“By the blessing of the upright, the city is exalted” (Proverbs 11:11).
God has you here for a reason. Maybe you were born in Philadelphia. Maybe you relocated here. Maybe you’re a lifelong Philadelphian. Maybe you’re just here for the short haul. For however long as you’re here, God wants you to bless Philadelphia. When we accept God’s salvation, He clothes us in His righteousness. That makes us “the upright.” So, how do we bless the city? The life of Jacob shows us two ways. When Jacob was on his deathbed (Genesis 49), he pronounced blessings on his children. Just as he lifted up his children before God, so we are called to lift up our city. We have a stake in what happens in our city. God, speaking to Jewish exiles, instructed them to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city…. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 49:6). We should be praying for the leaders, the schools, the businesses, and the people on a regular basis. Jacob blessed others not only by his prayers but also by his presence. When he prepared to move back to his homeland, to start a family of his own, his father-in-law asked him to stay by saying, “…the Lord has blessed me because of you” (Genesis 30:27). When we dedicate our lives to God, He showers us with blessings, and those blessings overflow to those around us. We may not have much of the things that the world chases—such as money or power, but we have an abundance of what the world truly needs—love, hope, peace and joy. We bless the city just by living our everyday lives, faithful to God’s call. As we head into a new year, let us concentrate not on ourselves, our needs and our wants, but on God’s call. May our daily prayer be, “Lord, whom can I bless today?”
Give as ’twas given to you in your need, Love as the Master loved you; Be to the helpless a helper indeed, Unto your mission be true. (Ira Bishop Wilson, “Make Me a Blessing”)
“What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” (The Grinch by Dr. Seuss). This quote was sent to me by my stepbrother-in-law, missionary Keith Sorbo. As I considered this quote, I thought of the people of Jesus’ day. So many missed the significance of God’s Son coming into the world! Only the immediate family and a few shepherds experienced the awe and wonder of God’s indescribable gift. Sadly, for most, the birth of Jesus was just another night after just another hard day of work…nothing special. What will this Christmas be for most people in our nation? What will Christmas be for you? After a year dominated by COVID-19, it’s hard for most people to rejoice. Maybe you lost a loved one. Maybe your job has disappeared. Maybe your future is drastically different. If our hope is for this life only (as Paul said), we are most miserable. Will it help if we simply go to a store and buy things for those close to us? Or is there more? Jesus challenged us to seek in order to find. What if we sincerely seek the Lord in prayer…asking Him to reveal the reason for His coming? What if we discover that His coming dominates the reason for our living? Christmas reminds all of us that, no matter how dark the circumstances, Jesus breaks through as the Light of the World! His life inside of us, through the Holy Spirit, renews our hope day after day. For the believer, the birth of Jesus the Christ is a sacred event…a time to celebrate and give thanks for the new birth He made available to us. Christmas is a lot more than what we can buy. It’s an opportunity to worship God for what He has purchased for us…our salvation through the birth, death and resurrection of His One and only Son. No matter what you’re going through, God has been good to you. He continues to provide for your needs and gives true joy and peace. Enjoy Christmas by loving Christ!
As many of you know, we are preaching a series on Sundays about “Heroes of Faith.” Time does not permit us to honor all the great men and women in the Scriptures. Most of them were of little consequence to the world, but all of them were known and honored by God. As we approach Christmas, we need to consider Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus. There’s not a lot mentioned about Joseph in the Bible. But what I appreciate most about him is his kindness and willingness to give God his reputation. As the story goes, Joseph, who was engaged to Mary when he found out she was pregnant, decided not to make a public spectacle of her. According to the law of the day, he could have pushed this “scandal” to the extreme…insisting on the death penalty by stoning! Instead, he chose kindness as his response to his pain and disappointment. Later God spoke to Joseph through an angel who told him, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). Joseph obeyed the Lord. However, obedience doesn’t always make problems go away. People who knew about Mary’s pregnancy and that Joseph was not the father would have talked. By simply accepting the situation, Joseph invited disrespect and scorn from those who judged by their own understanding. However, Joseph willingly laid aside the opinions of others in order to follow the Lord. His faith in the face of not being able to fully comprehend is a powerful example to us! We’re not sure how long Joseph lived. Since he is not mentioned during Jesus’ ministry, we assume that he died young. But Joseph will always be remembered as an obedient follower of the Lord, who loved his wife and child greater than his reputation. Thank you, Joseph, for being a hero of faith!
I’ve been reading through the Book of Job and came across a gem! “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:8-10). These words come from Job as the Holy Spirit spoke through him. It was the worst of times for Job. He had suffered the loss of his children, his possessions, and his place in the community. Add to this the condemnation of his closest friends, and we see Job riding out the “perfect storm” of tests. As I speak with people and consider the current “climate” in our country, I believe Job’s message echoes down through the ages to our ears right now. What we are going through with the COVID-19 issues cannot compare to the severity of Job’s tests. However, we find commonality in our human condition of struggle and trials. Living this life is a continuous challenge to believe in what you do not see…while your eyes observe the physical things in front of you. At times Job’s faith seemed to hang by a thread, but God was with him. Job believed even though he could not sense the presence of God or perceive His hand of blessing. Notice in the text above how Job tries to “see” God at work, but the fog of life is too thick. Finally, Job resigns his heart to a bedrock truth. Even though Job could not see God, he knew that God could see him! Job, in faith, declared, “But he knows the way that I take” (v. 10). Job’s genuine faith produced hope that his difficulties were working for good. Just as gold is purified by fire, Job believed in a God who could turn something evil into something good. Can we believe for this right now? We continue to struggle through the effects of COVID-19. Can we declare confidently that God knows our way and is leading us to something good? From the story of Job, we understand that the power of trusting God now, leads to ultimate victory then!