Rejoicing in Trials-James 1.2-8

A university in the United States did a scientific experiment. I just failed to jot down the name of the university and the professor. It was about life in a perfect environment. They eliminated all possible causes of disease. They placed eight mice in a clinically simulated perfect environment then, they provided them with everything that they would need like food, water and shelter. In short, they no longer needed to look for food or anything for they already had what they needed and wanted. The results after two years were as follows:

1. Mice colony rose from 8 to 2000 mice
2. Groupings or “clicks” had been observed; 12 in each group
3. Females had become dominant over the males. The females drove out the males from their territories; the males relinquished their territories to the females
4. The young mice had become self-indulgent. They were busy cleaning themselves and just did what they wanted to do

Two things that the mice no longer do:

1. They do not help each other anymore
2. They do not make love anymore

Five years later, in such a perfect environment, every mouse died!

This experiment may not be conclusive but it seems that the absence of adversity is not conducive for life.

Thus, the words’ “my brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various temptations…” (KJV2000) have a good message for all of us…

[photo courtesy of: www.decolores.com/store/print_catalog.php]

Faith that Cares II- Psalm 27.4

Several days ago, I visited a wordpress blog that tackled the topic of Christian love and love makeover. I made a comment to that blog post. Let me share it here as well:

love shows a faith that cares

“I agree. Love is the most important Christian virtue. God is love and those who profess faith in God should show the kind of love that Jesus has shown. Maybe it is not as easy as we say. We all have flaws and moods that affect the way we act or react sometimes. Sometimes, it is difficult when people expect so much from us when we are mere humans in an imperfect and degrading world. Of course, that is not an excuse for us not to live as God desires. Love is the key for all of us to make this world a better place to live until Christ returns. God bless you…”

I have heard comments that Christian churches in Korea flourish because they love their pastors. I heard there were members who would even give a car to their pastor. I am not saying that we should give cars to our pastors too. Let us just care for them for these acts of love toward God’s anointed touch the heart of God very dearly. [Philippians 4:18-19]

Witnessing is actually a matter of caring. We give food to people who are hungry or sick because we care. For those who are dying in the spirit, are we not going to care and share with them the Balm that would give them healing? The cure is in you, in me, in each one of us. Let us dare to care [Jude 22a].

We can love and care because God has cared about and has loved us first. Remember, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, by virtue of God’s mercy, let us all be avenues also of God’s mercy as we live out our faith. Sometimes, it is difficult but it is a call. Whenever we can and wherever we can, let us show our faith that cares.

“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth”. -1John 3:18

Faith that Cares- Psalm 27.4

“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” -Psalm 27:4

Faith Methodist Church Congregation from Flickr.Com

Better is one day in your courts… than a thousand elsewhere”… Have you ever felt like staying in church even after the worship or activities have ended? You have felt the presence of God and you simply do not want to leave. Probably, David was feeling the same way when he was writing this psalm. He wanted to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life. He wanted to feel the saving presence of the Lord in his life.

We also seek the presence of God when we go to church each Sunday. However, God does not speak to us with an audible voice from heaven or touches us with His big miraculous hands. He warms us with each other’s faith and zeal. As we express our faith, we express love and care for our brethren as well because a person who has faith is a person who loves… Can we say Amen to that?

Some people are very pleasant with other people but when it comes to their own family members, they are inconsiderate. Let our family feel our love and care. [1 Timothy 5:8]

Superficial wounds heal easily, but emotional wounds hurt more deeply and only the soothing words from a caring brother/sister can bring healing. A Christian is an instrument of God’s warmth most especially for the family of believers. When you see a closely knitted family who cares for each other, you admire it, right? However, when you see a family killing each other, would you want to be a part of it? Of course, not! When the family of believers in a church loves each other, other people would love to become a part of that family [John 13:35].

Christians Still Search for Christ- Matthew 2.1

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem…”

We Learn About Christ Through Bible Study and Prayer

As Christians, we continue to search for Christ. Perhaps, not as a Savior anymore for those who have already received Him as their Lord and personal Savior but in search of the deeper knowledge of Him.

A man and a woman who have decided to tie the knot in matrimony have somehow known each other in many ways. Still, there are things that the couple would not know about each other until they have lived together under one roof and sleep on one bed. They will soon start to see each other’s hidden flaws or discover some goodness in character that causes more reasons to fall deeper in love. They continue to know each other daily in their lives.

The apostle Paul says,

“I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord… that I may win Christ. And be found in Him… through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to his death…” – Philippians 3:7-10

In our everyday faith walk, those who truly desire to know Christ, and find him, will not consider pain or hardship a barrier in seeking after him. Not even death can stop them. God has blessed us because we can exercise our faith with liberty. We, in democratic countries, have never conducted our worship at the point of death unlike in some parts of the world and yet we tend to lose the fire of our first love (Rev 2:4)!

Let us grow in the knowledge of Christ for such is the beginning of wisdom. Then, and only then can we truly be wise.

Image Courtesy of: www.highpowerresources.com

Searching for the Messiah- Matthew 2.1

Wise Men from the East

Here we see Gentiles who earnestly searched for the Christ notwithstanding the peril and hardship of their travel. They persevered in their search after him. We cannot tell how long or how far they journeyed. Considering life during those times, traveling must have been extremely difficult. There were hostile tribes to avoid, the broad rivers of the Tigris and the Euphrates to cross, and trackless deserts to pass through but they made nothing of difficulty or danger. They must have gathered everything that they needed for a long journey regardless of expenses and off they went to follow the star anywhere it led so that they could worship the newborn King.

Today, many essentially continue to search for Christ. They search for the Messiah who can save their lives from mess and the Lord who can give direction to their shapeless future. Jesus is reaching out to you with His matchless love. You no longer need to travel far and wide to see Him and get a chance to worship Him. Just call on His name and He will answer in a manner that you can never expect. He will not fail you. He will give you the meaning for your life that you have been searching for the longest time.

Invite Him into your life. Accept Him as your Lord and Savior and He will forgive you of your sin and will give you a brand new start. Do not hesitate for He has been waiting for you…

I invite you to pray this prayer:

Father, I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that you love me and you sent Your Son Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. Forgive me, and I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Come into my life Lord Jesus…

In Jesus’ name

Amen

Images Courtesy of:  http://gospelgifs.com/

Wise Men Search for Christ- Matthew 2.1-part two

Wise Men from the East

If we will look at the writings of historians, according to Herodotus (i. 101), which lists the names of the six tribes or castes of the Medes, the Magi were a hereditary caste of priests. They were highly influential in Median society until the unification of the Median and Persian Empires in 550 BC. Others say that the word Magi is an occupational title referring to the priestly caste of Zurvanism. As part of their religion, these priests paid particular attention to the stars, and gained an international reputation for astrology, which at that point was a highly regarded science, only later giving rise to aspects of mathematics and astronomy. Some say that they have come from ancient Iraq.

However, Matthew did not really mention their names or identity (if they were monarchs); neither their actual number nor the exact place where they came from except that they were Magi from the east and they were more than three.

Regardless of their true stature and identity, it is safe to conclude that these people have received divine revelation from God. They have not been searching for something that they do not know or for something that they just want to discover. They are not just curious about what the bright star means or where it leads. They have come with a sure and clear purpose, to search for the King of the Jews and worship Him. In fact, they are so sure that have brought precious gifts for Him. As to how they have received the revelation, is totally unknown except that they followed the brilliant star that they have seen from the east.

Perhaps, their identity is not much of an importance. The essence of their mention in the gospel lies in what they have done. They have worshiped the King of the Jews even though they are from a distant land. This only showed that Christ has come not only for the Jews but for Gentiles as well. Whatever sort of wise men they are, what is clear is that they have acknowledged Jesus as their King. Indeed, Jesus is the King of all nations, tribes, and tongues.

Wise Men Search for Christ- Matthew 2.1

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem…”

Wise Men from the East

A star rose from the east. Certain wise men saw it as a sign that the King of the Jews had just been born. It led them to search for the newborn infant so that they could worship Him.

Who and what these wise men from the east were? According to Lexicon concordance, the phrase wise men comes from the Greek word (μαγος pl. μαγοι) magos {mag’-os} – a magus and it gives three Biblical usages:

1.         It is a name given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and others, to the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers, soothsayers, sorcerers etc.

In the Book of Jeremiah, chapter 39 verses 3 and 13, we can read the word “Rab Mag” or “chief magus” to the head of the magi, Nergal Sharezar. He seemed to be a prominent official of Babylon.

2.         The oriental wise men (astrologers) who, having discovered by the rising of the remarkable star that the Messiah had just been born, came to Jerusalem to worship Him;

3.         a false prophet and sorcerer.

New Testament writers used the Greek word magus only in three instances. The first was by Matthew in chapter two. The two other instances were by Paul in the book of Acts (KJV). He used the word to describe Simon, the sorcerer (Acts 8:9, 11) and of Elymas, the sorcerer (Acts 13:6). The Scripture does not use it in any other sense.

to be continued…click here…

The Star and the Wise Men- Matthew 2.1-12

A James McConnell Art- The Wise Men from the East

We can find the record or account of the birth of our Lord Jesus only in two books in the New Testament. The first is in the gospel according to Matthew 1:8-25 – 2:1-23, which, records, events before and after Christ’s birth. Second, the gospel according to Luke 2:1-40, which, records a more detailed account of the actual birth of Jesus.

Matthew 2:1-12 has the record of the visit of the Magi from the east. A careful study of the record reveals important facts that differ from the traditional story we had always known- that the visit of the Magi was a post Christmas event (v.1 NIV), and that they found the child Jesus in a house (v.11) not in a stable almost two years after His birth (v.16).

You will notice in the account of St Luke particularly starting in chapter 2:21 and the following that 40 days after His birth, Jesus was presented to the temple. Then in verse 39, Luke wrote that when the ceremony of presenting the child, and purifying the mother, was all over, they returned into Galilee. Luke relates no more concerning them until Jesus was twelve years old. There appears a twelve years gap. However, it appears by St. Matthew’s gospel particularly in the second chapter that they returned to Bethlehem in those silent years, stayed there for nearly two years before the wise men from the east found them.

(Enemies of the gospel say that either Luke was wrong in his writing or the wise men’s story was only a mere concoction of the early Christians. I adamantly disagree to that notion. I am sharing this to help us defend our faith against those who refute the infallibility of the Bible)

Image Courtesy of www.bookpalace.com Biblical Notes from www.blueletterbible.org particularly in commentaries by Matthew Henry

Listening to God’s Voice- Matthew 1.18-25

God speaks through His word

Maybe we cannot expect extraordinary direction from God in our time so much, like what happened to Samuel and Joseph. However, whenever we face doubtful cases, we can hear God’s voice by hints from the word of God, the debates of conscience, and advice of faithful and Godly friends and elders. By each of these, applying the general principles of the word of God, we should in all the steps of our life, particularly the great turns of it, such as this of Joseph’s, take direction from God and we will find it safe to do as He commands us.

Maybe we could not perceive God’s voice because we had not filled ourselves enough with the knowledge of God. We rely more on our abilities to analyze our situations. Most of us are good in crisis management but when management skills could not work anymore, life goes into recession. In the end, you would realize that you had been actually in spiritual bankruptcy.

As Christians, as much as we can, we need to live at the center of God’s righteousness. Walk within the will of God and not swerve to either left or right. The Lord wants to remind us that we are His children and the apple of His eye. He will not leave us unguided however; we need to fill ourselves with the word of God that we may recognize His “voice” whenever we hear it. Just as what the Lord has said, “I am the Good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine”. –John 10:14 (KJV2000-DSB)

Joseph has Discernment- Matthew 1:24

“Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife.” –Matthew 1:24

Observe the account, “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him”. He acted immediately- “without delay”. He did not wait until the next morning or at any later hour. He did what the angel of the Lord had bidden him as he arose from sleep. He never doubted that the message of the angel was indeed from God. He did not need any confirmation through miraculous signs or wonders to believe the message of God through the angel in contrast with Gideon, who upon receiving God’s message in a vision, asked for miraculous signs to confirm the message he received.

We can translate Joseph’s experience into our common experiences. Every now and then, we face situations when we need guidance from the Lord to make crucial decisions. However, how do we know that it is God’s voice? 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”.

Do you remember Samuel? When the Lord first called him, he did not know yet the Lord. He thought Eli was calling him. He heard God’s voice three times but he went to Eli instead thinking that he was the one calling him. When Eli realized that the Lord was calling Samuel, he told the boy, “If he calls you, that you shall say, speak Lord for your servant hears”.

Sometimes, we could not perceive the Lord’s voice instantly. Samuel did not know God’s voice because he did not know yet the Lord at that time. However, he listened to the direction of the prophet of God, Eli and displayed a heart ready to receive the message of the Lord. “Speak Lord, for your servant hears”.