When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name, Jesus.

                                                            Matthew 1:24-25


I know God is there.  I know he runs the universe.  My problem is: Where do I fit in?

What am I supposed to do? 


            "Here I am, Lord!  Show me!  Just show me, and I'll do it!"


Joseph was lucky.  He had a dream….


But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

                                                Matthew 1:20-21


An angel spoke to him in a dream and told him what to do.  Joseph knew that this was no ordinary dream.  It was God.  Without hesitation, he fit into the program.  He married Mary and gave her baby the name, Jesus.


"So how come Joseph gets a holy dream, while all I get are nightmares and crazy dreams?  Show me what you want, Lord and I'll do it!"


But beware when you pray, "Show me what you want, Lord, and I'll do it." That's a dangerous prayer.  When you pray like that, you'd better brace yourself for the answer.


1700 years before this Joseph, there was another Joseph, a seventeen-year-old kid.  And, wouldn't you know he too heard from God in dreams.


Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they only hated him the more.  He said to them, "Hear this dream which I dreamed:  behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose and stood upright, and behold, your sheaves gathered round it, and bowed down to my sheaf."  His brothers said to him, "Are you indeed to reign over us?  Or are you indeed to have dominion over us?"  So they hated him yet the more for his dreams and for his words.

                                                            Genesis 37:5-8


Joseph was a cocky little guy.  Seventeen years old, and convinced that God had spoken to him in that dream.  And he was happy to share it with his brothers, who despised him for it. 


What Joseph did not realize was that if he was going to fit into that dream, there were hard lessons to be learned.  The cockiness and self-righteousness would have to be burned out of him. 


Those hard lessons began right away.  Joseph's brothers pulled him out of the pit where they had thrown him and sold him to some Ishmaelite traders as they passed through on their way to Egypt.  The Ishmaelites made a handsome profit as they sold him as a slave. 


Pretty soon young Joseph was a slave in the household of Potiphar, Pharaoh's Captain of the Guard.  For a while things went well with Joseph.  Potiphar could see that this young Hebrew was smart and reliable,  and soon had him running the household.  But Potiphar's wife took a liking to this fine-looking lad, and one day, when no one else was around, she grabbed him and invited him to bed with her.  Joseph refused and pulled away, leaving his robe in her hands.  Her lust turned to fury.  "Rape!  This young Hebrew assaulted me!"  Joseph was thrown into prison.


First a slave.  Now a prisoner.  Joseph isn't so cocky any more.   He's learning to be a servant.  The prison warden gives Joseph work to do, and he does it faithfully.  He doesn't sit around and stew about his future --- What's going to happen to me?  Am I ever going to get out of here?  Joseph is learning to fit into the Program.  God's Program.  A program a thousand times bigger than Joseph, or you, or me.  Joseph's job is simply to fit in.


Somehow Joseph acquires a reputation for interpreting dreams.  Fellow prisoners come to him with their dreams, and Joseph tells them what they mean.  Years go by, and nothing seems to change.


Then one day the warden comes to Joseph and says, "Go take a bath, shave, and put on these clothes.  You're going to see Pharaoh."   It seems that Pharaoh had some dreams that no one could explain, when suddenly his butler remembers the young Hebrew he met in prison who knew how to interpret dreams.


Joseph listens to Pharaoh's dreams with an ear to the Spirit of God.  He explains to Pharaoh that there will be seven years of great prosperity, followed by seven years of famine and leanness.  He advises Pharaoh to use the seven good years to store extra grain to help Egypt through the bad years to come.


Pharaoh is impressed.  Who better to organize Egypt than this young Hebrew?   Soon Joseph is in charge of the whole land of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh.  


Eight years pass.  The seven good years are over and the famine has begun.  When Joseph's brothers, driven by famine and hunger, go to buy grain in Egypt, little do they know that the man before whom they fall on their faces is their brother Joseph.


How did Joseph end up where he was?  Simply by fitting into the Program.  God's Program --- a thousand times bigger than Joseph.  We don't see Joseph clawing his way to the top like a politician.  All he did was fit in. 


The lesson we learn from these two Josephs is that there is something going on out there much bigger than we are.  Much more important that anything we ever came up with.  It's the Program.  God's Program for this troubled earth and for all who ever have or ever will live here. 


At the center of the Program is this baby.  God of the universe, in a mystery, entering the human race as a helpless infant.  Joseph's job is to give this baby a name and to watch over the child and it's mother.


The pivotal moment in the Program comes 33 years later, when the baby, now a man, offers himself up to death, to absorb into himself the guilt of every self-centered, vain human being that ever lived, including you and me. 


And now, alive from the dead, never to die again, Jesus reaches out and touches people with the power of his cross.  Heals them.  Sets them free.  Opens their sin-blinded eyes.


But here's what many people don’t understand:  even though Jesus died for us, nothing happens to us, nothing changes in us --- until, alive from the dead, he touches us with the power of his cross.  What happened 2,000 years ago needs to happen now as a spiritual explosion in our hearts. 


You can sit in church all day long, you can fast and pray and give away all your money.  But until you are touched by the power of that cross you are still the same old you --- I'm the same old me.


The Program, God's Program, is to connect each of us to the power of the cross and bring us to life.  That's what the gospel is all about.  That's what the bread and wine are all about: connecting us to the power of the cross.


Listen to how Paul explains this miracle to the people in Corinth who had already been touched by it:


When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

                                                                        I Corinthians 2:1-5


….the power of God which flows from the cross.


"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth (on the cross) will draw all people to myself." 

---- (to my cross, where each is given a chance to say Yes or No.)


That's the Program.


One Tuesday morning something happened in that house, something was said or done, which crushed Pat's heart.  She grabbed her car keys and ran out of the house, jumped into her old beat-up Cadillac and started driving.  She roared down Michigan Avenue toward the center of Detroit, tears streaming down her face, wondering if she even wanted to live any more. 


She took a right turn on Vinewood, and saw, under an old railroad bridge, an old man picking up beer cans to toss in his bag.   She pulled over to the curb and rolled down the window.


"Sir."    The old man came over to her car.  "Sir, do you believe in prayer?"


"Yes, Ma'am."


"Would you pray for me?"


"What's you name?"


"My name is Pat."


"I'll pray for you, Pat."


She drove on, turned left at the next corner and saw a church.  She could hear the singing coming from inside but decided, "I can't go in there in the shape I'm in."  The sign out front announced "Bible Study Tuesdays at 10:00 a.m."  


"Okay," she said to herself, "I'll do my part."


Tuesday morning in that place Pat was touched by the power of the cross.  She has never been the same since.  All because an old man, picking up beer cans, knew how to fit into the Program.


Let's suppose that the Spirit of God decides to move with such power as I write these words…..and as you read them…..that we both receive a fresh touch from the cross.  Our eyes open and we begin to see more clearly.  Our hearts are stirred.  Our very bodies are touched with resurrection life.   By the Spirit's power, we know ourselves to be crucified with Christ, no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us.  What does the Program require of us now?


The same thing it required of those Josephs and the old man picking up beer cans:  Our part is simply to fit in.  


Just as somebody connected you with the power of the cross, you are now going to connect someone else with the power of the cross….simply by being there for them….


…a prayer…a touch…a few spoken words…an act of sharing…and they come to life!


We are going to fit into the Program by bringing the power of the cross into another person's life.  Believe it.  Believe that the Lord Jesus is touching us—me as I write these words, you as you read them.  We've been forgiven.  We've been healed.  We've been blessed.  Now we go out there and keep our eyes open.  Pretty soon God sends across our path someone who will receive his touch --- through us!


Whether God spoke to us in a dream, or a sign, or a simple word that burned its way into our heart, the fact that I'm writing these words, and you've read this far on these pages puts us in the Program.


If we fit in, God will set up a miracle by which you and I will each touch another life with his power.


                        That's the Program.


                                    God help us to get with it!