★ Day 22 – Reason for the Season – Part of the Stable Few? ★

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22 - Daily Dependence - FrankensteinI love quirky humor like this!  Much has been said on the Wise Men over the years.  The Bible however only records 12 verses about these significant pieces of the Christmas Story.  We covered 10 verses yesterday, and today we will read the last 2.  Our story picks up after the events of yesterday ★ Day 21 – Reason for the Season – Neighborly Competition ★ post, where we were first introduced to the Wise Men who followed the star from the East, and their interaction with Herod about where the baby that was born King of the Jews was.  As a refresher from yesterday, Matthew 2:7-8 (NASB) says,

“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.”

In Charles Stanley’s “Life Principles Bible,” he had this commentary on Luke 2:8 on the cunning nature of Herod…

“Anyone can pretend to love God – but the proof is in a person’s character, and Herod’s was sinfully   flawed.  Thankfully, the men were not deceived.  The Lord warned them about Herod, and they returned to their own country without telling him that they had seen Christ.”

That is so true.  Character is everything.  I am reminded of the quote from Abraham Lincoln,

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

A person’s true self will come out in the light eventually which was the case for Herod and for the Wise Men.  Today’s “Reason for the Season” will focus on the latter.  I love this play on words…Are you part of the inn crowd or the stable few?”  22 - Daily Dependence - Wise Men - Part of the StableObviously this is muse for today’s title, but it opens the discussion, which are you?  Are you on the periphery of the Christmas story, in a comfortable “Inn,” keeping Jesus at a distance and not allowing the truth of this season to penetrate your heart?  Or are you part of the “Stable Few” that your you are “all in,” that regardless of the adversity, Jesus is the center of your life; and that Christmas is the fulfillment of God’s plan for salvation?

Our passage is from Matthew 2:9-11 (NASB) which says,

“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.  After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him.  Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”  (Emphasis added.)

Charles Stanley’s had this insightful commentary on Luke 2:11 about the truth of when the Wise Men came to see Jesus contrary what many depictions show…

“The Wise Men probably visited Jesus when he was about two years old.  They came to a house instead of a stable and saw the Child rather than an infant.  Regardless of His age, however, they worshipped Him and acknowledged Him as the Messiah.”

The Wise Men “fell to the ground and worshiped Him,” and then “presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”  Incredible!

If it is okay, I have one more comic to share…What a great modern adaptation!!  22 - Comic - Wiser WomanBut it raises the issue about these three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  I did a little research on what they were and the representation of each of the gifts.  The gold is obvious, it was for its worth but also to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus.  Everyone is quite familiar with Gold, but what about Frankincense and Myrrh…not as much I suspect…Did you know that both are dried tree saps, or resins.  Frankincense is highly fragrant when burned and often used in worship.  When it was burned, it was done so as a pleasant offering to God, (see Exodus 30:34).  Frankincense is a symbol of Jesus’ holiness and righteousness.  And finally Myrrh has a medicinal, kind of bitter smell and was often used to dress wounds.  Today, it’s still used to prevent and treat gum disease and sometimes shows up in toothpastes and mouthwashes.

The Magi as they were also called were a caste of a wise man specializing in astronomy, astrology, and natural science that came from the East to worship Jesus who was prophesied about over 700 years earlier.  We can learn a lot from them, a couple of adjectives come to mind…steadfastness, driven and passionate.  And at the core the Wise Men were extreme worshipers!  Jimmy Evans made this great point,

“The wise men traveled hundreds of miles and spent an enormous amount of time and money seeking Jesus.  That is the spirit of Christmas.”   

We talked about this on the ★ Day 10 – Reason for the Season – What is the Spirit of Christmas? ★ post, that the Spirit of Christmas is all about giving of yourself in service to God and others, and I can think of no other example in the Christmas narrative than Wise Men whose sole purpose was to worship the Messiah, which gives us a great model for how our faith should be.  They were resolute and unwavering in their mission, regardless of whatever stood in their way…whether it was the cost of the trip, the dangers along the way, or an envious King who wanted to stop the fulfillment of the prophecy of the coming Messiah, their belief in the prophecy was so strong that the Wise Men overcame any adversity in order to worship the Savior of the World!  Wow!  The question I have for us…Do we have that kind of faith?  Day 4 of the 121 Advent Bible Reading Plan said,

“Most often our hope wavers because it is rooted in an act of will and therefore lacks a stable foundation…Where is your hope rooted?  What characteristics of God can you rest your hope in today?”

Great questions…Today my prayer is that a stable foundation of faith in the Jesus would be built and that if He is not the center of your life that you would make the decision to follow the Magi’s example!  Hebrews 10:23  (NLT) says,

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.”

I will close with this last thought…

And it is so true!  When I take my focus off the problem, and place it in the capable hands of the problem solver, EVERYTHING CHANGES!  I am thankful for the model that these “Stable Few” Wise Men have given us to follow.  They journeyed for hundreds of miles through peril and struggle all to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  May this be the posture of our hearts today!

22 - Daily Dependence - Wise Men TravellingWe received a Christmas card this year from good friends of ours with this saying on it…

“The star that led the Wise Men then….Still shines to guide the hearts of men today.” 

To assist in that, here is Elevation Church’s beautiful song “Let Us Adore” from their new album called “Wake Up The Wonder.”

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Wise Men – The Voice of Adoration.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Wise Men’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 23 – Reason for the Season – Can Christians Condone Claus? ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 11 – Reason for the Season – Following Jesus Will Cost You ★

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Hahaha!!  That to me is hysterical but true!  We are going to examine in today’s “Reason for the Season” that following God’s plan is not always going to be easy but that we can have peace that surpasses understanding   Peace that is not depending on circumstances but on the faith in Jesus! (See Philippians 4:6-8.)  Day 7 of the 121 Advent Bible Plan said,

“From the very beginning of time, peace was understood to be not simply the absence of that which is bad, but also the presence of that which is good.  In the Bible, the Hebrew word used for peace is “shalom.”  Shalom means wholeness, complete flourishing of a person’s life.  Biblically, shalom is often used to reference a person’s life being whole with God.  God created everything to operate in perfect harmony with one another and with God.  This is shalom; this is peace.”

That is the type of peace that I am talking about, not as a result of not having problems at the moment but peace in the midst of problems because of your relationship with God the Father.  Growing up in Pennsylvania my mom became a huge “Country and Western” music fan.  I remember how endless the car rides were as this honky-tonk noise droned on and because we lived in the country everywhere we went was a minimum of a 20 minute drive.  It’s funny though, decades later I am a country music fan as well…I guess the brainwashing worked hahaha!  There was one song from Lynn Anderson entitled “Rose Garden” (released in 1970) that had this opening lyric that I still remember it so clearly…

“I beg your pardon; I never promised you a rose garden.  Along with sunshine, there’s got to be a little rain some time.” 

My mom used to say to me growing up that God never promised us a rose garden.  Good advice from a good ol’ country and western song, but it does align with scripture as well…Jesus said in Matthew 5:44-45 (NASB)… 

God sends His sun to rise on both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  That is an important truth to put on the sticky side of your brain.  Just because you are living a life sold out for God does not mean you will not face adversity.  In fact because we live in a fallen world, full of sin, and have a real enemy, Satan, there will always be warfare…See Ephesians 6:10-17.  As I was talking with my wife about this post and the “Rose 11 - Daily Dependence - Rose and ThornGarden” song, she made this astute point that along with the beauty of the rose comes the thorns.  Much like the verse from Matthew 5:44-45, there’s a great paradox that exists with the rose…There’s beauty and ugliness…delicateness and jaggedness…joy and pain.  I think it is a great symbol for what God wants to speak into our hearts today.  Abraham Lincoln once said,

 “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

Such a great perspective isn’t it?  As you ponder on these truths, I would also point out that God did not spare His own Son from the cruelty and torment of the cross.  And the same is true for Jesus’ earthly parents, God definitely did not spare Mary and Joseph from adversity…From the start, there was much to overcome from the believability of the Immaculate Conception that Mary became pregnant even while being a virgin (see ★ Day 05 – Reason for the Season – Faith Like Mary ★); to Joseph accepting his part in God’s plan and ultimately all the gossip that people would spread about the assumed scandalous pregnancy (see ★ Day 07 – Reason for the Season – Unwavering Acceptance ★) and now the next boot is about to drop as they are told they must make a 11 - Daily Dependence - Map of Nazareth to BethlehamPilgrimage to Bethlehem as told in Luke 2:1-5 (NLT) says,

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.  (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.  And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home.  He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.  He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

Five little verses that if we are not careful we can skip right over to get to the birth of Jesus in verse 6 but Joseph and Mary did not get to skip over the fatigue, danger and uncertainty of what this journey would bring.  The trek probably was done on foot or maybe there was a donkey for Mary to ride on as some many pictures and movies speculate, but regardless it could not have been easy.  Responding to the decree to take part in the Roman Empire Census, Joseph took his pregnant fiancé to be counted but had to do so on the back of a donkey!  How many women would want to have traded places with Mary for that road trip??  With only 5 verses of information, there is not much known about the route so here is a current map of the region which Google Maps outputted if you were to walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem which is a little over a 100 mile expedition.  I have always wondered what that must have been like.

11 - Daily Dependence - The Nativity Story PosterThere is a movie that came out in 2006, called “The Nativity Story” which does an excellent job in depicting what the long and arduous journey to Bethlehem might have been like for a pregnant Mary riding on a donkey through the barren land.  Unlike other movies which are primarily based on the Birth of Jesus, The Nativity Story focuses a lot on life in Nazareth and showing Mary living the simple life of a teenager and the development of her getting engaged to Joseph the local carpenter.  The visitation of Gabriel and trip to see Elizabeth are well done but what is really powerful is how the movie shows the scorn of the community from the virgin conception once she returns to Nazareth and Joseph’s struggle to believe her seemingly outlandish story.  The only exception that I have with the movie is the depiction of the Magi at the Nativity which Matthew 2:1-10, makes clear that they visited a house not a stable, a child not baby but we will get to that on Day 21.  As you can tell this is a phenomenal Hollywood offering form a very different perspective.  And ultimately that is what we all need, a different perspective!  If I may go back to the imagery of the rose and thorn, when Jesus was being prepared to die on the cross, it says in John 19:2 (NLT) that,

“The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put a purple robe on Him.”

Jesus died for you and I and regardless if life is not falling into place the way you think it should or if you are facing trials does not mean that God is not with you.  Romans 5:3-5 (NLT) says,

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.  For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.  For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”

Regardless of what you are going through, God loves you and is working behind the scenes providing all that we need.  John Piper made this powerful point in his “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,”

“He is a big God for little people, and we have great cause to rejoice that, unbeknownst to them, all the kings and presidents and premiers and chancellors of the world follow the sovereign decrees of our Father in heaven, that we, the children, might be conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.”

Yes following Jesus will cost you but its worth it!  Romans 8:28 (NASB) is promise we have from God that,

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

No matter what happens in life, we can be thankful this truth!!

Earlier we read in Matthew 5:44-45 (NASB) that Jesus said to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven,” so as an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to  “The Twelve Voices of Christmas audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Herod – The Voice of Deception” who was the biggest enemy in the Christmas story!

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 12 – Reason for the Season – Oh Holy Night ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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