Thursday, December 19, 2019

When the Magi Became Wise Men

I wonder how jarring the second chapter of Matthew might have been for the Jews who first read this Gospel.  The first act of worship toward Jesus came from a group of gentile magicians.  The magi were not kings, nor were they "wise men."  Our word "magic" is related to the word, "magi."  Magi were practitioners of magic.  History has embellished their identities and tried to sanitize what they were.

These are not the only magoi mentioned in the Bible.  Looking at the other magoi helps to get a better picture of what manner of people they were and how they would have been viewed by the Jewish population.

There are two other magoi in the New Testament mentioned by name.  The first is Simon in Acts 8.  Simon the magician practiced the magic arts, and seemed to be interested in acquiring the ability to perform miracles by the Spirit so he could add that to his bag of tricks.  The second magos in the New Testament is a man named called "Bar-Jesus," who was struck blind for opposing the Gospel in Acts 13.  Both of these men were charlatans.

In the Old Testament, Nebuchadnezzar had magoi that served him in his court in Daniel 2.  Of course, they were impotent and ineffective.   Ancient Jewish literature identified several other as magoi in the Hebrew scriptures.  Balaam was classed among the magoi.  Jewish literature pokes fun at Balaam as thick headed and an idiot.  The story of Balaam and the talking donkey continues to be a source of amusement.  Pharaoh also had magoi in his court which Jewish literature pokes fun at in Exodus 7-9.  Even though the magicians were able to also produce snakes with their staves as Moses did, Moses' staff ate theirs.  When Moses struck the water of the Nile and it turned to blood, the response of Pharaoh's magicians was to also turn water into blood.  When Moses stretched out his hand over the waters and frogs came up and covered the land, the response of Pharaoh's magicians was to also produce frogs!  Instead of making them go away, the magicians added to the problem!

Sometimes, sorcerers were referred to as "wise men."  However, in that culture, a "wise man" often meant simply that a person was educated in some sort of trade or practice.  It was a way of referring to some sort of professional.  Therefore, one who had been educated in the art of magic or sorcery would have been referred to as a "wise man."  However, Jews never saw magoi as wise.  When it comes to magoi, ancient Jewish literature pointed out that although they were "educated," they were educated in nonsense. 

All of this demonstrates that magoi were never seen in a positive light among Jews.  They were idiots at best, and charlatans at worst.  Instead of thinking of people dressed in royal robes or scholar's gowns, we ought to think of the magi as being like those from a seedy side street who peer into crystal balls, or who deal with spells, incantations, and potions. 

How amazing that a group of magoi were the first to worship Jesus as King!  I have to wonder why this was included in Matthew, a Gospel which appears to have a Jewish audience in mind.  It is equally interesting that one of the last acknowledgements of Jesus also comes on the lips of a gentile when the Centurion exclaimed, "Surely, this was the Son of God!"

As I think about this, I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 1:30 that says that Jesus the Messiah has become our wisdom from God.  I am also reminded of Proverbs 4:7 which points out where the beginning of wisdom is.  The beginning of wisdom is this: Get Wisdom!  Wisdom doesn't just come without effort.  In Proverbs 2:7, the sage said that one must search for it as hidden treasure.

These gentile magicians went on a quest to find Jesus, who is our wisdom from God.  They found him and worshipped him as King.  If they accepted Jesus as Lord, then those who were formerly fools had become wise.  What a contrast to the Jews who rejected Jesus.  1 Corinthians 1:27 says that God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.  Is that what has happened here?

Perhaps it is appropriate for history to remember these magicians as "wise men" after all.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Government Can't Save You

Some people place all their hopes in government, political causes, and elections.  Someone once said that for some people, it seems as though politics is a religion.  This is nothing new.  I am reminded of how ancient Rome was a religion, complete with temples to worship Caesar.  At one point, even the calendar was reworked to begin with the birth of Caesar.   

The Priene Calendar Inscription gives the rationale for the resetting of the calendar to begin with the birth of Augustus, since it was he who ended the previous era and began a new one.  This inscription, dated to 9 BC, says,

"Since the Providence which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue [divine power] that he might benefit humanity, sending him as a savior, both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since the Caesar through his appearance has exceeded the hopes of all former gospels, surpassing not only the benefactors who came before him, but also leaving no hope that anyone in the future would surpass him, and since for the world the birthday of the god was the beginning of the gospel that came by reason of him . . . "

According to this declaration, Augustus was sent as a "savior" to "end war" and "arrange all things."  His birth is called the "beginning of the gospel."  He has surpassed all other benefactors before and after him, according to this inscription.

The phrase, "beginning of the Gospel" reminds me of what was written a few decades later by Mark, in his Gospel, who started with, "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God…"  It is illuminating to contrast the "Gospel of Caesar Augustus" to the "Gospel of Jesus Christ."  What kind of "savior" was Caesar Augustus?  What kind of savior is Jesus Christ?

Whatever Caesar Augustus accomplished was short lived.  In 14 AD, death claimed him whom they declared as their "savior" and their "God."  He was no God and therefore died just like any other man.  To this day, he is still dead.  His kingdom is also dead.  His accomplishments rest on the ash heaps of history. The word, "Caesar" today makes one think of a salad rather than a God. 

However, the name of Jesus is still the name of above all names.  His accomplishments endure to this day and are still increasing.   Jesus also died.  However, he rose from the grave.  The Christian Gospel is not just that Jesus, who is God, came into the world, but that he died and rose from the dead.  His death was redemptive.  His resurrection is hope.  He also established his Kingdom which continues to thrive until this day.  His Kingdom will last from this world and into eternity.  He brings peace not through political stability, but through wiping out our sins, redeeming us to God, and reforming our heart. 

While Caesar's laws might regulate behavior depending on the presence of law enforcement, the Gospel of Christ is what transforms the heart and mind, something Caesar is powerless to do.  All attempts by the various kinds of Caesars of the world to establish a peaceful Utopia have failed miserably.  If history teaches us anything, then it is likely that our own country will one day lie in ruins as Rome does.  Those who put all of their hopes in the Caesars of today will wind up empty. 

I remember seeing the picture of a president on the front page of a magazine at his reelection.  The title was "Second Coming."  That title spoke so much of how there were those placing their hopes in this political leader.  The only "second coming" that will ultimately save us is the second coming of Christ.  Jesus is our savior, our King, and our Lord.  He brings true peace now in his Kingdom, which will continue once for all in the New Jerusalem.  Jesus saves!

Friday, October 25, 2019

What Does it Mean to Be "Spiritual?"

What does it mean to be "spiritual" but not "religious"?  Most people I talk to usually mean that they do not attend a religious institution and do not get bogged down in biblical dogma.  They have little if any focus on religious rules, command, practices, or principles found in scripture.  But is it possible to truly be spiritual without being religious?

It seems to me that if the Bible is God's word, then we need to refer to the Bible to tell us what it means to be spiritual.  After all, the scriptures were written by those who were "moved by the Spirit" to communicate God's word accurately and with authority (2 Pet 1:20-21). 

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 is one passage that describes true spirituality.  Read it carefully, and note the following about spirituality:

1) Spirituality brings godly wisdom not the wisdom of the world:   "…a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away" (1 Cor 2:6).  The theme of wisdom is actually introduced in chapter one, where it says, "Where is the wise man?  Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?   Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Cor 1:20).  In applying it to today, we could add, Where is the college professor?  Where is the celebrity?  Where is the politician?  Where is the news anchor?  Etc.  Our wisdom does not come from the world because we are " in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God" (1 Cor 1:29).  Jesus is our wisdom, which is not the wisdom of the world.

2) Spirituality is knowing God's thoughts, what he loves, what he hates, and what his will is:  "Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God" (1 Cor 2:11-12).  One cannot be "spiritual" unless you know God.  This means knowing God, and not some caricature of God one may make up in his mind, which amounts to idolatry.

3) Spirituality is communicated with words from the mind of God:   "…which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words" (1 Cor 2:13).  This is why it is absolutely necessary to have the word of God in order to grow in spirituality.

4) Spirituality is what enables us to understand God's will as wisdom, and to see the world's way for what it is:  "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things" (1 Cor 2:14-15).  Worldly wisdom and Godly Wisdom are an eternity apart.  To be spiritual means to apply God's wisdom in every circumstance.

After 1 Corinthians 1 introduces godly wisdom as a major theme, chapter 2 explicitly connects this wisdom to the Spirit.  Spirituality and godly wisdom go hand in hand.

Using this as a template to understand everything else in 1 Corinthians, it becomes evident that 1 Corinthians is a book about being "spiritual."  For each topic in 1 Corinthians, it is helpful to compare the "spiritual" way of thinking about and dealing with it to the "worldly way of thinking about and dealing with it." 

Here are some examples: 

In chapter 3, a spiritual person is humble and recognizes that he is one of many partners in doing the work of God.  The credit and recognition goes ultimately to God who causes the growth and was the one who laid the foundation.  Unspiritual godly wisdom would see personal ambition that calls attention to personal accomplishments as a good and worthy thing.  However, it will not withstand the test because the foundation would be on the teacher rather than on Christ.

In chapter 5, a spiritual person understands God's view on sin and how ongoing sin not only devastates a relationship with God.  He will not only mourn the sin, but take steps to motivate the brother to repent and keep the sin from spreading to others.  Unspiritual godly wisdom would pride itself on being enlightened rather than archaic and backwards.  It would brag about tolerance and acceptance.  However, the end result of this would be eternal condemnation not only for the one brother, but possibly others to whom the sin might spread.

In chapter 6, a spiritual person recognizes that Christians are the ones with godly wisdom that can help with a dispute between himself and a brother.  He will avoid going to worldly courts to try and arbitrate because they are of the world.  If it cannot be resolved with his brother, he will simply swallow the loss and move on. However, unspiritual worldly wisdom would say to take your brother to court, call a news conference, and fight for what is yours.  The former would seem like foolishness to the world, but to us it is a demonstration of the wisdom of God.

Spirituality according to the Bible looks very different than what many people call "spirituality."  That self-made religion amounts to idolatry.  Spirituality can only grow through regular meditation on the word of God with faithfulness and humility.  This creates the environment in the heart for the Spirit to lead and transform us into a true "spiritual" person.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

I Want Justice

I still remember years ago, when I was a student at Harding University, someone submitted a prayer request for our preaching student chapel.  I don’t remember the details, but I do remember that they were praying for justice to be done.  Carl Mitchell, who was the Dean of the College of Bible and Religion added, "I let's also remember to pray for the perpetrator, that he can find redemption as well."  That really struck a nerve.  Everyone wanted justice, which may have bordered on a desire for revenge.  Dr. Mitchell's addition to the prayer request brought us back to the sobering reality of the cross.  The cross is a place of grace, redemption, and forgiveness. 

I was reminded of that once again when I listened to the victim impact statement of Brandt Jean yesterday.  His older brother, Botham Jean, was shot by Amber Guyger, an off duty police officer who mistakenly entered his apartment, thinking it was hers.  Thinking Botham to be an intruder, she shot him dead.  This case became a lightning rod for the racial tensions in this country since the officer is white and the victim is black.  People across the country were crying out for justice for Jean.  Guyger was convicted of murder and sentenced to ten years in prison.  News crews had their cameras on emotional crowds in the hall who were yelling that ten years was not justice at all.

Brandt Jean, Botham's younger brother, gave a surprising victim's impact statement at the end of the trial.  Instead of focusing on the crime or on his now deceased brother, he focused on forgiveness.  He told Guyger things like, "I love you as a person," "I don't wish anything bad on you," and "I forgive you."  He also stated that "I want the best for you, because I know that's exactly what Botham would want you to do, and the best would be give your life to Christ."  After he was finished, he requested permission to hug her. 

According to the Christian Chronicle, the mood in the building was transformed after this.  The commotion and the yelling stopped.  A lot of the media stories focused on the hug, and even on the offer of forgiveness, but either downplayed or omitted the talk of God and accepting Christ.  Instead of crying out for justice or even vengeance, Brandt, who is a Christ follower like his older brother Botham was, offered forgiveness and reconciliation.  Allison Jean, their mother, later said in an interview, "Botham loved humanity.  He was a forgiving person. And What Brandt demonstrated yesterday is what I believe Botham would have done.  To be honest, when I saw Brandt up there and what he was saying, I really felt Botham's presence in the room.  I really think Brandt was heavily influenced by his older brother and did just what he felt Botham would have done."

It occurs to me that his is part of what it means to be the salt of the earth.  What an effect he had on that room!  Our prayer should be that God continue to use us as the salt of the earth in this way.

This is also demonstrating the ministry of reconciliation, which has the message, "Be reconciled to God."  I have been reading this passage again and reflecting on how I saw this in action:

"So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:16-21).

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


I recently read a news story about a stuck Raccoon inside a snack vending machine at a Florida High School.  Authorities believe that he entered the machine through the bottom door of the vending machine.  Since the only way to open it is to push at the door from the outside, the Raccoon was stuck once he entered the machine.  School officials called animal control to come and deal with the trapped creature.  They unplugged the machine, wheeled the vending machine outside, then opened so the Raccoon could make his mad dash to freedom.

This illustrates the nature of temptation and sin.  In John 8:34, Jesus said that anyone who commits a sin is a slave to sin.  Temptation lures you closer and closer until you enter into sin and are trapped.  No matter how hard you try, you cannot break free.  You cannot go back and "un-sin."  You cannot turn back the clock and undo what you have done.  The only hope is for someone who is not also trapped to come along and rescue you.  The only one that can do this is Jesus.  After pointing out that anyone who sins becomes a slave to sin, he points out, "But if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed."

The sad thing is that many do not realize they are trapped.  They are surrounded by goodies that make it seem as though they have hit the jackpot.  For a season, life is a party.  However, this does not last forever.  At some point, the goodies spoil and perish.  The ultimate result of sin is eternal death.

How to Be Rescued

How fortunate that Jesus came to rescue us from sin!  Jesus is the one who provided a way to break the chains of bondage to sin.

1) Jesus Provides the Way.  1 Corinthians 15:3-4 says, "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."

He died for our sins, and therefore enables us to be freed from sin.  He is the only one that could die for our sins and free us from sin for two reasons:  a) He himself did not sin, and therefore is without sin.  Hebrews 4:15 says he was tempted as we are tempted, but without sin.  Since he is not trapped in sin, he can free us.  b) He is our Creator and Lord, and only he can forgive sins.  In Mark 2:7, we are reminded that God is the one who can forgive sins.  Jesus demonstrated in Mark 2:1-12, that he has the authority to forgive sins.  The reason he has that authority, is because he is God.  This is why scriptures such as John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-6; Colossians 2:9-10; and 1 John 5:20 make clear that Jesus is God.

2) When We Become Freed.  Romans 6:3-7 says, "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin."

When we are baptized, we are buried with Christ and sin is done away with.  Jesus frees us from our sins.  We are no longer enslaved to sin!

Staying Free

Never again do I need to be entrapped in sin.  As one who walks with Christ, there are three biblical instructions to keep in mind concerning sin

1) Flee from Sin. 
Passages such as 2 Tim 2:22; 1 Tim 6:11; and 1 Cor 6:18; say to "flee" from sin.  Do no flirt with what tempts you.  Do not try to get as close to the edge as possible without stepping over the line.  The only way to be sure that you do not become trapped again is to flee from temptation and sin.  There are warnings in the Bible that point out that it is worse to have been freed from sin and then to be trapped again.  Hebrews 6:4-6 says, "For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance."  2 Peter 2:20-22 says, "For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” "  The warnings are clear, stay far away from the path to sin.

2) Time in the Word. 
In Matthew 4, Jesus was tempted by the Devil in the wilderness when he was physically vulnerable.  However, even in the weakness of his flesh, his mind, will, and spirit was strong because he already had a habit of spending time in the word.  Each temptation Satan threw at him was instinctively met with God's word to ward it off.  In our struggle against sin, the Bible tell us to put on the fall armor of God.  Ephesians 6:17 says that part of that equipment is the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."  Satan was successful at fending of the Devil's temptation because he had mastered the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  It is important for us to do so as well.

3) Be with the Brethren. 
The primary reason for the church to assemble together is to encourage and build each other up.  1 Corinthians 14:26 says that "When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification."  This means that we build each other up.  We cannot do this if we do not assemble.  Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "…let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…"  We need to get together to encourage each other.  It is very difficult to successfully stand up to temptation alone.  Therefore, we need to assemble together regularly so that we can encourage the brethren, and they can encourage us.

What Now?

If I am not a Christian, I need to ask myself if I have allowed Christ to free me from my sin.  Have I accepted him as my crucified and risen savior and Lord?  Have I been buried with him so that he will free me from bondage to my sin.

If I am a Christian, I need to ask myself if I flee from anything that tempts me to be unfaithful to God?  Do I spend prayerful time in the word?  Do I make a habit of forsaking assembling together?  Do I encourage my brethren to faithfulness?

Thank you Lord, for providing a way for freedom!

Friday, March 08, 2019

Whose Time Is It?

I can hear the clock on the wall ticking away, marking the passing of time.  I look down on my desk, and I can see the calendar, which is also marking the passing of time.  The calendar has several labels, including Valentines Day, President's Day, and Saint Patrick's Day, among others.  I am reminded of this reflection on time in Ecclesiastes 3:

1 There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

This reflection reminds me of the various ways we use time.  But what is the significance of it all?  I understandably am sometimes demoralized when something happens to undo what I have done with my time.  I, like so many others, wonder what I do matters. 

The text goes on to declare in verse 11:

"He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." 

We have eternity in our heart.  We have the ages in our heart.  We want to see the big picture and know how everything fits together.  How does what we do matter?  Will something render our time in this life as insignificant?

I remember how my grandmother, in her later years, used to declare when we were worked up over something, "Oh well.  Who is going to care 100 years from now?"  She understood something about not seeing past the horizon even though we have eternity in our hearts.  For much of my early life, I did not know who my great-great grandfather was, much less my great grandfather.  I will probably not know who my great-great grandchildren are, and perhaps not know my great grandchildren.  My perspective is very, very limited in the overall scheme of things. 

However, I am reminded that I do not see the time line the way God does.  God also has eternity in his heart, but unlike myself, he can see from beginning to end.  He saw the cross while man was still in the garden.  He could see even further, past the cross, to the end of Satan, sin, and death in the lake of fire.  He even saw me long before I was born and how I fit into his overall plan.

Even though I cannot see time the way God does, I accept by faith that somehow what is beyond the horizon in front and behind me somehow all fits together in some grand scheme that is moving toward a consummation that will magnificently be worth it all. 

There is truly a time for everything.  I am reminded of this when Jesus, several times during his earthly ministry said, "My time has not yet come."  But as his time drew near, Jesus began to prepare his disciples for what was to come.  Here is what he said about those who will persecute his followers: "I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them" (Jn 16:4).  Yes, they will have their time.  However, when their time came, he also said, "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified."  The enemy's is brief and temporary because it was also the time for the Son of God to be glorified by defeating the enemy on the cross.  Unlike the enemy's time, Christ's time is permanent!  Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (Jn 16:33). 

All time is ultimately God's time.  It fits together as part of God's plan.  I need to keep this in mind when facing hardships.  I may not be able to see what is beyond the seasonal horizon, so I remember that God uses his time to bring about his plan from beginning to end.  Inserted into the middle of his timeline is myself, who works within the times and seasons to bring about the goal of God's time.  Thank you Lord for this perspective.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Snow Day Reflection

I was visiting with my youngest son, William, who told me that church had been cancelled up where he lives.  We also had to cancel where we live as well.  I told him that it seemed like some kind of conspiracy.  Several of the winter storms we have had in the last month have come during church times and have at times caused us to have to cancel.

We are going to miss out yet again on seeing our brethren, reading the Bible together, singing together, sharing communion, praying together, encouraging and hugging one another.

As I sit here quietly considering circumstances beyond my control, I am reminded that nothing is out of God’s control.  Even the snow is not beyond God’s control…

Psalm 147:15-19 says,
   He sends forth His command to the earth;
His word runs very swiftly.
   He gives snow like wool;
He scatters the frost like ashes.
   He casts forth His ice as fragments;
Who can stand before His cold?
   He sends forth His word and melts them;
He causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow.
   He declares His words to Jacob,
His statutes and His ordinances to Israel.

Did this just happen randomly, or is this by God’s design?  Is he using this for his purpose in some way, or is everything just happening by blind chance?  Is the snow just a cold nuisance, or is there more to the ice and snow that just this?  The Psalmist also says this...

Ps 148:7-8
   Praise the LORD from the earth,
Sea monsters and all deeps;
   Fire and hail, snow and clouds;
Stormy wind, fulfilling His word;

All creation is praising God without using words.  Concerning all this snow, I hadn’t really given this much thought until now.  Yes, this snow and ice is even praising God.  So, this morning I am meditating on the snow.   Here are something that scripture, along with the snow, reminds me of:

Isaiah 55:10-12
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
 “For you will go out with joy
And be led forth with peace;
The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,
And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

The snow, like so many other things, is doing something on the earth by God’s design.  It may not look like anything good in the moment, but in the larger picture, it is for good.  God’s word is like this snow that has quietly covered the earth.  The snow is here, and it contributes toward the springtime that is coming with the green of springtime.  God is doing something, even on a quiet day such as this where we are not venturing out.  Even though we are not able to come together to worship, sing, and encourage one another in person, God is still doing something.

Take this quiet time of snow to reflect on the ways God is helping you to bear fruit not only now, but potentially in the future as well.  What seeds are being planted and covered by snow right now?   Take this time while you are apart from your brethren to consider the blessing of fellowship and church family.  Meditate on God’s word, bury it in your heart so that it will bear fruit, even on days like today.  Praise God with the fruit of your lips. 

Yes, it is a snow day and we are not together this morning as Christ’s body.  But I am thinking of all of you this morning.  My heart is with you.  Perhaps as we all think about these things, God can still hear the music of our hearts blending together as we meditate, reflect, and offer thanks to God.  As the steam rises from the vents and chimneys on our houses, so our praises and thanksgivings rise to God.  Physically we are apart, but our hearts are together.

Thank you Lord, even for the snow.  Thank you Lord, for your redemption and reformation of our lives and hearts.  You make us whiter than the snow through Christ.  May we continue to be faithful and joyful so that you can bear fruit after the snow. 

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Can Anything Good Come From There?

"Can anything good come from Nazareth?"  That is what popped into my head when I saw this picture of my brother and sister in Christ, Larry and Peggy at Nazareth.  What a wonderful opportunity to be in Jesus' hometown!  This is where Jesus grew up!  This was Jesus' home town.  

Evidently, it was an insignificant city according to Nathaniel in John 1:46.  I wonder if people at the time did not think of Nazareth the way people around here think of some of the small, out-of-the-way towns in my area.  If it hadn't been for Jesus, Nazareth would have remained an obscure place.  Who would stop to see Nazareth in their travels if it had not been for Jesus of Nazareth?  Jesus put the Nazareth on the map for thousands of years!  The answer to Nathaniel's question is, "YES!  Something good did come out of Nazareth! - -  Jesus of Nazareth!"

I suppose you could have asked the same questions of many other places.  There are place names that we remember, or at least have heard of simply because of what Christ did through his people in those places.

Can anything good come out of Nicaea?  Can anything good come out of Wittenburg? Northampton? Cane Ridge? Bethany? Searcy? Can anything good come out of ___________?  Many places would be lost to obscurity were it not for what Christ did through people struggling to be faithful to his calling in those places. 

If Jesus is there, then yes, something good can come from there.  The significance is not in the place, but in the person.  The significance ultimately is Jesus of Nazareth.

In Christ, no one is obscure.  In Matthew 10:29-30, Jesus said that the God who sees each sparrow fall to the grown knows the number of hairs on my head.  In Matthew 18:1-4, Jesus said that the greatest in the kingdom are the least.  In 1 Corinthians 12:23, Paul wrote that in the church, the least are the ones with the greatest honor.

Something good always comes from wherever Jesus is raised up and people follow him.  Thank you Lord for coming to our humble world to save us and lift us up to the Father.