Forgiveness—The Key for Being Free

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In my previous post, “True Marks of True Love,” I shared what the Bible says about loving one another even when it includes our enemies. Another important mark of true love is forgiveness. Without it, love cannot fully function. In fact, forgiveness is the key for being free to love others as God loves us.

The great benefit of forgiveness is that it sets us free from those negative feelings that can cause harm not only to us but others. We cannot enjoy the refreshing effects of love when the element of forgiveness is absent from our minds and hearts. Not only that, we’re apt to prevent ourselves from having improved health—physically, mentally, spiritually—unless we apply forgiveness along with love in the process.

We know this makes plenty of sense but it’s easier said than done, for sure. Our nature is to resist forgiveness most particularly when it’s toward someone who has deeply hurt us in some way. Truly, there’s no way you can even begin to love someone who has wronged you if you’re not willing to forgive that person. But the good news is that as impossible as it might seem, you can forgive and be released from all the negative effects that have weighed you down.

There’s one story that sticks out as a fitting illustration of love and forgiveness. It’s been written about in various resources. But each time you read it, you can see the value of forgiveness and how it can help to heal the wounds left from the injuries left by others. Here’s the way this story is told…

Corrie Ten Boom and her family resisted the Nazis by hiding Jews in their home. They were ultimately discovered and sent to a concentration camp. Corrie barely survived until the end of the war; her family members died in captivity. Seared by this terrible trial by fire, Corrie’s faith in God also survived, and she spent much of her time in the post-war years traveling in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, sharing her faith in Christ.

On one occasion in 1947, while speaking in a church in Munich, she noticed a balding man in a gray overcoat near the rear of the basement room. She had been speaking on the subject of God’s forgiveness, but her heart froze within her when she recognized the man. She could picture him as she had seen him so many times before, in his blue Nazi uniform with the visored cap—the cruelest of the guards at the Ravensbruck Camp where Corrie had suffered the most horrible indignities, and where her own sister had died. Yet here he was, at the end of her talk, coming up the aisle toward her with his hand thrust out. “Thank you for your fine message,” he said. “How wonderful it is to know that all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!” [Note: See Micah 7:18-19; Hebrews 8:12.]

Yes, Corrie had said that. She had spoken so easily of God’s forgiveness, but here was a man whom she despised and condemned with every fiber of her being. She couldn’t take his hand! She couldn’t extend forgiveness to this Nazi oppressor! She realized that this man didn’t remember her—how could he remember one prisoner among thousands?

“You mentioned Ravensbruck,” the man continued, his hand still extended. “I was a guard there. I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s true. But since then, I’ve come to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior. It has been hard for me to forgive myself for all the cruel things I did but I know that God has forgiven me. And please, if you would, I would like to hear from your lips too that God has forgiven me.” And Corrie recorded her response in her book:

I stood there—I whose sins had again and again been forgiven—and could not forgive. It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. For I had to do it. I knew that. It was as simple and as horrible as that. And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. And so, woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me.

And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, and sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “I forgive you, brother,” I cried. “With all my heart!”

For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.  (Source: The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom; Submitted by Ray Cazis as cited in ministry127.com)

Corrie Ten Boom was not only a survivor but even more outstanding is the fact that she was an overcomer. And forgiveness made it all possible. She remarked, “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.” (See also, Galatians 5:13-16.) 

Corrie’s comments coincide with what the Apostle Paul said to the Ephesian Church:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.,” (Ephesians 4:31-32, New Living Translation, NLT).  

Corrie’s moment of enlightenment and truth would not have been possible has it not been for God’s forgiveness when he gave his One and Only Son to die for our sins and give us the blessed hope of receiving life in his wonderful Name. As so as he loves and forgives each and every one of us through Christ, so ought we to love and forgive one another. It’s the key that sets us free to live the abundant life Jesus promised to give (John 10:10).

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael
P.S. Here’s Kevin Levar singing, “A Heart That Forgives,” from the movie with the same title, https://youtu.be/iUV5T9JIJZ0

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True Marks of True Love

Valentine's_I love you more

Valentine’s Day is synonymous with love. Cupid, candy, and cards, along with flowers, fashion, and flattering gifts with heart-shaped designs all fall under the umbrella of love. Love tunes, love poems, love letters—they are all signs that Valentine’s Day is upon us once again.

Since love is on most minds at this time, it is most fitting that we consider what the true marks of love truly are. After all, love is used in so many different ways…”I love pizza,” “I’d love to win the lottery,” “I love my dog,” “I love rock n’ roll,” “I love to go shopping,” “I love my favorite celebrity ___, (Fill in the blank.)”; “I love New York,” (Really?); “I love my school,” “I love my family,” “I love my significant other.”

Now, of all the things you’d say you truly love, would you also include your church (If you are a Christian.)? Where I live, I’ve seen people actually wearing tee shirts with words that read, “I ♥ my church.” I thought that was real clever seeing that it not only gives a positive message, but is also a good marketing tool for the church.

By the way, I’ve never seen a tee shirt, or a bumper sticker or any other sign for that matter, that said, “I ♥ my pastor.” Hmmm! 

Of course, we’d expect Christians to say they love their family and their friends and even their pets. But they’d really have to be exceptional if they truly loved their enemies or anyone else who caused them disappointment or grief or pain in some way. Granted, that would truly be true love. (Some might think it would be crazy, too.)

In fact, the hardest people to love are those who just aggravate us to no end. Naturally, we’d like to get even with them and make them miserable, too. But then, a little voice inside us says, “No! No! No! What goes around will come back around,” and like a boomerang it does. Usually, those who retaliate get the worst end of the deal.

It always amazes me whenever I’m watching a football game or some other sport and one player gets into a fight with a player on the other team. Finally, when the officials get control of the scene and the opposing parties simmer down, more often than not it’s the person retaliating who gets the severest penalty called against him. Somehow, the officials seem to notice the player doing the pay back but they often miss the player who instigated it.

Jesus apparently didn’t like people getting even with others who didn’t like them. He taught it was more important to use love instead. And true love meant doing good even toward those who weren’t good to you. In his words,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you will become children of your Father in heaven, because he makes his sun rise on both evil and good people, and he lets rain fall on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45, International Standard Version, ISV).

Knowing that loving one’s enemies goes against our nature, Jesus was placing love on a higher level that requires true character to fulfill. Jesus set love at a high mark because according to the wisdom of his reasoning,

If you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? And if you greet only your relatives, that’s no great thing you’re doing, is it? Even the unbelievers do the same, don’t they? So be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:46-48, ISV).

The word “perfect” in this passage means “complete.” You can’t get more complete in your actions and ambitions than to be as godly as God himself. When we strive for his values, we strive to be the best we can under the condition of love—love for him, first and foremost, and love for one another even if it’s our worst enemy. By the way, all of God’s Laws revolve around loving God first and second, loving your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40).

Relationships are able to grow and develop properly and happily if a sincere love is developed for God’s commandments and his teachings. As the Psalmist declared in Psalm 119:159, “See how I love your instructions, LORD. Your love never changes, so save me!” (Good News Translation, GNT).

The most pure, willful, and sacrificial kind of love that makes it possible to love God and one another according to the Bible stems from the Greek word, agape, It is an unconditional, immeasurable, and unfathomable kind of love that transcends all other forms of love—whether, it be romantic love, brotherly love, or friendship love. So when you build your life on agape love—the kind of love that only comes through Christ—then all other forms of love fall into place.

The most popular chapter in the Bible that discusses agape love is First Corinthians 13, known appropriately as “The Love Chapter.” Do you want to have a better relationship with your spouse, your family member, your work associate, your friend, even your enemy, or anyone else? Follow this chapter and you’ll be blessed beyond anything you can imagine.

The chapter lists not only what agape love is, but what it is not. Note the following verses:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres,” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, New International Version, NIV). 

The true marks of true love as set forth according to God’s requirements will provide healing at a time when there’s division and strife. If you consider the ills of this world, or even the pains in your own life, brought on by fraud, distrust, violence, abuse, greed, jealousy, injustice, crime, and downright hate, then it’s clear the one and only solution is applying the love prescribed in God’s Word. And it’s experienced when we accept Jesus Christ as Savior of our lives. (See Romans 6:1-7; Galatians 5:14, 15, 22-26; Ephesians 5:1-5).

Consider what the Apostle John wrote in regard to love:

“Dear friends, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Whoever loves is a child of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. And God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him. This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven. Dear friends, if this is how God loved us, then we should love one another,” (1 John 4:7-11, GNT).

Happy Valentine’s Day!
And Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s “Love Never Fails,” by Brandon Heath, https://youtu.be/8nQy-aP_Koo

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When People Think They’re Smarter Than God

Isaiah 55_8-9

This joke hit my funny bone and thought it might yours, too…

A farmer and his wife spent the morning loading their pumpkin crop onto a truck. When they finished, they sat in the shade of an oak tree to rest.

The farmer began musing about the nature of things and told his wife, “You know, God made a mistake. He put those big pumpkins on small vines and tiny acorns on this big oak tree. If I were God, I’d have put the small fruit on small plants and big fruit on big plants.”

Just then a squirrel scampered through the tree overhead, sending a shower of acorns down on their heads. The farmer’s wife turned to her husband and said, “Lucky for us you’re not God.” (Overheard at the Country Café)

When God created us and gave us a brain, you’d think we’d be smart enough to realize that you can’t outsmart God. But Adam and Eve thought they could when they bought into the lie, “You surely shall not die….You will be like God knowing good and evil….” when they ate from the forbidden tree (Genesis 3:1-7, New American Standard Bible, NASB). And look where we’ve been ever since. Has humanity gotten any wiser than our first parents?

In a letter to the Roman church, the Apostle Paul noted how certain persons ignored God even though his attributes and mighty works of power were evident ever since creation. They didn’t honor him as God or give him their thanks. Instead, they
“…became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…” (Romans 1:18-22).

These were ungodly people because they thought they knew better than God. So they abandoned God’s wisdom and, thinking they were wiser than him, made up their own ideas or philosophies on how they wanted to believe and live. “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever, Amen…” (Romans 1:25).

Thinking they were smarted than God, these foolish people committed all kinds of “unnatural” and “indecent acts” (Romans 1:24-27) which led to all kinds of social problems (Romans 1:29-32). So, since they put God out of their lives and made up their own gods, God made up his mind to give them just what they bargained for. “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper…” (Romans 1:28). And to make matters worse, they heartily endorsed their immoral practices, encouraging others to imitate them, as well (Romans 1:32).

It’s sad to say, but this is the same situation society finds itself in today. What was once considered moral and decent not too long ago is mocked and disputed today. And many are encouraged to follow them. It’s all because they think they are smarter than God and wiser than the values taught according to his Word.

This has created what is termed a “culture war.” According to Wikipedia, “A culture war is a cultural conflict between social groups and the struggle for dominance of their values, beliefs, and practices. It commonly refers to topics on which there is general societal disagreement and polarization in societal values is seen.”

The outcome of this war is crucial to the future of our society. Unless God’s wisdom prevails and society turns back to the One, True God, we will continue our downward spiral on a slippery path toward destruction.  Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a pathway that seems right to a man, but in the end it’s a road to death,” (International Standard Version, ISV) (NOTE: For the PC sensitive, “a man” is the same as saying, “a person.”)

To some persons, it might seem smarter if small fruit was put on small plants and big fruit was put on big plants. But, thankfully, they’re not God! Just watch out for them, anyway. It won’t be acorns falling!

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Since God is our all-wise and loving Father, he is the One we seek for wisdom and love in our own lives (Psalm 111:10; 121:1-2). Here is Francesca Battistelli singing, “God I Look to You,” https://youtu.be/KP1QKueGK-o

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The Right Appearance

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It’s a reality that first impressions may not really lead to the right conclusion. It helps to know the facts first before jumping in and making the wrong move, even if it’s with sincere intentions.

There’s a joke about a policeman who arrived at the scene of an automobile accident and saw a horrible sight smashed against the inside of the windshield of one of the cars. The policeman quickly called for help and then rushed to the car.
The officer asked the man in the front seat, “How bad are you hurt, sir?”
The driver responded, “I’m not hurt at all, but this pizza sure made a mess!”
(Michael Hodgin, 1001 Humorous Illustrations for Public Speaking)

We can imagine the policeman would be relieved to know that nothing happened to the driver. At the same time, it could have been embarrassing when the emergency crew arrived to find that the pizza was the only casualty in the car. Appearances may not always be as they first appear.

Jesus knew this, too. In fact, he warned,
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves,” (Matthew 7:15, English Standard Version, ESV).

Jesus wants us to be aware of persons who appear to be from his flock of believers but the reality is they are out to take advantage of them and use them to satisfy their own ambitions.

Jesus issued his warning in view of Israel’s past history. There were true prophets of God like Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. But there were false prophets who appeared to be true: The prophets of the idol Baal; the Egyptian magicians in Moses’ time; the self-proclaimed prophets who made false predictions about Israel. They all gave the appearances of being truly genuine. As it turns out, however, they were like wolves disguised as sheep. For, as Jesus warned,

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves,” (Matthew 7:15, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

You could also include those such as the priests, judges, and kings who gave false appearances of being good but in truth were, as they say, as crooked as a dog’s hind leg. The prophet Jeremiah opined,

“An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and my people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?” (Jeremiah 5:30, NASB).

Isaiah observed how the leaders took on a form of righteousness (Isaiah 1:10-15), then he voiced this complaint:

Your rulers are rebels
And companions of thieves;
Everyone loves a bribe
And chases after gifts.
They do not obtain justice for the orphan,
Nor does the widow’s case come before them. (Isaiah 1:23, NASB.)

In New Testament times, false prophets and false teachers came in the guise of religion. Jesus often scolded the scribes. Pharisees, and Sadducees for their false appearances as God’s representatives (Matthew 22:23-33; 23:13-36). And he warned fellow Jews not to fall for their trickery (Matthew 15:14; 23:1-12).

This admonition was carried over to the early church. Time and again the apostles and church leaders were battling to prevent false teachers from entering congregations and turning the members away from the true teachings of Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Galatian churches remarking,

“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ,” (Galatians 1:6-7, NASB).

The Apostle Peter predicted that false prophets and teachers “will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves,” (2 Peter 2:1). They might appear to have all the right answers, but as Peter said, “These are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm for whom the black darkness has been reserved,” implying God’s judgement to come (v. 17).

Using similar language, Jude also issues this urgent appeal, “contend earnestly for the faith,” for he said, “certain persons have crept in unnoticed…ungodly persons who turn the grace of God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus,” (Jude 3-4). To be sure, we can conclude Jude wouldn’t make this warning if he didn’t think false teachers would appear to mislead believers from the true Gospel.

The Good News is not based on false appearances, or shall we say, false pretenses. These kind of appearances go hand in hand with the label “fake news.” No one should like fake news but everyone should like the Good News.

The Good News of Jesus Christ and his Kingdom will shine the light of truth on those wrong impressions that “evil is good and good is evil,” (Isaiah 5:20) like some would have us think. Unlike what happened in the pizza joke I told earlier, it’s no accident when false teachers try to give us the wrong impression that Christians, for example, are the ones at fault for the world’s ills. Yet, just as Jesus told his followers in their time (John 16:1-3), that will be the case the closer we come to the Glorious Day of Jesus’ return (Matthew 24:37-39; 2 Timothy 3:12-13; 4:3-5).

Sadly, these teachers are prone to make Christians out to look like we’re crazy or silly to believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins, that he wants us to repent and give our lives to him so that we might receive everlasting life (John 3:16; Acts 2:38-39). But this is the Good News we so willingly confess and believe with all our heart, mind, and soul. We cannot allow ourselves to buy into any kind of fake news that goes against the Good News of God’s truth while steering us away from our faith in him through Christ.

Our aim is to live the kind of life that reveals the right appearance of Christ living in us as we await his glorious appearance from heaven. Each day we strive to seek the truth in God’s Word by studying it and growing in his knowledge and grace through Christ. In so doing, we reap the wonderful benefits that come with experiencing the wisdom and power he so abundantly provides.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. False appearances are often displayed when the truth is disguised as something else. But if the truth be told and we were honest, we’d be better off in the long run. Here’s Matthew West singing, “Truth Be Told,” https://youtu.be/j4wYkS8Z3Io

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Watch Out for the ‘-isms’—Historical Revisionism

Lincoln_quote

The above picture humorously illustrates another “ism” we are dealing with these days—historical revisionism. The internet is one source where you could read about something that reportedly happened in the past but you learned differently about it. Unfortunately many are inclined to believe what they read and see without knowing the facts. So, if you didn’t know about Abraham Lincoln and the history surrounding his life, you just might believe that the 16th president of the United States actually did make that statement.

So what is historical revisionism, anyway? One explanation is, “Historical revisionism pertains to the act of altering historical facts for benevolent or malevolent reasons.” It’s also described as a “critical reexamination of historical facts with or without new evidence.” (historyplex.com)

There are some cases where revisionism may be useful. It is a science of sort intended to correct errors, keep timelines accurate, and re-examine the ideas and motivations of those living in past times. But with revisionism comes the concern that historical facts and figures may be distorted or replaced in order to fit a theory or biased view. Thus, one’s revisionism may not necessarily be factual or entirely accurate.

In recent times, we’ve been told that some historical events didn’t happen the same way we may have been taught. Some examples are, the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus and controversy over the impact it had on the indigenous people living at the time; what the first thanksgiving by the Pilgrims was all about; differences some have over the legitimate founding of our nation in 1776 and the founding fathers; denial some have expressed over the Jewish holocaust in World War 2; debate over who really started World War 2.

Unfortunately, there are those who interpret historical events such as these to promote their own agendas with little or no scientific evidence to support them. Their biased views are usually based on social, political, and cultural presumptions used to fit the way they think the world should be now.

For Christians, it’s essential to examine and understand what factually happened in history so that we won’t be misled toward the way we are to think and live. We want to understand and know the past as truthfully and accurately as we can no matter what it reveals so that we prevent making wrong decisions in the future. As the philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” He also remarked, “The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.”

Onetime back in the 90’s I went to see and hear the famous commentator, Paul Harvey. In his dissertation he spoke of the importance of history. He likened it to the day after a football game when the coach reviewed the plays of the previous game. Regardless whether the team won or lost, one of the main purposes for looking at the film was to pinpoint the mistakes the players made when a play was called so they wouldn’t make the same mistakes again. Thus, they could improve their performance the next time. Paul Harvey said this is the purpose of history. To look back, review the past, and see what we needs to be improved for a better turn out in the future.

Christians know how important it is to learn from the past for we’re always trying to seek the truth and grow from it. But if we don’t know our history, if we ignore it and don’t understand how we got here in the first place, we will obviously be led astray and our faith will be compromised.

The Bible writers new full well how important it was for Israel not to forget their past or change it to accommodate the distorted teachings of their day. The people were, in effect, warned against historical revisionism. That’s why God told the people through Moses that they should pass on his teachings to their children and to always keep them where they could be easily seen (Deuteronomy 6:7-9). And every time they held the Feasts, especially Passover, they were to review the historical events that identified them as God’s chosen people.

It’s also why the Apostle Peter explained why he wrote his second letter to the believers: “That you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles,” (2 Peter 3:2). Though we should not live in the past, we can learn from the past. But if history is revised under a false illusion or merely on theory, then we’ll never learn from it.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church reminding them of the past sins of Israel when they wandered in the wilderness. He didn’t revise what happened but told them the cold, hard truth as a lesson about the way all believers should behave and believe. Recalling the facts of the past he said, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction upon whom the ends of the ages have come,” 1 Corinthians 10:11-12).

Paul’s aim was to prevent Christians from making the same mistakes that those before them made: “Therefore let him who think he stands take heed lest he fall,” (v. 13). We can also learn from the mistakes or sins of others but we will not be able to do so if history is revised to sooth our own conscience and angled to satisfy our own preconceived ideas.  

Our faith will not be able to protect us if it’s built on faulty ground or shifting sand (Matthew 7:24-27). We will never survive and be victorious in our Christian walk if we do not pursue knowledge and truth according to what we’ve been taught by those who’ve lived before us. And we will not be able to look ahead with confidence in preparation of a better day to come.

The Bible tells us to watch out for false teachers for they are a sign pointing to the near return of Jesus. Historical revisionism is one of the many ways we can be misled to follow ideas that are not true. We must therefore be on guard so that we won’t be steered away from the truth. Our aim is to be prepared for Jesus’ coming and be found faithful to him so that we can enter God’s eternal Kingdom. That’s the reason why we are truth seekers in Christ—learning truth today about yesterday with great hope for a better tomorrow.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. When we put God first and last in our lives, we can be sure our present will be blessed by his presence. Here’s John Mark McMillan and his band in concert singing, “Future/Past”: https://youtu.be/Q8unoeiaYoI

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What Out for the ‘-isms’—Democratic Socialism

in government we trust

Jesus warned that one of the signs of his near return is there will be many imposters (“false prophets”) who will “mislead many” (Matthew 24:9-13). Part of that deception includes persons who will have us believe they have the answers for making the world a better place.

While we’d all like the world to be a better place, they go further. They are living a Utopian-like fantasy where THEY and only THEY will make the world better place. And they’ll use any means—whether legal or otherwise—to make us conform to their way of thinking.

In my last post I addressed one of the “isms” to which some of these people are identified, namely secular humanism. Like an octopus, its tentacles have been reaching out into various areas as a false religion yet based under the guise of a humanistic philosophy.

One of those tentacles has taken on a form of its own. This is another “ism.” It’s called democratic socialism.

You may have heard this term used in recent years as more and more persons claim to be sympathetic and even supportive toward the socialist philosophy. It is evidenced in government leadership, the media, entertainment, and educational institutions.

There seems to be a lot of variations on what it means to be a democratic socialist. I won’t get into all of them in this post. But here is the basic meaning of the term in a nutshell published by Wiktionary:

Democratic Socialism: A left-wing ideology that aims to introduce democracy into the workforce, i.e., worker cooperative and ensure public provision of basic human needs. Any form of socialism based on democratic principles and institutions.

In essence, this is a political philosophy that injects socialism into democracy. Democratic socialists claim that their brand rejects authoritarian, centrist, elitist methods including the kind of socialism in places such as Russia. Nonetheless, it is still a form of socialism.

Now, why is this something Christians should watch out for? My answer is not so much about the political or economic aspects of it but the philosophical implications and how it all affects our beliefs and actions.

We must understand that since this “ism” is grounded primarily in socialism, it hits at the very heart of religion in general and Christianity in particular. Although this philosophy, like secular humanism, is a recent issue that is increasingly becoming popular in our culture, it’s essentially nothing new.

Democratic socialism traces its roots 100 years ago to the early years of the 20th Century. It was initially advocated and instituted under the influence of Vladimir Lenin, the Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. Wikipedia cites,

Under his administration, Russia, and later the Soviet Union, became a one-party Marxist-Leninist state governed by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Ideologically a Marxist, he developed a variant of it known as Leninism.

Did you notice all the other “isms” stemming from socialism? Lenin is said to be viewed by his supporters as a champion of socialism. And there’s the rub against Christians.

A fascinating article titled, “The Religious Left Just Doesn’t Get It: Socialism Is Anti-Christian,” by Paul Kengor dated September 11, 2019, reported that in May of 1909 Lenin repeatedly declared, “Religion is the opium of the people.”

Kengor writes,

This dictum by Marx is the cornerstone of the whole Marxist outlook on religion. Here, Lenin was writing explicitly on behalf of fellow “Social Democrats.” What he wrote is worth quoting at length, given what our Christian “democratic socialist” brethren now assert:

It is the absolute duty of Social-Democrats to make a public statement of their attitude towards religion. Social-Democracy bases its whole world-outlook on scientific socialism, i.e., Marxism. The philosophical basis of Marxism, as Marx and Engels repeatedly declared, is dialectical materialism—a materialism which is absolutely atheistic and positively hostile to all religion… Marxism has always regarded all modern religions and churches, and each and every religious organization, as instruments of bourgeois reaction that serve to defend exploitation and to befuddle the working class…

Marxism is materialism. As such, it is as relentlessly hostile to religion… We must combat religion—that is the ABC of all materialism, and consequently of Marxism. But Marxism is not a materialism which has stopped at the ABC. Marxism goes further. It says: We must know how to combat religion.

Obviously, as Kengor shows, Christianity is one of the main targets under democratic socialism. Although we can be thankful for the precious freedoms we enjoy to practicing our faith, we cannot take them for granted. It’s important to remember what President Ronald Reagan once said,

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.

Our fight for freedom to follow the Lord is not physical. Rather, it’s in the spiritual realm as the Apostle Paul pointed out—“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 6:12, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

We watch out for democratic socialism by living the Good News that only Christ will make the world a better place. It won’t ever happen by some idealistic philosophy that prohibits freedom and makes us subservient to government or any other human authority. God’s Word brings us the Good News where we get our instructions for living in accordance with the principles set forth by Jesus Christ, himself. And through him, we find true victory and peace in the world (1 John 5:4).

Each generation needs to be taught and reminded of this truth as we see the Day of Christ approaching (Deuteronomy 4:9-10; Leviticus 25:46; Joel 1:1-3; 1 Peter 3:8-12). For we must not forget to remember that there will always be imposters and deception, with even more to come before the return of Christ. So, we stand firm in the Lord by faith, getting ready for that glorious Day, (1 Peter 5:6-11).

In my next post I will share another “ism” we need to watch out for in these perilous times.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Jesus is the only answer to your problems and to all the world, as well. Human “isms” are not the answer for they cannot give us what Jesus offers. Here’s Selah with, “Jesus Is the Answer,” https://youtu.be/kx_gTS5Hz0M

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Watch Out for the ‘-isms’—Secular Humanism

Secular Humanism

Christians know that faith is not something that comes without it being tested all the time. Yet it will have positive results. James said the “testing of your faith” produces steadfastness (James 1:2-4). The Apostle Peter encouraged the church saying, “So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 1:7, English Standard Version, ESV).

The times in which we’re living are also putting our faith to the test. And it will continue all the more until the revelation of Jesus when he comes again. We want to be found faithful even though many will want to discourage us from it, (Luke 18:8).

The ungodly world is known to test our faith through a variety of ways—anything from social pressure to physical persecution. But one of the most subtle forms of testing comes by way of words that end with “ism.”

Now we literally encounter thousands of “isms” words all the time. Some may be applied constructively; others may be applied destructively. And they fit under many categories including philosophy, religion, art, science, health, and so on. But there are three “isms” in our modern culture I wish to discuss that are testing our faith. And they will continue to do so until Christ comes to deliver us from them.

I will be discussing these three “isms” with the first one starting in this post. Then in the next two posts I will continue with two more “isms” so please stay tuned.

One of the “isms” that we’ve been increasingly tested with for some decades now is secular humanism. This “ism” stands at odds with Christianity. It is a form of religion under the guise of a philosophy that’s founded on, “Man is the measure of all things.” This view is nothing new. As a matter of fact, these words were coined by the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras (c. 490-420 BC).

What I find amusing is that secularists have become so humanistic today that they can’t even approve the word “man” as used in the philosopher’s own philosophy. Ironically, this illustrates how secular humanism is even more influential toward shaping our 21st century society.

Here are some features of secular humanism today:

  1. God’s existence is questioned or denied: Two more “isms”—agnosticism, atheism
  2. Evolution is believed as a scientific fact.
  3. Humans are highly evolved animals.
  4. The Bible is not inspired by God.
  5. Humanity is, by nature, good.
  6. There’s no such thing as “sin.”
  7. If it feels good do it just so it doesn’t hurt anyone else.
  8. There is no absolute right or wrong.
  9. Abortion, euthanasia, infanticide are acceptable choices.
  10. The traditional family unit (father, mother, children) is no longer relevant.
  11. Your gender is whatever you prefer it to be. 
  12. Government has the solutions to our problems.

I will get more into that last one in my next post (hint, hint!). But, if you are a Bible-believing, God-fearing believer, you can see how secular humanism stands out like a sore thumb when compared to our faith.

Every one of these humanistic features in the list can be disproven according to what God’s infallible Word teaches. With that in mind, I would like to give you a challenge: Go back to each one of these on the list and think about how you’d respond in light of your faith and what the Bible says. We must be able to give an answer according to our hope as the Apostle Peter urged the church in his time (1 Peter 3:15).

We live in such a time that demands we stand out against this “ism” in lieu of what we profess to believe through Christ. However, we must confess this is easier said than done. It’s a real test not to let the world intimidate us, and we become so permissive whether out of fear or just plain indifference that we give in to this “ism” in our lives. We must resist blending in so much that others can’t see our light shining or taste our saltiness through our Christ-like example each day (Matthew 5:13-16).

The time is coming, and has even already come, when we need to examine our faith and what we’re going to do as the Day of Christ approaches. Secular humanism is only one “ism” but it’s something we can’t deny is happening all around us. And it hits close to home for all of us in so many different ways.

But this “ism” does not have to keep us under its spell. We can resist as we grow in faith according to God’s grace. This, indeed, plays a crucial part according to the Good News found through Christ our Lord. It’s the kind of Good News we can live and give with all joy, peace, and love in our hearts (Luke 2:10; 8:1; Galatians 5:22-24).

Jesus kept reminding his followers: “But the one who endures to the end shall be saved,” (Matthew 24:13, ESV). And the early church leaders continued sending this message of encouragement to the followers of their day (1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Peter 3:14-18). May we also remember that no matter what happens this year or any other year we still have a Savior who has promised us power, wisdom, and hope—something which secular humanism can’t even come close to give us. And that’s what the Good News is all about.

Be looking for the next “ism” I will comment on in my next post coming soon.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. We’re encouraged not to give up on our faith even while the world tries to get us to change according to humanity’s own foolish and futile ways. Here’s Hillsong Worship in a live performance singing, “Have Faith in God”: https://youtu.be/PvX39KKI5HY

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Faith Now, Justice Then, Pray Always

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In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus tells the Parable of the Unjust Judge. He closes with a question, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

The lesson of the story is about persisting in prayer and keeping the faith while living under the stress and strain of injustice. The two characters in the story are a widow and a judge in a certain city.

The widow is seeking legal protection due to someone going against her. Jesus didn’t include the reason for the widow’s predicament but it may be presumed she was poor. It wasn’t uncommon for widows to be taken advantage of, especially in financial matters without husbands to no longer support them.

The judge is portrayed as someone typical in Jesus’ day. It’s said that in the Eastern countries judges were reluctant to take cases that involved widows and the poor. Reportedly, in some of these places today, judges do not get paid for their services but they depend on bribes sent to them days before appearing in court. If he doesn’t get the money ahead of time, he assumes the person is poor and refuses to take the case. It’s alleged these judges feel there would be nothing to gain financially. In their mind, it would be a waste of their time to take on the case of a poor widow unless they are pressured into it. (Source: George M. Lamsa, Gospel Light)

This appears to be the kind of judge Jesus is describing. The problem is two-fold: First, the judge has no reverence for God and his holy principles. Second, he does not respect what others think or how they feel. This explains his attitude toward the widow and her request for justice on her part.

So, what was she left to do? Go to him day and night until he would finally give in. It was her only recourse. She desperately needed the judge’s help regardless his heartlessness and ungodliness.

We can imagine the judge not getting a moments rest until he heard her case. Finally, he relented but not without being so disturbed by it that he thought of the repercussions if he didn’t grant the woman her request.  He was getting afraid that if he didn’t give her legal protection, she’d wear him out.

Interestingly, the Greek word for “wear me out,” (v. 5) literally means, “hit me under the eye.” This doesn’t necessarily mean the judge fears she’ll physically attack him. Rather, it figuratively means to give someone intolerable annoyance like a black eye. In other words, the judge was so wearied and worried by her continually coming to him that he decided to comply and no longer be bothered. (Source: Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

Jesus goes on to tell the moral of this story: “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now shall not God bring about justice for his elect who cry to him day and night, and will he delay long over them? I tell you that he will bring about justice for them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:6-8).

In contrast to the unrighteous judge, there’s the righteous Judge who is none other than our Almighty God (Psalm 7:11; 11:7; 50:6). While the judge stands for the imperfection of humanity, God stands for perfection. Jesus wanted his listeners to know that if an unjust judge would give in to a widow’s persistent plea, how much more would God come to the aid of someone in need of his justice in due time. And that’s just it: God is long-suffering over us as we make our requests day and night before him.

And that’s the difference between the unjust judge and our Righteous Judge. While the judge grew impatient and just wanted the widow out of his hair, God is patient toward us in that he will ultimately hear our prayers and answer our cries if we’re found faithful to him.

I like what Simon Kistemaker wrote concerning the lesson of this parable:

If God’s people cry to him day and night, why does he at times delay in answering? Jesus continues, “Will he keep putting them off?” And the implied answer to this rhetorical question is: Of course not. He may keep his people waiting, he may exercise their patience, he may strengthen their faith, but at the proper time God will answer the prayers of his people.” (The Parables of Jesus)

The proper time when true and lasting justice for all God’s people will prevail is in the question Jesus posed. It all boils down to his second coming and who’ll be found faithful when that day comes. Who will be found continually asking, seeking, knocking (Matthew 7:7-8) until Jesus bursts forth from the clouds and brings final justice for all of his followers? Will you be like the widow and never give up—to pray continually at all times and never lose heart?

We’re only in our second day of a brand new year. We’d all like to see justice prevail throughout this year. But, the reality is, judges or any decision maker for that matter are all too human. Some do a much better job than others and we hope the right ones will render good judgment. But we can’t raise our expectations too high if they’re like the unjust judge in Jesus’ parable—ones who do not fear God nor respect man. Usually, power, prejudice, and puffed up pride pathetically play a part of the problem when such a person in a high position rules.

Given that fact, it’s worth remembering that ALL will stand before the Supreme Judge even judges and anyone else in a rulership position when Judgment Day comes (2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15). At that time, God will correct all injustice that has ever occurred since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. AMEN!

As we look ahead of us in faith, we look eagerly for the Day when God the Righteous Judge will answer all our prayers and true justice prevails. Whether it’s this year or still in years forthcoming, we serve, we watch, we keep on praying until the New Day dawns and Christ is here to establish God’s everlasting righteousness over all the world.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. One of the questions we ask the Lord is “How long will it be until that Day, O Lord?” Here’s Prayers of the Saints recorded live in concert with that very question: https://youtu.be/9mFRMcolr6s

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‘The Hopes and Fears of All the Years’

Christmas_hopes-and-fears

Among the many old Christmas carols, there is one that will always remain popular when it comes to remembering the place of Jesus’ birth. It was written by Phillips Brooks, an Episcopal priest, who had visited the village of Bethlehem in 1865. Three years later, with the visit still fresh in his mind, he wrote a poem about it for his church and asked his organist, Lewis Redner to compose it into a tune. Hence, it came to be titled, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

Interestingly, both writer and composer didn’t think the song would stay around very long. Here’s what Redner reportedly said as he recalled how the song had come to be written,

As Christmas of 1868 approached, Mr. Brooks told me that he had written a simple little carol for the Christmas Sunday-school service, and he asked me to write the tune to it. The simple music was written in great haste and under great pressure. We were to practice it on the following Sunday. Mr. Brooks came to me on Friday, and said, ‘Redner, have you ground out that music yet to “O Little Town of Bethlehem”? I replied, ‘No,’ but that he should have it by Sunday. On the Saturday night previous my brain was all confused about the tune. I thought more about my Sunday-school lesson than I did about the music. But I was roused from sleep late in the night hearing an angel-strain whispering in my ear, and seizing a piece of music paper I jotted down the treble of the tune as we now have it, and on Sunday morning before going to church I filled in the harmony. Neither Mr. Brooks nor I ever thought the carol or the music to it would live beyond that Christmas of 1868. (Louis F. Benson, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. Studies Of Familiar Hymns, as cited in Wikipedia.)

Now, many generations later, we continue to sing the words to this timeless song. The words superbly describe not only how Bethlehem was just the right place for Christ to be born, but also how it stands for the way he can “be born in us today.”  And that is why we can be experience the serenity and solemnity reflected by that humble little town while “God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven.”

But of all the many inspirational phrases that, I believe, give this song longevity and meaning is where it says,

The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

The song reminds us that Bethlehem symbolically stands as the crossroads for meeting human hopes and fears over all the years. For, where there’s fear, there’s the need for hope. Jesus was born in the right place at the right time where he would come into the world, to provide the hope for saving mankind from mortal fear.

Fear is, indeed, our biggest fear unless we have hope through Christ. For example, the night Christ was born in that little village, big things were yet to come. But it didn’t come without fear, at first.

When Joseph was troubled after learning that Mary, the one betrothed to him, was found to be with child, the angel of God appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Do not be afraid.”

But Joseph’s fear gave way to hope when the angel went on to say to him, “…for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call his name Jesus, for it is he who will save his people from their sins,” (Matthew 1:18-21). These words gave him hope. And his hope is what led to his obedience to do as the Lord commanded. The rest, as they say, is history.

Mary also experienced fear until she was given hope. When the angel Gabriel appeared to the virgin, “the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God,’” (Luke 1:30). The hope she received was based on the promise that “‘you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end,’” (Luke 1:31-33).

Naturally, Mary inquired how this would be possible since she was a virgin. But when the angel told her that her holy offspring would come about through God’s Power, she submitted to the Lord’s will. “And Mary said, ‘Behold, the Lord’s bond-servant; may it be done to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her,” (Luke 1:38).

Mary was able to rejoice knowing that she would play such an honored role to bear the Christ child who would rule and reign over his people forever in his kingdom. Now, no longer afraid, she has hope. “And Mary said, ‘My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.  For He has had regard for the humble state of His bond-servant; for behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed,’” (Luke 1:46-48).

Then there were the shepherds just outside the little town of Bethlehem, watching their flocks one night. They were just minding their own business when, it says, “And the angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and there were terribly frightened,” (Luke 2:9).

The shepherds were so scared you could say they were shaking in their sandals. But as quickly as they were frightened, the angel immediately said, “Do not be afraid, I bring good news of a great joy which shall be for all the peop0le; for today in the city of David there has been born for a Savior, who is Christ the Lord….” (Luke 2:11).

Once again, fear turned into hope when these humble shepherds heard the good news that their long-awaited Messiah was born. How their lives must have been changed that night after they next witnessed a whole host of angels singing their praises, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased,” (Luke 2:14). No longer afraid, they were now filled with hope and joy and great excitement. They  immediately went to Bethlehem to see him. Their lives must have never been the same again.

And, when you think about it, the same truth about fear and hope applies to us, too. At first, we might be afraid when something unexpected and unusual happens to us. We might even shake in our own sandals, so to speak, until we recall that it’s at the little town of Bethlehem where fear turns into hope.

For, when we remember that Christ was born right there in that little village, it vividly brings to mind how our lives can truly change in big and wonderful ways, too. We no longer have to be afraid because there’s good news of hope given by God himself who gave his one and only Son. And that’s what makes the good news about him, THE Good News.

So, whenever you’re afraid, just think about what took place in that little town of Bethlehem and the refreshing hope it brings to your life. I can imagine that’s probably what Philipps Brooks was thinking about as well when he wrote that carol those many years ago. And the words ring as true for us now as it did when he first wrote it then.

We’re now about to enter another new year. And we don’t know what fears we may be facing. As this year winds down, I’m sure we could all testify of some things that happened that we were not expecting. So we naturally responded with fear to one degree or another at first. What gets us through those times is hope—hope for a better, brighter future in spite of those sudden surprises that can overwhelm us. And that’s what will keep us going throughout this coming year “until he who comes whose right it is,” (Ezekiel 21:27), the One born long ago, lying in a manger, in the little town of Bethlehem.

Good News to YOU!
And may God give you a most blessed and prosperous New Year!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s the classic carol that never gets old, https://youtu.be/5mx6bTo-g3M

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The Star Is Born

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One time when I was a boy I was looking out of my bedroom window at night and saw something I’ll never forget. I was gazing up at the stars twinkling in the dark sky. Suddenly, I saw several falling stars that for a brief moment lit up the darkness. Sometimes they’re called shooting stars.

What I actually witnessed, of course, were not really stars falling. Rather, it was probably what they call a meteor show—a number of meteors that are seen radiating the night sky as they entered Earth’s atmosphere.

Stars or not, it was a thrilling yet startling sight to see. It still brings a chill down my spine as I recall that night.

The excitement I felt to see this cosmic phenomena reminds me of the wise men, also known as magi, when they saw the star in the east after Jesus was born. Naturally, they would have spotted the star since they specialized in astrology, medicine, and natural science. And what a thrill it must have been for them!

They just knew the star was a significant sign of importance for the Jews. So they travelled from their homes, possibly Mesopotamia or Persia, to Jerusalem where they spoke to Herod the king.

According to Matthew’s account, they inquired, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him,” (Matthew 2:2).

Once the wise men learned that according to prophecy the King was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:5-6), they headed there to search for him (Matthew 2:8). Again, the star appeared. It says, “…And lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over where the Child was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy,” (Matthew 2:9-10).

Now they were filled with even more excitement. For, after a long journey, they finally arrive at the place led by a star shining brightly down to the exact location of Israel’s future King, their long awaited Messiah. It says, “And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary, his mother…” (Matthew 2:11).

Can you imagine the joy that came over them when they actually entered the house and saw the Child with his Mother? At the same time, can you also imagine how they were filled with awe and reverence as they humbly knelt in worship to present him sacred gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh?

By the way, notice the wise men did not come to the manger like they are traditionally pictured but to a house Joseph and Mary were living in at the time. And by the time the star led them to Bethlehem, Jesus was probably a baby believed to be one to two years old.

We surmise that Jesus was likely a young toddler given the fact that when the wise men did not report back to Herod after they visited the Christ child, Herod was so enraged he ordered that all male children in Bethlehem under two years old be slaughtered.

Herod foolishly thought his order would eliminate any chance for another King to arise someday to replace him and start a new dynasty. But God warned Joseph and Mary of Herod’s evil scheme. So they took their Child and escaped to Egypt to live in the meantime. Indeed, God was looking out for his Son. (Matthew 2:12-8.)

From the star to the entire scene of events, we see something so special and spectacular that we can’t help but be moved by it ourselves. It stirs our emotions and holds us in wonder as we envision it, too.  We imagine ourselves in the place of the wise men long ago who wandered after the star of wonder that led them to Bethlehem. And we wonder, as well.

It’s the star that starts us to wonder. No one exactly knows what the star really was that the wise men saw. There are several theories. Some wonder if it was a supernova—like a stellar explosion of a star that suddenly becomes bright. Others wonder if it was a perfect alignment of planets that appeared as one bright star. Still, others wonder if it could have been a comet. I’ve even read where some wonder if the star was actually the same pillar of fire that led Israel through their wilderness wanderings in Exodus.

If those theories aren’t enough, others wonder if the star was a “heliacal rising.” That’s when a star rises at a certain time each year above the eastern horizon at dawn just before sunrise. Some point out that “in the east” can also mean “at the rising,” and might allude to this idea.

What we do find fascinating is that the star in the east has both literal and figurative meaning. No doubt, the wise men didn’t just imagine they saw a star. It wasn’t in a vision or a dream. They really saw it and genuinely followed it under God’s divine intervention, of course.

For the star was God’s sign that his Son had indeed been born. And not only that, he was born as King to fulfill his starring role as Messiah, God’s Anointed, who is appointed to someday rule the whole world. So, in a very real and relevant sense, the star was the sign that THE star was born.

This has Biblical merit. Jesus, himself, claims that he is the Star. Revelation 22:16 says, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you of these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

If you get up early at sunrise you see the planet Venus standing out brightly like a star in the east. It’s appropriately nicknamed, The Morning Star. Moreover, it’s also known as The Evening Star since it appears in the west at sunset. In a spiritual sense, Jesus is the Star who shines in us and guides us from morning to evening. He’s the first we seek in the morning and the last we seek at night. (Compare, Revelation 22:13.)

Jesus is also the Star that was born into royalty. He is, after all, the son of David as well as the Son of God. The angel told Mary, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end,” (Luke 1:32-33).

Jesus is the One who comes from David’s royal line since his ancestry goes back to the tribe of Judah. The Bible says, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah” (Genesis 49:10), a promise that the Messiah would come from this tribe. The purpose of  Christ’s miraculous birth was so that he would one day rule the world with his throne centered in Jerusalem, the Capital City of the great King.

Like the star that shined over Bethlehem, Jesus shines over us with an amazing promise that has to do with we who are his followers. The Bible says that those who make Jesus the Star of their lives will share in his greatness and authority when he comes again.

In Revelation 2:28, Jesus says that anyone who holds fast to his Word and overcomes the evil deeds of the world, “I will give him the morning star.” Jesus will make stars out of all those who serve and obey him (Daniel 12:3). He will give believers authority over all the nations alongside him when he rules the nations of the world (Revelation 1:4-6; 19:15-16; 22:12-13).

Our remembrance of the star of the east and Jesus, the Bright Morning Star, brings to mind this story:

One night a man and his small son were walking closely down the streets of a large American city. The child was delighted to see the many service stars hanging from the windows of the homes. Each star proudly proclaimed the fact that a son was in the service of his country. He clapped his hands excitedly as he approached each new star, and was duly impressed by those homes with more than one star in the window.

Finally, they came to a wide gap between houses, through which the black velvet of the sky was clearly discernable with the evening star shining brightly.

“Oh look, Daddy,” cried the little boy. “God must have given his Son, for he has a Star in his window, too!”

May the Star in God’s window shine brightly in us as we remember that he is THE Star that was born for us!

Good news to YOU!
And a very Merry Christmas!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here is a an inspirational rendering of “I Wonder as I Wander,” sung by tenor, Branden James, https://youtu.be/h8hLTqxwL1A

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