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The Fathers Love Letter To You
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Matthew 1:18-25

WHEN YOUR DREAM BECOMES A NIGHTMARE

Intro: Although no one was near enough to hear it, it ultimately echoed around the world. None of the passengers in the DC-4 ever knew what happened; they died instantly. That was February 15, 1947. The Avianca Airline flight bound for Quito, Equador, crashed clumsily into the 14,000 foot-high towering peak of El Tablazo not far from Bogota. Then it dropped, a flaming mass of metal, into a ravine far below. A young New Yorker, Glenn Chambers, was one of its victims. He planned to begin a ministry with the Voice of the Andes, a lifelong dream that suddenly aborted into a nightmare.

Before leaving the Miami Airport earlier that day, Chambers hurriedly dashed off a note to his mom on a piece of paper he found on the floor of the terminal. That scrap of paper was once a printed piece of advertisement with the single word WHY sprawled across the center. But between the mailing and the delivery of that note, Chambers was killed. When the letter did arrive, there staring up at his mom was the haunting question--WHY? Of all the questions it is the most searching, the most tormenting. No single truth removes the need to ask Why? like this one. Here it is:

GOD IS TOO KIND TO DO ANYTHING CRUEL

TOO WISE TO MAKE A MISTAKE

TOO DEEP TO EXPLAIN HIMSELF.

Mrs. Chambers stopped asking Why? when she saw the Who behind the scene. All other sounds are muffled when we claim His absolute sovereignty. Even the deafening sound of a crashing DC-4.

Have you ever experienced that gut wrenching moment when your dream become a nightmare and you find yourself in the starring role? We all have! Have you ever asked "Why?" as you looked at the shattered remains of your plans and dreams? We all have! This morning I want to show you a better alternative than asking "Why?" I want to point out the witness of a man by the name of Joseph. He saw all his dreams fall into a million pieces at his feet. What happened in his life is worthy of note this morning. It may help you and me when our dreams are shattered. I want to preach for a while on this thought: When Your Dream Becomes A Nightmare.

I. V. 18 A SHATTERING DISCOVERY

A. It Was A Time Of Excitement - Mary and Joseph were betrothed to one another. This was the ancient Hebrew engagement period. It was as binding as a marriage. Surely they were excited about their future together as husband and wife.

B. It Was A Time Of Expectation - The Bible tells us that these took place "before they came together". Surely they were both counting down the days until they could be together and live together as husband and wife.

C. It Was A Time Of Embarrassment - During this betrothal period both the bride and the groom were to keep themselves physically pure for the other spouse. Unlike our day, this was a time when both men and women were expected to go into the marriage as pure virgins. But, it was during this time that Joseph discovered that his bride was pregnant. This would have been a source of great embarrassment both to Mary and Joseph, as well as to their respective families. It seemed that all the dreams Joseph had for the future had been shattered by this devastating news.

(Note: Isn't this just how life is at times? We make all our plans for the future and set things up just the way we want they to be, then some event or the other takes place and we see our hopes, our plans and our dreams fall down all around us! When these things happen, it breaks our hearts because it is unexpected and even unwanted. However, like Joseph, we are often blind to the fact that God is at work behind the scenes. It fact, it was God Who shattered our dreams! That may be hard to understand, but it is still how things work.

The Bible is clear on this matter! Our God works His will in our lives in ways that we cannot begin to comprehend, Isa. 55:8-9. His plans for us are rarely what we would plan for ourselves, Job 1-2. But, His plans are always the best, even when they hurt us deeply, Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:15-17.

We may not like it when the Lord shatters our dreams and our hopes, but when everything has been said and done, we will see that His plan was the perfect plan all along! (Ill. Joseph - His path lead him from the place of prominence in his father's house, through a pit, into Potipher's house and though a prison. In the end, he would up in the place of power. It would never have happened had God not first shattered his dreams!)

II. V. 19 A SOBERING DELIBERATION

A. Joseph's Character Is Revealed - In the midst of this most difficult of situations, Joseph's true self is revealed. We are told that he was a "just" man. This simply means that he was blameless under the Law and that he walked by faith in the Lord. He was a man of God before these events befell him and what he was in his heart came to surface in his trials. (Note: The times when life goes wrong from our perspective is the time when we can see our true selves. For what we are in the worst of times is what we really are in our hearts! Again, I would call your attention to Job 1:20-22. What Job was in his trouble revealed what had always been in his heart! This is what God knew about him before the calamities came, Job 1:8. Anyone can rejoice when life is good, but it takes a consecrated life to shout when life falls to pieces. How you respond toward God in a time of crisis reveals the depths of your commitment to God and to His will.)

B. Joseph's Choices Are Revealed - When it all boils down to the bottom line, Joseph has but three choices.

1.) He can publically humiliate Mary because of what he perceives to be her immorality. This choice could possibly lead to her death under the Law, Deut. 22:13-21.

2.) He can divorce her quietly and just walk away from her, leaving her to raise the child in shame and poverty.

3.) He can marry her and raise the child as if it were his own. This last option would rarely have been chosen by a Jewish man.

(Note: To Joseph, none of the choices seemed appealing, but he had to choose one of them. Often life presents us with choices that are less than appealing to our human nature. Our duty in those times is to listen to the voice of God and seek to do that one thing that He wants us to do in our situation.)

C. Joseph's Compassion Is Revealed - Joseph's decision is to react toward Mary in compassion. This was not an easy decision to reach, but it was a decision that was in the best interests of Mary. Instead of making a public example out of her, and perhaps even bringing about her death, Joseph decides to deal with her in a quiet manner. Even though he is sure that she has been unfaithful to him, he still loves her and wants to do the right thing by her. (Note: This says a lot about Joseph! As I have already said, how we respond in a time of crisis reveals a great deal about the depth of our walk with God. How we respond to those who have hurt us is also an indicator of the depth of our spiritual walk. If we can learn anything from the example of Joseph it is that we should never let the hurt others inflict upon us to cause us to retaliate in an effort to hurt them in return. We need to deal with those around us who hurt us in compassion. In fact, the Lord Jesus told us to go farther than that! He said that we were to forgive those who offended us without reservation - Matt. 18:21-35; Luke 17:1-5. This is also the command from the Spirit of God through the Apostle Paul, Eph. 4:32.)

III. V. 20-23 A SATISFYING DECLARATION

(Note: I find it interesting to note here that the Lord did not send Joseph the answer for direction he was looking for until after he had reached a decision on his own. Sometimes the Lord will allow us to exhaust all our human reasoning before He gives us divine insight into the situation we are facing in life.)

A. V. 20 It Was A Declaration Of Divine Providence - As these thoughts troubled the mind of Joseph, the Lords sent an angel to speak to him in a dream. The angel brought Joseph a word of Explanation, of Exaltation, and of Exhilaration. Joseph was made to understand the origin of the child his bride carried. He was made to understand that this dream of his that had turned into a nightmare in his heart and mind was really a miraculous work of God. (Note: Our vantage point works against us! I have often described the way we look at life as watching a parade go by while standing between two buildings. All you are able to see of the parade is that portion that is passing directly in front of you at any given moment. You have a memory of what has already passed, but you have no idea as to what is coming down the street. You just have to wait until it gets to you. However, if you were to climb on top of the building, you would be able to see the parade in its entirety. You could see the beginning, the middle and the end all at the same time. There would be no surprises!

Well, isn't life like that for us? All we can really see is that part that is passing before our eyes at the present time. We have a vague memory of that which has gone before, but we have no idea about what is coming our way. However, God sits above it all. To Him, there are no surprises! He knows the end from the beginning.

The best thing we can ever learn to do is to simply trust Him to bring the best into our lives day by day. Even when our dreams are shattered and our hopes are dashed to pieces on the jagged rocks of reality, we need to trust the truth that our Father is still in control and He will take care of His children! Despite what you and I may think at times, God does know what is best for us!)

B. V. 21 It Was A Declaration Of Divine Provisions - Joseph is given details of a miracle that much of the world still hasn't grasped: God entered this world through the womb of a Jewish virgin! Joseph is told that Mary will have a son and that this son is to be named Jesus. He is also told that this son will be the Savior of the Jews. That is quite a revelation! In a nutshell, Joseph is made aware that this child is no ordinary baby. He is in fact the Son of God. His name will reflect that because the name Jesus means "Jehovah is Salvation". His life will reflect this because He will be responsible for the salvation of the lost. This He will accomplish through His death on the cross, His resurrection from the dead and His ascension back into Heaven. Surely Joseph doesn't know all the details about this miracle child his bride carries in her womb, but he knows enough to be sure that child is a divine provision for the sins of the world. (Note: May we never forget that it is from the wreckage of our greatest hurts that God often builds for us the greatest of blessings! Just because the way is dark, do not stop holding to His hand. He may lead you through some desolate places, but He will never forsake you in any of them, Psa. 23:4. Wherever His path leads you, you can count on His provisions to be sufficient for the need of the hour, 2 Cor. 12:9; Heb. 13:5; Phil. 4:19.)

C. V. 22-23 It Was A Declaration Of Divine Presentations - Joseph is shown that the child Mary carries in her womb is none other than the Deliverer Whom the world has waited on since man sinned in the garden of Eden, Gen. 3:15. This baby is to be the fulfillment of all the prophecies of the Old Testament. He is to be the end of the Law. He will flesh out all the types fo the Old Testament. He is to be the fulfillment of prophecy, but He is far more than that: He is to be God in human flesh. Joseph is allowed to see that his hurt, his anger and his confusion were necessary to bring about the greatest miracle the world has ever known: God becoming flesh and entering the world to die as a man, John 1:1; 14; Phil. 2:5-8! (Note: When your dreams are shattered, your plans are derailed and your hopes are all destroyed, remember that while it may look bleak from our perspective, God is working out His perfect will in your life and mine. Therefore, lat us walk confidently with our hand held safely in His grasp, even when we cannot see the way or understand the why. He will bring us to the place where it all makes sense someday. From where I stand right now, I cannot see what God has placed in my future. I am facing some puzzling events in my life at the present, but I know that down the road, in a place I have not arrived at yet, my questions are answered and my needs are met. That is how God operates! Our duty to Him is to walk with Him humbly by faith until He brings us to the place where He has already placed our provisions. You see, while we are toiling here today, He has already gone into tomorrow and arranged our path, supplied our need and lifted our burden. Therefore, just walk, one step at time. You will arrive at the place where the questions are answered and the needs are met, in His time!)

IV. V. 24-25 A SHOCKING DECISION

A. Joseph's Quick Reaction - As soon as Joseph understands what is happening in his life, he reacts in faith. He goes and takes Mary into his home and his heart as his wife. His is a response of pure faith. He still doesn't know how things will work out, but he knows that God is working and that is enough for Joseph. Joseph's decision must have shocked the whole community. Everyone probably assumed that Joseph and Mary had not been able to wait for the wedding. He was willing to bear the shame of Mary's pregnancy because he knew it was the work of God. (Note: True faith does not shrink from the call of God just because others do not understand. True faith hears the voice of the Lord and simply does as it is told.)

B. Joseph's Qualified Restraint - Joseph may have taken Mary into his home, but he refrains from having sexual relations with her. He respects the plan of God and knows that she is to be a virgin when Jesus is born. This too is a response of faith. Instead of demanding what was rightfully his as her husband, he willingly lays aside his rights so that the will of God might be accomplished! (Note: True faith willingly puts aside its own desires to do the will of God. Often, God's call on our lives will be hard to accept and hard to do, but faith doesn't seek the easier road. Faith knows that God has already surveyed the way and knows where He wants His servants. Faith says, "Here am I, send me!" Isa. 6:8.)

C. Joseph's Quiet Resolve - Joseph waited patiently until Mary gave birth to her son. No doubt Joseph cared for the expectant mother as best he could. When the time came and the baby was born, Joseph did the job of the father, he named the boy Jesus. Naming the child was the responsibility of the Father, Luke 1:63. Joseph is saying that he is willing to embrace the plan of God for his life, even though he doesn't fully understand it. He is willing to raise this child as his own, even though he knows the baby is not his son. Joseph is saying this: "I had my life all planned out! Mary and I were to be married and we were going to life together for many years. We were going to have lots of children and be very happy. Then, I found out she was pregnant. I knew the baby wasn't mine, but I did not know who's it was. I was hurt! All my plans and dreams were shattered. But, then the Lord showed me that He had a better plan for my life! He called me to be the surrogate human father to the Messiah! What I thought was a great tragedy was in fact the greatest blessing of my life!" (Note: If you don't get anything else out of this message, please get this: what you think is the worse thing that has ever happened to you will often turn out to be your greatest blessing! I think the difference between those who experience God's best in the tragedies of life and those who do not all comes down to simple faith. Some people simply will not trust God for anything and as a result they are always defeated and never able to rise above their circumstances. Others do trust Him, knowing that He knows best. These people experience His best, even in the most difficult moments of life imaginable.)

Conc: Have you ever had a dream turn into a nightmare before your very eyes? We all have at one time or another. Most of us will face this again before life is through with us. I just want to ask you this question: When your dreams turn into nightmares what are you doing about it?

Some people try to fix it themselves. Friend, it won't work! You will only make it worse. Some people just quit. That won't work either, because whether you participate or not, life goes on. Still others become angry and God and their fellow man and try to make others pay for their own hurts. That attitude is no good at all! The only person you really hurt is your self. Of course, there are a precious few who are able to take the pieces of their broken dreams, lay them at the feet of the Lord and say, "Lord, I don't understand why this has happened to me. I never wanted this, but it has happened nonetheless. I am here before you now to ask for you help. Even though I cannot see it, I know that you have something better for me than I had planned for myself. Please give me grace to believe it and faith to see it." Those are the people who walk in victory, even in the midst of their worst nightmare.

What kind of person are you? What are you doing with your broken dreams? I invite you to bring your life to Jesus, mess and all. Let Him have is and let Him do with it that which He wants to do. He does have something better planned for you, the way to receive it is to react to Him in faith.

Maria and her daughter, Christina, lived in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of a Brazilian village. Maria's husband had died when Christina was an infant and she never remarried. Times were tough but at last Christina was old enough to get a job to help out.

Christina spoke often of going to the city. She dreamed of trading her dusty neighborhood for exciting avenues and the city life. Just the thought of that horrified her mother, who knew exactly what Christina would have to do for a living. That's why her heart broke. That's why she couldn't believe it when she awoke one morning to find her daughter's bed empty. Knowing where her daughter was headed, she quickly threw some clothes in a bag, gathered up all of her money, and ran out of the house.

On her way to the bus stop she entered a drugstore and got one last thing. Photos. She sat in the photograph booth, closed the curtain, and spent all the time she could on making photos of herself. With her purse full of small black-and-white photos, she boarded the next bus to Rio de Janeiro.

Maria knew Christina had no way of earning money. She also knew that her daughter was too stubborn to give up. When pride meets hunger, a human being will do things that were before unthinkable. Knowing this, Maria began her search. Bars, hotels, nightclubs, any place with the reputation for street walkers or prostitutes. She went to them all. And at each place Maria left her photo--taped to a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, fastened to a corner telephone booth. And on the back of each photo she wrote a note. Then her money and the pictures ran out, Maria went home.

A few weeks later young Christina descended the hotel stairs. Her young face was tired. Her dreams had become a nightmare. But as she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked again, and there on a lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina's eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back was a compelling invitation, "Whatever you've done, whatever you have become, it doesn't matter. Please come home." And she did.

If your dreams are lying in shattered pieces around you right now, and have turned into nightmares, please bring them to Jesus and let Him turn them into a source of glory and rejoicing. Regardless of what has become of your life, you can bring it to Jesus right now.



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