Monthly Archives: December 2018

Taking Inventory

Peninsula Community Church

December 30, 2018

Taking Inventory!

Philippians 3:12-16 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

For eleven years I worked for Grumman Aerospace as a business operations manager. I can remember that at the end of each year we had to produce our goals for the upcoming year. Also, we had to evaluate the previous year’s goals and accomplishments. The goal of this process was to assure that we were accomplishing the goals that we set. It also was a means to assure us that we were taking the necessary steps to accomplish what we had set out to do and to establish a new set of plans for the new year. In essence, this was a means to take an inventory of our department and to establish our plans for the future. The purpose of all of this was to build on our strengths and to strengthen our weaknesses. 

As we come to the end of another year, this is a great time for us to take inventory of our life, our goals, and our accomplishments in the past year. This season affords us the opportunity to look at the blessing of God in our successes and in our failures. It is a great season to look at what God has done in us and through us. It allows us to ponder the difficult times and take inventory of how God has helped us navigate the difficulties. Sometimes, we do not see what God has done until we pause and do an inventory of our personal life. This is critical as sometimes we can miss what God has done because we are too busy doing life. We can be so busy that we fail to realize that we have been blessed abundantly in this life regardless of the circumstances we encounter.  

As we consider this, I would like to take our time to suggest some lessons that encourage us to consider this kind of thinking today. I would suggest that there are at least four areas of inventory we must consider by way of Paul’s words in this passage. We should also note the circumstances that motivated Paul to write these words. As we review the details of this book, we find that Paul was in prison. It was from prison that he penned these words. He was not a free man. He was in chains. But while he had lost his physical freedom, he had not lost his spiritual freedom.

Paul wrote this letter to warn the Church of Philippi about those who would seek to discourage and hamper their growth in Christ. Paul did not want anything to get in the way of them being able to live in total and complete joy. Paul understood this and He knew that no matter the circumstances of one’s life they could live in joy. 

So let me share a couple of thoughts from this passage with you. With each of these I will begin with a statement and then move to how we can use that statement to take inventory of our life. First, we are on a journey to obtain all that Christ has for us. We are on a journey to get to know Christ better. In this passage, Paul made this powerful statement. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. As Paul does so often, he uses an athletic term to express a spiritual truth. Paul is saying here I have not finished the race and I have more to go and I am not giving up. It may be hard at times, but I will never stop running and pressing forward to the goal. 

I love the idea expressed by Paul in that he states that he presses in to make it his own. He does not stop no matter what happens. When running a race the one running a race pushes himself to the finish line. It has been said that the 26 mile marathon is one of the hardest races to finish. At the end of the race, the muscles are aching and the body is tired. But the true racer will push to the end. He will not give up.

The question here is what is it that Paul has not obtained? To find the answer to this question one must go back a few verses to see why he makes this challenging assertion about the goal of his life. Philippians 3:7-11 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Here is the deal. Paul wanted to know Christ not from some intellectual high ground or through his heritage or pedigree. He wanted to know Christ without any of the encumbrances of the world around him or the expectations that unbelievers and religious leaders were trying to press him into. He wanted the purity of a personal relationship that was based in a knowledge of who Christ was and not by any other means. 

So here is the inventory question for us. Are we continuing to obtain all that God has to offer or are we settling for less than God’s best? 

Second, we must be moving forward and not getting bogged down in past failures and mistakes. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead… Paul did not allow his past failures and mistakes to delay or hinder his growth in Christ. Paul realized something that we must realize as well. The enemy of our soul is good at getting us to look at the past and not to the future. There are three ideas to consider here. We cannot change the past. We cannot do much about the future because it is ahead of us, but we can affect the present and make decisions today that will positively impact the future.

Someone has said that we learn more from our failures than our successes. That may be true but we must be careful and not live in those past failures. The problem with constantly looking back and living in the past is that we will not move forward. If we are not careful, we will begin to be defined by our past rather than the potential of our future. When we live in the past we live by what I call the should have’s and could have’s. We begin to live by the “what ifs” and the difficulties more than the promises of a better day to come. 

So the second inventory question for us today is where have you gotten bogged down with past failures, issues, and problems? Perhaps it is an issue of not forgiving someone who has hurt you. So, where are you bogged down? What do you need to do to get unstuck?

Third, we must be aware that God’s character does not change with the problems of life. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. One of the things I love about God is that He does not move the goal post as we get closer to Him. He has a plan and that plan is for us to grow in our knowledge of Him so that we become more like Him. 

I am reminded of the Peanuts comic strip. If you remember the cartoon, Lucy would pull the football away when Charlie Brown would run down the field to kick the football. Sometimes we can feel that way in life. We are pursuing our life goals and we feel the goal is moved. We feel that things are going well when something knocks us off course, but we continue to press toward the goal regardless of what happens in life. 

Our third inventory question is this. Who has been moving the goals on you? Are there broken promises that you have to deal with? What do you need to change?

Fourth, the way we think determines where we go in life. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Rick Warren has stated that the way we think determines how we feel and how we feel determines how we act and react. What Paul is saying is that because we are maturing we do not think like others think. The way we think affects our attitude and our attitude determines where we go in life. 

Now to fully understand this we must know this is not just a matter of positive thinking, it is so much more. It is to have our thinking and attitude firmly secured in what God has revealed to us and what we have already learned and understood about God. 

In Proverbs 23:7 the King James Version tells us that how a man thinks is what he becomes. The promise however in Philippians is that if we are off track in our thinking, God will help us reestablish a new way of thinking. … and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to youI love this fact. Those of us that are mature should think in a way that pushes us and brings us closer to God and His ways. When we get off track God will reveal our inerrant ways and will help us to get on track again. 

So, the fourth inventory question is how is your thinking? Where do you have thinking that is placing you on an alternative course that needs to change? 

So, if you would take an inventory of your life where would you stand? What changes would you make? What would you do differently? I would suggest that you take some time and consider what you would do differently or what would you continue to do to grow in that area of your life. Now is the time! 

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The Person of Christmas

Peninsula Community Church 

What does Christmas Mean? Lessons from the Wise Men.

December 23, 2018

Matthew 2:1-6 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

I am not sure that you have had experienced this but we have on a few occasions. We love to get in the car and drive around to see what is around us. Being a lover of Civil War history we had heard about Harriet Tubman’s birthplace in Maryland and thought it would be fun to visit this site. So off we go. We traveled past Cambridge into the middle of nowhere and into a very desolate area. Upon arrival, we found a placard that stated that they thought this was the location. There was no home and all that was in front of us was an open field. As we were standing there taking in this moment suddenly we began to hear shooting in the field adjacent to us. It was in that moment that we decided it was time for us to leave and leave quickly. How disappointed we were as our journey did not produce the results we had hoped for. While our journey was disappointing, the wisemen’s journey was anything but disappointing. They found the Savior. Your journey does not have to be disappointing either as you will find the Savior if you seek Him. 

Today, we finish our look at the meaning of Christmas through the eyes of the wisemen. Over the last few weeks we have looked at the journey of the wisemen. We have looked at the gifts of the wisemen. We have looked at the worship of the wisemen. Today, we will focus on the One that made this journey possible and is in fact the destination of their journey. You see from the beginning of their journey, the focus of the story has been and continues to be on Jesus. Over the last couple of weeks we have learned much about the Christmas story through the eyes of the wisemen. 

As we read through this passage, we find three illustrative word pictures used to define the work and mission of Christ. First, we find that He is a baby. In this, we see the innocence, purity, and promise of His birth. The Jewish leaders had a different experience. They were looking for a warrior. They were disappointed and disillusioned at the news that the Messiah was born as child in a manger because that is not how a king would come. While they thought that their king should come on a white steed with regalia of a King. What they found was a placard in the middle of an empty field.

I am not sure about you, but I have often wondered if this was one of the reasons God did not call the religious leaders to the manger. If sent, I wonder if they would have missed Christ as they were misguided in their focus and in their purpose. It is amazing to me that instead of the religious leaders, God called, the shepherds, the lowliest of all people in society to find Jesus. He called those who were unbelievers, the wisemen. In the process they all believed and walked away with a new found faith. You see God was not calling the religious but those who needed Christ and were genuinely seeking Him. 

Secondly, there is the picture of Jesus as a shepherd. What a visual picture for those of Jesus’ day. What a statement for Christ’s ministry. For us, we may not see or grasp the value of this designation, but those who witnessed Jesus’ birth and lived in that area knew the incredible value of this designation. It is a powerful illustration of the work of Christ in our life. He is the shepherd. He is our shepherd. As shepherd, Jesus’ birth was a fulfillment of Micah 5:2. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.

David caught a vision of this work of Christ when he penned the words of Psalm 23. After all remember David too was a shepherd who became a king. In this Psalm, the work of the Lord, as the Shepherd, is defined. It is in this Psalm that we find His mission. Listen to David’s words. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

How amazing is the ministry of Jesus as the shepherd? He was and continues to be our shepherd. He is our provider so that we do not lack what we need. He leads us to a place of rest and peace as pictured in the green pastures and the still waters. He is a restorer of the soul. When we are distraught and feel we are losing it, He comes and restores us. Notice, that He restores the soul which is that inner part of our being that only God can touch and revive.

As the Shepherd, He leads us down the path of righteousness. This righteousness is worked out in our thinking, our actions, and our feelings so that His name is glorified. Because He is the shepherd, even when we confront the worst of all circumstances, He is there. He is walking with us through death and the greatest fears of our life. He brings reconciliation even with our enemies. The reconciliation is so great that He invites us to dine with our enemies so we can move forward with our life rather than being stagnated by a lack of forgiveness. He anoints us and leads us into His mission, so we find fulfillment and a fresh perspective.

The third description is that of a king. The wisemen saw Jesus for who He was. They saw Him as the King of the Jews. They traveled the distance they did to find the King. What they did not see in Herod, they saw in Jesus. What they did not see in themselves, they saw in Christ. Because of their experience, they knew He was more than just the King of the Jews, He was and still is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Jews missed the opportunity to find Jesus. This was in part because they had a misunderstanding of God’s intent and purpose in establishing His kingdom. Most Jewish leaders had political aspirations. They wanted political power and position. Jesus on the other hand wanted their heart.

From the beginning, the political and ecclesiastical leaders did not trust Him. His ethical teachings, His irreproachable moral character, and His undeniable lineage constantly jeopardized the security and aspirations of the Jewish leadership of that day. Herod needlessly feared Jesus. Pilate was unnecessarily suspicious of Him. They lost sight of the fact that Christ had not come to set up an earthly kingdom. He had come to be the King of redemption. His Kingdom was to be a spiritual kingdom. He was to reign in the hearts of men and women. You see they had never bargained on a spiritual kingdom. They missed the fact this was a heart issue and not a political or religious issue.

As we think about His kingdom, we are aware that His kingdom is present now but there is also a kingdom that is to come. In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray your kingdom come; your will be done. As such, we invite His kingdom into every situation we encounter. The truth is nothing matters apart from His kingdom. Just as Christ penetrated the hustle and bustle of His day, so today Christ can and will invade any and every situation we have to make a difference.

The wise men of old inquired, “Where is He who has been born King?” Today, many are asking the same question. “Where is He?” For some, they are on a path to find Him and others are just like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They are ignorant of His purposes and His calling. They for searching for a Jesus that does not exist. They want power and position  but that is not the intent of God’s heart. But we will find Him when we seek Him. And seek Him we must.

The Bible says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He was King yesterday, He is King today, He will be King tomorrow. By virtue of His kingly office, He was the only One in Heaven qualified to redeem a lost world. Had Jesus Christ been less than He was, He could not have made atonement for our sins. Fully aware of our inability to pay the price of redemption, Jesus Christ gave Himself as a ransom for us. At the end of every presidency one of the last things they enact is clemency and a pardon of crimes committed by certain people. One greater than any president or ruler did that for us upon the cross. 

But that was yesterday. What about today? Many people are asking, “Where is the Kingdom of God today? If He is a king? If so, where is His kingdom?” His kingdom as then now reigns in the heart of man. So the question for us is “Does Christ reign in your heart?” Is He Lord and King of your life? The Bible says, “If we confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus as Christ, and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead, we will be saved” Romans 10:9. You may say, “I believe in Christ.” But have you made Him King of your heart. The reason for this is that if He is not Lord of your heart then, He does not have complete control of your life.

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The Worship of Christmas

Peninsula Community Church 

What does Christmas Mean? Lessons from the Wise Men.

December 16, 2018

Matthew 2:1-2, 11 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Today, we will continue our Christmas series “What does Christmas mean? Lessons from the Wise Men.” Today, our focus will be on how the wise men worshipped the Savior. In our passage we find they fell down and worshipped Him. They bowed low as an attitude of the heart and they worshipped as a gift given from the heart.

As I was preparing this week, I came across an interesting piece of information. Today, there are 3 or 4 people who are currently alive under the age of 18 that will be the President of the United States one day. While this is true, we do not find anyone looking for them, and certainly no one is bowing at their feet and honoring them as the president now. And yet, that is exactly what the wise men did. They knew this baby was different. This child was more than a baby lying in a manger. He was a king. Even though He was a child, they came to worship Him and give Him the honor that was due His name. He was not to become the King. He was not in training for Lord. He was already the King and He was already the Lord. He was born King. He was born Lord of all.

As we read this story, we find a significant contrast between two of the key players. Herod was the king of his day. He was the head honcho. He was the main man. He wanted worship and he demanded worship from those around him. It is noteworthy, however, that we do not find any record of the wise men giving worship to Herod. They did not pay homage to him. In comparison, they offered sincere, heart felt worship to Jesus. Yes they offered gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but they also offered themselves in worship. It is to be noted that the Christ child did not demand any action. He did not demand their worship. Their worship was given freely. In fact, I would suggest that anyone who demands worship, who demands respect, or demands honor may have an attitude problem and may be missing the mark of what true worship is all about. 

In looking at the word for “worship” in this passage, we find it is the Greek work PROSKUNEO which is made up of two words which mean “to kiss.” The idea of this word comes from the ancient custom of putting one’s hand to their mouth in a kissing gesture and then extending the hand toward a person of higher status, especially a deity. It is like blowing a kiss. Secondly, some have suggested this word came from the idea of bowing and falling to the ground to kiss the earth in reverence to the one being honored.

In the New Testament, the word morphed to represent more of the inner attitude of worship which is characterized by humbleness and reverence. So it is the heart, the inner  man, bowing low to worship the king who is absolutely worthy. The idea proposed here is that this is not some involuntary unconscious act of the will, it is a choice of the heart. They were not forced to worship, but they chose to worship Christ without pressure or undue influence. They bowed low to worship the King and lift Him high. This is a reminder of John the Baptist’s words when he said that “I must decrease, He must increase.” In other words, I get low, so He is exalted. I must move out of the way, so that He gets the glory and the praise.

As we continue to look at this passage, we find that on the journey to find Christ that they rejoiced with “exceeding great joy.” The idea presented here is that they were completely overwhelmed with joy in regard to the expectations of meeting and giving worship to Christ. They were consumed by joy. That is why when they arrived they did not hesitate to bow themselves in worship. This begs the question for us. How exuberant is your joy in worshipping Jesus? Has your worship of Jesus grown stagnate and cold? Have you lost your joy for worship? Have you lost your love for Christ?

The Wise Men were filled with “exceeding great joy” and they were not going to let anything get in the way of that. They would not be distracted. It is really so easy to get distracted and have our focus negatively impacted. The fact is we all worship something or someone. We tend to worship what we value, and we follow what we worship. You have heard me say this before “to worship means to place value on something.” Once we have placed value on something or someone, we begin to worship what we value and we will follow what we worship. We may overly value money, success, respect, and many other things. While none of these things are bad in themselves, we can begin to have an inordinate desire for these things that can be a distraction. In so doing, we can miss out on the best that God has to offer us. 

You see the distraction away from worship is a major and very real issue. The fact is we can be distracted in our worship and forget that our worship should be for an audience of one. Christ should be the sole focus of our worship, and yet how easily are we distracted from the ways of Christ. The Pharisees remind us that we can worship for all of the wrong reasons. The Pharisees gave their offerings in such a way that everyone knew what they were giving. They prayed in such a way that people around them would praise them for the wordiness and grandeur of their prayers. They would fast in a way that everyone would know how pious they were. It goes on and on but our worship to God must always be focused on the one who is worthy of our worship. As we understand the truth of worship, we realize that Jesus is the only one that is worthy. No one else is nor anything else could ever be worthy of our worship like Jesus. 

As we close, let me give you a couple of lessons learned from this story. First, our worship must be personal. We must bow our knees and our heart to Him ourself. What a powerful lesson in the way these Wise Men came to Jesus. They did not send their gifts by someone else. They came to Him personally. God wants you, in person, to come to Him. Undaunted by the long and difficult and tiring journey, they found the Christ child in a stable. After the magnificence of King Herod’s palace and his overpowering presence, it is amazing that they fell down in worship the way they did.  

We began our series discussing the journey of the wise men. We discussed the fact that we must begin the journey and take the journey to find Christ for ourselves. We cannot depend on anyone else to take the journey for us. We need to come personally to Jesus in prayer, in worship, and in adoration. We need to give ourselves personally to Jesus this Christmas. That is the first and best of all gifts we can give.

Secondly, we must worship Him sacrificially. We must give our time, our freedom, and our comfort for Him. It is believed that it took many months for these wise men to travel to Jerusalem. This was no easy journey. It is estimated that they had to travel 1100 to 1200 miles to get to Jesus. They walked and rode across hot and arid deserts, through rivers, and across cold and dangerous mountain passes to get to Christ’s birthplace. The trip was worth it because they encountered Christ. They made the sacrifice, so they could be near Christ. It takes time to worship Him, but it is worth the time and the effort.

Thirdly, present what you have to Him. The Wise men brought prophetic gifts that pictured what Christ’s earthly work was all about. They brought Him what they had in their lives as wealthy rulers. You may not know where to begin. You may not have all of the answers, but you can give yourself to Him as a means of worship. Think through the people and the gifts God used in Scripture. Remember the little boy’s lunch that fed thousands? How about an anonymous person’s upper room that witnessed the Last Supper, the appearances of the risen Christ, and the prayer meeting of Pentecost? Then there was the borrowing of an unbroken colt, a donkey, to carry the King of Kings as He rode to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. And who can ever forget the expensive bottle of perfume that was broken and poured out just for the love of Jesus.


Present what you have to Him today. Give Him your mind and let Him fill it. Give Him your hands and let Him guide and use them. Give Him your future and let Him plan and direct your life. Give Him your treasures and He can store them and invest them in safe places that bring everlasting rewards.

This Christmas would you consider William Temple’s definition of worship. Here is what he said. “[Worship is] to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open up the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”  As the Christmas carol tells us to do. Oh Come Let Us Adore Him. Oh Come Let Us Adore Him. Let us worship Him and Him alone.

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The Wise Men’s Gifts

Peninsula Community Church

What is the Meaning of Christmas? Lessons from the Magi!

December 9, 2018

Matthew 2:11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

It is hard to believe that a year has passed and that we are celebrating Christmas and are looking at the gifts we will give and what gifts we will receive. For me personally, I love the Christmas season. In particular, I love the wide eyed giddy response of our grandchildren as they open their gifts on Christmas morning. I am also amazed at which gifts become their favorites so quickly. Sometimes the one we think will be their favorite is often discarded for the more simple ones. At times, I have even witnessed our kids and grandkids playing with the boxes more than the gifts purchased. 

As you consider the gift giving process, how many have ever received that gift that you have to stare at it in order to understand its value or even what it is. At one of our churches, we would have a Christmas party for our adults and one of the gifts that was sure to show up was a silver pine cone. You see, one of the families in the church during their family gift exchange had receive this as a gift. When they opened it they could not understand the gift and always joked about it as it was so cheap and looked like something bought in a dollar store. They gave the pine cone to the white elephant exchange and it soon became a cornerstone of the Christmas celebration each year. The question each year would be who would get the silver pine cone? It was the responsibility of the one receiving the pine cone to to keep for a year, and they had to regift it the following year.

In the passage before us, we find the wise men opened their treasures and offered gifts to the Christ child. These gifts were not just random gestures but were specific in nature and carefully selected to honor Jesus. They presented Him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. At first glance these gifts seem interesting for a child. In addition to the honor and status implied by the value of the gifts, scholars believe that these three gifts were chosen for their special spiritual symbolism about Jesus Himself. With that in mind let us consider the meaning of these gifts. Adrian Rogers gives us three ideas about the gifts that are worthy of our attention today. 

First, the gift of gold represents His sovereign dominion. Gold was a present for a king, the most precious metal of that day. Gold was a symbol of royalty. To honor royalty you would present them with gifts of gold. Therefore the gift of gold by the wise men recognized this was no ordinary child. This child was a King. He was King Jesus. He was King of kings and Lord of lords! They didn’t cuddle this child, but they bowed their knee in reverence and in worship.  

Adrian Rogers on a memorable trip to Washington DC, stated that he had an opportunity to speak with the President of the United States. In conversation with the President, Adrian stated that He heard the president was visiting his city the next day. The president offered for Adrian the opportunity to ride back to Memphis with him on Air Force One. Adrian responded, “Why, Mr. President, that would be an honor, but I have a plane going back today.” The President replied, “Well, if you can arrange it, I’d love to have you.”  Adrain did not hesitate but he quickly made a hotel reservation, bought a toothbrush, and cancelled his flight. Why did he do that? It was because you do not get those invitations every day! 

Later Adrian had this thought, “You rearranged your schedule, made a reservation, and spent another night just so you could spend a few moments with that man.” Although he would do it again, he thought, “How much difficulty did you go through? And how would you compare that to what you do for the King of kings?” Adrian stated that his heart had convicted him that sometimes he was more impressed with men than with Heaven’s King. How about you?

Secondly, the gift of frankincense represents His sinless deity. If gold was a gift of wealth for a king, then frankincense was used to worship the King. Frankincense was a form of incense that was burned in worship. It is a reminder of the incense of worship found in the Old Testament structure of worship established in Exodus by God for the Children of Israel. Frankincense had a woodsy and fruity smell to it. It was a beautiful fragrance that ushered in the praise of God. These wise men recognized the sinless deity of Jesus, who was deserving of their worship. Remember Matthew’s words. “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him… (Matthew 2:11). These pagan astrologers were overcome with the power of this tiny child and they worshipped Him.

In Isaiah 9:6 verifies this. 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. Jesus was not only born a king, He was God in human flesh. He came to live a sinless life so that He could take on all of our sin. The three wise men recognized this gift to human kind by offering Him the gift of frankincense as worship. 

Third, the gift of myrrh represents His sacrificial death. Myrrh was a valuable substance used to embalm the dead. Stop and think of the significance of this. They were bringing a child something used to embalm the dead? They recognized that this little one was born to die. Myrrh was also used as a narcotic to dull pain. Upon the cross, they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh, but instead of taking myrrh to numb His pain, Jesus tasted death for every man. Whether or not the wise men fully understood all this, the Holy Spirit impelled them to make these gifts and the Holy Spirit recorded them for our benefit. 

Of all the gifts they might have chosen, they brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, recognizing His sovereign dominion, His sacred deity, and His sacrificial death. So as believers living in this generation, at this time, what is our take away? What do we learn from this story recorded by Matthew more than 2000 years ago. Well! It teaches us so much about how we approach God and what we give to Jesus on a regular basis. 

One of the first lessons we learn is that it is more blessed to give than to receive. There is inherit value in giving to others. And, it is even more of a blessing to give without strings attached or to gain something in return. In Acts 20:35 Paul gives us great insight into the power of giving freely.  In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Notice the Wise men did not come to receive as much as they came to give. And, they gave well, but in the giving they received a greater understanding of the one they worshipped. Too often we are a spoiled people who want to get rather than give. 

We should give our best. The story of Cain and Abel remind us of the need to give that which comes from our best and not just from some of our fruit. We find that Cain gave some and Abel gave his best. Genesis 4:3-5 In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 

Notice the comparison here. Cain gave “an” offering. Abel gave the firstborn and the fattest of his flock. Abel was not haphazard in choosing the gift but he made a specific choice. Cain’s gift was random while Abel chose and gave his best. Cain’s gift of “some” spoke to a deeper issue of the heart that was revealed when God honored Abel’s gift over Cain’s. And we know the rest of the story. Cain killed Abel out of jealousy and rage. 

To give our best we may need a heart adjustment. We give our best to the best. Sometimes we do not give as we should because we are hardened or we want to just get by. This happens often when our giving is just a matter of getting it off of our check list, or to get praise for our gift. 

Sometimes we want others to give what we ourselves are not willing to give. We want forgiveness but we fail to give forgiveness. We want grace but we ourselves fail to give grace. We want people to give us some slack but we do not give others room to fail or mess up. We want others to accept us as we are, but do little to accept others as they are. We want love but do not extend love. We want respect, but fail to respect those around us. We must be willing to go above and beyond in giving gifts not because of what we receive but for the joy of giving. 

Luke knew this and that is why he wrote the following in Luke 6:37-38. “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

What will you give Jesus this Christmas? That is the question for us to consider. For His sovereign dominion, will you give Him your wealth? For His sinless deity, will you give Him your worship? For His sacrificial death, will you give Him your life and your witness? My wealth, my worship, my life, and my witness belong to my Lord. And according to His Word, so does yours. What will you do? What will you give?

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Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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What does Christmas mean? Lessons from the Wise Men.

Peninsula Community Church

What does Christmas mean? Lessons from the Wise Men.

December 2, 2018 

Matthew 2:1-2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Today, we begin a new series for this Christmas season. Over the next four weeks we will focus on the lessons we learn from the Wise Men who visited Jesus after His birth. We will begin this week by looking at the journey of the wise men. As we look at this story, there are a couple of things that stand out. First, they were on a journey to find Jesus. The fact is we all need to be on  a journey to find Christ in our life and bring glory to His name each and every day. The truth is we are all on a journey of some kind. It is our choice to make this journey to find Christ. Secondly, they were on this journey together. The fact is we can do a lot by ourselves but we can do even more when we take this journey together. And finally, while we need each other we need to find the Savior for ourselves. We cannot expect others to do that for us.

As we look at these Magi, wisemen, or kings we find there is not much history given to us to define who they are. In our passage today, we find that they came from the east. That is all that we know. That is all of the history that Matthew chooses to reveal to us. From his short note we know they were magi or wise men who had traveled from the east and they had traveled a great distance. As we study this you might be a bit surprised at who these men were. 

As we study Scripture and we compare the Christmas story with Biblical truth, we find that we have many incorrect ideas about the wise men. First of all, the Scripture never says there are three wise men. The Scripture simply states that wise men came from the east. The number of wise men associated with this story most likely came from the number of gifts that were presented to Jesus. Secondly, by the Biblical account we do not know their names even though they have been given the names of Casper, Balthazar and Melchior. One of the most interesting historical fallacies for me is that Bishop Reinald of Cologne believed he found the skulls of the wise men. His proof was that their eyes were still in their sockets and they were gazing toward Bethlehem. Believe it or not they are on exhibit in a priceless casket in a great cathedral in Europe. It is also noteworthy that around the manger we often find the shepherds and the wise men together but most scholars believe the wise men arrived much later in the story and were most likely not together with the shepherds. 

Now that I have blown your image of the traditional Christmas story let us look at the facts. Here is what we do know for sure. The wise men, the magi came from the east. They saw a star and followed that star to Jesus. Many scholars believe for us to understand who the magi were, we should go back in time to the story of Daniel. The magi were magicians and astrologers. They studied the stars and were well acquainted with astronomy. John MacArthur and others suggest these magi were a part of a priestly tribe from the Medes and Persians. King Nebuchadnezzar had enlisted the services of these soothsayers and interpreter of dreams to be his confidants. In the story of Daniel, we find that God had positioned Daniel to be over all of the magicians and astrologers. 

When you think about it what an amazing step taken by God. It is possible and most likely that Daniel shared the hope of the coming Messiah with the magi of his day. We also know that the magicians of Daniel’s day failed to interpret the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar and God anointed Daniel to do so. This peaked the interest of the Magi and they most likely passed the stories of Daniel down through the ages including the hope of this coming Messiah. 

As we return to our story the idea of them taking a journey is important to the story and it lends itself to the understanding of our own journey to Christ. So for today, we will focus on the idea of the wise men taking this journey. In part, we must remember these men were Gentiles and not Jews. They were nonbelievers which is curious since they were pursuing the Christ child. They did not know Christ but they were pursuing Him, because they were being drawn to Him and they had heard the stories about Him.

For that reason, these were the last guys you might have thought would be on a journey to find Christ. They were not what the Jewish leaders would have agreed with. The point here is that God draws all of mankind to Himself. He is not a respecter of persons. He calls all men to salvation. So no matter the rank, the position one has in life, or one’s occupation, God is calling all men to seek and find Him. And the beauty is that if we take this journey we will find Him. It is my believe that there are many are on a journey to find Christ but it is a different journey than what we took perhaps. 

The fact is we might be surprised to find who may be bowing before a Hebrew and heralding him as king. At Jesus’s birth, recognize how the tables have turned. This time, a star led the Magi into exile, sojourning in search of the scepter rising out of Israel (Num. 24:17). This time, they do not find a man seated at the right hand of Nebuchadnezzar, but a child seated on his mother’s lap. As they bow and worship, they become the first to recognize the end from the beginning. This child would surpass Daniel as chief of the magi.

Second, they were on the journey. They were not passive. They were seeking the Savior. They acted upon what they saw. They knew the stars and what the stars had spoken. Not only were they motivated by way of the star, but they genuinely wanted to find the Christ child, the Messiah. This is an important point for us to consider. To find Christ, you have to be searching and if you look for Him you will find Him. 

These men were seekers.  They wanted to know the truth. They studied the stars. They studied religion and it is supposed that they were students of the Jewish faith. They looked for wisdom. The wise men even looked outside of their own tradition, outside of their own religious background. They were not content to just sit and passively take in what they were told. They were seekers. In our world, today, there are those who are seeking answers to life problems. They are searching for answers and they are looking for something that works. They need something to hold onto. That is why this Christmas season is the best season of all to share the message of the Gospel. 

I love what Jeremiah says to us in Jeremiah 29:10-14 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. That was the promise to Israel, it is the promise to those who call Him Lord, and it is the promise to everyone else. Seek and you shall find. 

Third, it is noteworthy they were on the journey together. Here is an important fact to understand. There is a need to be on this journey but we need one another along the way. We cannot isolate nor can we muscle our way through on our own. We need to be on the journey with others.

God uses people in our life to help us find Him. It might be a friend. It might be a neighbor. It might be a coworker. It could be the pastor. It could be a Sunday School teacher. The possibilities are limitless but God uses people in our journey to lead us to the Savior. I had that. I was not following Christ when a group from the youth ministry of our church barged through the door of my house to kidnap me and bring me to the church. 

The writer of Ecclesiastes knew the power of this when he wrote Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!  Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Fourth, they stay focused. Herod tried to distract them and get them off focus but they stayed the course and followed through until the end. King Herod tried to trick the wise men into betraying where Jesus was so he could kill Him, but they avoided Herod because they were warned by God. They could have been decapitated if Herod had found out! The point is do not let anything or anyone distract you from your search for Christ!

Stay focused, and ask God to grant you wisdom as to what you spend your time doing. Which of these are distractions in your life: money, IT devices, Facebook, time-consuming hobbies, not taking responsibility for personal spiritual growth, attending church events more than pursuing God, or prioritizing self over all else. The fact is we need to seek Him and put God first regardless of the cost.

Finally, while we are on the journey with others we need to find Him for ourselves. It is corporate journey but it is a personal decision to look, find, and accept the Savior. We cannot blame others nor can we use others as an excuse. 

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Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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