Donate to Support

Support the church that supports this blog. Donate at - www.LoveLivesAtPGUMC.org Click the donate button in the upper righthand corner.
Showing posts with label The Wisemen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Wisemen. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What If Churches Were More Like Football Stadiums?

The Satirical Truth As Far As I Can Tell…

Matthew 2:10-12 – 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.

            The Wisemen traveled from far, far away to come worship the Savior who was born king of the Jews.  They counted it an honor and privilege to go to such great lengths to see baby Jesus and offer their precious gifts.  Oh that we all were as determined to worship Christ as were they.  
            I am always pondering ways to get more people in church to worship the King.  Football is king in the south.  People go to great lengths to see their favorite team play.  Millions flock into overcrowded stadiums each weekend.  Maybe what football stadiums do will work for the church.  You think?

What if we sold expensive tickets for admission?
            Attending church is free.  Sure, we take up an offering, but
it’s totally voluntary.  Maybe that’s the problem.  The cheapest ticket you could buy for the Nov. 10 Auburn/Georgia game was $189/seat (and that was in the nose bleed section).  Good seats on the home side of the 50 yard line were closer to $800-900/person.  So you couldn’t get your family of 5 seats at the game for less than $945.  With prices like that, our church could generate at least $100,000 per service in ticket sales alone.  The only problem I see here is determining which are the best seats in the House.  Most people want to sit up front and close to the action at the game, but usually on the back row in the church service. 

What if we made people pay for their programs?
            We hand out church bulletins for free and they usually end up in the trash or left in the pews after the service.  Last year’s Superbowl program sells online for $17.99 + tax and it’s a collector’s item.  Churches are tax exempt, so you’d still get a bargain if we sold ours at a comparable price.  We could earn thousands from program sales.  (Now we just need to figure out concessions—Holy Communion maybe?) 
Since people are dying to pay these exorbitant prices to squeeze into cramped stadium seats to watch sweaty athletes chase each other, surely they will flock to our church to sit in comfortable cushioned pews in a beautiful sanctuary to worship the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins.  Our sanctuary will be packed and our parking lot won’t be able to handle all the cars.  So…

We’ll need to charge for parking.
            People will pay $7 to park at the SEC championship game, but that’s 10 blocks away.  They’ll have to pay $40 dollars or more to get reasonably close.  Perhaps the church can be generous and just charge $20 for a spot in our lot and subcontract out the rest to nearby businesses.  Those parking lots will only cost $5-10 depending on how far away they are.

What if a church service was as long as a football game?
  No one will pay football prices for a 1 hour church service.  That’s just dumb.  The average football game last 3 hours (even though the ball is actually in play for only about 11 minutes).  People deserve to get what they pay for, so we’ll graciously extend the worship service to 3 hours.  Preachers need a lot more time to go deep anyway.  Think how fast we will be able to cure the biblical illiteracy and moral decline in our nation when we commit so much time, energy, effort, and money to worshiping and learning about Christ in church.  Of course, I’m no expert and I certainly don’t claim to know everything, but that’s the satirical Truth as far as I can tell…
Remember, God loves you and so do I!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Follow the Star, Part 3

Introduction
            Christmas is a time of signs and symbols.  The miraculous virgin birth of Christ was a sign that this child was very special and here by God’s design.  For Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
God sometimes gives signs to show people the right way.  Have you seen signs to guide you through life?  Some signs can be subtle and hard to notice.  Other signs are obvious, maybe even frightening.  Regardless, when we really want to know God’s will, we grow when we respond to the Holy Spirit’s leading with obedience. 
Today, I want to focus on understanding what God wants from you.  Suppose he has given you a sign.  How do you interpret it?  How do you understand what it means?

Matthew 2:13-16
13 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”

16 Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance.

A Clear Sign
            Joseph received a clear message from God.  God sent an angel to warn him in a dream to flee to Egypt with Mary and baby Jesus.  If we accept what the scripture says, there weren’t any symbols to interpret.  Joseph didn’t have to struggle with what the dream meant.
There was another Joseph—in the Old Testament in the book of Genesis—who also had dreams.  That Old Testament Joseph’s dreams were strange and full of symbolic meaning.  Do you remember?  There was one dream in Genesis where the sun, moon, and stars bowed down to Joseph.  It was a symbol of how Joseph’s brothers—along with all the known world—would one day bow down to Joseph when he became Pharaoh’s second in command.
But the Joseph in our story this morning—Jesus’ earthly father Joseph—had a different kind of dream.  It was much clearer.  “Get up right now and run away to Egypt!  King Herod is trying to kill the baby Jesus.”  No symbols there.  The meaning is plain and urgent.
Sometimes God comes to people in a dream.  People have dreams all the time.  Usually, there’s nothing to them—just random synapses firing in the brain while we sleep.  But when God comes to you in a dream to give you a sign (or in any other way), you will know it’s something special you need to pay attention to.  If God wants you to get the message, you’ll be left with the distinct impression that this dream (or sign) is something important to which you should pay attention.

A Sensitive Ear
Now, if you make a habit in your life of tuning God out, you might not notice God’s voice.  (I know some husbands who have learned the art of tuning out their wives and kids.  The house could be on fire, and they still will not notice if the game is on TV.  Piece of advice:  if you do that too much, you won't have a wife and kids for very long.)
If you’re the kind of person who goes through life dismissing God’s voice—“Oh come on! God doesn’t speak to people.  I don’t believe in all that superstitious nonsense..."—you’re probably not going to notice when God speaks to you.  But if you believe God can and does speak to people, and you make a life-long practice of asking Him for direction, listening intently for the Spirit, and obeying when He speaks, you will notice when God sends you a clear message.
You know, a lot of people envy Joseph’s message from God.  God spoke so clearly to him:  “Get up!  Run to Egypt!”  We say, “Why can’t God just speak to me that clearly ?”
Do you realize, Joseph was a godly man?  He didn’t just wake up one day with the ability to hear God’s voice.  His whole life, Joseph was practicing and preparing his ‘God-ears’ to hear God’s voice.  Matthew 1:19 tells us Joseph was a righteous man.  That means he trusted God.  He worshiped God.  He prayed to God.  He had a relationship with God.  He went through life listening and trying to obey God.  So when God came to Joseph in a dream, Joseph already had the ears to hear.
What about you?  Do you trust God?  Do you worship God?  Do you pray to God?  Do you have a relationship with God?  Do you read the Scripture?  Do you believe God can and will speak to you?  Do you try to listen to God and obey?  The more you do, the more sensitive your ears will be.
But that's not what most people want, is it?  We would rather God only speak to us when we have a question or when we want something.  Then, once we get what we want, God can just go get back in His box and be quiet.  We'll call Him when we want something. 
What is that?!?  We've got it backwards, I think.  God is the Creator of the universe.  He created us, not the other way around.  We don't get to tell Him when and when not to speak.  Nor should we want to.  We should count every word that comes to us from Him a blessing and a privilege.  We should be at His beckoning call.  But we are sinful, selfish people and so we've got it all mixed up.

Importance is Important
Let me give you some important advice about interpreting God’s signs.  If you see a little something that might be a sign from God and it encourages you, just accept it.  Don’t question it.  Be encouraged.  For example, if you’re driving home from work and you see the most beautiful cloud formation in the sky and think, “Wow!  It’s almost like God painted that just to tell me He loves me.”  Well, maybe He did. (God does love you, so you can be sure that's true.)  Maybe it wasn't really a sign from God, but what’s the harm in just accepting that it might be?  I mean, God does love you and we’re not talking about selling your house and moving to China here.  We’re just noting the wonder of God’s creation and getting a little encouragement.  So why question it?  Just accept it!  It’s a small sign.  Give it the benefit of doubt.
This can apply to bad feelings too.  Suppose you are out late at the gym and it’s dark outside when you get done.  You go to walk out to your car to go home (like you do every other night in December), but you get this ominous feeling like maybe you shouldn’t walk to your car alone tonight.  I say: trust your instinct.  Maybe God is trying to tell you it’s not safe out there tonight.  Maybe you should wait inside until someone can walk you to your car.  What’s the harm in just accepting it as a sign from God?  Again, we’re not talking about selling your house and moving to China here.  All that’s at stake is a few minutes of your time and maybe asking someone for help. 
Now if you are having persistent feelings of doom and gloom, fear, depression, paranoia, distrust, etc. that are going on for weeks at a time, I suggest you talk it over with an experienced and trustworthy Christian friend.  God doesn’t want us to go through life afraid and paranoid.  If we are, there might be more going on we need to address.
The point is, the potential consequences the sign has on your life is important in how seriously you take it.  If it’s just a small thing, just accept it and thank God for it.  However, if the sign is pointing you toward a really important decision that will have lasting consequences, you ought to take a little more care in understanding it. 

Let me give you 4 tips that can help you discover what God Might saying to you.
            Tip #1 - Talk it over with a spiritual advisor.  If you feel like God might be trying to tell you something, talk to a trusted Christian friend, family member, Sunday school teacher, or pastor.  You may even want to discuss it with a professional Christian counselor.  These are people who can give you insight about what God might be saying (or if it's God speaking at all).  They can also encourage and give you support. 
            When I felt God was calling me to be a pastor, I talked with several people over a period of time:  my mom, by best friend, my wife, and my pastor.  They helped me understand and verify God's call and it just made me feel better to have people I trusted walking with me on that journey.  Even now, after years of experience walking with God, I still practice my own advice.  I talk to people about what I think God might be saying to me.  It is tremendously helpful (essential really).
            Tip #2 - Ask, " Does what I think God is telling me match up with the Bible?  The Bible is the foundation of what we believe and the last word in everything we do.  God gave us the Scriptures to guide us and He's is not going to ask you to do something contrary to His own Word in the Bible.
            In South Carolina in 2012, Tammi Estep stabbed her husband.  She said she did after, "Jesus and Mary told me to kill him because he is Satan's spawn!"[i]  Well, how many wives have not thought there husband's were the spawn of Satan at one time or another…  Seriously though, God is not going to tell you to murder someone.  Nor is He going to tell you to do something that contradicts what He's already said in Scripture.  If you feel He is, I would point you back to Tip #1 - Talk to a spiritual advisor.
            Tip #3 - Does the sign intend to lead you or others closer to Christ?   The Great Commission from Jesus to His followers is:  "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…" (Matthew 28:19 ).  This is our mission.   Remember, life is not about you.  This isn’t the story of your life.  This is God’s story and you are just one actor in the movie.  You don’t even have that big a roll.  So remember, if God is talking to you--directing you in some really important matter that will have life-long, lasting consequences--it will probably be linked in a large way to leading you or others closer to Christ.  If it isn't, if it's linked more to you own self-centered interests, it's more likely not God speaking to you.  Either way, I would point you back to Tip #1 - Talk to a spiritual advisor.
            Tip #4 - Ask the Holy Spirit to verify it for you.  It's OK to ask God to help you be sure.  People did that in the Bible many times.  There was even a man named Gideon in the book of Judges who made a kind of experiment.  God sent an angel and told Gideon to go fight some people who kept raiding Israel.  Gideon asked for a sign to verify it.  He said, "I'm gonna lay out a piece of wool fleece on the ground.  If there's dew on the fleece in the morning, but not the ground, I will know You were speaking to me."  And in the morning, there was dew on the fleece and not the ground.  But Gideon wanted to be sure, so he repeated the experiment, but this time he said, "Alright.  If it's really You, this time there will be dew on the ground all around, but not on the fleece." And it happened just like that!  In the morning, there was dew on the ground, but none on the fleece!  So Gideon knew it was God talking to him and he went off and defeated his enemies.
            It's OK to ask for a sign to be sure it's really God speaking to you.  But some might point out what Jesus said in Matthew 12:39, “It is an evil and adulterous nation that looks for a sign.  No sign will be given…”  Jesus' frustration in that instance was with those who had already seen sign after sign after sign that proved Jesus was indeed the Son of God.  He'd healed the blind and deaf, made the lame to walk, walked on water himself, and even turned water into wine.  What more would it take to convince people?  Enough signs had already been given.  Some people didn’t want to believe and so they just kept asking for more signs.  Then they would pick apart every sign given with sinful cynicism.  They weren't going to believe no matter what Jesus did. 
            So you can ask for a sign, but once you know God is told you to do something, it's time to act.  We probably all have had times we knew what we were supposed to do, but didn't want to do it.  Don't keep asking God for signs as an excuse to put off obedience.  Get busy.  And, oh, did I mention you should see Tip #1 - talk to a spiritual advisor?  You should. 

Conclusion
            I want to end this blog with a few guiding questions as you contemplate what God might be saying to you now.  Listen for God’s voice as you pray about the following:
  • Have you been listening to God?  Have you been exercising your spiritual ears?  Have you been trusting Jesus?  Have you been praying? Have you been reading your Bible?  Is it time for you to start today?
  • What has God been trying to say to you?  Has He been nudging you?  Has He been shouting?  Have you been ignoring Him?
  • Do you need to talk to a spiritual advisor—trusted Christian friend, family member, or pastor?
  • Is it time to “Get up and go” do what God’s been telling you to do?  What’s stopping you?




[i] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/14/tammi-estep-stabbing-south-carolina_n_2130765.html

Monday, November 28, 2016

Following the Star, part 1

Matthew 2:1-2
1 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, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” 

Introduction
            Advent and Christmas are seasons of signs and symbols.  We decorate our homes, our trees, our church, our community.  Even stores and public buildings maintained by non-Christians adorn their spaces with signs of the seasons—stars, angels, trumpets, and Santa Clause (who was a Bishop in the Catholic Church many centuries ago, St. Nicolas).
            All these signs have meanings for those who are wise enough to see.  I hope you will take the time to notice the signs of the season and seek to understand their meaning more clearly.  But what about life?  Does God still give us signs—the way He gave a star to the Wisemen to guide them to Bethlehem and the baby Jesus? 
            Over the next few weeks, I hope to share some of my experience in sensing God's signs and guidance so that you might better sense His signs to you and find the divine guidance you need in your life.

A Critical Question
            To begin, each person must answer a crucial question for themselves. Does God give us signs?  Well, not everybody believes in God.  Some people are atheists—they don't believe God exists—and so they obviously don't believe God gives signs because they don't believe in God.  But what about religious people?
            Religious people (who believe is God) fall somewhere along a spectrum between two extremes.  There are superstitious people who see everything as a sign or supernatural event.  Every time it rains, every time a bird lands on a window sill, every time the phone rings, it is a supernatural act of God (or the Devil).  I had a youth pastor once who we paid $8,000 per year.  He was paid monthly, so his monthly pay check came out to $666.66!  He was like, "Hey, can y'all do something because I just can't accept a pay check with the number of the beast on it."  So we paid him twice a month, which came out to $333.33, which is a really good number (like the Trinity).  Now there wasn't really anything to the numbers.  It was just a coincidence.  But some people are very superstitious and see supernatural signs and event in everything that happens!
            On the other end of the spectrum, there are deists who believe God is not involved at all in human events.  They use the analogy that God is like a watch maker who designed the machinery of creation with all the laws of nature as the gears; God wound up the machine like you would wind up a watch and then He stepped back to let it run all by itself, never more stepping in to interfere.  So the deists believe God does not give signs at all or even intervene in human affairs in any way.  Another variation of this is people who believe God acted in biblical times, but no longer does.
            So we have the two extremes—deism and superstition.  As with most things though, the truth is somewhere in the middle.  Either extreme will lead you astray.  The Truth is, God is not a micromanager.  He is not like a puppeteer up in heaven holding the strings to every person's life and every event on earth.  He is not standing over us controlling every choice we make and every thing we do.   We are not robots.  God gives us free will.  We can choose to love Him or not love Him.  We have the choice.  That was the kind of creation God wanted—one that could move and act independently of His interference, for that is the only way real love and real relationships can exist.
            On the other hand, God is not a distant, uninvolved spectator either.  Read your Bible. God was actively involved throughout the Bible. He performed miracles. He intervened. The New Testament is full of stories and eyewitness accounts of God supernaturally influencing the affairs of the world on a very intimate, personal scale.  The very foundation of the Christian faith is the direct intervention of God's power over the natural law of death.  Jesus was crucified, buried in a tomb, and on the third day God rolled the stone away and Christ rose from the grave.  That is not natural!  That is a supernatural occurrence made possible by the direct intervention of God.  If we don't have that, we have nothing.
            And I think there is an important Truth the modern Church needs to hear—especially the Methodist Church (which tends to be so fixated on rationalism and intellectuality that we want to explain away everything with science and logic; we are so hesitant to talk about miracles and divine power). There is an important Truth you need to hear this morning. The Truth is that the Holy Spirit is still as alive and as active and as involved today as He was during biblical times.  Read the Book of Acts and see how the Holy Spirit moved and empowered people. Acts is the story of the New Testament Church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, fulfilling the mission of Christ to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  It is said the book of Acts is the only unfinished book of the Bible.  It is unfinished because we are the Church and we are still on the mission and we are still writing the story.  We are still the Church of Acts!  And the same Holy Spirit that empowered them, that opened prison doors for Peter, that healed the sick and the lame and the blind and the deaf, that saved the lost and changed the world, is the same Holy Spirit that is living and moving and breathing in our Church today.  What's changed?  Nothing!  The only thing that's changed is the way we think and believe.  Maybe we need to change our thinking and realize the Spirit's power is still in us.
            Each person has to decide what they believe, for what you believe affects what you see and how you interpret the signs around you. Do you believe God can and does give signs to guide us? Or do you believe God does not bother to speak to us anymore as he did in the New Testament?  I want you to know that I believe God does still give us signs to guide us if we are willing to look for them.

Seeing the Signs
            In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
            Do you want to know God’s will for you? I mean do you really care what God wants you to do with your life? What about your day? Do you care what God wants you to do today?  Many people go through life missing all God’s signs, because frankly, they’re not that interested in what God wants them to do. 
            The Wisemen in the East saw the star, but what about all the Jewish scholars in Jerusalem?  They had the Old Testament and their job was to focus on God and His teachings and to interpret His will.  Why didn’t they see the star? Why did a bunch of foreigners from a totally different religion have to travel thousands of miles to find the new “King of the Jews”? Could it be that the Jewish teachers and Jewish King Herod were too wrapped in their own selfish pursuits to look for or even care about what God was trying to do (at least until it threatened their own self-centered plans)?  So are the vast majority of people in our world today. We are too busy chasing our own dreams to see God’s vision for us and so we walk right past the signs God puts in our path.
            If you want to see the signs God gives you, you have to know God’s will; yearn for it like a the dry Southeast is yearning for water during this drought. As Jesus said, you have Ask, Seek, and Knock.
            You have to Ask to know God’s will. Make it your daily prayer. “Lord, what do you want me to do with my life? What do you want me to do today? What do you want for my family? What do you want for my church?”  I once saw a child ask their mama for a candy bar in the grocery store.  Have you ever seen this happen?  Mama said "No!", but that wasn't the end of it.  The child fell on the floor, kicking and screaming, "I want a candy bar!  I want a candy bar!  I want a candy bar!"  That's the passion we need when we ask God to show us His will.  (Maybe we need to be a little more mature about it, but that's the passion and commitment we need.)  
            You must Seek God’s will for you through the Scripture.  Study the Bible and see what it says. It teaches us all how to live. There are some parts of God’s will that apply to all of us the same. Look in your Bible to find God’s will for us.  And as you study the Bible, you will also hear God revealing things just for you.  The Church can help you test what you hear God saying and help clarify God’s word to you. Then, the Church can help hold you accountable to God’s will for you.
            You must Knock on the door of Heaven if you want to know God’s will. But when you ask, seek, and knock, God will open the door for you and you will begin to see the signs He gives to guide you.

Closing
I must confess that I’m no expert in seeing and following God’s signs.  Sometimes my eyes and ears are just a little cloudy.  However, I started diligently Asking, Seeking, and Knocking when I was 18 years old.  So, following God’s will for me and my family has been my number one focus for 24 years.  I started out by reading my Bible every day.  Soon God led me to my wife, my church, my family, and ultimately to my ministry.  So I have some experience with this.  I hope my experience will help me share something of value with you over the next few weeks as we consider how God shares signs to guide us through life.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Christmas in July

Disturbed, Disinterested, or Devoted
Matthew2:1-12

Introduction
            Sometimes we get so busy in the Christmas season it’s hard to actually enjoy Christmas.  That's why I want to look at the Christmas story in July.  Maybe now, in the middle of summer, you may see/hear Christmas a little differently.
            Last Christmas, I was studying and preparing for a sermon, when I discovered a fascinating insight in William Barclay’s commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.  It did not go with my message at the time, but I set the idea aside specifically for “Christmas in July.”  So this message has been over 8 months in the making and you are reading it today for a reason.  I pray you will listen to what the Lord is saying specifically to you. 

Matthew 2:1-12
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, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

‘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.’”

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 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!”

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.

12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
An Outsider’s View
            Sometimes it takes an outsider to see something everyone else takes for granted.  The Wisemen in our story were outsiders to the Holy Land.  Also known as Magi, these men were probably astrologers from what is now modern day Iran.  They spent their life studying the stars and planets for omens to predict important events on earth.  The Wisemen saw something so phenomenal it inspired them to take a journey of thousands of miles on foot (or camel).  It would have taken months to make the trip to see the child they believed was born King of the Jews. It would have required numerous stops along the way for rest, resupply, bathroom breaks, and maintenance (you know you have to change the oil in the camel every three months!).  All this for a “King” you never met before, but only read about in the stars.  How far would you go to meet Jesus?  Obviously, the Wisemen had high hopes for this new king.
            By the time they arrived in Jerusalem, the Wisemen expected everyone to know about the momentous birth of their “New King.”  And yet, no one seems to know anything about Jesus.  And as the Wisemen tell what they have seen in the stars, the people in the story soon gather into three different groups according to how they respond to the news of Jesus birth.  And ever since Jesus came, people have found themselves in the same three groups according to how they react to Christ--people are either disturbed, disinterested, or deeply devoted. 

Deeply Disturbed
            Some people—like King Herod—are deeply disturbed by Christ because they fear he might interfere with their life.  So they seek to silence or destroy Christ.  King Herod was a ruthless ruler who held onto his power despite the highly fragile political realities in which he governed.  The Roman Empire had conquered Judea, but allowed King Herod to rule autonomously—as long as he remained loyal and kept the volatile people of his kingdom in check.  Herod faced threats from outside from the Roman authorities who could depose him at any time as well as threats from within from political opponents, as well as violent extremists and religious fanatics who rejected Herod’s legitimacy to rule.  Herod maintained his power for decades, despite these obstacles, by ruling with an iron fist.  Not knowing who he could trust, Herod became paranoid that everyone was out to get him.  So he disposed of anyone who made him feel vulnerable or threatened.  The list of people Herod murdered to maintain his power included his wife, his mother-in-law, his eldest son, and two of his other sons.  The Roman Emperor, Augustus, remarked bitterly that it was safer to be Herod’s pig than his son.[i]
            Can you imagine how an insanely suspicious and murderous king like Herod would receive the Wisemen’s news that a “new” King of the Jews had been born?  He was deeply disturbed.  “Herod was afraid that this little child would interfere with his life, his place, his power, his influence, and therefore his first instinct was to destroy him.”[ii]
            William Barclay writes in his commentary on this passage, “There are still those who would gladly destroy Jesus Christ, because they see in him the one who interferes with their lives.  They wish to do what they like, and Jesus will not let them do what they like; and so they would kill him.  The man whose one desire is to do what he likes has never any use for Jesus Christ.  The Christian is the man who has ceased to do what he likes, and has dedicated his life to do as Christ likes.”[iii]
            There is a loud voice crying out in our world today that says we deserve to live as we please—that we have the right to satisfy our desire—even if it goes against God’s Word and natural design.  The same misguided voice proclaims that to deny ourselves is unhealthy, a denial of our individuality, and to be inauthentic and untrue to ourselves.  But Christ says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” In time, as Christ heals our selfish hearts, we may find that we come to love to do what Christ likes.  But it is often not so in the beginning.
            You may be disturbed by Christ because you fear he will interfere with your life.  Are you going to embrace him and let him change you, or are you going to try to destroy and silence him? 

Deeply Disinterested
            Some people are disinterested in Jesus; they don’t care one way or another.  The scribes and chief priests were so engrossed in their politics, their “religious” rituals, and their legal disputes, that they completely disregarded Jesus.  He meant nothing to him—except only to the extent that news of Christ’s birth disturbed their king Herod’s fragile personality which in turn disrupted their own status quo.
            Again, Barclay writes, “There are still those who are so interested in their own affairs that Jesus Christ means nothing to them.”[iv]  There are many who think, “Who has time to worry about ‘religion?’  I don’t need Jesus.  I can do just fine on my own.  I’ll leave all that spiritual nonsense to the religious fanatics, the poor, and the uneducated.  I don’t have time for it.”
            Sadly, it often is not until same terrible tragedy comes in a person’s life that they will become interested in Jesus.  When cancer strikes or a love one dies unexpectedly, then suddenly people begin to cry out to a God they had little interest in before.
            I am a kind person, but I find myself in a strange place sometimes—praying for people who are deeply disinterested in Jesus.  Sometimes I must pray for God to send trials and tribulations that are trying enough to shake people out of their apathy so they will become interested in Jesus before it is too late.
            Are you one of these disinterested people?  What will it take to wake you from your spiritual slumber so you recognize your deep need for the love and power of Christ?  I pray it will not take some terrible tragedy.  Why not turn your thoughts and interests to him today? 

Deeply Devoted
            And finally, there is a third group—those who are deeply devoted to Christ.  Barclay wrote, “There was the reaction of the wise men, the reaction of adoring worship, the desire to lay at the feet of Jesus Christ the noblest gifts which they could bring.  Surely, when any man realizes the love of God in Jesus Christ, he, too, should be lost in wonder, love, and praise.”
            The Wisemen followed the star to the ends of the earth to find the King of kings.  How far are you willing to go?  The Good News is, you don’t have to go far.  Jesus is right here, right now.  He ordained this day long ago as the day you would have the opportunity to bow down and worship Christ—to decide in your heart, “I want to dedicate my life to following Christ—to go where he leads me, to do what he wants of me.” 

Invitation
            The Wisemen presented gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  But what Christ wants from you is your heart.  Which type of person are you today?  As you react to Jesus, are you deeply disturbed, deeply disinterested, or deeply devoted?  Now is the time to decide.  Now is the time to respond.



[i] William Barclay – The Daily Study Bible Series, the Gospel of Matthew Volume 1, revised edition; page 29
[ii] Ibid.; page 30
[iii] Ibid.; page 30
[iv] Ibid.; page 30