Dec 15, 2009
A Baby Changes Everything by Faith Hill
Dec 15, 2009
A Baby Changes Everything by Faith Hill
Is it worth it?
Christmas takes a lot out of us. The frenzied activity and financial outlays of the holidays are draining. The rushed trips. The snarled traffic and stacked up parties. Credit card receipts. Extra calories. Jangled nerves. Is it worth all the effort for a holiday that leaves people exhausted and often depressed?
Well, if that’s what Christmas does to you, perhaps there’s something wrong with your Christmas. Perhaps something’s missing. There is an emptiness in our culture that cries out for the joy of Christmas, but seems incapable of receiving it. Somehow the bows, mistletoe, sugar cookies, and jingle bells no longer satisfy the heart.
It isn’t that anything is wrong with the original Christmas message, of course. The “good tidings of great joy” are as special now as then. The story of the Christchild—God-made man—is fully capable of satisfying the deepest needs of the human heart. The problem is . . .
The problem is the human heart itself. Perhaps we can understand it better by looking at those curious characters in the Christmas story—the Wise Men.
The first thing we notice about them is their wealth. They appeared to have all the possessions one could imagine. While we don’t know if they were really kings, we do know they were wealthy enough to embark on long international trips, gain access to powerful rulers, and to bestow expensive presents. They are pictured on Christmas cards dressed in regal, royal garments, a caravan of camels in tow.
Yet despite their riches, they were still searching for something money couldn’t buy. Think of it. They were willing to leave their comfortable lifestyles and affluent palaces with well-watered gardens by the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to trek across a vast, barren desert in search of something that would fill the inner cravings of their souls.
Nothing has changed. Many people work all their lives to develop a comfortable lifestyle only to find it strangely empty. Novelist Kathe Koja spoke of a “deep hole in the heart that cries for radiance.” During an interview she said, “Our entire consumer culture is predicated on the belief that if you stuff enough things down that hole, you can finally satisfy it into silence. But this has never been the case.”
Lots of people give and receive hundreds of dollars’ worth of gifts during Christmas, only to be depressed on December 26. As one old Puritan put it, “The world is fading, not filling.”
The Magi also boasted of their heritage and pedigree, but that didn’t satisfy them. Many experts believe the Magi were the descendants of the Babylonian wise men of biblical times, the people today known as the Kurds.
We first read of them in Daniel 2. The Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, had a disturbing dream which none of his wise men—or Magi—could interpret. In a fit of wrath, Nebuchadnezzar ordered them all slain. But a young Hebrew prophet named Daniel intervened. God revealed to him the dream, and he explained it to the king. Daniel 2:48 says that Nebuchadnezzar “promoted Daniel and . . . made him . . . chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon.”
It was undoubtedly Daniel’s influence that planted the seeds of Messianic hope within the Magi. The Old Testament is full of predictions of His coming, and the Magi apparently knew some of those promises. They began looking for a Hebrew Messiah, the coming “King of the Jews.” Not having the full Hebrew Scriptures, the Magi looked for Him in the only place they knew—in the heavens, for they were astronomers. Rumors and yearnings for a coming King were passed from generation to generation until finally, hundreds of years later, they saw His star in the east and came to worship Him.
These men had a rich background, and their lineage gave them a high place in society. But it meant little to them. They needed the King of the Jews.
Perhaps you’re proud of your background, of your family history and genealogy. Maybe you were raised in a Christian home. Perhaps you grew up in church. Or it maybe you’re proud of what you’ve achieved and of the name you’ve made for yourself.
It’s important to be thankful for our heritage and blessings; however, heritage and history don’t satisfy the heart, and the name we make for ourselves will one day be forgotten. But those who find Jesus have eternal hope springing up in their hearts. Nothing compares to that.
The Magi were also powerful, influential men. Matthew 2 says their presence in Jerusalem deeply troubled King Herod and all the city. Their questions created panic in the palace. From that, we can safely assume they were accustomed to visiting with kings and dignitaries. They didn’t mind causing a stir. They were a respected group of leaders whose lifted eyebrow or ominous question could upset an entire nation.
But they were still hungry of heart.
The great Israeli statesman Abba Eban wrote in his autobiography about a conversation he once had with Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mount Everest. Eban asked Hillary what exactly he felt when he reached the peak. Hillary replied that the first sentiment was one of ecstatic accomplishment. But then there came a sense of desolation. What was there now left to do?
Jack Higgins, the renowned novelist, said that the one thing he learned at the high point in his career that he wished he had known as a small boy is this: “When you get to the top, there’s nothing there.”
People need the Lord. It isn’t power and influence we need—it’s Christ Himself. It’s a personal relationship with that Babe in the Manger.
Finally, the Magi were religious men. They were, in fact, religious leaders. We call them “Wise Men” because they possessed the secrets of the mystery religions of the Orient, secrets handed down from the times of Daniel. Men and women throughout the eastern empires came to them, seeking answers to the questions of life. But despite their piety and religion, these men had hollow hearts and empty souls.
And so they left home on their unexplainable mission, tramping through the desert, traveling for up to two years, trekking over “field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.”
O star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.
They came to Christ. Their journey ended in Bethlehem where they found at last the real Christmas. Where possessions, pedigree, power, and piety failed, there they found the Prince of Peace.
And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, ?they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).
In Dorothy Sayers play, The Man Born to Be King, one of the wise men says, “Fear is our daily companion—fear of want, fear of war, fear of cruel death and still more cruel life. But all this we could bear if we knew that we did not suffer in vain. If we knew that God was beside us in the struggle, sharing the miseries of His own world.”
Do you feel that way? With all your possessions, pedigree, power, or piety, are you still weary of heart this Christmas? Are you caught up in the boxes and bows, but somehow missing the Baby?
Wise men and women still seek the Savior.
The Magi of two thousand years ago were willing to leave everything behind if only they might find Him who had been born a King. Are you willing to leave everything to find and follow Christ? To take Him into your heart and home?
Then I have good tidings of great joy! Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.
Do you already know Christ? Then be a star this Christmas. Just as the mysterious light of the East guided the Wise Men to Christ, we can guide others to the manger. We can invite them to Christmas services where the Gospel is presented. We can bestow gifts of Christian literature and music. We can share Jesus by love, lip, and literature, being “children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16, NIV).
Let this be your mission this Christmas. And let Christ be your Guide.
BY DAVID JEREMIAH
God always has a purpose for being silent. I learned this lesson—and its corollary—in college.
One day during my senior year, I prepared to pray over a situation that would impact my future. But as I got on my knees, I felt as if God was suddenly gone. For three days and nights, His presence seemed miles away. The fourth evening, some friends gathered to intercede on my behalf, but to no avail. Nearly defeated, I was headed back to my room when I saw my buddy Don’s light. I climbed through his open window (the dorms were locked), and we prayed until dawn. Still nothing.
I beseeched the Father all week. Then, at last, He dramatically intervened in my life to clearly dictate my next steps. The corollary is this: When God is silent, keep on praying!
Far too many times, I’ve heard people say they quit praying about a need because there was no answer. Matthew 17:20 says faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains—imagine how tiny our trust must be when we give up on the Lord! Believers cannot treat prayers like quarters fed into a vending machine giving an instant response. Talking to God is a long-term investment in the intimate friendship we have with Him.
Though God may be silent for a time, He never ceases working on our behalf. When the time is right, He provides an outcome aligning with His perfect plan. Giving up before the Lord responds to your call is a grave mistake. So pray on, friends. Pray on!
“O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.” (1 Timothy 6:20)
Note that there are contained here both positive and negative charges. Timothy, Paul’s son in the faith, is instructed to keep certain things and avoid others. The word “keep” is a military word which might better be translated “guard.” The word “avoid” implies more than merely refraining from contact. It has to do, instead, with actively and deliberately turning away from something.
Timothy is to guard that which has been committed into his care—by inference, something quite valuable—the complete gospel of Jesus Christ. “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost” (2 Timothy 1:13-14).
Paul knew, however, that in order to guard the truth, Timothy must actively avoid the false, and lists three specific potential pitfalls. The first is profane babbling, i.e., any of those conversations and arguments which are of a worldly, ungodly, unclean nature. Next, he is to avoid vain, empty, hollow arguments. Elsewhere, Paul teaches “shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:16).
Lastly, he is to avoid the opposing arguments of false science, or knowledge. Human wisdom found to be contrary to the wisdom of God may be called knowledge by some, but if so, it is “falsely so called.” Even “some professing [Christians] have erred concerning the faith” (1 Timothy 6:21).
Paul closes with the benediction “Grace be with thee.” May we all enjoy God’s grace as we attempt to keep the true, avoid the false, and discern the difference. JDM
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. —Isaiah 26:3
The only fear I have is to fear to get out of the will of God. Outside of the will of God, there’s nothing I want, and in the will of God there’s nothing I fear, for God has sworn to keep me in His will. If I’m out of His will, that is another matter. But if I’m in His will, He’s sworn to keep me.
And He’s able to do it, He’s wise enough to know how to do it and He’s kind enough to want to do it. So really there’s nothing to fear.
I get kidded by my family and friends about this, but I don’t really think I’m afraid of anything. Someone may ask, “What about cancer? Do you ever fear that you’ll die of cancer?” Maybe so, but it will have to hurry up, or I’ll die of old age first. But I’m not too badly worried because a man who dies of cancer in the will of God, is not injured; he’s just dead. You can’t harm a man in the will of God.
Lord, “outside of the will of God, there’s nothing I want, and in the will of God there’s nothing I fear.” Amen.
Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation. Zechariah 2:13
There is a notion widely held among Christians that song is the highest possible expression of the joy of the Lord in the soul of a man or woman.
That idea is so near to being true that it may seem spiritually rude to challenge it. However, it does need to be brought to the test of the Scriptures and Christian testimony.
Both the Bible and the testimony of a thousand saints show that there is experience beyond song. There are delights which the heart may enjoy in the awesome presence of God which cannot find expression in language: they belong to the unutterable elements in Christian experience. Not many enjoy them because not many know that they can.
The whole concept of ineffable worship has been lost to this generation of Christians. Our level of life is so low that no one expects to know the deep things of the soul until the Lord returns. So, we cheer ourselves by breaking into song.
Far be it from me to discourage the art of singing. Creation itself took its rise in a burst of song; Christ rose from the dead and sang among His brethren. But still there is something beyond song!
When the Holy Spirit is permitted to exercise His full sway in a redeemed heart there will likely be voluble praise first; then, when the crescendo rises beyond the ability of studied speech to express, comes song. When song breaks down under the weight of glory, then comes silence where the soul, held in deep fascination, feels itself blessed with an unutterable beatitude!
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power. REVELATION 4:11
We try to sympathize with the writer John as he attempts to describe heavenly creatures in human terms in the book of Revelation. He knew and we know that it was impossible for God to fully reveal Himself and the heavenly glories to a man.
John tries to describe for us the four “living creatures” in Revelation 4. The first was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had the face of a man; the fourth was like a soaring eagle. Did you know that for centuries Christians have seen those same “faces” in the four gospels of the New Testament?
God has put Jesus Christ’s picture everywhere! Matthew’s is the gospel of the King. Mark’s, the gospel of the suffering Servant. Luke’s, the gospel of the Son of Man. John’s, the gospel of the Son of God. Four loving, adoring, worshiping beings, faithfully and forever devoted to praising God!
Make no mistake about it: The imagery is plainly the gospel of Christ. He is what Christianity is all about!
Lord, You are truly what this world is all about: You created it, You hold it together, and You have redeemed it! You are worthy to be praised every moment of every day!