One Step!

Just as God chose Mary specifically to be the mother of Jesus, God also specifically chose Joseph. Joseph demonstrated how much he loved Mary by not adhering to the Old Testament Law of stoning a woman for adultery. Though Mary did not sleep with another man, the people certainly believed she had. God spoke to Joseph through four dreams, and a study of Joseph’s actions based on those dreams can encourage us to listen to God. Hearing God can be very difficult for many Christians. It is not because God does not speak; nor is it because He does not speak loudly enough. Instead, we fail because we simply do not listen! Let’s look at Joseph’s first dream:

19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.
20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:19-21 (NASB)

Even before God spoke to Joseph in the dream, Joseph already had made righteous plans. This initial dream did not cause Joseph to go in the opposite direction. Instead, the dream confirmed how he already felt. Protect Mary. Instead of sending Mary away to have this baby at the home of some far-away relatives, Joseph accompanied Mary to Bethlehem, to be counted in the census. In this manner, Mary never would be out of his sight and he could protect her himself. We all know the story of the birth of Jesus, though some of the traditions of that story are not biblically based. For example, the Bible says nothing about the magi being three kings. Also, it is highly unlikely those magi were present on the night our Savior was born, as they saw the star and began to follow it that night. Matthew 2:1 tells us that after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, magi arrived in Jerusalem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, Jesus was a Child, not a babe, and in a house, instead of a manger! Daniel was a leader of the magi during his time in Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar placed him in that role based on his interpretation of dreams. The root of that word exists today in our words for magician and magistrate. We see the timing of Joseph’s second dream. After the birth of Jesus, and after the visit by the magi, Joseph had this dream:

13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”
14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.
Matthew 2: 13-14 (NASB)

After the magi departed, Joseph dreamed that the angel of Lord told him to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt, as Herod wanted to kill them. What did Joseph do? While it was still night, they departed! A journey of that length would typically take planning and preparation. Joseph did not contact AAA for maps. Nor did he spend a week packing the SUV. He trusted that the dream came from the LORD and Joseph stepped out in faith. Immediately! What would have happened if he departed with his family the next day? Would the story have turned out differently? This seems to be a very important lesson for each of us walking with Jesus. There is always a balance between stepping out in faith and waiting on the LORD. Many people fail to act, as they are waiting on God to tell them what to do. Most of the time, God has spoken, is speaking and continues to speak, but we simply are not listening. How many of us would have had the same dream as Joseph and simply discounted it as a crazy nightmare? Instead, Joseph acted, without hesitation. That involves trusting God. Rather than weighing the options, spending countless hours in preparation and approaching this as an accountant looks at a balance sheet, Joseph listened, trusted and acted.

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Herod killed all boys 2-years-old and younger in that region, not knowing that Jesus was safe in Egypt! After Herod died and Herod’s son Archelaus began ruling, Joseph had a third dream (Matthew 2:19-21), telling him to return with Mary and Jesus to Israel, as those who desired to kill Jesus were dead. Joseph obeyed the dream again, and took his family to Israel. This time, though, God fine-tuned Joseph with a fourth dream (Matthew 2:22). Instead of returning to Bethlehem, God warned Joseph to go to Galilee. Joseph listened and obeyed, taking his family to Nazareth, which fulfilled other Old Testament prophecies.

We all know the adage “practice makes perfect,” but understand that repetition of a bad habit does not perfect us in any way. Instead, a better explanation would be “perfect practice makes perfect.” We learn from our successes and should just as readily learn from our mistakes. Taking the example of Joseph, we do not know if he had any awareness upon his arrival in Egypt of the events that had occurred by Herod’s hand in Israel. Maybe God informed Joseph of the deaths of all those young boys. Maybe Joseph heard the news from another traveler. But maybe, he had no idea. We often believe that we need to know all of the consequences associated with our actions, but in truth, all we often get is a glimpse through a window that is more opaque than transparent. We do not have to know everything, but we need to serve the God who does. Still, when God does allow us a glimpse, we often can see His miraculous hand guiding us. Listening and acting correctly initially encourages us to do the same the next time.

God gives each believer at least one gift to use for Him. He does not want us to let any gift lie dormant, though many of us do not know what ministry God desires for us! Lights should shine brightly, rather than being hidden beneath bushel baskets. No gift is useful until unwrapped! Let’s look at the parable of the talents to highlight this:

14 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them.
15 “To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.
16 “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.
17 “In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more.
18 “But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves *came and settled accounts with them.
20 “The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’
21 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
22 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’
23 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
24 “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed.
25 ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’
26 “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.
27 ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.
28 ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’
29 “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.
30 “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 25:14-31 (NASB)

Matthew 25:25 points to the most common reason we fail to step out in faith and use our gift – fear! What is there to be afraid of when we serve a God who has all power and knows everything? He certainly is capable of closing doors and opening others if we erroneously follow our own hearts while trying to do His will. He can change our course much easier than the GPS in our cars can. We need to take just one step, and He is willing to do the rest with us. So as this year begins, stop burying those talents and gifts and invest them in God’s Kingdom! No more fear. Step out in faith! Remember, each journey begins with a small step!

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How Big is Your God?

“Might makes right” is an old adage that equates size and power with correctness, referring to the fact that those in control make the rules. This size may be attributed to military strength, more powerful weapons or sheer numbers. Consequently, each of us struggles with being in the minority, which places us in situations beyond our control. We worry about the outcome of many seemingly large problems:

• Am I going to lose my job?
• Will I have enough money to pay the bills?
• Will I die from this disease?
• I am so lonely and I cannot see any solution.

Yet each situation is smaller than we imagine it to be if we serve the one true God.

In the Bible, many different stories point to God demonstrating that He is singly and unequivocally in control of every situation, regardless of the size of the opposition. Remember a young David, who would become King of Israel, battling the 9 foot-9 inch Goliath with a sling and five smooth stones. David rightly said, before facing the giant without fear, “the battle is the LORD’s.” Another example involves the Assyrian King Sennacherib. His troops surrounded Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32), and the people were dismayed that they either would be taken into captivity or killed. But Hezekiah, the King of Judah, tore his clothes, a symbol of humbleness, and went to the Temple to pray to God, asking for deliverance. In the middle of the night, an angel of the LORD killed 185,000 Assyrian troops. Another Old Testament example tells us of a time when Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He offered a challenge to the far more numerous prophets. Both Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal would take a bull, chosen by the prophets of Baal, and both would prepare that bull for sacrifice by cutting it into pieces and placing it on the wood. Then each would call upon the name of their god to light the fire and burn the sacrifice. The 450 prophets called upon their god, but there was no answer.

27 It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” 28 So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. 29 When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.
1 Kings 18:27-29 (NASB)

Elijah then followed his taunts by placing his bull on the altar. He then poured 12 pitchers of water upon the bull and the wood, to make it even more difficult to burn. Then Elijah spoke to the LORD and asked Him to demonstrate that He was the God of Israel. Immediately, fire came from heaven and consumed the bull, the wood, the stones and the dust.

In each situation, the humble defeated the mighty. We do not have to be larger, smarter or more powerful than our enemies. We just need to serve and honor the God who is all of those! God never sleeps. He loves us so much that He cannot take His eyes away from us. Think of a 3-year-old boy asleep in his bed, after wreaking havoc all day. His parents walk down the hallway and look in on that boy, sleeping peacefully, with eyes of adoration. Our God sees the past, the present and the future. He does not just look at our sin, thankfully, for He already has handled that for us when He sent His Son to die for those sins. If we have chosen to follow Jesus, then the sins of our past, present and future already have been forgiven. Certainly, His grace is sufficient for me, for you and for all the rest of the world!

Many people believe in God, but do not believe He has anything to do with our daily lives. They are rightly estimating His powers of creation, but completely underestimating His powers of love. As Jesus said when explaining God’s love to His own disciples,

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
Matthew 7:7-11 (NASB)

A Catholic woman explained that the reason she prays to Mary instead of to God is that God is so busy! Each of us similarly places the omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient God in a smaller box, assessing an earthly limit on what He is capable of accomplishing. He is not limited by the natural laws He created! Many claiming to be Christians scoff at the virgin birth of Christ, claiming that the Hebrew word for “virgin,” (alma, עַלְמָה,) could just as easily be translated “young maiden.” In fact, the LORD offered to convince Ahaz, the unbelieving King of Israel, of His power. King Ahaz claimed that he would not test the LORD, and failed to come up with a request for a sign. Isaiah, though, offered His own sign to demonstrate God’s power. Isaiah said:

14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. 15 He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. 16 For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.
Isaiah 7:14-16 (NASB)

Isaiah offered King Ahaz an ostentatious miracle. What kind of miracle would it have been for a young maiden to conceive? That happened many times daily! But a virgin conceiving, that is another story entirely! God can do anything! Well, He can do almost anything. He cannot lie (or sin in any way). And He cannot make us love Him. That is what free will is all about. Think of a powerful and evil dictator. The people under his control may serve him, but it is not out of love, but self-preservation. Instead, God has demonstrated His love to us by becoming one of us.

Radio broadcaster Paul Harvey shared a wonderful analogy of a moral, non-believing farmer. His family was attending Christmas Eve services, but the farmer felt that by attending, he would be a hypocrite, as he did not believe Jesus was the Son of God. While home alone, a few birds broke through a large window, and struggled on the ground. He tried to help the birds, but they were fearful of him. As he approached them, they could not fly and recoiled as far away as they could get. He tried to come up with a solution, and thought, “If only I was a bird, they would trust me.” Just then, the church bells rang, and this farmer finally understood one of the reasons that Jesus came, though the difference between God and man is far greater than the difference between man and bird!

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A new year is beginning. Tradition tells us to make a resolution, and find some aspect of life to change. Many people go on diets or attempt to quit another bad habit. Instead, consider this. Let your resolution become a deeper understanding of God. He is so big that He created all that we can see and all that we cannot see, and simply breathed it all into existence. If we gather all of the world’s greatest thinkers together, their combined brain power would not be .0001% of the knowledge of God. The apostle Paul described what occurs when we overestimate our own intelligence in Romans 1:22, “thinking they were wise, they became fools.” A fool has said in his heart that there is no God, and sadly, believes that he is the god of his own life. When God sent His Son to die on the cross, He not only conquered sin for us, but conquered death, as well. He built a bridge connecting the wide chasm between God and us, by paying the sin debt each of us have created with our lives. As the New Year begins, do not underestimate Him. He can forgive any sin, heal any sickness, make joy out of any sadness and calm any storm. He can perform any miracle, give eyes to the blind and give ears to the deaf. He can love the unlovable. But He will not make us love Him. That is a choice, and the best choice to begin a New Year! And similarly, do not overestimate Him! Do not think of God as so immense and so distant that He does not know anything about you. He knows the number of days in your life and the number of hairs on your head. He knows every sin you ever will commit, even the ones you think are secret. He knows your name. He knows your heart. He wants you to know His name and know His heart!

6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:6-11 (NASB)

Happy New Year!
Garry Glaub

The Shoes of the Jews: a 7-week Bible study on enduring trials.

smashcoverfrontAll Christians endure trials, with God as the Potter, molding, stretching and shaping the clay. Without stretching, we have no strength. To a person who never has experienced pain, a pinprick seems deadly. Experience gives us compassion for others enduring similar issues. “Shoes of the Jews” includes seven, sequential Bible studies designed to develop a deeper understanding of the meaning of trials as well as how to endure with contentment. God uses trials to complete His work in us. “Shoes of the Jews” is perfect for home-group studies or for individuals. Each chapter culminates with five discussion questions to increase self-awareness, with the greatest goal in mind, a closer relationship with Jesus.

The book begins with a word study differentiating the Biblical meaning of the words “test,” “trial,” “temptation,” and “tribulation.” Chapter 2 discusses a great promise from God in the Book of Deuteronomy — that in the 40-year exodus of the Jews in the wilderness, He did not allow their sandals or clothing to wear out! He offers that same protection to His followers today, as each of us live in a wilderness of sin. Chapter 3 looks at trials through the perspective of Job, while Chapter 4 discusses King David’s approach. In Chapter 5, Paul gives us his viewpoint on trials, and that continues in Chapter 6 with a discussion on the time wasted in worry when we serve a God who loves us and cares for us. Finally, Chapter 7 brings it all back to faith and standing on God’s promises. All of us endure trials, but with that faith, we can stand on the Rock of our faith, rather than standing unsteadily on our own two feet!

Walk with Jesus in the shoes of the Jews through your wilderness!

Strength & Beauty: the Book of Ruth

Strength & Beauty: the Book of Ruth

My new book is now available (January, 2014). $9.95 at Barnes & Noble for the paperback and $1.99 for the Nook version.
You also can contact me if you would like to buy it directly.
Here is a summary:
Redemption is the most important biblical subject for a Christian to understand. We have been purchased by the blood of Christ, and because of that purchase, are no longer slaves to sin. Charles Spurgeon said, “I thought I could have leaped from earth to heaven at one spring when I first saw my sins drowned in the Redeemer’s blood.” Though our redemption occurred thousands of years later when Jesus died on the cross, the Old Testament’s Book of Ruth points to this redemption in such a sweet and comforting way. This simple, historic tale of Boaz and Ruth plucks the heartstrings, but teaches many lessons of God’s love for us. “Strength & Beauty: the Book of Ruth” is designed to encourage a believer’s journey to a closer walk with Jesus. By understanding the Levirate marriage of the Old Testament Law, we can see the great miracle that has been accomplished on our behalves. With seven chapters, and five discussion questions per chapter, “Strength and Beauty” is perfect for small groups or home-group Bible studies, in addition to individual study and growth. Rejoice, for we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb!