Matthew 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He came to rule in our hearts as King

A few years ago an advertisement on television offered the viewers the opportunity to buy a star and name it after someone special.  After watching the ad one night, my husband turned to me and asked while attempting to hide his grin, “Would you like a star named after you for your birthday?”  I thanked him for his generous offer but went on to say something to the effect that I hadn’t really accomplished anything to date that would warrant star-naming; but if that changed, I would let him know.  So far, no stars are out there in the heavenlies bearing my name. Our reading today renews in our minds the story we know so well about a brilliant star that announced the birth of a King, someone worthy to have the entire universe bear His name. 

@ Matthew 2
“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.’” (1-2)  Most of the wise men of that day were from Persia, a great distance away, and their commitment to finding the newborn King of the Jews is astounding to me.  How did they know the scripture about the birth of Jesus?  They may have been Jews from families that did not leave Persia after the captivity or perhaps scripture scrolls had been left behind after the Jews left.  Whatever the case, they saw the star, studied the scripture and began seeking the King.  Knowing Him as we do, how can we do anything less today?

When they arrived at the location the star had indicated, I can only imagine their disappointment to learn that no one knew about the birth of the king.  No celebration, no paparazzi, no fireworks!  They went to the rulers of the day who really should have been responsible for the festivities and found ignorance and apathy.  When the rulers realized who it was the wise men were seeking, King Herod’s ignorance turned to rage and the apathy of the Jewish leaders … remained the same.

King Herod was a ruthless leader who used politics and violence to secure his throne.  His taxation made him popular in Rome and his rebuilding the Temple pleased the Jews for a time.  He viewed the birth of this “king of the Jews” as a threat to capture his throne, but the newborn was only interested in capturing his heart.  We rub shoulders every day with people of position, power and prosperity who are often threatened by the thought of allowing a new king to rule in their hearts.  They try to kill him off with their legislation and ridicule of Him, but just like the infant so long ago, Jesus still lives, rules and reigns today and longs to capture their hearts.

The Jewish priests and scribes were well aware of the coming King, the Messiah, and knew all the scripture about Him including the prophecy of His birthplace in Micah 5:2, but for centuries they had added their own religious traditions and their own beliefs about the Messiah and this little infant born in Bethlehem was not relevant to them. The One they were looking for was born five miles away from them, and they missed Him!  We, too, can miss Him and what He is doing on the planet today when we are held back by our own traditions and beliefs and by the influence of those who rule in ignorance. Of the cast of characters in our reading today, I want to be a wise man.  I want to see His star shining in the world today, search the Scriptures for everything about Him and seek His presence with all of my heart. 

Moving Forward: My guarantee today from His Word, “you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29)  Yes, the familiar cliché has to be said, wise men still seek Him today! 

Tomorrow @ Romans 3-4

Acts 26-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: One holy night long ago He sent His presence to abide with us

Selling a home, especially in today’s market, can be tricky business.  Through the years, I’ve had several home sellers tell me that their home sold before they even had it on the market or shortly thereafter, and this miracle was God’s stamp of approval on their upcoming move or change.  I’m always at a momentary loss of words at this point. The two beautiful homes we owned in the past took months and months to sell even though well priced.  Does this mean we were moving outside of God’s will?

Knowing that we were in God’s will is what carried us along during those difficult months.  And this begs the question in our reading today – Was Paul out of God’s will when he insisted his case be tried in Rome?  The hardships he incurred on the way to Rome were extraordinary, but in spite of it all, he ultimately answered God’s call to preach to the Romans.  As we celebrate Christmas, another question comes to mind. Were the difficulties, then, that Mary and Joseph faced at the time of Jesus’ birth an indication that God was not with them?

@ Acts 27-28
Paul was under armed guard as they set sail for Rome, and the trip was treacherous to say the least.  A violent tempest tossed the ship for days, and Paul’s life was threatened as the soldiers attempted to kill the prisoners rather than risk their getting free in the storm. When they finally ended up shipwrecked on the island of Malta, miraculously not one life was lost.  If this wasn’t enough peril, Paul was bitten by a deadly viper, yet not even a mark remained.

“Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him… Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” (28:16,30-31)  The sailing was not smooth, the house did not sell, but God was with Paul on his trip to Rome and his mission was accomplished.  Paul preached the gospel to the Romans. 

@ Luke 2
“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloth, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (4-8)

Having just accepted the unbelievable truth of an Immaculate Conception, Joseph and pregnant Mary traveled the difficult road to Bethlehem to find there was no lodging available.  Then Mary went into labor and gave birth to the Messiah, the very Son of God…in a stable.  And, if that wasn’t trial enough, the king tried to kill their son.  With all these difficulties, some would say that this couple was out of the will of God and perhaps this Holy Spirit conception was a farce.  And they would, of course, be wrong.

Now, some 2,000 years later we honor this glorious birth as we sing, “Joy to the World,” “The First Noel” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”  We join with the multitude of the heavenly host praising God and say:  “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (14)

As with Paul, Joseph and Mary and so many others who have gone before us, the path to our future may not be always smooth sailing, and we may find ourselves in difficult situations from time to time. However, there is one thing we can be certain of today in our celebration of Christ’s coming to this earth and it is that He is with us.  As we travel His path, He is with us.  Merry Christmas, fellow travelers! 

Moving Forward:  “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” He has come, and He is with me as I travel life’s path. 

Tomorrow @ Jude

Matthew 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He came to rule in our hearts as King

A few years ago an advertisement on television offered the viewers the opportunity to buy a star and name it after someone special.  After watching the ad one night, my husband turned to me and asked while attempting to hide his grin, “Would you like a star named after you for your birthday?”  I thanked him for his generous offer but went on to say something to the effect that I hadn’t really accomplished anything to date that would warrant star-naming; but if that changed, I would let him know.  So far, no stars are out there in the heavenlies bearing my name. Our reading today renews in our minds the story we know so well about a brilliant star that announced the birth of a King, someone worthy to have the entire universe bear His name. 

@ Matthew 2
“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.’” (1-2)  Most of the wise men of that day were from Persia, a great distance away, and their commitment to find the newborn King of the Jews is astounding to me.  How did they know the scripture about the birth of Jesus?  They may have been Jews from families that did not leave Persia after the captivity or perhaps scripture scrolls had been left behind after the Jews left.  Whatever the case, they saw the star, studied the scripture and began seeking the King.  Knowing Him as we do, how can we do anything less today?

When they arrived at the location the star had indicated, I can only imagine their disappointment to learn that no one knew about the birth of the king.  No celebration, no paparazzi, no fireworks!  They went to the rulers of the day who really should have been responsible for the festivities and found ignorance and apathy.  When the rulers realized who it was the wise men were seeking, King Herod’s ignorance turned to rage and the apathy of the Jewish leaders … remained the same.

King Herod was a ruthless leader who used politics and violence to secure his throne.  His taxation made him popular in Rome and his rebuilding the Temple pleased the Jews for a time.  He viewed the birth of this “king of the Jews” as a threat to capture his throne, but the newborn was only interested in capturing his heart.  We rub shoulders everyday with people of position, power and prosperity who are often threatened by the thought of allowing a new king to rule in their hearts.  They try to kill him off with their legislation and ridicule of Him, but just like the infant so long ago, Jesus still lives, rules and reigns today and longs to capture their hearts.

The Jewish priests and scribes were well aware of the coming King, the Messiah, and knew all the scripture about Him including the prophecy of His birthplace in Micah 5:2, but for centuries they had added their own religious traditions and their own beliefs about the Messiah, and this little infant born in Bethlehem was not relevant to them. The One they were looking for was born five miles away from them, and they missed Him!  We, too, can miss Him and what He is doing on the planet today when we are held back by our own traditions and beliefs and by the influence of those who rule in ignorance. Of the cast of characters in our reading today, I want to be a wise man.  I want to see His star shining in the world today, search the Scriptures for everything about Him and seek His presence with all of my heart. 

Moving Forward: My guarantee today from His Word, “you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29)  Yes, the familiar cliché has to be said, wise men still seek Him today! 

Tomorrow @ Romans 3-4