Father to the Heavenly Father

Since posting about Mary's act of worship yesterday, my thoughts have turned to Joseph's worship and God's calling on Joseph's life.  When talking about worshipping fully and thinking about Joseph, Joseph's act of worship was the act of obedience.

Matthew 1:24 - "When Joseph awoke, he did exactly what the angel had instructed him to do."  EXACTLY!!!  That's so important.  As a parent I try to teach my children that delayed obedience or partial obedience is not obedience at all!  That is a principle that I need to incorporate more into my spiritual life.  And Joseph shows us how obedience is worship.

Jesus tells us in John 14 that if we love Him we will obey all that he teaches us.  (Did you notice that word all?  I did.)  God loves us and gave Himself up for us.  And we love God and obey Him.  Obedience is not some bargaining tool with God.  It is not some means of appeasement of God to keep Him at a distance.  And it does not have to be forced on us or given out of fear either.  It can be and IS a loving response to His love for us - that indeed brings Him closer.  The Holy Spirit teaches us through the Apostle Paul in Romans 12 that offering our lives as living sacrifices is our spiritual act of worship.  That is to say that we sacrifice ourselves to God's instructions, living by them as an act of worship!!!  Obedience is loving worship!

I could get stuck there, preaching, pretty easily.  And in fact, I did for a minute there.  And my point is really somewhere else today.

So, I am thinking about Joseph and the fact that God chose him as an earthly father.  Now, this is not a new thought to me, but the depth of it seems newly significant today.

God is the eternal Father in Heaven.  All fathers, everywhere on earth are by virtue of being human inferior fathers in comparison to the fatherhood of God.  But in God's plan to come to earth and save us He needed a father.  And He chose Joseph.

What about this man would inspire God to choose Joseph has His protector, provider, spiritual guide through childhood, teacher, discipliner, instructor, and nurturer?  I mean God who Himself knows fatherhood better than any of us has the opportunity to choose his own earthly father and because He is God would have made the perfect choice.  That choice was Joseph!

And here is just about all we know about Joseph.  He was likely a carpenter.  He was from Nazareth in Galilee.  He was from the lineage of King David.  And then we have two glimpses into his character.  As mentioned above, we see that he knew how to obey God.  Or could we conclude that he loved God enough to obey Him?  Was it this kind of love that made God choose Joseph for the role of earthly father to the Heavenly Father?

But there is one more glimpse into his character.  In Matthew 1:19 we are told that Joseph, when made aware of Mary's apparent infidelity had decided not to accuse in public - exposing her to the death penalty. Instead he had decided to divorce her quietly 'to protect her from public disgrace.'  And we see that Joseph was a grace-filled man.  Grace filled!

Of all the descendants of King David, when God was choosing a suitable dad for Himself, grace-filled, obedient Joseph was the one man to make the cut.  And the world was changed because in these ways Joseph made himself available to be used by God.

I wonder what God could do through you and me if we engendered more of these character traits in our own lives.  I wonder how our neighborhoods, workplaces, friendships, and families could be transformed if we did.

Have a Joseph Christmas too!

I had to add one more image...  As a dad, I really love this idea of Joseph with Jesus.


The Worship of Submission

We're talking about worshipping fully this Christmas.  Of all the things the manger inspires, worship tops the list.  I mean, the fact that God came to me... revealed Himself to me... announced it to me...  became flesh like me... made His dwelling place with me...  It is incredible (in the literal definition of the word)!  And yet it is the central truth of Christianity.  He did!

An authentic trip to manger makes consumer products so trivial, twinkling lights so dim, festive trees so uninspiring.  An authentic trip to the manger makes worship what Christmas is all about.

I like Mary's expression of worship.  This past Sunday we talked about Mary's worship along with the worship of Joseph and of the magi.  And all week long I have been pondering the incredible example that Mary give us.  Mary's worship came primarily in the form of submission.

Luke 1:38 - Mary says, "I am the Lord's servant.  May it be to me as you have said."

Submission to God's will.  God's will would cost her dearly.  It would taint the girlhood dreams of marriage for her.  It would mark her for all of her life as the subject of the local gossip.  It would put her in danger of the death penalty...  There is no way that God's will looked good to Mary at the time she heard it.  In fact, her question about how this could be because of her virginity, reveals that she knew what accusation lay ahead for her.  And yet, submission is what she offered.  She set aside her will and embraced God's will.  her heart was turned and her actions followed.

When our actions are turned but our hearts are not, we are merely being religious.  But Mary shows us how obedience and worship are joined in the act of submission.  When heart and action are coupled, it is worship!

This submission of the heart is very difficult.  Like Mary, we must first hear God's will.  This requires us to study and meditate.  We must learn to incorporate listening into our daily quiet time habit.  We must become familiar with the still small voice of our God, so as to avoid any misinterpretation of our own desires for God's desires.  AND THEN, we must give up what we want for what God wants.  It would be so nice to give up things we don't like for things that God wants for us, but the problem is that we must often give up the things we do like: comfort, privilege, respect, finances, fun.  Often God's way includes difficulty, struggle, sorrow, hard work.  It's hard to get inspired to worship this way.  It's way easier to go and sing exciting songs with a rockin' band and dance to the thrilling rhythms of amazing music and to walk away without thinking about God's will for the next day.

Mary's way was the hard way.  Mary's way would be reflected in the teaching that Jesus would give us when He taught us to pray, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven."  'Thy will be done.'  The submission in that is so often lost.  We think about God's will in terms of the greater story of the planet and not in the personal way of surrendering our own desires to His will.

Mary's way was the hard way.  Mary's way would also be reflected in the obedience of Christ when He said, "if it is possible for this cup to pass from me, let it be so.  Never the less, NOT MY WILL, BUT THY WILL BE DONE."  (Can you tell that when I went to Sunday School the KJV was the version du jour?)  Yes, that is worship.  In that worship God can do things.  In that worship God is lifted up.  In that worship all men can be drawn to God.  Yes the worship of submission is the worship that is central to the Christian experience and theology.

Mary Christmas!
Let's worship!

Check out this song that is written to reflect Mary's encounter with the angel Gabriel and her worshipful response to God's instructions to her.  (if you want to get right to the song, skip ahead to 3:57.)

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