Give the Savior Your Best
Text: Matthew 2:1-12
In September of 3 B.C., at the time of the Jewish New Year, Jupiter (which is the “King” Planet) became aligned with Regulus (the “King” Star). It would have been a bright display of two of the brightest lights in the sky. A few months later, Jupiter looked to have reversed course and went in retrograde motion (which happens occasionally because of our sight perspective as the planets pass each other). Even more rare and something that has not happened again since, Jupiter reversed course a second time. It was almost as if the “King” Planet was dancing with or forming a halo around the “King” Star—like a coronation perhaps.
All of this happened within one constellation in the sky—Leo, which is the lion and also the symbol for the tribe of Judah. Meanwhile, at the exact same time the constellation Virgo (the Virgin) was rising behind the constellation Leo. So by early 2 B.C., the Virgin would have been aligned with the Lion (of Judah) and also the King Star being crowned by the King Planet. Even more interesting? Nine months later, the length of a pregnancy, by June of 2 B.C., Jupiter became aligned with Venus the Mother Planet.
Could this have been what the Magi saw in the sky? Did they see these rare signs and sights in the sky and then set out from the east to start looking for the Messiah, only to see the final signs nine months later? It’s an interesting theory, but we don’t know for sure. We don’t know if it was a supernova or just a very bright star. We don’t know if it was high in the sky or very low and finally hovered above the house like you see in many pictures. We don’t know for sure if only the Magi could see it or if everyone in the world could see the star. We don’t know a lot about that star. Read the rest of this entry
The Festival of the Reformation
Text: Daniel 6:10-12, 16-23
It smelled like a combination of a zoo and a butcher shop. It was dark, damp, and downright eerie. As he shuffled to the corner, he stumbled over several stray ribs and a jawbone. Then came the blast—a deafening cacophony of primal roars that nearly shattered his old eardrums and almost blew the last few gray hairs off his head. The beastly pride circled closer. Featherlike whiskers gently brushed against his arms, temporarily masking the dagger-like, fang-filled jaws. Cowering in the corner, there was nowhere to go and nothing to do . . . except one of the things he did best. Pray.
That’s how Daniel got there in the first place. Persian king Darius was duped by his administrators to publish a decree that for 30 days no person could pray to any god or man except to him. Sure! Why not make the decree? He was the king and he thought of himself as a god anyways. Sounded like a fun decree to make for a month! Unfortunately Darius forgot about one of his righthand men—Daniel. Daniel was that faithful, noble Jew that had served the Babylonian kingdom and now his Persian kingdom for more than 60 years. He was the one man who always seemed to help and never seemed to fail. Daniel was the one man he could always count on. But he was also one of the men that would not stop praying to the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no changing a law of the Medes and Persians, so Daniel had to go in the lions’ den. Darius hoped Daniel’s God whom he served could rescue him. Read the rest of this entry
Come and Worship
1. With joy
2. With your best
Text: Matthew 2:1-12
Waiting and waiting and waiting. The anticipation was building and building and building. Finally the special child was born. The parents were overjoyed. All who heard the story were amazed at what they heard. Visitors even came from afar to see this little child. What great joy that the child was finally born—Gwendolyn Grace Huebner.
We had great joy when Gwen was born. Her birth was highly anticipated. Friends and family came from far away to see the little baby.
But imagine this: Sometime after Gwen was born the doorbell rang at our house. I opened the door only to find Lebron James, a NASA astronomer, and a member of the United Nations at our door. “What are you doing here?” “We’ve come to see the baby. We walked all the way here just to find her.” The three men walked into the house and approached her pink and brown polka dot crib. As soon as they saw her they bowed low to the ground and laid at her feet a briefcase full of cash, an expensive gift basket from Pottery Barn, and rare flowers from India.
No, that didn’t happen (though the briefcase full of cash would be nice). But this made up story seems as strange as the real life story of the Magi. Read the rest of this entry
Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel? . . . and Luther? . . . and Me?
Text: Daniel 6:10-12, 16-23
538 B.C. A man is alone in his upper room. He’s kneeling. Humbly he implores his God to give him strength and courage. Dutifully he thanks his God for countless blessings. The man’s name is Daniel. Daniel is a Jew living in exile in the land of Persia (formerly Babylon). Daniel is so distinguished among his peers though that Persian king Darius planned to make him second in command over the entire Persian Empire. This didn’t sit well with the Persian leaders.
So they concocted a plan to schmooze king Darius and convince him to make it a law that no one in the land could pray to any god or man except him. Unwittingly, Darius signed the dotted line. Now Daniel knelt in his upper room praying as he always did, yet this time he did so with his future in doubt and his life on the line.
2,059 years later. 1521 A.D. Another man is alone in his upper room. He’s kneeling. Humbly he implores his God to give him strength and courage. Dutifully he thanks his God for countless blessings. The man’s name is Martin—Martin Luther. Martin Luther is a German living in Germany which was part of the Holy Roman Empire—the empire ruled by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Luther was also living in the midst of the equally powerful empire of the Roman Catholic Church and Pope Leo X. Read the rest of this entry
Devotion Text: Daniel 6:10-12; 16-23
Daniel knew what he was doing.
He knew the law. Daniel knew that praying to his God would get him into trouble. He remembered the persecution his people had faced under Nebuchadnezzar and he knew the Persians could be just as ruthless.
He would not get away with this.
Calmly, Daniel walked up to the upper floor of his house, cast open his windows and faced the remnants of God’s temple in Jerusalem. Knowing the danger full well, Daniel got down on his knees to defy the king and pray.
You see, Daniel didn’t just know the danger he faced, he also knew the promises of his LORD.
As a boy, Daniel had heard the stories of God’s great protecting hand, from Noah to Moses to David. Daniel remembered when three of his friends had been thrown into a fiery furnace and emerged unharmed. Now an older man, Daniel could look back and see God’s guidance in his own life as had been brought to his high calling.
How could the same God who had sustained him to this point, fail him now?
We know the story well. After Darius threw Daniel into the lions den, an angel protected Daniel throughout the night. Daniel walked away without a single scratch and the LORD was worshiped throughout Persia.
Yet, have you ever thought, “what if God didn’t protect Daniel?” Would Daniel have been any worse off? If God had chosen that moment to bring his faithful believer to heaven and chosen another to proclaim his power to the Persians, Daniel’s eternal fate would have been the same.
The greatest miracle with Daniel is not an angel who shut the mouths of lions, but the strengthening of Daniel’s faith to face certain death in order to proclaim the LORD’s name.
May God grant that same faith to us as we face the ridicule, the persecution, and the temptations of this world.
Prayer: Dearest Jesus, give me the faith of Daniel! Too often, I shrink back when I am asked to proclaim your majesty and your mercy. Too often, I worry about the earthly cost. Forgive me LORD, and strengthen my faith to stand up to earthly trials in your name. To you alone be the glory! Amen.