True Seekers

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You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

Atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell, was once asked what he would say if he found himself standing before God on judgment day and God asked him, “Why didn’t you believe in Me?” He replied, “I would say, ‘Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!’”

On the night of Jesus’ birth, God announced the way for those who would accept it and seek this blessed Child. Luke’s account includes the angel who told them exactly where to find this Baby – “in the town of David” (Luke 2:11) and how they would recognize Him – “wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (v. 12).  They responded to God’s revelation – “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see . . .” (v. 15). They were determined to follow the evidence that God has given to them.

Matthew records literal heavenly proof of Jesus’ birth as the Magi declared “We have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2). “The star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was” (v. 9). God not only gave directions, He led the way with a star in the sky. They were overjoyed – they sought the King and their search was rewarded.

There is another path that God has provided for man to find his Creator. That path leads up a hill in Jerusalem, to Calvary, and the Cross. God made this way clear and unmistakable when He covered that path with the blood of His one and only Son, Jesus. He has declared that this is the way to find Him – the only way. To all who will accept it, God has promised not only to reveal Himself but to claim the seeking soul as His own.

The difference between Bertrand Russell and the shepherds and wise men and those who believe is that they want to find God. He receives all who seek Him with a heart to believe. Remember what He said – “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”. (Jeremiah 29:13). Beloved, what – or Whom – are you seeking this Christmas?

Gifts Fit For a King

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“They opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh,” (Matthew 2:11)

What kind of gift do you bring to a newborn King? When royals or celebrities have babies, gifts pour in from all around the world. Lavish, expensive presents like giant stuffed animals, beautiful baby clothes, and the very latest in baby transportation. Only the best will do for these little ones of such high standing. When the wise men came to visit Jesus, they brought gifts worthy of a first-century king – gold, incense, and myrrh. Many scholars believe there is significance in each of these gifts: “Gold might represent His deity and purity, incense the fragrance of His life, and myrrh His sacrifice and death” (myrrh was used as an embalming spice) (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament).

I love the story of the little boy who, during the offering at church, set the plate on the floor and stood in it. His embarrassed mother pulled him back to his seat and  whispered “What are you doing?” He replied in a very loud voice, “But Mommy, I don’t gots no money, so I wanted to give Jesus myself!” Image the sermon that might have followed that! But our little friend is right on target. Just as the magi presented Jesus with gifts, the Bible tells us that we are to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God,” (Romans 12:1). In the first two verses of Romans 12, Paul tells us that our gifts to God are our bodies (v. 1) and our minds (v. 2) – what we do and how we think. In other words, we are to give every bit of ourselves to the Lord. Remember Jesus’ words about the great commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). This covers your affections, your emotions, your convictions, and your life-focus.  It’s total surrender. We love God by giving Him ourselves, inside and out. Beloved, let all of you be your gift to Jesus this Christmas.

Worship the King!

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What kind of faith must you have to chase a star for two years and hundreds of miles based on an ancient prophecy? The wise men – Matthew calls them “Magi” – traveled what scholars suppose to be about 1,000 miles “from the east” (Matt. 2:1), most likely ancient Persia, or our modern Iran. They were probably devout scholars who studied ancient holy texts of many religions. The writings of the Jewish faith – which would include prophecies of a special King – would have likely come to them via Daniel’s time in Babylon. Through their studies, they came to recognize that the star that rose at a specific time signaled the birth of this very King. So they set out on a long, difficult journey with gifts fit for royalty.

Here’s what amazes me about the Magi – it wasn’t curiosity that caused them to leave their homes and families for such an arduous journey. It was worship. Matthew records their words to King Herod, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship him” (v. 2). Here’s the other thing that is surprising to me – He wasn’t their king. Remember – they identified Him as the “King of the Jews.” The Magi didn’t owe him homage. Why would they worship a king not their own? They realized from all they had studied that this king was worthy of worship – not just the worship of the Jews, but the worship of all men everywhere.

These Magi took ancient prophecies, looked forward, and recognized that Jesus was a unique king. In faith and awe, they set out on a long journey to worship Him. You and I have not just ancient prophecies, but we have the New Testament Scriptures that testify that Jesus is this King. We have the eye-witness of the Apostles and we have the heart-witness of the martyrs that testify that Jesus is not just King of the Jews, but King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The faith of all these should inspire faith in us. Jesus – the baby in the manger, the child in Bethlehem, the man healing lepers and raising the dead and dying on a cross and bursting alive out of the grave – this Jesus is worthy of our faith and worthy of our worship. Let’s give Him all He deserves this Christmas – and every day.

The Nativity

“They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger” (Luke 2:16).

When we set up our nativity scenes, we place the star and the angel above the stable and we add the animals and the shepherds. We set Mary and Joseph beside the manger where the little baby sleeps. We even add the wise men, though they didn’t actually come on the scene until some 2 years later. Now everyone is present and accounted for.
The truth is, Satan is part of the Christmas story, for the Holy Child in the manger was born to break the curse of evil. He was born to set men free from their sins (Romans 6:18). He was born to bring light and life where death and darkness reigned (John 1:4-5). He was born to set right what had been made horribly wrong (Romans 8:22-24). This little baby was the fulfillment of God’s promise, the seed that would crush the head of the enemy (Genesis 3:15). When this newborn baby’s cry pierced the silent night, all of hell trembled.
As you celebrate Jesus, the reason for the season, remember the reason Jesus came and praise God for the greatest gift ever given. The Savior of the world is born.

The Truth About Christmas

w2869-little-people-nativity-playset-d-1“Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth” (Matthew 22:16)

Quick, tell me, how many wise men were there?  When did they come to see the Child-King?  Duh, you might be thinking; there were three wise men who came to see Jesus when He was born.  Those answers are part of our modern construct of the Christmas story.  The Bible doesn’t tell us the number of wise men – only that they bore three different gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.  We assume there was one wise man per gift.  We also have the lovely Christmas hymn, “We Three Kings” to support that idea.  Our Nativity scenes further drive the image home with all the shepherds and wise men together.  But they didn’t come to the stable; scholars believe that Jesus may have been about 2 years old when the Magi visited the Bethlehem home the family had settled in.  Matthew 2 records that they left “the east” after He was born – most likely the Mesopotamian area – that would have been a long, arduous journey.  And recall that Herod ordered the murder of all male children in Bethlehem under two years of age.  

My best friend, like me, is a stickler for accuracy in portraying biblical accounts.  A few years ago she saw a nativity set that Fischer-Price produced and something struck her as very off.  There was a smiling pig among the animals.  My friend wrote to the company and told them that no good Jewish family would have pigs around, they were unclean animals according to Levitical Law.  Would you believe the company pulled the pigs out of the set?  There’s a Christmas miracle for you!

The point I’m making is we need to be very sure we are listening to and absorbing accurate information when it comes to spiritual things and biblical portrayals.  Our traditions have painted over the Bible’s account of the Christmas story.  Now the wise men may seem to be a very small part of the whole account, and what harm is there is a happy little pig welcoming the newborn King?  None, if you don’t hold to the authority and accuracy of God’s Word.  But when you let wise men and pigs come to the manger you’re taking the world’s view over God’s record.  One little detail becomes another and another until the truth and authority of the Bible is lost in a cultural soup.

Here’s the truth about Christmas:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  The truth about Christmas is that God came to His lost creation in human form, to die that we might live eternally.  That’s what you need to know about the Christmas story.

What Can You Give Jesus for Christmas?

Wise Men by George Spencer Watson (c) Rochdale Arts & Heritage Service; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Wise Men by George Spencer Watson (c) Rochdale Arts & Heritage Service; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

“They opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh,” (Matthew 2:11)

What kind of gift do you bring to a newborn King?  When the royals or celebrities have babies, gifts pour in from all around the world.  Lavish, expensive gifts like giant stuffed animals, beautiful baby clothes, and the very best in baby transportation.  Only the best will do for these little one of such high standing.  When the wise men came to visit Jesus, they brought gifts worthy of a first-century king – gold, incense and myrrh.  Many scholars believe there is significance in each of these gifts:  “Gold might represent His deity and purity, incense the fragrance of His life, and myrrh His sacrifice and death” (myrrh was used as an embalming spice) (Walvoord and Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, 22). 

I love the story of the little boy who, during the offering at church, set the plate on the floor and stood on it.  As his embarrassed mother pulled him back to his seat with whispers of “What are you doing?”  he replied in a very loud voice, “But Mommy, I don’t gots no money, so I wanted to give Jesus myself!”  Image the sermon that might have followed that!  But our little friend is right on target.  Just as the magi presented Jesus with gifts, the Bible tells us that we are to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God,” (Romans 12:1).  In the first two verses of Romans 12, Paul tells us that our gifts to God are our bodies (v. 1) and our minds (v. 2) – what we do and how we think.  The gift of our hearts is the thread that holds the whole book together.  In other words, we are to give every bit of ourselves to the Lord.  Remember Jesus’ words about the great commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).  We love God by giving Him ourselves, inside and out.

Let all of you be your gift to Jesus this Christmas.

Seeking Christmas

midnightshinechristmasstar“You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

We so often hear the complaint that Christianity is just “blind faith,” and many simply refuse to believe without “proof.”  But that is not what the Bible indicates.  God invites us to step into faith with our eyes wide open.  He said “If . . . you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him, if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29).   God does not require mindless devotion to an unseen, unproven entity.  He has gone to great lengths to make Himself known.

On the night of Jesus’ birth, God announced the way to this blessed Child.  A chorus of heavenly hosts who appeared to the shepherds in the fields – and they told them exactly where to find this Baby – “in the town of David” (Luke 2:11) and how they would recognize Him – “wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (v. 12).  They responded to God’s revelation – “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see . . .” (v. 15).  Let’s follow the evidence that God has given to us. Let’s seek Him whom the angel said we would find.

Matthew records another visible and powerful proof of Jesus’ birth as the Magi from the East declared “We have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2), and he continues: “The star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was” (v. 9).  God not only gave directions, He led the way with a star in the sky.  They were overjoyed – they sought the King, and their search was rewarded.

There is another path that God has clearly provided for man to find his Creator.  That path leads up a hill in Jerusalem, to Calvary and to the Cross.  God made this way clear and unmistakable when He covered that path with the blood of His one and only Son, Jesus.  He has declared that this is the way to find Him – the only way.  To all who will accept it, God has promised not only to reveal Himself but to claim the seeking soul as His own.  He welcomes those who seek Him with a heart to believe.

Advent 2015 – Day 17 – Star of Joy!

adventcandlesweek3“When they saw the star they were overjoyed” Matthew 2:10.

When my son was very young, we would pull an old blanket out into the yard, lay back and watch the stars.  I tried to identify some of the constellations, but he was much too young to understand, and I was too far removed from high-school science to remember.  But it is a memory I cherish—stargazing with my boy.

Scholars believe that the wise men were “stargazers” as well—actually Persian astronomers.  How did they know about a Jewish prophecy?  Remember Daniel, from the lion’s den?   When the Jewish exiles left Babylon after seventy years of captivity, Daniel opted to stay as did many other Jews who had put down roots in the area.  Daniel knew the Hebrew Scriptures well and likely shared the ancient prophecies of a coming King who would rescue His people.  These were handed down through the generations to the time of Jesus’ birth.  When the star appeared and the astronomers put all the pieces together, they realized something very special had happed in Judea.

One of my favorite descriptive names of the Lord is El Emunah—the Faithful God—because it reveals Him as the God who keeps His promises.  The Magi were overjoyed when they saw the star because they understood that the ancient prophesy of a new King of the Jews had been fulfilled.  God had kept His promise to send His people a Messiah.

The same God who was faithful to the Jews has promised His faithfulness to you.  He has promised to redeem you and restore your life.  He has promised to walk with you and guide you every day.  He has promised His presence, His peace and His unfailing love.  He has promised to prepare a place for you in heaven, and He has promised to come again to take you home.

The Magi rejoiced when they saw the star because God had kept His promise to the Hebrew people.  He continues to be the Promise Keeper today for all who trust in His Son Jesus.  That’s something to rejoice about!

To the One Who Seeks

“You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

Atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell, when once asked what he would say if he found himself standing before God on the judgment day and God asked him, “Why didn’t you believe in Me?” replied, “I would say, ‘Not enough evidence, God!  Not enough evidence!'”[1]

I recently completed a seminary course in Christian Apologetics – which is not “apologizing for being a Christian” – but rather the defense of the Christian faith. It was a very difficult course because I had to read and listen to messages that rejected the truth of God and of Jesus Christ. Their words in no way diminished my beliefs; if anything they strengthened my faith because I was forced to address these statements of disbelief and find reasonable and true answers I could embrace. As I confronted these counter-claims, the truths of the Bible and of the doctrines of Christianity began to take a firmer root in my heart. And as I found more and more evidences and reasons to believe with confidence, I began to “own” my faith like never before. I no longer believe just because of what I’ve heard all my life. I believe because, in seeking out the truth, I found it.

We so often hear the complaint that Christianity is just “blind faith,” and many simply refuse to believe without “proof.” Even in the church we are taught that we must never ask questions of God. But that is not what the Bible indicates. God invites us to step into faith with our eyes wide open. He issued the invitation many, many years ago, when the Israelites had fled Egypt – “If . . . you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him, if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29). God does not require mindless devotion to an unseen, unproven entity. He has gone to great lengths to make Himself known.

On the night of Jesus’ birth, God announced the way for those who would accept it and seek this blessed Child. Luke’s account includes the chorus of heavenly hosts who appeared to the shepherds in the fields – and they told them exactly where to find this Baby – “in the town of David” (Luke 2:11) and how they would recognize Him – “wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (v. 12). I love the angels’ words in our key verse – You will find a baby . . .” (emphasis added). And they responded to God’s revelation – “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see . . .” (v. 15). Let’s follow the evidence that God has given to us. Let’s seek Him whom the angel said we would find.

Matthew records another visible and powerful proof of Jesus’ birth as the Magi from the East declared “We have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2), and he continues: “The star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was” (v. 9). God not only gave directions, He led the way with a star in the sky. They were overjoyed – they sought the King with a desire to find Him, and their search was rewarded.

There is another path that God has clearly provided for man to find his Creator. That path leads up a hill in Jerusalem, to Calvary and to the Cross. God made this way clear and unmistakable when He covered that path with the blood of His one and only Son, Jesus. He has declared that this is the way to find Him – the only way. To all who will accept it, God has promised not only to reveal Himself but to claim the seeking soul as His own.

We all have questions, whether we want to admit it or not, and God does not resist our questions; but He does resist our motivations for asking them. He has provided the evidence and the way that we might find and know Him, but Mr. Russell and others like him demand proof on their own terms. God is not obligated to meet man’s demands for proof. He expects us to seek Him by following the way He has provided. He is not playing some cosmic “hide-and-seek game” with us. You see, the difference between Bertrand Russell and those who have chosen to believe is that Mr. Russell posed his questions with an arrogant and unbelieving heart trying to disprove God; for those who receive Christ, their questions flow from seeking hearts that want to find Him. God receives those who seek Him with a heart to believe. Remember what He said – “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you” (Jeremiah 29:13-14).

Holy God, on this Christmas Eve, I am so grateful that You showed me the way to the manger and the cross and You let me find You. “He has said to my heart, ‘Seek My face!’ Your face Lord, I will seek” (Psalm 27:8).

[1] William Lane Craig, “The Evidence for Christianity” be thinking, http://www.bethinking.org/is-christianity-true/the-evidence-for-christianity (accessed December 24, 2014).