Showing posts with label wise men. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wise men. Show all posts

13 June 2013

True worship

Worship is more than a ceremony and it's more than singing songs, it demands sacrifice, a journey and a lifetime of dedication. Three verses clarify this as we look at the worship of Abraham, the Magi and Anna. Can we offer less than they did? 

Dog daisies in a meadow
My wife works with our friends Roger and Carolyn to lead a Small Group, part of Open Door Church here in St Neots. Although I'm not a member of Open Door, I am part of the Small Group.

I was asked to manage the worship part of yesterday's meeting and felt I should share some thoughts about worship before we began to sing and praise together.

If we won't worship him the very stones will do it, the trees of the fields will clap their hands, the meadow flowers will praise him.

Here's an extended version of my notes. There are three verses I'd thought we should consider on the subject of worship.

Abraham - The first one is Genesis 22:5 - "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."

Here is Abraham, full of faith as he goes to sacrifice his son Isaac, telling the servant that they will both return. But think for a moment about what is happening here. Abram and Sarai are elderly, so old that when they are told they will have a child, they both laugh at the very idea.

Yet here he is, Isaac is their son, impossible in every way yet an undeniable fact. There can be no doubt that Isaac was Abraham's most precious possession. No-one and nothing could be worth more to the old man. Yet he was prepared to give up his own son.

If you want to worship, you must give up the most precious thing you have for the Almighty's use.

What is most precious to you? Think about it carefully.

The wise men - Matthew 2:2 - "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."

Having arrived at Jesus' birthplace, how did the Magi worship? Did they perform a ceremony of some kind? Not as far as we know. And how long did they stay?  Possibly quite a short time, perhaps just long enough to present their gifts of gold, fankincense and myrrh.

The account in Matthew tells us very little, however it is clear that these three men had made an extremely long journey to see this new 'King of the Jews'. And having arrived and then quickly left, they had the same journey to do again to get home. They were probably on the road for weeks each way.

The gifts they brought were precious and were a form of worship, but their real worship was the long and arduous journey they had made in order to see the infant king.

Anna - Luke 2:37 - "There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying."

What was her worship? It was her devotion day after day, year after year. She wasted her life on Yahweh. She could have remarried, had a family, and enjoyed a full and successful life. Yet she gave it all up to serve in the place where Yahweh's Presence rested.

And us? - We must worship 'in Spirit and in truth'. (John 4:23) We must give him the most precious thing we have, it's not about a ceremony or singing songs, it demands a long and arduous journey, it means wasting our lives on him.

There is nothing wrong with singing songs together, especially if they're songs that remind us of the Lord and draw us into his presence. But what he wants from us in worship is much more than songs and a reverent heart.

Two stories - And then I shared two short stories. Both were taken from Steve Addison's book 'What Jesus Started' (an excellent read, by the way). I asked everyone to see if they could spot the worship in the two true stories.

The first is about how Steve met a man on a train and shared the good news about Jesus with him. The second is about a stranger in a Muslim country, going to the imam with questions about the Qur'an concerning Isa (Jesus). One of the men listening to the conversation searches out the stranger later to learn more. In both cases the worship involves taking a risk, obedience, and reaching the lost. There is sacrifice here, giving up the safe and comfortable for the unknown.

And finally, we sang some awesome songs, finishing with Christy Nockels and 'Waiting here for you'.

Questions:

  • What is your own understanding of worship? Is it more about praise or obedience?
  • Can you identify areas in your life where you might worship the Almighty more fully?
  • What is the most precious thing you have?

See also:

10 April 2013

Herod and the astrologers

Leaders in the church, Part 6
< Miriam and Yoseph | Index | To Egypt and back >

Herod is typical of hierarchical leadership, the eastern astrologers are typical of inspirational leadership. In church life we desperately need to avoid the first and encourage the second. Why? We take a careful look at Herod and the astrologers to find out.

Frankincense resinHere in Matthew 2:1-12 we see two very different kinds of leadership at work. It's interesting to see the two described together in these twelve verses.

Herod is described here as a king. Under Roman rule he would not have had complete autonomy, but within his region he would have had freedom to do more or less whatever he wished.

Providing the Romans received their payments of tribute and taxes, and as long as Roman law was respected and the  region remained peaceful, they would leave a client king to manage things any way he liked.

Faced with the birth of another king in his domain, and one foretold by the prophets at that, and the possibility this was even the promised Messiah who would rebel against Rome, Herod felt he needed to act to protect his authority and maintain the status quo. We are told that he was troubled, as was the city of Jerusalem.

He called in the religious authorities and quizzed them. They confirmed his worst fears but also told him that the birth would be in Bethlehem. Then he called the astrologers secretly to learn about the timing of the star and sent them off to find the child.

Herod - Let's take Herod first and see what we can learn about his methods and motives.
  • Herod was clearly anxious to prevent any rival king from arising in Judaea. And it's true that hierarchical leaders often want to protect their position and their power. They will try hard to prevent rivals challenging them. Look no further than the world of politics.
  • Herod used both the religious authorities and the visiting astrologers to provide information. But he had no use for them beyond his own needs.
  • His secrecy is interesting. He was devious and astute. He knew that keeping his intentions hidden would prove to be an advantage.
  • Herod 'sent them to Bethlehem'. He was not king of Media where the astrologers came from, but he ordered them about is if they were his subjects. Leaders of this kind will act as if they have authority even where they have none. Swagger and confidence can be very effective.
In summary, Herod was jealous of rivals, protected his position and power, used people to provide the information he wanted, was secretive, devious and astute, and used arrogant self-confidence when he thought it was to his advantage.

The astrologers - There is much here for us to consider. These men are often called the 'wise' men in English translations, and in many ways they did think and behave very wisely indeed.

  • The astrologers travelled a long way to find the king of the Jews, and they clearly assumed he would be in Jerusalem. As it happens, Bethlehem is quite close to Jerusalem.
  • They had seen his star rise and had come to worship him. They were observant and knowledgeable. They knew this king was very special, even a god, worthy of worship.
  • They appeared before Herod and listened to what he had to say.
  • These astrologers were over the moon when they found out where the Messiah was.
  • When they saw Jesus with his mother they fell down and worshipped him.
  • They offered him precious gifts.
  • They received and respected a dream warning them to go home by a different route.
Again, to summarise, we can pick out the following facts about the astrologers. They were willing to travel a long way to find Jesus, and they came specifically to worship him. They had enquiring minds, following the star, listening to Herod, heeding the dream. They rejoiced enthusiastically when they found Jesus. They worshipped him and gave him precious gifts.

Leadership qualities - Now for a little thought experiment. You have a choice of Herod or one of the eastern astrologers to lead you in following Jesus. It's a bit of a no-brainer, isn't it?

Right here in the second chapter of the New Testament we have some broad hints as to the kind of leaders we need in the church. Herod-like characters are best avoided. Humble, hard working people who want to worship Jesus are far more likely to be suitable. Right here we see the difference between a wolf and a good shepherd. So be very careful which kind of leader you choose to listen to!


Questions:

  • Take the apostle Paul as an example. In what ways was Paul like Herod?
  • In what ways was he like the astrologers?
  • What do you think the primary motive of Herod was? And the astrologers?
  • What is your own primary motive in life? (Be honest with yourself.)

See also:


< Miriam and Yoseph | Index | To Egypt and back >

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