Monday, December 26, 2016

The Prince Of Peace Has Arrived!

The great prophet Isaiah lived approximately 700 years before Jesus was born. And what is amazing about this prophet, is that his book, The Book Of Isaiah, found in the Old Testament, gives incredibly accurate glimpses of the coming Savior, Jesus. Actually, the Old Testament as a whole, contains an anticipation of a coming Messiah. It just seems like Isaiah really nails it. And nails it several times throughout his book.

First, Isaiah predicts the virgin birth of Jesus!! 

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14 -   Immanuel means 'God with us) 

Then Isaiah gives titles for the coming Messiah, Jesus. 

"For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

What I want to focus on is the specific title, the "Prince of Peace". This title describes Jesus perfectly. Jesus is the one, and the only one, who can guide us to the path of peace. 

"Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the PATH OF PEACE.” (Luke 1:78-79)

Jesus is truly the Prince of Peace. I love that title for Jesus. A prince by definition is a monarch, a ruler, a member of the royal family. Jesus is a prince in the sense that He is part of the God-head (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). And He is a prince in the sense that He has been giving all authority, and has supremacy over all things. (Matthew 28:18, Colossians 1:15-20)

The great news announcing the birth of the Prince of Peace was announced to the shepherds by a multitude of angels. The angels proclaimed...

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth PEACE to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

But what is this "peace" that Jesus brings? Is it peace in the sense of elimination of war and violence. No. Is it peace in the sense of no personal troubles, hardships, or sorrows? No. So what is this peace that the angels were talking about - the peace that Jesus offers?

The clue is found in the last phrase of what the angels announced to the shepherds. 

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those ON WHOM HIS FAVOR RESTS.” (Luke 2:14)

The peace that Jesus brings is offered to those who believe in Him, who follow Him, who accept Him and not reject Him. You see, the peace He offers is not of the physical realm, but of the spiritual realm. It's an inner peace. We, as Christians, have this inner peace for several reasons.......

GOD IS WITH US. Remember the title Immanuel, which means God with us. Jesus was God in the flesh. He came to earth in the form of a man in order to die on the cross for our sins, offering us salvation, so we can be right with God. Jesus experienced our hardships, our temptations, and our sorrows, and our concerns. He knows what we go through, therefore He can relate to everything we experience.

GOD IS IN US. As Christians, Jesus now lives within us. We have His spirit in us to guide us and comfort us and counsel us. And He is with us no matter what we go through. He will never leave us or forsake us or give up on us. Here is one important truth....we are never alone or abandoned if we are one of His.

GOD IS FOR US. In good times and in bad, He works for the good of those who love Him. He is the perfect Father who cares for His children. He is a real-time God who works in our favor, intervenes in our life, and we can rely on His providence. He is in control.

So...the Prince of Peace delivers a peace that is an inner peace. He guides us on the path of peace throughout our entire life. He is with us. He is in us. He is for us.

That's why we celebrate His birth. We celebrate because we know what His entry into this world delivers. That's why the angels proclaimed. "Glory to God in the highest." We should echo those same words. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Real Reason The Wise Men Came

It took a lot for the Wise Men (also referred to as Magi) to successfully locate Jesus. Prompted by God's supernatural star, they were convinced to make the long journey to make homage to what they were convinced was a new-born king of the Jews. They were sure that this new strange star, located in the direction of Jerusalem, was a sign. It must have been an amazing sight in the night-time sky. And who knows, maybe it was even visible in the day time. 

Their journey had to take a lot of preparation. They would need to get a caravan together, which included supplies, food, animals, and people. Their journey could take weeks or even months. They intended to encounter this new king, bow before him in worship, and present to him gifts. The gifts they chose to bring were very expensive and precious. 

There were 3 gifts. The first was gold. Even back then gold was considered the finest of all metals, and very costly. Secondly, frankincense, which was a valuable incense. And thirdly, myrrh, which was a precious anointing oil. You can be sure, they brought an ample amount of each. 

When the Wise Men finally found Jesus, they bowed down before Him, and worshiped Him. By their bowing down, it showed their humility, their reverence, and their acknowledgement of Jesus as King - a good lesson for us about worship. Then they presented Him with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." (Matthew 2:11)

I like how their worship was independent of their giving of gifts. Another good lesson for us. After all, Jesus would later say, "worship the Lord your God, and serve him only."

Well done Wise Men. Seems like their mission was accomplished. Or was it? Maybe in their mind it was. But in God's mind, their mission was much bigger than they ever suspected. They were players in God's incredible plan. It had to do with the family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus.

You see, Joseph and Mary were poor. The type of gift they presented when they brought baby Jesus to the temple proved it. However, they would soon need money, and a lot of it. That's because they had to flee Bethlehem, and travel all the way to Egypt because of Herod's intent to try to kill Jesus. Herod ordered all boys 2 years old and younger in Bethlehem and it's vicinity to be killed. 

So flee they did. They traveled all the way to Egypt, and they lived there until Herod died. That took money - money that they didn't have. Guess what? It was the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that sustained them. God, in His great providence, used the Wise Men and their gifts to provide for Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. That's the real reason the Wise Men came. They were players in God's big-picture plan, and didn't even realize it.

That's how God works sometimes. He is able to arrange situations, and line up people with each other. It's called providence. That's because He is all powerful, and sovereign. Sometimes we don't even realize how He is working in our lives. But when we reflect back, it becomes clear. The Lord is alive and well.

There may be times when you are in situations that seem too difficult to resolve. Perhaps you need a door opened. Or maybe you simply need God to provide for the needs you have. Remember that nothing is impossible with the Lord. Have faith and trust in His providence - that He is able to do all things - that He is aware of your situation, and that He is in control. 

Other posts on the Wise Men: