Musing on the fragility and unpredictability of life

No matter how long we are in this world life is short. Life is filled with twists, turns, ups, and downs. There is good, bad, painful, difficult, ugly, joyous, beautiful, and painful as the Bible states in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 there is a time and season for everything. Recent life events have thoughts musing about the fragility and unpredictability of life on this earth. One day a person can have freedom the next a sudden acceleration can kill some people and a person can end up wrongly imprisoned as was the case of Koua Fong Lee who spent two years in prison but was recently released in light of the evidence of problems with Toyota’s and sudden acceleration. Joseph one day was serving Potipher the best he could and the next minute accused of trying to rape his wife resulting in many years in prison. The fact is difficult and extremely painful things can happen to any of us at anytime. They can range from minor irritations like viral infections to more severe forums of suffering.

It Matthew 5:45b (ESV) Jesus states: For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. The good and difficult things that happen in life, happen. The question for each believer is how we deal with both the good and bad. What does mean to be truly at peace and what can bring the perceived peace into question. It is during the difficult and tough times that test how we stand in pain when things are not going well. In the good times, when everything goes well the question is really is how much is the good taken for granted or seen as a byproduct of self? Paul stated in Philippians 4:13 (ESV) that the secret to any situation any season in life is: I can do all things through him who strengthens me. We can say it easily enough, but do we grasp what it means, or is it a nice phrase that can be put on a plaque on the wall?

So what does that phrase really come down to? Well examining the words a little closer it really comes down to the ability to be at true peace and wholeness comes not from our own effort but in surrender and dependence on the Messiah. It really points for the need to surrender. Times of plenty and times of pain are difficult times to surrender. One it is easy to place a lot of emphasis on self, the other to focus on the pain and suffering. Both can lead to a focus on self. Here it is really a true turning from self and resting in Jesus so that what God puts before us we are able to do regardless of season of life.

God only knows what will happen in each of our lives. We can face tests like Koua Fong Lee or Joseph with wrongful imprisonment. We can face choices to serve God and give up what appears to be good for self? We can be asked to give up what God has promised like Abraham. The fact is we will all face times of testing of one form or another. Some testing is short, some are longer, but when you surrender to God, he works to His good purpose. As the Bible states in Romans 8:28 (ESV)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Now each of us may never know what was the good brought in difficult times. God simply asks us to surrender and trust him regardless. It is real easy to lose focus and sight of what God is doing. Honestly there are many times in my life where focus was lost. There are times of great anger and sin that came from circumstances in my life not matching my hopes and expectations and God not bringing things about according to my will. Ultimately the process becomes about bringing my will in alignment to his and living in surrender. For it is only in surrender of self and alignment of my will to God’s where there is any peace and wholeness.

Helpful Articles: Joseph Husband of Mary

I was browsing some blogs this morning and came across this writing about Joseph and the love he shared.  Joseph is someone we do not think much about related to the story of Jesus birth. Yet, it is worthwhile to think what God was showing us.   The post is worth reading and I hope you appreciate it.  Do click over to the blog authors site and let him know of appreciation for the article if it impacts you.

http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/2009/12/joseph-husband-of-mary/#more-4617

Joseph, Husband of Mary

Calendar December 24, 2009 | Posted by Polycarp

One of the most forgotten men in the Scriptures is Joseph, who was a man from the line of David who had  a certain Jewish girl espoused to him. He makes a small appearance in Matthew and Luke, the only two Gospels to record something about him. His name appears only a few times in all of the New Testament. It is only in Matthew’s work which we find him and his actions as any part of the story,

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.  (Matthew 1:18-25 NKJV)

A wise man once said that the words that we read are the headlines, and this is especially true in this case. We find a great story of love and sacrifice in Joseph, in as much as he was willing to become an outcast – if only temporarily – in order to protect Mary, the young girl who he would have paid a dowry – the young girl who carried the public signs of a betrayal. The law required death for Mary. In this instance, we find the first shadow of the Grace which was to come.

The law is clear – death for Mary:

“If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 22:23-24 NKJV)

Mary was considered evil – a blot on the community, something to be killed and done away with – exterminated ruthlessly. We see something in the horror of the law that is not mentioned – the great love of Joseph for Mary. He would have paid a dowry, perhaps a goodly sum for the espousal. He would have made preparations for Mary in his home, and already giving her that which was sacred – his family name. I can only imagine what love he  had for her and the loss he felt to have gone so far but to have been betrayed with such a great sin. She had slandered him, his family, and his family name.

Joseph had such a love that he was determined to take the ridicule, the shame, and give her the bill of divorce  privately. Like anyone in pain due to love, with his heart breaking, he most likely took time, mourning, to determine his next course of action for the young Jewish girl whom he clearly loved.

If we step away from Joseph, to a higher plane, we can see the sovereignty of God in this matter. God did not just choose Mary, and because of that Joseph, for no reason. Joseph was a man of great love (Mary with her own qualities), a love that would rather endure shame and the outcast of a community instead of harming Mary. He would risk breaking the Law of Moses to protect someone who he loved. What better caretaker for the son of God?

Returning to Joseph, we find that it was in the middle of his deliberations – I can imagine them maddening and tortured – that the Angel of the Lord appeared to him with words of consolation. So, with this love of Joseph, we find faith. Joseph disobeyed the cultural mores of ancient Palestine, obeying rather the will of God, and held Mary as his wife, in the face of what would have been certain opposition from everyone, perhaps even his parents as well as Mary’s.

So, we have a picture of Grace and Love in the life of Christ even before He began His ministry. Joseph was ready to sacrifice his standing in his family and community to save the life of  a pregnant girl – a trollop, a whore, a sinner – and to protect her and her unborn Son – the bastard child of this trollop and perhaps a Roman solider, Panthera – from the death demanded by the Torah. It was because of this love that the Angel appeared to Joseph the Carpenter and told him that this Child would be the deliverer of all Israel. His wife who was dead to him was now alive again.

If we remove the doctrine and traditions that surround both Mary and Joseph, we find a picture of grace – we find love – we find a truly holy family.

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Christianity and Politics

 

Well the elections season is moving into full swing.  We have the candidates for president of United States lined up on both sides.  The usual political process will ensue and someone will be elected.  Folks will vote for the candidates who to them seem to fit their views best.  This year more than ever candidate’s religious views seem to be at the forefront. You have candidates professing to believe in Jesus as Messiah but coming from all different perspectives.  Is the espousing the belief in Jesus as Messiah truth, or a way to try and garner votes.  The balance of truth is somehow in the middle.  However, it does point to the fact that in the United States, those professing to be Christian do make of a good portion of the electorate.

      In viewing the political scene, it has been easy to develop a cynical view of how things operate in this country.  When one really analyzes both political parties, truth and error can be found in both.  Sometimes it seems like where the parties ultimately compromise is some position at the expense of the truth.  On the side of the Democratic Party, the truth they hold to is the looking out for the poor and disadvantaged. They hold to the importance of reaching out to those who cannot do so on their own.  One of the negatives of the party is that they emphasize individual choice and press toward accommodation and tolerance in the name of treating everyone fairly.  In terms of the Republican Party, there is a solid stand for building strong social morality.  The negative side is there is an emphasis on looking out for self over others.  Now, granted those characterizations are generalizations and the actual dynamics are far more complicated. It does break down to both sides standing for things that are true and that should be things a Christian values.  On the negative, they both present ways that self is elevated over others. No political party stands for the whole truth.

                So given this mix, what are Christian’s called to do regarding politics and the running of a country?  Christians are called to be salt and light to a culture.  However, as salt and light not just to be pointing out morality issues but ultimately be pointing the way to Jesus.  We are to stand for truth with the truth being found in Jesus.  We are to have the mindset of Colossians 3:1-2: Since then you have been raised with Christ set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  This is what God desires as well as Romans 13:1:  Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  We are consistently directed to submit to authority, however not at the expense of preaching the gospel.

                Now, that is not to say the Christians should not enter the political realm or be concerned with our government.  We are called to be salt and light, but we need to always be submitting to the King of Kings.  The Bible does show of people God put in positions of authority and called them to a specific task.  People like David, Daniel, Joseph, and Esther for example.  The Bible however, is also full of examples of people in power that become corrupted (Saul, Solomon) or are corrupt (Jeroboam, Ahab, Jezebel) but they always meet their judgment.  In this political process we don’t really know the true hearts of the men and women seeking office. Outward appearances can be deceiving, but regardless we can rest in knowing that those in authority are those God allows, to ultimately serve His purposes.

                However, the church in the United States of America currently seems obsessed with politics.  Part of the response to the cultural shifts in the sixties and seventies and essentially starting with the Ronald Reagan presidency was the formation of the “Christian Right” and a focus on Christians being involved with politics.   There are members and elements of the church that became obsessed with social morals and changing the society by passing what would be considered morally right laws. 

                This mindset came from the shifts that happened in the United States. Many Christians see the secularization of schools, the legalization of abortion and other societal ills as being a sign of the failure of the church to be salt and light.  Many out there even profess upcoming judgment on United States of America do to the lack of changing of moral laws.  The perspective is lost that change in laws will not change the hearts of people. We live in a day an age, that regardless of party, the focus on elevating the individual is emphasized.   The church in America has lost sight of the fact that true change comes not from political change through the establishment of law, but by changing hearts and minds of men and drawing others unto the Gospel.  We are always going to be looking after  our own interests.

                The most dangerous thing about politics is that it is about the acquisition of power.  As John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902), once said “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” It is possible for people to start out with honorable intents and falter, much like Saul.  Even David, a man after God’s own heart, abused his power, committing murder.   Power is alluring.   Jesus was tempted with all power of all the kingdoms of the world, to turn his back on God’s plan.  So the problem with Christians entering into the political scene is the enticement of power to even do what would be considered “right” things, yet doing so as building own kingdom and not kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not political change or change in the laws of man.  The kingdom of God is people living in surrender to Jesus.

                In terms of how we view this political process, the expectations, the fears, and the hopes in regards to the candidates for office we need to surrender our will the Jesus.  God is in control. There may be no righteous candidate; all may head things in the direction of evil. If this is so, God is still in control.  Now there are many other aspects one can explore and there will be other articles examining elements of Christianity and politics.  In essence we need to submit to God and keep our thoughts not on this life, but on things of God.  We need to ask ourselves what do we care most about, political change or the true change of hearts and minds that comes through the Gospel.