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. 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.”… When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. Matthew 1:19-21, 23
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:35-38
The Christmas story is filled with contrasts between those who rearranged their very lives in order to make room for the birth of the Messiah and those who either opposed His birth or were completely indifferent to it. Mary and Joseph had their lives changed forever. Their obedience and their ability to embrace a seemingly impossible circumstance set them apart. Even more, it was their willingness to set aside their own pretty good plans in order to be obedient to God which makes them perfect …
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. Psalm 91:9-10
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Holy Scripture is filled with amazing promises. But almost all of them come with conditions. You know the formula…“IF my people…will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, THEN will I hear from Heaven and…” etc. Or…“Trust in the Lord with all your heart…and He will make your path straight.” Most of God’s awesome promises come with a condition of some kind or another, or at least an assumption or implication. It seems to be one of His many wondrous ways.
I read all the wonderful promises of Psalm 91 in that same light. Those promises of God’s protection and provision all hinge upon the very first line (repeated in verse 9): If you make the Most High your dwelling.
When I deal with conflicting parties within the church, I often hear both sides invoke the name of the Lord for their positions. I hear both sides claiming that God is on their side, that He will prevail and that He will bring about what they want. But I also hear both sides in very much a “win/lose” mindset, wherein they will not be satisfied unless they win AND the other side loses. I recall working with a church some years ago wherein one group was very much wanting to get rid of the pastor. They were acting as “God’s agents”. Midway through the process, the pastor accepted …
Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? Mark 8:17-18
Where there is no vision, the people perish… Proverbs 29:18
I sometimes wonder if we in the church are guilty at times of confusing “leadership vision” with “ambition”?
It seems to me we place a great deal of pressure on our shepherds with regard to “vision”. We expect even our newest pastor to have a 5-year plan for where we are headed just as soon as we get him in the office. I have even heard of one pastor search team asking a prospective candidate what his “five-year vision” is for their church. Oh my! How would he know that? In fact, I would be wary of anyone who claimed to know before he had even set foot among the congregation.
Pastoral vision (i.e., leadership vision for the church), it seems to me, has much less to do with entrepreneurial foresight and ambitious goals and much more to do with actually seeing what God has been doing and what He is doing right now in the life of a congregation. It is not so much casting my eyes out on the vast horizon before us as it is casting my eyes across the lives of the people I am leading and understanding what God is doing there.
Jesus did not shame his disciples for not being smarter venture capitalists or for not having keen insights into the trends of the day. He did not rebuke them for failing to see what was coming or even for not anticipating the needs of the …