Get Up And Get Moving

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him… (Matthew 1:24). 

I was reading an article posted on WebMD about how much damage we can do to our hearts by spending more time in front of the TV or computer than we do exercising. You’re probably thinking, “Well, duh! isn’t that obvious?!” It should be, and yet all of us still have a natural tendency to just sit there.

One quote especially stood out to me —

“It’s not even about the exercise. It’s about not sitting,” says Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “I think that sort of points us in a little different direction. In order for you not to cause harm to yourself, you really need to focus on getting up and moving.”

This reminds me of Joseph (Mary’s husband) in the Bible. God spoke to him three times in dreams. After Joseph woke up, instead of just sitting there contemplating the vision, there’s a phrase that shows up after every single vision—“Joseph got up and did.” 

A mark of a godly leader is one who obeys God quickly.

I’m convinced that if Joseph had not obeyed the first God-given vision, he wouldn’t have been given anymore. 

Has God given you a vision for your life? If so, just sitting there may do damage to your heart and limit any other visions from God. So follow Joseph’s example and get up and get moving!

This is part 32 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Fight Or Flee?

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith… (1 Timothy 6:11-12). 

Psychologists tell us that when faced with certain situations our bodies instinctively prepared to fight or flight. Knowing which situations to fight and which to run from are crucial for living a long and productive life. 

It’s no different in the spiritual realm. 

Christian leaders must know which things are worth the fight, and which things they simply must flee. To flee from things we should fight shows a lack of courage. But to try to fight the things we should run from shows a lack of wisdom. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who knows what to fight and what to flee.

Three things you must FIGHT for…

  1. …the purity of the true faith (1 Timothy 6:12; Jude 1:3)
  2. …the disempowered (Proverbs 31:8-9; Matthew 21:12-13)
  3. …the devil (1 Peter 5:9; James 4:7; Ephesians 6:11) 

Three things you must FLEE from…

  1. …idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14)
  2. …sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:18; Genesis 39:12)
  3. …earthly riches (1 Timothy 6:9-11)

Don’t try to fight the things you must flee from, and don’t run away from the things you must fight for. Pray for God’s wisdom to know which is which. 

This is part 29 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

The Blessing Of Quiet Humility

“When you’re full of yourself, God can’t fill you. But when you empty yourself, God has a useful vessel. Your Bible overflows with examples of those who did.

“In his gospel, Matthew mentions his own name only twice. Both times he calls himself a tax collector. In his list of apostles, he assigns himself the eighth spot.

John doesn’t even mention his name in his gospel. The twenty appearances of ‘John’ all refer to the Baptist. John the apostle simply calls himself ‘the other disciple’ or the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved.’

Luke wrote two of the most important books in the Bible but never once penned his own name.

Paul, the Bible’s most prolific author, referred to himself as ‘a fool’ (2 Corinthians 12:11).

King David wrote no psalm celebrating his victory over Goliath. But he wrote a public poem of penitence confessing his sin with Bathsheba (see Psalm 51).

“And then there is Joseph. The quiet father of Jesus. Rather than make a name for himself, he made a home for Christ. And because he did, a great reward came his way. ‘He called His name Jesus’ (Matthew 1:25).” —Max Lucado, in You!

Check out my book review of You! by clicking here, and you can read some other quotes from this book here.

5 Lessons From 2 Mothers

If you’ve been reading my series of posts on God’s favor, I hope you are becoming more aware of how strongly I want you to know this: God is for you! He’s not looking for opportunities to blast you, but to bless you. (If you want to read some of these previous posts, check out the link at the bottom of this post.) 

In writing his account of the birth of Jesus, Luke is captured with the idea of God’s favor. Luke uses the word favor more than any of the other gospel writers, and he uses the word quite frequently as he relates the events leading up to the birth of Jesus. During his narrative we meet two women—Elizabeth and Mary. Here are five lessons we can learn from these two mothers. 

(1) “Favor” is not the same thing as “favorite.” To say, “I am the one on whom God’s favor rests” is not the same as saying, “I am God’s favorite.” Elizabeth recognized God’s favor on both herself and on Mary (Luke 1:25 & 43), and Mary also recognized God’s favor on herself (Luke 1:28, 30, 48-49). But nowhere did these women think they were God’s favorites. God has no favorites, but instead He showers His abundant, never-ending favor on everyone! 

(2) “Favor” probably didn’t look like what they would have planned for themselves. Elizabeth didn’t get pregnant until the age when she should have been a grandmother, and Mary got pregnant before she was even married. I’m sure neither of them thought their lives would go this way! But God knew what He was doing all along (see Isaiah 45:7-9; Psalm 139:16). 

(3) They needed humility, obedience, and perseverance to remain in the place where they could recognize God’s favor. No one can stop God’s favor, but the devil would love to keep you from recognizing God’s favor. One way satan does this is by trying to get us to appeal to our pride (“I think I can do this better”) because then obedience to God and perseverance through the trying times is very difficult to maintain. 

(4) God’s favor is for God’s glory (not necessarily for our comfort). God is accomplishing HIS plan through us. His favor toward us places us where He needs us, when He needs us there, and with the talents we need to respond correctly when we get to that moment. Mary spoke the words that I’m sure were also in Elizabeth’s heart: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me just as you have said.” 

(5) God’s favor doesn’t necessarily answer all our questions. Even though God’s favor places us in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills, we will still undoubtedly have questions about why God is doing what He’s doing. If you feel that way, you’re not alone—Hebrews 11 is full of people who felt the same way. But hang in there and keep trusting God: He knows what He’s doing! In the meantime remember this: God is able to make ALL grace abound toward you, that you, ALWAYS having ALL sufficiency in ALL things, may have an abundance for EVERY good work (2 Corinthians 9:8). 

Check out this video of the full message I shared on these lessons from the life of Elizabeth and Mary. 

Join me this Sunday as we continue looking at God’s favor. You can join me either in person or on Facebook Live. 

If you’ve missed any of my previous posts on God’s favor, check out: 

An Angel’s Story (book review)

an-angels-storyReader’s of my blog will know that I seldom read fiction books, but Max Lucado tricked me into reading this one! I read the introduction to An Angel’s Story and thought, “Wow, this is going to be an interesting take on the Christmas story,” and I began reading. But before I realized I was reading a fictional account, I was hooked and had to keep on reading.

I’m so glad I did! 

We often think of the night of Christ’s birth being—as the Christmas carols tell us—a silent night of wonder, a holy night of rejoicing, a festive night of an angel choir singing in the skies above Bethlehem. Indeed this is the picture we get in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

However, the book of Revelation tells a different story.

In Revelation, we see the lengths to which the devil and his hoard went to prevent the Advent of Jesus. And we also read about the angels who remain loyal to God battling against the dark forces in the heavens. Max Lucado imagines what this might of have looked like in the unseen spiritual world around Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.

If you’ve ever read anything from Max Lucado, you know that he is a first-class storyteller, and An Angel’s Story is no exception. Believe me: this book will grab your attention, keep you riveted until the very end, and give you a perspective of the night of Christ’s birth like you’ve probably never seen before. 

I highly recommend this book to you!

What Child Is This Anyway?!

christ-the-kingA couple of years ago as we were setting up for our Living Nativity, I was wrapping a towel around the doll we were going to use for the infant Jesus. A young boy from the community was carefully watching me and he asked, “Is that baby Santa?”

“No, it’s not Santa,” I said. “See this manger? We’re getting things setup to tell the story about the very first Christmas, long before St. Nick came on the scene. Maybe you’ve heard about Mary and Joseph?”

The young lad’s eyes lit up as he seem to get the answer. “Oh! Is that baby Moses?!”

Clearly, people don’t know all the facts surrounding the first Advent of Jesus. Sometimes things in culture and church get jumbled—what belongs to which? Is Christmas a pagan holiday? Where do Christmas trees come in? Was the birth of Jesus actually on December 25? What does it all matter anyway?

Instead of running from these questions, Christians should use them to point people in the right direction. 

Have you heard the tune called Greensleeves? It’s been around longer than anyone knows. William Shakespeare referenced it in two of his plays and didn’t feel the need to explain it to his audience. The tune has been set to some pretty bawdy words about New Year’s Eve parties, and even as a mocking song to some folks about to go to the gallows. And then in the mid-1800s William Chatterton Dix used this tune to write words about Christ’s birth in What Child Is This?

What an excellent question! Who exactly is this Child? Is Jesus merely a line on the pages of history? Or is His birth something more? Oswald Chambers noted, “The tremendous revelation of Christianity is not the Fatherhood of God, but the Babyhood of God—God became the weakest thing in His own creation, and in flesh and blood He levered it back to where it was intended to be. No one helped Him; it was done absolutely by God manifest in human flesh.”

The first-century historian Luke simply records that Mary is pregnant with “a child.” That is, until Jesus is taken to the temple in Jerusalem eight days later, and we see that a man named Simeon didn’t just see this Child as any baby, but as a fulfillment of prophesy (see Luke 2:25-32; Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6).

This Child is much more than just a historic person. He not only split history into BC and AD, but He has changed my life, and countless others’ lives as well! That’s why the chorus of this Christmas carol joyfully announces, “This, THIS is Christ the King!”

People may be confused about what tradition belongs to culture or Christendom. You may even be confused about what belongs to which. But none of that should stop us from knowing the Child we celebrate this Christmas. None of that should stop us from helping seekers to find Jesus as their own Savior. None of that should stop us from enthroning Jesus Christ as King and giving Him the highest praise He deserves!

Jesus used common, everyday things—farmers, fish, trees, weather, children’s songs—to tell people about a Heaven that was prepared for them. Paul used the cultural idols and poets to point his community to Jesus. Philip used the Scripture a governmental official was reading to point him to Jesus.

So we, too, can use whatever is around us to point people to Jesus this Christmas! What Child is this? This, THIS is Christ MY King! Merry Christmas!!

Peace On Earth! Really?

Craig T. OwensFor some people, “peace on earth” is just a wish. Perhaps all of this talk of peace and goodwill during the buildup to Christmas is doing just the opposite, and you’re feeling a bit stressed out.

How do you think Joseph felt on the night of his first son’s birth? Do you think he was peaceful, or do you think things weren’t going as he had planned, and his stress level was through the roof? We can learn a very valuable lesson from his life.

Please gather your family and friends around to watch this short 10-minute video before you begin your Christmas celebration. This encouraging word may be just what you need to have a peaceful and joyous Christmas.

(If you have any trouble with the above video, here’s another link to try.)

I encourage you to read the Scriptures I mention in this video. They are:

And the quote from Max Lucado I shared:

“You’ve stood where Joseph stood. Caught between what God says and what makes sense. You’ve done what He told you to do only to wonder if it was Him speaking in the first place. You stared into a sky blackened with doubt. And you’ve asked what Joseph asked. You’ve asked if you’re still on the right road. You’ve asked if you were supposed to turn left when you turned right. And you’ve asked if there is a plan behind the scheme. Things haven’t turned out like you thought they would. Each of us knows what it’s like to search the night for light. Not outside a stable, but perhaps outside an emergency room. On the gravel of a roadside. On the manicured grass of the cemetery. We’ve asked our questions. We’ve questioned God’s plan. And we’ve wondered why God does what He does. The Bethlehem sky is not the first to hear the pleading of a confused pilgrim. If you are asking what Joseph asked, let me urge you to do what Joseph did. Obey.”

Merry Christmas!

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