Friday, August 16, 2013

Defending My "Rights"

Mat 1:19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (NIV)

One Wednesday evening while teaching in an adult Bible study, it happened. I had studied. I had prepared. I was excited about the subject matter I was teaching. I love what God has called me to do. This one night, however, I realized that not everyone else was loving what I was doing as much as I was. In the course of my teaching, someone spoke out and aggressively challenged what I had just said. I was taken aback by the sudden outburst. I was slightly embarrassed and more than slightly feeling disrespected. Knowing how I should have responded, I chose to speak first and think second. I had a right to defend myself. So, I did. I defensively responded that his challenge was irrelevant because he hadn't heard all that I said because he had come in late. Was I "right" in what I said. If the question is "did I have my facts straight?" then the answer is "yes." Did I have a "right" to defend myself? In the eyes of my culture, "you bet." Did I win anything of sustainable honor in the eyes of God by doing so? "Not a chance." I had chosen to allow my emotions to lead my words, rather than let my heart lead my emotions.

Joseph had every right to dismiss Mary from his own fellowship and from his commitment to marry her. She was pregnant. It wasn't "his" and they were not yet married. As normal as it has become to contemporary pop-culture, it was seen as both a disgrace and an executable offense of that day. Joseph had ever "right" to have made a public spectacle of her. In his eyes and in the eyes of the public she had invited insurmountable shame and irrefutable disgrace upon the goodness of his name and reputation. Rather than to humiliate her, Joseph chose to dissolve their relationship in a manner that would honor God and honor Mary. His love for her and his love for God would not be undone by his own emotions nor his embarrassment and bruised ego. He forfeited the "rights of his culture" for right-standing before God. This heart and attitude facilitated Joseph's being able to receive the revelation of the Holy Spirit by which he discovered that this was God's divine intervention.

Imagine if Joseph would have responded to the "red flashes" of anger at finding out that his public reputation had just been thrown "under the bus." Ponder for a moment how his place in history would have been jeopardized, or at the least, limited, if he would have gone the way of "common sense." To fight for his redemption in the eyes of public opinion at the cost of another was his right, and in most cases, his mandate. He chose a higher calling.

Just because you have the RIGHT to do something doesn't resolve you to carrying out that "right" in a manner that adjudicates or appeases your feelings. In all that you do, you are to do it through the eyes of the LOVE OF JESUS. You are to love others by loving Him. Your love of others is a reflection of your love for Him. Never forget, no matter how difficult it may seem in the moment, you can love others, because it was HE WHO FIRST LOVED YOU. You may be frustrated with certain people for specific and valid reasons. Inevitably, this will be your reality. There will be those who speak before they think. There will be seasons when you feel as though your "rights" have been attacked, trampled on, and utterly dismissed. It will be in THAT moment you prove the strength and integrity of God's love in your life. How you respond to the infractions to your "rights" will reflect the level of the integrity of your heart and your trust in Him.

Joseph's humility opened his heart to receiving the true revelation of what God desired to accomplish. Joseph was a part of what God wanted to do. Humility and "giving up his rights" opened the door to something much greater. My Wednesday night Bible study experience gave me a similar lesson and opportunity. Though I had failed by trying to defend my "rights," I soon responded to the quick prodding of the Holy Spirit to publicly apologize, rather than defend. Later that evening, I made a personal appeal to the individual. As we talked, there had been a misunderstanding in communication that had caused him to interpret something I said in a way that I hadn't intended. There were no rights that needed proven or defended; only hearts that needed humbled and reconciled. Trust God. He is your defender.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Unbroken Promises

Matthew 1:17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. (NIV)

They say rings symobolize an unbroken promise that knows no end. The ring that rests on the second to last finger on my left hand serves to remind me of that truth on many levels. Not only does it represent the "until death do us part" vow that I declared to my wife, it communicates the faithful truth of God's ability to stand firm on His promises. The ring that I wear as my wedding ring was my father's. My dad wasn't there during the formative years of my childhood, the chaos of adolescence, nor for the emerging years of young adulthood. During those years, however, I stood firm on the promise I believed God had spoken to me that "one day," there would be restoration for my broken heart and in this seemingly shattered relationship. Years later, into my mid-twenties, I would see the promise of God fullfilled during the last six years of my dad's young life. He would succumb to illness, yet we would both live to see the power of a faithful God. As I look at this ring that has "seen it all," I am challenged and encouraged in knowing that through the years and the ages, God never changes. He is true to His Word and to His promise. The responsibility for me was to answer the question, "will I trust Him?" I said, "yes."

Matthew 1 reveals  what sometimes feels like an endless and purposeless list of  ancestral geneology. At further look, however, there is a priceless treasuer in the truth of that revelation. There were 42 generations between Abraham and Jesus. There was a promise made to Abraham and to David that the Messiah would come. Imagine all of the life that was lived during those generations. There was celebration. There was disappointment. There were comittments made, vows broken, and consequences encountered. Through it all, the promise of God to Abraham would never return void. The book of Numbers expresses the reality that "God is not a man that He would lie." He is faithful and true. Jesus would be identified as the Way, the TRUTH, and the life. His promises are as certain as the "yes" and the "amen." In spite of Israel's sinfulness and exhile, God's covenant to save and to deliver would still stand. The Word of God is faithful and God is faithful to fulfill.

Hold fast to the Word of God in your life and you will see ALL of His promises fulfilled. Stay connected to His Word and you will be comforted by His promises during the long seasons when it feels as though nothing positive is taking place. God is faithful in the storms and in the silence. Trust Him. Choose to hold on to His faithfulness as you commit to partner you faithfulness  in obedience to His word. God's promises will always hold true. As long as you choose obedience to His word, His will, His way, and depend upon Him, you will not have to accept the 42 generation gap. You can receive the promise, trust His faithfulness for the promise, and see the fulfillment of His promise.

What obstacle are you facing right now that would appear to be a contradiction to what you are believing and desperately hoping in God to do? Have you fully laid that desire down at the feet of Jesus? Have you surrendered your purpose unto Him? Have you yielded your disappointments to Him? Have committed to trust Him through the entire journey regardless of the inevitable twists and turns that come your way? Open His Word. Take a look at the Bible. His Word is Truth. It never loses its relevance, nor its power. Every promise that God has spoken, He still speaks. It's personal. He loves you. He's waiting on your trust and your obedience. He will not fail you.