A Dead Branch

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A Dead Branch

By Patricia Knight

We are frequently treated to the hummingbirds’ antics as they sip nectar from the feeder suspended between two parallel birch trees. The leaves gently sway in contrast to the desultory movements of the diminutive hummingbirds. The hummingbirds rest on the only dead branch located in direct line with the feeder.

If the dead tree branch had been within my reach, it would have been lopped off by my pruning shears long ago. I ascribe to the theory that most plants flourish with regular pruning of dead or ineffectual branches. Little did I realize that I would have threatened the hummingbird’s favorite rest and look-out spot.  From the hummingbirds’ vantage point on the dead branch, attacks can be averted and their eating station protected, all from an unobstructed view of the world around them.

Joseph was the youngest of Jacob and Rachael’s twelve sons. “Now Israel {Jacob} loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he had been born to him in old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him” (Genesis 37:3). Joseph’s jealous brothers gained opportunity for retribution when Joseph was sent by his father with instructions to check on their welfare in the area they were grazing the family flocks.

The familiarity of the account of the brothers stripping Joseph of his ornamental coat and throwing him into an empty cistern is nonetheless chilling. When the brothers realized they could exploit Joseph’s life for an attractive price, they pulled him out of the well and sold him as a slave to the Midianite traders. “The Midianite merchants sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard”(Genesis 37:36).

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Though his brothers intended only harm toward Joseph, God had a magnificent future in mind for him, orchestrating circumstances and people to accomplish His goal. “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered … Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned” (Genesis 39:2&5).   

Joseph’s experiences in the household of government officials in Egypt were a pattern of victories and defeats. Though he was thrown into jail on a trumped-up charge and apparently forgotten by those in authority, God gave him the ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, his ticket out of jail and into another responsible position. Joseph prophesied through God’s intervention, warning that Egypt would experience seven years of abundance followed by an equal number of years of famine that would ravage the land.  Joseph explained to Pharaoh that God was responsible for interpreting his dream and its message.

Once again, God rewarded Joseph. Pharaoh proclaimed, in the presence of all of his officials: “‘Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you’”(Genesis 41:39-40).  At age thirty, Joseph was named second-in-command of the whole land of Egypt. He traveled extensively throughout Egypt, collecting from every harvest, storing the abundance for sale and distribution during the years of famine.

During the famine, the humanly unpredictable scenario developed in which Jacob sent ten of his sons to Egypt to buy food. Joseph, then governor of the land, met with all people requesting grain. He immediately recognized his brothers who had previously betrayed him, though they did not suspect it was Joseph interacting with them. After an involved process Joseph finally admitted to his brothers, “‘But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt’” (Genesis 45:7-8).

Are we so different from Joseph?  During our lifetimes we experience vacillating failures and victories. When we are in the throes of disappointment and defeat, where does our trust lie? Do we moan, groan, and complain about situations that may be less than ideal or beyond our control? Joseph was imprisoned in the king’s dungeon on false charges of making advances toward his master’s wife. Even though God granted Joseph favor in the prison, his environment remained a dark, dingy, odiferous dungeon.

Joseph didn’t know when imprisoned that God would eventually place him in a position of authority so that his family could survive the future widespread famine. What kept Joseph encouraged during his prison term? It is likely Joseph’s faith and trust in God supplied him with daily strength. Joseph’s life story is a marvelous illustration of personal patience and trust in a faithful God, whose perfect plan is always accomplished in His precise timing.

God has not changed His methods throughout the centuries. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow” (Hebrews 13:8). His promises are trustworthy. Like Joseph, even when we can’t see beyond our present circumstances, if we trust in God to develop His unique purposes for us, we shall eventually experience a victory. God created us and maintains a devoted love for each of us. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’”(Jeremiah 29:11) 

Even during those times in our lives when God is silent, He is continually intervening on our behalf. His plans and purposes for each of us are perfectly orchestrated, just as in Joseph’s life. “A righteous man may have troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:19).

Perched at attention on the dead branch, the hummingbird remains constantly vulnerable.  Instinct positions the hummer on defense against attacking predators. Vigilance is the only stance the hummer knows. However, we are free to develop trust that God will protect us from harm as we rely upon His deliverance. When adversities assail us as they did Joseph, the energies that would normally be expended on fear are converted into prayer for God’s power and strength. God assured the apostle Paul, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”(2 Corinthians 12:9).

The victory is ours to claim!  

Joseph’s Lullaby

Merry Christmas, Beloved!

After all the busy-ness of this Christmas season, please take some quiet time to enjoy this beautiful song by Mercy Me titled “Joseph’s Lullaby.”

If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

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Joseph’s Christmas Story … Part 2 (Conclusion)

The rest of this study, shared from GraceThruFaith.

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.”(Matt. 1:20-21)

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

On His eighth day of life, we brought Jesus, as the angel had told us to name him, to the Temple to be circumcised as a child of the covenant. (His Hebrew name is actually Yeshua, which means “God brings salvation.” The name Jesus comes from the Greek.) While there, His role as Israel’s Messiah was confirmed by two witnesses, as required in the Law. (Deut. 19:15) Both Simeon and Anna had been moved by the Holy Spirit to seek out and bless Jesus and praise God for sending Him to redeem mankind. (Luke 2:23-40)

By the way, when the Lord ordained the ritual of circumcision for males, He arranged for the coagulating proenzyme you call prothrombin to be at 130% of normal adult levels on the eighth day of life, and for natural analgesic enzymes in the blood to be at lifetime highs as well. Circumcision on any other day can be a painful and bloody event, but on the eighth day it’s remarkably less so. Of course, this is a fact the medical profession has only learned in the last century. In our day we just knew that everything worked better when we were obedient to God’s commands.

Read the rest here.

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Joseph’s Christmas Story … Part 1

Shared from GraceThruFaith.

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

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.” (Matt. 1:20-21)

As Joseph might have told it…

She was out shopping with her family one day and happened to walk by my carpentry shop in Nazareth. I fell hopelessly in love the minute I saw her, and couldn’t rest till I found out who she was. I don’t recall whose furniture I was building that day, or even how it turned out. She was all I could think about. I wanted to know her name, which of the 12 tribes her family was from, and how many brothers and sisters she had. This last item would help me estimate the “bride price, ” the money I would have to pay her father for his permission to marry her. (I had already decided that that’s what I was going to do.)

If she was from a small family, leaving them to marry me would deprive her parents of a much needed pair of hands, and her father would want a high price to compensate for the family’s loss, maybe more than I could afford to pay. I guess you can tell my brain was going about a hundred miles an hour. Even though I was known as a quiet and easy-going man, my prayers that the Lord would let me have her were urgent and intense.

I quickly discovered her name was Miriam, or Mary to you. She was from the tribe of Judah, like me. Then I learned that she had no brothers at all and no older sisters. This meant that she was first in line to be married and that she was her father’s principal heir, being his firstborn child. It also meant that according to our law she could only marry a man from the tribe of Judah.

Let me explain.

Read the rest here.

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Merry Christmas 2013 From Us

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Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. Joseph also went up from Galilee … to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.      —Luke 2:1, 4-7

As I contemplated this Christmas season and what it means to me, I found my thoughts focused on Mary and how she must have felt knowing she was carrying the Messiah Jesus—the Son of God. It must have seemed like a burden and a treasure at the same time. I mean, how can a person wrap their mind around such an amazing thing?

I have tried to put myself in Mary’s place. I would feel scared, humbled, awestruck, wondering… How would Joseph and I be able to raise the Son of God properly? Would He do the typical things that tax a parent’s patience? And if so, how could we properly discipline Him? It must surely be disrespectful to do so to the Son of God.

Still, there must have been moments of pure joy as I looked into that tiny little face and praised the God of the universe for choosing me, a small town girl. I would have wondered why God had singled me out for this honor. What could I have done (or not done) to deserve such a privilege?

And in spite of everything her mind and heart told her, Mary immediately said yes!

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The other day I heard one of my favorite Christmas songs on the radio as I drove home from a weekend of visiting with my children. The song, “Mary Did You Know,” is written by Mark Lowry. I felt the lyrics deep in my heart, so in case you have never heard this song you can hear and view it here:

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Here are the lyrics in case you have trouble viewing the video:

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Did you know
That your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
That your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered
Will soon deliver you

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Did you know
That your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand?
Did you know
That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little boy
You’ve kissed the face of God

Mary, did you know?
The blind will see
The deaf will hear
And the dead will live again
The lame will leap
The dumb will speak
The praises of the Lamb

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Did you know
That your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know
That your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding
Is the Great I Am

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Rick and I are so thankful for the many blessings God has given us: each other … family and friends … enough to be able to live comfortably … a roof over our heads …  sufficient food and clothing … a wonderful church family … God’s written Word within easy reach … the sure knowledge that we will live forever with Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

As I shared with you last week, Rick and I celebrated our 15th anniversary this month. Daily we reflect on God’s blessings in our marriage as He knits our hearts together more every day.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. —Luke 2:11

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. —John 3:16

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Blessings and love during this Christmas season from Anna and Rick!

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Jesus Emmanuel

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Matthew 1:18-25

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

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 conceive and 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. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

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AnnaSmile…..

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