Wise Men Still Need a Star

O Star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to Thy perfect light..."

I love the Christmas carols.  Seems like, though, we don’t get to listen to them long enough.  And now, by the time you read this, Christmas will be over and the carols replaced by other songs.  However, one of the carols actually should be saved to listen to now, a few days after Christmas.  We Three Kings tells the story of the Magi, the wise men who showed up later, when Jesus was a young child, far removed from that angel-filled, shepherd-praising night in Bethlehem.

"We three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts, we traverse afar, field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.  Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain.  Gold I bring to crown Him again.  King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign..."

The song of the wise men.  Far from home, they had come to honor a king, shown to them by a star that directed them to the place where Jesus was living.  And when they saw Jesus, they offered their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh - gold to represent His kingship; frankincense to represent His priestly role; and myrrh, an embalming oil, to speak of the importance of His death.

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"Fear Not" - Then and Now

A couple weeks ago, we all watched heartbreaking scenes from the terrorist attacks in and around Paris.  One commentator stated this event was France’s 9-11.  As I heard those words, my mind went back fourteen years.  One question the TV crews were asking people then and now was, “How are you feeling after these attacks?”  The first word that came to my mind was “vulnerable.”  And now, as I write this article, I hear the words of French President Hollande: “Terrorism, like an evil cancer, has metastasized.”  We need to be aware of that truth.  Terrorism is a cancer to this world.  The world is vulnerable.  There’s a lot of fear.  With reason.

But there also is a safe place revealed to us in the wisdom of Scripture.  Our Biblical perspective allows us to see the events of today with an eternal vision in mind: “We don’t look at troubles we can see now; rather we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen…the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”  [2 Corinthians4:18]

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Prayer and Faith

“And He did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.”  [Matthew 13:58]

Can you imagine?  The people of Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown, couldn’t get over the idea of Him acting the way He acted.  They just could not (would not) allow themselves to see in Jesus what was obvious.  As a result, it was them, not Jesus, who suffered.  “Because of their unbelief” Jesus didn’t do many mighty works there.  Their own lack of faith robbed the Nazarenes of experiencing “many mighty works.”

I wouldn’t wish that on anybody, and I certainly wouldn’t want it in my own family or community.  The issue is not God withholding miracles from us; the issue is whether we believe God is capable of miracles in our lives.  Have you ever wondered, “Why, God, don’t You do more in our church?”  Could it be connected to unbelief?  Maybe we believe, but we just don’t act like it.  Maybe we act as if it’s up to us to do all we can and that’s all we’ll get.  Instead of praying, doing all we can, and believing God will bless our efforts by going further in more miraculous ways than we ever imagined…Maybe.

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One Nation Under God

“For, dear brethren, you have been given freedom: not freedom to do wrong, but freedom to love and serve each other.”  [Galatians 5:13]

I can easily behave like a political junkie, especially as we hear more and more about the folks who are running for public office.  God bless them all, but make them wise, too!  There are so many issues in our city, state, country, and world today!  I listen to what they all say, but I have to admit I’m listening, also, to hear if they are listening to God (and to know what that might mean to each of them).

I have to admit I get more than a little skittish when I hear politicians tell me how smart they are.  Seems like we ought to be able to figure that out without being told.  With all the difficult issues at every turn, I certainly want to hear statesmen (and women) tell me how they rely on God for their wisdom and strength.  History shows that nearly every one of our country’s earliest leaders intentionally relied heavily on God’s will – seeking it, recognizing it, and following it.

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The Secret to Revival

“Let God have your life; He can do more with it than you can.”  [D.L. Moody]

“We don’t have revival because we are willing to live without it.”  [Greg Gordon]

Sunday’s sermon is still with me this morning.  We are reminded over and over again that our God is enough – and that He uses surrendered people: “My God will supply your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  [Philippians 4:19]

Presbyterians seem to get a pass (or maybe we just take one) when it comes to revival.  Funny how that has evolved, though, since one of the greatest revivals of our nation was birthed barely over an hour away in Logan County…at a Presbyterian Church.  The Second Great Revival happened, history tells us, not because God loved Presbyterians more than Baptists or Pentecostals in 1800, but because God recognized a desire for more of Him…and it didn’t stay with the Presbyterians.  Revival overflowed into every church and into neighboring counties and throughout the United States!

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Whatever Works...for Jesus

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”  [Jesus, John 14:12]

Would you say you’re trying to do life in a way that shows you believe in Jesus?  To hear Him speak, Jesus is pretty clear that our accomplishments in His name will be substantial, don’t you think?

Many of you, I would guess, recognize the name Russell Wilson.  He is one of the NFL’s best known athletes.  Russell Wilson is the Super Bowl winning quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks.  You may not have known that Russell Wilson is not shy about doing life in a way that shows his belief in Jesus.  A few weeks ago, he was interviewed at a San Diego church.  That conversation made headlines because he simply stated that he and his girlfriend (pop star Ciara) are not having sex.  You can imagine the critics had much fun with Russell Wilson’s Christian values.  One commentator tweeted, “I think Americans value chastity in a way I find silly, problematic, and ultimately, counterproductive.”  Another critic said, “America’s fascinated with puritanical/evangelical Christianity, but it’s not hurting anyone except Ciara and Russell.”  Good Morning America also covered the story.  With everything that is going on in the world these days, they spent three minutes of “news coverage” to delve into this fascinating story (with more than a couple smiles and smirks).  Finally, the GMA panel came to the wonderful conclusion, “Whatever works for you.”

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Uncommon Sense

On July 4th our country will be filled with Independence Day events as we celebrate 239 years of declared independence as a nation.  Did you know that 239 years ago there was much debate over the idea of thirteen colonies breaking off from England and becoming a new nation?  To many it was an insane idea to think a war for freedom could be won against the most powerful military in the world.

One person who helped win over the colonists to a position of declaring (and fighting for) their independence was Thomas Paine, a corset maker from East Sussex who had just come to the colonies in 1774.  In January of 1776, he published a pamphlet in clear and simple language entitled "Common Sense", which explained the advantages of, and the need for, immediate independence.  It received wide distribution and was read in taverns and at public meetings.  George Washington had it read to all his troops.  Paine’s "Common Sense" presented the American colonists with an argument for freedom.  Interestingly, he structured his pamphlet as a sermon, relying on Biblical references to make a “common sensical” plea.  Historian Gordon S. Wood described "Common Sense" as “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era.”

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