rePost – Wise Men

wise-men1Wise Men (Matthew 2:1-12) still seek Him.

Here’s some interesting stuff I’ve learned about them:

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, Help me to be willing to move out of my comfort zones. Help me 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 focused on You, 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 in, let me trust You. Like these wise men, allow me to lead others (mostly my own family) to recognize Jesus as well. 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.

rePost – Shepherds

shepherd-edit
A shepherd pic I took from our bus when I was in Israel.

OK – What are shepherds? Well, they’re the guys who watched the sheep. Many times in ancient Jewish culture they were young boys, but sometimes older guys did it too. They were responsible for moving the sheep from one field to the next so they could get plenty to eat and safe water to drink. They also protected the sheep from predators and would leave the group in order to search for a lost sheep. The sheep knew the shepherd’s voice. With a few shepherds and their sheep all intermingled, the shepherd could call his sheep and only those who were his would follow. Shepherds led a humble life – probably a bit of a lonely life too out in the fields with nothing but sheep (and God) to talk to all day. This sets the scene for what we’re about to read. A group of shepherds were out in a field near Bethlehem one night when according the Message paraphrase of Luke 2:8-20:

They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master.  This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.”

They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed. Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

Now consider this: These particular shepherds are famous. Think about it: Shepherds were humble nobodys and social outcasts in their own culture, but here we are talking about them 2000 years later. What did they do that made them different?

1. They listened to God. (vs 15)

When the angel appeared that night in the field, there were lots of voices competing for their attention: 1) The voice of Doubt saying “You must be hallucinating. It was something you ate.” 2) The voice of Duty “You can’t go into Bethlehem. You’re responsible for these sheep.” 3) The voice of Laziness “You’re tired. It’s been a long day. Just stay here and rest.”

2. They ran to Jesus. (vs 16)

Once they decided they were going to listen to God, they had a sense of urgency. They didn’t waste time. They allowed their own Godly curiosity to dictate their pace. (When I’ve preached this message, I use the scene from “When Harry Met Sally” where Harry runs to the Christmas Party to talk to Sally. At one point he uses the line ” When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” I think that quote is appropriate for the shepherds too.)

3. They told everyone about Jesus. (vs 17-18)

When they had seen Jesus, they didn’t keep it to themselves. News spread quickly ’cause they were so excited. Matthew 12:34 says “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” The shepherds couldn’t contain themselves. Much like the news of a woman’s engagement. Sometimes she doesn’t even get to tell everyone, ’cause the news spreads so fast that people hear before she can get to them. Also, Remember, the angel had told them that this news was for “all people,” and so they were just doing their part.

4. They worshiped Jesus. (vs 20)

The shepherds worshiped with their mouths, but also with their lives as they told others and spread the news of Jesus.

I don’t know if it’s important to have people talking about us 2000 years later, but these shepherds stand out among all the other shepherds of the world because they reacted to Jesus in these ways. How would our lives be different if we did too? Would we stand out from the rest of the world if we truly listened to God, felt an urgency to be with Him, told others about Him, and worshiped Him? I think so and I pray that my life will reflect the attitudes and actions of these shepherd nobodys.

Other interesting Stuff:

It is very possible that these Bethlehem shepherds were watching over the temple flock – taking care of the sacrificial lambs. I think it’s cool that some of the first to see the true Lamb of God were the humble folks who took care of the sacrificial lambs from the temple.

Note that when angels appear, they aren’t greeted as if they are cute little flying cupids. They are feared. The first thing out of an angel’s mouth is almost always, “Do not be afraid.”

The fact that God chose to send the angel to the shepherds spoke volumes. Shepherds were regarded as unreliable and were not allowed to give testimony in courts (Morris), and so God chose to use them in spite of that reputation. Notice in verse 18 that when the people heard what they had to say, they were amazed. I think it’s interesting that they believed these unreliable shepherds enough to be amazed!

Notice the angelic glory in comparison the the humble Jesus who created the angels.

In ancient Jewish culture, when a boy was born, local musicians congregated at his home to greet him with music. (Daily Study Bible) Since Jesus was born in a stable, the angelic choir had to take the place of the local musicians.

The swaddling clothes was normal, but if the angel hadn’t told them to look for Jesus in a manger (feeding trough) they would never have believed it. Calvin said, “This was a revolting sight, and was sufficient of itself to produce an aversion to Christ. For what could be more improbable than to believe that he was the King of the whole people, who was deemed unworthy to be ranked with the lowest of the multitude?”

Check out what Calvin says about the shepherds “glorifying and praising God” in verse 20. “If the cradle of Christ had such an effect upon them, as to make them rise from the stable and the manger to heaven, how much more powerful ought the death and resurrection of Christ to be in raising us to God?”

 

Misconceptions:

Most scholars agree that the time of Jesus’ birth was probably not Dec 25th. In his commentary, Adam Clarke suggests a fall time frame due to the fact that the sheep were in the fields at night.

Shepherds fields in Israel are much more rocky than Most Americans imagine. Notice the shepherd and sheep in this pic.
Shepherds fields in Israel are much more rocky than Most Americans imagine. Notice the shepherd and sheep in this pic.
shepherds-field-with-shepherd
Shepherds fields in Israel are much more rocky than Most Americans imagine. Notice the shepherd and sheep in this pic.
A Manger was a stone feeding trough for animals, rather than the wood/hay centerpiece in most Nativity scenes.
A Manger was a stone feeding trough for animals, rather than the wood/hay centerpiece in most Nativity scenes.

Believe Now

Colorado“Believe now.” ~ Bryan McKenzie

My pastor said this in a sermon a while back. He was referring to coming to Christ for the first time, but I heard it differently. It stuck. It’s been rolling around in my head for months now. If I could “believe now,” then I could make a Godly choice in every moment. You see, my failures and bad decisions are usually based upon some sort of unbelief.

  • I don’t believe He will provide for us, so I choose to worry about our financial situation.
  • I don’t believe that my body is a “temple for the Holy Spirit” (I Cor 6:19-20) or that God really cares about my health. I tell myself, “It’s not that big of a deal”, so I eat more than I should.
  • I don’t really believe sin kills, so I speak rudely to my family and my wife.

I could go on and on. . . . but you get the point. If I could “Believe Now!” I’d probably make better choices. I’d probably represent Jesus better and become more like Him. If I could “believe now,” I’d probably say “Yes” to different things and I’d be involved in new things. I’d probably say “No” to some other things as well.

Prayer: LORD, help me to “Believe now.” Keep this phrase in my mind. Train me to remember it in the moments that I struggle. Guide my heart to believe constantly, moment by moment. LORD I believe, but I want to believe more often, more consistently. “LORD I believe. Help my unbelief!” – Mk 9:24
AMEN.

Learning Repentance

 

Miranda and I have been working on teaching our children about repentance quite a bit lately. We never really use that word, but we’re trying to lay a foundation which will make it easy to understand as they grow older. Our practice is to teach them a few things to say when they have hurt someone:

1) I’m sorry. (Stop behavior)
2) I won’t do it again. (Turn around behaviorally)
3) Will you forgive me? (Restore relationship)

After listening to a sermon from Rob Morris (Love146) I’m considering adding another element. He reminded me of the Biblical accounts where the repentant sinner’s first action was to “right” the wrong that he caused and and to even go beyond “right” to make it “better.”

Remember Zacchaeus, the tax collector who gave back four times everything he had taken? (Lk 19:1-10)

Or when the rich young ruler went away grieved because he could not bring himself to help the poor. (Mk 10:17-22)

In Luke 3:10-14, John the Baptist is preaching a baptism of repentance and when asked “What shall we do?” He tells them to give to the poor and to treat others fairly.

Evidently, our repentance should impact the poor and oppressed as well.

All this is to say, I need to find some ways to help my kids see that repentance is more than my three step lesson. It should have legs on it and actions tied to it. Repentance should impact everyone around us.

Maybe we should add the question: “How can I make it better?” (Restore/Improve situation)

Lord, guide us to model repentance for our children. Lead us to the strategies that will help us to encounter You – to be confronted by sin, and to recognize that our behaviors hinder our relationship with You. Forgive us. Restore us unto You. Change us. Empower us by the Holy Spirit to choose new behaviors and walk different roads and lead us to improve the situations that we have caused in our sin. AMEN.

Valentine’s Dance

I watched her giggling across the room as she danced. The flashing lights sparkled in her eyes which lit up as she noticed me watching her. Her smile expanded even wider. She floated across the dance floor and threw her arms open to me saying “Hold me daddy!” We danced. Well….I danced and her feet dangled a few feet above the dance floor. It was an incredible night and I’m so grateful that I took the time to ask her out.

valentineKesleigh is 3, almost 4, and I had asked her to go with me about a week before the big event. As her father, it’s my goal to love her like God loves her. I know I’ll never do that well, but it’s my responsibility to be an earthly representation of Him to her. That’s HUGE! I’ve got to do all I can and pray that God will use my even feeble efforts to reveal Himself to her.

I also wanted to make a special effort that night to let her see how a man should treat her. I know it’s early, but I want her to grow up knowing what to look for in a husband. I got dressed up for her – that may very well be the biggest expression of my love. I opened the door for her and was courteous. I bought her dinner (Yes it was McDonalds, but that’ll change as she gets older) and held her hand as we walked into the ballroom. I proudly introduced her to the people around us and waited patiently as she picked out candy for her snack. I asked her to dance with me and even embarrassed myself a bit for her entertainment. I laughed with her as I tried to teach her a few dances – Chicken Dance, YMCA, 2 Step, etc. I tried to serve her in every capacity and when the time was right….in the middle of a slow dance, I spoke to her gently and tried to explain how much she meant to me. I know she’s only three, but she truly seemed to grasp the significance of the moment and before I even finished talking, she looked directly in my eyes, and said, “I love you daddy.” as she wrapped her little arms around my neck. She just held me for the rest of the song. It was magical. The rest of the evening she wouldn’t leave my side. Even when I tried to get her to dance with her friends, she only wanted to be with me.

This is my prayer – that Kesleigh would grasp the significance of God’s love for her and that she would never want to be out of His presence again. LORD, may it be so.

P.S. – If you ask her what the best part of the evening was, she won’t mention any of these events. All she’s gonna talk about is the “Candy Bar” and how she was able to go back as many times as she wanted.

Blessings in Disguise

I leisurely walked out of the biggest Bucees in Texas with my road snacks in hand and noticed the wheel on the camper . . . it looks . . . what in the world? . . . huh? How could it be crooked?

Well. . . It wasn’t just a flat. A few hours later a Mobile RV repairman arrived and when he jacked up the camper the wheel just fell off. I knew something was wrong when I left Lake Jackson. Imhad no idea how bad it was. We had been on the road for at least 4 hrs and travelled about 60mph the whole time. The repairman explained that “someone must have been looking out for you” ’cause if the wheel had come off while we were on the road. . . well, we probably would have lost a lot more than a wheel and axle. My children were in the truck. My bride was in the truck. I can’t imagine and don’t want to think about what could have happened.

20121217-220145.jpgIn the end we had to spend a lot of $$ that we hadn’t planned on spending. We had to drive another 10hrs to pick up the camper. However, I have been blessed. The LORD protected us that day. He had His hand on us.

I wonder how many other times He has protected me without my knowledge? How many “Thank Yous” do I owe God? More than I’ll ever know. I’m sure. I’m just grateful.

LORD, for all of the the missed thank yous, please accept this one, “Thank You.”

Not Surprised

I am always surprised by the things God does. How He provides. How He speaks. How He. . . .

However, when I look back over my life, I see His consistency in all things. He is always faithful to provide. He is always speaking. He is always working, loving, guiding, intervening. . . He is always. . . He is God.

If I reflect on His character and our relationship, it’s not surprising at all that He would do these things. Why am I surprised?

Maybe my surprise reveals my lack of faith? Or maybe it reveals the greatness of God? He is beyond my imagination and comprehension.

I suspect it’s actually both.

The Bridge

Over the years, the valley had grown wider. All the storms (big and small) compounded and made it tough to traverse so . . . we built a bridge.

I had a great Spring Break! Miranda, Kasen, Kesleigh, and I spent the week in Livingston with our good friends (we consider them family) the Godbolds. We also got to spend time with the Bowles, Leitschuhs, and Dale Googer’s. It was incredible! We spent the week as bridge builders.

We built a bridge over a little creek on the property, but there were also other bridges built. Since the time we moved away from Tomball, we have felt separated from our friends, but bridges were built. I watched my children meet new friends and learn new things – bridges were built.

Bridges were built with discussions around the fire. They were built as we reminisced. They were built as we shared stories and laughed. More bridges were built as we sang old songs and even as we reflected in the silence.

Livingston – this place – the people it represents – the memories – all of it reminds me of who I am and challenges me to remember who I want to become. This is a bridge. Livingston is a bridge between my past and my future. I’m grateful for this bridge – for this place – for my friends – for my God.

The years had worn on them – torn the banks.

We built a bridge.

Livingston is a bridge.

I want my life to be a bridge.

Kasen’s First Day of BMX

We had a great time today at the Beltway 8 BMX track! The people at the track were great hosts and led us through the whole process. Some of the riders were very helpful to Kasen and the other little guys while they were on the track as well.

Kasen loved his first experience as a BMX racer. He even fell down once and got up to race the next time – made daddy very proud. As a dad, I’m learning so much about what it means to love – and how much God must love me. I take so much joy in watching my kids. It doesn’t matter too much what they’re doing – I just love watching them learn, and grow, and experience new things. I love watching them succeed and even watching them overcome obstacles when they fail. It’s so much fun watching who they are becoming.

I’m recognizing how great God’s love must be for me in all of this too. If I can love my kids in this way, I figure God’s love must be even better. Maybe it I shouldn’t stress so much about “what” I’m doing and focus more on “who” I’m becoming? Maybe that’s more what God is interested in too?

Anyway, here’s the video: You can see all of it – the good, the bad, the wipeout. . . everything. Miranda pointed out that I say “buddy” an awful lot too.