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.

Kesleigh’s Words

I did a similar post about my kid’s command of the English language a few years back. This one focuses on Kesleigh’s words. I love listening in as she discovers new words and I want to capture these moments here so I can remember them later. I’ll never get these years back and once she learns to speak these words correctly, I know I’m gonna long to hear that cute little voice of hers saying things wrong again.

Anyway, here’s the list:

Quored = scored – “Kasen quored a goal.”
Lemalade = lemonade – “No root beer daddy, I want lemalade.”
Tab = crab
Fink = drink – “Get me a fink daddy.”
Peep = pee pee – “I need to go peep daddy.”
Chic a lay = ChickFila – “Let’s go to chic a lay daddy.”
My doggy = Peanut – She never calls him by his name, Peanut. She just always refers to him as “my doggy.”
Angee buds = angry birds
Fry = Cry – “I was fryin daddy.”
Bana = banana
Tookie = Cookie
Dirt = Dessert – “I ate all my dinner Daddy. Can I have dirt?”
Uh-hind = Behind
Birthday party = Birthday cake – “Daddy I want another piece of “birthday party.”

The other day, we were going by McDonald’s to get Kesleigh a sausage biscuit. She sang “Old McDonald had a farm E-I-E-I-O, and on this farm he had a paper E-I-E-I-O.” (She never really sings about animals on the farm, just random things she happens to see while she sings.)

Kesleigh also recently told me she wanted a sausage biscuit no biscuit. When I asked if she just wanted the sausage, she adamantly said, “NO daddy! I want a sausage biscuit with no biscuit.”

This is a side note, but last night Kasen told me he was ready to “rock and roll.” I have no idea where he learned that phrase, but I started singing the KISS song, “I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day!” After a few times, he joined me singing, “I wanna rock and roll all night and POTTY every day!” Ha ha!!!

Singing Your Song

I am grateful for the people in my life who have been singing to me lately. They are reminding me of who I am. And quite honestly, I’ve been struggling with that a bit. I have needed singers in my life, and God has provided them for me. Let me explain:

The other day, I heard a story about a song. A story about identity. It is supposed to be true, but I can’t verify it. Either way, it’s got a great message. Here’s how it goes:

There is an African tribe where pregnant women go out into the wilderness with their friends to “hear the song of the child.” After hearing the song, they return and teach it to the tribe. When the baby is born, the whole tribe gathers to chant the song. As the child grows, he/she hears the whole tribe singing their song many times: when they start school, when they pass into adulthood, and when they get married. When they die, the tribe gathers around the death bed to sing them into eternity. Another time that the song is sung is when/if the child commits a crime or horrible act. The tribe calls them into the center of a circle and then sings their song to them – reminding them of who they are. It’s not sung with judgment, but with love and concern for the child who has forgotten who he is.

Alan Cohen (who I believe authored the original story) writes, “A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you have forgotten it. Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.”

I love the idea of reminding each other of our identity during those precious times of transition in our lives. And also when we have done something wrong, but I think there’s a crucial element missing in this story – Jesus. As a Christian, my identity is in Him, and Him alone. When I need to be reminded of my beauty, my wholeness, my innocence, and my purpose, I need to be reminded of Jesus. For I am only beautiful, whole, innocent, and given purpose as I find myself in Him. The “friend who knows my song and sings it to me” is Jesus. He knows me better than anyone and can remind me by speaking/singing through the voices of my brothers/sisters in Christ.

And for me, that’s exactly what He is doing in my life right now. I’m down and so He is using all my friends to remind me of who I am. My friends are singing to me and I am grateful to both them (the singers) and Jesus who is the one behind the song.


Other Stuff:

By the way, here’s a short list of what I know about my identity in Him: Who I Am in Christ

And here’s a song I wrote for my kids: Fade Away Lullabye

P.S. – If you’re interested in the original story I read, you can find it here: http://www.motivateus.com/stories/thesong.htm

Ice Cream Run

This pic was taken just a few moments before the ice cream incident. I added the fig leaf so he won't kill me when he's a teenager.

Today, I experienced one of the most hilarious parenting moments of my career so far. Kasen (2yrs old) has become great friends with our neighbor’s kids, Collin and Peyton. Anyway, they have decided that they like peeing outside and Kasen (as well as Collin) is in the early potty training stages. Today, he took off his diaper and was attempting to pee when he heard the ice cream man coming down the street. Before I realized it, he was chasing the truck down the street wearing nothing but his t-shirt!! I was laughing too hard (and looking for the video camera) to run very fast and so he made it at least 6 houses down the street before I caught him. The only reason he stopped is ’cause the ice cream man saw him in his rearview mirror and stopped for a good laugh himself.

PS – Kasen got some ice cream – a bubble gum popsicle.

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.

Dunking, Cooking, or Baptism?

Yesterday, Miranda and I drove up to Pearland for a special day. Miranda’s brother (Jared) and Sister-in-law (Tiffany) were going to be baptized, and Mike (Miranda’s dad) was going to perform the baptism. Cool stuff huh? Well, as it turns out, it wasn’t very “cool” at all – it was actually very hot. When Tiffany stepped into the water, you could see her face immediately struggling. As the pastor, Mike was wearing waders (so as not to get wet) and so he was oblivious to the temperature of the water. He started explaining the story of how she came to this decision, and she just stood in the water literally “cooking.” Finally Mike caught on and he dunked her as quickly as possible and got her out of the water. Jared went so fast, I don’t think he actually got dunked all the way under water. A nurse was called to the holding room afterward and after about 30 minutes she released them to come to their seats. When Miranda and I saw them, their legs were still red and burned. This will be one of those stories that gets passed down through the family each and every time we gather together. It wasn’t funny at the time, but we’ve had a lot of good laughs about it already.

I guess those Baptists really wanna know who’s serious about getting baptized.

PS – Evidently something was wrong with the heating element and no one checked the temperature before the service. I can’t imagine what kinds of lawsuits there might be if there had been children to baptize that day.

Sorry, we didn’t snap any pictures. No one even thought about it ’cause we were all so concerned about their safety and burns.

Story as a Guide

story1If your life were made into a movie, would you want to go see it?

That was the tag line for a video series I just watched by Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz) called “Let Story Guide You – Life is a Story. Make Yours Count.

It really resonated with me.

Using Biblical examples, Donald Miller describes the power of story for teaching and influencing others.

He suggests that most American Christians have been allowing others to write the stories that they live in and encourages them to write our own stories.

Every good story has four elements –

1. A good protagonist/hero/lead character,

2. a risky mission/worthy objective,

3. a conflict,

4. and a resolution.

After watching, I wondered if most of us have been so concerned about protecting our families from the conflict that we have forfeited our mission and purpose? The problem is that if we don’t have a good mission/purpose, then our story is not one that most people would want to watch – it’s a boring story if the mission isn’t important enough to require sacrifice and effort. Miller relates it to watching a movie about a guy who is trying to buy a Volvo – not a very worthy mission.

He goes on to describe a friend who had a troubled daughter. She was involved in drugs and had a boyfriend that her father did not approve of. After a long talk, his friend (the girl’s father) realized that there were two stories being offered to his daughter. She could live in the exciting, on the edge story with her boyfriend where she felt loved and accepted, or she could live in the story she was finding at home where things were sort of boring and she was ignored by her parents who seemed to be fighting all the time. Once he came to this realization, he decided to write a better story for his family. At a family meeting, he announced that together they would raise money for a $20,000 orphanage in Mexico. Conflict ensued since he hadn’t warned his wife. With the new story being offered, his daughter was intrigued enough to start searching for ways to raise money on-line. Within two weeks, she had broken things off with the boyfriend and was focusing her attention on getting outside of herself to raise money and serve that little village.

I wonder if this is why men hate church so much. I mean. . .think about the story offered to men by the church. It’s a story where the heros are the little old men who have been “faithful” to the church by sitting in their pews for 40 years. Where’s the adventure? Passion? Like most families, the church has been so concerned with protecting itself, that it has lost it’s purpose, it’s mission. What if the church was everything God had called it to be? A place where people are willing to sacrifice everything to take the Gospel to a hurting and dying world. Now that’s passion. That’s a story that men want to be a part of. That’s a story worth dying for.

What story will be told by your life? Will you live in God’s story or allow the world to write it for you? Is your life story a page-turner? Are you a strong protagonist/hero? Is your mission/purpose worthy of dying for? Is there sufficient conflict to make a great story? (Jesus says, we will be persecuted if we follow Him, so we should have conflict.) Are you hanging on to the promise of Scripture for resolution?

Changing a Culture

09-01-22-icebergSome of the church leadership people met with Dave Herman, (our “Transformation Coach”) this morning and I created a few diagrams to help explain some of the things he shared. Although we talked about quite a few other topics, most of the conversations centered on changing a culture.

I think it’s important to first define culture. For the purpose of this conversation, we are not talking about the culture at large but rather “organizational culture” and specifically our own church (Lake Jackson FUMC) culture. In my “Christian Leadership” classes at CBS, we learned that organizational culture is defined as “that which is assumed.” People assume things to be a certain way because a culture has told them so. Assumptions are made based upon the way things have always been done within the culture of that particular organization. Culture is an understood (and mostly agreed upon) set of rules by which everyone plays within that organization. Culture was also described like an iceberg. The way an organization does things (what is seen) helps us understand it’s culture, but there’s usually a lot more under the surface. You can change what is seen, (like core values or mission statements) but without changing the cultural support, nothing will really be different. The look may change, but the direction and momentum remains fixed because culture carries so much weight.

Anyway, here’s the first diagram:

01 Changing a Culture

The congregation is represented by the blue line and the leadership by the green.


Church/organizational culture is portrayed by the purple wave which flows in and out of it’s members as a story. The church culture is very difficult to define (a wave) because it is ever-changing and organic in nature. Culture is created, reorganized, and understood by the average member throughout their lives. When they hear stories of things going on in the church or are reminded of memories of the “good ol’ days,” they instinctively define the church by those stories. Although it changes often, the church culture is mostly defined by who the people are, and what they’ve done in the past. This results in a status quo or good ol’ days mentality. Some of the members, are also leaders. They may not hold positions, but they have influence and others hear their stories with greater appreciation.


03 Changing a Culture

The leadership of the church is called by God to direct, empower, and equip it’s members to live out the story of God rather than the story of the status quo. They should be mostly concerned about the future of the church and should speak a new story into the lives of it’s congregation. A story which represents the calling they believe God has placed upon them collectively. The red wave represents this “God story.” It’s also important for this story (vision) to be clear, concise, and compelling. (not like a wave)

I should be clear to say that the purple wave may very well be Godly too, but it is fluid in nature and much less defined. Setting a church on a specific course requires strategy which calls for definition and focus.


05 Changing a Culture
Too many church leadership teams function the wrong way. They call members to join them. Yet, in the servant leader model, the leaders are called to serve their members – step out of their positions to work alongside them. In doing so, they build relationships which allow them to gain influence. Once that influence/relationship is built, the leader can tell the new story and begin to have an impact on the culture from the ground up. A leader serves. That means culture is formed as leaders kneel.

06 Changing a Culture

As those relationships grow, the members, become leaders/interpreters/proponents of the new story which they have seen lived out in their leaders. Pretty soon, enough members have become a part of the new story that the church culture approaches a tipping point. Then the culture truly begins to be shaped by the new story/vision as it ripples through the congregation. Unfortunately, there will always be a few people who will never join the new story. When the whole culture changes around them, they find themselves trapped. Some will leave the organization. Others will just go into hiding, hoping that the new story will fail so they can come out and say “I told you so.” Some will just live out the rest of their lives in bitterness – always trying to regain their personal story. The good news is that God’s story has room for everyone! Some (the disciples) will choose to follow while others (the Rich Young Ruler) will hold on to their own and miss out on God’s best.


I’m excited to be a part of a new story here at Lake Jackson FUMC. I pray that I can be one of those green X’s who will serve this church family by humbly telling a new story and seeking to love in such a way that the culture, community, and my friends will know Jesus more.

Just a final note of thanks to Dave Herman. This is very insightful information, which will benefit us greatly as we seek to be a part of God’s work in the transformation of His church. I also want to apologize if I have misrepresented him in any way. The explanations are a combination of his words and my own thoughts. Dave, if you’re reading this, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did I get it mostly right?

Life Stories

We spent the whole time in class last night sharing our life stories with each other. Each person at the table was required to spend 20-30 minutes telling the rest of the group the ups and downs of their life. The whole idea revolves around the fact that a leader leads out of who he is. He leads out of his character. And these experiences truly make us who we are.

Anyway, it was an amazing time. We have spent an entire year with the same group of people and yet we learned so much more about each other last night. You never know as much about people as you think you do. There’s always more to what makes people act the way they do. There’s a reason someone gets angry so quickly, or why certain things just get our their nerves. There’s a reason that they have the habits they do and use the words that they use. There’s always a story. Stories make us who we are. We all have them. We all are in the midst of living out our own stories.

After our experience last night, I’m reminded of how valuable our stories really are. I can’t help but think that somehow, the church has lost the art of story telling. I mean, truly, the Scriptures we have today are ultimately a result of the verbal tradition of story telling. How much richer our lives would be today if we reclaimed this art form. We’d learn so much from one another. We could more readily understand people’s hearts. We’d learn how to listen too.  How to sympathize and love someone through their struggles. How to look beyond the present circumstances to see the bigger picture. Ultimately, we’d encounter God as He interacts and breaks into each of our life stories.

If there’s anything I’d encourage you to do, it’s this:
(1) Learn to tell your story.
(2) Tell someone, tell anyone or everyone.
(3) Give someone the gift of your time and a listening ear and ask them to tell you their story.

The Nativity Story

Nativitystory2 We went to see the movie the other day and I thought it was great! I don’t think the High School guys who went with us enjoyed it too much, but it followed the Biblical account pretty well. Mary and Joseph were portrayed as a couple who didn’t know each other very well, and he was definitely older than she by quite a bit. This is very likely considering the customs of the Jewish people in those days. Her visit with Elizabeth and the shame that went along with her pregnancy was  also shown well. The town of Nazareth was also shown pretty accurately. The houses were made of stone which would have been true for them and Joseph is shown in one scene cutting rocks. We have typically thought of him as a carpenter but the actual greek word “tekton” means “a worker who builds.” In those days since building were made of stones – that more than likely would have referred to a stone mason. The scene where Joseph asks for Mary’s hand in marriage was good too – he spoke of going back home to prepare a place for her as would have been their custom. I just discovered one thing wrong in the movie last night in my hermeneutics class. Mary and Joseph probably would not have been traveling to Bethlehem alone ’cause Nazareth was a “branch” city of David. This meant that there were probably lots of folks from Nazareth who had to go to Bethlehem for the census – not to mention Joseph’s family – parents, brothers, sisters, etc.

Nativitystory_1 I really enjoyed the shepherds and the kings too. The shepherds fields really looked like the fields that I was able to see in Israel – not fields like we think of here in the US – but much more rocky. I also was intersted in how the shepherds were shown as old men. I had always thought of them as young boys, because it was the lowliest of jobs and because of the way I imagined David growing out of it. Anyway, those young boys certainly grew up – I had just never really thought of it quite like that. As far as the kings go, more than likely they weren’t there that night, but the whole idea of the three stars/planets aligning together during that time is accurate according to astronomers today. The scriptural account (Matthew 2:11) says that the wise men came to a house so it probably was later. It could have been as much as 2 years later ’cause Herod wanted the children 2 yrs and under killed. The way the kings described their gifts – Gold for a king, Frankincense for a priest, and Myrhh for sacrifice was pretty cool too.