Sunday, December 6, 2009

December 6, 2009

"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and 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." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us." When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus." Matthew 1:18-25

Bob Burns may be the most ordinary person in America. He’s 54, married, wears glasses, makes mortgage payments on a three-bedroom, ranch-style house, and works 40 hours a week as a maintenance supervisor at Windham Technical High School in Willimantic, Conn. (pop. 15,823). Burns drinks coffee each morning, reads the newspaper each day, walks his dog each evening and attends church most Sundays.

The 5-foot-8-inch, 190-pound Burns is such an average Joe that he’s the unpretentious star of the 2005 book The Average American: The Extraordinary Search for the Nation’s Most Ordinary Citizen by Kevin O’Keefe.

“I’m a little bit of a local celebrity,” says Burns, who feels honored to be singled out for being perfectly ordinary. “I’m just the everyday person who does his or her job to the best of his ability.”

Christmas is a big story about a lot of little people. The Christmas story features and incredible God Who delights in doing extraordinary things through ordinary people.

Little is known of Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph. He is the often over-looked character in the Christmas Story. However, he shows us how God can do extraordinary things through an ordinary guy. I want to examine three attitudes he displayed that allowed God to do a miraculous work!

ATTITUDE ONE – “I Will Commit”, V. 24

The first time we become acquainted with Joseph he is identified simple as Mary’s “husband” or by our terms in our culture, her fiancĂ©e’. She is clearly the celebrity; he is part of the supporting cast.

See if you can put yourself into Joseph’s place. You are excited about your upcoming wedding. You have been working overtime to put away extra money and trying to get a jumpstart on your lifetime dream. And then out of nowhere, Mary rocks his world by telling him she was pregnant. Wow! Never saw that one coming! He knew she wasn’t pregnant by him, so with a broken heart he began to think about a graceful way out of this impending marriage. He wanted to believe her story about her pregnancy being from the Holy Spirit – but, REALLY!

While he is trying to sort it all out, an angel comes to him in a dream and vouches for Mary’s story. Then the angel gives him some specific instructions from God.

God comes to Joseph and asks for some significant commitments at a time when Joseph is very much conflicted. His heart is still breaking. His confidence is shattered. His future is up for grabs. And he is trying to figure out the right thing to do.

Is it just me or does God seem to challenge us with commitments at times when we are at our weakest? But isn’t that exactly when we need to make a commitment to trust God and to obey God? Nothing brings clarification quicker than committing to God’s will.

William H. Hinson tells us why animal trainers carry a stool when they go into a cage of lions. They have their whips, of course, and their pistols are at their sides. But invariably they also carry a stool. Hinson says it is the most important tool of the trainer. He holds the stool by the back and thrusts the legs toward the face of the wild animal. Those who know maintain that the animal tries to focus on all four legs at once. In the attempt to focus on all four, a kind of paralysis overwhelms the animal, and it becomes tame, weak, and disabled because its attention is fragmented.
When Joseph was hurt and confused and uncertain about his next move - what did Joseph do? Joseph obeyed God immediately! IMMEDIATELY! These were not easy things that were being asked of him!

I think that is very impressive! He was an ordinary guy but his commitment – EXTRAORDINARY!

Commitment always comes down to those "get in or get out moments". When life gets hard or you face a major disappointment or your lose hope you are faced with a crucial choice - WILL I QUIT or WILL I COMMIT?
Joseph chose to commit rather than quit. He jumped back into the game and obeyed God and submitted to His plan.

What is your attitude toward obedience?

Do you want to allow God the chance to do something extraordinary in you? Ask yourself, “Am I totally committed to God’s will?” Where do you need to get back in?

ATTITUDE TWO – “I Will Care”

Joseph was an ordinary guy, but his commitment was extraordinary. But I am also impressed with how he cared for Mary. Listen to the Scripture: Matthew 1:24-25.

Let’s be brutally honest this morning – men are not ordinarily wired to be care-givers. I confess that it doesn’t come naturally to me. That is why I find Joseph’s caring extraordinary – ESPECIALLY when you consider:

She had just broken his heart and turned His life upside down!

I want to highlight several things that I think are extraordinary about the way Joseph cared for Mary:



"Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe. Dreaming more than others think is practical and expecting more than others think is possible."

I have seen the extraordinary things God can do through a church that commits to caring for others.

MINISTRY TO ABUSED WOMEN – Carol & Barbara Crockett
DIVORCE RECOVERY MINISTRY – Sharon Brown & Jane Sharrar
AA MINISTRY – Gary Ruddick
MANNA MINISTRY – Anne Roberts & Crew

These people where motivated by the desire to redeem the reputation of struggling people, to help them take responsibility for themselves, and being willing to put the needs of others ahead of their own.

It doesn’t have to be that dramatic – start in your own marriage – your own family – your LIFE Group.

So, what about your attitude toward caring? What ordinary thing do you need to do to allow God to be EXTRAORDINARY IN YOUR LIFE?

Joseph chose to care for Mary’s needs above his own! Am I totally committed to caring for others? If not - why not? What needs to happen?

ATTITUDE THREE – “I Will Contribute”

Joseph was an ordinary guy who made an extraordinary commitment and who showed extraordinary caring. He did one other thing that allowed God to do an extraordinary miracle – he contributed!

It wasn’t like Joseph was able to write a big check or peel off some big bills. He was a small businessman – a young man just getting started. He was facing the responsibility of a wedding and had a dowry to pay. He was an ordinary Joe like you and me – bills to pay and not enough coming in.

But yet He did an extraordinary thing – he gave what little that he had!

I think we live under the delusion that when we get to where we can afford it – THEN WE WILL GIVE. We live on “Someday Isle” – “Some day I’ll do this or some day I’ll do that”. That just isn’t true.

Where would we be today if Joseph had taken that attitude? What if he would have said, “When I can afford to do this I will.”? He knew that if he couldn’t afford to give then he would never be able to afford it.

Joseph didn’t have much, but he offered it all to God. How about you? Am I withholding anything from God? What is your attitude toward giving to God?

God did an extraordinary thing because Joseph contributed the little that he had – which was all He had - to God

On April 21st, in the year 1519, the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez sailed into the harbor of Vera Cruz, Mexico. He brought with him only about 600 men, and yet over the next two years his vastly outnumbered forces were able to defeat Montezuma and all the warriors of the Aztec empire, making Cortez the conqueror of all Mexico. How was this incredible feat accomplished, when two prior expeditions had failed even to establish a colony on Mexican soil? Here’s the secret. Cortez knew from the very beginning that he and his men faced incredible odds. He knew that the road before them would be dangerous and difficult. He knew that his men would be tempted to abandon their quest and return to Spain. And so, as soon as Cortez and his men had come ashore and unloaded their provisions, he ordered their entire fleet of eleven ships destroyed. His men stood on the shore and watched as their only possibility of retreat burned and sank. And from that point on, they knew beyond any doubt there was no return, no turning back. Nothing lay behind them but empty ocean. Their only option was to go forward, to conquer or die.

Fill in this blank - God could do something extraordinary through me if I would commit to ______________.

Is there something you need to leave behind – a bridge you need to burn………?

Consider this question - God could do something extraordinary through me if I could care more about __________________________.

Here are a few issues that can hinder us from caring:

Insecurity – Only helping people you feel equal or superior to
Elitism – Only helping people that you think are in a position to benefit you
Codependency- Helping in ways to protect your relationship rather than really help
Control Issues - Staying wrapped up in one’s own power needs.
Immaturity - Caring more about your needs and your concerns than others.
Lack of Trust – Not willing to allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to help others

Are any of those issues your issue? Any of these can keep you from developing a caring attitude.

A pastor friend shares this story:

My dad was a preacher at a small church in Northwest Indiana. Sometimes he would take me and my little brother Steve to the Thursday morning Bible study. George, an elderly gentleman, would split his donut with my little brother. One Sunday my brother came to church with a sandwich bag full of Cheerios. George leaned over and asked Stevie if he could have some. My brother reached in his bag, pulled out a Cheerio, and split it in half, giving George half a Cheerio! I think our view of our own generosity is often like that! God gives us so much, and we give Him back half a Cheerio!

Complete this thought - God could do something extraordinary through me I if would give Him ________________.

Is that your giving attitude toward God?