God’s Blessing On A Good Attitude

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered… (Genesis 39:2).

This idea is repeated throughout Joseph’s life:

  • the Lord gave him success in everything he did (v. 3) 
  • the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph (v. 5)
  • the Lord was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the warden (v. 21)
  • the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did (v. 23)

For 11 years as a slave in Potiphar’s house and 2 years as a prisoner in jail, God not only blessed Joseph but He also blessed those around Joseph because of Joseph. 

This wouldn’t have happened if Joseph had been bitter over his situation. 

He didn’t demonstrate a bad attitude, but an outstanding work ethic. 

He didn’t look for opportunities to subvert and scheme, but he submitted and served. 

These principles are echoed in the New Testament as well:

  • Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16)
  • Slaves, obey your masters with respect (Ephesians 6:5)
  • Work well whether your boss is watching you or not (Colossians 3:22-23) 
  • Whatever you do, do it for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  • Live such good lives that others may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us (1 Peter 2:12-20)

[check out all of these verses by clicking here] 

This attitude is one that receives both God’s blessing and man’s favor. When we steward this blessing and favor well, we bring even more glory to God! 

Whether as a slave, a prisoner, or a prime minister, God blessed Joseph and He blessed those around Joseph because of Joseph’s attitude. Can the same be said of our lives?

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Not Puffed Up, Not Despised

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Not Puffed Up, Not Despised 

     We magnify our office, though we would not magnify ourselves. We hold that nothing can dignify a man more than being appointed to an office in a Christian church. I would rather be a deacon of the church than lord mayor of London. A minister of Christ is, in my estimation, an infinitely higher honor than the world can bestow. My pulpit is to me more desirable than a throne, and my congregation is an empire more than large enough. An empire before which the empires of the earth dwindle into nothing in everlasting importance.

     Why does God give to one man a special call by the Holy Spirit to be a minister and pass by another? There is another man more gifted, perhaps, but we dare not put him in a pulpit because he has not had a special call. … The man whom some would perhaps think most suitable for the office is passed by and another chosen. There is a manifestation of God’s sovereignty in the appointment to office in putting David on a throne, and making Moses the leader of the children of Israel through the wilderness, in choosing Daniel to stand among princes, in electing Paul to be the minister to the Gentiles and Peter to be the apostle of the circumcision. And you who have not the gift of honorable office must learn the great truth contained in the question of the Master, “Is it not lawful for Me to do what I wish with My own things?” [Matthew 20:15]

     We say again, the sovereignty of God is here displayed in the distribution of gifts honorable. Learn here, O Christian man, if you have gifts, to cast the honor of them at the Savior’s feet, and if you possess them not, learn not to murmur. Remember that God is equally as kind when He keeps back as when He distributes His favors. If any among you is exalted, let him not be puffed up. If any is lowly, let him not be despised. For God gives to every vessel His measure of grace. Serve Him after your measure and adore the King of heaven who does as He pleases.

From Divine Sovereignty

  • Why does one person have one gift, and not another gift? 
  • Why does one Christian have one gift and another Christian many gifts? 
  • Why does one person rise to notoriety and another remains anonymous? 
  • Why did God choose David? Or Moses? Or Joshua? Or Saul/Paul? 

God is sovereign and He knows what He is doing! 

This should awaken in us a humble confidence. We are humbled that God would choose us for anything, but we are also confident that since He did choose us and place us where we needed to be that nothing can remove us or diminish what God is doing through us. 

Don’t get puffed up. Don’t feel despised. God knows exactly what He is doing! 

How Will You Respond To Jesus?

Although most nativity scenes show the wise men visiting Jesus alongside the shepherds the night He was born, in reality the Magi showed up much later. 

They came first to Israel’s capital city—Jerusalem—and went to the man who currently bore the title King of the Jews—Herod—with an odd question, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? We’ve come to worship Him.”

The call to come to worship the Christ has always stirred different responses in people’s hearts. But I have noticed that the responses today aren’t any different than they were over 2000 years ago at Christ’s first Advent. 

Notice these four responses in the Gospel of Matthew:

  1. King Herodwhen King Herod heard this he was disturbed.

The word disturbed means an inward commotion, someone robbed of any calmness; someone who has become restless and agitated. 

King Herod wasn’t all that different from a lot of people today who have their personal lives organized according to their own plans. They have everything figured out. They are masters of their own fate. They know how everything is supposed to work. They are god of their own world. 

But inside it’s a different story. They may not acknowledge it to anyone else, but they are uneasy. King Herod was political, not religious. He knew how to play the games with the right Jewish leaders and Roman politicians to get and keep his throne. So when he hears, “Where is He who is born KING OF THE JEWS?” you can understand why he instantly becomes so agitated! He feels like his well-ordered world and best-laid plans are about to crash in on him! 

  1. All JerusalemKing Herod…was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 

The people of Jerusalem had a love-hate relationship with King Herod. If you were on his side, he could be quite generous with his gifts and favorable with his influence. But if you were against him, he could be incredibly cruel (just take a look at verse 16!). 

So when Herod got upset, you can imagine why the citizens of Jerusalem were as well. They all longed for the Messiah—the Christ—to come and set them free, but in the meantime they were trying to keep their options open. They wanted the Messiah, if they could have Him, but they didn’t want to abandon Herod yet, just in case the Messiah couldn’t follow through.  

  1. Religious leadersHerod…called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law. 

Of all the people looking for the Christ, you would think the chief priests and teachers of the law would be the most excited! When Herod asked them for the birthplace of the Messiah, they immediately knew the answer, but after they delivered this information to King Herod they aren’t mentioned again in this narrative. Bethlehem was only 6 miles away, but they didn’t do a single thing! The Messiah being born in such a lowly manner didn’t fit the image they had concocted in their minds. Later on, Jesus would challenge them on this (see John 5:38-40). 

  1. MagiMagi from the east came to Jerusalem. 

Whereas the Jewish religious leaders were only 6 miles away, the Magi that came from the east might have been anywhere from 400-800 miles away. They left the comforts of their home to travel perhaps as long as 4 months. But, Oh! the journey was so worth the effort! They got to see the Christ with their very own eyes! We read that they were overjoyed, and that they bowed down and worshiped Him and opened their treasures. 

What’s your idea about Jesus? 

  • King Herod wanted a Savior that would enable him to continue to run his own life, but he didn’t want a King that would call the shots. 
  • The people of Jerusalem wanted access to God’s power, but they didn’t want to give their full allegiance to Jesus. 
  • The religious leaders wanted Jesus to fit their mold, but they didn’t want to have to change anything about their own lives. 
  • Only the Magi accepted Jesus as both Savior and King, willingly laying everything at His feet. 

What about you? What’s your idea about Jesus? He isn’t just a Baby in a manger; He’s also King and Judge and Ruler and Lord. When you hear the call to come worship Him, what will your response be? 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—God Sovereignly Gives Gifts

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

God Sovereignly Gives Gifts

…Am I not permitted to do what I choose with what is mine? (Matthew 20:15) 

     There is no attribute of God more comforting to His children than the doctrine of divine sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, and that sovereignty overrules them and that sovereignty will sanctify them all. … 

     On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by worldlings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on His throne. … When God ascends His throne, His creatures then gnash their teeth. And when we proclaim an enthroned God and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter, then it is that we are hissed and execrated. … 

     O you who are gifted with a noble frame, a comely body—boast not yourself therein, for your gifts come from God. Oh, glory not, for if you glory you become uncomely in a moment. The flowers boast not of their beauty, nor do the birds sing of their plumage. Be not vain, you daughters of beauty. Be not exalted, you sons of comeliness. And, all you men of might and intellect, remember that a sovereign Lord bestows all you have. … 

     Therefore I say do not exalt yourself above measure, but use what God has given you, for it is a royal gift and you should not lay it aside. But if the sovereign Lord has given you one talent and no more, lay it not up in a napkin, but use it well. … Bless God that you have more than others and thank Him also that He has given you less than others, for you have less to carry on your shoulders. And the lighter your burden, the less cause you will have to groan as you travel on toward the better land. Bless God, then, if you possess less than your fellows, and see His goodness in withholding as well as in giving.

From Divine Sovereignty

God does all that He does on purpose. Just because you or I cannot perceive His purpose doesn’t mean that there is no purpose. There is! 

God is sovereign. We can fight against this, or we can see it as the amazing comfort that God intends for it to be. Since God is sovereign, I can rest assured that I am where He needs me to be, equipped with all He has given me to bring Him glory in that place!

 

Is There Room In Your Heart For Jesus?

I think all of you can finish this poem: ’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. 

Haddon Sunbldblom’s painting for Coca-Cola

This poem was written in 1837 by Clement Moore. Most people assume the title of the poem is the first line of the poem, but Moore’s original title is actually “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” And we all know what St. Nicholas (aka Santa Claus) looks like, right? Actually, this well-known painting of Santa Claus is the creation of Haddon Sundblom for Coca-Cola in 1930, but it’s not too far off from the original St. Nicholas. 

Nicholas of Myra

Nicholas of Myra was a Christian bishop who lived in the 3rd century AD. It was discovered by some of his peers that he would anonymously throw bags of money through the open windows of the poor people in his town. Some of the coins landed in these poor families’ shoes and socks as they were drying by the fireplace. The myth grew that without your stockings hung by the fireplace you wouldn’t receive any gifts. After Nicholas died in 342 AD he was declared a saint, so his popular practice of blessing the poor spread and took on a life of its own. 

I’m struck by a contrast from the line in Moore’s poem that “the stockings were all hung by the chimney with care.” This tells us how well people prepare for the “arrival” of St. Nicholas each Christmas, but let’s contrast that with how ill-prepared—if they even know they need to prepare!—people are for the absolutely certain fact of the arrival of King Jesus! 

Just as the vast majority of Israelites weren’t prepared for the Messiah’s first Advent in Bethlehem in the 1st century, how many people are still unprepared for His second Advent which could occur at any moment? 

Think about the contrasts between the legend of St. Nicholas (i.e. Santa Claus) and the certainty of Jesus Christ:

  1. St. Nicholas was a poor monk who has now become richer than imaginable. Jesus is the King of kings who left all His riches and kingly rights to become poor. 
  2. St. Nicholas was a servant who has now been elevated to royalty status. Jesus is Absolute Royalty who became a servant. 
  3. St. Nicholas lives in a castle at the North Pole; there wasn’t even a room for Jesus at His birth, or even later in His adult life. 
  4. St. Nicholas is a fable that people venerate; Jesus is the Truth that people mock. 
  5. St. Nicholas left a legend with nothing of lasting value; Jesus is Absolute Reality and He is coming again (see Hebrews 2:14; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 2:7; Matthew 8:20; Acts 2:22-23).

There was no room in any inn, although Joseph knocked and knocked. Jesus is still knocking today, except today it’s on the door of your heart (Revelation 3:20). Will you let Him in? Or will you continue to allow your heart and mind to be dominated by myths and legends? 

Advent is a time for reflection. I don’t think we could ask a more heart-searching question than this—

Am I more prepared for St. Nicholas than I am for King Jesus?

Humbug?!

In Longfellow’s classic I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day every stanza ends with the phrase “peace on earth, goodwill to men.” Unless you’ve been living someplace that doesn’t get the daily news, you might be saying, “Peace on earth? Really? I just don’t see it….” Or as Ebenezer Scrooge might say, “Peace on earth? Bah! Humbug!” 

A humbug is an imposter, or something empty of meaning. 

The third stanza of I Heard The Bells seems almost to slide into that Christmas humbug note: “And in despair I bowed my head: ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said. ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.’” 

Indeed, even for those who call themselves a Christian, Christmas could become a humbug if…

  • … it’s all about busyness or just trying to “survive the holidays” 
  • … we get more excited about Santa Claus coming down the chimney to fill stockings than we do about Jesus coming down to Earth to be born in a manger 
  • … our main focus is on gifts—both what you’re giving and what you’re getting—and then we regret putting ourselves into debt 

Between Malachi (the last book of the Old Testament) and Matthew (the first book of the New Testament) is a time span of about 400 years that is called “the dark period.” God had promised through Jeremiah that He would restore the Israelites and rebuild Jerusalem. There were promises of the Messiah coming to set things right, but after 400 years of darkness, the mindset of most Israelites was probably, “Messiah? Peace? Bah! Humbug!!” 

What God really promised through Jeremiah was a peace that came about as a result of two things: (1) forgiveness of sins and (2) restoration of a perfect relationship with God. The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom, which means one’s personal sense of wholeness and well-being, free from anxiety and fear, knowing that all is well between my soul and God. 

This is what God promises—I will cleanse them from ALL the sin they have committed against Me and will forgive ALL their sins of rebellion against Me (Jeremiah 33:8). 

This shalom is what comes through the First Advent of Jesus! As Longfellow observed, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men.” 

And this is what Jesus brought—

  • She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21 NIV). 
  • Now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to Him through the blood of Christ. For Christ Himself has brought peace to us… (Ephesians 2:13-14 NLT) 
  • Therefore, since we are justified (acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God) through faith, let us grasp the fact that we have…peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) (Romans 5:1 AMP). 

The bells and carols and remembrances of Christ’s First Advent should send our hearts soaring in anticipation of Christ’s Second Advent—when Christ shall return to take all of His own to be with Him forever, where He will wipe away every tear and where we live forever with Him in the New Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 33:9; John 14:3; Revelation 21:1-4). 

Let us guard against Christmas ever becoming a humbug—an imposter, something empty of meaning—but let’s make sure the rich meaning of Christ’s peace dwells richly in us! 

Join us this Sunday as we continue our look at the carols of Christmas! 

A Radical Change In Perspective

My friend Josh Schram shared a great message yesterday, wrapping up our series called Fading Gratitude. 

Josh was transparent about some of the struggles he overcame during his younger years, explaining how his decision to be grateful even for those roadblocks completely changed his perspective.

When we’re not intentional, our gratitude naturally begins to fade. It’s not that we’re intentionally ungrateful, but we just merely forget to be thankful. 

Our fading gratitude creates a domino effect. When gratitude fades we live with… 

Anxiety can keep us from even trying to pursue what God has planned for our lives. 

When a large group of people needed to be fed, a couple of Jesus’ disciples forgot about the miracles Jesus had already done in the past, and as a result, they became anxious about what to do next. 

Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” (John 6:7-9)

Yet Jesus multiplied more than enough for everyone to eat AND there were more leftovers than there was food that they originally started with! “So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves” (John 6:13).

That’s why Jesus tells us, So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34). When we’re grateful for what God provided yesterday, and we’re thankful for what He’s providing today, it will cut short any feelings of anxiety about what God will do again tomorrow!

“No amount of regret changes the past, no amount of anxiety changed the future, but any amount of gratitude changes the present.” —Ann Voskamp 

Gratitude can radically change our perspective! 

If I’m not choosing gratitude, then gratitude is fading. I can be grateful for things I originally thought were holding me back. I can give those things to Jesus—He is not only more than enough but He also gives back to me more than I gave to Him. 

 

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