Joseph and Mary 2

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”  (Jer. 29:11)

From The Second Half of the Cross

We clearly see in the life of Joseph the second half of the cross—the death of the self-in-charge nature, in favor of the plan of God for Joseph’s life.  All Joseph started out to do was marry a lovely young woman in his hometown of Nazareth.  None of us can truly grasp the magnitude and magnificence of the actual life that Joseph experienced.  If Joseph could do it all over again, would he choose for himself a different, more normal life?

The plan of God for the life of Joseph was narrow and well-defined in the duties that God gave him to do, as briefly described above.  Joseph does not live long enough to become a leader in the early Christian church.  Joseph did not have the opportunity to leave us inspired writings like Peter, Paul, John, or his own son James.  Joseph was not called by God to be a great evangelist after the death and resurrection of Jesus, with a unique perspective that only he could give.

But does anyone think that the degree of honor and gratitude that will be given to Joseph in heaven will be small?  Like a lifelong faithful servant who performed his assigned duties well in the service of a great king, Joseph served the eternal Son of God in the role of a step-father from the birth of Jesus through sometime into the teens or possibly middle twenties of Jesus.  Joseph after all taught Jesus, the Creator of the universe, simple carpentry.  Joseph knows Jesus like few people can claim to know Him.

I believe that Joseph will cherish for all eternity the opportunity and responsibility that God the Father placed with him to protect and watch over the Son of God during His childhood, and that God’s unique plan for his life was and will be a source of immeasurable value to him.  I believe that Joseph will be one of the most sought-after guest speakers in heaven, if there is such a thing, with his social calendar booked for eons, because of the special relationship he had with Jesus during the “silent years.”

One of the lessons that we can learn from the life of Joseph is that it was the will and plan of God that Jesus the Son of God stand alone to accomplish the great work of salvation on the cross.  For reasons that will probably only be fully understood on the Day of Judgment and the final demise of evil, God knew that the task of presenting love to the universe by the example of the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross, could only rightly be done by Him alone.  No human agents can appear to be aiding Jesus during the trial and crucifixion—not apostles, disciples, a mother, family members, or possibly even a faithful and courageous step-father.  At basic issue was right and wrong, love and hate, goodness and evil.  As Jesus hung in agony on the cross hour after hour, no one present there at the time knew that the most beautiful example of character in the history of mankind, or indeed for all eternity, was taking place.

Mary, on the other hand, is quite human in that she appears to have problems understanding the second half of the cross in the ministry of Jesus her son.  No one can be any closer to this issue than Mary.  Like all mothers, Mary wants to see her son Jesus succeed in life.  Mary has good reason to be confident in the abilities of her son, because both she and Joseph know the true parentage of Jesus the Son of God.

Mary is therefore deeply shocked and staggered by the opposition shown from the powerful Pharisees, scribes, and rulers in Jerusalem toward her son’s ministry and message, people she would otherwise respect and admire.  Mary probably had profound confusion over the disconnect between what she knew to be the true nature of the person and the abilities of her son Jesus, and the failure of the Jewish authorities to likewise recognize this and accept Jesus as the Messiah.

The official rejection of Jesus during His trial and crucifixion must have been heart wrenching.  Mary was the only person alive at that time other than Jesus Himself, who knew about His conception, birth, and the extraordinary prophesies that were pronounced about Him by angels, shepherds, wise men, prophets, and the Old Testament scriptures.  Being a woman in the first century Jewish patriarchal culture, if Mary had come forward and told all that she knew, few people would have believed her.

Like the rest of the apostles, Mary had to painfully wait for the unexpected Resurrection Day to be able to fully understand through hindsight that Jesus her son died on the cross as the sacrificial Passover Lamb of God.  The long-awaited Messiah of Israel took away the sins of the world, in order to become the resurrection life that lifts us up out of death into a new spiritual life with God.

Joseph and Mary 1

“Enter in at the narrow gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in that way;  Because narrow is the gate, and hard is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”  (Mt. 7:13-14)

From The Second Half of the Cross

Joseph in the New Testament, the step-father of Jesus, is a person who does not get a lot of mention in Protestant sermons or books except around Christmas time.  The second half of the cross, however, sheds light on the life of Joseph that can further instruct us about our godly calling and the Christian life.  Joseph, the step-father of the Son of God, deserves more credit than he generally gets.

Joseph and Mary are obviously the first people recorded in the New Testament to believe in Jesus as the Christ.  Joseph intends to wed Mary in the city of Nazareth, only to discover before they are married that Mary is pregnant.  In a dream an angel explains to Joseph that the child in Mary’s womb is conceived by the Holy Spirit, and to not be afraid to take her for a wife.  After the angel informs Joseph of the situation, we can reasonably assume that Mary discussed all that she knew with Joseph.  We can assume that the couple discussed the visit Mary had from the angel Gabriel and all that the angel told her, and the subsequent visit Mary had with Elisabeth and Zacharias, and what they had said to her about the baby she was carrying.

Joseph was present and assisted at the birth of the baby Jesus.  Joseph heard what the shepherds said about an angel telling them to go and see the baby that was born who is the Savior, Christ the Lord, and about the multitude of angels praising God over the birth of Jesus.  Joseph was present when the three wise men from the east came bearing gifts, and heard what they said about the baby Jesus.  Joseph was in the temple when Simeon spoke about Jesus, and the scripture in Luke says that “Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken by him.”  Joseph was there in the temple when Anna, a prophetess, spoke about Jesus regarding redemption in Israel.

An angel appears to Joseph in a dream and warns Joseph to take his wife Mary and the young child Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod’s attempt to destroy the future “King of the Jews.”  After Herod’s death, an angel again appears to Joseph in a dream telling him it is now safe to return to Israel.  Joseph returns with Mary and Jesus to live in Nazareth.

We see in Joseph an excellent choice to be the step-father of Jesus.  He accepts this huge responsibility given to him by God the Father, and manages all of the challenges with quiet resolve and leadership.  Joseph is apparently a man of character, as we see no signs of him bragging to the town of Nazareth about any remarkable talents of his oldest son, or trying to exploit or benefit in any way from the natural abilities of Jesus.  Joseph and Mary show such self-restraint in keeping the divine conception of Jesus a secret that even the half brothers and sisters of Jesus appear to be totally unaware of the full story.  It is only after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus that two of His brothers, James and Jude, come to believe that He is the Christ.  It was probably only after the resurrection that Mary told her other children the full story about her first son and their remarkable half-brother.

One of the interesting and instructive elements in the ministry of Jesus is that His step-father Joseph is not on hand for support.  It is not the will of God that Joseph still be alive when Jesus starts His public ministry sometime in His early thirties.  Joseph is therefore not present in the synagogue in Nazareth to defend Jesus when He stood up to read the messianic Isaiah 61:1-2 scriptures about Himself, and the townspeople were violently offended that they had not previously been given the inside information about Jesus that would support such astounding claims.  Joseph could then have given them the reasons why he and Mary had kept this information from family and friends, and this might have defused this volatile situation.  Joseph is not present during the many visits that Jesus made to Jerusalem, where he could have cleared up the pivotal question by the Pharisees and scribes regarding the birthplace of Jesus and their complaint about Jesus that: “we know this man, from where he is”, meaning Nazareth and not Bethlehem, the scriptural birthplace of the Messiah.  As head of the family, Joseph could have been there to pull aside each of his children and privately tell them the real story about the conception and birth of their half-brother Jesus, to prevent the painful situation described during the ministry of Jesus: “For neither did his brethren believe in him.”  Joseph might have comforted Mary regarding the cold reception that the ministry of Jesus had received at the hands of the established religious leaders in Jerusalem.  Joseph might have helped Mary reconcile in her mind what she knows to be true about Jesus her son with the rejection His ministry is receiving from the Pharisees, scribes, and rulers.  Joseph might even have been present at the trial of Jesus, and spoken up about the true origin of his step-son and His flawless character before these powerful men.

Free e-books on Kindle Friday & Saturday

For those of you who have a Kindle and are interested…two of my books are free Kindle e-books through Amazon on Friday 5/26 and Saturday 5/27:

The Christian Life in the Danger Zone

God Didn’t Create Robots: Commonsense Christian Apologetics

Hope you enjoy them.

Barton

He that Doeth the Will of God Abideth Forever 2

Intelligent design is the only rational explanation for the existence of highly complex and originally imaginative point-B goals that create the context for faith to actualize…such as the promised birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah, Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dream, Moses parting the Red Sea, Joshua bringing down the walls of Jericho, Ruth entering the divine lineage of King David, Esther and Mordechai outmaneuvering Haman to save the Jews in exile, the three young Hebrews withstanding the flames in the fiery furnace, Daniel surviving the night in a den of lions, Peter becoming a powerful leader of the early church, and Paul becoming the premier missionary evangelist to the first-century Greco-Roman world.

The two-worldview dichotomy is brilliantly ingenious because it separates self-sovereignty from God-sovereignty at the one point that is demonstrable in both theory and in action…point-B goals and outcomes that not only fall outside of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking as described above in 1 John 2:15-17…but also outside of the contemplation of human literary invention.

The point-B goal that is at the peak of the argument for the divine origin of the Bible…totally above and outside of the lust of the flesh and eyes, and the pride of life…and in the realm of doing the will of God perfectly that abideth forever…is the life-script for Jesus the Son of God to become the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for the sins of the world.

John 15:13 records Jesus saying: “Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve.  This is in direct contrast to the “me, myself, and I” agenda of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

In the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion, Jesus utters the words that are at the core of God-composed journey of faith life-scripts throughout the Bible starting with Abraham’s walk of faith to Canaan: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Lk. 22:42).

This amazingly tells us that God has the brilliantly imaginative capacity to write a life-script for Himself that challenges Himself in the precise area that we need the most help…in the transition from self-sovereign self-rulership…to God-sovereignty walking through an adventure of faith following Jesus Christ according to this worldly unconventional concept of Luke 22:42.

Jesus Christ being stretched to the limits of His divine capacity (if that is possible) in taking upon Himself the massive volume of mankind’s sin on the cross of Calvary…to the point of asking the Father to remove this cup and come up with an alternate plan…yet surrendering Himself to the original larger plan devised before the foundation of the world…without skipping a beat in perfect faith…is so far above humanistic contemplation and imaginative invention…that a naturalistic explanation using material particles and energy can only be described as nonsensical (Jn. 3:31).

This is one of the fundamental apologetic arguments for the divine origin of the Bible and its message…because it goes to the very heart of the biblical narrative stories of faith.  The element of the cross of Christ integrally embedded within every biblical narrative story of faith…to a greater or lesser degree…is the distinctively validating proof of “God with us” of the Immanuel of Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6…and God inside us of Jeremiah 31:31-34, John 14:23, and Revelation 3:20.

This element of the cross of Christ…which divides human experience into two distinct worldviews on opposite sides of the spectrum of sovereign control, purpose, and direction in our lives…from an apologetics standpoint is unexplainable coming solely from within the paradigm of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life of 1 John 2:16.

The “he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” of 1 John 2:17…describes a worldview reality depicted in the biblical narrative stories of faith…which is too original…too imaginatively innovative…too complex, specified, and sophisticated in its information content…to be anything other than divinely inspired out of the mind and heart of God.

He that Doeth the Will of God Abideth Forever 1

1 John 2:15-17 reads:

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

“He that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”  This world passes away.  The allures of the lust of the flesh and the eyes…of the pride of life…are temporary.  They do not exist in heaven.  They are not of the Father.  And the kingdom of God is forever.

The reality of God is the one that lasts forever.  The reality of this world is the one that passes away.

One compelling piece of evidence that argues for the divine origin of the Bible is the complete break…the inexplicable departure from worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…that is an integral component of every biblical narrative story of faith.  The distinctive novelty of this feature in the Bible is what is expressed in these three classic verses penned so beautifully by the apostle John at the dawn of the Christian era in the first century.

As Abraham walks from the city of Haran to the Promised Land of Canaan…inaugurating a uniquely biblical walk of faith…with each step he takes God is displacing the normative life Abraham would have lived with a new and innovative life-script that Abraham could never have dreamed up in his wildest imagination.

In this opening introduction of walks of faith into the experiences of mankind…God is displacing the worldly conventional lust of the flesh and eyes, and the pride of life…which are temporal and pass away…with doing the will of God according to a life-script divinely composed for our benefit…at the higher level of the thoughts and ways of God that abide forever (Isa. 55:8-9; Lk. 16:15; Eph. 3:16-19).

What is uniquely distinctive about the biblical narrative stories of faith is that the goals…the journeys from point-A to point-B…are at their initial inception beyond the reach of human beings to imagine, invent, or resolve.

God-composed journey of faith life-scripts are nothing like self-energized journeys of discovery within the limited paradigm of self-realization.  The brilliantly imaginative introduction of point-B’s into the biblical narrative stories of faith that are unreachable and unsolvable by humanistic means…separates human experience into two diametrically opposed worldviews…the first being the lust of the flesh and eyes and the pride of life…and the second worldview doing the will of God which abideth forever.

This is an ingenious dichotomy of optional worldviews that could only be engineered by God.  It is a reality that defies any plausible explanation using the philosophies of materialism and naturalism based on the physical properties of matter and energy alone.

Are We Ready?

If we extend and apply the concept of the initiation of God’s callings…to the contemporary Christian church…what might this mean for Christians in the upcoming end-times?

If the Christian church is not raptured pretribulation…but instead is raptured at some point in time after the colossal end-times spiritual battle begins…Christians will find ourselves right in the middle of the Joel 2:28-29 prophecy that says God will pour out His Spirit upon the earth.

At Pentecost, Peter did not prepare in advance his speech to the crowd gathered in Jerusalem that day…that converted thousands of people (Acts 2:41).  This speech was already inside Peter waiting to be energized by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Likewise, Peter and John did not foresee the miraculous circumstances that led to their standing before the august and intimidating governing body the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem…and therefore had no opportunity to politely excuse themselves or to otherwise wiggle their way out of what turned out to be an explosive and pivotal moment of Holy Spirit boldness that severed the new Christian church from the old leadership in Jerusalem (Acts 4:5-22).

Certainly Stephen did not premediate what he was going to say before this selfsame Sanhedrin council some short time later…as he is carried away into totally liberated and self-abandoned boldness of speech that is characteristic of this time period in the formulation of the early church…and that is described as the latter rain to be poured out upon the earth during the end-times (Joel 2:23; Zech. 10:1).  Stephen had these words already within his mind and heart…waiting to be expressed at the right time and place (Acts 6:15).

When the end of time actually arrives…when human redemptive history comes to a close at a definite point in time…worldly conventional normalcy has no relevance.  The commendable and admirable instruction to “occupy till I come” (Lk. 19:13) that has applied for past centuries universally for all Christians…no longer has meaning and purpose.

When the actual end of time is in view…the salvation of lost souls becomes the immediate imperative.  Evangelism is the first priority for Christians in the end-times (Mt. 24:14).  What color to paint the kitchen, who to elect city mayor, and where to go on vacation next summer all become superfluous…for Christians and non-Christians alike.

This end-times prophecy of God taking the initiative…like He does with all of His callings…to pour out His Spirit upon the earth according to Joel 2:28-29…may transform every Spirit-born Christian on the face of the earth into bold evangelists like we find in the early church…carried along by the energy of the Holy Spirit and unable to contain themselves like the prophet Jeremiah described (Jer. 20:9).

So the question is…are we ready?  Have we done our part?  Do we have a testimony to share of God’s grace and mercy in our lives?  Do we know Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord?  Do we have a walk of faith with Jesus, and can we point to a transformed life as our evidence for the presence of God in our lives?  Do we spend time reading the Bible…memorizing scripture…mastering the issues?  Do we possess the basics that the Holy Spirit can move upon in an instant to craft powerful words of life to give to the final lost souls on earth as the clocks ticks towards the final end-point in time…and the surrounding cascade of momentous events of biblical-proportion escalate and intensify?

This concept of the divine origin of journeys of faith…containing the cross of Christ embedded at the core of every storyline…speaks volumes as to what we can look forward to from a biblical perspective of what God can do and what believers can accomplish…above and outside of the limited confines of skeptical unbelief found within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

This is one of the main themes in the Bible that argues for its divine origin…and should therefore be expected to continue at an even more accelerated and enhanced rate…anticipated by waiting and watching Christians (Lk. 21:28).

The Gap of Time and Promises 2

The point here is not to suggest that human fictional writing cannot be as ingeniously inventive as the biblical narrative stories of faith…although the Joseph novella in Genesis (c. 1450 B.C.) predates Shakespeare (1600 A.D.) by roughly 3,000 years.  The contention here is that the designated point-B’s in the biblical life-scripts are so supernaturally outside of human manipulation and contrivance to resolve…so far outside of the conventional norms of self-sovereignty, self-reliance, pre-planning, and foresight…that the introduction of a faith-journey where the living God displaces us on the decision-making thrones of our lives…is beyond the contemplation of human literary invention.

The idea of the cross of Jesus Christ (Lk. 22:42; Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:1-3) that would and could displace our own plans with God’s higher ways and plans…after the pattern of Abraham leaving Haran and heading off toward Canaan into a new and novel journey-of-faith through the calling of God…will not be found in any literature or thinking in any of the great human fiction writers…or in any other religions, philosophies, or worldviews outside of the Bible.

There is no plausible explanation for the capacity of mere material particles and energy to come up with the complexity and sophistication underlying the amazing dichotomy of these two opposing directions to choose from…a journey of self or a journey of faith…at the very core of our lives.

The existence of unconventional journeys of faith…with the cross of Christ integrated into every biblical narrative storyline…argues at a fundamental level for the divine origin of the Bible and its message of liberation and salvation now and for all eternity (Jn. 8:36).