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1. Where in your life do you find yourself reasoning or depending on your own wisdom instead of seeking what God would have you do?
2. Is there something you have felt nudged to do that would make you uncomfortable? What is it? Is the only thing stopping you discomfort?
3. What feeling typically keeps you from doing what you know to be right? Pride? Convenience? Self-defense? Comfort? Something else?
Good morning Hope City! Merry Christmas! We’re so glad that you’re here today. What a great weekend we had… This past Saturday hosting our second annual movie night! WHEW! What a blast. Did you all see the size of that movie screen? We loved serving Tatum Ridge and all the families that call this school home. Thank you to everyone who made that night possible!
How many of you will be traveling around for Christmas this year? Tiffany, the kids and I spend a few days with her family in NJ after Christmas, so we’ll be traveling up in NJ… Here’s the real question though. How many of you use Apple Maps, vs. Waze. Any waze fans out there? That’s right. It’s all the speeders… You’re looking for those cop alerts! 😉 Nah, I’m kidding… sort of.
I’m actually a big fan of Waze, I use it all the time. I use it to back out of my driveway, I think it’s awesome. For those of you who don’t know, Waze is GPS app on your phone that will get you directions to you location and will reroute you when it finds that there is traffic and if it can come up with a faster way of getting you there it will. Pretty cool.
This past year when we were traveling home from summer vacation, we were headed south on 95 with 400 miles left to go on that road until we were going to make a turn. And then all of a sudden, REROUTING… WAZE said in 1 mile exit right and then turn left. We were in the middle of nowhere… What do you do in that moment? You’re at a Crossroads…
Do you turn off the road? You don’t know where it’s going… you don’t know what’s coming next… You only have a mile to make that decision. There’s part of me that says, sure! Turn and I’m sure everything will be alright. But then there’s another part of me that says, THIS MAKES NO SENSE! That road is headed east, I need to go south!
We’ve all had times when our gut says one thing and our brain says another.
Like, you know that morning that you wake up and everything’s going wrong. The coffee make isn’t working. The kids are up early… You forgot to move the wash over to the dryer… and you promised the kids eggs for breakfast, only to find you have no eggs. And then what happens. One of the kids spills a cup of milk. Reason, or common sense says, We don’t cry over spilt milk. But yet, your emotions fall apart. And before you know it, it’s just a waterfall of tears.
Or maybe you’ve had this one happen to you; you get a job offer that is substantially lower than what you’re currently making and your brain says, No way. But yet your heart says, do it! Your gut reaction to the job offer is this would be a good thing. BUT THE MONEY?
Or maybe you’re in the market for a house right now, and while you’re out shopping, you decided to look at only the top end of what your mortgage will allow. You find yourself the biggest house you can. Why? Because your heart says you need to have a big house. But common sense is like, your 13 cats don’t each need their own bedroom, you weird cat lady!
Speaking of which, I’ve got a special Christmas gift for all the crazy cat lady’s in your life… look at this.
Isn’t it true that sometimes our gut goes against our brain? Or maybe common sense doesn’t lead you to the right decision all the time. We end up at a CROSSROADS in life. What do you do when what you know is in conflict with what you feel? At times these moments can leave us feeling HOPELESS.
This morning, we will be looking at one character in particular in the Christmas story who finds himself at a crossroads. Turn in your bible’s to Matthew chapter 1:18. That’s on page 657 in the Bible’s around you.
Joseph is a young man who we find out later in the story is a carpenter. He probably worked with both stone and wood, either way Joseph was a hard worker. Either way, we learn that Joseph is an incredible man… who is living the dream. He is betrothed to the woman of his dreams. His sweetheart Mary. According to Jewish law, Joseph and Mary were legally married. They were in the period of time that their marriage was legal even though they did not live under the same roof or share the same bed. Look with me at the crossroads in Joseph’s life.
18 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.[i]
Yeah, this is as wild as you think it is. This is what Joseph came home to one day. He was working hard and he came home and I can imagine something that went like this, “Ugh Joseph, I think we need to talk.” Joseph finds himself in a hopeless crossroads!
What would he do? What could he do? Imagine the hurt and betrayl that he must have felt when he heard the news. Don’t forget that Joseph knew Mary’s character, He knew her commitment to God, and this pregnancy couldn’t have made sense to him at all.
Joseph had two options according to his culture. One, he could make an example out of Mary, this would be very public, it would have lots of fanfare, she would be shamed, brought to court, and forever ruined in terms of her reputation. The second thing that Joseph could do was to privately divorce her in front of 2-3 witnesses. No one would need to know. Mary could go on with her life and raise her child somewhere else, and Joseph could go on with his life. Either of these things make sense. But look at what He does.
19 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. [ii]
Joseph knew that he had to choose the second option, the private divorce because it satisfied his need for conformity to the law, his righteousness, as well as kept his compassion intact.
Joseph’s story is wildly unique in one regard, but in another, it is similar to many of us. We are journeying through life, and then all of a sudden, something happens, something turns up, someone shows up, and our lives are at a crossroads, and HOPE seems to disappear. CROSSROADS ARE A PART OF LIFE! But what we learn from Joseph today is that HOW YOU HANDLE YOUR CROSSROADS TODAY DETERMINES WHAT ROAD YOU’RE ON TOMORROW. There is no doubt that the decisions that you are making, the ones that make sense, and even the ones that make no sense are the ones that are shaping your future. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have future you to chat with right now? You know, the future you that’s already lived life and could tell you how it all turns out?
Remember the situation where you would take a lower paying job? Well, I have a friend who did this. He took a large pay cut in order to do what He always wanted to do. He took a pay cut of 30% but moved to an area that was 20% more by cost of living. Still in the same field, but just a different role. And it is easy to say that if He had not taken that pay cut he would not be in the role and position he is in today! It was a crossroad moment.
They aren’t necessarily all bad either. They aren’t all taking pay cuts and moving around the world. Some of these crossroad moments are relational. Should you continue dating this guy, or dating that girl… It’s neither right or wrong, but there are moments that come up in life that require you to make a decision. And the decision that you make determines the road that you’re on tomorrow.
Joseph must have been agonizing over this decision. He found out, thought about it, and had time to sleep on it. Which is when God intervened, look back at what happens next to Joseph.
20 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. 21 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.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.[iii]
Most people think that Joseph woke up feeling overwhelmingly refreshed from that nap. Right? Like Joseph woke up with a spring in his step… I think that Joseph woke up feeling conflicted. What he knows and what he feels are two different things. The amazing thing is that Joseph merges those two things. We see tremendous depth and firmness of Joseph’s faith in his decision to marry Mary. Joseph shows us that WE MUST CHOOSE TRUST IN GOD OVER PERSONAL REASON. Why? There had to be a civil war going on inside of himself…
Common sense told him not to go out on a limb with Mary… “Conceived by the Holy Spirit? Come on.”
Self-defense told him not to do it, “Who will believe me? What will our families think?”
Convenience told him not to do it. “Just when I was hoping to settled down and raise a family.”
Pride told him not to do it. “If she expects me to buy a tale like that.” But God told him to do it. And that’s what makes Joseph extraordinary.
I probably would have woken up and said, “I had this weird dream. I need to go see a counselor.” There was no questioning, no doubt, no misgivings, no demanding to understand. Joseph knew that his TRUST in God outweighed HIS own PERSONAL REASON.
Let me remind you of Proverbs 3:5-6
5Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.[iv]
There are ways that seem right to us. We can rely on our own understanding, and yet God does something incredible when we trust in Him, and look to His ways.
LET ME ASK YOU, WHERE IN YOUR LIFE ARE YOU DEPENDING ON YOUR OWN WISDOM, OR YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE? When we choose our own personal reason over trusting God, we are saying, “God, I know better. I can do better than you can.”
4 years ago, Tiffany and I started sensing the fact that God was doing something new in our life. We started praying about this transition, and felt that it was the right thing to start looking for another job. I was a campus pastor at a large, multi-site church in NJ, and yet, something still wasn’t right. I’ll never forget that night we sat on the couch talking about it, looking at a map, and Tiffany said, I don’t want to move further North than Rhode Island, and I don’t want to move further south than Georgia. WELL… How about Florida? 😉
When we moved to Florida we were leaving behind friends, and family. Good relationships, good friends… But we were certain of one thing. And it’s this… We NEVER wanted to be somewhere that God didn’t want us to be. And this meant if God didn’t want us in NJ we didn’t want to be there, even though that would have made all the sense in the world to stay. We would rather be uncomfortable where he wants us than comfortable where we want us. And this still applies today!
You can reason all you want with God. You can reason with your spouse. You can reason with yourself. But if God is calling you to do something, or go somewhere, or do something, we must choose trust in God over personal reason.
This is why at Hope City we have made it one of our big bucket goals to expand our service to the parents and teens of our community through Hope City Family. You can read more about this in the pamphlet in your program today. We know that parents and grandparents worry more today than we ever have before. Are you parenting the right way, are you enough for them? All of these things go through the mind of parents. And we know that this time in a child’s life is critical in terms of their faith development. This is why we are going to be funding new initiatives for 2019 to give parents practical help with your kids and grandkids. This will help fund the purchase of the curriculum that we are using across the board in Hope City Family to ensure that our kids and students are getting the best and most engaging experience on a Sunday morning. Your gift to the Hope For All Christmas offering will make a difference in the lives of parents around the room and in the lives of parents who are not even here yet.
Do you know who loves your kids more than you do? God does. I know that this sounds so cliché… But it’s true. The things you worry about, the things you’re concerned about, the things that you wonder if you’ve messed up… God is saying, will you trust me with these things. Will you trust me that I’m going to give you everything you need to meet their needs and care for them. God has given us one another; this is why I’m so grateful for the fact that here at Hope City, we are a multi-generational church. There is every age and stage represented… There is tremendous wisdom found here. Tap into that. We will do everything we can to partner with you as you raise your children in the ways of the Lord.
Today your kids have packed bags of candy canes and Christmas invite cards…. It’s a Christmas Conspiracy of Kindness with a simple Candy Cane. We want to give you tools to help you teach your kids about their faith. Talk about why it’s important to invite people to church and tell them the good news of Jesus. Talk about how your feel when you’re interacting with others, and how you need to be a person who courageously shares their faith and lives their faith. We will partner with you to help your kids take their next step in their journey of faith.
I know that as parents you can wonder, Am I doing this right… Is there anything I can do better… am I screwing it up? Am I qualified? We will choose trust in God over our own reason. There is HOPE!
But Joseph didn’t stop by just choosing to trust God. No… Joseph did more than that. Look with me.
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.[v]
This is what obedience looks like. Joseph woke up and did what the angel of the Lord commanded him. Do you notice all of these details? Joseph took Mary home to care for her, to care for the son of God that was growing inside of her. And scripture says that he delayed his desire to sleep with his wife until after the baby was born. Joseph’s obedience didn’t have boundaries.
See, OBEDIENCE ACTS, NO MATTER HOW IT FEELS. There weren’t things that were off limits for his obedience. We on the other hand often feel our way into obedience. If it works out or feels good, we’re in. Especially when it comes to our sexuality. We’re happy to take God seriously when it comes to being obedient to rest on the sabbath… but to be sexually pure, and reserve those thoughts, behaviors, and actions for your spouse alone? Well that’s another story…
Obedience ACTS! I feel like as a parent I spend most of my time running around asking my kids to go brush their teeth, to do their hair, or get a shower. Oh, let’s not forget “Turn the lights off.” That’s another classic. All of a sudden, my kids are at a CROSSROADS. But do you know what the first step in obeying any one of those commands? It’s not actually flipping the switch, or uncapping the toothpaste. It’s getting up off the couch. It’s moving from where you are to the place that needs your attention.
Some of us are unwilling to do that! We are unwilling to move from where we are to where God wants us to go and pay attention to the thing that He has in front of us. Obedience ACTS, no matter how it feels.
Joseph was a remarkable man of God, a righteous man of God, because he not only acted when it seemed unreasonable, he altered the course of his story by the decisions that he made.
What about you? What will your story look like? What do you want your story to look like? As hopeless as you may feel, Christmas brings a THRILL of HOPE. Would you be willing to take a step of obedience today. Don’t forget that obedience starts by getting up from where you are and moving towards where you need to be.
What is God asking you to do today? It may be something that doesn’t make sense to others. In fact, it wouldn’t pass for common sense, it may not make financial sense… but if it is what God is asking you to do than let me remind you that it doesn’t have to make sense for you to trust in His presence in your life. God promises to never leave you or forsake you in whatever it is that He is asking you to do. There will never be anywhere you go that He isn’t going there with you.
What would it look like for you to take a step of obedience today?
Maybe for you it is a financial step… You read about what your church is going to be doing this next year and you get excited. You know that in your heart it’s something you want to do, but your brain starts telling you how unreasonable that would be.
Maybe you need to forgive someone that has hurt you. They hurt you, you didn’t hurt them. Our world says hold on to that grudge, and yet, you hear the whisper of God saying, it’s time to forgive.
Or maybe it’s your pride. You are so worried about what everyone else thinks of you. What if everyone else’s opinions were keeping you from the life that you want? Instagram and Facebook have become your task master. You have to make sure you posture your life in a certain way.
I wonder if today your first act of obedience would be to simply surrender to the Lord. Just as Joseph did. The angel of the Lord said to Joseph, “DO NOT BE AFRAID!”
Would you surrender your fear? Surrender whatever is keeping you from knowing and experiencing God today.