The Obstacles to Maturity

The Obstacles to Maturity

The Obstacles to Maturity

“Therefore, laying aside all malice all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as new born babes, desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” 1 Peter 2:1-3.

1st Obstacle: Unwillingness to take up the cross: Matthew 16: 21-27.

Peter was refusing to take up the cross when he said to the Lord, “far it (the crucifixion) be from you, Lord; this shall not happen to you!” (16:22). The unredeemed mind is not accepting the things of God from His point of view. The unregenerate or fleshly mind is at enmity with God and so cannot comprehend His plans: Romans 8:6-8.

Peter was thinking as a man and letting Satan influence him. Peter needs to learn to die to himself, his own wishes, preferences & opinions. And let Christ rule totally without contradiction and without opposition.

Bearing the cross means, when your self-will and your confident attitude cross the will of God and you humbly choose to follow God’s will, you have taken up the cross.

How many believers and Christians are willing to take up the cross? Many want to enjoy the entertainment in the church and get benefits of being in the church community but not willing to die to self-will nor humble themselves.

So many fights and divisions happening in the churches are due to not willing to take up the cross. As long as you are not willing to take up the cross, you will never grow to spiritual maturity.

It is not how much Bible you know or how many theology degrees or how many titles or positions you hold that matters to God but whether you are willing to deny self and surrender wholly to follow His perfect Will at any cost! Be challenged!LikeCommentShare

Trust and Encouragement – God’s Call and its Responsibilities

2 Timothy 1:3-14 NIV


I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

Appeal for Loyalty to Paul and the Gospel

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.

 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 

10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 

11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Trust and Encouragement (NOTES)

Matthew 10:8 New International Version

8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

2 Timothy 4:6-8 New International Version

6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

2 Timothy 1:9 New International Version

9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 New International Version

Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;

    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[a]

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”[b]

2 Corinthians 11:16-33 New International Version

Paul Boasts About His Sufferings

16 I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then tolerate me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. 17 In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. 18 Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. 19 You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! 20 In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or puts on airs or slaps you in the face. 21 To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!

Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.

Acts 28:16-31 New International Version

16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.

Paul Preaches at Rome Under Guard

17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”

21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”

23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:

26 “‘Go to this people and say,

“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;

    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”

27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;

    they hardly hear with their ears,

    and they have closed their eyes.

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

    hear with their ears,

    understand with their hearts

and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]

28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” [29] [b]

30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!

James 2:17 New International Version

17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Matthew 25:14-30 King James Version

14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.

15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.

17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.

19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:

27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Are we desperate enough for Revival?

I am hearing of this Spirit-led movement on the campus of Asbury University, also known as Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.

No human leader. Spontaneous hunger! Chapel service on Wednesday has not ended. Students are staying all night. No bells and whistles. So refreshing! Here is a report: God is moving at Asbury – in 1970 a 10 day revival broke out at Asbury.

Currently they are on day 3 no plan of stopping. It is now spreading to other universities. Busses are coming!! Never planned all spontaneous Holy Spirit driven. People prostrate, shoes and socks off as the tangible presence of God is among them.

My question….do we hunger for God? What are the conditions to revival? Would we sense this outpouring? We need to become desperate for God. It’s clear we are but we each have to know it. That thought alone should drive us to the ground. Come Holy Spirit Come!!!!

The One Step We Miss – Ron Hutchcraft

The One Step We Miss

It all started with an S.O.S. from a counselor at a conference where I was speaking. I’d just extended an invitation for young men and women who wanted to make a commitment to following Christ. There were many young people in the counseling room after that, and a counselor came back and said, “You’ve got to talk to Kelly. She’s really hard.”

Well, I went back and sat down with her, and she seemed to really shut down. After some small talk to try to break the ice, I said, “Kelly, why are you here in the counseling room?” She said, “I want to know Christ.” I said, “Well, that’s great. Why?” She said, “Because part of me is missing.”

I showed her some Scripture that showed her that it was Christ who was missing from her life. And I said, “It sounds to me like you’re ready to open your life to Jesus.” And then her face turned very, very unexpressive and she said, “If you only knew how many times I’ve come and prayed and accepted Christ and nothing has ever happened.”

I was stuck for a moment. What do I do, just have her go through it again? It was like always meaningless and it didn’t work. I said, “Lord, if there’s something You know and I don’t, would you tell me what it is?” And then He gave me one question for Kelly, and it made all the difference. It might change everything for you.

I’m Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about “The One Step We Miss.”

Our word for today from the Word of God comes from 2 Corinthians 7:10. It identifies for us the step we so often miss. “Godly sorrow,” it says, “brings repentance that leads to salvation.” Now, in that conversation with Kelly, the question I asked her that broke the log jam was this: I said, “Kelly, all those times you’ve made a commitment to follow Christ, did you ever tell the Lord you’re really sorry for your sins, you’re sad about your sins, and you’re ready to change?” She said, “No.” Oh, Kelly had said yes to Christ a number of times, but she missed the other step – saying “no” to sin.

I explained to her, “You can’t hold Jesus in one hand and junk in the other – that junk is what He died for; that’s the junk that killed Him.” When you start to name the sins of your life and you start to confess them to the Lord, you finally realize what it is you need a Savior from. And then you go to that cross to be saved from that sin; from your sin.

Repentance is so often the missing page in our Gospel. In God’s Word it says you have to have Godly sorrow that leads to repentance that leads to salvation. There’s no real conversion until you repent. Jesus told His disciples to “preach repentance and faith.” There’s no real power in your life if you keep sinning; until you let your heart be broken over your sin because of what it did to Jesus; what it took for Him to pay for it on the cross.

When I told her the step she’d missed, tears came to her eyes. She said, “I’m so sick of the junk! I want to get away from it.” Then confession began, and saving faith reborn.

Could it be that the reality you’ve been looking for begins with you being sorry for the sins that have broken God’s heart and drove His Son to the cross? Maybe this could be the day that it really comes together for you.

If you say to Jesus, “You know, Lord, you were supposed to run my life. I hijacked it. I’ve been running it, and I know now I have broken your heart. It cost you your life to pay for that rebellion against you. And I turn from the running of my own life. And Jesus, I am now pinning all my hopes on what you did on the cross. When you died on that cross it was my sin you were dying for. Jesus, right here, right now, I’m Yours.”

See. repentance isn’t some good work you do to get Jesus. No, it’s simply realizing that when you turn to Him, you’re turning your back on the sin He died for.

You want to make sure you belong to Him? That’s what our website is for. Please go there –

Repentance. Could that be one step you’ve missed?

Wisdom and Foolishness – God’s Promises

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 NIV

Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[a]

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 

21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 

22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 

25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 

27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 

29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”[b]

Wisdom and Foolishness (NOTES)

1 Corinthians 1:18-3:4 New International Version

Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;

    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[a]

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”[b]

2 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[c] 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

God’s Wisdom Revealed by the Spirit

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,

    what no ear has heard,

and what no human mind has conceived”[d]—

    the things God has prepared for those who love him—

10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.[e] 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord

    so as to instruct him?”[f]

But we have the mind of Christ.

The Church and Its Leaders

3 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?

Isaiah 55:8-9 New International Version

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the Lord.

9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so are my ways higher than your ways

    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Men’s Work – Women’s Work

Men’s Work – Women’s Work

At our house as the kids were growing up, you didn’t have to wait for the Fourth of July to have fireworks. No. All you had to have was one of those days when one of my sons declined an assignment with these wonderful words, “Nah, that’s women’s work!” Oh, no! No, don’t wait for the Fourth of July. No, my wife and daughter were nowhere near excited about that particular philosophy of life. They had a problem with that idea that there are certain jobs that a man is above. Actually, I have a problem with that idea. Actually, I think God has a problem with it.

I’m Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about “Men’s Work – Women’s Work.”

Our word for today from the Word of God comes from John 13. I’ll begin reading at verse 2. We’re going to read an episode from the life of the most secure man who ever lived; a man who had nothing to prove – the ultimate man, Jesus Christ. “The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist.”

Okay, now wait. Here’s the most complete man that ever lived, and He is demonstrating His sense of manhood and identity in a very graphic way, in a surprising way. He knows who He is. He’s coming from God; He’s going to God. He’s got it together, and He demonstrates that as it says in verse 5, “He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.”

Here’s the only Son of God. He’s not too good to do the lowliest job in the house. Well, the real man is man enough to choose to be a servant; to pitch in on the dirty work; to be as manly doing the laundry as he is lifting some heavy furniture; to be as macho changing a diaper as he is changing spark plugs.

Not too long ago there was an interesting comment from the wife of a friend of mine who had just come back from a great tour of speaking…kind of the conquistador, you know, and they loved him where he was. He came in and he wanted to tell all his war stories of how much they loved him there, and his wife said, “Honey, do you know you always come home like a spoiled king.” Ohhh… and you know what? He had to admit, she was right. He said, “I wanted the world to revolve around me.”

Well, I’ll tell you, there’s nothing very manly about coming home like a spoiled king. It’s small; it’s selfish. Jesus was just coming off Palm Sunday with the cheers of the crowd still ringing in His ears, and yet He went and washed the disciples’ feet. How many of us men make our wives feel totally insignificant by implying that what she does all day long is too unimportant for us to touch?

See, the sign of a real man is that he makes a woman feel important. And he does that when he arrives in her world like the Cavalry arriving just in time. He demonstrates his manhood when he serves his wife. Not because he’s a wimp, but because he’s secure and strong enough to love her in the ways that really mean something to her.

You demonstrate your dignity, not by how many people do things for you, but how many people you do things for. That’s manhood! Jesus, the ultimate model of manhood – a muscular carpenter – can be a foot washer. The mighty Son of God can be a servant. That’s the kind of real man that a woman loves to love.

God Gives the Power to do Good Works – J. D. Greear

As a child of God, you are chosen—according to the purpose of God, by the power of God, for the glory of God.
And that is the greatest, most empowering, most life-giving truth in the universe.
Ephesians 2:10 says that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (ESV).
God predestined that your life would be filled with good works, to the praise of his glory. That means that the burden of “fixing” your life is not on you. God has already decreed and supplied the power for it!
Many people feel so defeated, thinking they have to summon the will to overcome a particular sin or heal their marriage or be a bold witness for the gospel.
But that’s the wrong picture of the Christian life. God has already provided the power for you to do the good works he planned for you.
You can be confident in his plan to use you, because Jesus said that’s why he chose you: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (John 15:16).
The Bible teaches that you are chosen, not to unravel the mysteries of how God has worked in your past but to give you confidence of what God wants to do in your future.
When you think you’ve failed miserably as a Christian—and you will sometimes—you can have the strength to get up. Proverbs 24:16 says, “The righteous falls seven times and rises again.”
If you are discouraged by how much you fall, remember that the righteous person shows their righteousness not by never falling but by getting back up.

Falling just demonstrates that you are not perfect. Getting back up when you fall demonstrates that you believe the gospel.

Promises Of Restoration and Gladness

Joel 2:21-27 NIV

21     Do not be afraid, land of Judah;
    be glad and rejoice.
Surely the Lord has done great things!
22     Do not be afraid, you wild animals,
    for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green.
The trees are bearing their fruit;
    the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.
23 Be glad, people of Zion,
    rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains
    because he is faithful.
He sends you abundant showers,
    both autumn and spring rains, as before.
24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain;
    the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.

25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
    the great locust and the young locust,
    the other locusts and the locust swarm[a]
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
    and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
    that I am the Lord your God,
    and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.

Living Right V/S Empty Rituals!

Isaiah 58:6-10 NIV

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.

Living Right Over Empty Rituals (NOTES)

Isaiah 58 New International Version

True Fasting

58 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.

2 For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.

3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.

4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness[a] will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

14 then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 58:1-12 The Message (MSG)

Your Prayers Won’t Get Off the Ground

58 1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout! Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives, face my family Jacob with their sins! They’re busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me. To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people— law-abiding, God-honoring. They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and love having me on their side. But they also complain, ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way? Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

3-5 “Well, here’s why: “The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist. The kind of fasting you do won’t get your prayers off the ground. Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after: a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’ A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places

9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again

Matthew 25:35-40 New International Version

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

The Just Shall Live By Faith!

💫 ❤ BE NEAR 💖

🌞 My friend was going through some difficult challenges in her life and family. I didn’t know what to say or do, and I told her so. She looked at me and said, “Just be near.” That’s what I did, and later on we started talking about God’s love.

🙇‍♀ Many times we don’t know how to respond when others are grieving, and words may do more harm than good. Serving others requires that we understand them and find out what they need. Often we can help by meeting practical needs. But one of the best ways to encourage those who are suffering is to be near — to sit beside them and listen.

🙇‍♂ 🙇‍♂ God is near to us when we call out to Him. “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles,” the psalmist says. “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” By putting ourselves in the shoes of others and allowing our hearts to feel compassion, we can help those who are hurting. We can be near them as God is with us and sit close to them. At the right time, the Holy Spirit will give us the words to say, if they are needed. — Keila Ochoa

God, grant grace throughout this day
To walk the straight and narrow way,
To do whatever in Thy sight
Is good and perfect, just and right.
— Huisman

The best way to encourage others may be to just be near.

🎊 Stay Blessed My Friend   😊 🌹

Make Every Move Count


🌞 Car racing legend Bobby Unser faced the toughest race of his life—and won. He and a friend, Robert Gayton, were snowmobiling in New Mexico when both of their sleds quit working.

Snowdrifts as high as their chests, temperatures as low as zero, and winds as stiff as 70 mph hampered their attempt to find shelter. They even had to spend one night in a snow cave they made.

Late the next day they found a barn with a heater and a phone. After the rescue, Unser said, “Every decision we made had to be right.” He and his friend had experienced a terrifying struggle with the elements they couldn’t control as they did everything possible to stay alive.

🙇‍♀ We are living in a world that is hostile to our spiritual survival. Every day we go up against forces that could destroy us. Some are internal — our pride and selfish desires. Some are external forces — ungodly media influences, acquaintances who don’t support our faith, the stresses of life. Wrong decisions as we face these “blizzards” can lead to destruction.

🙇‍♂ Every move we make – each word and action – must be done in His name. We must live according to God’s principles and act as we think Jesus would. That will make every move count. — Dave Branon

May everything we do—
By word or deed or story—
Be done to please the Lord;
To Him be all the glory. — Roworth

When making a decision, ask, “What would Jesus do ?”

Not By Our Own Devices – God’s Promises

Isaiah 48:3-8 NIV

I foretold the former things long ago,
    my mouth announced them and I made them known;
    then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.
For I knew how stubborn you were;
    your neck muscles were iron,
    your forehead was bronze.
Therefore I told you these things long ago;
    before they happened I announced them to you
so that you could not say,
    ‘My images brought them about;
    my wooden image and metal god ordained them.’
You have heard these things; look at them all.
    Will you not admit them?

“From now on I will tell you of new things,
    of hidden things unknown to you.
They are created now, and not long ago;
    you have not heard of them before today.
So you cannot say,
    ‘Yes, I knew of them.’
You have neither heard nor understood;
    from of old your ears have not been open.
Well do I know how treacherous you are;
    you were called a rebel from birth.

Isaiah 48:17 NIV

17 This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you what is best for you,
    who directs you in the way you should go.

Not By Our Own Devices (NOTES)

Isaiah 48:1-2 New International Version

Stubborn Israel

48 “Listen to this, you descendants of Jacob,

    you who are called by the name of Israel

    and come from the line of Judah,

you who take oaths in the name of the Lord

    and invoke the God of Israel—

    but not in truth or righteousness—

2 you who call yourselves citizens of the holy city

    and claim to rely on the God of Israel—

    the Lord Almighty is his name:

Numbers 23:19 New International Version

19 God is not human, that he should lie,

    not a human being, that he should change his mind.

Does he speak and then not act?

    Does he promise and not fulfill?

Numbers 23:19 King James Version

19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

Titus 1:1-2 King James Version

1 Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;

2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;

Isaiah 42:8 King James Version

8 I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.

Let Revival Begin With Me

What comes to mind when you hear the word “revival”? A widespread movement sparked by a prayer meeting or a sermon? Outdoor services held under a tent? An emotional experience?

Our parent ministry, Life Action Ministries, defines revival as “a renewed relationship with Jesus that revolutionizes relationships with others.” It’s not something you can schedule on a calendar. It’s not a feeling you conjure up during a worship service, nor is it synonymous with evangelism. It’s a Spirit-induced change of heart that transforms both your vertical and horizontal relationships.

While revival can gain momentum and affect hundreds or thousands, it cannot begin until at least one individual completely surrenders his or her life and will, saying “Yes, Lord.”

The Impact of One Revived Heart

In 2 Kings 22, we find an example of how one man’s tender heart changed the course of an entire nation. The story takes place during the reign of Judah’s young leader, King Josiah, who ordered that the house of the Lord receive some much-needed maintenance. However, what’s notable in this chapter is not the repairs made at the temple but King Josiah’s response to a discovery made within it.

For years, the divided nations of Israel and Judah lived in direct opposition to God’s Law, having both figuratively and literally lost track of the written words of the Lord. But that all changed when the high priest found the forgotten scroll among the rubble and took it to the king. Upon hearing the words read aloud, King Josiah realized how the nation of Judah had failed to keep the Law, and he mourned over their sins. The passage says the king tore his clothes, humbled himself, and wept (vv. 111319).

God did not ignore King Josiah’s cry for mercy:

“Because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the LORD . . . and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD” (v. 19).

God delayed His just punishment against the kingdom. Because of one man’s humble response and reverence for God’s Word, an entire generation was saved from sure destruction.

The characters in this narrative have long since left this world. But our God has not. He is still alive, watching over His people. Judgment is coming, but there is yet hope. The God who answered Josiah’s plea for mercy promises to hear the prayers of “he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2).

Who Needs Revival?

While the fate of the nation may not depend upon you (who knows?), what about your family or community? Is there a repeated generational sin that needs to stop with you? Your refusal to acknowledge and repent from destructive habits or sinful behaviors can affect not only yourself but your children and grandchildren and close community.

We need the Lord’s help to overcome sin and temptation. That’s why we must cry out for mercy. When you rely on yourself for personal reform, you are scorning God’s wisdom and grace. Self-reliance cheapens and discredits the cross, blinding you to your sin and your need for a Savior. You must come to a place of full surrender and brokenness for God to continue His work in your heart.

Revival is not for the unsaved; it’s for the children of God who have drifted away from following His Word. It’s for believers who have become allured and ensnared by lust and worldly pleasures. It’s for the self-righteous, the ignorant, the rebellious. It’s for you, and it’s for me. We cannot content ourselves to simply pray for revival for the masses. Revival begins with the reflection you see in your mirror.

Let It Begin with Me

The late Del Fehsenfeld, Jr, founder of Life Action Ministries, described well the effects of personal revival: “Revival awakens in our hearts an increased awareness of the presence of God, a new love for God, a new hatred for sin, and a hunger for His Word.”

Do you need an increased awareness of God’s presence? Have you left your first love? Do you see your sin for what it really is in God’s sight? Do you hunger for God’s Word like your life depends upon it? Have you let things or people take over your affections for God? Is there anything you have withheld from Him?

If the Spirit is convicting you right now, don’t ignore His prompts. Isaiah 55:6 tells us to “seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” Your very desire to see and know and love God is God-initiated (1 John 4:19). If He has brought to mind anything that has stolen away your affections from your First Love, humbly repent and mourn over your sin. Then stake your hope in the character of a holy God who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6).

To help you honestly examine your need for revival, ask yourself the following questions drawn from Seeking Him, a study on revival by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Tim Grissom. Confess each sin that God exposes, and praise Him for His power to forgive.

  • Was there a time in my life when I placed all my trust in Jesus Christ alone to save me?
  • Do I love to read and meditate on the Word of God?
  • Are my personal devotions consistent and meaningful?
  • Do I apply God’s Word to my everyday life?
  • Am I quick to admit when I am wrong?
  • Am I willing to give up all sin for God?
  • Is my conscious clear with every person?
  • Does my schedule reveal that God is first in my life?
  • Does my checkbook reveal that God is first in my life?
  • Do I love what God loves and hate what God hates?
  • Am I allowing Jesus to be Lord of every area of my life?
  • Am I devoted to Jesus, filled with His joy and peace, and making Him the continual object of my affection?
  • Am I more concerned with what God thinks about my life than with what others think?

Father, how good You are to your undeserving children. You are patient and kind and good, even though we are faithless, proud, and selfish. Thank You for loving the unlovable. Thank You for initiating a love story and pursuing me, holding me, keeping me, saving me. I love You, Lord. May those words not be a struggle to say but a joy to shout. Help me to know the height and depths and breadth and length of Your love. May it overwhelm me and overjoy me. I want it. I crave it. I need it. Help me to believe that in Christ Jesus it is mine! Thank You!

God Promises – Fear Not

Isaiah 43:1-4 NIV

Israel’s Only Savior

1  But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
    Cush[a] and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.

Isaiah 43:10-12 NIV

10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
    “and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
    and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
    nor will there be one after me.
11 I, even I, am the Lord,
    and apart from me there is no savior.
12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—
    I, and not some foreign god among you.
You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.

God’s Promises Fear Not (NOTES)

Isaiah 42:7, 23-25 New International Version

7 to open eyes that are blind,    to free captives from prison    and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

23 Which of you will listen to this

    or pay close attention in time to come?

24 Who handed Jacob over to become loot,

    and Israel to the plunderers?

Was it not the Lord,

    against whom we have sinned?

For they would not follow his ways;

    they did not obey his law.

25 So he poured out on them his burning anger,

    the violence of war.

It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand;

    it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart.

Isaiah 42 New International Version

The Servant of the Lord

1 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold,    my chosen one in whom I delight I will put my Spirit on him,    and he will bring justice to the nations.

2 He will not shout or cry out,    or raise his voice in the streets.

3 A bruised reed he will not break,    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

4     he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.    In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”

5 This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,    who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,    who gives breath to its people,    and life to those who walk on it:

6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;    I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you    to be a covenant for the people    and a light for the Gentiles,

7 to open eyes that are blind,    to free captives from prison    and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

8 “I am the Lord; that is my name!    I will not yield my glory to another

    or my praise to idols.

9 See, the former things have taken place,    and new things I declare;

before they spring into being    I announce them to you.”

Song of Praise to the Lord

10 Sing to the Lord a new song,    his praise from the ends of the earth,

you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,    you islands, and all who live in them.

11 Let the wilderness and its towns raise their voices;    let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice. Let the people of Sela sing for joy;    let them shout from the mountaintops.

12 Let them give glory to the Lord    and proclaim his praise in the islands.

13 The Lord will march out like a champion,    like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry    and will triumph over his enemies.

14 “For a long time I have kept silent,    I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth,    I cry out, I gasp and pant.

15 I will lay waste the mountains and hills    and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn rivers into islands    and dry up the pools.

16 I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,    along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them    and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do;    I will not forsake them.

17 But those who trust in idols,    who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’    will be turned back in utter shame.

Israel Blind and Deaf

18 “Hear, you deaf;    look, you blind, and see!

19 Who is blind but my servant,    and deaf like the messenger I send?

Who is blind like the one in covenant with me,    blind like the servant of the Lord?

20 You have seen many things, but you pay no attention;    your ears are open, but you do not listen.”

21 It pleased the Lord    for the sake of his righteousness    to make his law great and glorious.

22 But this is a people plundered and looted,    all of them trapped in pits    or hidden away in prisons. They have become plunder,    with no one to rescue them; they have been made loot,    with no one to say, “Send them back.”

23 Which of you will listen to this    or pay close attention in time to come?

24 Who handed Jacob over to become loot,    and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the Lord,    against whom we have sinned? For they would not follow his ways;   they did not obey his law.

25 So he poured out on them his burning anger,    the violence of war.

It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand;    it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart.

1 Corinthians 13:5 New International Version

5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

1 Peter 4:8 New International Version

8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

2 Kings 23:13 New International Version

13 The king also desecrated the high places that were east of Jerusalem on the south of the Hill of Corruption—the ones Solomon king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the vile goddess of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the vile god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the people of Ammon.

Ezekiel 20:32 New International Version

32 “‘You say, “We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone.” But what you have in mind will never happen.

What is the Will of God, and how do we Discern it?

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1–2)

The aim of Romans 12:1–2 is that all of life would become “spiritual worship.” Verse 1: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” The aim of all human life in God’s eyes is that Christ would be made to look as valuable as he is. Worship means using our minds and hearts and bodies to express the worth of God and all he is for us in Jesus. There is a way to live — a way to love — that does that. There is a way to do your job that expresses the true value of God. If you can’t find it, that may mean you should change jobs. Or it might mean that verse 2 is not happening to the degree it should.

Verse 2 is Paul’s answer to how we turn all of life into worship. We must be transformed. We must be transformed. Not just our external behavior, but the way we feel and think — our minds. Verse 2: “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”

Become What You Are

Those who believe in Christ Jesus are already blood-bought new creatures in Christ. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). But now we must become what we are. “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

“Worship means using our minds and hearts and bodies to express the worth of God and all he is for us in Jesus.”

“You have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10). You have been made new in Christ; and now you are being renewed day by day. That’s what we focused on last week.

Now we focus on the last part of verse 2, namely, the aim of the renewed mind: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, [now here comes the aim] that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” So our focus today is on the meaning of the term “will of God” and how we discern it.

The Two Wills of God

There are two clear and very different meanings for the term “will of God” in the Bible. We need to know them and decide which one is being used here in Romans 12:2. In fact, knowing the difference between these two meanings of “the will of God” is crucial to understanding one of the biggest and most perplexing things in all the Bible, namely, that God is sovereign over all things and yet disapproves of many things. Which means that God disapproves of some of what he ordains to happen. That is, he forbids some of the things he brings about. And he commands some of the things he hinders. Or to put it most paradoxically: God wills some events in one sense that he does not will in another sense.

1. God’s Will of Decree, or Sovereign Will

Let’s see the passages of Scripture that make us think this way. First consider passages that describe “the will of God” as his sovereign control of all that comes to pass. One of the clearest is the way Jesus spoke of the will of God in Gethsemane when he was praying. He said, in Matthew 26:39, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” What does the will of God refer to in this verse? It refers to the sovereign plan of God that will happen in the coming hours. You recall how Acts 4:27–28 says this: “Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” So the “will of God” was that Jesus die. This was his plan, his decree. There was no changing it, and Jesus bowed and said, “Here’s my request, but you do what is best to do.” That’s the sovereign will of God.

And don’t miss the very crucial point here that it includes the sins of man. Herod, Pilate, the soldiers, the Jewish leaders — they all sinned in fulfilling God’s will that his Son be crucified (Isaiah 53:10). So be very clear on this: God wills to come to pass some things that he hates.

Here’s an example from 1 Peter. In 1 Peter 3:17, Peter writes, “It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” In other words, it may be God’s will that Christians suffer for doing good. He has in mind persecution. But persecution of Christians who do not deserve it is sin. So again, God sometimes wills that events come about that include sin. “It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will.”

Paul gives a sweeping summary statement of this truth in Ephesians 1:11, “In him [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” The will of God is God’s sovereign governance of all that comes to pass. And there are many other passages in the Bible that teach that God’s providence over the universe extends to the smallest details of nature and human decisions. Not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from our Father in heaven (Matthew 10:29). “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:1). “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).

That’s the first meaning of the will of God: It is God’s sovereign control of all things. We will call this his “sovereign will” or his “will of decree.” It cannot be broken. It always comes to pass. “He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35).

2. God’s Will of Command

Now the other meaning for “the will of God” in the Bible is what we can call his “will of command.” His will is what he commands us to do. This is the will of God we can disobey and fail to do. The will of decree we do whether we believe in it or not. The will of command we can fail to do. For example, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Not all do the will of his Father. He says so. “Not everyone will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Why? Because not all do the will of God.

Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” Here we have a very specific instance of what God commands us: holiness, sanctification, sexual purity. This is his will of command. But, oh, so many do not obey.

Then Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” There again is a specific aspect of his will of command: Give thanks in all circumstances. But many do not do this will of God.

“Immerse yourself in the written word of God. Saturate your mind with it.”

One more example: “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). Not all abide forever. Some do. Some don’t. The difference? Some do the will of God. Some don’t. The will of God, in this sense, does not always happen.

So I conclude from these and many other passages of the Bible that there are two ways of talking about the will of God. Both are true, and both are important to understand and believe in. One we can call God’s will of decree (or his sovereign will) and the other we can call God’s will of command. His will of decree always comes to pass whether we believe in it or not. His will of command can be broken, and is every day.

The Preciousness of These Truths

Before I relate this to Romans 12:2, let me comment on how precious these two truths are. Both correspond to a deep need that we all have when we are deeply hurt or experience great loss. On the one hand, we need the assurance that God is in control and therefore is able to work all of my pain and loss together for my good and the good of all who love him. On the other hand, we need to know that God empathizes with us and does not delight in sin or pain in and of themselves. These two needs correspond to God’s will of decree and his will of command.

For example, if you were badly abused as a child, and someone asks you, “Do you think that was the will of God?” you now have a way to make some biblical sense out of this, and give an answer that doesn’t contradict the Bible. You may say, “No it was not God’s will; because he commands that humans not be abusive, but love each other. The abuse broke his commandment and therefore moved his heart with anger and grief (Mark 3:5). But, in another sense, yes, it was God’s will (his sovereign will), because there are a hundred ways he could have stopped it. But for reasons I don’t yet fully understand, he didn’t.”

And corresponding to these two wills are the two things you need in this situation: one is a God who is strong and sovereign enough to turn it for good; and the other is a God who is able to empathize with you. On the one hand, Christ is a sovereign High King, and nothing happens apart from his will (Matthew 28:18). On the other hand, Christ is a merciful High Priest and sympathizes with our weaknesses and pain (Hebrews 4:15). The Holy Spirit conquers us and our sins when he wills (John 1:13Romans 9:15–16), and allows himself to be quenched and grieved and angered when he wills (Ephesians 4:301 Thessalonians 5:19). His sovereign will is invincible, and his will of command can be grievously broken.

We need both these truths — both these understandings of the will of God — not only to make sense out of the Bible, but to hold fast to God in suffering.

Which Will?

Now, which of these is meant in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The answer surely is that Paul is referring to God’s will of command. I say this for at least two reasons. One is that God does not intend for us to know most of his sovereign will ahead of time. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us” (Deuteronomy 29:29). If you want to know the future details of God’s will of decree, you don’t want a renewed mind, you want a crystal ball. This is not called transformation and obedience; it’s called divination, soothsaying.

The other reason I say that the will of God in Romans 12:2 is God’s will of command and not his will of decree is that the phrase “by testing you may discern” implies that we should approve of the will of God and then obediently do it. But in fact we should not approve of sin or do it, even though it is part of God’s sovereign will. Paul’s meaning in Romans 12:2 is paraphrased almost exactly in Hebrews 5:14, which says, “Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (See also Philippians 1:9–11.) That’s the goal of this verse: not ferreting out the secret will of God that he plans to do, but discerning the revealed will of God that we ought to do.

Three Stages

There are three stages of knowing and doing the revealed will of God, that is, his will of command; and all of them require the renewed mind with its Holy-Spirit-given discernment that we talked about last time.

Stage One

First, God’s will of command is revealed with final, decisive authority only in the Bible. And we need the renewed mind to understand and embrace what God commands in the Scripture. Without the renewed mind, we will distort the Scriptures to avoid their radical commands for self-denial, and love, and purity, and supreme satisfaction in Christ alone. God’s authoritative will of command is found only in the Bible. Paul says that the Scriptures are inspired and make the Christian “competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). Not just some good works. “Every good work.” Oh, what energy and time and devotion Christians should spend meditating on the written word of God.

Stage Two

The second stage of God’s will of command is our application of the biblical truth to new situations that may or may not be explicitly addressed in the Bible. The Bible does not tell you which person to marry, or which car to drive, or whether to own a home, where you take your vacation, what cell phone plan to buy, or which brand of orange juice to drink. Or a thousand other choices you must make.

“If you want to know the future details of God’s will of decree, you don’t want a renewed mind, you want a crystal ball.”

What is necessary is that we have a renewed mind, that is so shaped and so governed by the revealed will of God in the Bible, that we see and assess all relevant factors with the mind of Christ, and discern what God is calling us to do. This is very different from constantly trying to hear God’s voice saying do this and do that. People who try to lead their lives by hearing voices are not in sync with Romans 12:2.

There is a world of difference between praying and laboring for a renewed mind that discerns how to apply God’s word, on the one hand, and the habit of asking God to give you new revelation of what to do, on the other hand. Divination does not require transformation. God’s aim is a new mind, a new way of thinking and judging, not just new information. His aim is that we be transformed, sanctified, freed by the truth of his revealed word (John 8:3217:17). So the second stage of God’s will of command is the discerning application of the Scriptures to new situations in life by means of a renewed mind.

Stage Three

Finally, the third stage of God’s will of command is the vast majority of living where there is no conscious reflection before we act. I venture to say that a good 95 percent of your behavior you do not premeditate. That is, most of your thoughts, attitudes, and actions are spontaneous. They are just spillover from what’s inside. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:34–36).

Why do I call this part of God’s will of command? For one reason. Because God commands things like: Don’t be angry. Don’t be prideful. Don’t covet. Don’t be anxious. Don’t be jealous. Don’t envy. And none of those actions are premeditated. Anger, pride, covetousness, anxiety, jealousy, envy — they all just rise up out of the heart with no conscious reflection or intention. And we are guilty because of them. They break the commandment of God.

Is it not plain therefore that there is one great task of the Christian life: Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. We need new hearts and new minds. Make the tree good and the fruit will be good (Matthew 12:33). That’s the great challenge. That is what God calls you to. You can’t do it on your own. You need Christ, who died for your sins. And you need the Holy Spirit to lead you into Christ-exalting truth and to work in you truth-embracing humility.

Give yourself to this. Immerse yourself in the written word of God; saturate your mind with it. And pray that the Spirit of Christ would make you so new that the spillover would be good, acceptable, and perfect — the will of God.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. 

Promises and Consequences – God’s Promises

2 Chronicles 7:12-22 NIV

12 the Lord appeared to him at night and said:

“I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.

13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 

15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.

17 “As for you, if you walk before me faithfully as David your father did, and do all I command, and observe my decrees and laws, 18 I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor to rule over Israel.’

19 “But if you[a] turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you[b] and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. 

21 This temple will become a heap of rubble. All[c] who pass by will be appalled and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ 22 People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why he brought all this disaster on them.’”

Promises and Consequences (NOTES)

2 Kings 25:1-8 New International Version

25 So in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. He encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it. 2 The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.

3 By the ninth day of the fourth[a] month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat. 4 Then the city wall was broken through, and the whole army fled at night through the gate between the two walls near the king’s garden, though the Babylonians[b] were surrounding the city. They fled toward the Arabah,[c] 5 but the Babylonian[d] army pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his soldiers were separated from him and scattered, 6 and he was captured.

He was taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where sentence was pronounced on him. 7 They killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. Then they put out his eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.

8 On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 36:11-14 New International Version

Zedekiah King of Judah

11 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. 12 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord his God and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke the word of the Lord. 13 He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him take an oath in God’s name. He became stiff-necked and hardened his heart and would not turn to the Lord, the God of Israel. 14 Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful, following all the detestable practices of the nations and defiling the temple of the Lord, which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 1:3-13 New International Version

3 and Solomon and the whole assembly went to the high place at Gibeon, for God’s tent of meeting was there, which Moses the Lord’s servant had made in the wilderness. 4 Now David had brought up the ark of God from Kiriath Jearim to the place he had prepared for it, because he had pitched a tent for it in Jerusalem. 5 But the bronze altar that Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, had made was in Gibeon in front of the tabernacle of the Lord; so Solomon and the assembly inquired of him there. 6 Solomon went up to the bronze altar before the Lord in the tent of meeting and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it.

7 That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

8 Solomon answered God, “You have shown great kindness to David my father and have made me king in his place. 9 Now, Lord God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. 10 Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

11 God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, possessions or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, 12 therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, possessions and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.”

13 Then Solomon went to Jerusalem from the high place at Gibeon, from before the tent of meeting. And he reigned over Israel.

2 Chronicles 7:1-10 New International Version

The Dedication of the Temple

7 When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 2 The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. 3 When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying,

“He is good;

    his love endures forever.”

4 Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the Lord. 5 And King Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty-two thousand head of cattle and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep and goats. So the king and all the people dedicated the temple of God. 6 The priests took their positions, as did the Levites with the Lord’s musical instruments, which King David had made for praising the Lord and which were used when he gave thanks, saying, “His love endures forever.” Opposite the Levites, the priests blew their trumpets, and all the Israelites were standing.

7 Solomon consecrated the middle part of the courtyard in front of the temple of the Lord, and there he offered burnt offerings and the fat of the fellowship offerings, because the bronze altar he had made could not hold the burnt offerings, the grain offerings and the fat portions.

8 So Solomon observed the festival at that time for seven days, and all Israel with him—a vast assembly, people from Lebo Hamath to the Wadi of Egypt. 9 On the eighth day they held an assembly, for they had celebrated the dedication of the altar for seven days and the festival for seven days more. 10 On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people to their homes, joyful and glad in heart for the good things the Lord had done for David and Solomon and for his people Israel.

Open To Being Chosen – God Prepares The Way

Luke 1:46-55 NIV

Mary’s Song

46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

Open To Being Chosen (NOTES)

1 Corinthians 4:6 New International Version

6 Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.

1 Samuel 2:1-10 New International Version

Hannah’s Prayer

1 Then Hannah prayed and said:

“My heart rejoices in the Lord;

    in the Lord my horn[a] is lifted high.

My mouth boasts over my enemies,

    for I delight in your deliverance.

2 “There is no one holy like the Lord;

    there is no one besides you;

    there is no Rock like our God.

3 “Do not keep talking so proudly

    or let your mouth speak such arrogance,

for the Lord is a God who knows,

    and by him deeds are weighed.

4 “The bows of the warriors are broken,

    but those who stumbled are armed with strength.

5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food,

    but those who were hungry are hungry no more.

She who was barren has borne seven children,

    but she who has had many sons pines away.

6 “The Lord brings death and makes alive;

    he brings down to the grave and raises up.

7 The Lord sends poverty and wealth;

    he humbles and he exalts.

8 He raises the poor from the dust

    and lifts the needy from the ash heap;

he seats them with princes

    and has them inherit a throne of honor.

“For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s;

    on them he has set the world.

9 He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,

    but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.

“It is not by strength that one prevails;

10     those who oppose the Lord will be broken.

The Most High will thunder from heaven;

    the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

Luke 1:48 New International Version

48 for he has been mindful

    of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

Luke 1:49 New International Version

49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—

    holy is his name.

A Charlie Brown Christmas!

By Radha Menon – Written by David Blaski …such a powerful message

There are many traditions associated with Christmas in our country, among the most beloved began in 1965 which is called, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Everyone’s “lovable loser”, Charlie Brown was reportedly born in 1946 by his creator, Charles Schultz.

Although more acquainted with losing than winning, the beloved cartoon character is the ultimate everyman’s survivor. However, 3 years before his “birth” there was another Charlie Brown, one full of fear and angst as he struggled in the days before Christmas in 1943.

On December 20th 1943, 20-year-old Lt Charlie Brown still clung to the controls and the last vestiges of hope as the pilot of a heavily battle-damaged B-17 struggling to get back to England following an allied bombing raid over Bremen, Germany.

The lone Allied bomber was a sitting duck. Holed all over by flak and bullets and down to a single good engine, it struggled simply to stay in the air over Germany, let alone make it the 300 miles back to England.

With the tail gunner dead and most of the crew either wounded or in shock, Lt Charlie Brown clung to the controls despite a 200 mph gale of wind through the fuselage, resulting from the plane’s nose section being blown off. The severely crippled B-17 was now flying barely above its stalling speed about 2000 feet above the ground.

It would have been common sense for Lt Brown to order his crew to bail out and risk becoming POW’s for the rest of the war. But that would mean leaving an unconscious man behind to die alone, and Lt. Charlie Brown refused to do that.

In the distance, agonizingly close, Lt. Brown felt a glimmer of hope as he approached the German coastline, and ahead of that the North Sea and open skies back to England. That was until he saw the glimmer behind them of a fast-moving speck, a lone German Me109 closing in, piloted by Lt Franz Stigler, a Luftwaffe ace who needed one more kill to reach the 30 that would qualify him for a Knight’s Cross, the second highest of Germany’s Iron Cross awards for bravery.

As Stigler came up behind the bomber he could not believe its condition. How was it still flying? And why was there no gunfire from the stricken plane to try to ward him off. That was explained as, inching closer, he saw the slumped body of the rear gunner.

Veering alongside, he could see the other guns were out of action too, the radio room had been blown apart and the nose had gone. Even more startlingly, through the lattice work of bullet holes, he glimpsed members of the crew, huddled together, helping their wounded. As he realized how easy the situation would be for him to pull the trigger of his wing guns and return a hero, he saw the Americans ashen faces, their fear and their courage and his finger eased from the trigger.

The experienced fighter pilot realized he just couldn’t do it because of the words of a much admired officer of the old school, who told him on his first day of combat, ‘You shoot at a machine, not a man. You score “victories”, not “kills”. His mentor will also go on to say, “A man may be tempted to fight dirty to survive, but honor is everything.

You follow the rules of war for you, not for your enemy. You fight by rules to keep your humanity. So you never shoot your enemy if he is floating down on a parachute. If I ever see you doing that, I will shoot you down myself.” Although a message which didn’t seem to chime with the ruthless savagery of Nazi mentality under Hitler’s Third Reich, it did chime with Lt. Stigler, who had never bought into Nazi philosophy or joined the party. He prided himself in fighting by this code.

His Knight’s Cross could go hang. ‘I will not have this on my conscience for the rest of my life,’ he muttered to himself. To the stunned and anxious looks of Lt. Charlie Brown and his surviving crew, Stigler positioned his Messerschmidt just above the mortally crippled B-17’s right wing tip, matching its speed as if flying in formation.

At first, Lt. Brown and crew thought the Luftwaffe pilot was playing a cruel game with them. To their amazement, they saw the German waving frantically, mouthing words, making gestures. What was he trying to say? In his cockpit, Stigler was struggling with a dilemma. He was not content just to ease back and let the bomber escape. He was now determined to save it and the men on board.

Stigler tried to get the American pilot to head eastwards to neutral Sweden, a 30-minute flight away, crash-land there and spend the rest of the war as internees but alive. But any words were lost in the roar of the bomber’s faltering engines, while in its front seat; Brown clung doggedly to the control column and pushed on. Lt. Stigler now realized that to help the crew, he would have to risk his own life.

As the two planes approached the German anti-aircraft batteries on the coast, Stigler gambled that if the flak gunners down on the ground spotted his Messerschmidt side by side with the enemy bomber, they would hold fire. He held his course, prepared to risk being shot down himself. The ploy worked. Not a shot was fired from the ground.

But Stigler knew he now faced a different danger. There were witnesses to his actions. If word got back that he had helped an enemy bomber to escape, he would face arrest by the Gestapo, a court martial and a firing squad for treason. To make matters worse, if he escorted the plane to the English coast, he might himself be shot down by the allies.

The decision for Stigler would finally me made by Lt. Charlie Brown, he and his crew were still confused by the strange actions of the Luftwaffe pilot and finally order one of his gunners to target the Messerschmidt. As the barrels turned in his direction, Stigler got the message. He had done all he could. He gave one last look, mouthed ‘Good luck’, saluted the Americans and peeled away.

It was only then, to their collective astonishment that Lt. Brown and his men now understood the act of modern chivalry shown to them by this unknown German pilot. For Lt. Franz Stigler, Incredibly his risk had paid off and there was neither a Gestapo welcoming committee nor report of the incident.

However, Stigler would find himself after the incident becoming increasingly disillusioned by what his country had turned into under Hitler, Stigler had lost any desire for the Knight’s Cross, so, though he was constantly in battle and flew close to 500 combat missions, he simply failed to register his “victories” and claim what he now saw as a worthless piece of metal.

As they made the English coast Lt. Charlie Brown’s wounded B-17 was met and escorted back by their fellow airmen in American P-47 fighters, cheering and urging them on all the way. Charlie Brown and his men made it back that day to a hero’s welcome, on a wing and a prayer. To Lt. Charlie Brown, the real hero of the mission was that unknown Luftwaffe pilot. And that was what he told the intelligence officer who de-briefed him on the mission. He and his men owed their lives to a good German.

However, allied intelligence would order Lt. Charlie Brown and his surviving crew to secrecy and classify the details of the mission for fear it would inspire fellow-allied pilots to do the same and risk their own lives. For more than 40 years, Lt. Brown kept the secret but he never forgot.

Then, in 1985, and retired to Florida, he blurted the story out at a veterans’ reunion. He told his fellow veterans that although he never found out who that German pilot was, he was now determined to finally find out who he was. In 1990, Franz Stigler was living in Vancouver, BC when he opened his regular association newsletter, and could not believe his eyes as he read his story and the unknown American pilot he helped that day.

The two men, once enemies were finally reunited. From then on the two men traveled together to take their unique story to veterans’ clubs and air museums. As author Adam Makos would write about them. “Their message was simple: enemies are better off as friends”. Ironically, both men would both die within months of each other in 2008, perhaps as a final escort and salute in death as to how they met in life that Christmas week in the skies of 1943.

In the classic holiday cartoon, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, Charlie Brown finds himself depressed and dismayed by the commercialism, complaints, and indifference of others towards the holiday of Christmas. Charlie is then encouraged by Lucy to help put on a Christmas play, In order to set “the proper mood” he goes out and finds a Christmas tree for the school play.

When he gets to the lot, filled with numerous trees fitting Lucy’s description, Charlie Brown ironically and symbolically chooses the only real tree there, a weak, tiny sapling. Charlie Brown is convinced that all it needs is some decoration and it will be just right. However, his friends laugh at him for his choice of the pathetic little tree, Charlie Brown finally cries out to ask if anyone knows what Christmas is all about.

It is his friend Linus, who drops his ever present security blanket and recites from the Bible, Luke chapter 2:8-14 which ends with the verse; “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.” Linus then walks back over to Charlie Brown and gently says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Charlie Brown quietly picks up the tree and walks out of the auditorium toward home. He takes a large ornament from Snoopy’s doghouse and hangs it at the top of his tree, but the branch, seemingly unable to hold the ornament’s weight, promptly droops to the ground. Believing he has killed the tree, Charlie Brown walks off in shame, believing he has ruined everything.

Linus and the others, who realized they were too hard on Charlie Brown, quietly followed him to Snoopy’s doghouse. Linus admits he always liked the tree while gently propping the drooping branch back in its upright position and wraps his blanket around its base, and when the others add the remaining decorations from Snoopy’s doghouse to the tree, Lucy agrees. Charlie Brown returns, surprised at the redecorated tree which now miraculously has new life, and the gang all joyously shout “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!”

The holiday of Christmas is a commemoration of the gift of God’s redemption for mankind. It’s about His hand reaching down to us when our hearts were far from Him. It’s about finding humanity in the face of inhumanity, about a frightened pilot who won’t abandon one life to death to save others and another who refuses to obtain a “prize” dropped in his lap because the price of his conscience and soul was too great.

It’s about the crippled aircraft that found a wing of protection under the shadow of an enemy’s mercy. It can even be found in the belief of one “lovable loser” that a small, pathetic tree could have beauty and meaning that no one else saw if others just gave some into it. Like the lyrics to the famous song;“Oh why can’t every day be like Christmas?Why can’t that feeling go on endlesslyFor if every day could be just like Christmas

What a wonderful world this would be” To all who read this message may I add, “Merry Christmas to all”. – David Blaski

John Prepares the Way – God Prepares the Way

Luke 3:2-6 NIV

during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
    every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
    the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’”[a]

Luke 3:15-18 NIV

15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with[a] water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with[b] the Holy Spirit and fire. 

17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

John Prepares The Way (NOTES)

Luke 1:13-17 New International Version

13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,

15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.

17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Isaiah 40:3-5 New International Version

3 A voice of one calling:

“In the wilderness prepare

    the way for the Lord[a];

make straight in the desert

    a highway for our God.[b]

4 Every valley shall be raised up,

    every mountain and hill made low;

the rough ground shall become level,

    the rugged places a plain.

5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,

    and all people will see it together.

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Luke 1:17 New International Version

17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Who were the three Wise Men from the East that worshipped the baby Jesus?

The three kings on camels against a setting sun.

For my Parsi/Zoroastrian Friends all over the world and Bombay, India
Who Were the Wise Men? Sermons Matthew 2:1 Who were the wise men?

Are you ready for that? Matthew chapter 2. All of us have wondered. I remember when I was a little boy I wondered who those guys were. How many were there? Were they really kings? Did they really ride camels? Why did they come to Bethlehem? And, as Paul said, we have most of our ideas about this fascinating group from the people who draw Christmas cards rather than theologians.

Vincent, who has written some very helpful word studies, says in regard to this, “Many absurd traditions and guesses respecting these visitors to our Lord’s cradle have found their way into popular belief and into Christian art. They were said to be kings and three in number. They were said to be representatives of three families of Shem, Ham, and Japheth and, therefore, one of them is pictured as an Ethiopian. Their names are given as Caspar, Balthazar, and Melchior.” You’ve probably heard that.

And their three skulls, amazingly enough, are said to have been found. Yes, they were found “in the twelfth century by Bishop Reinald of Cologne.” The bishop dug those up and knew right off they were skulls. It’s very clear. And their eyes were still in the sockets fixed toward Bethlehem. Today, believe it or not, friends, they are on exhibit in a priceless casket in a great cathedral in Europe.

Now frankly, folks, the only thing we know about these wise men is some history and what is said in Matthew. We really are very, very limited in terms of specifics. In addition to what we have here in Matthew which is very limited, it says, “There came wise men from the East.” That’s it, folks, right there. We don’t know their names; we don’t know anything from that.

But as we put the pieces together, historically, and we do have some very fascinating history. Some of it from the Old Testament, books such as Daniel where the Magi or wise men appear in several different texts, other Bible books as well as the writings of Herodotus and other historians. We basically have found, and then here’s the basic thrust of who they were. And then we’ll get into the specifics, and I think you’ll be fascinated by it.

We’re going to spend a lot of time with history tonight. This is going to be teaching not preaching. We believe they were members of an Eastern priestly group, descendant of a tribe of people originally associated with the Medes, M-E-D-E-S. Now, I just want to remind you of something so you’ll get a little bit of a picture.

Basically in the history of the world there have been four major world empires, all right? First one was the Babylonian Empire. And that, basically, was settled in the fertile crescent area east of Israel in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates River, north of the Arabian gulf, east of what we know is Israel today. That was where the Babylonian Empire was. It was followed by the second great world empire that Daniel talks about, and that was the Empire known as the Medo-Persian Empire.

It was a conglomerate empire made up of the Persians and the Medes. The Medes were a very large and powerful people. The third great world empire was Greece. When the Medo-Persian Empire was conquered by Alexander the Great, the world became Greek, as it were. The fourth great empire was the Roman Empire.Now as we go backwards, even while the Babylonian Empire was in existence there was still Medes and Persians. So they are very ancient people.

In fact, there are many people in history who trace the origin of the Medes all the way back to the time when Abraham was called out of Ur of the Chaldees, way back in the 12th chapter of Genesis. So it may well be that these are very, very ancient people. Certainly they are people who appear in the Babylonian Empire because we see them in the book of Daniel.

They are people from the Medo-Persian Empire and existed on through the time of the Greek Empire and are still in existence in the Roman Empire when Christ is born. So they are a very ancient and long-lived people were these wise men. And by the way, the word wise men…in verse 2, it says, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king behold there came magi.”

The Greek is magos, magoi, magi. It is really an untranslatable word. It is not a translatable word; it is simply the name of a certain tribe of people. It should better be translated, perhaps, magi. The magi were a priestly line, a priestly tribe of people from among the Medes, this very ancient and large people. They were very skilled in astronomy and astrology. This was a very great preoccupation with them. Their interest in astronomy and astrology was only part of their involvement. They were sort of occultists in a way. They had some sort of divination processes.

They were involved in certain kinds of things that we would assume, perhaps, were like a sorcery and that’s why the word magi was corrupted through history into the word magic, magician, which is a synonym for sorcerer. But the magi originally were basically a pagan, priestly tribe of people from the Medes and the Persians and there are many, many historical sources to validate this.

They became interested in astronomy and astrology and the study of the stars. And in those days they didn’t make much of a separation between the superstition and the science. The science is astronomy, the superstition is astrology, and they were pretty well blended at the time. Now, what’s interesting about this is that during the time of the Babylonian Empire these magi were dwelling in the area of Babylon. They were there during the Babylonian time and the Medo-Persian Empire as well.

Now while they were there during the Babylonian Empire, they were very heavily influenced by the Jews. You remember that one of the things that Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon did was take Judah into captivity. Do you remember that? That’s what Jeremiah was saying. “You are going to be taken into captivity.” Jeremiah pronounced this fact and of course even the book of Lamentations laments this reality. And they were carried off into the Babylon captivity.Well, here in Babylon were existing these magi, and they were very high-ranking officials. By that time they had ascended to a high place in the Babylonian Empire because of their amazing intuition, wisdom, knowledge, astrology, occultic ability, whatever you want to call it, they had risen to a place of prominence.

And so, immediately, they came into contact with all these Jewish people that had been brought to captivity. They also came into contact with one very specific Jew by the name of Daniel, who was elevated in the Babylonian Empire. And, consequently, they were very familiar or made familiar in the dispersion of the Jews in Babylon with Jewish prophesy regarding the Messiah.

They were made aware of what was really on the Jewish prophetic plan for this One who was to come. And so that’s basically who they were.Now I want to really dig into that a little bit and set the scene for what happens in this incredible incident in chapter 2 of Matthew. Let’s go back and see their history.

According to the ancient historian, Herodotus, the magi were a tribe of people within a larger people called the Medes. Now listen to this. They were a hereditary priesthood tribe. In other words, they were like the Levites in Israel. In Israel there were twelve tribes, but one of those tribes was set apart as the priestly tribe. And they were the ones who ministered in the rituals and the religious ceremonies of the temple, and they were the Levites.

Well the pagan Medes had a similar thing. Of all of the tribes within the Medes they had selected one of them to function as priests in their pagan rituals. And that tribe which they had selected was the magi. Again, it’s an untranslatable word, really. This is the name of that priestly group of people. It was a hereditary priesthood. Now as I said earlier some historians see them all the way back in Ur of the Chaldees as a part of a nomadic people that were wandering about in that part of the world.

Whichever is true, whether they go all the way back to Ur or whether they just first kind of surface in the Babylonian time we don’t know. The point is this. During the Babylonian World Empire they were significant, during the Medo- Persia Empire they were significant, during the Greek Empire they were significant, and during the Roman Empire they were significant. And in all of those empires they maintained a place of tremendous prominence in the orient, in the east.

You see, even when the Greek Empire was in vogue, there was still certain eastern culture and power. Even when the Roman Empire was in vogue there was certain eastern power. And in both of those periods, the Magi were really the key people in the government of the East, centered in the Fertile Crescent, the area around Babylon and Medo-Persia. Now they always appear with tremendous political power. Now this is very important for you. You’re going to have a little history lesson.

They always appear with tremendous political power. I would say the majority of historians, at least the ones that I read, and the ones that were referred to, see them as an eastern people who rose by virtue of their very unique priestly function. By their unique rather occultic powers of divination, by their astrological, astronomical knowledge, they rose to places of prominence. And they rose up in Babylonian government, Medo-Persian government, even in some cases in the East during the Greek period and for sure during the Roman period, to be the advisors to the royalty of the East.

And that’s where they got the name the Wise Men. They were the ones that were consulted about the various things that the kings and the rulers and the nobles and the princes wanted to know. Now, we even have some history that tells us about their religious activities. Now, I’ll give you a little description of the kind of religion that the Magi were involved in. Their priesthood had certain functions and here are some of the things: The principle element of their worships seems to have been fire. It’s apparent from history that they worshipped or that they sort of reverenced fire. And we don’t know for sure why, but perhaps they saw fire as some kind of incarnation of deity. And, by the way, they were monotheistic, they only believed, really, in one God and so they had that in common with Israel.

But they looked at fire as the principle element of their worship. And in connection with that they had an altar which burned with a perpetual flame. And they believed that that perpetual flame was kindled by God from heaven.So they had this perpetual flame altar. Now, over beside that, in their temples and wherever, they also had another altar and on that altar they offered blood sacrifice. So they actually had a blood sacrificial system. And they lit the fire to burn the sacrifice with the flame off the perpetual altar. And then when they had burned their sacrifice, this is interesting, the victim was then eaten by the worshiper and by the Magian priests.

What’s fascinating about that is that’s almost a direct parallel to Judaism. And you can see how way back then Satan was counterfeiting true religion from the very beginning, you see. He’s always done that. You know, even today, there is real Christianity and there is phony. And in that day there was real sacrificial system with genuine worship toward the one right true God, and there was phony monotheism, phony blood sacrifice, false sacrifice, and offering burned and then eaten by the worshiper and the priest.

Additionally, these people had a hereditary priesthood. Again, a counterfeit of the Levitical priesthood. These people carried about small bundles of divining rods in their garments, and they used these divining rods for their little ceremonies. Not unlike the Urim and the Thummim of the priests, the high priest, by which the knowledge of God was sought. They believed in the distinction of certain kinds of unclean animals. That’s interesting. They believed that certain insects and certain reptiles were unclean. Again, this is an interesting parallel to what God truly revealed to Israel. And another thing that I felt very interesting as I was reading about it was they were very ritualistic about ever touching and disposing of a dead body, another thing common to God’s standard for Israel.

So in the Babylonian Empire this very interesting religious group of people appears. And they rose to tremendous prominence. In Jeremiah 39:3 in verse 13, a man by the name of Nergalsharezer is mentioned, and Nergal-sharezer is the chief of the Magi in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. Okay? These oriental kings starting with Nebuchadnezzar had elevated the Magi, and even before that. But as far as the Scripture is concerned, we see them first with Nebuchadnezzar.

They had elevated this priestly group from the Medes to the place of being the official advisors to the king. And so they are tremendously powerful people. And even when Babylon fell and the Medo-Persian Empire came in and you have great rulers like Cyrus and others, you still have the high-ranking officials of the Medo- Persian government being taken from this group called Magi. They were unmatched in political power.Now I want you to turn in your Bible with me for a minute, back to Daniel, and I want to show you how they appear in the book of Daniel, Daniel, chapter 2.

When I get all done with this and you re-read verse 1 of Matthew 2 it’s going to make a lot more sense. Daniel chapter 2 in verse 10 and we won’t take time to set all the context. But here we are in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel is there, the Jews are in captivity in Babylon, and it says, “The Chaldeans answered before the king and said, ‘There is not a man on the earth that can reveal the king’s matter: therefore, there is no king, lord, nor ruler that asked such things of any Magi or astrologer or Chaldean.’” And it’s very likely that those are all synonyms. And then astrologer and Chaldean may just be other ways of saying the same thing.

So here we find the word Magi, it’s not strictly the word magician, that’s an English corruption it’s the word Magi. It’s talking about this priestly tribe. They had a very prominent place at that time. They were known as those who could interpret dreams. Now you remember Nebuchadnezzar had this bizarre dream and none of them could handle it.

Now you know what’s so fascinating about it is there was one man who could interpret it. You know who that was? It was Daniel. And let’s go on a little bit, Chapter 4 verse 7. We again see the Magi. Chapter 4 verse 7, “Then came in the Magi, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, the soothsayers, and I told the dream to them but they didn’t make known unto me its interpretation.” Verse 9, “O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians.” Now here we meet the master of the Magi. And I’m just trying to point out that they are mentioned repeatedly in the book of Daniel. And rather than call them magicians, they should be Magi.

That’s essentially what he is referring to. Now when Daniel came along and all these Magi who were in the high, high-ranking place of advisors to the king couldn’t give any answers, Daniel could, something amazing happened. Daniel 5:11, “There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods, and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods was found in him” – talking about Daniel now – “Whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king I say, thy father made master of the Magi.”

Now how interesting. Daniel was so adept at telling the dreams of the king that the king made Daniel the master of the Magi, so that Daniel was literally in Babylon the chief over this whole priestly group. Okay? It’s fascinating. Now, that puts Daniel in the tremendously unique position of being able to dispense to these Magi all of his information about the Old Testament, which without a shadow of a doubt is precisely what Daniel did.

We know that Daniel was a man of God. We know that Daniel was a man totally devoted to worship and expression of his faith because he wound up in a lion’s den because of it, didn’t he? And there’s no question in my mind but that Daniel and the other godly remnant in the Diaspora, the dispersion, shared their knowledge of the Old Testament and their copies of the Scripture with these people in Babylon. And, additionally, when the final decree of Cyrus came that they could go back to the land the majority of the Jews never went back.

The majority of the Jews stayed in Babylon, intermingled, intermarried, and throughout the remaining history of Babylon and Medo-Persia there were people in the noble families, people in the high-ranking offices, some say even monarchs in that part of the world who had part Jewish blood. And certainly we would have to conclude that Daniel had a profound impact in the dispensing of that information. And, by the way, I want to add another footnote to this, that as I was studying, this was very fascinating to me because I began to think about this.

If Daniel was so good at winning these Magi over and convincing them about this fact of the coming Messiah, why was it that they plotted against him and threw him in the lion’s den, if he was so influential and believable? And so I began to study, and the sixth chapter of Daniel revealed a most interesting thing. You don’t need to…we’re not going to go all through it. But this, in the sixth chapter of Daniel we find a plot against Daniel based on jealousy. But what is really amazing about this plot is that it is not a plot devised by the Magi who dominated the hierarchy of the royal court. It is a plot developed by men known as the satraps, and I don’t mean SET. I mean SAT, satraps.

That was the term used to describe the regional governors who had nothing to do with the palace. So remember, the plot that was hatched in jealousy against Daniel was not a plot hatched at the hands of the Magi. Which, again, leads me to see that very likely Daniel was extremely believable and convincing in his impact.In fact, do you realize that when Daniel was actually being thrown in the lion’s den, the king said, “Daniel, I know that your God will deliver you.” You remember the king actually said that? He was so convinced of the power of God through the testimony of Daniel. And I’m sure he just checked it as often as he possibly could to see that that anticipation was in fact a reality.

So, the Magi kept their place of prominence, influenced, no doubt, by such a great man as Daniel, and there were few who ever lived like him, influenced by Godly Jews in the dispersion, influenced by the intermarriage and the constant Jewish culture that was imposed upon them in many ways. And they became and maintained a position in the Medo-Persian Empire of great power in the court of the king.

Now let me tell you something else interesting. In the sixth century B.C., there was a great king of Persia by the name of Darius, Darius the Great. This is in the Medo-Persian Empire. This is right around the time of Daniel. And Darius came in and Darius said, “I am going to establish a national religion.” And you know which one he picked? Zoroastrianism. Now we don’t have time to go into Zoroastrianism, but Zoroastrianism had with it a lot of astrology. And it may well be that the final little nuances of astrology and the preoccupation of the Magi with that, came in the merging of Zoroastrianism.

So, now what you’ve got, you’ve got these Magi who have their own culture religion. On top of that has been superimposed Judaism, and on top of that has been superimposed Zoroastrianism. Now that’s really a can of worms, to put it mildly. But what’s so interesting is the Magi was so anxious to maintain their political power, and they were so anxious to maintain their religious power that when the decree came from Darius that Zoroastrianism was the religion that was going to exist, they just slid right in and said, “Fine with us,” and they made some adaptations.

But now what you’ve got is very interesting. You’ve got the Magi all gobbled up here. And you’ve got some of them, no doubt, committed to Zoroastrianism as time went on, some of them committed to ancient Magian formulas and some of them maybe believing, honestly in their heart, that the God of Daniel was the real God. And so this is the key. As history moved on from here, the Magi began to depart from a singular commitment to their historic religion, and they began to find their way into different things. Some maybe leaning toward Zoroastrianism, some toward the ancient magianism, and I believe in my heart that some, like these Magi that show up at the birth of Christ, were really true seekers of the true God.

And so that gives you a little bit of the background. Now, I’m going to talk some more about this history. The Magi were so powerful that historians tell us that no Persian was ever able to become king…now watch this one…never able to become king except under two conditions: One, he mastered the scientific and religious discipline of the Magi. Two, he had to be approved of and crowned by the Magi. Now that’s something. That’s power. Do you know what they called the wisdom of the Magi? They had a name for it. The name for it was this. The law of the Medes and the Persians.

That law was the law or the code defined by the Magi. And if you want to see that phrase it’s in Esther 1:19 and Daniel chapter 6 a couple of times. The law of the Medes and the Persians was the code, the scientific religious discipline of the Magi. And their wisdom was that which was required for anyone to be a monarch in Persia. Additionally, historians tell us that they controlled the judicial office as well as the kingly office.In Esther 1:13 we have the indication that the royal bench of judges was all chosen from the Magi. Man, they were powerful.

And you have to remember when you talk about the Persian Empire and the Median Empire and the Babylonian Empire, you are talking about control of the Orient. This is a massive empire. And in the Babylonian time and the MedoPersian time, they literally controlled the known world. These were powerful men. And they were not only responsible for making every monarch that was made in that era, but they were responsible for setting up the judges as well. They had a check system for the despotism that could grow out of a kingship, and so they were the judges that counter-balanced the dictator king.

History tells us they knew astronomy, they were very good in mathematics, they knew natural history, they were good at agriculture and architecture. And do you remember back in…I think it’s Acts 7 that talks about the fact that Moses was raised up in all the wisdom of the Egyptians? Same thing was true of anybody who was raised in a nobility in the East. They were raised in the law of the Medes and the Persians, all nobility raised by them. And they were the kingmakers. They were the kingmakers, and no one ruled at all apart from them.

Now, as I mentioned earlier on of their special skills was interpreting dreams. And when they failed to do that and Daniel moved in on top of it and became the chief, as we saw in Daniel 5:11, the setup was made by God to set the scene for Matthew chapter 2, hundreds of years before Jesus was born, six hundred. God was setting up the situation for a great Hebrew prophet to rule a group called the Magi so that one day when a baby was born in Bethlehem, some of those Magi would find their way to the house where the baby was.

That’s planning history. So the syncretistic hybrid religion of the Magi very much like Judaism, monotheistic and a hereditary priesthood, blood sacrifice, believed also in supernatural revelation, believed in prophecy, these common things sort of made Judaism an easy thing for them to accept. And I believe in my heart, and this is just what I believe because of what I see happen in Matthew 2.

I believe that apparently there were some God-fearing gentile Magi historically existing in that eastern part of the world. Now I want to move to the time of Jesus. Look with me at Matthew 2. Time has gone on, century after century until Jesus is to be born. Somehow and by some marvelous way God has managed to maintain some true seeking Magi. Most may be corrupted. Certainly, many corrupted, and we’ll meet a few of the corrupt ones that are in the New Testament. But there were some real ones. There were some like Cornelius, you know, God-fearing gentiles. There were some like Lydia, a God-fearing gentile. There were some back there in that part of the world, some from the Magi, high-ranking kingmakers in the great Empire of the east.

There were some at that time who were still waiting for Daniel’s great hope to be fulfilled, you see.Now let me set the stage. Politically speaking, Rome was scared of the Eastern Empire. Now if you’ll just focus in your mind a little map of Europe and that was the Roman Empire, this massive chunk of Europe. And technically it swept to the east. But by virtue of distance, across the Mediterranean, across the blazing desert to get to the east, there was a certain isolation in the east which caused Rome a lot of anxiety. And they were always fearful that what then became known as the Parthian Empire, the Eastern Empire made up of the Medes and the Persians and the old Babylonian territory, that Parthian Empire was always kind of an anxiety for Rome.

Rome, you know, had stretched its tentacles out as it were to rule the world but they never really felt very secure about the Parthian Empire. And they had become violent enemies, violent enemies. And they fought. In 55 B.C. they fought. In 40 B.C. they fought. And what’s fascinating is, you know where they always fought? The great empire in the west, the great empire in the east came together and guess where they always fought? Right along the coast of the Mediterranean, Syria, Jordan, Palestine. Israel was a little no man’s land between the powers of the east and the powers of the west. Now Rome was afraid of them.

And if you look at verse 3 of Matthew 2, it says, “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was,” what? “Troubled.” When he heard that Magi, oriental, Parthian kingmakers had arrived in Jerusalem he was rattled. And we’ll see more about that in a few minutes. Now, let me tell you a little more about what happens. By the time we get to the time of Christ the Magi are still in tremendous power in the east. Some of them used their power, their position, their skills, with a great amount of human wisdom. Some of them just really turned into awful people.

Like any scientist, any priest, any preacher any other skilled person of modern days, we can either apply our craft deceitfully or we can apply it honestly. Some of the Magi were honest and they exalted the craft of wisdom and political advice. Some of them were corrupt and they prostituted it. Both kinds were vary common in the Mediterranean era when Christ was born.

Let me introduce you to a couple of corrupt ones. Turn in your Bible to Acts 8. Acts 8, verse 4. “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word,” Acts 8:4 says. “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them, and the people with one accord gave heed to those things which Philip spoke, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.” And it tells all about those. And you come to verse nine.

“But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously in the same city used sorcery and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one.” Some great one. “To whom they all gave heed from the least to the greatest saying, ‘This man is the great power of God.’” Now here is Simon, Simon Magus if you will, Simon the Magi. And here is a man who has prostituted his position into deceit as it were; he has sold himself to Satan. He used sorcery. You notice that? The root of that word is Magi, mageu, in the Greek. He used his Magi art in a prostituted manner.And later on he tried to buy the Holy Spirit and Peter really lays him out.

He says in verse 2O, “Your money perish with you, you have,” – verse 21 – “neither part nor lot in this matter.” Verse 22, “Repent of your wickedness.” Verse 23, “I perceive you are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.” Boy, oh Peter didn’t mince any words.

Look at the 13th chapter of Acts, Acts 13:6. “And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos,” and this is, of course, Paul and Barnabas starting on the first missionary journey. And they’re in Cyprus, the little island there in the east coast of the Mediterranean, “the isle of Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus.” And it goes down in verse 8 and it says “Elymas, the sorcerer.” The Greek is Elymas the magos, Elymas the Magi.

Here’s another one who also has prostituted this craft, prostituted this strange pagan religion in order to seek the ends of Satan. And of course, he tried to mess up Paul. And Paul says, “Oh, full of all deceit and mischief, you child of the devil, you enemy of righteousness. Will you not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord and now behold the hand of the Lord is upon you,” – verse 11 – “and you will be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. Immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.

Paul dealt with this one.And you see both Simon and Elymas were brought into the bondage of Satan himself who is the god of all astrologers and the god of all sorcerers. And, frankly, these were the kind of people that made intelligent folks in the Roman Empire despise such sorcerers. Philo the Roman says, “They are vipers, they are scorpions and they/other venomous creatures.” You see, these were the kind of people, the kind of Magi the Romans despised. But in the east, as I said, they were tremendously powerful men. And some among them, no question in my mind, were genuine men.Now at the time of Christ, at the time of Christ in the Eastern Empire, there was a ruling body called the Megistanes. You don’t need to…that’s not going to be on the quiz so you don’t need to worry about.

But there was a ruling house called the Megistanes, and those…this would be like the United States Senate. Okay. That’s just a name, Megistanes. And this ruling house ruled in the Parthian-Persian Empire at this time. Now listen, it was totally composed of Magi whose duty it was, now watch this, to have absolute choice for the selection of a king. They were kingmakers. And you know what happened? They had some real problems with the king that they had.

They wanted to fight Rome and knock off Rome. But they had a loser for a king, Phraates the Fourth. And Phraates the Fourth had been deposed. And listen, the Magi were looking for a new king, a new king of the east, a new king of the Eastern Empire who could come against Rome. When they arrived in Jerusalem Herod knew what was going on.

They were kingmakers and when they wandered around town saying, “Where is this new king of the Jews?” Herod got panicky. When suddenly these Persian kingmakers appeared in Jerusalem, no doubt traveling in full force with all their oriental pomp. And they use to wear conical hats with points on the top and big deals clear down to the bottom of their chin, and they rode Persian steeds not camels. And when they came in they didn’t come alone. The estimates of history are they came with Persian cavalry. When they came charging into the city of Jerusalem and Herod peeked out his little palace window, he flipped. These are powerful men, and to make it worse his army was out of the country on a mission. And the Bible says Herod was troubled. I guess he was. The word in the Greek is he was agitated like your washing machine, he was shaking. You see, Herod had a title.

You know what Herod’s title was? King of the Jews. He got it from Caesar Augustus. Caesar Augustus crowned him king of the Jews. And he realized the great dream of his life was to get that little buffer state under his power, and here he was in the middle of two huge contending empires. And all of a sudden this massive coterie of Persians arrive in the city and he is panicked. And they say, “We’re coming to find the new king.”

Now at the time Herod was close to death. And Caesar Augustus was really old and hanging by a thread. And since the retirement of Tiberius the Roman army didn’t even have a commander-in-chief. And they knew that this would be the time to bring about an eastern war against the west. It was right. And so Herod was shaking.You say, “Well, what were the Magi thinking?” I don’t know. Maybe, they had looked at it politically. Maybe they thought, “Oh, man, here comes the king.” And I think that that’s probably true but additionally I think they looked at it spiritually.

Because when they got to that little room in Bethlehem, the Bible says they worshipped Him. They saw more than just a king. I believe they saw the Messiah they had heard about from the days of Daniel. I think we have God-fearing, seeking gentiles. And it was two-fold. I’m sure they were thinking, “Maybe this is the Savior, the Savior who is called the Anointed One,” which is a term describing a king. “And maybe He will not only be the Savior, the Messiah, but maybe He will be the one who will gather all this people of the east together and go against the oppression of Rome.” By the way, the Magi knew that the people of Israel were on their side, not Rome’s.

And so that’s why they came into town and started asking the people where this new king was. They thought the people of Israel would be just as excited as they were. But you see the people of Israel were blinded by their unbelief. Isn’t it fascinating to you? It is to me, that the first people in the world to recognize the arrival of the King were gentiles. Gentiles. Does that tell you something about history? “He came unto His own and His own,” what? “Received Him not.” And Matthew follows that all the way through. The rejection of the King. Could this be the invincible monarch? They could crown Him.

They could take Him back and they could make Him king and they could unify the east. And with this great Messiah that Daniel had prophesied they could go against Rome with invincibility. And so into Jerusalem rides the group of Magi, kingmakers of the east on their fine Persian steeds, escorted by mounted cavalry. And so the stage is set. What happens after this? Come back next week. We don’t have time.Let me close by saying this. Isn’t it exciting to you how God controls history? Does that excite you? Now see, you looked at everything I said and you listened to it. And I talked to you for fifty minutes, and you know why it was so fascinating to you? Not because it was just a bunch of historical facts, but because you were seeing God at work.

History is His story. Long ago He picked out a man named Daniel, put him in a place to influence some men who would arrive in perfect timing. You say, “Well, why does Matthew present this? Why?” Listen. Matthew, all the way through his gospel is trying to tell the world that Jesus Christ is what? King. And just to make sure nobody misses it he has the most famous kingmakers in the world come and bow down at His feet. Do you see? It’s all a part of Matthew’s strategy. He’s the king. And if Israel isn’t going to acknowledge it, then God is going to drag a bunch of people from Persia to acknowledge it. He’s king.

God has master planned history. And the sad part of it is that the people who should have known, the people who should have known missed it. And the people from way off, who should have never guessed, showed up and worshipped. That’s history. Jesus came. Paul said, “To the Jew first, also to the Gentiles.” Jesus came and said, “I’m come not but for the lost sheep for the house of Israel.” Israel turned its back on Christ and He called a people from a no people. “He reached out to the Gentiles,” Romans says, “and grafted us in.” And the hint of that was right here in the very beginning.

Remember what it says, if…the Bible says if we don’t praise Him, what? The very rocks will cry out. And when the king arrived, beloved, when the king arrived, if His people wouldn’t praise Him then God will make sure that there’s somebody there to do it and there was. And you know in our world today they celebrate Christmas, pass around the Christmas cards, look at the wise men. They don’t understand the point. They don’t know the meaning. They don’t see who He is. But here and there, hither and yon, some of us do. Right? And there’s some of us who bow to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

Next week we’re going to discuss Herod, what kind of a man he was, and why he panicked. And I’m going to tell you what the star was that led them to Bethlehem. Let’s pray.Father, it’s just really…it’s just beyond us to see how You work in history. With our little finite minds, we look at things and we think we understand and then we dig deep and deeper and deeper and, all of a sudden, we discover a world we never knew existed, a world of information a world of insight that expands in our minds Your incredible greatness, Your unequaled power and wisdom.

God, I thank You for the wise men, the Magi, however many there were and whatever their names were, who were seeking the King. And I feel grieved in my heart for the people of the King who didn’t want him. And I would pray, Lord, tonight that in our fellowship there are some who have been like the people of the King and turned their back on Him and said, “I don’t want Him.” “We will not have this man reign over us,” they said. Father, I pray that You convict their hearts. They be like those who came from afar and rejoiced with great joy and fell down and worshipped Him. Thank You also that You planned us to be a part of the church that bows before Him in worship. We’ll give you praise, Lord, for all that You have done that shows us Your mighty hand in Jesus name. Amen.

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