THE GREATEST OF STARS

Star Betlehem
The great star of Bethlehem (Image source: Pinterest)

 

Everyone loves to hear “you are a star” – it feels good and it is an acknowledgement of a job well done. We also give star status to actors, sports men and women, famous media people, and politicians. When we give star status to people, we are saying they light up a dark world and are role models for others to follow.

Matthew 4:12-16 (NIV), gives super star status to a unique person:

When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee… by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali – to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” 

“Galilee… the people living in darkness have seen a great light” – yes indeed, because the man with the brightest star in the night sky over Bethlehem during his birth, the star that silenced every other star, was now shining super bright in Galilee.

We see the result of this in Galilee in Matthew 4:23-25 (NIV):

Jesus went all over Galilee, teaching… preaching… and healing people who had all kinds of disease and sickness. The news about him spread through the whole country of Syria, so that people brought to him all those who were sick, suffering from all kinds of diseases and disorders: people with demons, and epileptics, and paralyzed people—and Jesus healed them all. Large crowds followed him from Galilee and the Ten Towns, from Jerusalem, Judea, and the land on the other side of the Jordan. 

This is super star power – large crowds from all over including foreign countries Syria and the “other side of the Jordan”, followed Jesus. No other teacher, prophet, king, or political leader of the Jews had this kind of effect in and out of Judah.

Happy New Year – may our super star, Jesus Christ, shine his light upon us, to guide us through this dark world, every moment of 2020, Amen!

STARS THAT SPEAK…

Gospel in the Stars
The stars speak about God (Image source: Luke Gilkerson)

Stars don’t seem to twinkle so bright anymore – why is this? Experts tell us that due to electricity the world today is much brighter at night compared to 100, 500, 1000 years back, thus stars don’t look so amazing to many today as it did to our ancestors. However, beyond their twinkly brightness, stars serve a greater purpose.

Like direction signs on our roads, which help us find our way when we are on a journey, stars were helpful to our ancestors as they traveled long distances by sea and by land. By having a map of the position of the brightest stars, travelers could tell whether they are traveling North, East, West, or South.

How true the words of Genesis 1:14-19 (KJV) (shortened): “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven… and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years… And God made two great lights… he made the stars also…”

The stars in the heavens have been in their positions for a long time; once in a while a star would sometimes travel through the night sky, burning bright for a time before they disappear. The star of Bethlehem for instance was such a super shining star, and in addition was a sign to the world of the birth of the King of Kings!   

Matthew 2:1-2 (KJV) reports: Now after Jesus was born… in the days of Herod… wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

The wise men knew something great was happening, due to prophecies they had studied and the appearance of a super star in the heavens. The stars are created by God to speak for him; there is much we can learn about God as we study about stars from the Bible rather than from the pages of newspapers and non-Bible sources.

Merry Christmas to you – may the super star light of Jesus guide into the truth, and speak favor into your lives, in Jesus name, Amen!   

SIGNS AND SEASONS OF THE HEAVENS

Signs and Seasons
God speaks through divine signs in his creation (Image source: Revelation12Daily)

 

Signs communicate a message, an idea, or a command; and are also used to notify us of events to come or an event in the past. We use signs to communicate as well as to set the boundaries of time when an event begins and when it ends. When the sun sets we know the day is over, when the sun rises its a sign of a new day.

Depending on where you live on Earth, the position of your shadow when you stand in the afternoon sun, is a sign whether you are in the dry hot or cold wet season. Natural signs help us mark time in terms of days, seasons, and years. Signs we make like arrows on a road, or numbers on our houses, help us organize society.

It is fascinating that Genesis 1:14-19 (KJV) (shortened) says: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven… and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years… And God made two great lights… he made the stars also… And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.”

On the fourth day of creation, God made the – sun, moon, stars – and gave them three objectives: (1) provide light by day and by night (2) be for signs – signs to communicate God’s plans (3) be for seasons – to organize life on Earth. Remember that great sign, the extremely bright star of Bethlehem when Jesus was born. This is just a small illustration of the divine intelligence and wisdom behind all of creation.

We are told in Romans 1:20 (GOD’S WORD® Translation): “From the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed in what he made. As a result, people have no excuse.” 

May the awesomeness of God’s intelligence, wisdom, power, and love for us, seen in creation, lead us to love him too, in Jesus name, Amen!

THE LORD – OUR TIRELESS HELPER…

God my helper
The Lord is our tireless helper (Image: HeavenlyMindedMum)

 

It is tempting to view life as a series of unending difficulties. It does not really matter whether a person is rich or poor, young or old, life WILL throw challenges on the road we walk. Even when we fully accept that ‘life is not a bed of roses’, there are still challenges that overwhelm us and make us cry.

One such overwhelming experience is recorded in Luke 7:11-17; the story of the widow of Nain. In this little place, not far from Nazareth, we are told the woman had lost her husband, and now her only son is dead and being carried for burial. We are told in Luke 7:12-13 (NIV) – And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord [Jesus] saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”   

How do I keep calm after losing my husband, and now my only son? The widow would likely be angry, depressed, and overwhelmed by her tragedy – so too the large crowd that was with her in tears sharing her pain. Jesus saw this and “his heart went out to her”, he was moved with deep empathy and he changed things.

The story continues in Luke 7:14-16 (NIV)Then he [Jesus] went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”

“God has come to help his people” – life can be so overwhelming that our efforts alone is inadequate to see us through, we need our God to also come HELP us out. Husbands, wives, parents, children, and friends are helpers to whom we are grateful, but our God is the sincerest and tireless helper we must have in our lives.

Great God, we can’t go it alone, help us every step of the way, Amen!

 

JONAH’s SOUL SEARCHING PRAYER!

Jonah belly fish
In times of crises, cry out! (Image source: WordsOfTruthCovenantChurch)

 

Yesterday, I was in conversation with a friend, and we wondered why it is that we often draw closer to God in difficult times rather than in good times. We see this with many of our favorite Bible characters, in the many life stories of Christian leaders, and in our own lives. Why can’t we maintain strong faith in good times?

We didn’t arrive at deep profound answers, but the conversation made me think about  favorite Bible characters that drew nearer to God in bad times, like Jonah, and his beautiful soul searching prayer from the belly of the giant fish.

In 2 Kings 14:23-29 we see that Jonah was a prophet, under King Jeroboam II of Israel. While the king did not set a good example, God had mercy on Israel and they were successfully rebuilding the nation. At this time, God asked Jonah to go preach to Nineveh, one of Israel’s most feared neighbor; Jonah refused and ran away.

Unfortunately, we read in the book of Jonah that his escape turned into a nightmare. Tragically, he was swallowed by a giant fish, and that was when he offered this soul searching prayer recorded in Jonah 2:1-10 (NLT shortened) –

“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. He said, “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and Lord, you heard me! You threw me into the ocean depths… I sank beneath the waves… As my life was slipping away… my earnest prayer went out to you… I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows… Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.”

Jonah remembered to pray when he was in deep trouble; he promised to offer sacrifices with songs of praise; and to fulfill his vows – which as a prophet included preaching God’s message wherever he is sent. In the midst of tragedy, Jonah drew closer to God, offered a deep soul searching prayer, and heaven answered.

Merciful God, like Jonah, we sometimes find ourselves in deep trouble and its our fault; in those troubled times give us a clear mind and the courage to pray for help; rescue us we pray in Jesus name, Amen!  

    

WHEN DAVID LOST EVERYTHING… (2)

King David 2
David, a man after God’s heart (Image: LogosChristianFamilyChurch)

In the previous message we saw how King David lost everything – home, status, and dignity. He was being hunted by King Saul; to survive he fled to Gath, Goliath’s hometown. He jumped out of the frying pan into the fire, and had to live like a madman. How did David come out of this terrible situation?

The story continues in 1 Samuel 22:1-5 (MSG): David fled from the city of Gath and went to a cave near the town of Adullam. When his brothers and the rest of the family heard that he was there, they joined him. People who were oppressed or in debt or dissatisfied went to him, about four hundred men in all, and he became their leader. David went on from there to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, “Please let my father and mother come and stay with you until I find out what God is going to do for me.” So David left his parents with the king of Moab… Then the prophet Gad came to David and said, “Don’t stay here; go at once to the land of Judah.” So David left and went to the forest of Hereth.

David fled Gath; he ran for his life; and hid in a cave near Adullam. This place  had numerous caves, it was easy to hide there; his family and other refugees also joined him. David was the last of 7 sons, his elderly parents must have found life in the cave difficult, so he took them to Moab the home of his great grandmother Ruth.

In the midst of all this catastrophe for David, he said to the king of Moab, help care for my parents “until I find out what God is going to do for me”. This is the incredible thing David did; he had 400 men under his command, they did not seek revenge on Saul, they did not become pirates, kidnappers, or a gang of thieves.

David wrote Psalm 18 during this time and says in verses 4-6 (NLT):  “The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap… I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.”

LORD – we see in Psalm 18, how heaven responded with great power to David’s incredible show of faith in the valley of death; in times of extreme difficulty, Lord respond to our prayers like you did for David, Amen! 

WHEN DAVID LOST EVERYTHING…

 

King David
Learning from King David (Image: NewLife AnglicanChurch)

 

Everyone loves a winner, especially in their moments of triumph. So, when we go to the Bible, we love to associate with strong victorious persons like King David, a successful warrior, poet, musician, and loving king. We tell and re-tell the story of David and Goliath, over and over, to encourage and motivate one another.

There were many seasons of desperation in David’s life too; when he was homeless, hungry, lonely, and a penniless beggar. Seasons of tears, more tears, doubts and confusion. Seasons when he was in the valley of death.

A desperate period in David’s life is in 1 Samuel 21:13 (NIV): “So he pretended to be insane… and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.”

Yes, this was David, as a refugee, seeking asylum in the city of Gath. This was when King Saul was hunting him down to kill him; there was nowhere for him to hide in Israel. So David fled to Gath in the land of the Philistines; Gath was Goliath’s hometown – seemed David had jumped out of the frying pan into the fire!

David had to go live in Goliath hometown to get away from King Saul – think about this; the desperation, the fear, the pain, this is a suicide mission! This is walking in the valley of the shadow of death every single day. The man who killed Goliath is now an insane beggar totally humiliated among the people in Goliath country.

How could this man, David, keep the faith and not curse God, in these circumstances, where he had lost everything – his home, job, status, human dignity. How did David do the impossible? To be continued next week Sunday.

Lord God, when life overwhelms us, be gracious and rescue us, Amen!