5 Steps — Wisdom to Handle Insults and Accusations

5 Steps — Wisdom to Handle Insults and Accusations

We all face insults or accusations — sometimes justified and at other times unjustified. How do we handle such situations?

I recently noticed two young children engaged in verbal combat. I’m not sure how the disagreement began, but these little preschoolers flung harsh words back and forth with stealth accuracy. Feelings were hurt. Tears flowed. Watchful adults intervened to ease the situation and calm the chaos. My heart ached for them to resolve the conflict.

Insults and accusations appear to naturally ooze from human brokenness. As much as I don’t like to admit it, often the afront aimed in my direction has been to some degree justifiable. But not always.

Either way, I struggle for wisdom to deal with these situations. The peacemaker side of me wants to overlook the conduct altogether, placing the higher value on the relationship. While the justice side on me demands righteousness and truth to prevail. One forces an eruption of words (much like the playground confrontation); the other compels me to retreat in silence, feeling victimized.

But what does God say about such matters?

Job

Most of us know Job’s story. After loosing his entire family and every source of security, Job sat in rags among the ashes, scraping the painful, oozing sores which covered his body. His friends sat with him, offering support. All too soon, their words turned into insults and accusations. They believed Job deserved punishment from God. One false claim led to another — each progressively worse. When he needed the comfort of good friends, he received critical judgment instead.

At first Job tried to reason with them.

Teach me, and I will keep quiet. Show me what I have done wrong. Honest words can be painful, but what do your criticisms amount to? Do you think your words are convincing when you disregard my cry of desperation?”
Job 6:24-26

Finally, he lashed back!

I will never concede that you are right; I will defend my integrity until I die. I will maintain my innocence without wavering. My conscience is clear for as long as I live.
Job 27:5-6

Joseph & David

For David and Joseph, the greatest insults and accusations came from their jealous brothers! Perhaps the old saying carries truth, “Hurting people hurt people!”

God had given Joseph dreams of one day ruling over his father and siblings (Genesis 37:5-10). In the same way, David’s brothers watched Samuel anoint him, the youngest son, king of their nation (1 Samuel 16:13). Rather, than applaud their younger brothers’ successes, they fumed with jealousy, desiring the favor and blessing for themselves (Genesis 37:17-20; 1 Samuel 17:28).

“Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?”
1 Samuel 17:29

Both Joseph and David attempted to speak up. Their words, however, landed on deaf ears. They both faced unbelievable insults and accusations from those closest to them. In fact, many years passed before God fulfilled His promise and brought these men to positions of honor. Eventually, Joseph became second only to pharaoh in Egypt and David did become king of Israel.

Jesus

We witness this pattern of insults and accusations toward God’s people throughout history. Jesus faced them both continually. He rebutted such conduct with truth — sometimes gently through a parable, sometimes through open rebuke. But somehow most advice we receive for our situations stems from Jesus’ final hours. As many lies and slander were hurled His way, He remained silent.

“Many testified falsely against him … some stood up and gave this false testimony … But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.”
Mark 14:56-61

Jesus warned His followers that they, too, would be despised and rejected for following Him. He predicted not just insults and accusations but imprisonment and death awaited them.

After Jesus’ resurrection, we see His followers defending both themselves and Jesus at the cost of their lives. Rarely, if ever do we see them stand before their accusers in silence. They took advantage of extremely tense situations to re-present Christ to even their accusers.

A Pattern

Throughout Scripture, many valiant men and women demonstrate wisdom by standing their ground in the face of insults and accusations. A familiar pattern emerges from their examples.

#1 – They all spoke the truth of God’s word to them and over them.
#2 – They used each opportunity to pray for and to seek the good of their accusers.
#3 – Each one forgave their adversaries.
#4 – As a result, they blessed their accusers and received a overflow of blessing themselves.
#5 – In an attitude of surrender to the Father’s will, their trust was completely in God for both present circumstances and future outcomes.

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing. because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”
1 Peter 3:9

They never positioned themselves in silence as sulking victims. Rather, they challenged their accusers by their radical trust in the righteousness, justice, and faithfulness of God.

Oh! May this pattern become mine! May it become yours, also! May our Heavenly Father intervene in our disputes just as the parents of these two young children did during their playground conflict. May He show us His way — the way of wisdom — the way of truth, honor, forgiveness, and blessing as we continually trust in Him, our good, good Father.

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This Christmas Celebrate the Ordinary

This Christmas Celebrate the Ordinary

Even as Christians we can easily become caught up in the busy swirl of the season. But this year may we slow down to celebrate the ordinary.

Many lesser things allure us: $700,000,000 signing contracts, massive stadiums and empires, luxury this, and luxury that. As the spotlight shifts from one elaborate story to another, we might extend our applause here or there. Whether intentional or not, we are tempted to ignore, or even scoff at, the ordinary.

How often do we applaud the mother sacrificially caring for her children? Do we acknowledge the father who consistently wakes up each morning and works to provide for his family/ What about the quiet caregiver who lovingly supports and provides for the infirm or vulnerable? These and many others may not rank high in the list of those worthy of celebrating. However, in God’s record book I think they do.

As we take a brief look at the Christmas story, we quickly discover those whom God celebrates. May it inspire us to also celebrate the ordinary.

An Ordinary Woman

Mary, by all appearances, led an unassuming life of quiet obedience to God. She was just one among many young virgin women, awaiting their wedding day. Engaged to a handsome and righteous young man, she anticipated the time when they would soon consummate their marriage, set up their own home, and begin a family together.

Her life portrayed a vibrant example of how to celebrate the ordinary, like generations of women before her. Until the day when everything changed!

The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!”
Luke 1:28

The angel explained how God had chosen her to become the mother of the awaited Messiah — the King who would rule and reign forever. Questions flooded her mind.

“‘How will this be; Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?'”
Luke 1:34

The angel reminded Mary that “no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37).

Until now, Mary appeared completely ordinary. But, we see the extraordinary character and godly integrity of this young woman as she gives God her complete, “Yes!” And with that she laid her reputation, and quite possibly her future marriage, on the line. She risked losing everything, choosing to celebrate the ordinary so we could one day receive Jesus as Savior.

No Ordinary Baby

Mary, through the Holy Spirit, conceived no ordinary Baby. This Baby — fully God and yet fully man — would save people from their sins.

“So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
Luke 1:35

Jesus gave up the splendor of Heaven to be wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger. He set aside all His power and authority to become robed in frail humanity.

“Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
Philippians 2:7-8

Jesus willingly chose the suffering of human life for our good, not His. He came as no ordinary baby to cancel a debt which we owed but could never pay.

Too often, we end our remembrance of the first Christmas here. And when we do, we miss the opportunity to celebrate the ordinary in another key figure involved.

An Ordinary Man

Joseph, like any ordinary man, busied himself in preparation for his future bride and family. The day was fast approaching when he and Mary would finally become man and wife. As a typical young couple, they held great hope and anticipation for their future together.

The news of Mary’s pregnancy shattered all that! How could Mary betray him? And in the worst possible way? He considered every option. But because he was righteous, he decided to quietly divorce her. Until an angel spoke to him through a dream.

“…’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. 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 1:20

Without hesitation, he took Mary into his home as his wife.

Joseph’s ready response should cause us to celebrate the ordinary who became extraordinary. This one ordinary Joe obeyed God completely and sacrificed himself fully for the sake, not only of his family, but ultimately for you and me.

Celebrate the Ordinary

Yes, Jesus, this no ordinary Baby, should be the central focus of the Christmas season. Yes, Mary deserves full recognition for the humble part she played in the birth of the Messiah. But this Christmas may we also celebrate the radical willingness of ordinary Joseph.

Ordinary Joe said “Yes!” to the commitment of marriage when divorce would have been the easier option. He said “Yes!” to adopting, loving, and raising a son not his own. Ordinary Joe said “Yes!” to sacrificial living for the sake of Jesus. He also said “No!’ to social status and the acceptance of his peers. Ordinary Joe said “No!” to defining his life by the expectations of others.

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”
Matthew 1:24-25

This Christmas may we consider ordinary Joe who allowed God to change his mind, to shift his focus, to soften his heart, and to bring Jesus home. Joseph gave God room for whatever He desired even when it cost, even when it hurt, even when he didn’t understand, and it went against the grain of all human desire.

Value the Ordinary

God has a perfect plan for each one of us. We may feel our lives are far too ordinary to be used by Him. But let’s allow this beautiful and incredible reminder of two ordinary people, Joseph and Mary, to give us fresh vision and assurance that God is able to use our ordinary lives for His extraordinary purposes.

May we be inspired to put God first, to walk in radical obedience to God’s Word, to love sacrificially, to give up our reputation for the sake of Kingdom worth, to live by our convictions not circumstances, and to place the good of others over ourselves. But most of all, may we welcome the living Christ into our hearts and homes.

God calls each of us to lay aside personal agendas and expectations. He calls us to enter a life of divine purpose. He asks us to trust him — not blindly but faithfully. God promises us that no sacrifice will ever be wasted. And He welcomes us to live our extraordinary calling through ordinary lives in unity with Him.

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Thankful for Friends — The Friendly and the Not-So-Friendly

Thankful for Friends — The Friendly and the Not-So-Friendly

I’m thankful for friends I’ve brushed shoulders with briefly and those I’ve walked beside a long time — the friendly and the not-so-friendly. Their diversity amazes me! Who but God could connect my life with theirs.

Have you heard it said, “It isn’t what you know but who you know that counts?” Both the what and the who are important, but I’m holding closer to the who, than to the what.

If I sat down and made a list of those who have positively impacted my life, the page would be long and the pen without ink. I’m sure you would discover the same. To be known sometimes feels risky and perhaps even dangerous.

Several years ago, our son skidded off the icy road onto a frozen river. Someone seeing his predicament stopped to observe and help if necessary. “You’re a Ward, aren’t you?” he asked with a grin. As our son put the vehicle into four-wheel-drive and pressed the accelerator to mount the riverbank, he wished to be unknown rather than known.

I’ve had more than my share of embarrassing moments as well.

The Friendly Friend

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend spring from their heartfelt advice.”
Proverbs 9:9

I hope your basket is full of friends you can turn to for “heartfelt advice” — those who stand with you no matter what you’re going through. Even if sometimes their words are directive or corrective.

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
Proverbs 9:6

Close Friends

Many times loyal friends loved me enough to instruct, even if it was with painful words. Their truth simultaneously stung and healed. Their correction brought me back on course, showed a better way, and challenged me to dig-deep and not give up on myself, God’s calling, or others.

Unfriendly Friends

We’ve all experienced those who have wounded us.

“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend.”
Psalms 55:12-13

No wound goes as deep as the wounds of betrayal, whether intentional or unintentional, from those we’ve trusted. The psalmist David knew the pain, so did Joseph. Sold into slavery and imprisonment for fifteen years, he had ample time to think about how his own brothers sold him out.

Friends Help

Yet, he said,

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Genesis 50:20

When those who should have been his protectors turned unfriendly, Joseph recognized the sovereignty of God. He leaned heavily into God’s plan and trusted His sufficiency. Through forgiveness, he counted even unfriendly friends as part of God’s infinitely wonderful purpose.

Job showed another example of genuine friendship, in spite of harsh treatment in his most vulnerable hour.

“After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.”
.Job 42:10

Only after praying for those who wounded him did God release a double blessing.

Good Friends

Becoming a good friend doesn’t happen accidently. Friendship costs! The “art” of friendship developed slowly for me. As a child, I preferred the company of animals over people and solitude above crowds. Trust came gradually.

Friendship

I honestly wanted friends, but severely stumbled in my efforts to become a good friend. Friendship requires loving at all times (Prov 17:17), living sacrificially (John 15:13), dedication (Ruth 1:16,17), helping, forgiving (Col 3:13), patience and kindness (1 Cor 13:4).

The Best Friend

Several years ago, my very young granddaughter walked beside her mother down the street of a small city. A homeless man silently approached and passed them. With sadness in her voice, she softly said, “He doesn’t have a family.” Her little heart recognized the absence of loving support in the face of a stranger.

Even children sense that God has designed our lives to thrive in healthy interaction with others. For too many, such luxury remains absent.

Jesus made this remarkable statement,

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
John 15:12-15

Jesus, God incarnate, chose to call us His “friend!” Not because we are worthy of such favor, but because of His love and grace. His incredible gift of friendship gives us the ability to befriend others with similar love and grace.

Best Friend

How amazing is that?

Whether you’re surrounded by many or few friends, don’t dismay. Jesus calls you friend! No other friendship compares to His; He will never leave you or do you harm; He sticks close, never abandoning or disappointing. You can fully trust Him.

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Proverbs 18:24

That “closer than a brother” Friend is none other than Jesus Christ.

Friends Protect

Jesus, a Friend to All

If you’ve never experienced the closeness of His friendship, my heart aches with understanding for you. Today, in the quietness of where you are, ask Him to come, not just to be your Friend, but your help, source and strength for all you need. Take this moment to turn toward Him, surrendering your life to Him completely. There’s no magic formula — just sincerity of heart.

To get to know Him more, download a Bible app for your phone or begin to read a standard hard copy, starting in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. By reading these portions of Bible, describing the life of Jesus on earth, you will discover more fully what an amazing Friend He is to all.

Blessings, my friends, I’m thankful you share your life with me.

Joseph – A Man Favoured by God

Joseph – A Man Favoured by God

I know God’s favour is evident even in my little life, yet I often misunderstand what favour really is. The life of Joseph gives a clear image of a man favoured by God.

Does favour include the logical expectation of rapid promotion, public approval, unlimited opportunity, and untroubled living? Perhaps not!

Psalm 5:12

Favoured Young

After years of barrenness, Rachel, Jacob’s second wife but first love, conceived and gave birth to Joseph. I appreciate the way God honestly reveals the dysfunction within this large family. They were genuine people with real struggles! Jacob openly showed favouritism not only between his two wives but also among his children.

“Now Israel loved Joseph more
than any of his other sons,
because he had been born to him in his old age;
and he made an ornate robe for him.”

Genesis 37:4

Joseph received more than his fair share of his father’s attention. While his brothers worked, he stayed close to home in his ostentatious robe. Of course, the animosity increased between him and his older siblings.

Then came the God dreams of seeing his brothers and father bowing before him, thus escalated the problem.

“They hated him all the more
because of his dream and what he had said
His brothers were jealous of him,
but his father kept the matter in mind.
Genesis 37:8,11

Perhaps immaturity contributed to Joseph’s inability to keep quiet about his dreams.

Psalm 30:5

Favour Needs a Place

A mathematician would become extremely discouraged digging ditches. An anointed speaker feels powerless without a platform! A teacher needs students! A musician needs an instrument to produce a melody!

Although Joseph was showered with support, frustration, and disappointment grew when he could not find his rightful place.

“Come, let’s sell him…”
Genesis 37:27

His brothers reject and sell Joseph into slavery at the first opportunity. A slight diversion from their initial murderous plan. I can hardly imagine the level of confusion and discouragement that overwhelmed this young lad on his way to the unknown.  He was dragged away from all that was loved and familiar.

Is this your image of favour? It isn’t mine!

Even in Egypt, however, God’s hand directs Joseph. One of Pharaoh’s officials seeing potential purchases him.

The LORD was with Joseph so that he prospered….
the LORD gave him success
in everything he did…
the LORD blessed the household
of the Egyptian because of Joseph.”
Genesis 39:1-5

Joseph rises like cream to the top! The righteous always do! The favour of God upon one man results in blessing for others. For the moment at least, the situation appears to improve.

Psalm 106:4

Often favour attracts adverse attention! It did with his brothers. Now it brings more of the same. Potiphar’s wife seductively pursues this vulnerable young man. Who would see? Who would know? Would anyone even care?

Godly Character

Yet Joseph does everything possible to protect his master’s honour and marriage. What is the reward for such integrity? A prison cell?

North American prisons resemble luxury suites in comparison to what Joseph experienced! This was no peaceful time off work!

“They bruised his feet with fetters
and placed his neck in an iron collar.”
Psalm 105:18

Yet even here, Godly character allowed Joseph to rise above circumstance finding favour with the prison official. Joseph continued to give himself for the benefit of others.

He even found a way to release others in their dreams while his own went unfilled.

“Within three days Pharaoh
will lift up your head and restore you
to your position.”
Genesis 40:13

Favour Takes Time

It is tempting to overlook the seemingly endless cycle of neglect, abuse, and suffering Joseph endured. We want to quickly rush past the process to happy endings. Favour cannot be rushed!

Psalm 90:17

For fifteen years Joseph worked out the true character of favour while living in the tension of unfulfilled desire. He came to understand favour is ultimately a call to serve.

Such commendation upon a life cannot be lived selfishly!

Wherever he was, Joseph served with uncompromising excellence. The favour of God is always and only for the benefit of others.

Did he ever lose hope of seeing his family? Did he doubt his calling? Were the dreams of long ago fading? Had even God forgotten him like people did?

“The chief cupbearer, however,
did not remember Joseph;
he forgot him.”
Genesis 40:23

I have more questions than I find answers for.

The Commitment of Favour

For two more years Joseph continued unnoticed within the confines of prison. Then a need arose! Favour flourishes in the soil of someone else’s need.

Pharoah has a disturbing dream. The cupbearer remembers!

“So Pharaoh sent for Joseph,
and he was quickly brought from the dungeon.
When he had shaved and changed his clothes,
he came before Pharaoh.”
Genesis 41:15

I love the “quicklies” of God! I want to ignore the long preparation to reach them, however. God gives Joseph both the interpretation and strategic wisdom on how to save a nation from destruction and multitudes from starvation.

Psalm 84:11

In a single day Joseph goes from

the dungeon to the palace,
darkness of obscurity to public view,
bound in chains to riding a king’s chariot,
loneliness to the comfort of home and family,
disgrace to honour.

Why? Favour was ready when favour was needed!

The Confirmation of Favour

God did not forget Joseph or his dream. Joseph’s brothers appear on their faces before him. The final test in the confirmation of favour is power.

Power to retaliate! Power to execute justice! Or power to forgive!

Only here do we witness the response of one truly walking in harmony with God!

“He turned away from them
and began to weep.”
Genesis 42:24

It is impossible to continue in the favour of God without tenderness — even to our greatest offenders. Joseph foreshadows another Man, Jesus, who one day would proclaim from a brutal cross,

 “…Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

The test of favour is extending grace, mercy, and forgiveness to the undeserving.

Joseph weeps so loudly the entire palace hears the agony of his wails. Abuse by and separation from those he loved, could not quench the genuine love Joseph freely expressed.

Proverbs 3:3,4

Joseph had made peace with the pain of walking in God’s favour. He recognized God’s plan as perfect.

“And now, do not be distressed
and do not be angry with yourselves
for selling me here,
because it was to save lives
that God sent me ahead of you …
to preserve for you a remnant.”
Genesis 45:5-7

Favour Defined

As I consider Joseph, I recognize there is a high price to walking in God’s favour. It is a trust given to only those willing to be refined in the fire of affliction.

Favour often marinades in obscurity for extended seasons. It is the preparation of those God chooses for specific times and needs. God’s favour is never for personal promotion, but rather for God’s glory and the benefit of others.

Seek God’s favour, but carefully. Then be prepared to accept the training and tests that accompany it. Through the painful process, favour will allow the recipient to rise to unparalleled heights.

Joseph’s conclusion was,

“You intended to harm me,
but God intended it for good
to accomplish what is now being done,
the saving of many lives.”
Genesis 50:20

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Further Reading:

The 3 Keys of Effective Ministry! Secrets of Success!

Leadership 101 – Take it from the Eagles

Advent – Joseph a Man of Dreams

Advent – Joseph a Man of Dreams

We all have dreamed dreams. Some have been realized; others await fulfillment. Do you have a dream? Is there something you are anticipating?

I love children’s dreams about virtually unlimited possibilities of doing and becoming. As youth, dreams form around making the team, being chosen for a lead role, getting a driver’s license, or reaching autonomy. Years pass and new dreams encompassing marriage, owning a home, and starting a family take greater shape. Later in life, minds fill with dreams of retirement and less toil.

Man was created with an innate ability to dream!

Dream

It is evidence of being formed in the image of God — the One who envisioned and spoke all things into being. Dreams enable us to reach beyond today’s reality, pushing present boundaries toward what could or might be.

Shattered Dreams

I remember well the excitement and anticipation with which each of our sons approached marriage. Filled with far-reaching plans and joyful hope, the future held promise.

I’m sure Joseph was much the same. How long his betrothal to Mary lasted, we aren’t sure. In the custom of the time, he would begin to prepare a house for his future wife and family as soon as he was engaged.

“This is how the birth of Jesus
the Messiah came about:
His mother Mary was pledged
to be married to Joseph,
but before they came together,
she was found to be pregnant
through the Holy Spirit.”
Matthew 1:18

I cannot imagine the upheaval of emotions that filled Joseph when he discovered Mary’s pregnancy: anger, betrayal, disbelief, fear, anxiety, confusion, disquiet. He watched helplessly as his greatest dream shattered irreparably before him.

Honour

Where did he go so wrong? Wasn’t he faithful to God? Hadn’t he tried to follow the Lord? How could this happen? Why?

The weight of disappointment and hurt must have been unbearable! Despite his personal pain, Joseph chose to act with the same integrity and honour that previously marked his life.

“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.”
Matthew 1:19

Joseph prepared himself to protect Mary regardless of any backlash! Undoubtedly, others questioned his sanity in making such a choice. Nonetheless, Joseph’s faithfulness and integrity blazed forth in spite of his own doubt and confusion.

His dream died a brutal death! Time to cut the loses! Walk away!

A Dream

What do you do when dreams shatter like broken glass on a concrete floor? Walking away may seem easy, even logical. The dark disintegration of man’s expectation is the perfect atmosphere for God’s revelation, igniting hope from hopelessness.

Expect

“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.
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: 20,21

Things are not always as they appear. Mary is pregnant but not because of unfaithfulness.

If Joseph was confused before, this dream may have intensified rather than answered the questions dominating his thoughts. Could this be possible? Was God really going to entrust him, a carpenter, and Mary, an unknown maiden, with the raising of the Messiah?

Every parent feels the overwhelming sense of responsibility that surrounds the birth of a child. How much more these parents and this birth?

A Man of Action

Joseph’s pre-set pattern of obedience to God set him in motion. Secure in his identity, he didn’t break his stride when faced with circumstances that would topple most men. On the basis of only a dream, he took immediate action.

“When Joseph woke up,
he did what the angel of the Lord
had commanded him and
took Mary home as his wife.”
Matthew 1:24

Trust

Walking humbly in obedience to God mattered more that anything else including human reasoning or influential voices of others. God’s word carried far more weight than the words of even his most loyal support community. At what point did Joseph exchange his

doubt for courage,
fear for faith,
anxiety for peace,
anger for hope,
or betrayal for trust?

Amidst shattered dreams, obedience demands strength and resolve. He drew deep from the well named “Trust in God”. The steadiness of a man’s steps proves the soundness of his faith! Joseph was far more than a carpenter. God spoke to his identity: “son of David“, a man with a heart after God!

[bctt tweet=”The steadiness of a man’s steps prove the soundness of his faith!” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

Faith Journey

There was nothing normal about this marriage. Perhaps there never would be! At some point Joseph had to make peace with his reality. There was no jubilant wedding night or honeymoon — two becoming one flesh.

A trip to Bethlehem, an untimely birth, strangers coming with well wishes and surprising announcements, prophetic utterances in the temple, more strangers with gifts and homage …. each confirming the identity of the Holy Child.

Peace

The dream of having a “normal” life died a thousand deaths! The desire for a secure home for Mary and Jesus probably remained foremost in Joseph’s heart — to provide for and protect his household.

Just when things seemed to begin to take shape, another dream!

“…an angel of the Lord
appeared to Joseph in a dream.
Get up,” he said, “take the child
and his mother and escape to Egypt.
Stay there until I tell you,
for Herod is going to search
for the child to kill him.”
Matthew 2:13

Get up! Escape! Sounds more like a nightmare than a dream! Would Joseph ever experience the luxury of “normal”? Maybe! But not today!

The same outright obedience that had marked Joseph’s life to this point continued. His steadfast faithfulness to both God and his family were enough to stir him from deep sleep. Packing their few belongings, they moved on. Before the awakening of dawn, there came a fresh realization that perhaps the worst was not yet behind them. They became refugees on the run!

Unshakable!

I am amazed as I consider Joseph, this incredible man of God. What an example of unshakable faith in God’s sovereign will.

“So he got up, took the child
and his mother during the night
and left for Egypt,
where he stayed until the death of Herod.”
Matthew 2:14

Faith

Wherever God led, however long the exile, regardless of questions, Joseph led his family with faith.

What kind of man walks with consistency at such great personal sacrifice? God knew Joseph could be trusted along every rocky road of this journey. God’s only Son was safe in the hands of this loving, passionate servant.

Is faith blind, or does it see without light? Is the breaking of a dream the end, or the beginning of something beyond understanding?

Dream Fulfilled!

Twice more Joseph would be directed through dreams:

“After Herod died, an angel of the Lord
appeared in a dream
to Joseph in Egypt and said,
“Get up, take the child and his mother
and go to the land of Israel,
for those who were trying to take
the child’s life are dead.”
Matthew 2:20

and

“…Having been warned in a dream,
he withdrew to the district of Galilee,
and he went and
lived in a town called Nazareth.”
Matthew 2:22

Can you imagine the relief? At home with the threat over! Safe at last!

When one says “yes” to God, there is no way of knowing where “yes” will lead. “Yes” is unconditional agreement to God’s choice, God’s ways, His thoughts, His desires. The path of “yes” is often paved with sacrifice.

Hope

I have learned much from looking at the life of this not-so-secondary character in the Advent story. Each of us, at some point, will face the reality of broken dreams, failed promises, and unrealized hope. Then, what?

Joseph presents a powerful example of

faithfulness,
honour and integrity
selfless commitment
sacrificial obedience
passionate service
and unshakable faith.

May God see in us, what He saw in Joseph, a true son of David — one “who will do everything” He desires.

“… God testified concerning him:
‘I have found David son of Jesse,
a man after my own heart;
he will do everything I want him to do.’ ”
Acts 13:22

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Never! 8 Things God Will Never Do

8 Things God Will Never Do

I have often said and written, “Nothing is impossible for God!” Actually, there are a number of things that are impossible for Him. If you are curious or think I’ve fallen off the rails, read on! Discover what God will never do.

I am so enthralled by the wonder and majesty of all God is and the glory of His splendor, I have never seriously thought about the things He will never do. Until now!

1. God Never Makes Mistakes

God will never say, “Oops! Made a mistake there! Let Me try that again!”

God never makes mistakes

I think of Joseph’s fifteen-year journey through rejection, slavery, and imprisonment.  Surely this was a horrific mistake! God had given him prophetic dreams of becoming a powerful leader.

As second only to Pharaoh, he embraced his brothers,

“As for you, you meant evil against me,
but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result,
to preserve many people alive.”
Genesis 50:20

It took fifteen years for the steep learning curve Joseph was on. In the prison Joseph:

  • learned Egyptian language and culture
  • developed leadership skills
  • allowed God’s Lordship over every area of his life
  • embraced humility over pride
  • chose a lifestyle of continuous forgiveness
  • obtained wisdom for every circumstance
  • allowed perseverance to work godly character in him

the plans of the LORD stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.”
Psalms 33:11

It may be difficult to clearly see, but God’s plans for you are always good. Always!

2. God Never Changes

We change clothes, houses, cars, workplaces, hairstyles, and shoes. Quickly and often, we change our minds. Because we live in constant transition, it is difficult to believe God never changes.

“Whatever is good and perfect comes to us
from God above, who created all heaven’s lights.
Unlike them, He never changes or casts shifting shadows” ”
James 1:17

God never changes like shifting shadows

We can count on the fact that God never changes, or even shifts

“I the Lord do not change.
Malachi 3: 6

3. God Never Has a Negative Thought

It may be scary but let’s consider the thoughts we think. My list would include pride, judgment, rebellion, and discouragement. Add to that self-righteousness, self-pity, self-promotion, self-sufficiency… Maybe we should stop there!

No wonder the bible advises us to take our thoughts captive!

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!”
Psalm 139:17

Every thought of God originates in His loving, gracious and excellent nature. His thoughts towards us are beyond number and profoundly wonderful.

What is more, God never has a better idea than His first one. His thoughts are completely flawless. God never thinks a negative thought!

[bctt tweet=”God never has a better idea than His first one. His thoughts are completely flawless.” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

4. God Never Stops Loving

Since we are so close, let’s back up a page in the bible to Psalm 136. Twenty-six times in twenty-six verses we read,

“His love endures forever.”

God's love never fails

I think He is trying to tell us something. Nothing can separate us from His great love.

 “I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers,
 neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:38-39

Be thoroughly convinced, nothing can separate us from God’s unfailing love.

5. God Will Never Let You Go

One of my favourite verses is Hebrews 13:5 AMP:

I will not in any way fail you nor give you up,
nor leave you without support.
I will not!
No, I will not!
I will not in any degree leave you helpless
nor forsake nor let you down, nor relax my hold on you.
Assuredly not!”

God will never let us go!

I am not desperately holding unto His hand; He has a relentless grip on mine. He has no intentions of letting go. Assuredly not!

6. God Never Fails to Keep His Promise

There are over 5400 promises in the bible. Most are conditional; none have failed! What God has spoken, He will do.

“… I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”
Jeremiah 1:12

I have begun to circle texts where God says, “I will”. He repeats these words more often than I previously thought,

“I will gather…”
“I will save….”
“The Lord will deliver…”
“I will freely pardon…”

The bible overflows with the promises of God. They are guaranteed promises, we can stand on.

Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed;
every one was fulfilled.”
Joshua 21:45

7. God Never Sleeps

“He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”
Psalm 121:4

The word “watches”, means “to watch and to keep.” Day and night, in good times and bad, God is constantly watching over and protecting us. Six times in eight verses, He confirms it.

No matter what is going on in our lives, we can rest. God is awake and alert. We can rest our full weight on Him!

“In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.”
Psalm 4:8

God never sleeps! He holds us firm!

[bctt tweet=”God is alert and awake! We can rest our full weight on Him!” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

Even on restless night, we need not fear, for God’s ear is open.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you
great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
Jeremiah 33:3

God has us covered! He is watchful eye is on us. I rest upon His strength.

8. God is Never Defeated

Kings may oppose Him, rulers may defy Him, but no army will defeat Him or border stop Him.

“God is never defeated.
Though He may be opposed, attacked, and resisted,
the ultimate outcome can never be in doubt.”
—Brother Andrew”

The reason?

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
Matthew 28:18

God holds the “all”: all authority, all power, all might, all wisdom, all strength, all glory, all dominion. Whenever the devil tries to get the upper hand, God reveals Himself and triumphs over all. Nothing can or will ever outdo the cross of Christ.

And More!

God is never surprised, thrown off-guard, or bewildered. He sees and knows the future as clearly as the past. He never says, “I didn’t see that coming!”

God is never surprised!

never worries! He is never late! Although I wish His timing was more in tune with mine; a little early would be nice.

Given some thought, you will easily add to this list of God’s “nevers”. He functions in complete alignment with his holy and perfect nature. Never contradicting who He is.

I’m growing to love the never aspects of God’s character. As a matter of fact, I find deep assurance and confidence in pondering His “nevers”. He remains consistently and fully trustworthy.

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More reading:

The Lord is my Helper! “I Will Help You!”

Creating a Culture of Honour – Honour God! Honour All!

From Curse to Blessing – God’s Redeeming Character

Curse to Blessing

Since we all live real lives with dusty feet and bombarded minds, it is hard to fully fathom the truth sometimes. As Christians we are bound to blessing. In every situation, we are victorious in Christ.

As I read my bible, I am often overwhelmed with God’s great grace in turning curses, failure, and disgrace in blessing. It is evidence of His redeeming character.

Examples

Look at Balaam (Numbers 23 & 24). The king of Moab hired Balaam to “come and put a curse on” the people of Israel. However, much to Balak’s distress, again and again Balaam could speak only blessing.

“But the LORD your God refused to listen to Balaam.
He turned the intended curse into a blessing
because the LORD your God loves you.”
Deuteronomy 23:5

What about Joseph? Sold as a slave by his brothers, falsely accused and imprisoned by his employer, forgotten by those he helped to release, ”

“They bruised his feet with shackles,
his neck was put in irons,
till what he foretold came to pass, 
till the word of the LORD proved him true.”
Psalm 105:18-19

This wasn’t a fifteen-year cake-walk for Joseph. Yet, he learned to depend on the faithfulness of God to turn the worst of circumstances into the greatest of blessings.

You intended to harm me,
but God intended it for good to accomplish
what is now being done,
the saving of many lives.”
Genesis 50:20

Haman was determined to have not only Mordecai, but all Jews executed. The book of Esther is a beautiful illustration of God turning the evil intentions of others into freedom for an entire nation. I could mention DanielDavid, Paul, and the early apostles; the greatest example is Jesus Himself.

“…You disowned the Holy and Righteous One…
You killed the author of life, But God raised him from the dead…
Repent…turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out,
that times of refreshing may come
from the Lord.”

Acts 3:13-19

Undoubtedly, Jesus Christ is the greatest reversal of curse to blessing, bearing the full weight of all curse to bring humanity full blessing.

Crown of Thorns

Expect Trouble

In Canada being a Christian may not always be popular, but it is still safe. Not so in many other nations, and maybe not for long here either. If true persecution for our faith arises, how should we respond? Actually, my bigger question is, “Lord, how will I respond?”

“If you falter in a time of trouble,
how small is your faith.”
Proverbs 24:25

Perhaps, it would be wise to settle ourselves before the day comes. God delights in using trouble and struggle as a channel bringing spiritual good to many.

Afflictions have a way of humbling and teaching us:

“Then Job replied to the LORD:
I know that you can do all things’
no purpose of yours can be thwarted…
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know…
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job 42:1-6

Difficulties help us to see and understand in ways that were impossible for us before. It is proof of God’s nature to bring blessing.

“The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.” vs 12

Yet the turn around does not always come in our lifetime!

Paul says,

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed,
but will have sufficient courage
so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body,
whether by life or by death.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
(Phil 1:20-21)

Christ must be first! Always!

Again, eternal perspective offers solid ground,

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving
for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

( 2 Cor. 4:17)

Back up a few verses and you see Paul is talking about being “hard-pressed… crushed… perplexed… persecuted… struck down“. Hardly light or momentary unless viewed from eternity!

The Source

Perhaps the first thing to do is a little self-examination. Perhaps God is using the opponent or critic to help us deal with a blind spot or sin in our own lives. Even when the opposition comes harshly or with poor attitudes it may be worth taking a moment and asking God what His thoughts are in the situation.

Ask God

Jesus wants us to see that our enemies can actually be our greatest allies. Listen to His command:

“But to you who are listening I say:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Luke 6: 27-28

Let’s Get Practical

When we begin to believe God intends to turn curses into blessings, it will change the way we see adversity.

Sit down today with pencil and paper; begin to write down every adverse thing that is coming against you and your family right now. It probably won’t take long to create a good-sized list.

Curse to Blessing

Now on a second piece of paper write out the opposite; write out what God’s blessing would look like. I remind you that in Christ, you are forever bound into blessing.

“…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us…”
Romans 8: 39

The final step is completely destroying the first list!

David used the very sword of Goliath that was coming against him to defeat his opposing giant.  As a result, the whole nation followed in victorious courage. Quite often. the thing that is coming against us the strongest is the very place God desires to use to bring victory and blessing.

When the day is difficult,
the future scary
and the past painful,
remember God’s redeeming character.
When overwhelmed by circumstances
call on Him 
who delights to turn curses
into blessings.

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