Wise Men

wise-men1I’ve been studying the Wise Men (Matthew 2:1-12) for a teaching I’m doing a little later. Thought I’d post a few interesting things I’ve learned.

Three distinctive actions of the Wise Men: (From an old message by Greg Matte.)

1. They left home to worship Jesus.

Willing to get out of their comfort zones and travel long distances. (Matthew 2:1) The journey from Persia to Jerusalem would have been very dangerous and preparations might have taken quite a while after the first appearance of the star.

2. They focused on eternal heavenly things rather than temporary earthly things.

Gave gifts to Jesus which reflected deeper meaning (Matthew 2:11) and hinted at Jesus’ yet-to-be-revealed identity.

Gold represented royalty.

Frankincense represented the priesthood. (Smoke represented prayers rising to God.)

Myrrh represented death. (Myrrh was used for embalming.)

3. They listened to God and God alone.

They ignored the wishes of Herod and obeyed those of God which were given to them in a dream. (Matthew 2:12)

Misconceptions:

1. There were 3 Wise Men

We read in Matthew 2:11 that there were 3 different types of gifts, however, that does not mean there were only 3 Wise Men. Most scholars believe there was a much larger group of them.

2. The Wise Men were there the night Jesus was born.

Considering the fact that Herod wanted to kill all Jewish children ages 2 and under, (Matthew 2:16) it is likely that they arrived at a much later date. The Scriptures are also clear that they arrived at a house (Matthew 2:11) rather than the “manger” scene which occurred the night of his birth.

3. The Wise Men were Kings from the East.

They were not Kings, but astronomers. They were most likely from Persia. The three types of gifts described were all in abundant supply in Persia and would have been highly valuable in both cultures.

Other Interesting Facts:

The Wise Men had probably known about the coming Messiah through studies of the prophecies of Daniel. Jewish legends even say that Daniel himself (as an official in the Persian government) founded the order of the Magi and had instructed them to be watching for the Messiah. (Guzik Commentary)

In Matthew 2:2 the Wise Men seem to believe that the Jewish leaders would have been well aware of the Messiah’s birth and would be excited too. They’re about to discover otherwise. Some believe they must have been aware of Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17 which describes a “star” which will “come out of Jacob.”

Matthew 2:3 says that Herod and all of Jerusalem was disturbed to hear the news of Jesus’ birth. Herod was not the rightful king and so he had a clear reason for being worried. There are, however, two possibilities for the people’s concern: 1) They knew Herod was going to freak out. or 2) The group of Wise Men was large enough and distinguished enough to scare them a bit.

Herod asks the Jewish scholars where the Christ would be born. Their answer “Bethlehem,” comes from Micah 5:2 quoted in Matthew 2:6.

It is probable that Joseph and his family lived off of the gold gifts which were given to Jesus while they were in Egypt.

Matthew 2:9 says the star “went ahead” of them. This is most likely a supernatural event and cannot be explained by any alignment of planets or the like.

It must have been an interesting site as this large group of dignified foreigners bowed down to a young child. (Matthew 2:11)

3 Different Responses to Jesus in this passage: Today, Jesus gets the same reactions.

1. Herod hated him and wanted to kill him.

2. The chief priests and scribes were indifferent to Jesus. They didn’t bother to do anything different once they heard about him.

3. The Wise Men looked for him and made great sacrifices to be with Him.

Summary and Prayer:

I hope this has been helpful to you all.

Prayer: Lord, You seem to be taking me out of my comfort zones these days. I will choose to follow You – one step at a time. Like the star that “went ahead” of the Wise Men, lead me. Give me the courage to continue this journey without looking back. I know there will be sacrifices and I am willing. (Although I must admit I’m fearful of what You might ask me to give up.) Give me wisdom to discern Your still small voice among all those which shout at me constantly and give me courage to follow like the Wise Men. Lord, even if it means looking strange or not fitting, let me trust You. Let me respond appropriately to Jesus. Let me worship with my life and lead me to the specific ways you’d like that expressed with my time, my money, my relationships, and my passions. (Or should I say, Your time, Your money, Your relationships, and Your passions?) Anyway, I love being Your kid. Thanks for making that possible through the blood of Your own son, Jesus. Without Him, without You, I am hopeless. You are all. AMEN.

Consistently Emmanuel

emmanuel

“Emmanuel” – This name for God is always popular around Christmas because it means, “God with us.” It makes sense that people would remember Him with this name during this time of year since Christmas is a celebration of Jesus coming to earth – God being present with us.

I’ve been studying Joshua quite a bit lately, and there’s this obscure little passage in Joshua 5:13. Joshua is about to lead Israel into the battle of Jericho and he comes across what he thinks is a man in the desert with a drawn sword. Joshua asks if he is “for us or against us.” Can you hear it? Joshua wants to know if He is with them. (Remember: “Emmanuel”means “God with us”) Revealing Himself as the “commander of the Lord’s army,” He answers saying he is not with him or against him, but that Joshua is on holy ground. Joshua immediately begins to worship, and the commander of the Lord’s army begins to give Joshua the details of how to take Jericho. The whole story is tied to Moses’ experience with the burning bush (even some of the same language is used – “take off shoes” “holy ground”) – anyway, it’s about God calling a man to follow him.

Ultimately, it’s sort of like Joshua was asking the wrong question. The right question to ask God is not “Are you for us?” but “Are we with You?” I wonder if we’ve been missing something at Christmas. Yes, it’s important to recognize “Emmanuel” – that “God is with us.” But what about the other question? – “Are we with God?” It’s the difference between asking Him to bless the things I’m involved in as opposed to me getting involved in the things He is blessing – His work. Do I serve God or is He here to serve me? I can’t speak for you, but I know in my life, God has proven Himself to be “with me” over and over again. On the other hand, I’ve failed to be “with Him” over and over again too. Emmanuel is consistently Emmanuel – always “God with us.” I’m not very consistent.

Like Joshua, I believe we are being called. God is calling us to join Him, to follow Him, to be “with Him.” Maybe the most important thing is for me to work for that.

Emmanuel is a great reminder of God’s faithfulness, but it also makes me recognize my own failures. My bride is a good example – the more she loves me, the more I realize I desire to do things for her. Her love inspires me to love her more. Emmanuel inspires me to love Him more because I recognize how amazing He truly is!

Prayer: Lord You are consistently, always, faithfully “Emmanuel.” Help me to be “with You” too.

Advent Conspiracy

Is anyone else frustrated by the materialism that Christmas has become? We say we’re celebrating Jesus’ birth, but I wonder if he’d be happy with the way we “celebrate?” If you go to someone’s birthday party, do you get the presents? How did we get this turned around? Are we really helping our kids by giving them everything they want? Why aren’t we giving to Jesus instead of each other? We have some friends at a church called Ecclesia in Houston who decided to do something about it. Led by their pastor Chris Seay, they are taking a different approach to Christmas. It’s a conspiracy to take back the true meaning of Christmas. Chris says that he believes that 100 years from now, people will look back at the way Americans celebrate Christmas and feel about the same way we do about the practice of selling indulgences. They’ll be disgusted. Anyway, they are focusing their giving on Jesus. Instead of buying gifts for other people who don’t need them, they are taking the money they’d spend on gifts and giving it to “Living Water International.” They provide people in 3rd world countries with clean drinking water. I think it’s good idea and I bet Jesus likes it too.

Check out: http://www.adventconspiracy.org/

Here’s more pics.

I know you’re sick of them all, but I still gotta put them up. Sorry I haven’t written in a while, I’m working on papers for class and everything is due Tuesday night. Maybe I’ll find some time after that. Anyway, here are some more pics. (Thanks Kye Han!!) I especially enjoy the one where Kasen got to be Jesus ’cause my mom and dad were Mary and Joseph when I was a baby too. Mary_joseph_and_jesus

Here’s one of me as Jesus from December 1969.Jesus

Some more of Kasen.Mother_and_child

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Proud Daddy

I’m turning into one of those guys who everyone dreads to see coming ’cause you just know you’re gonna have to look at more family pics. Oh well – I guess I’m that guy.Daddy_sings02ChillinWave
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Brenda’s Wedding and My Dad

05-12-21 02Dec 21, 2005

My sister just got married this past weekend. I must admit (something you will rarely hear me say) that she was beautiful.

The wedding was at Chain of Lakes near Livingston, Texas. It was nice, but not quite what she had hoped for. The original plan was to be married on a a beach in Cozumel, but Hurricane Wilma destroyed both the resort and her plans. It was pretty funny to see my sister in a wedding dress designed for the beach and Schonn wearing a Hawaiian shirt in the middle of winter. It was about 40 degrees outside too.

Brenda and Schonn have been together for a long time, but finally made it official. It was a small little service (family and close friends) and Mike (my Father-in-Law) and I kinda tag-teamed in leading the whole thing. Brenda wanted a personal, informal service and she hads given me permission to tell a few stories on her. I was able to say a few things that only a brother could say, and we all laughed, but I tried to be quick to point out the beautiful things about their relationship and the commitment they were making. In addition to asking them about their commitment to each other, I also thought it was important to have the “family and friends” make some promises. We promised together to encourage them in their relationship and even told them collectively that we believed in them.

Anyway, I guess right now as I reflect on the whole thing – I’m hit by the feelings that come when you watch your little baby sister making a truly adult decision. I’m proud of her, excited about her future, and yet I will be sad to never know her as a little girl again. I don’t think I’ll ever see her cry over an Ewok (Star Wars) stuffed animal again. I might never double bounce her on a trampoline again. And calling her “baglady”. . . . – well, that’ll probably never change.

Another thing that hits me is the thought of my dad. Brenda stressed over this day for years ’cause he wouldn’t be there to walk her down the aisle, but you know, I never felt like he wasn’t a part of it.

Dad, you are still very much a part of who we are as a family. Schonn may have never known you, but then again, he knows us and we are just an expression of you. If we laughed, (and we did) it was because you taught us to share the joy we have. When we hiked with the boys, it was with your example before us. When we cried, it’s cause you showed us that men could hurt too. Even the simple fact that we wanted to be together for such an occasion, is a testimony to the love that you had for us and that you taught us to have for one another. The older I get, the more I see you when I look in the mirror. I love you Dad!