Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
OK, So Christmas is already behind us -- at least for most folks. (The Russian and Greek Orthodox celebrate it a bit later than most folks, so it is still ahead for them.) We are coming up on New Years Day, and this is my opportunity to declare that 2008 will be the best year you've ever had, and that God's blessings will multiply in your lives, your families and your homes!
That work for you?
I'm sure you get tired of excuses, just like I do, so suffice it to say that it is fortunate that I can even get this Coffee Break out before the end of 2007. If your schedule is as busy as mine, you'll appreciate that having any opportunity to write during this time of year is something of a marvel.
Anyway, here it is the last day of 2007, and this has been a year to remember. 2007 began with a declaratory promise from the Holy Spirit that this would be a year of the Open Door (with reference to Revelation 3:8) for God's people. We could spend a lot of time considering that prophetic word, and obviously there will be many professing Christians whose reaction will be, Huh? What's that? I will leave you with a reference to the picture of the five wise and five foolish virgins in Jesus' parable.
Those virgins who had paid the price and actively taken advantage of the anointing (which is an integral part of the picture of the oil in the lamps) had the door of the bridal chamber (the picture of intimacy with Jesus Christ) open to them. Those who had not paid the price, and whose oil had run out (signifying the fact that they had lost their anointing) saw the door closed in their face. There is a lot to this picture that I don't have time to deal with today, but for believers who've been willing to pay the price, and have made their pursuit of a personal love-relationship with Jesus Christ their number one priority, 2007 has indeed been a hallmark year!
Perhaps we can discuss this more in detail in some future Coffee Break, but let's move on to 2008. For many Christians, 2007 (and years prior) has been a period in which they have believed the Word of God and the specific promises of God pertaining to their own needs and circumstances. They have stood on that Word, confessed it, declared it and made it central to their conversation with everyone. They've been seed-sowers. They've planted seed, spoken over their seed and believed God for the harvest to come forth.
There has been little in the way of a manifestation of that which they have spoken, and yet they continue to stand on the Word in the face of contrary circumstances. 2008 will be a year of harvest, a year of manifestation, a year when God's Word to them is demonstrated openly and visibly for all to see. Their faith and trust in God and in His Word will be vindicated so thoroughly that there will be no room for doubt and skepticism. There's a lot more to this picture, too, but we will leave it there for now and come back to this in the weeks to come.
Coffee's on, folks! With this being the Christmas season, brother do I ever have lots of "vitamins" on hand! People have given us popcorn balls, caramel candy, peanut brittle, white fudge, chocolate fudge candy, and about a bazillion other yummies that all have CALORIES! With careful attention to what I eat and when I eat over the past six months or so, I've lost about 25 pounds, and I don't need to get them back, thank you very much! That said, if you like, come by my office, and I'll share some of these goodies with you. I do like sweets, but I also am careful about when and how much of them I eat at any given time. In any case, pour yourself a cup of good dark-roasted coffee and pull up a chair.
Back when I was the Associate Pastor at Full Gospel
Bill, being a Greek, and very fluent in the usage of the
language, started me on a trek that has lasted throughout my life. I have
come to really enjoy the process of studying the history and usage of the Greek
language, as well as English, and -- of course -- Hebrew. It didn't hurt
that I had been required to study Latin while attending Burnhamthorpe
Collegiate Institute in
I've said all that to say this: While reading from Matthew's account of Jesus' birth, I was curious about the phraseology he uses as he relates the account of the "wise men" who came to see Jesus when He was perhaps 18 months-to-two years old.
The KJV reads (see Chapter 2:9-11) like this: "When they had heard the king, they departed; and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh."
Now, I've included a couple extra verses (9-10) for historical purpose. My father spent perhaps 20 years researching the Star that foretold the coming of Jesus, and I have most of his notes compiling that research. I was fascinated the other day to see a program on television where an attorney followed pretty much the same trek that Dad followed, and he arrived at the same conclusions. The Star of Bethlehem is no myth, and -- contrary to the conclusions of some ignorant unbelievers -- neither are the wise men.
Dad came to the conclusion that most people who had researched this event were looking at the wrong years, and he was able to prove conclusively that Jesus was born in 2 BC. But that's another topic. Perhaps I'll take time to do a Coffee Break one of these days on the scientific and historical proofs of Jesus' birth, and the stupendous evidence that the wise men had at their disposal that triggered their search for Jesus.
Let me lay a little foundation for what I want to share with you for today's discussion. (I will get back to the conclusion of our last Coffee Break, but that will wait for our next Coffee Break.) This is all still germane to Kingdom Economics, but I thought I would deviate today from the path I've been following during the past couple of weeks and take advantage of the Christmas season to share this.
There is a fair amount of historical and archaeological evidence to show that Daniel established a "school of prophets" when he became the Prime Minister during the reign of Darius. Because of Daniel's great wisdom and knowledge of the Word of God, of course, he was elevated to the office of Prime Minister following the lion's den event. All of the sorcerers and magicians who had been the king's advisors were thrown into the lion's den and killed by the lions.
The "prophets" who grew up under Daniel's tutelage were referred to as "magi.": -- men of wisdom. The term was later applied to all of the advisors who served later kings, despite the fact that many of them returned to their traditions in sorcery, witchcraft and astrology.
The term, "magi", however was principally used to define the wise men who came out of Daniel's "school of prophets" and these "magi" became the counselors, advisors, and ministers of varying degree. Daniel, in his teaching and training of these wise men, acquainted them thoroughly with the Scriptures, and particularly the prophecies of the expected coming Messiah. Every one of them knew the Scriptures intimately and knew the significance of the coming Messiah's birth, and His rank as "King of Kings." Thus, despite the fact that more than four centuries had elapsed since Daniel's death, the magi continued to follow the prophecies and await the promised "signs in the heavens."
As counselors and advisors and ministers to kings, these magi held great rank and privilege. When they finally saw the first of the signs in the heavens foretelling the coming birth, they would have had the support and financing of royal treasuries to pay homage to this great king. Herod's fears notwithstanding, it was traditional practice in the east for kings to pay their respects one to another -- and generally with extravagant gifts and wealth. These extravagant gifts were meant to display a picture of their own wealth and to signify to the recipient king their approval of him as one of them.
There is a picture worth looking at for a minute in order to grasp the significance of this. If you look at the account of the Queen of Sheba's visit to Solomon, you read (in II Chronicles 9:9), "And she gave the king and hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices great abundance, and precious stones: neither was their any such spice as the queen of Sheba gave king Solomon."
There are a number of other accounts throughout the Old Testament of the gifts that kings brought to other kings, or sent via their trusted advisors, and there is good reason from Matthew's account of the magi to understand that these wise men came bearing similar honors.
Consider the phraseology in Matthew 2:11: "...and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, frankincense and myrrh." The phrase which reads, "opened their treasures" in the Greek text uses a unique word -- and one that students of the English language have come to know well: "thesauros." Many folks are familiar with Roget's Thesaurus, which is a vastly expanded dictionary with meanings and synonyms that better define the words contained.
The Greek "thesauros" however, has an interesting definition. It describes "a vast deposit of wealth." It draws, therefore, the picture of a camel train accompanying the wise men (it is safe to say that the number of wise men likely exceeded the traditional, religious picture of "three.") bearing a considerable burden of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Matthew's usage of this word in describing what the magi
brought to Jesus becomes apparent when we see the picture of the gifts that the
We don't have a record of how many talents of gold the magi brought to Jesus, but from Matthew's use of the word "thesauros", it takes no great rocket science to determine that they brought to Jesus the equivalent of millions of dollars. The silly picture foisted off on the body of Christ of a wise man carrying this little box containing perhaps a few coins of gold simply doesn't match the Scriptural description. Jesus began life as a VERY rich person. He was accorded the wealth and riches associated with a king.
Thus we have the reference that the apostle Paul makes when he writes of Jesus, "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich (plousios -- wealthy, abounding in goods), yet for your sakes He became (or took upon Himself poverty) poor, that ye through His poverty (on the Cross) might be rich." (II Corinthians 8:9, KJV with my notations)Â Jesus was indeed a very rich man.
We have one more picture from which we can draw the picture of Jesus being very well off. In John 1:35-39, we have the story of the two disciples of John the Baptist who decide to follow Jesus. When Jesus realizes that they are following Him, he says to them, "What are you seeking?" Their response is, "Master (or Rabbi), where do you live?" He answers them, "Come and see," and then proceeds to take them to His home, where they wind up spending the remainder of the day and the night. Jesus wasn't still living with His mother, Mary, contrary to another popular misconception. He had a place of His own, and it was suitable for overnighting guests.
These disciples weren't just following Jesus to find out where He lived, or if He owned a home. They wanted to find out if this "Lamb of God" was a man of substance. He was, indeed, the polar opposite of His cousin, John the Baptist, who lived a pretty wild and "far out" life in the wilderness. These disciples wanted to see if Jesus was someone they would want to follow, and His bringing of them to His home obviously resolved their question.
There are many more such pictures in the Word, but let's
leave it there for now. The economics of God's
Kingdom certainly did not avoid natural wealth and riches despite the claims of
unbelievers who want to paint Jesus as some poverty-stricken "humble"
person. Remember, Judas was not Jesus' treasurer for nothing. He
didn't carry a bag containing a few coins worth just enough in value to get
them by. Jesus had financial resources available to Him: the resources of
a King. That wealth enabled Him to have the freedom to travel and
minister as He saw fit --
I concluded our last Coffee Break with the following statement: By putting Jesus first in every aspect of our lives, He becomes the focus, the priority, the objective and purpose of our desire. Our desire becomes His desire. When that becomes the case, our entire daily life becomes a function of laying up treasure in Heaven's treasuries -- and that treasure has an exchange value in earth's currencies far beyond any exchange rate you can imagine.
Jesus lacked for nothing during His life and ministry. Yet He gave it all up and went to the Cross so that the curse that kept the human race in poverty could be extinguished for all those who walk in fellowship with Him.
See you again, soon.
The Blessing of the Lord be upon you.
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