Tag: Jesus

The Master Communicator

How do teachers get their message across to their students? If they are really concerned that their students learn something from their teaching, how is it best done?  Some use humor, some interject stories, some lecture and some interact with the students through questions.  Many do a combination of all of these.

Jesus was the master communicator, using every good form of teaching style. His favorite was story telling – those remarkable illustrations of life He called parables. Since this world is His creation, it was easy for Him to make the spiritual applications. His parables were also intended to have special meaning for His followers (His true students) while sometimes confusing the ones who refused to believe (see Mark 4:11-12). But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples (Mark 4:34). Those that wanted to hear what Jesus had to say (Mark 4:9) bonded more closely to Him through His lessons as He talked about things they observed every day.

Many preachers try to follow His example with the traditional “two stories and a poem” in their sermons.  Often the stories are what the congregants remember.  The preacher hopes they will also apply the spiritual principle.  Jesus taught us that a good story is memorable and can bring the teaching point back to mind again and again.

Students are more engaged in the learning process when they personalize the lesson: how does this apply to me? Often this identification results from a teacher’s questions. Even when the context cannot result in a verbal response to the question (the class is too large, the teaching is done through print, etc.) questions can put personal emphasis on the subject.  Why do I need to study this? Will knowing more about this subject improve my life?

Making a personal application comes through proper use of questions. Jesus’ use of questions often set the stage for His teaching although He interspersed them among His discourses as well.  Examine the selected teaching venues from the gospel of John and see how His questions were designed to draw the hearer closer to understanding His teaching.

–        What do you seek? (1:38). Jesus’ first question recorded in John’s gospel was directed to two disciples who were following Him.  Why do you think He phrased His question just so? What did He not say, “Whom do you seek?” What do you want out of life – what do you seek?

–       Because I said to you, “I saw you under the fig tree,” do you believe? (1:50). Read His encounter with Nathanael (1:45-51).  Nathanael had a change of mind from verse 46 to verse 49.  What caused his change of mind? Did you ever have an erroneous idea about Jesus? What changed your mind?

–       Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? (3:10). Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews.  Why do you think he was having a hard time understanding the spiritual concept of being “born again?”

–       Do you want to be made well? (5:6) At first glance, Jesus’ question to the lame man is a strange one.  The man had evidently been coming to the pool for some time. The Bible tells us that we are in need of the Great Physician (Mark 2:17); however, does everyone want to be made well?

–       But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words? (5:47). The Jews took pride in their knowledge of Moses and his teaching.  Why did Jesus say they did not believe his writings? See John 5:45-46.

–       Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? (6:61-62). Do you also want to go away? (6:67). Some following Jesus became confused and offended because of His lessons. After they went away, Jesus asked the twelve if they also desired to leave.  Christians are often persecuted and ridiculed for believing in Him. How hard is it for you to stay with Jesus even when others are not with Him?

–       Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me? (7:19). If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? (7:23). If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me? (18:23). Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me? (10:32). Why was Jesus ridiculed, attacked and ultimately crucified?

–       Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you? (8:10). Was the woman guilty or innocent of the charges made against her? Why did Jesus refuse to condemn her?

–       Why do you not understand My speech? (8:43). Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? (8:46). Jesus often said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15, Mark 4:9, Mark 4:23, Luke 8:8, Luke 14:35).  Why did He say certain people did not understand or believe in Him? See John 8:47.

–       Do you believe in the Son of God? (9:35). Read the entire chapter.  What else was healed in this man besides his eyesight?

–       Are there not twelve hours in the day? (11:9). Jesus made the most of His time, doing more in three years of ministry than anyone else has ever done in a lifetime.  Do you feel an urgency to accomplish something for Jesus with what time you have on earth? James said . . .You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away (James 4:14).

–       And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this? (11:26).

Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God? (11:40). One of His most amazing miracles was the raising of his friend, Lazarus, from the dead. However, Lazarus did ultimately die another physical death.  What promise did He make to Martha when He said, He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live? (John 11:25).

–       Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save Me from this hour”? (12:27). Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me? (18:11). Jesus is the God-man, all God and all man at the same time.  His anguish and His suffering were real. He did nothing to deserve death on the cross. He chose to live His perfect life and die a sacrificial death for you and me.  How does that put any suffering that you may encounter into perspective? If God can be glorified through a circumstance in your life, can you say, “Shall I not drink from that cup?”

–       Do you know what I have done to you? (13:12). Jesus answered this question in verses 14 and 15.  Is it possible to follow His humble and sacrificial example?

–       Will you lay down your life for My sake? (13:38). Have you ever made a rash claim to God and then fallen back on that promise to witness to His goodness in your life?

–       Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father, so how can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? (14:9-10). Even the disciples who walked and talked with Jesus face to face had a hard time understanding His identity and His mission.  With the completion of the Bible and the passing of time, there is more than enough evidence to support Jesus’ claims about Himself and His relationship to God, the Father.  Do you believe?

–       Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me? (18:34). Do you base your judgment on who Jesus is by what others say about Him or by what He has said about Himself?

–       Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these? (21:15, 16, 17). Three times Jesus asked Simon Peter the same question.  What about you?  Do you love Him?

Jesus asked probing questions of those around Him. Some believed in Him, some deserted Him, but His questions remain for everyone to answer.  If you ask the Good Teacher (Mark 10:17, Luke 18:18), What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? [His answer is] This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent (John 6:28-29).

 

© Stephanie B. Blake

All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.

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What Jesus Says About God the Father

Jesus constantly talked about God the Father. He was sent by the Father to redeem man, but although He chose for a time to be confined to earth, He was never separated from the Father except for one time.  His greatest suffering came from being alone on the cross, feeling forsaken by the Father.

Throughout His life, Jesus was about His Father’s business. He reminded His mother of that when He stayed behind in the temple at twelve years old. His mission and work was to do the will of His Father.

My Father, Your Father, Our Father

Jesus used personal possessive pronouns when referring to God, the Father. In every way, God is His Father. Jesus, as part of the Godhead, has a more intimate relationship with the Father than any other human being could have. He has always had an intimate relationship with “My Father.”

He and the Father are One. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (Genesis 1:26, John 1:1-2). His declaration of His relationship to His Father was what led to His death on the cross.

We have access to God the Father through God the Son. When addressing those who believe in Him, He refers to God as your Father. A Christian’s relationship to God the Father is intimate because of his adoption into God’s family. Jesus came to add to HIs family. When someone comes to Him in faith, He acknowledged that God is now your Father.

In conversation with His disciples, He talked about our Father. Jesus gave His life in order to share His Father with us. God the Father is our Father.

To Jesus, God the Father is My Father. He refers to your Father when talking to His disciples. Together with Jesus, as His brothers and sisters, God the Father is our Father. God our Father loves the Son, and loves those who love Him.

“if anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23)

Reflection and Discussion

How does each verse below address your relationship to God as your Father?

  • “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
  • “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
  • “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matthew 6:3-4).
  • “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6).
  • “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven. . .” (Matthew 6:9).
  • “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14).
  • “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:17-18).
  • “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (Matthew 6:31-32).
  • “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11).
  • “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
  • “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).
  • “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:7).
  •  “You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28).
  • “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1).
  • “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:8-10).
  • “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what a master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (John 15:15-16).
  • “He who hates Me hates My Father also” (John 15:23).
  •  “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father” (John 16:28).
  • “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. . . But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. . . I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be One in Us, that the world may believe that You sent me” (John 17:11, 13, 20-21).

What does it mean for you to have God as your Father?

© Stephanie B. Blake

Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version

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Prepare to Be Surprised

The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few.” Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.” But he replied,” There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left” (2 Kings 4: 1-7 NIV).

Notice that when Elisha told the widow to ask her neighbors for empty jars, he said, “don’t ask for just a few.” What happened next was a surprise. It was something only God could do. If this widow had known how God was going to bless her, would she have asked for even more jugs?

Elisha’s mentor Elijah had a similar experience with the widow at Zarephath (1 Kings 17: 7-16). As she was preparing what she believed to be her last meal for her and her son, Elijah approached her. All she had left was a handful of flour and a little olive oil in a jug. Elijah asked her to prepare something for him first and then for herself and her son. Although the drought in the land lasted for years, Elijah promised that the food would not run out until the day the Lord sent rain on the land.

These women were destitute because they had lost their husbands and thus their support. One went to a man of God hoping for help. The other was not even aware help was available. Neither of them could have imagined how their circumstances could have turned out well. They were surprised by God’s miraculous provision for them.

In each case, God called upon His servants to use what little the widows had to bring about the blessing. A little oil filled all the jugs the widow had collected. Only then did it stop. A little flour and a little oil were not depleted until the rain came.

Jesus surprised more than one tremendous crowd by feeding them from a tiny supply of bread and fish. In these circumstances, not only was there enough for the people, but an abundant supply remained. Jesus had these gathered up so there would be no waste.

Similar stories of provision can be found all over the world today. No story is identical to another, but one thing is clear. God loves to surprise His children. He knows our special wants and needs and delights in arranging surprises for us.

Sometimes we miss out on the best of God’s surprises because we are not prepared to receive them. How can we prepare ourselves for the surprises God has for us? Simply by living expectantly in faith that what God allows in our lives is best for us. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the certainty of things not seen…Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:1,6).

Some people would like to believe that God promises blessings because we deserve it. These are those who would preach and teach that Christians should never be ill or poor. That is not the teaching of the Bible. Story after story proves that God blesses and provides for His people in adverse circumstances.

If what we hope for is to honor God – loving, obeying and trusting Him – His rewards will be both temporal and eternal.

Daniel remained untouched by the lions when he was thrown into their den. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not even singed when they were thrown into the fire, but the men who tossed them in burned to death. Stephen – in the midst of being stoned for proclaiming Jesus – saw Him standing at the right hand of God. Paul and Silas – jailed for preaching Jesus – sang and prayed and then the angels opened the doors of the prison.

In “Making Each Moment Count: 21 Reflections on a Fulfilled Life”, Anne Bryan Smolin says in a chapter entitled “Expect Surprises”:

What surprises are waiting for me today? What graces will come my way? Who will carry the message? What will it be and how will it be packaged? Will I recognize it as gift?

Instead of deciding what my day will be like and what needs to happen, let me live this next 24 hours with abandon, open to the possibilities that dangle before me.

Anne has a good point. We often expect nothing or too little from God. We ask for small blessings when he desires to pour out His richest blessings upon us. Our God is not just a big God. He has no limitations. He delights in blessing His children who can give the glory to Him and who can in turn bless others.

George Mueller, a great man of prayer whom God supplied with the means – daily – for running the orphanages He had led him to establish, said, “Why should we limit either the goodness or power of God by our own knowledge of what we call the law of nature?” George Mueller lived expectantly and was accustomed to seeing God’s miracles on a daily basis.

Squire Parsons, a very gifted gospel artist, in his song “He will” expresses this idea perfectly.

“I don’t how He’s gonna make this trial a blessing…. I don’t know how He’s gonna do it, but I know He will.”

Wake each morning with eager anticipation. Have faith in God and be prepared for His abundant surprises. Give Him what you have and He will multiply it or give you something even better.

Stephanie B. Blake

April 2013

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The Best Free Gift Ever

There is sometimes a little letdown when Christmas is over. Family members go home and the house feels somewhat empty. The decorations need to be put away (not nearly as fun as putting them up). There is a possibility that some of the gifts need to be returned – either because they don’t work, you can’t use them, you already have one just like it or it doesn’t fit.
The opposite might also be true. If you have received a gift card or money for a Christmas present, now is the time to be able to choose something you really want or need for free. Redeeming the gift card or spending the money after Christmas often stretches your money because there are many after Christmas sales which are deeply discounted.

Everyone likes something free. The gifts you received didn’t cost you anything. You may have gotten something you have been wishing for and because it is something you would not have purchased for yourself, it is a true luxury. Some of my favorite belongings remind me of Christmases past and the thoughtfulness of a loved one.

Regardless of what you received this Christmas or past Christmases there will be a point where you will no longer use it. It will either wear out or you will leave it behind when you die.

The best free gift ever offered and received will never wear out or be left behind when you die. It was the most costly gift ever because it required the Son of God to die on the cross for your sin. Our free gift cost Him everything. His sacrifice enables you to spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

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Just like the gifts you got for Christmas, the only thing you have to do is receive this gift. As He offers it to you and you receive it by faith, you are able to have fellowship now with Him on earth and forever with Him in Heaven. If you have not received this most precious gift, why don’t you do so today?

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).*

*This post is duplicated on my other blog, http://stretchmoney.wordpress.com as well. As I try hard to give advice on how to obtain what you need for free, this post was also appropriate for that blog. Jesus Christ offers the best free gift ever!

Jesus and Money

When possessions become more important than God or people, your perspective in life is backwards. It is God who gives us all things to enjoy. Without Him, we would have nothing. He puts such a value on us as people that He sent His Son to die in our place.

That’s why, I think, that when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, He replied, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matthew 22:37-39).

Obeying this commandment enables us to view life the way God intended. Giving Him first place in your life does not rid you of anything. Instead, it enriches you.

Those who are truly rich are those who can love – they can receive love and they can give love.

JESUS AND MONEY

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Jesus demonstrated how to prioritize.

His choice of earthly status was deliberate. The Son of God chose to be born in a humble stable with a manger for His crib. He did not choose a princess to give Him an earthly body, but a young peasant girl. The man who raised Him as a child was not a lawyer, a teacher or a rich man. He was an ordinary carpenter.

Jesus mingled with both rich and poor. He did not condemn the rich, nor accuse the poor. His teachings, especially the Sermon on the Mount, address attitudes toward money – always emphasizing that a person’s heart will be bound to what he treasures.

The group of twelve disciples that followed Him throughout His ministry came from all walks of life. Most were fishermen. One was a tax collector. Some of their occupations were unknown, but once committed to following Jesus, they left behind their old lives. They lived as their Teacher lived – without dependence on worldly goods.

At one point, Jesus appointed seventy other disciples to go to cities ahead of Him. His instructions were specific. They were to go out two by two carrying no supplies with them. The willingness of those they visited to supply their needs with an open home and shared possessions would be evidence of their reception to the message of the disciples.

Jesus often spoke about material things and money, knowing that was always an issue on the minds of men. Many of His parables were about money, property or wealth.

He wanted to drive home the point that what you do with the material resources you have been given is very important and has consequences.

© Stephanie B. Blake

October 2012

* an excerpt from “Money: How to Be Rich Without It and How to Stretch It Using Ten Hints from the Past and the Technology of Today”

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Little Children Love Jesus

One year I was the missionary speaker at Vacation Bible School at my home church. What a delight it was to watch the children listen with rapt attention as I talked about serving Jesus around the world.

The first thing I told them was, “Jesus loves you and He has a plan for your life. Do you know that Jesus loves you?” Practically every head nodded yes. I believe they do know that Jesus loves them and in return, they love Him back.

gbtas0018Jesus understands this about little ones. His delight was in the children who came readily to Him. The picture that comes to our minds when we think of Jesus and children is one of peaceful abandon. The children ran to Him, sat in His lap, listened to Him speak and soaked it all in. They had nothing better to do than enjoy time with the One who loves them the most. There is no other situation in the life of Jesus where the circumstance is more joyful. Unlike the adults who questioned Him, doubted Him, tested Him, persecuted Him and eventually killed Him, in their sweet innocence, the little children felt His love, accepted it and returned it.

Unless they are mistreated or neglected, children naturally trust those in charge. Adults in their lives make them feel safe and secure. It is later in life that people discover that not everyone is trustworthy. Jesus, however, is totally trustworthy. He will never disappoint you, nor fail you.
If we could only stay like little children in our love for Jesus, we would avoid becoming calloused, doubtful and fearful. Resting in His love, trusting His guidance and staying close to Him, just like the little children, makes all the difference in our perspective on life. What joy being in His presence brings.  Little children love Jesus. So should we.

Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will be no means enter it” (Mark 10:13-15).

The Real Superman

Stamp_Day_for_SupermanSuperman has always been a favorite of mine. Starting out as a comic book hero in 1939, he has been around ever since. In 1940, the radio series The Adventures of Superman began. During that time, any one listening to it could probably describe Superman as “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”

All the movies, old as well as new, and all the television programs, including the most recent Lois and Clark and Smallville, have had my viewing attention. They are good, fun and clean entertainment.

Superman has sustained popularity because every one wants to believe in a hero. Interestingly, Superman did not originate on earth. He came from Krypton, sent to earth by his parents as an effort to save him as their planet was being destroyed.

Found and kept by a loving couple in Kansas, he determined early on to use his super powers for good and not evil, adapting to his adopted planet. He accepted people’s shortcomings without giving into the temptation to become like them when their attitudes and actions were not consistent with his standards of honesty and decency.

Superman felt his disguise as a mild mannered reporter was necessary in order to be able to help others. At a moment’s notice, Clark Kent slips away to become Superman when he becomes aware of someone’s need. He wasn’t really a dual personality. Clark and Superman were one and the same. When people were caught in dangerous situations and could not help themselves, Superman showed up to do what would have been impossible for them to do.

Superman had his enemies, the most well known Lex Luthor. He feels like he can not do all he wants to do – control the world – with Superman around. He is always behind the scenes trying to connive a way to get rid of Superman.

f72123Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is no fictional character. He is real. He left heaven to come to earth to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. His real enemy, Satan, brought sin into the world and has been trying to control mankind ever since. Satan knows we are helpless to save ourselves.

The best definition of humility is strength under control. Jesus humbled himself to live among men so that He might save them. Jesus is both the Lion of Judah and the sacrificial Lamb of God. Instead of leaving the human race without any hope and helpless, Jesus chose to give His own life to save those who would trust Him.

Jesus is the only real hero there is.

[Jesus] emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8). Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13).

Joseph, the Man in the Background in the Nativity

800px-Nürnberg_Frauenkirche_Krippe_Anbetung_der_KönigeWhen unpacking my Christmas decorations, I love pulling out and setting up my collection of nativity scenes. It is the picture of the real Christmas story: the gift of the Son of God to the world.

Jesus is the central figure in the nativity scene. It would not mean anything without Him. When I am placing the other figures around Him, I usually place Mary behind His right and Joseph behind Him on the left.

The placing of Joseph in the nativity scene is somewhat symbolic of his life. He is the man in the background. Many stories have been written about how Mary was chosen to be the mother of our Savior, but little has been said about the man who was chosen by God to raise His son.

Matthew tells us more about Joseph than anyone else. Like me, I think Matthew must have been impressed with this humble man who loved God, loved the mother of His Son and loved His Son in a way that no one else could.

After Mary told him she had been chosen to bear the Christ child, Joseph had the first of his dreams that included instructions from God. The angel in the dream told Joseph not to be afraid but to wed Mary as he had planned.

Joseph was visited by an angel of the Lord in his dreams at least twice more. After the visit of the wise men, he was instructed in a dream to take his family to Egypt because Herod wanted to kill the child. He was told to stay until he was visited again. After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to go to the land of Israel. Joseph settled in the city called Nazareth, thus fulfilling the prophecy about Jesus that He would be a Nazarene.

Joseph is mentioned again when he and Mary found Jesus conversing with the teachers in the temple. When Mary questioned Jesus as to why He had not come with them when they left the city, Jesus said, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). This is the last time Joseph is mentioned, so he must have died between the time Jesus was twelve and the beginning of His ministry.

Although Jesus’ brothers resented Him and for a long time did not believe in Him, that was not true of Joseph. He did not resent raising a Son that was not his own. He accepted that assignment from God without question.

Joseph was an unusual man, humble and obedient. What Jesus learned about carpentry, he learned from Joseph. Joseph must have also taught Jesus much about His Father’s word as well, for we know that Jesus learned the Scripture as a child.

I am looking forward to meeting Joseph in heaven, the man in the background in the nativity.

Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus. (Matthew 1:24-25).

Forgetting the Cross

Some years back, my husband was a pastor in far west Texas. He led our church to hold an annual evangelistic crusade in a mountain amphitheater. Although it was difficult in that city to get new people to come to the church building, in this beautiful outdoor setting, the attendance was always very good.

A large cross, illumined by spotlights, was placed strategically behind the stage area. No one attending the services could miss seeing the old rugged cross on the hill. The cross was central in the preaching and the music. Many people were saved as a result of the crusades.

Set up and tear down of the equipment was an all day affair, involving many people and much labor. One year, when things that were to be carried back to the church had all been loaded on the trucks and the tear down team was ready to drive away, my husband heard one of the clean up crew for the amphitheater cry out, “Hey, mister, you forgot your cross!” Sure enough, the cross still stood on that hill, alone, and forgotten. My husband has never forgotten the implications of that oversight, nor have I.

For many years, I have observed preachers and churches who have forgotten the cross. No one seems to be offended with stories about Jesus, the nativity, the miracles and the parables. However, when the whole gospel is preached and the cross is included, there is a different reaction, sometimes a violent one. Preachers are tempted to leave the cross out of the gospel in order to reach the crowds. People would rather hear a motivational message loosely based on scripture than the whole gospel, with the terrible reality that it was our sin that nailed the Son of God to the cross.

The sweet story of the nativity has to include the horrors of the cross and the glory of the resurrection. Jesus paid for the sins of mankind on His cross. After His resurrection, He sat down at the right hand of the Father, His mission complete. The whole story of Jesus must include the cross and the resurrection.

25019718-resurrection-christ-easterDon’t forget the cross!

Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said…And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world (1 Corinthians 15:3-4,17-19 NLT).