the Bible equates joy with inner strength.
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” -Nehemiah 8:10
Joy and grievances simply do not mix. If joy gives inner strength, then it follows that grievances weaken you.
3. They can blur spiritual understanding.
Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction. -Proverbs 29:18
This means we will be incapable of receiving wisdom. How can we when our thoughts and emotions are clouded by grievances?
4. They can cause graceless speech.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. -Colossians 4:6
Yet, our conversation cannot be full of grace if there are grievances in our heart:
For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. -Luke 6:45
Grievances hurt, but mostly to the ones who carry them.
Drop the grievances. Dispel the darkness. Let the love of God filter through.
Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. -Psalm 37:4 (NKJV)
But the question might be asked, “How does one delight in the Lord?”
Here are a few suggestions.
1. Believe with all your heart that God loves you. Because he does!
His love is non-judgmental. His love does not condemn. His love does not recognize titles, degrees, positions. His love is not limited by culture, educational background or religious belief systems. His love is unconditional.
It is us who sometimes try to define God’s love and our definitions always fall short. Don’t define nor rationalize God’s love. Just believe!
2. Immerse yourself in God’s love. Be in the here and now. Don’t dwell in the past, don’t worry about the future. God is doing something now. He’s loving you and desires to bring you to where he knows you can receive all that he has in store for you.
God’s presence is in the present. His power is in the present. His love is in the present. Be in the present!
3. Spread the love of God. Be compassionate. Be kind. Be forgiving, especially to yourself. Sing his praises. Hug people. Pay your tithes. Lead by serving. Share his word.
Be the person God wants you to be. When you do, you become the channel of his light and love. You become salt of the earth.
You become the very semblance of Christ on this earth.
“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” -John 13:35
When you delight in God, God delights in you. And so will your fellowmen.
That, without question, is abundant living.
“God is love,” John the Revelator wrote. In this description do we immediately see that God is a God of relationship. Love flows within the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
And that same love is poured out unto us.
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. -Romans 5:5
Thus, the love of God must flow out of our hearts into the hearts of others.
How can we make this happen?
1. Be forgiving. Love stops flowing when we have an unforgiving heart. Unforgivingness breeds bitterness which then leads to hate. It is destructive to relationships and even blocks the love of God from flowing through the unforgiving heart.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. -Matthew 6:14-15
2. Practice random acts of kindness. Mother Theresa said this: “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
With kindness you can touch people with the love of God. Kindness is one sure way of soothing the hurts you may have received from others. Melt the bitterness with kindness.
3. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. It’s a scary thought. To be vulnerable is to be open to more hurts. Yet, the alternative is to build walls around us, which desensitizes us and causes us to be indifferent.
Vulnerability may rent, tear and rip us. But it opens up gaps in our souls that enable God’s love to flow through. God’s love engenders compassion and empathy.
It’s what the world desperately needs.
We’ve seen so much hate in 2016 that the best way we can hope for a better year is to be kind. There is a verse in the Book of Acts that exemplifies kindness.
The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. -Acts 28:2 (NASB)
After being shipwrecked the Apostle Paul and his companions swam to shore and they were met by the islanders. Although they were complete strangers, the islanders nevertheless received them and kept them warm with a fire.
While this was a literal action of warmness, kindness is also –even more so—keeping hearts warm through genuine ministerial care. Many go through storms –emotional, spiritual, psychological—in their lives and kindness will make them feel they are not alone.
So, in 2017, be kind even if others may be unkind to you.
Be kind even if you are misconstrued, misjudged, misinterpreted.
Be kind even if false accusations are hurled against you.
To be kind is to spread love in Christ’s name.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience… -Colossians 3:12 (NASB)
Have you ever stood before a mirror and asked, “Who are you?”
The obvious answer would be, “Your reflection.”
And that’s how the world would want you to answer when it asks you, “Who are you?”
This is because the world wants to create the illusion that you can become what you are not. So it foists upon you the latest make-up, the classiest clothes, the fastest cars, the slickest gadgets and the most popular diets. And if you’re not able to cope with all these, the world will say you have a problem and will throw at you the trendiest self-help books.
When you get caught up in the world’s illusion, you invite fear into your lives – the fear of rejection, the fear of not looking good enough, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of not having enough, etc. You then forget the other you.
The other you is the real you, the one that God originally had in mind to create.
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. -Genesis 1:27
God created you to be divine, untouched and uninfluenced by the trappings of this world. You don’t need the world. The world instead needs you.
But we lost our sense of divinity with the fall of Adam and Eve. As such, we have placed more importance on the external than the internal. We began to search for the gods of security and significance in the world when the I AM has been within us all along.
I AM is one of the names of God.
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’“ -Exodus 3:14
Jesus significantly called himself I AM several times. He was the epitome of divinity in human form. Yet, for us today, he can be more than just an epitome. He can be the very life within us that can mold us into the image of God.
The other you can be the Christ in you. What the world offers is all illusion. Christ is the reality.
The other you should be the real you.