FOLLOWING THE STAR

Matt.2:1,2 – Jesus was born in Bethlehem near Jerusalem during the reign of King Herod. After Jesus’ birth a group of spiritual priests from the East came to Jerusalem and inquired of the people, “Where is the child who is born king of the Jewish people? We observed his star rising in the sky and we’ve come to bow before him in worship.

What would cause these powerful men to leave their families, home, and responsibilities to venture hundreds of miles at great expense to bring a quite expensive gift to a child in another country they had no way of knowing even existed. The only explanation was faith. They believed the ancient prophecies about a messiah to be born in Israel. These men felt like this trip would result in the defining moment of their lives, they wouldn’t be disappointed. From the day the star first appeared in the sky there was no question what they must do, they had to see the promised one for themselves. The story of these wise men from the east has been repeated countless times over the last 2000 years. Maybe you too have a stirring in your heart this Christmas season. If you do, like the wise men of old, you won’t be able to rest until you meet Him for yourself. Here is some amazing information from the Passion Notes.

“These wealthy priests would have traveled with an entourage for protection as officials from the East. The Greek word magos is taken from the Mede language and means “spiritual advisors” or simply “priests.” They were appointed by Darius over the state religion as priests of Persia, which is modern-day Iran, and served as official advisors to the king. By the time of Jesus’ birth, Persia had been conquered and was being governed by successors to Alexander the Great. It is possible these Magos came from the Mesopotamian region of Seleucia….It is probable that these Magos were descendants of those who had been taught by Daniel, and because of his prophecy of the Messiah being “cut off,” they may have been able to decipher the date of his birth along with the interpretation of his star rising.”

When these priests found themselves looking at the infant Savior of the world they could never be the same. They may have returned to their homeland, but they carried a joy with them the rest of their lives.

SCOUNDRELS, DOGS, AND SWINE

Matt. 2:2-3 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” ¶ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

I recently heard a story about a man who was arrested for disturbing the peace for throwing out money to a crowd of people. You can imagine the chaos that ensues when money is being thrown around. The reason of course is obvious, everyone understands the value of cash. If the general public had any clue about the value of the gospel it would be impossible to house the crowds in all of the churches combined. When Jesus was born, very few people had any idea who He was. The crowds didn’t gather around Him until miracles began to take place. Miracles are valued because they change our circumstances; financial provision, physical or emotional healing, deliverance from substance addictions, these are the things that tend to gather crowds. Just think about it, God Himself became a man, was born in a stable, and the greatest response was turmoil in Jerusalem. Luther recognized how the general public snuffed at the appearance of The Lord. Here is something he had to say.

“But shame on the world because it is filled with scoundrels who simply will not accept this treasure and yet need him so desperately. The whole world should crawl toward him on all fours if it had no other way to go. Our Lord God is still delighted when there are some who desire this treasure. It forever remains an awful shame that we have to cast such preaching before swine and dogs who despise, scorn, and disdain it, not to mention that they ought to hear and accept it. Were one to preach to such people about a rich man who was willing to give a lot of money to everyone who came and brought a pouch with him, the entire world would come running from all directions. But since we preaching about the child Jesus, who offers eternal life and salvation to the whole world, there is hardly anyone who covets this treasure.”

Luther is a funny guy. If you think about it, his ministry and message had a profound effect on the world. Thousands of Europeans found faith in Christ through his ministry, the protestant reformation was born, and to Luther, the response was way too small. How could that be? To Luther, the news of the birth of Christ was the most astonishing news of all time. To him, of course the whole world would respond. Still, amazingly the swine don’t get it.

I think back to the incredible time of visitation the church began to experience in 1994. To me, it was so precious, surely the whole world will respond. To my great surprise, the precious visitation of the Holy Spirit is not that important to everyone. I have to agree with Luther; scoundrels, dogs, and swine will never get it.

THE TERROR OF THE MANGER

Matt.2:1-3 – Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

The weakness of God always defeats the power of the most powerful men and empires. Think about it, Herod and his soldiers fell before the power of the manger. Rome itself, ultimately fell before the manger and the cross. God has hidden His omnipotent power behind the weakness of the cross. His weakness destroys the power of this age. Today’s scripture says that all Jerusalem was troubled at the news of Christ’s birth. For those who have eyes to see, they tremble in godly fear before the manger, the lost lash out in fear trying in vain to stop the kingdom of God. Here is how Bonhoeffer describes the powerful in this world and their response to the cross and the manger.

“For the great and powerful of this world, there are only two places in which their courage fails them, of which they are afraid deep down in their souls, from which they shy away. These are the manger and the cross of Jesus Christ. No powerful person dares to approach the manger, and this even includes King Herod. For this is where thrones shake, the mighty fall, the prominent perish, because God is with the lowly. Here the rich come to nothing, because God is with the poor and hungry, but the rich and satisfied he sends away empty. Before Mary, the maid, before the manger of Christ, before God in lowliness, the powerful come to naught; they have no right, no hope; they are judged…”

In today’s world, not much has changed. The powerful and the self important ignore the cross and the manger as they go about their daily agenda. They may give lip service to some belief In God and may even attend a church but their hearts are far away from the cross. They may have some sort of Christmas celebration but the message of the manger is far away. Only the humble can bow before the manger and only the broken can yield to the cross. This Christmas season let’s take time to humble ourselves before the Lord and His revelation of Himself in the birth of His Son.

ANOTHER WAY

Matt. 2:12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

I often think of my first Christmas as a Christian; first times are often the best or most meaningful. Parris and I were away from home at Christmas for our first time that year, it was December 1973. We were living in Kerman, California, that is a long way from New Orleans. We were in Bible school preparing for whatever it was the Lord had in store for us. We lived in a camper; yep, a 10′ by 17′ travel camper. Our refrigerator was outside, we used the gym for our bath room facilities but still, the camper was our home. We had a Charlie Brown Christmas tree on our little kitchen table, no television or radio but we were living a new life. Unbeknown to me, God had a plan for that first Christmas. It happened as I was reading Christmas cards. The cards each had a verse and they were all speaking to me. There was Isa. 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”, and Is. 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. Of course there were many more but you get the drift, the Lord was revealing to me the incredible mystery of the incarnation. I was beginning to get it, God had become a man. This truth was changing my life, I could never be the same. Now when I would go back home, I would return another way. I read a poem that touched my heart about this change several Christmases ago, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

JOHN WRIGHT FOLLETTE

” —they(the Wise Men) departed into their own country another way.”

Matt.2:12

The Wise Men bowed before His crib

Their gifts in love out poured;

Their doubts and fears were all allayed,

They worshipped and adored.

No longer did they need the star,

For they had found the Way.

Home to their country now they went

In light of blazing day.

There always is another way

To those who seek and find

In Christ the Way, the Life and Light

That satisfy mankind.

Another way from that they came

When in their eager quest

They traveled many weary miles

Before their hearts found rest.

Our quest for truth has ended now,

For we have reached the source

Of all our hearts could ever need

In all their fretful course.

The old paths are forever past,

Another way we know.

Who find the Christ will find in Him

Another way to go.

Merry Christmas Y’all !!!!

SCOUNDRELS, DOGS, AND SWINE

SCOUNDRELS, DOGS, AND SWINE

Matt. 2:2-3 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” ¶ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

I recently heard a story about a man who was arrested for disturbing the peace for throwing out money to a crowd of people. You can imagine the chaos that ensues when money is being thrown around. The reason of course is obvious, everyone understands the value of cash. If the general public had any clue about the value of the gospel it would be impossible to house the crowds in all of the churches combined. When Jesus was born, very few people had any idea who He was. The crowds didn’t gather around Him until miracles began to take place. Miracles are valued because they change our circumstances; financial provision, physical or emotional healing, deliverance from substance addictions, these are the things that tend to gather crowds. Just think about it, God Himself became a man, was born in a stable, and the greatest response was turmoil in Jerusalem. Luther recognized how the general public snuffed at the appearance of The Lord. Hear is something he had to say.

“But shame on the world because it is filled with scoundrels who simply will not accept this treasure and yet need him so desperately. The whole world should crawl toward him on all fours if it had no other way to go. Our Lord God is still delighted when there are some who desire this treasure. It forever remains an awful shame that we have to cast such preaching before swine and dogs who despise, scorn, and disdain it, not to mention that they ought to hear and accept it. Were one to preach to such people about a rich man who was willing to give a lot of money to everyone who came and brought a pouch with him, the entire world would come running from all directions. But since we preaching about the child Jesus, who offers eternal life and salvation to the whole world, there is hardly anyone who covets this treasure.”

Luther is a funny guy. If you think about it, his ministry and message had a profound effect on the world. Thousands of Europeans found faith in Christ through his ministry, the protestant reformation was born, and to Luther, the response was way too small. How could that be? To Luther, the news of the birth of Christ was the most astonishing news of all time. To him, of course the whole world would respond. Still, amazingly the swine don’t get it.
I think back to the incredible time of visitation the church began to experience in 1994. To me, it was so precious, surely the whole world will respond. To my great surprise, the precious visitation of the Holy Spirit is not that important to everyone. I have to agree with Luther; scoundrels, dogs, and swine will never get it.

SANDY HOOK RAMPAGE

SANDY HOOK RAMPAGE

Matt. 2:16-18 ¶ Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: “A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more.”

I can’t believe I am even writing this but…. Here we go again. Three times in little over a week we have been shocked into reality with senseless killings. First, it was the NL football player in a domestic incident that turned into a homicide suicide. Next, we have the mall shooting in Portland, Oregon. Before the mall was even back open the shots rang out in the Connecticut elementary school. This time it was the unthinkable. What kind of person would gun down a class full of kindergarten students? No one would ever dream of a scenario like this. This reeks of the demonic, it drags our thoughts back to the Merry Christmas Herod gave to his subjects in Israel. Something like this is birthed in the regions of hell. The governor of Connecticut made the somber announcement that had us all glued to our televisions again.
“Earlier today, a tragedy of unspeakable terms played itself out in this community. You can never be prepared for this kind of incident. What has happened will leave a mark on this community. The perpetrator is dead, as is the person the perpetrator lived with.”
He went on to say that none of these students thought their day would end like this (no one ever does). He also said that their sleepy town of Newtown had been visited by evil.
The first statement smells like Beyond the Grave all over again. Who ever thinks their day will end like that. Every day is just like all of the rest until the unthinkable happens. Suddenly we are faced with the real reality, where will you spend eternity?
That brings us to the governor’s next statement. “Today, Newtown has been visited by evil”. This kind of evil is always just below the surface of our comfortable lives. Suddenly, without warning, it shows its ugly face. This time it was uglier than we have ever seen.
How do we deal with this kind of tragedy? First, as Christians, we do our best to stay in the real war. This life is not about flesh and blood. This life is a war for human souls. Secondly, we keep our own hearts in tune with heaven. Like young Jonathan Edwards said, he makes it his business to think about heaven every day. Heaven is real, so is hell. Maybe we can start living like we believe it. What kind of tragedy will it take to wake us from our sleep?

ANOTHER WAY

ANOTHER WAY

Matt. 2:12 ¶ Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

A number of years ago I came across a book of Christmas poems written by John Wright Follette. These poems have been a great blessing to me over the years. Not only have I enjoyed (and drunk deeply from) these poems, they inspired me to express myself in a Christmas poem each year to our church congregation. One of my favorite of Pastor Follette’s poems is about the wise men from today’s verse. It is called ‘Another Way’ and speaks about the life change that comes from an encounter with Christ. Hope you enjoy this poem.

The wise Men bowed before His crib
Their gifts in love outpoured:
Their doubts and fears were all allayed,
They worshipped and adored.
No longer did they need the star,
For they had found the Way,
Home to their country now they went
In light of blazing day.

There always is another way
To those who seek and find
In Christ the Way, the Life, And Light
They satisfy mankind.
Another way from which they came
When in their eager quest
They traveled many weary miles
Before their hearts found rest.

Our quest for truth has ended now,
For we have reached the source
Of all our hearts could ever need
In all their fretful course
The old paths are forever past,
Another way we know.
Who find the Christ will find in Him
Another way to go.

These wise men, like all of us, traveled for miles and miles before they reached their destination. They left their homes looking for a king, they found more than they bargained for. First, they found an earthly king called Herod, he was just like all the rest. Herod was about power, influence, and control. He would do whatever necessary to keep his position, even if it included the unthinkable. The sooner they got away from him the better. Finally they found the other King, this king was quite different from Herod. He wasn’t in a palace, He was in a stable, He wasn’t about riches or control, He was about humility and condescension. What kind of King could this be? The heavens announced His birth to the wise men through a star and they found Him in the strangest of all places, lying in an animal’s feeding trough. Actually, He was different from anyone or everyone else. There had never been a king like Jesus. When these men saw Christ, they saw what others cannot see. Behind the humble surroundings; the poor parents, the animal stable for a home, and the normal simplicity of this jewish babe, they saw the Glory of The Lord. Their travels had been rewarded, their eyes had been opened, their hearts were filled full. They had found the King. It wasn’t just any king, He was a different kind of King who came to win man’s hearts. He had won theirs. It was now time to go home but they couldn’t return the way they came. Like everyone whose eyes are opened to the beauty of The Lord they go back home ANOTHER WAY.

RIVER KING PROPHETS

RIVER KING PROPHETS

And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matt. 2:11)

These men had come prepared to worship, and they had brought gifts worthy of a king. But these gifts, these prophetic gifts, spoke about the days to come in this special infant king’s life. The first gift was gold, the royal gift that spoke of the kingdom of this unusual king. “Are you a king?”  The words were strangely familiar…the words of Pilate 33 years later. Yes, He was a king but His kingdom was not of this world. Kings are not born in mangers. They are born in palaces, unless their kingdom is not of this world. This special gift spoke of the coming eternal kingdom of this infant king. He has made us kings and priests, but our kingdom, like His, is not of this world.
The second gift was opened—frankincense. This was another gift of prophecy speaking about the heavenly ministry of this precious Savior. Incense speaks of the work of priests—it speaks of prayer and worship. Of course, this is the heavenly priesthood of Jesus. Today Jesus is our heavenly priest and He represents the human race before the Father in His priestly ministry of intercession.
Finally, the last gift was opened. Joseph looked at Mary as she hugged her child closer to her breast…in her heart she knew the secret meaning of this gift of myrrh. This was a gift of spices to anoint this child for His burial. From the day He was born, He was not far from the cross. As the wise men slipped away to head for home, mixed feelings filled their hearts. They returned home another way to avoid Herod, but everyone there that day knew what the future held. The Word had been given, the prophets had spoken. “God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but shall have eternal life.”
Today, these gifts from the wise men are still speaking to us. Have you received Jesus and His heavenly kingdom or are you still stuck in the kingdom of this world? Have you tasted the fellowship that comes to you from the Father as you enjoy the intimacy this heavenly priest has made available to all of us? Finally, have you stood with these wise men, gazing at the child in Mary’s arms knowing He came to die—He came to die for you? Embrace His love today…after all, He has loved you from eternity!

GOD SEEKER

BECOMING A GOD SEEKER
Merry Monday by Parris Bailey

During the month of December we all should reflect on the group of people that in a moment became “God Seekers”.

1. We will start with the Wise men- Seeking God with all of your might no matter the cost-
“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw they young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped.” Matt. 2:10
True Worship demands more than a prostrate body, it involves the costly treasures of one’s heartfelt sacrifice. We must have depth to our seeking. The wise men went home another way, knowing that they had disobeyed the King’s orders.
2. Zacharias- Seeking God no matter how painful the circumstances become- When being told from the angel Gabriel that he and his barren wife would conceive said, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” Luke 1:18. The hopeless barrenness of his natural condition spoke out in unbelief. Heaven silenced Zacharias voice until John the Baptist was born. Even when we are brought low when the Christ child comes to us, we will be brought into a broader place like Zacharias.
3. Joseph- Seeking not his presence only but walking in obedience-“Then Joseph being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.” Matt.1:19 Joseph stepped into a whole new world upon being aroused from sleep that night. Immanuel himself had come into Joseph’s heart and it required absolute obedience.
4. The Shepherds- A God Seeker is willing to maintain an open heart, a broken heart and a humble heart. “So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, Let us now go to Bethlehem, and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” Luke 2:15 The shepherds that night went from talking about idle speculation and chit chat to seeing angels singing. At that moment eternity broke threw and their lives were changed. They took a different course than what they had been taking. They responded to the visitation. Have you become a God seeker and continued along the way? He will come to you and speak your language. To the shepherds he came to them by night while they were with the sheep, to the wise man he showed up as a star. He comes to us everyday in our own language. Robert McCheyne said, ” A calm hour with God is worth a whole lifetime with man.” The chit chat is over when God shows up.
5. Mary- Seeking God despite the cost it requires- “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Being a God seeker puts us on a journey with Christ that this world will never understand. Mary began to take it all in all the way to the cross. She too, needed a Pentecost. I pray during this season that you practice the presence of Jesus even more than ever before. Seeking Him above all other things, and that’s how you become a God Seeker!

RIVER KING JOY

RIVER KING JOY

Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him. “After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”

Matt.2:7-10

One of the most beloved Christmas stories of all is the one about the wise men who came from the east. They came in search of the promised messiah who would come from the house of David to become the king of the jews. These men, who were probably some sort of astrologers, observed something in the heavens that caused them to leave everything in search of the greatest of all treasures. Have you ever had an interruption in your life that caused you to drop everything! These men did. They traveled hundreds of miles on foot (or on camels) in search of this promised king. When they found Him they were not disappointed. They rejoiced with exceeding great joy at the treasure they had found.
All of us know about joy, after all its what we are all looking for. When you find it, you discover your purpose in life. What kind of joy are you looking for this Christmas. Some are looking for joy found in winning the lottery (good luck with that), others are counting on a bonus at work to boost their Christmas cheer, or maybe you are looking for mistletoe joy, or just the pleasure in some time off from work or school. But that joy is not the same as the joy experienced by the wise men. They tasted the spiritual joy found only in the Presence of the King of Kings. Others may be satisfied with parties or momentary sensual diversions, but not you. You know there is more! When was the last time your joy overflowed. This joy is not determined by your financial state, our political status, or by that special Christmas gift. This is spiritual joy and it always seems to catch us by surprise. These wise men would have been satisfied with the birth of a great king or emperor, or so they thought, but when they found Jesus they knew they had found more than they expected. They were surprised by joy in the presence of the Lord. Most people sell themselves short in life, as C.S. Lewis says, “we are far too easily pleased”. Don’t be satisfied with just another holiday this year, like wise men of old, only settle for the real thing. Only settle for RIVER KING JOY.