Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Wise Seek Faith in Jesus Christ – Part Two

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. [Matthew 2:12-16, NIV]

Scripture simply tells us that an unnumbered group of wise men came to see and worship Jesus in the house Mary and Joseph obtained in area of Bethlehem. No distinct timeline is given, but we can be certain the visit took place in the first two years of the life of Jesus, for Herod commanded all male children under the age of two be massacred. The wise men received guidance from God. He gave them a star to guide them.

No one knows exactly what these wise men saw, but there are at least two natural possibilities, not to mention the supernatural possibilities. We know Jesus was born between 8 and 4 B.C., for Herod died in 4 B.C. Therefore, we are looking for extraordinary or supernatural astronomical phenomenon that occurred during this short period of history, and there were two such events. In 7 B.C., there was a brilliant conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, and while some scholars believe this is a possibility, I consider it doubtful. In each of the years, 5, 4, 3, and 2 B.C. there is recorded an unusual astronomical phenomenon. In each of those years, on the first day of the Egyptian month, Mesori, Sirius, the Dog Star, rose at sunrise, and shone with extraordinary brilliance. The name “Mesori” means “birth of a prince,” and to the ancient astrologer, such a star would undoubtedly mean the birth of some great king. Whatever the star they saw, we can be sure that some heavenly brilliance spoke to them of the entrance of a king into the world.

This guidance that spoke to them must be considered. God will not withhold guidance from any who sincerely seek Christ. If a person wants to find Christ and sincerely seeks Christ, God will guide that person to him. Likewise, if you truly seek the will of Christ for your life, God will guide you. God wants every person to find Jesus and to know, that is to have an intimate relationship with, Jesus; God does everything he can to help all who seek Jesus to find Jesus, for without Jesus we would remain eternally lost.

If ordinary means are not sufficient, extraordinary means will be used to provide guidance. In the Scripture, we find a combination of the ordinary and the extraordinary. We have the extraordinary astronomical phenomenon, and we have the ordinary priest and scribes interpreting the extraordinary writings of the prophets. If you are seeking Jesus and his will for your life, and if God is unable to communicate effectively with you through ordinary means due to your blindness, he will use the extraordinary and miraculous in order that you receive the guidance you need. The powerful political leaders and religious leaders were not seeking Jesus. Even when they heard of him, they rejected him and wanted nothing to do with him. They did not want to give up their comfort and their power to seek the true Messiah. They knew what we sometimes forget. Two bodies cannot occupy the same place, if one comes in the other goes out. People know that if they seek Jesus and accept him, self and Satan can no longer occupy their life.

If we do not find Jesus and his will for our lives, it is certainly not for the like of the star. The star was available for all to see, but only a small handful of people saw and followed the star. God wants very much for us to find Jesus and Jesus sincerely wants to make his will known to us. If we seek the will of God, he will provide the guidance for his revelation.

Prayer: God, help me to recognize that you have the right to break into my life turning my plans and my dreams upside down, putting me on a course of your own choosing. Lord, you know my heart and my innermost thoughts. You know my fear of taking risks, I ask for faith to allow you to include my life in your larger plan. I ask for courage to walk in the way you designed for me. I ask for assurance that your will is my best choice and my greatest fulfillment. Amen.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Wise Seek Faith in Jesus Christ

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him….” Then Herod … sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. [Matthew 2:1-11, NIV]

In these verses, we find men with inquiring minds reaching out in search of the One who could bring peace and happiness to their lives. You might say these were early Gentile seminary students. These men started out on a long journey to find answers to the greatest subject in world history. This subject is just as great today, and those who seek the answer just as wise as these weary travelers from the east. Their wisdom was not in what they knew. The wisdom came through the search for this new King and the relationship they sought with him. Their search was for God Incarnate who came to earth to reveal to us how to relate to Jesus as God. These wise men asked the essential questions. Where is Christ? Who is Christ? How can I find Christ and have a relationship with him? Those who ask these questions and seek answers to these questions are wise, but true wisdom comes in the intimate relationship with Christ, placing no other before him.

While we find many truths in this passage, one truth worth noting is that these men were not Jews. They were not of God’s chosen race. They were gentiles, heathens from another land. Yet, they realized a great event had taken place. Prophecy was once again being fulfilled; for you see, from his birth, Jesus was rejected by his own culture. Scripture teaches us that Jesus came unto his own, but his own did not accept him. They did not receive him as their Savior and Lord.

These strangers recognized Jesus and desired to worship him. They traveled many long and difficult miles to bow down their weary bodies before this young toddler and humbly worship him. Great men of worldly wealth and knowledge, bowing before a toddler, what humility these men showed. They truly came to Jesus with childlike faith and worshiped him and the humblest of places.

Their faith reminds us of the faith the prophets of old had that one day God would send a Savior. It reminds us of the faith we must have in Jesus Christ as our own personal Savior if we are to have everlasting life. Without faith, we cannot please God. These wise men placed their faith in Jesus Christ, for a changed life and a new future. The Jewish scribes’ exampled apathy and they did not experience faith in Jesus, for they were too consumed in their own lives. Herod exampled self-centeredness and became obsessed with eradicating the world of Jesus, so that he would be remembered and worshiped. What does your life example?

Prayer: God, we recognize that you have the right to break into our lives, our plans and our dreams, and put us on a course of your own choosing. Lord, you know our hearts and our innermost thoughts. You know our fear of taking great risks with the only life you have given us. So, we ask for faith to allow you to include our lives in your larger plan. We ask for courage to walk in the way you design. We ask for assurance that your will is our best choice and our greatest fulfillment. In the name of our Savior, who gave his all on our behalf. Amen.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Should a Christian Pray for his Success?

Please, Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and to that of Your servants who delight to revere Your name. Give Your servant success today, and have compassion on him in the presence of this man[Nehemiah 1:11, HCSB].

I recently heard someone ask a provoking question, “Should a Christian pray for his success?” Perhaps the better question is this, when is it appropriate to pray for our success. Nehemiah’s humility is obvious. He respected and revered the very name of God. Notice in the verse above that Nehemiah boldly prayed for his success, but readily acknowledged that he was a servant of God. He knew his place in the place of kingdom work and he did not place too high a value on what he could do on his own. Moreover, Nehemiah was very specific in what he was asking God to do and even the timing of his request. He was asking God for success “today.” It is clear that Nehemiah believed it was acceptable and even prudent to ask God for his success.

First, I believe Scripture teaches that a Christian is permitted and even obligated to pray for his success, but it is crucial that the person asking God is humble in his request. Clearly, Nehemiah was humble; and his request was not self-centered. Success of God’s servants shows that God is working through His servant. In First Samuel 18:14 we find that David “continued to be successful in all his activities because the Lord was with Him” [HCSB]. Psalm 127:1 teaches us that “unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain; unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchman stays alert in vain” [HCSB]. You must understanding that the Triune God is your Master and we are the servant. We must keep the relationship in God’s correct order. When we think too much of ourselves and too little of God, we attempt to help God and do the work ourselves, or even worse, we steal God’s glory. We will ultimately fail when we work against the desire of the Master. We must keep the relationship between God and ourselves in the correct order

Second, I believe Scripture teaches that a Christian is permitted and even obligated to pray for his success when his success is for the betterment of others and not self-serving. When Nehemiah heard the report of his beloved Jerusalem, Scripture tells us that he wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed [Nehemiah 1:1-5]. As Nehemiah fasted and prayed, God told Nehemiah that he would rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and that He would use him, Nehemiah, to accomplish this task. For those of you who have ever been in this situation, you understand how scary this can be. However, herein is the essential element of this story, Nehemiah was not doing this for himself. His heart was burdened for a people, a cause, a purpose, and his cause aligned properly with God’s will.

In chapter two, we find that God prepared the way with the king to release Nehemiah for a time to go to survey the situation and to rebuild the walls. Nehemiah faced people who were positive and those who were negative critics of the plan to rebuild the wall. Nehemiah 2:20 records the words of this prophet, “The God of heaven is the One who will grant us success. We, His servants, will start building, but you have no share, right, or historic claim in Jerusalem” [HCSB]. The naysayers did not dissuade Nehemiah, but even more, he was determined to work for the betterment of the nation of Israel. Nehemiah was certain that God would give him success and God was to receive the praise and glory for the success. Nehemiah was doing this for the betterment of others and not for himself.

Third, I believe Scripture teaches that a Christian is permitted and even obligated to pray for his success when his success would advance the cause of Christ. It is the realization of the brevity of life and the grand scheme of God’s plan that causes one to spend their life working to advance the cause of Christ that “a later generation, and a newly created people will praise the LORD” [Psalm 102:18], or as another translation puts it, that “a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD” [NIV]. Most of the fruit from our labor will not be realized in this life. We will not fully understand the full picture of what God is doing until eternity, but God offers us a part and He grants our success when we are working to advance His kingdom. 

What is it that you need to ask God to grant success for today? Be bold and ask Him. Pour your heart out for your success, just make sure you are humble and your focus and motives are right.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Let’s Use What We Have

And no one having lighted a lamp covers it with a vessel or puts it under a couch, but sets it on a lamp-stand, that they who enter in may see the light. For there is nothing hid which shall not become manifest, nor secret which shall not be known and come to light. Take heed therefore how ye hear; for whosoever has, to him shall be given, and whosoever has not, even what he seems to have shall be taken from him. [Luke 8:16-18, Darby Translation]

One of my responsibilities as President of Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary is to lead the annual Graduation Exercise. This year Tiffany McBee, one of our honor graduates, had been selected to speak briefly. She stood before the esteemed assembly and led everyone in the preschool chorus “This Little Light of Mine.” During her seminary training, she had grasped the truth of Luke 8:16-18. She understood that ministers of the Gospel and parishioners who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, are each committed to letting their light shine for Jesus.

Every Christian is blessed with talents, time, and resources, and one or more spiritual gifts to help advance the Kingdom. Jesus does not intend that we hide our talents, time, and resources, nor our spiritual gifts. We are to use them to affect the Lord’s kingdom. The only Christians without spiritual gifts are those who have refused to use their gifts for the kingdom for so long that the Lord has taken them away. This is what we are being taught in this passage. If we do not use our spiritual gifts, the Lord will take them from us and give them to another person who will use them. How sad to know that the Lord gave you access to a precious gift and you did not use it to influence the Kingdom of God in a constructive manner!

I sat in the home of an elderly man making a pastoral visit. He looked at me and asked, “Pastor, do you know my biggest regret?” He went on to explain that God had called and gifted him as a teenager to preach the Gospel, but he had other plans. After a stroke in his mid-sixties, he tried to follow that long lost calling, but his body and mind no longer had the strength or ability. He knew that in the judgment, he would be asked to explain why he had not obeyed, why he had not used his spiritual gift, and he knew there was no answer to justify his disobedience. This was his biggest regret. You see, we cannot always put off serving Jesus until a more convenient time, for Jesus may take the gift, talent, and resources and lend it to another.

The spiritual gifts the Lord gives us in secret must be used in public or the Lord will take them away from us. Then one day, we will each stand accountable to our Lord for the gifts we have used and the gifts stripped from us. Such gifts will be manifested against us. As a Christian, we are to be lights in this world, holding forth the word of life to those who are lost. Jesus did not give us life, talents, and spiritual gifts for us to hide them. He gave them to us to use. Our light must shine before others; our light is not only to be good, it is to do good!

Spiritual gifts will either be continued in us or taken from us. The Lord will take said action based on what we do, or do not do, with them. He expects us to make use of them to affect His Kingdom and to edify the family of faith. This includes bringing the lost into the family of faith. When you and I stand before Jesus during the final judgment, we will give an account of how we lived and how we used our time, resources, and spiritual gifts. Will you be able to tell Jesus that you used all of your talents and gifts to advance His Kingdom?

Prayer: Lord, forgive me when I have failed to use the spiritual gifts you have loaned me. Help me have courage to use my spiritual gifts today, as well as my talents, time, and resources to affect your Kingdom today. Amen.