The Training Ministry of Jesus by Don Downs

I (Steve Kinnard) teach at the Rocky Mountain School of Ministry and Theology. Not only do I teach there, but I also learn from my students. One of my students, Don Downs, turned in an excellent contribution about the ministry of Jesus training his disciples in Galilee. I asked for his permission to share his article with all of you, and he graciously gave me permission.

Don Downs

Don and his wife Vonda

Here is Don’s article:  

Jesus had an incredible task before him. He stepped out onto the world stage alone, embarking on a mission to change all of eternity! He did this not as an angelic, heroic, herculean character endowed with features and characteristics (i.e. physical, socioeconomic) of gargantuan proportions that would turn every head and amaze every onlooker. No, he did it as a man; a normal, unimpressive, poor carpenter born in an unremarkable area with parents of modest, in fact less than modest, means. Surely no one was up for that task except God himself. Jesus had to take twelve ordinary men, draw them out of their normal, everyday lives and inspire them to join him on a mission they knew little about and were certainly unprepared for. He had to take these men where they were with all their sin, weaknesses, misconceptions, prejudices, fears and failings and make new men out of them. They would have to complete the work that he would, in his short lifetime, have only just begun. Against incredible odds, in just three short years, he molded these men; not against their wills, but by transforming their wills, into Apostles that would both live and die for Him – because of their deep faith in him. They would grow to love him so deeply that no price would be too great to honor, serve, follow and obey him. How in the world would he do that?

During Jesus’ Galilean ministry he did several things:

He spent time alone with his disciples, often withdrawing from the crowds to teach his disciples privately. We cannot hope to be transformed from the inside out without being immersed in God’s word; by being with God for serious, deep contemplative, instructive time. There too, the disciples would enjoy special alone time with their savior, growing to love him more and more in a deeply personal way. They needed to laugh, cry and struggle with him and this they surely did. (e.g. mountainsides, boat trips) They could not, nor can we, hope to be suited for our task if we do not spend personal time with Jesus and personal time in his Word. Like the apostles we need to listen to him in deep contemplative study of the word. We need to wrestle, laugh and cry with Jesus. Our personal relationship with Jesus must become the most edifying relationship we have.

He served with them. The disciples needed to see Jesus and walk with him in the cauldron of ministry. There were overwhelming needs all around them. People came from all over – and they kept coming. They came at inconvenient times. (e.g. John the Baptist died and Jesus, having heard of it, needed and planned to get away; instead there were shepherd-less crowds with needs to meet, and so that is just what he did, he served others rather than himself.) People constantly interrupted Jesus and the disciples. It was overwhelming. In this they saw Jesus’ demeanor, his tone, and his conversation with people. They saw what overflowed from his heart. He was patient, merciful, selfless and genuine. Life and ministry was tough but Jesus showed the way. They saw Jesus’ love and faith in action. Jesus needed them to see this if they were going to know how and what to do when they, in the future, would face a barrage of needs themselves. Just as Jesus came not to be served but to serve so he was sending them out as servants to the world.

He experienced ministry with them. Again, they saw Jesus in action – not just in the classroom of discourse but in the classroom of life. It’s one thing to hear about ministry, it is quite another thing to see and experience it. He was a master at ministry. They saw him reach out and touch people physically (e.g. lepers) and emotionally (e.g. woman at the well) as well as spiritually (e.g. the paralyzed man). They needed to see this loving touch so they too could become loving touchers of others. They saw Jesus instructing the crowds; how he communicated with them and how he connected with them by serving them and meeting their needs. No one did that like Jesus. The crowds, and surely his closest companions, saw this more than anyone; and they were amazed! They heard the skill with which he preached by using parables and the relatability of Jesus in how he incorporated everyday life examples into his teaching; things everyone could relate to and understand. They would need to become skilled and love filled minsters of the Gospel as well. Together, doing ministry with Jesus, they met others needs and in doing so radically changed their own lives as well.

He faced opposition with them. They saw how Jesus dealt with his detractors and his opponents; even his persecutors. How did he respond? What did he do? Did he get discouraged? Did he become fearful? Did he retaliate? He did none of that. Jesus was Spirit led, courageous and insightful. He knew the scriptures and he used them. The scriptures shaped his ministry both personally (Satan’s attack in the wilderness) and publically (“you are in error because you do not know the scriptures”). He let the scriptures speak to and convict the hearts of those who heard him. The disciples would be facing these same issues down the road themselves, but without Jesus’ personal presence. They would need to learn his tact, his courage and his conviction. They would need to see that he did not acquiesce to anyone, that indeed, he was no respecter of persons. His ministry was one they would need to imitate in any and every way they could. Just as Jesus showed the way for them in their lifetime, the memory of his example would surely continue to lead and inspire them in the years to come.

He discipled hearts while with them – their own. Each of the teaching avenues discussed above were essential, but certainly, in addition, these men needed personal and direct discipling in their own lives. They needed their own faith tested and examined. They needed their thought processes, their emotions and their feelings exposed. They needed correction, rebukes, encouragement, and teaching. Jesus was out to change their hearts; nothing less. There would be no way they could carry on his mission if they were not humbled and empowered by Jesus and the Holy Spirit from the inside out. Jesus interacted with them personally on many fronts. They saw him interact with his own family, with Peter’s (his Mother) with James and John’s (their mother as well), and others I am sure. He saw their lack of faith (why did you doubt), impatience (send her away), their pride and competition (who is the greatest), failures (unable to heal), their fear of life’s dangers (the storm), their prejudice (bring down fire on these Samaritans, why is he talking to her), as well as their victories (their early evangelistic commission), etc. He helped them see themselves and see the power of God in each and every one of these situations. He transformed these men not by standing far off but by getting his hands dirty in the sin of their lives.

He revealed himself and his plan. As time went on in his ministry Jesus gradually revealed to them who he was and what he came for. It took them time to see it and believe. In fact, it wasn’t until after his resurrection appearances that they finally came to genuine understanding and faith in Jesus and in his plan. From the time of Peter’s confession, though, Jesus began to make clear to them that his path was the way of the cross and that if they were to follow him, even when others would desert him, they would have to be willing to follow that same path, taking up their own crosses. He revealed God to them by his life, his words, his actions, and by his love for them. They saw the Father in him – just what He came to do; to introduce them to “his Father and their Father.” He died so they could know him, so we could know him. He changed their lives so completely that they too would die so that the world could know the Father also. In the end it was their conviction about why Jesus came, why they and others needed him, and about how they could come to have a right relationship with the Father too; that everything in Jesus life and ministry revolved around. Jesus ministry focused on that goal; helping them understand God’s plan and fall in love with Him, the Father.

Don’s bio:

Don Downs, a practicing Physician Assistant, enjoys deeper Bible study and is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Bible and Theology through the Rocky Mountain School of Ministry and Theology. Converted in Chicago, IL in 1987, Don was part of the original  Mission Team planting in Seattle, WA. Don then served in the Full Time Ministry there in Seattle then in San Francisco, CA and later in Indianapolis, IN. After coming out of the FT Ministry Don obtained his Physician Assistant degree in Chicago at Midwestern University. After graduating Don moved to Denver where he is now part of the Denver Church of Christ. Don enjoys Marathon running, Hiking the Colorado 14’ers and spending time with his wonderful family. Don has been married for 31 years to his wife Vonda and they have three children,  a married 26yo old son, Caleb and daughter-in-law Shelby, a 21 yo daughter Marin who is currently serving in China on a One Year Mission Challenge and an 11yo daughter, LinZhi whom he and his wife adopted from China over 10 years ago.


Thrive With Jesus, Part One. WWJD? WJWD!


By Dr. G. Steve Kinnard

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

— 1 Peter 2:21

Have you heard the phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” It’s often encapsulated in four letters—“WWJD?” You might have see it on a bracelet or a journal cover. Did you know that phrase (minus the initials “WWJD”) was first published in 1896 by Charles Sheldon? That’s correct, the phrase is over 120 years old.

The phrase comes from a book entitled In His Steps. I first read this book when I was a teenager. I don’t know why, but my mother handed me a paperback copy and asked me to read it. I didn’t want to read it, but I wanted to please my Mom, so I read the book. It has haunted me for almost five decades.

The book tells the story of a preacher who was interrupted from his Sunday sermon preparation by a knocking on his door. When he opened the door, he faced a homeless man. The homeless man asked the preacher if he had any work around his home or the church grounds that he could perform for a little cash. The preacher said he was very busy, and he dismissed the man without offering him any aid.

The next day, as the preacher delivered his homily, he noticed a man standing at the back of the auditorium. The man starting walking down the center aisle. As the man was about halfway down the aisle, the preacher recognized this man was the same person who had knocked on his door the day before. Just before the man reached the front of the church building, he collapsed and died.

The preacher felt remorse for not helping the man. He came back to church the next Sunday and preached a sermon that ignited a revival in the church. He called the members of his church to ask one question before they made any big or small decision in their lives. The question—What Would Jesus Do? WWJD?

  • WWJD for a homeless man knocking at his door?
  • WWJD for a single mom working two jobs to put food on the table for her four children?
  • WWJD for a lonely widow who sits alone day after day in her rent-subsidized apartment?
  • WWJD for a the grieving husband who lost the love of his life to cancer?
  • WWJD for a teen who is bullied at school?
  • WWJD for the addict who has been in and out of recovery too often to count?

WWJD? Jesus would show compassion. The word compassion means “to suffer with.” Jesus suffered with people. He felt the pain of others? He empathized with people’s hurts.

WWJD? He would be present for people? Like the Good Samaritan, Jesus ran toward the needy, the wounded, and the oppressed. He met people where they were.

WWJD? He would act. He would do something. He would find a way to heal hurts and meet needs.

WWJD? Since Jesus isn’t here today, he would work through us, the members of his body, to help the poor, heal the sick, and bind up the hearts of the broken-hearted.

So ask, “What Would Jesus Do?” WWJD?

Then do What Jesus Would Do. WJWD!

Paul, Apostle of Christ. A Film Review.



Paul, Apostle of Christ. A Film Review.

I begin this review with a disclaimer—I don’t generally like movies that are based on the Bible. There are exceptions like The Ten Commandments or The Passion of the Christ. I tend to view these movies with my scholarly glasses firmly planted on my face. Thus I compare the movie to the biblical text, and what movie can live up to the beauty, genius, and truth of the biblical text?

Paul, Apostle of Christ is not based on the biblical text. It is based on historical tradition that comes after the final events of the Book of Acts. Thus, I was able to take off my scholarly glasses and wear my ordinary sit-back-and-enjoy-the-movie glasses. And I did enjoy the movie. And it inspired me was well. That combination of enjoyment and inspiration is rare.

On February 13th, as a pre-Valentines Day date, my wife and I went to see a preview of the movie Paul, Apostle of Christ. Perhaps the film is misnamed? Perhaps it should be called, Luke and Paul, Followers of Jesus because the movie equally highlights the story of Luke and his partnership in the gospel with Paul, as it does Paul’s life.

The movie begins with Luke entering the city of Rome after the Emperor Nero torches over half the city in order to rebuild certain districts. Nero blames Christians for igniting the fire and then goes on to order the persecution of Christians.

Roman soldiers stake Christians to crosses, douse them with oil, and set them on fire, creating Roman candles which light the streets of Rome at night. The intense persecution of Christians is a major theme in the movie. The film is dedicated to persecuted Christians around the world.

The setting of the Roman persecution of Christians gives an eerie and gruesome tone to the film. It also gives the movie a deserved PG-13 rating for its “Disturbing Images and Some Violent Content.”

Warning: there are many brutal and gory scenes in the movie. Some of the images stay with you long after you leave the theatre. But in my opinion, that’s a good thing. The Bible is at least PG-13 in its content. The history of the persecution of the early Christians should make a person wince.

Before you show the movie to a general church audience, you should consider the depiction of violence in the film and share with your audience that the movie was not made for a young people or for the faint of heart.

The film is distributed by Sony Pictures and has a March 23rd release date (just in time for Easter).

I appreciated the acting in the movie. The actors were high quality actors. James Caviezel, who is known for his role as Jesus in The Passion of the Christ plays Luke. Caviezel also played Reese, a highly trained mercenary, in the television series Person of Interest. In this film I kept waiting for Caviezel to turn into Reese and rid the streets of the Roman soldiers, but that never happened. Instead, as Luke, Mr. Caviezel struggled with the plight of his brothers and sisters as they prayed to stay faithful in the midst of hardship and persecution.

A major theme of the film is how evil cannot be resisted with evil. That’s not the way of Jesus. The way of Jesus is the way of love. This is a message the church today needs to hear and reflect on.

James Faulkner plays Paul. He does an admirable job with the role. The Roman courts have sentenced Paul to execution. Paul spends his last days rotting in a dank, dark cell in the worst prison in Rome remembering his past misdeeds as he persecuted the church making wives widows and children orphans. Paul is tortured by memories of his days as Saul of Tarsus. In the words of St. John of the Cross, this moment is Paul’s “dark night of soul.”

Paul also reflects on his ministry as a missionary as he planted churches across the Mediterranean. He shares these memories with Luke. Ultimately this refection becomes the book of the Acts of the Apostles. The theme of grace appears throughout Paul’s dialogue with Luke. Paul clings to the words of Jesus, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

The biblical characters Pricilla and Aquila play an important role in the story. As does Mauritius, the Roman soldier in charge of the prison that houses Paul.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. It is rare that you see a film that based on the Bible that is this gritty, raw, compelling, well-directed, and superbly acted. The film will stick with you for a few days. And isn’t that what good films should do? Shouldn’t they make you think? This film makes you put yourself in the place of Luke, Paul, or Pricilla and ask, “What would I have done if I had faced what they faced?”

The answer to that question doesn’t come from reflecting on what you might have done almost two millennia ago in Rome, but from what you are willing to do today as a disciple of Jesus.

Tertullian argued that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” In other words, persecution, instead of destroying the church, advanced the Jesus movement.

Today most of us don’t face persecution. Not like Paul, Pricilla, and the early disciples faced it. We face a plague of complacency, mediocrity, comfort, materialism, and apathy. So what are we to do?

Let’s draw inspiration from our early brothers and sisters who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and give up their lives for Jesus. Let’s decide that every day we will take up the cross of Jesus and die to selfishness, indifference, insecurity, fear, and doubt.

Let’s remember that our first-century brothers and sisters were ignited as human torches, also known as Roman candles, to light the streets of Rome, and let’s ignite a fire within our hearts that will shine through our lives to light the streets and roads of our cities, towns, and village.

If the task seems to large then remember the words of Jesus that motivated the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

Grace and Peace,

Dr. G. Steve Kinnard


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have A Dream”

Following the photo are the words of Dr. Martin Luther King ‘s “I Have A Dream” speech given at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. Read the speech silently reflecting on its meaning, read the speech aloud enunciating every word, or read the the speech to others inspiring you and your audience to action. On this day where we celebrate the life and service of Dr. King, let’s continue to dream his dream and act on his thoughts until his dream becomes our dream and that dream becomes reality.

“What you dream alone remains a dream, what you dream with others can become a reality.”

—Edward Schillebeeckx


“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”


What Present Will You Give Jesus This Christmas?

What Present Will You Give Jesus This Christmas?

It’s Christmas Day. I hope you are aware of that. I hope you’ve bought all your gifts. If you haven’t, then Seven Eleven is still open and they have some quality stuff.

Christmas is one of my favorite days of the year. I’d say it’s only second to my birthday. That’s because I celebrate my birthday the whole month of September. But Christmas is a very close second. Christmas consists of Food, Family, Football, Fun, and more Food. But Christmas started with none of the fanfare you see today. It started with a poor couple looking for a place to have their child in a small village that was know its bread. The place was Bethlehem, which means “house of bread” in Hebrew.

Let’s look at the story of the Magi. This story takes place some time after the birth of Jesus. He’s a young child now. Probably around two. He is in a house, not a stable. And the story features three gifts. Not three Magi. There could have ten or twelve Magi (Sages from the east) in a caravan that travelled from Persia (or India or China) to Bethlehem find Jesus. When the Magi arrived, they gave the young child three presents—gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Traditionally, it is said that—

Gold was for his kingship,

Frankincense was for his priesthood,


Myrrh was for his coming death. Even as a child, Jesus was destined to die for humanity.

These presents beg the question for each of us today—What present will you give Jesus this Christmas?

Let’s read the story:

Matthew 2:1-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “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.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for out of you will come a ruler

who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 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. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

This story of the Magi leads to three questions:

1. Whom do you seek?

2. How carefully are you seeking?

3. What present will you give Jesus this Christmas?

1. Whom do you seek?

When the Magi came to Jerusalem they asked a very important question, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?”

They knew exactly whom they were seeking. They were seeking Jesus.

You have to know what you want from life. What are you seeking? Are you seeking pleasure? Are you seeking money and possessions? Are you seeking social status? Are you seeking that next rung on the corporate ladder? Are you seeking the security of a relationship? What are you seeking?

You can have all these items and still not have true happiness, joy, purpose, and fulfillment.

That’s because Jesus provides true happiness, joy, purpose, and fulfillment. That’s one reason he came into the world. John 10:10 Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus came to give life to the full.

How? Jesus is eternal. He is our creator and knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows how to give our lives fullness. He heals our hurts and wounds. He forgives our sins. As the angel said to the shepherds, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

That’s who Jesus is.

He is Savior. He provides salvation.

He is Messiah, the one God sent into the world to give us direction and purpose.

He is Lord, Master, Ruler, who shows us how to live.

The Magi were asking the right question, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews.” And when they found him, they worshipped him and gave him presents.

If you want this Christmas to be the best Christmas ever, begin with Jesus. Find time on Christmas Day to focus on Jesus as Savior, Messiah, and Lord and seek to understand what that means for you and your life.

2. How carefully are you seeking?

Verse 8 reports the action of Herod to the Magi, “He (Herod) sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’”

We know that Herod was not sincere. He wasn’t planning on worshipping this child; he was planning on murdering the child because he feared he was a future king.

Regardless of Herod’s order, the Magi were already planning on searching carefully for the child. They had travelled a long distance over a long time at great expense to find the child. They weren’t going to give up now. So they followed the star until it came to rest over the place where the child Jesus was.

They found what they were looking for. But it wasn’t an easy discovery. The discovery did not come without effort on their part. If they came from Persia, they travelled around 800 miles to find Jesus. They travelled by camel. Across the desert. This would have taken around eighteen months to two years. It would have been an expensive journey. They would have taken a caravan with tents and water and food and cooks to cook the food. And they would have taken security for protection from bandits. Imagine investing 18 months to two years of your life searching for a child. They did this because they knew something of the prophecies about this child, and they had seen his star.

How carefully are you seeking for Jesus?

Have you read the gospels? Have you carefully explored the gospels? That’s where you begin your search. I suggest you read them in this order—Mark, John, Matthew, John, Luke. Why? Because Mark was written first. They read John between Mark and Matthew and Matthew and Luke because John is so different from the other gospels.

Have you asked someone to help you carefully search for Jesus? They Magi travelled 800 miles, but when they arrived in Jerusalem they weren’t afraid to ask others, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?”

Jesus isn’t hiding in a corner. He can be found, but you have to be intentional in your search for him.

On Christmas Day take some time to carefully search for Jesus. Perhaps read the nativity stories in Matthew and Luke. When you find Jesus, you will discover what you have been searching for all your life—Purpose, Contentment, Peace, Joy, and Salvation.

3. What present will you give Jesus this Christmas?

Tomorrow morning we are going to open presents. It’s an exciting time. It’s exciting to watch our children open presents. It’s exciting to watch grandchildren open presents.

I was that kid that was so excited to see what I was getting on Christmas morning that I would get up during the middle of the night and go look under the tree. I’d unwrap my gifts and then wrap them back. I’d act surprised when I unwrapped them in front of my parents. But I already knew what the present was.

My Mom was a very smart, discerning woman. I suspect she knew I had already been up. But she never let on that she did. She rewarded my curiosity. I’ve always loved Christmas morning. I love the beautifully wrapped presents around the tree. But I love my birthday a bit more. LOL.

The Magi brought presents to Jesus. They didn’t come to Jesus asking for anything. They didn’t ask the child Jesus for a present.

Instead of thinking, “What will Jesus give me this Christmas?” We ought to be asking, “What will I give Jesus this Christmas?”

What present will you bring Jesus?

You know what he wants? THE PRESENT. He wants the RIGHT NOW in your life.

He wants your PRESENT. He wants YOU. He wants YOU in the PRESENT.

He wants you to live for him because by doing that you will realize who you really and are and what you were meant to be.

He wants your heart to teach you compassion.

He wants your mind to teach you single-mindedness.

He wants your life to teach you how to live a life worth living, a life that makes a difference in the world.

So on Christmas Day give Jesus a present. Give him THE PRESENT. And by doing do, you will have the greatest Christmas ever.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Thanksgiving. Psalm 138.

Psalm 138. New Revised Standard Version. 


Thanksgiving and Praise

Of David.

1 I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;

before the gods I sing your praise;

2 I bow down toward your holy temple

and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;

for you have exalted your name and your word

above everything.a

3 On the day I called, you answered me,

you increased my strength of soul.b

4 All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,

for they have heard the words of your mouth.

5 They shall sing of the ways of the Lord,

for great is the glory of the Lord.

6 For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly;

but the haughty he perceives from far away.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,

you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;

you stretch out your hand,

and your right hand delivers me.

8 The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;

your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.

Do not forsake the work of your hands.

a Cn: Heb you have exalted your word above all your name

b Syr Compare Gk Tg: Heb you made me arrogant in my soul with strength

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ps 138.