The Silent Hero

Originally written for Manna Magazine in 2010.
It is Christmastime and Christians all over the world are beginning to reflect on the scriptures that tell us of God’s wonderful incarnation. I love the story as it relates the mysterious plan of God. It is the unprecedented and never duplicated miracle of miracles. The vast depth to this mystery will always leave me pondering. In the fall of 2009 I began to search out the scriptures concerning what we refer to as the “Christmas Story.” Upon close examination of these texts I found myself asking many new questions. There was one character in particular that I was asking new questions about. One who is seemingly replaceable. His name is Joseph. I began to wonder why Joseph was chosen by God. How was it possible for God to know that Joseph would be a good father? How was God able to know that Joseph was a man that could be trusted? The easy answer is that God knows everything. God does know everything. But if we were to investigate the matter, would we be able to find traits that would have made him a suitable choice for the task?

The choosing of Joseph, to me had always seemed a mute point. I tended rather to look at the choosing of Mary. As Gabriel said, “thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women” Luke 1:28. Mary had been shown favor. She was plucked out of a sea of women. But now I have begun to think that Mary may have been chosen because Joseph was. Was it not equally important for God to have a father? Figuratively speaking that is. And what would God look for when selecting such a man? Travel with me in your imagination to rural Galilee to home of a bachelor carpenter and see what God saw in the man called Joseph. Beginning with his genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17, we find that God was moving purposefully in choosing Joseph. Some may say his genealogy was inconsequential, seeing as the Son was not from his bloodline. Yet, it was consequential to God, who does everything in order. God brought forth His Son into the House of David through both Joseph and Mary. Mary’s genealogy is documented in Luke 3:23-38. Joseph was chosen partially because he was a son of David. Matthew 1:20 records the words spoken to Joseph by the Angel of the Lord, pronouncing him as the son of David. Joseph was also selected because of his status as a virgin, betrothed to a virgin. This was the right scenario for God to come into the family. The serious indications of this truth are felt immediately after Joseph was told the news of Mary’s pregnancy. Joseph’s initial response was to divorce Mary privately. This brings us to the next characteristic that God was looking for when he selected Joseph. Right away we see an opportunity for Joseph’s character to be manifested. His decision, based on no word from the Lord, no encounter thus far with an angel, this would be the moment that his true nature would be revealed. What did he choose? I believe that he chose to act in a way that was consistent with his nature. That was with humility, compassion and righteousness.

Why humility? His response to Mary was humble because he sought to have a divorce from her in private. This proved that he did not need to be publicly vindicated. If he would have been a man led by pride he would have sought her condemnation. Therefore he would have been released from their betrothal. He would have been pitied while she would have been cast out. Rather he did not seek to have her cast out, which brings us to his attribute of compassion. Why compassion? Because he did not seek to have the full punishment of the law called upon her head. I have no doubt that Joseph loved Mary. Because of that love, his disappointment in her circumstance could have led him to anger. But it rather led him to compassion. Why Righteousness? Matthew 1:19 gives insight into Joseph’s decision making, “Then Joseph her husband being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.” He, being just, could have had her put away, divorced publicly. Joseph who was first and foremost a servant of God, wanted to be obedient to God and to His commands. By his decision to divorce Mary, he portrays to us his stand for righteousness. However, in Matthew 1:24 we read that Joseph was visited by an angel and told of God’s plan for The Savior, “Then Joseph being raised from his sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him and took unto him his wife.”

And so it was Joseph who was chosen to be the father of Jesus from before time began. Joseph and Mary set out on an unprecedented journey of faith. The Bible bears record of many hardships in the beginning years of Jesus’ life. Starting with their unconventional betrothal in Nazareth to the birthing of Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem, they were accompanied by hosts of angels with the Light of the World showing them the way. God was speaking specific directions to Joseph in his dreams. These midnight encounters paved the way of safety for Jesus and Mary. Leaving Bethlehem for Jerusalem they presented their son in the temple, on the eighth day to fulfill all laws and customs. They were to give him the name that God had named him. The name that now stands in eternity as the Name above all Names. It was Joseph who first spoke that name over his son, JESUS. And even though they had to present the offering of the poor, which was two turtle doves, there was no measure of the wealth that they carried with them in Jesus.

Their journey directed by the Lord brought them safely down into Egypt, far away from Herod, where they lived for several years. In the perfect time the Lord once again in a dream directed them home. The final time was Nazareth to stay. Throughout these years of hardships and trials Joseph was never afraid to dream. That is because in his dreams God spoke peace and purpose to him. His dreams beckoned him to faith. His faith motivated him to into action. Some have said that actions speak louder than words. In the story of Joseph this is proved true. Joseph is silent in the scriptures. There are no words by Joseph documented for us to read or study. What is written of his actions and decisions, speak for him. They tell his story, possibly better than he could tell himself. His obedience is inspiring to me. He led his family through difficulties that we cannot begin to understand. He was a faithful man as seen in his determination through trials. He was a talented man, who was skilled in the craftsman trade. He was an obedient man, who risked his life at the call of the Lord. He was a reverent man, as he worshiped God according to the traditions of Israel. Joseph protected God’s son Jesus and his wife Mary physically, socially, and financially. I propose that Joseph was the most influential and most respected person in Jesus’ life. Yet in scripture we see no glory given to Joseph. No position or title. Truly Joseph was an honorable man, who sought no honor.

Come with me now back into our modern world. Has God been speaking to you? Have you heard His voice in your dreams? It is easy to say that we will obey God. It is much harder to actually obey Him when we hear His voice. The Lord God of Heaven has a task for each of us to do. Will we be obedient like Joseph? Like Mary? If you have heard the voice of the Lord asking you to move, or asking for an offering, then I challenge you to follow Joseph’s example. Has the Lord spoken to you about protecting your children from the schemes of Satan? Then I challenge you to protect them. We do not have a modern day Herod hunting our children down, but there is a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour. His name is Satan and our prayers are the instruments of Spiritual war that bring his plans down. May God help us, just as He helped Joseph, to see the enemy and to protect our homes. Furthermore, may God give us clear spiritual vision, and may we view our circumstances correctly. Our spiritual realities are truer than our physical realities. When Joseph presented the offering of the poor in the temple, or when Mary laid our Lord Jesus in the manger, these were physical realities that were in direct contrast to their spiritual realities. For in their presence was the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, creator of the universe and the Almighty God. Their worth and wealth was immeasurable as they were surrounded by the hosts of Heaven. I pray that we may have clear vision of spiritual realities in our lives as heirs of the Most High God. Heirs who are filled with His Spirit, who are the salt of this earth, may we never fear our state of poverty. But rather rejoice in the richness of His presence. When we learn the lessons of Joseph and choose to live with; humility, compassion, and righteousness, we can bring the Kingdom of God to earth.

King VS King

King Versus King

By: Jennifer Tomasik posted 6-28-14 (written in 2011 for Manna Org. magazine)

A large vein is bulging on his forehead. It runs fiercely down his face into his neck. His jaw is clenched, it seems as though he cannot catch his breath. He is a man gripped by fear. His brow fills with sweat. His nostrils cannot rightly provide enough oxygen to his racing heart. His bursting chest and shoulders carry the rhythm of his heart. Although he tries he cannot disguise his anxiety.

Clinging, white knuckled, to his own position of power. He cannot let go of it. His palms are drenched with sweat as his hands protect his kingly robe and ring. He cannot live without the distinction they bring.

His eyes do not shed a tear as they suffer. They stare far away but never find a focus, revealing his inner torture. His underlings know that his tortured soul is their burden, and so they also tremble around him. He has just been unexpectedly approached by, unknown men, concerning an unprecedented event and he is without an answer.

This is a man at his breaking point. His life is at a standstill until this matter is remedied. And he will stop at nothing to answer this seeming threat to his power. When I look at this man I feel his frailty and his weakness. His fear reveals his weakness. He has no future outside of this power. His thirst for control will never be quenched.

You know this man, he is Herod the Great. He has just been visited by the Magi, wise men from the East. (Mt. 2:2)He was greatly disturbed by their news. His uncontrolled fear turned into anger and his anger turned into murder. At this point the bible records for us an unimaginable tragedy. Herod orders for the slaughter of the innocents. (MT. 2:16)The order for murder is not uncommon in the reign of Herod the Great. He famously murdered members of his own family. Such as his wives, sons, grandfathers and more were murdered. The great Jewish historian, Josephus records of those in his family who he had murdered, “Their only offence was that they were very popular” (Jos., “Ant.”, XV, vi, 1, iii, 3). With this insight into his nearly forty four year tyrannical reign we can be fairly certain that this became a pattern for King Herod. Whenever he felt threatened or in fear of someone he ordered for their death.

This is the political environment that our King of Kings was born. It amazes me to think about what great risk God endured at the time of His incarnation. Although this tyrannical egotistical murderous political figure would soon be dead, his sons and grandsons will go on to rule in his place. His son Herod Antipas is responsible for the death of John the Baptist. (Mt 14) Jesus is interrogated by Herod Antipas at the end of his life (Lk. 23:7). Herod Agrippa I, killed James and imprisoned Peter (Acts 12), Paul testified before Herod Agrippa II. All these men are sons and grandsons of Herod the great.

No one understands the cruel dangers of a man who is in fear of losing power like Jesus does. Jesus, from the first day of his life to His last, was a target for attack from power hungry men. A man like Herod was too afraid of losing control that he could not receive the message of Christmas. The message of “glad tidings of great joy” was of no effect on him. (Lk 2:10) He only saw what he would possibly be losing instead of what he could gain.

However, when we look back at what Jesus did for us, we find his attitude was that he was willing to lay down his crown in order to gain us. Philippians 2:5-8; “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” This is what Christmas is all about. It is when God took off His royal robes of divinity and put on fragile flesh of humanity.

Furthermore, if we take the time to compare these two kings, King Herod and King Jesus we see great differences. King Herod gripped by fear clings to his royal position. King Jesus who is motivated by love willingly lays down his kingly position and becomes a servant. King Herod is filled with rage and orders the murder of the innocence. King Jesus, the prince of peace lays down his own life as a ransom for all. King Herod raises sons and grandsons to rule in his place. They continue his tyranny, and persecute the apostles of the church. King Jesus rose up disciples, sons and daughters to ring the bell of freedom from death hell and the grave. King Herod will be remembered throughout history for his cruelty. King Jesus will be worshipped for eternity because of his compassion.

I recently had the privilege of attending a Christian women’s conference. There was a minster there name Craig Groshel. He spoke on the subject of fear. One statement that he made impacted my thinking. He said, “What you fear the most is where you trust God the least. And what you fear losing reveals what you value most.”If I am completely honest with myself I can admit that I have been at times afraid of losing control of my life. Not to the extreme of King Herod of course not, but something similar to that. I can see where in a small way I also do not want to let Jesus take His rightful place as Lord. When I am convicted of sin, I can make a choice to say, “Yes Lord, I obey, or no Lord I want it my way.” But because I have made Jesus the Lord of my life, He has all authority over me. And because of His great grace I always find the strength to bow my knee to my King one more time. The question we must ask ourselves is, am I afraid let God be in control or am I still holding onto it. Let us commit ourselves to God, holding nothing back. Releasing all our fears to him and giving him full control in our lives. This Christmas invite Jesus to take His rightful place as KING!

I call them: Kingdom Neighbors

By Jan Tomasik

Let me just start this message by saying that if you are feeling low, physically worn out, spiritually beat-up and financially broke than this message is for you. However if you feel like you are high on the mountain and you can take on the world, spiritually charged and not a care in sight this message is for you.

Recently I read the parable of The Good Samaritan. I am sure you know this parable, but for those of you who like reading stories I will tell you again. There was a lawyer who came to Jesus and asked him, “What must I do to be saved?”  He knew the answer to this question before he asked it.  He was a lawyer who had studied the law and taught it to others. He was very knowledgeable and very smart. Then Jesus’ answer was exactly what he expected it would be. The answer to his question was the cornerstone of Hebrew Law. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) Then he said do this and you will be saved. To justify himself the lawyer then asked, “Who is my neighbor?” And again the lawyer knew the answer to this question also. By the Hebrew law every Jew was his neighbor. This was the answer he expected from Jesus. But Jesus had something else in mind. Jesus told him a parable.

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.” (Luke 10: 30-35)

Now, Jesus said, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The lawyer replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” This answer he was not expecting. By law a priest or a Levite was not obligated to help this half dead man who was holding onto his life by a thread. After all he was naked and did not talk. His language or his clothes would have revealed his identity.  They could not tell if he was a Jew or a gentile. They were not guilty of any sin by their interpretation of law. But Jesus came to fulfill the law and the way he saw it the law was perfect. The interpretation of people like this lawyer was the problem.

This lawyer had no desire to learn. He had a different agenda. He wanted to justify himself and gain honor from Jesus also. That is why Jesus told the parable only half way. Yes, Jesus told the parable half way because if this man had come with his heart opened he would have heard the second part. Now you are in luck because I am going to finish it all the way.

There was an actual event that took place in the Old Testament. Jesus only changed the place and the names when he told the parable. We find the story in I Samuel 30: 9-12. David and his men were in pursuit of their enemy and on the way they found a man in the field. This man was half dead. He didn’t have food or water for three days. This man was left behind to die. But David showed up at the right time. He took him in. This man had nothing to offer. David did not know this man’s identity. Sound familiar? Furthermore, by law David was not obligated to give assistance to this man. David had no agenda. He just wanted see this man live. He just wanted to see this man survive. He did not want anything from this man. He just wanted him back on his feet. And that is the first half of the story.

For you that are feeling low, physically worn out, spiritually beat-up and financially broke, don’t ever doubt your value and meaning to God. You are loved by God. God will send people your way at the right time. People like David. People that do not have an agenda. People that don’t want anything from you. People that want to see you live. People that want to see you survive. People that want to see you rise. They want to see you smile again, they have a hug for you, they have some money for you, they have a blessing for you, a handshake, a prayer. They just want to see you back on your feet. I call them Kingdom neighbors.

Kingdom neighbors are real. If you don’t know any personally that does not mean they are not around. What it means is that you are just surrounded by the wrong people. You need to forget everybody that passed you by. Anybody that looked beyond you, that did not help you, that did not love you. You need to forget them because your value is not determined by them but by the Almighty God. Because, when your Kingdom neighbor shows up those people will no longer matter. Your Kingdom neighbor will clean and bandage your wounds. He will wait for you to recover. He will see that you survive. He will wait until you rise. He has no agenda. He wants nothing from you. He just wants to see you back on the road to glory.

Now onto the second half. After this man who David helped had made a full recovery, David asked him who he was. The man said that he was an Egyptian who was a slave to the Amalekites.  He was sick when his master left him behind. They had burned down Ziklag, a city of David’s kingdom. This man needed David to save his life. But David soon found out that he also needed this man. Because of what David had done for this man, he had gained for himself an ally. This man continued to help David by tracking down his enemies and David saw a great victory. God will put the right people in your path if you fallow his map.

The second half that Jesus did not tell the lawyer was this.  If you love your neighbor as yourself and you have no agenda. If you just want to be all God wants you to be, you cannot escape your reward even if you are just being a Kingdom neighbor. The lawyer wanted to justify himself. He wanted to show Jesus that he obeyed the law. But there is no reward in the law.  David got his reward even when he was not expecting one. Because he simply just loved his neighbor.

So, for you out there that feel like you are high on the mountain and you can take on the world, you are spiritually charged and not a care in sight. Find somebody that is feeling low, is physically worn out, spiritually beat-up and financially broke, and be all God wants you to be. Be a Kingdom neighbor.

 

Future

By Jan Tomasik

Everyone would like to know what the future holds. We can read about history, we live in the present but we do not know what will happen in the future. Or do we? Many times I have heard the phrase, “Who knows what is going to happen in the future.” I grew accustomed to hearing it and I used it often. So one day I was talking with my father on the phone. We were having a normal father-son conversation and we talked about everyday life. My father asked me a question, “How’s work?” I replied, “It is good. I have enough work for now but who knows what is going to happen in the future.” Then he replied, “What do you mean who knows? I know.” Then he told me what is going to happen in the future. When I heard it I believed it one hundred percent. There was no doubt in my mind that what he said was the truth. You see, my father is a great man of God. He is the greatest preacher I have ever heard preach. So when a man of God tells you something; as my father-in-law says, “You can take it to the bank.” In other words, it is the truth. You may ask, “What did he say will happen in the future?” I am glad you asked and I will tell you because it greatly concerns (includes, involves) you.  Before I tell you allow me to paint a picture of the whole story.

The story begins in Genesis 1:1, where the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” What did God create first? That is simple. God created The Beginning. God has no beginning and no end so he first created The Beginning. Now imagine that God opened a book and started writing down history. I am not referring to the Bible. I am talking about the book of records of mankind throughout history. (Rev. 20:12b) He started with the creation of the heaven and the earth and now continues with everything that you do. He started writing the history of humanity. This book of records includes all people that have lived, not just people of the Bible. Throughout history some people stand out more than the others. These people are remembered for generations while others are forgotten as soon as they die. But God does not forget anyone rather everyone has a place in the pages of His book. The future is coming and it greatly concerns (includes) you. My father told me about it and I believe it is going to happen.

You see in history there were many great men. We call them heroes. God has recorded their works in this book of records I am talking about. There are too many to list but I will mention a few. One of my favorites is King Arthur. I like his story because he was the man that united many small tribes to fight a great enemy. The enemy was stronger than all the tribes but he understood the power of unity. To his people he was a great hero. For the first time they felt like they had freedom and prosperity. Many people wrote of the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. He was adored in songs and poems. Another example is King Alexander the great. He was a young man when he became king. He did not allow his youth to hinder his conquests and he conquered many nations. The land from Greece to India, most of Middle East and much more were under his control. He was known in the far reaches of the world. To his people he was a hero. There are many more heroes in this book I am talking about. These are people who stood strong in the face of danger and were ready to fight for those who could not. You may ask, “How do these heroes of history concern me?” And I would say to you, the future is coming and it greatly concerns you. My father told me about it and I believe it is going to happen.

Furthermore, in this book of records there are people such as Elijah. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal when the people of Israel forsook the Lord. He defeated the false prophets and the people gathered around him. Then he rebuilt the altar of the Lord and placed an offering on it. The presence of the Lord consumed the offering.  And the whole nation turned back to the living God. In God’s book of records he is God’s hero. Another one of God’s hero’s was Abraham. God called Abraham his friend because he believed the word of the Lord. Abraham also built an altar and the Lord walked in the midst of the offering. Another Hero of God was Nehemiah. He built the walls of the temple. But because the enemy was at the gate he had to build the temple with a sword in one hand and trowel in the other. He knew that when he built the temple the presence of the Lord would dwell there. And he believed that if presence of the Lord was not there than any battle was not worth fighting for. You may ask, “How do God’s heroes concern me?” And I would say to you, the future is coming and it greatly concerns you. My father told me about it and I believe it is going to happen.

As for the heroes, you may have noticed that I mentioned two types. There are earthly heroes and there are God’s heroes. Earthly heroes fight battles. God’s heroes build altars and temples. Earthly heroes look to the things of this world, while God’s heroes bring the presence of the living God to the earth. Earthly heroes fight with their own strength but God’s heroes rely on the power of God. They know that without God’s presence no battle is worth fighting. Without God’s presence no step is worth taking. Moses said to God, if your presence does not go before us we will not move. You see Elijah had to rebuild the altar because only the presence of the living God can change the hearts of men. Now the question is, “which one are you?” If you want to be God’s hero, you must first build an altar in your heart, and make your body His temple. Then His presence will dwell within you. To be God’s hero you must bring down the power of God in order to change your circumstance and the circumstances of those around you. In order to win people to Jesus, you must build an altar.

 

Finally God is going to write the last word on the last page in the book of records. What he writes will stay written throughout eternity. Now, let me tell you about the future. My father told me about it and I believed it one hundred percent. My father said, in the future every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And as we finished talking I began to think about what he said. Then I saw this in my mind. I saw Jesus sitting on the throne and the multitudes kneeling. Sinners and saints were kneeling. Kings, presidents, and generals, were kneeling. The rich and the poor were kneeling. There were people who knelt because they had no choice. God’s heroes were kneeling in reverence to their King. And there between all of them you will be kneeling too. Are you going to be kneeling because you have no choice or are you going to be kneeling in reverence and aw of your God? To Jesus this is going to be just a formality. Jesus will be sitting on the throne looking for his heroes. Jesus can’t wait to hug your neck and say, “well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord”. I hope to see you there as God’s hero because you see all paths and all religions lead to God. The question is, What happens once you get there?