No Messy Manger for the Magi

 

While packing away our nativity scene for another year, I reminisce about the significance of each figure. I hold the Magi, or Wise Men, a little longer because I have not blogged about them in the past weeks. I must take time to ponder and print a few words about these men before this season is complete.

According to the Christian calendar, Saturday, January 6, 2018, is the church festival of Epiphany which commemorates the Magi coming to see Jesus. This was the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles because the Magi were not men of Jewish background.

Little is known about these mysterious Magi except that they were seeking a specific baby. Matthew 2:1-12 is the only scriptural account. For an extended time, these men determinedly followed a star. I think they would have visited a messy manger if God’s star had led them to that location. However, we can assume that they were still traveling when Jesus was born in the messy manger. Some say it possibly was as long as two years before the Magi found Jesus. Maybe these Magi represent those who are still traveling the road of life looking for Jesus today.

Although not historically accurate, these men have sometimes been referred to as kings. (Maybe because of the Christmas carol We Three Kings.) Chuck Missler has said that over time the truth and traditions about these men have been embellished. By the third century, the Magi were viewed as kings. I wonder if this perspective has anything to do with the fact that the day is coming when Jesus reigns as King of kings. (See Revelation 19:16) Missler has also written that these ancient men were part of the hereditary priesthood of the Medes. They were known for having profound and extraordinary religious knowledge. Here is another correlation – Jesus becomes the great high priest. (See Hebrews 6:20) If we associate kings and priests with the Magi, maybe we are types of Magi because Revelation 1:6 NKJV says, “(Jesus) has made us kings and priests to God his Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever!”

The Wise Men may not have been totally wise about whom they were seeking. They simply expected to find the one born king of the Jews by following a star. These men even stopped in Jerusalem to ask Herod what he knew about the baby. (see Matthew 2:2) While the Wise Men were not necessarily looking for an infant king in a castle’s cradle, neither were they expecting to find him in a messy manger. They just wanted to find Jesus! Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Although the Wise Men may not have been wise in every respect, they were wise enough to seek him. There is truth in the quote, “Wise men still seek Him.” Today, Jesus wants us to seek and to find Him.

John 1:11 says, “He (Jesus) came to that which was His own (the Jewish people), but His own did not receive Him.” John MacArthur points out that the Magi were “God-fearing, seeking Gentiles.” They followed a star that led them to the Messiah they had heard about since the days of Daniel. Through scripture, we know that Jesus came first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. (See Romans 1:16) In a previous post, “Messy Shepherds at a Messy Manger,”  I noted that shepherds were the first to visit Jesus when he was born in a messy manger. They were of Jewish lineage. Significantly later, the Magi worshiped Jesus –  they were Gentiles. According to Romans 14:11, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord – that includes both Jews and Gentiles. Matthew 2:11 says, “On coming to the house, they (the Magi) saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.”

The word “epiphany” originated in the Greek language and means “manifestation.” The worshiping Magi portray the picture of Epiphany because this season of the church celebrates the appearance or “manifestation” of a divine being, namely Jesus. However, an epiphany can also be defined as a sudden perception or revelation. In others words, a new understanding is “manifested.” Each of us encounters our own epiphanies when we come to illuminating discoveries or realizations. An enlightening fact of faith is an example of an epiphany. Or, it might be a moment when we become increasingly aware of Jesus’ presence. Since it is the beginning of the new year of 2018, now is a good opportunity for each of us to set the goal of becoming more receptive to personal epiphanies. May our epiphanies cause us to bow down and worship our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

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A Journey to Bethlehem – Hope

 

advent-wreath-1Advent is a liturgical season of the Christian church designated as a time to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. This sacred season begins four Sundays before Christmas and is often observed with the aid of an Advent wreath. The wreath is composed of four candles – each candle representing an aspect of our spiritual preparation for a significant and meaningful celebration of Jesus’ birth. These aspects are hope, love, joy and peace. The primary color of the Advent candles is purple symbolizing repentance. For myself, I like to think of Advent as being a time for me to take a journey to Bethlehem. Over 2000 years ago, Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem to fulfill the census requirements of Caesar Augustus. While they were there, Mary gave birth to her son Jesus. Bethlehem also became the destination for Wise Men, shepherds and other people from the lineage of David who needed to register for the same census as Joseph. These people traveled a physical journey to a physical town. My journey to Bethlehem is a spiritual journey to a spiritual location. My Bethlehem is in my heart where Jesus is born and continues to live. Advent is the perfect opportunity for me to focus upon the place Jesus has in my life. Advent for 2015 began this past Sunday, so I set out on my journey this week. As I undertake my journey to Bethlehem this year, I want to focus upon the roads of hope, love, joy and peace. I also want to gain insights from various biblical characters who have traveled these roads in the past.

Today I am traveling upon the Road of Hope. This route can sometimes be hard to see based upon Romans 8:24-25 that says, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” However Romans 5:5 assures me that hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

wise-menI believe I could meet the Wise Men or Magi traveling the Road of Hope. These men covered the longest distance and it took them the longest time of any travelers I will encounter to reach Bethlehem. They may have been coming from Persia or India or China, so could easily have covered over 800 miles to reach their destination. Two years had lapsed from the time Jesus was born until the these men found Jesus in Bethlehem. These Wise Men personified hope because they did not even know their destination when they started their journey. According to Matthew 2:2, they simply followed a star that appeared in the east. Some say these men may have begun their journey before Jesus was born while others say the star first appeared to them the moment of his birth.

Looking back into history, I try to imagine what the Wise Men did as they traveled down the Road of Hope. Matthew 7:7 may give me some insight, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” The Wise Men asked people in Jerusalem and talked with King Herod about where they could find this baby born to be king of the Jews. They continued to seek Him by following the star God provided for them. They probably knocked on the door of the home where Mary, Joseph and Jesus were living when they found him as a two-year-old boy. Throughout their journey, they were on the Road of Hope believing Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”

Today Christmas cards that portray the Wise Men often include the phrase, “Wise men still seek Him.” That includes me! I can apply these same scriptures to my journey to the Bethlehem within my heart while traveling the Road of Hope. I mentioned hope being part of the Lord’s plan according to Jeremiah 29:11. When I go on to Jeremiah 29:13, it says, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” I like this promise! If I fulfill Matthew 7:7 of asking, seeking and knocking, I can claim the promise of Matthew 7:8, “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Colossians 1:27 says, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christ in me means Christ in my heart. I can experience this by traveling the Road of Hope. This is why I need to retrace the route to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, to prepare myself to celebrate the His birthday!

My Reader, will you join me on this journey? While we travel down the Road of Hope together we can rely upon the promise of Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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* Bold type words are my choice of emphasis.

Bible Study – Perceiving Change

 

LIFE is a JOURNEY…..a JOURNEY involves CHANGE…..embrace CHANGE in your LIFE…..LIFE is a JOURNEY…..a JOURNEY involves CHANGE….. in your LIFE…..LIFE is a JOURNEY…..a JOURNEY 

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Bible Study
Perceiving Change
“Hidden . . . the Revealed”

 Definition of Perceiving Change: grasping mentally and spiritually that a change is coming – becoming aware of and discerning that things will not stay the same

A Key Verse: Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? – Isaiah 43:18.19

Introduction

A couple of our granddaughters used to like to play hide and seek when they were about 2 years old. They each had their special hiding spots and I had to find them. Then in turn I had to hide so they could find me. If they could not find me, I would quietly say, “Peep, peep!” as a clue for them to find my location. No matter who was hiding or who was seeking, the result was always a big hug when we were back together again.

Sometimes God likes to play this game with us as well. Yes, there are times when we hide from Him. However, He will always find us. (That is another scenario that we are not going to focus upon at this time.) We are going to think about when God hides things from us and chooses to reveal them at a later time. He never leaves us or forsakes us, but neither does He want His presence in our lives to become mundane. In his book The Shack, William Paul Young quotes the personification of God as saying, “The chance to hide so many wonders from you is an act of love that is a gift inside the process of life.” Just as my granddaughters and I expressed our love with a hug when being found during our game of hide and seek, God embraces us when our relationship with Him is deepened as we find Him in a circumstance where we thought He was hidden. Sometimes God may need to give you a clue as to what He is really doing before you see His plans and purposes, but He truly knows best.

While taking some liberties, I believe God plays hide and seek with us and He played it with His Son, Jesus. Let us look more deeply into this concept with our Bible study of Matthew 2 and John 19.

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh Bible Study
(Follow along with the chart below for the study notes)

Final

During this study, we are going to delve into some scriptural events in the life of Jesus where their full meanings were once hidden and then revealed later. By comparing accounts of Jesus’ last hours on earth in John 19 to the story of the Wise Men in Matthew 2, we are going to discover hidden meanings in the gifts given by the Wise Men to Jesus in correlation with the last events of Jesus’ life and the words He spoke. I imagine that as a two-year old Jesus would have preferred a ball to gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but God ordained these gifts to be given to Him because they foretold of hidden meanings that would be revealed at the time of His death. God even used a GPS, Guidance from a Personal Star, to help the Wise Men find the One they were seeking to whom they would present their gifts.

The Wise Men played a game of hide and seek with God. I played a game of hide and seek with my granddaughters. God still plays a game of hide and seek with each of us. The outcome is always the same. There is joy whenever who was hidden is found and the relationship is deepened between the players involved.

Read John 19 and Matthew 2:1&2,8-11 for background
 *Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh were the gifts given to Jesus (see lines 1-3 of boxes on sheet)
Gold
A precious metal – signified riches and royalty
Symbol of the role as King
In the role as a King, Jesus presented a kingdom of different riches
Frankincense
An incense used for sacrifices
Symbol of the role as Priest
The priest’s role was to offer the sacrifice, but Jesus became the sacrifice
Myrrh
A bitter seed that when broken emitted a sweet fragrance|
Symbol of role as Savior
Savior’s role required a broken relationship between Jesus and his Heavenly Father and Jesus’ body was broken in death

*John 19 (see line 4 of boxes on sheet) Especially note the highlighted verses
Reference to Jesus as King
Soldiers and crown of thorns and purple robe – “Hail king of the Jews”
Pilate writes sign “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”
Reference to Jesus as Priest
Refers to the two men crucified with Jesus – Luke 23:23 “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
People watch priests go into the Holy of Holies to make a sacrifice – women and disciples watched the sacrifice of the Great High Priest
Reference to Jesus as Savior
“I am thirsty” – broken relationship with Father – contrast this to Jesus offering Living Water in John 4 and his turning water into wine in John 2
Myrrh was used for burial by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus

*Jesus truly fulfilled these roles and gifts (see line 5 of boxes on sheet)
Gold – King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16)
Frankincense – a permanent priest (Heb. 9 & 10)
Myrrh – this is my body broken for you (Luke 22:10 & I Cor. 11:23-26)

*God sees the Big Picture for our lives as well as for these 3 gifts (see line 5 of boxes on sheet)
Gold – the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21)
Frankincense – Offer your bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1 & II Cor. 2:15)
Myrrh – “I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20)

We are called to walk our journey of life by faith
The time will come when the reason for changes in our lives will be revealed
“Wise Men still seek Him” – Are we wise men and women?
The Wise Men journeyed to give Jesus 3 gifts – now Jesus gives us the same gifts for our journey

We are to crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20 – myrrh) so that we may be living sacrifices pleasing to God (Rom. 12:1) with the pleasant aroma of Christ (II Cor. 2:15 – frankincense). When this takes place, then the kingdom of God will be in us (Luke 17:21 – the kingdom requires a king – gold).

May we acknowledge the hidden prophetic meaning of the gold, frankincense and myrrh. Also, may we receive the revelation of these gifts in the life of Jesus. And most of all, may we embrace these gifts into our own lives, even when the big picture may yet be hidden and not yet fully revealed.

Conclusion


Master Key Verse: that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge – Colossians 2:2b.3
Colossians 2:2,3 from the Living Bible expresses the meaning of our Master Key Verse by saying, “God’s secret plan (hidden), now made known (revealed) is Christ himself. In Him are hidden all the mighty unwrapped treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” As we perceive wisdom and knowledge in our journey of life, God’s plan will no longer be hidden, but it will be revealed, or fulfilled in our lives as we allow change.

Do not be afraid to add Perceiving Change to your Life-Journey-Change. If a perception of change that comes to your mind is part of God’s plan for your life, He will reveal it more fully to you in time; and it will bring glory to Christ who is in you. I share with you a quote by Sarah Young in Jesus Calling, “The path I (Jesus) have called you to travel is exquisitely right for you. The more closely you follow My leading, the more fully I can develop your gifts.” Enjoy your game of hide in seek with the Lord throughout your life’s journey of change.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Author’s note: I would appreciate any insights and comments you would be willing to share. Thanks for taking time to respond.

First “P” – Perceiving Change

LIFE is a JOURNEY…..a JOURNEY involves CHANGE…..embrace CHANGE in your LIFE…..LIFE is a JOURNEY…..a JOURNEY involves CHANGE….. in your LIFE…..LIFE is a JOURNEY…..a  

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 First “P” – Perceiving Change
“Hidden . . . then Revealed”

 Last week I introduced a series of blogs that will evolve over the next eight weeks. I shared how each of us takes our own unique journey through life resulting in various changes during life. In turn, we need to embrace these changes in our lives. I entitled my previous blog “Please Pass the ‘Ps” because each step of a specific journey I took entailed a “P” word that described what I was experiencing during that moment. At the conclusion of my journey, I had a plate full of “Ps”! My dish of life was abounding with perceiving, pursuing, preparing, processing, possessing, permitting and proclaiming change. My Reader, are you ready to join me in adding the first “P” to your plate of life? While I share the phases of change I experienced while on a specific journey in my life, you can apply my insights to your personal life.

The first “P” the Lord presented to me during our transition into a new home five years ago was “Perceiving Change.” I searched the scriptures to confirm what I was sensing to be a word from the Lord. I found Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” This was my word of encouragement persuading me to perceive a change in life.

My husband perceived our move before I did, but soon we were both involved with looking at new home possibilities. It was fun looking at various options, but I also began to wonder about the specific house and area where we would settle. I did not want to worry but my mind started going down various uncharted paths as we began this journey. It was then that God spoke to me that our new home was currently hidden from us but would be revealed at the right time.

My title for the concept of Perceiving Change became “Hidden … then Revealed.” I found comfort in Paul’s words in Colossians 2:2b-3, “that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Whether applying this verse to my physical journey or my spiritual walk, I discovered that Christ reveals things to me little by little. In the natural realm, I did not know where our new home would be. Spiritually, I also knew, and still know, that I have not grasped all there is to know about God. Much of God and His plans are mysteries to me – that is why we are called to a faith walk. Regarding a new home, God promised that He would lead us to a new place to live just as He continues to reveal more of His spiritual nature to me allowing me to grow in the knowledge of Christ. “Hidden things” are continually being “revealed” to me.

Although I felt that God was currently hiding the perfect house from us, I also felt confident that He would reveal that house to us at the right time. I started praying each time we looked at a house or drove through an area. I would pray that if the particular house we were looking at was to be ours, that the Lord would reveal it to both of us.

We could have used a GPS to direct us to the locations of the houses we looked at, but we often used a map because we wanted to get an overview of the whole area. However, in a sense we did have a GPS with us. It was not a Global Positioning Satellite but rather it was God’s Promises in Scripture. We held on to such scriptures as Psalm 127:1 that says, “unless the Lord builds the house we labor in vain.” We did not want to labor in vain; we only wanted the house the Lord had built for us.

In a sense, God engaged us in a game of hide and seek. God was hiding and we were seeking. I knew at the right time, we would find God’s plan for us. One day I was studying John 19. Taking some liberties, I envisioned how God the Father could have played a version of hide and seek with Jesus during His life on earth. Through symbolism, God hid some things about Jesus’ life in Matthew 2 and then revealed their significance in John 19. What God the Father hid, Jesus the Son revealed.

My Reader, do you feel like God is asking you to pursue a change in your journey of life? Is He asking you to add the “P” of Pursuing Change to your life’s plate? We often say that we do not like change, but if we do not pursue a possible change that the Lord is asking of us, we may be hindering our journey with Him in our life. Will you trust Him to reveal more of what may currently be hidden from you?

I hope you will look at this week’s Bible Study post entitled “Hidden … then Revealed” to find out how the spiritual version of hide and seek was played in two of the gospels. God may be playing this game with you as well. Be assured, He will reveal Himself when you pursue His plan for your Life-Journey-Change.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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