Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

Leave a comment

32 Joy to the World

Matthew 2:1-11

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” 3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: 6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’” 7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” 9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Many of the songs that the world sings at Christmas time herald harmony and happiness, songs like “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” It’s tempting to think of Christmas as a trouble-free season, but let me ask you honestly, is harmony and happiness what you are experiencing? Probably not, for some personal problems are stealing your peace, for others family fighting and failure has left you furious and fatigued. Some tired of the expectations are on the edge emotionally, injured and isolated. Others are left feeling frazzled from trying to create the picture perfect Christmas. For many Christmas feels more like a crisis than a comfort, with more chaos than cheer. Maybe this season the world seems less like a winter wonderland and more just like winter. Instead of rejoicing you just feel run over and run down.  But did you know that disillusionment at Christmas is not an unusual thing. We get so hyped up with expectations about what Christmas is supposed to be that often the real thing just doesn’t measure up, leaving us disappointed, disillusioned and depressed. So what can you do this Christmas to avoid disillusionment? How can you discover the true delight and not the disappointment? The answer to this mystery is found in the story of the magi in Matthew 2 as we answering three questions:

  • What do you seek?

Your level of joy and satisfaction is directly related to what it is you seek. We need to ask ourselves some serious questions this Christmas: What is it that you want to get out of Christmas? What is it that would make your Christmas wonderful and satisfying? Snow? Finding the perfect present for that special someone? All the family home together and happy? Getting that great gift? The problem with all these desires is that they can leave us disappointed. Have you ever been disappointed by Christmas because it did not deliver what you desired? The problem wasn’t Christmas, it was your expectations. Many of us waste our time looking for the wrong things. In Matthew chapter two the magi show us how to experience joy at Christmas by looking for the right thing. What were they were looking for? Verse two tells us that they came to Jerusalem and said, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” They were looking for Jesus, He was the reason for their journey. Their joy was wrapped up in Jesus not the junk. For them Christmas was a call to worship the One who is worthy. Is Jesus the reason for your rejoicing? Is worship what you want? Are you excited about praising the Prince of Peace or the presents? What if worship was what we wished for, and a fresh glimpse of God was first on our list? What if our desire was for the Savior this season,  would we be dissatisfied? Do you desire a walk of worship, is Jesus what you are looking and longing for? When we worship the things of this world they leave us wanting, but when we worship the Savior we feel full and satisfied.

  • Where do you look?

Your level of joy is directly related to where you look. The magi teach us that there are wrong and right places to look for Christmas. They stopped at Herod the Great’s palace, where human reasoning said one should look. The star indicated the birth of a new king in Israel, so they went where kings should be born, to the capital city of Jerusalem. Human reasoning wants to look for a throne not a trough. What made sense was really a mistake for when Herod heard of the birth of a new king, he jealousy sought to destroy Jesus. How many have been tempted to listen to what society says and look for joy at Christmas in all the wrong places. We can easily get of course looking for happiness in our homes, or when it’s tied up under a tree, or when we try to find it in family or food.  The right place wasn’t found in a palace, it wasn’t in a building but the bible, God’s Word. Only when they looked to God did they get it. The priests pointed to the prophet Micah, who foretold that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. Are you going to look to the Word or the world?

  • What do you give?

Your level of joy at Christmas is directly related to what you give. The magi came bearing gifts, they were prepared, proactive in their praise. They gave appropriate gifts, gold a gift fitting for a king, acknowledging that Jesus was and is the King. They presented Him with frankincense, a gift fitting for a priest, acknowledging that Jesus was the priest, the One who would intercede and bring us back to God. They gave myrrh, a fragrant ointment used to anoint the body before burial. By giving a gift for the dead they acknowledged that Jesus had come to die for the sins of the world. What are you giving for Christmas this year? What if you like the magi gave an appropriate gift this Christmas? Not a material gift like money but one with more meaning. What if you gave yourself?  What if you gave your time to your family, or that gift of love to the lonely? The gift of help to those who are hurting, or the gift of forgiveness to those who have hurt you. What if we would share the gift of salvation with a stranger?  Or cloth those who are cold with Christ’s compassion?  What if joy isn’t so much what we seek but what we share? What if this Christmas you gave your heart to Jesus? When we look for the right thing, look in the right places, and give the right gift we will discover the Messiah the true meaning of Christmas joy.

Leave a comment

31 Suffering Surprise – Part 2

1 Peter 4:12-19

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

  • Evaluate your Suffering

Since suffering is assured, we should make sure we are experiencing it for the right reasons. It is a sad but simple fact that some kinds of suffering do not bring the blessing and grace of God because some of our suffering is deserved. Verse 15 reminds us that some suffer as a result of their sinful behavior “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.” Some suffering is self-inflicted while other kinds can be forced upon us by other people. How many Christians are suffering as a result of wrong choices they have made in life? They may be miserable and moaning because God is allowing them to experience the natural consequences of careless choices. Some suffer because they are reaping in the present what they sowed in the past, Galatians 5:5-6. While others are experiencing pain because they are enduring the chastening and correction of God’s discipline as a resulting of unconfessed sins, Hebrews 12.  These kinds of suffering do not qualify as spiritual suffering. Peter is also cautioning us to be careful about how we respond to right suffering. When you suffer unjustly, the flesh wants to strike back but Peter stressed that persecution is no excuse for lawlessness. In 3:9 Peter reminds us that to respond to suffering with retaliation is wrong, for instance confiscation of property is not to be compensated for by theft. Regardless of the trials Christians are to trust Christ and do nothing that would justify punishing them as criminals 3:17 “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” Do you have a spiritual response to suffering or a secular one? It is interesting to note that Peter here places meddlers and murderers in the same category. I wonder if the modern church would lump meddlers and murderers in the same sentence. We would never give a pass to those who murder but what do we believe about busybodies? You see just as murder kills relationships so does meddling. Now as Peter resumes his preaching about right suffering in verse 16 he tells us not to be ashamed for suffering as a Christian but to glorify God for the privilege. We can praise in the pain when we trust in His plan. As Peter calls us to not be ashamed perhaps he remembers that time in his life when he was ashamed of Jesus and afraid to be identified with Him, Matthew 26:69-76. But that is not the same Peter preaching here, regardless of your past you can live out God’s plan in the present. Peter wants us to know that when we suffer for serving the Savior this world will want to make us feel like we are in the wrong and we need to remember that this guilt is not from God. We will be blamed for our belief, but we must be bold and not be ashamed of our God or His gospel. When you suffer for the Savior and are rebuked by this world do not receive the shame they heap upon you. Your Father sees all and is well pleased with you just as He was when Peter when he stood before the Sanhedrin to answer for his godly words and deeds. Peter also reminds us that suffering is profitable, when it purges and purifies our lives. Suffering speeds sanctification as our character becomes conformed to Christ. As we focus on sufferings ability to transform it helps us deal with the temporary discomfort Christians face in the process, because once this life ends, so does the suffering. Life is not lived merely for the present; we need to have a future focus. Its hard being a Christian, but it’s a whole lot harder being a heathen. They will also endure difficulty only to end up in hell without the hope of heaven. Life is hard, that is just the way it is because we live in a sin saturated society. But remember it’s hard for everyone, you are not being picked on or singled out, it’s just life. Yet even though your path seems paved with problems remember you have access to the problem solver, the Prince of Peace. While a Christian can cast their care upon Christ, the lost has no Lord and Savior to go to when they suffer.

  • Entrust your Suffering

As chapter four comes to a close we are given a solution for those who suffer according to the will of God. It is a profoundly simple solution, entrust your soul and suffering to the Savior, verse 19 ”So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” When we suffering solely for the sake of Christ, we must follow faith to its fullest extent, by deliberately handing over our life and its challenging circumstances to the Lord. Of all the titles for God, why use Creator? Because your faithful Creator who originally made you in His image is now in the process of remaking you to be more and more like Him and less and less like the distortion which sin has created. When we entrust our care to the eternal One we become free to let go of the bad and the baggage. We get to live lives of good instead of grumbling and grudges even though we are suffering and hurting. That’s what Paul and Silas did as they suffered in the Philippian jail, despite the problems they were praising God and living for His glory. The world we live in sees suffering as something to be avoided at all costs but Christians can have a totally different perspective. For us, suffering is precious because it produces Christ’s character in us and an awareness of His love for us. That even though He loves us where we are He also loves us to much to leave us that way. That he loves us enough to use trials and tests to transform us. We can rejoice inwardly even though we may suffer outwardly because we have the assurance that God has an overriding beneficial purpose and plan. Don’t let your trials tempt you to turn and stop trusting God. He knows what He is doing and only He can take the trials you face and turn them into treasure.