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The Wise Men Came to Worship

The Wise Men Came to Worship

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. – Matthew 2: 2

The Wise Men were from the east. They were not from the Sanhedrin. They were not from among the Scribes. They were not from the Pharisees. They were non-Jews from the east who showed up in Jerusalem on King Herod’s doorstep looking for the King of the Jews. The funny part about it is that they made a reasonable assumption that King Herod and his Hebrew advisers would know where the King of the Jews would be. After all, He was their King! What’s going on here? How did the Wise Men know more about Jesus than the leaders of the Jewish nation?

1. They were not students of the scriptures, but they were students of the stars. As such, they were not familiar with the prophecies of the scriptures, but they were quite conversant with the constellations and their behavior. They saw Christ in the stars and used that knowledge to find their way to Him. Those who do not have access to the scriptures can still find the Lord, since He can be revealed in and through what they know.

2. The Hebrew religious leaders did not know where Jesus was because they were not looking for Him. When Herod asked his own religious advisers the question as to where the Messiah was to be born, they were able to quote the prophet Micah who predicted that He would be born in Bethlehem. In other words, they knew where He was supposed to be, but they never took the time to look for Him. They were like people lost with a map.

3. The Wise Men found Jesus because they were actually seeking Him. Their passion caused them to leave the comfort of their homes to seek the Savior of the world even though He was foreign to their personal world. The key is that He was found because He was sought. What Jesus later said is still true. “Seek and ye shall find.” That people who should know better and don’t do better is a shame. However, that people who sincerely seek in faith can discover Christ in spite of religious and cultural barriers is miraculous.

Christ Consented to Come

Christ Consented to Come

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. – Philippians 2: 5-8

God’s plan of salvation was to give His Son, Jesus, as a ransom for many. At the time that the plan was hatched, His Son was “in the form of God,” with God and along with the Holy Spirit co-equal with God. By this we must assume that wherever God was, Jesus was. Whatever God had Jesus had. Whenever God moved, Jesus moved.

One cannot help but ask the question: “When God came up with this plan to sacrifice His Son, did He let Him in on the plan?” Somewhere and sometime in eternity, did God do Jesus like Abraham did Issac and keep Him in the dark about the fact that He was to be the lamb for the sacrifice? Or, did God let Jesus in on the plan and Jesus like Isaiah volunteered and said: “Here am I. Send me.”

Philippians 2: 7 suggests that it was more like the latter because he “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” This was nothing which God did to Him. This was something which He did to Himself. He knew the plan meant giving up His form of godliness. Nevertheless, He consented to come. He understood that He would soon be fashioned in the likeness of men. Nevertheless, He consented to come. He was clear on the fact that He would be required to humble Himself. Nevertheless, He consented to come. He was wide –eyed about the reality of His birth and that His life would end in an ignominious death. Nevertheless, He consented to come.

One of the great miracles of the birth of Christ is the life in eternity with God which He was willing to give up in order to become flesh and, in turn, give up that life so that we could have eternal life with Him. Wow. That is miraculous!

God Conceived a Plan

God Conceived a Plan

. . . he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. – John 3: 16

Mental health professionals advise that if you suspect a friend or loved one of being suicidal, you should not ignore the signs and ask them directly: “Are you thinking about committing suicide?” If they answer: “Yes.” Then, your next question is supposed to be: “Do you have a plan?”

The reason for this last question is that it is a test of how real of a possibility suicide may be for them. The thinking is that if they have gone as far as to make a plan to commit suicide, then they are serious about doing it.

Now, in a similar, but unrelated matter, what if we asked God after the Garden of Eden fiasco, did He really love Adam, Eve and their descendants; and if He wanted them to be saved and reconciled to Him? He might have answered: “Yes.” Next, if we asked Him: “Well, do you have a plan as to how to make that happen?” He would reply: “Yes.” This is how we know that God was serious about saving humanity. He didn’t just desire to do it or think about doing it or even talk about doing it. He had a plan to do it.

In short, here is the plan.

Step 1. Give. (…that he gave…) The irony of this plan is that it begins with giving. Usually, when you want to teach a person a lesson or to get them back in line, what you do is take. Not God. First, He gave.

Step 2. Give something of precious value to Him. (…He gave His only begotten Son…) This plan seems even more incredible by the moment. For, God not only chose to give, but to give something belonging to Him which was precious and dear to Him. That is His only begotten Son – Jesus. This is where God should have required something precious from us in order to be reconciled with Him. Instead, He loved us so much that He sacrificed something precious to Him for us.

Step 3. Make it available to everyone. (…whosoever…) This was not a plan tailor made for the one per centers, the five per centers or the talented tenth. This was for everybody and anybody. It was for whosoever.

Step 4. Give everyone a choice to opt in. (…whosoever believeth…) The plan was free and available to all, but it had to be opted into by belief in Jesus Christ. Listen: “Whosever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” The plan is God’s, but the choice is yours. That is miraculous!

God Cared Enough to Save Us

God Cared Enough to Save Us

For God so loved the world… – John 3: 16

If you were God, would you be saved? Of course, since you are you, you would want to be saved and hope that you were saved. But, if you were God, and you knew how you are, would you have saved you? Okay. You might not have been able to be totally objective on that one.

So, how about, if you were God and saw the blatant disobedience of Adam and Eve, would you have saved them? Would you have made skin clothes for them to replace their fig leaves? Would you have only kicked them out of the Garden or kicked them completely off of the planet? Would you have waited for them to die of natural causes or would you have killed them on the spot?

God had every right to cut off humanity right after their first sin. He created a perfect paradise for them. He only gave them one rule and they broke it! What hope could there be that they or their offspring would never sin again? (As soon as they got out of the Garden, their first born son Cain killed his brother!). There is no record of any other creation which God made prior to Adam and Eve which disobeyed him or veered from its created course. Why not stick with the birds who flew straight, the lions who roared right and the trees which always waved their branches in worship? Why not forget humanity and be done with it and them?

John 3: 16 give us the answer in one word. LOVE. For God so loved the world… Love was behind His creating humanity. Love was behind Him trusting humanity. Love was behind Him chastising humanity. Love was behind Him saving humanity. And that my friend is miraculous!

Become Like a Tree

Become Like a Tree

Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matthew 13: 31-32)

The natural inclination of those who know little about mustard seeds is to dismiss it as an insignificant nut that probably will never amount to much. It is so small that it can hardly be seen. It is so tiny that it can barely stay put in the face of the slightest breeze. But, that mustard seed takes on a completely different shape when it is grown. When it is grown, it becomes greater than the other herbs. It surpasses those that began larger. When it is grown, it outstrips those that sprouted up faster. When it is grown it becomes a tree. Not just a plant, but a tree with roots, a trunk and branches.

As a mustard seed it could not stand a breeze. Now as a tree, it can withstand a storm. When it was a seed, it was food for the birds. Now, when it is grown, it becomes a home for the birds. The moral of this story is that what begins small may become large and great when it is grown. This is all the more reason to have the desire to grow up.

Have Know-How

Have Know-How

I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (Philippians 4: 12)

The French call it: savoir faire. We call it: know-how. Know- how is more than intelligence. It is experience. Know- how is more than ability. It is adaptability. Know-how is more than knowledge. It is wisdom. After being beaten, ship wrecked, run out of town and more, Paul declares that all of this has given him know- how. He knows how to be abased. He knows how to abound. He knows how to be full. He knows how to be hungry. He knows how to suffer need.

The Apostle continues and confesses what is behind this know-how, as he pens my favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4: 13: “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.”Don’t fail to notice that the bottom line of knowing how is not so much knowing what, as it is knowing Who!

Bear Much Fruit

Bear Much Fruit

But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matthew 13: 23)

This line from Matthew 13: 23 is the punch line to Jesus’ parable of the sower. Here, the Lord is explaining to His disciples the underlying meaning of the parable. He shares that when people hear the word and understand the word, they are able to receive it as good seed is received on good ground. Then, they can bear fruit in multiple degrees.

On another occasion, Jesus said: “by their fruit you shall know them.” (Matthew 12: 33) In other words, we shall know them by the fact that they bear fruit and by the type of fruit they bear. The reason that the Lord puts so much emphasis on fruit is because there is no greater sign of maturity than bearing fruit. In fact, that is how you know a tree is mature. It bears fruit. This fruit is then good for food and it bears seeds which can lead to future fruit. Often in the church, we focus on faithfulness and, of course, faithfulness is admirable. However, faithfulness without fruitfulness is uselessness.

Set a Good Example

Set a Good Example

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4: 12).

Minister Paul communicates to his men-tee, Timothy, that he should be an example. In spite of his youth in age or even youth in the faith, Timothy is encouraged to be an example especially to the believers in several specific areas. As we go through the list which Paul lays out for this young man, we are able to highlight key areas in which Christian maturity can and should be demonstrated.

In word: We definitely grow in Christ as we read, understand and practice the word of God. In conduct: Saints are not simply called to be biblical scholars, but to behave in a Christ-like manner. In love: It is one thing to claim the saving love of Christ. It is another thing to share it with and show it to others. In spirit: We should not only have the Holy Spirit abiding in us, but we must allow that Spirit to lead, guide and direct us. In faith: Enough cannot be said about the importance of faith. As we become examples in the area of faith, the rest will follow. In purity: A sincere heart and unmixed motives will produce powerful deeds. Today, let us make Paul’s charge to Timothy our own and be good examples as we mature in Christ.

Grow in All Things

Grow in All Things

. . . That we should no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ. (Eph 4: 14-15)

Fully matured Christians are those who have grown up in all things. It is easy to pick and choose the more pleasant areas of development while at the same time avoiding the more difficult ones like the plague. To be sure, one person’s area of pleasure is another one’s area of pain. Still, the point is that well rounded Christians are those who desire to grow up in all things. We have to read several verses before verses 14 and 15 to find out just how we are supposed to be able to do this.

First, in Ephesians 4: 11, we learn that we can grow up in all things through the human helps which the Lord has given us. These are the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers who equip us to do the work of the ministry. Then, in that same verse, we see that we grow up in all things as we bind ourselves to and find our place in the body of Christ. Being linked to the body helps us to grow up as the body itself grows.

Next, according to verse 13, we grow up in all things as our knowledge of Jesus moves us towards perfection or completeness in Him. After this, we grow up in all things as we model ourselves after the measure of the fullness of Christ. Finally, we know we have grown up in all things when we are no longer children tossed to and fro and carried away with every wind of doctrine and when we can we speak the truth in love.

With the combination and cooperation of all of these things, we can and will grow up in all things.

Grow in Favor

Grow in Favor

And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the Lord and men. (1 Samuel 2: 26)

Samuel was literally an answer to prayer. His barren mother, Hannah, prayed for a son. God heard her prayer and answered it with the child, Samuel. When Hannah prayed, she promised to give the child to the Lord. Since God kept His promise to her, she kept her promise to Him and turned the child over to the priest, Eli, to raise him in the house of the Lord. This very short line of scripture, in 1 Samuel 2: 26, reveals how Samuel grew and matured in Shiloh under the tutelage of Eli.

First of all, he grew in stature. Yes, over the years, he did increase in physical size, but stature also means the respect and regard that others have for you. Then, he grew in favor with God. He not only had God’s favor. He grew by means of this favor and it was increasingly apparent in his life.

Finally, the text says that he also grew in favor with men. In other words, he was not so holy that he only appealed to God. He was so wholly holy that he also earned the favor of men. Of course, it is important to grow in wisdom and knowledge, but there is no greater reward of spiritual maturity than to be referred to as one who has grown in stature and favor with God and men.