Lessons From A Christmas Story

As we get ready to celebrate Christmas, my thoughts went to someone in the Christmas story that gets very little attention. Scripture speaks about Jesus and Mary but we hear so little about Joseph…the earthly father of Jesus.

In much of the study that has been done about Joseph, most researchers agree on several points. Here they are:

Most believe that Joseph died before Jesus began his public ministry. There are several portions of scripture that would point to this. First, Joseph isn’t mentioned being present at the Wedding in Cana where Jesus changed the water into wine. Yet Mary is mentioned.

Second, the story of the crucifixion provides some interesting details. Joseph is not present at the crucifixion while Mary is mentioned. At the crucifixion, Jesus instructed John to take care of Mary, which would be unusual if Joseph had still been alive. After the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea takes the body of Jesus. This would ordinarily have been a task given to the father.

There is even another hint in scripture that would support the death of Joseph during the lifetime of Jesus. Luke 2:33-35 details a conversation Simeon had with Joseph and Mary. Even though both Joseph and Mary were present, Simeon simply addressed Mary. Simeon says this:

This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but He will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose Him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.

Simeon tells Mary that a sword will pierce your very soul but makes no mention of Joseph. It seems Simeon knew that Joseph would not be alive to see all that would happen to Jesus.

We don’t know for certain that Joseph was dead before Jesus public ministry but the evidence points to that.

Here’s what we do know about Joseph. First, he was alive and a part of the life of Jesus until Jesus was twelve years of age. Luke 2:41-42 speaks about Joseph and Mary attending the Holy Days with Jesus when he was twelve. You may recall that this was the time Mary and Joseph mistakenly left Jesus at the temple. This is the last mention in scripture about Joseph being with Jesus.

So what can we learn from the few verses in scripture that mention Joseph? Here are four things to think about:

God picked Joseph to model for Jesus what earthly fatherhood looked like: We know Joseph had at least twelve years to teach Jesus about life. We know Joseph spent time with Jesus training him to be a carpenter and teaching him about the spiritual issues in life. It is reasonable to believe that Joseph taught a young Jesus how to be a godly man.

Joseph cared about others more than he cared about himself: When Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant and he wasn’t the father, he certainly could have broken the engagement. In fact, in our world today there are many men who would do just that. Many of us would be upset by the news or just want to save face and end the relationship. We need to be realistic. If our fiancée came to us and said she was pregnant but the father was God that would be hard to believe.

Yet Joseph did believe Mary’s explanation and protected and cared for Mary and Jesus for the remainder of his life.

Joseph did remarkable work and received no recognition: Joseph spent years of his life serving as a faithful husband and father, scripture barely mentions him, and yet he faithfully served his family and the Son of God.

 Joseph believed what God told him and he obeyed: When the angel came to Joseph in the dream and told him it was fine to marry Mary he did it. Joseph obeyed when God told him to flee to Egypt to miss a confrontation with Herod. Joseph obeyed when God told him to return to Israel after the death of Herod.

We have many followers of Christ who either don’t listen when God speaks to them or they hear God but choose not to obey. Joseph listened and obeyed.

As you think about Christmas this year remember these four points. Also remember, that like Joseph, God has placed you where you are for a purpose. Don’t lose sight of God’s purpose for you. You have valuable work that only you can do…just like Joseph. If we could talk with Joseph I bet he wouldn’t regret a day of doing what God asked him to do.

Just the Facts

OK…I’m not a fan of Facebook. I have seen very little conversation there that is spiritually uplifting or even just plain positive. The feeds are filled with arguing, complaining, bickering, and foolishness.

People post things to get others to feel sorry for them, to seek support to right the injustices in their lives, or simply lie about situations. Here’s the cycle: someone rants, someone agrees, someone disagrees, then the people agreeing and disagreeing turn on each other and the fight is on. As believers in Christ, engaging in this type of behavior just isn’t scriptural…on so many levels.

The book of Proverbs warns all of us about something very dangerous with this type of behavior. Let’s look at Proverbs 18:17 (NLT). Here’s what it says:

The first to speak in court sounds right – until the cross examination begins.

In other words, there are two sides to every story. Folks who go out on Facebook with their tale of woe seldom provide all the facts. They provide the side of the story that supports their position. This is what Proverbs is talking about. Most stories sound believable until the cross examination begins. If we knew all the facts of the situation it would make us re-evaluate our thoughts and be ashamed of some of our public comments.

I spent many years of my life as a police officer. I was in court almost every week. When a defendant first took the stand to testify, the stories often sounded very good. It wasn’t until the cross examination took place that defendants were caught in lies. Witnesses took the stand and provided evidence that contradicted the defendant’s testimony. Now the judge had both sides of the story and the evidence.

Next time you read something on Facebook, ask yourself about the other side of the story. If you don’t have all the facts, not the hearsay, don’t engage in discussions like this. They are divisive and certainly don’t model Godly character. Participating in discussions like this is gossip.

Here’s a thought…get off Facebook entirely and do something productive with the time that God has given you. Before we open Facebook for the day let’s instead open our Bibles and hear what God has to say. God doesn’t speak in status updates and we can’t expect to grow spiritually by spending our time there.

New Book Just Released

Go pick up a copy of my new book: No Compromise: Thoughts From A Christian College President.  You can purchase it here…

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Please, It’s Time To Stop Crying

I spent the last few days watching the country react to the presidential vote. I read of a Yale professor who made an exam optional because the professor was “getting many heartfelt notes from students who are in shock over the election returns.”

Yesterday students from American University burned a flag as part of their protest. I suppose they really didn’t think about the name of their University and the respect it deserves as they began the name-calling and standard protest jargon. What a great way to protest the election of a United States President…burn a flag. That accomplishes a lot for their cause.

Protestors took to the streets in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington D.C. and other major cities across the country. I don’t even know what that means. What are they protesting? What’s the argument? That they didn’t get their way? The country voted. So you don’t like the results? That’s life.

I read articles from folks fearing for their safety as a result of the election. Really? Do you believe that because the country has new leadership you are now suddenly going to be physically assaulted? We could sure talk about some countries where physical safety is a real issue but let’s not pretend that election results bring shadows lurking in the dark ready to pounce on you.

Come on now. We need to toughen up and teach our college students how to make a real difference in this world. Let’s grow a spine and move on with life. How will college students function in the world if election results put them in shock? If this is the training students are getting for tuition dollars in colleges across America we are in trouble.

America is supposed to be a leader among nations. Yet here we are protesting, crying, writing letters to our children explaining how this election went wrong, calling each other names, watching news sources write articles about living in Trump’s America. We really need to get a grip. America doesn’t belong to any President. It doesn’t belong to Donald Trump any more than it belonged to Washington, Lincoln or any of our other previous Presidents. This is our America and it’s time we start acting like it.

At Toccoa Falls College we teach students that life is about developing character. We teach students that sometimes we just don’t get our way. We learn to move on to issues where we can make a positive difference in this world.

At Toccoa Falls College we don’t burn flags. We respect our government officials, we don’t go into shock when things don’t go our way, and our students solve problems…they don’t create them.

I Never Thought of That

Several years ago John Maxwell wrote a great book titled, Thinking for a Change. I know that this implies many of us don’t think very often but I wonder if Maxwell is right?

When I first read his book several years ago it made me stop and really question the last time that I took deliberate time to think. How about you? When is the last time that you scheduled time in your calendar just to think. We all get so busy with the routine tasks that we seldom think about strategy…about the future. Instead of thinking about where we are headed with our lives we find ourselves tied up in meetings, handling the daily emergencies, and putting out the daily fires in our lives and businesses.

So…how do you change your thinking process? First, schedule time just to think. Some folks believe that unless they are physically doing something they aren’t working. May I say to you if you aren’t taking time to consistently think you probably aren’t doing the right things anyway. Block off time every week where all you do is think. If you don’t schedule this thinking time I guarantee you won’t do it.

Second, Maxwell recommended something I have done and it really helps me. I have a special thinking place. It’s a chair that I use just to think. I try not to use it for anything else…just thinking. If I neglect my thinking time the chair just seems to call out to me asking me where I have been. This works for me but do whatever works best for you. Go for a walk. Find a place where you will not be interrupted and then just let your mind think about your personal goals, business goals, personal improvement ideas, solutions to problems you are facing, business strategies for the future, you name it.

Remember what William Arthur Ward said about thinking. Here it is:

Nothing limits achievement like small thinking; Nothing expands possibilities like unleashed thinking.

So…change the way you think and expand your possibilities.