Friday, February 8, 2013

I'm afraid to let go of them.

I had to learn the hard way. More grace and more mercy from us will not solve all the problems in this world.

I still wish I could have fixed things. I wish it had been within my power to save the relationship and move forward anew. Sometimes, however, no matter how much you try to steal the ball back, it is in their court safe and sound. And they don't want to do a thing with it.

Those situations are hard. They have been for me. I'm not saying I worked through everything perfectly, or responded correctly every time. I'm not saying they are the bad guys and I am the innocent victim. But there comes a time when you have to cut your losses. And that is hard for some of us. It's hard for me.

In the past had I read this story on Joseph I would have walked away thinking, "More grace, more mercy. More than I can imagine. That's what I need to give." The problem with this thinking is it was  not Joseph who gave more mercy and grace, it was God.

Am I saying there are times God doesn't call us to give more mercy and grace? Maybe. But let me be clear in the fact I believe we should love anyway. He calls us to that specifically. But at times, mercy and grace is unrecieved and unbidden and unwanted. Some would rather live with bitterness, hardness, and justification. And sometimes anything we try to give only makes it worse.

I have been on that side too. Sometimes I still am. It's hard to release those things which make you feel safe. And until I can let go, like Joseph did with the divorce decree, I can't fully accept God's love pouring through me. He can't really do a thing with me when I'm in a ball of bitterness.

And those you are reaching out to who are in their own ball? You can't do much with them either. They aren't ready to make amends. They aren't ready to heal the wounds. They aren't ready to bridge the gap.

And letting go is sometimes just as painful as the wounds when they were originally made. But unless God calls to you, and unless He gives you that extra grace and mercy that will make a difference, please do me a favor: learn to love from a distance and let go of the idea that you will make a difference.

We are all on our own paths and we don't always get to the point at the same time. We can't hurry each other along, and we can't keep each other from sliding back. We can only love and encourage each other, while recognizing when anything else we might do wouldn't change a thing.

If God doesn't call you to a thing, person, or experience then don't rush forward headlong. Trust God to take care of it without you. Realizing you aren't going to be the one to make the difference is an important lesson to learn. Yet, sometimes, a hard one.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The fear of following God's course

Matthew 1:20
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.”

Entering into the New Testament passages has been interesting. I can’t look at these verses as I always do, because I have only ever personalized them for Joseph. I have considered how he must have felt, what kind of man he was, and how he received the truth in a dream. These words will never be said to us, for the Messiah has been born and that is now done. But that doesn’t mean it is simply a story with no take away.

The first thing I noticed when I read these verses was the first line, “But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.” Contextually speaking he was considering divorcing Mary. Verse 19 states, “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” So often we focus here on his grace and mercy in this situation, and let me not be dismissive on this subject. If he had been legalistic or “religious” he very well would have had her stoned. But what I want to consider is that he did not come to any decision lightly. He considered his choices, and even slept on his decision.

How many times have you rushed into a decision only to regret it later? I certainly have. Sometimes my mercy and grace propelled me into a decision which was unwise. While those two traits are admirable in anyone, they can’t be what leads us forward all the time. Joseph would have been so full of mercy to simply divorce her quietly. There would have been nothing wrong with that decision, and many would have thanked him for it. But the problem would have been it wasn’t what God wanted him to do.

Joseph only knew this because he didn’t come to a rash decision quickly. Had he divorced her when he first found out, then how could he have fulfilled the role God wanted him to play?

Also, what strikes me is regardless of how merciful and graceful we feel we are being, God is usually several steps ahead of us. Joseph was not only to keep everything quiet, he was to also continue with his course and marry Mary. There would be no divorce. There would be no separation. There would be a family to raise the Son of God in, full of love, mercy, and grace. A family which existed only because God’s grace and mercy was greater than Joseph’s and Joseph had chosen to follow God’s lead.

Question 1: Are you in the habit of consulting God for your decisions? Sometimes He leads you clearly, and sometimes He lets you make the decision, but rash answers will never allow you to know for sure which way you are to go. Consider your choices next time, and sleep on it if you can.

Question 2: The next time you are in a situation and you feel you are giving all the grace and mercy you can give, consider what God would have you do. Does He want you to dig deeper and give only what He can give you? If so, don’t be afraid to walk in the path He has laid out. He will give you the strength to do so.
Dear Father,
You are amazing
We think we have it all worked out
We think we are good
But we aren’t
You are so much more than we could ever be
Forgive us our pride and false humility
Help us to walk the path you have laid out

Monday, February 4, 2013

Joseph and his fear

Joseph was betrothed to Mary. In the Jewish culture of this time, the engagement was a committed thing. It took more than returning a ring to bring it to a halt. In fact, it needed a divorce like a marriage would. According to Deuteronomy what happened to Mary was enough for her to be stoned, if Joseph so chose to pursue that path. What happened? While she was engaged to Joseph she became pregnant, but not with his son. The truth was hard to believe, and we don’t know what Mary said when Joseph found out she was pregnant. She returned from her cousin’s home three months into the pregnancy, and I’m sure she did not deny the truth. Did she explain that she had not betrayed Joseph? Did she weep at what she was afraid of losing, even if she was highly favored? When he left her that day to make his decision, where was his heart and what did he believe? God made sure Joseph knew the truth, and told him not to be afraid.

matthew 1 20

Matthew 1:20

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." (NIV)  
But as he was thinking this over, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary [as] your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of (from, out of) the Holy Spirit. (Amplified)  
While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant." (The Message)

afraid: phobeomai - to fear, be afraid, alarmed, in some contexts improper and an impediment to faith and love; to reverence, respect, worship, in other contexts a proper fear for God, a deep reverence and awe

Reformation Study Bible:
1:19 - Joseph resolved to divorce her quietly - Engagement was almost as binding as marriage, and infidelity during betrothal made divorce almost obligatory

Deuteronomy 22:23-24
23 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24 you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.

Matthew Henry's Commentary:
It becomes us, in many cases, to be gentle towards those that come under suspicion of having offended, to hope the best concerning them.
Those who would have direction from God must think on things themselves, and consult with themselves. It is the thoughtful whom God will guide.
When we are most quiet and composed we are in the best frame to receive the notices of the divine will.

It is a great mercy to be delivered from our fears, and to have our doubts resolved, so as to proceed in our affairs with satisfaction.