We call them The Three Wise Men, though we don’t know if there were three of them, or that they were men.
We don’t think they were kings.
We do know that they were wise.
They were also a bit late, arriving ‘After Jesus was born…’
The Bible is kind enough to spare their blushes, not let us know exactly how long ‘after’ is. They were delayed because they stopped following the star (revelation) and went to Jerusalem to ask directions (relying on their reasoning instead). I wonder how many times I turned up late to the promises of God because I wobbled and listened to the wrong people, rather than follow that star?
Fortunately there they found some people who had more revelation than they knew what to do with, prophecies that said ‘The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem,’ (Matt 2:5) so these foreigners with more faith than the chosen frozen of God saddled up again and got back on the right track.
The story can tell us a lot about the company we keep and how that can make or break us, it can warn us about who we should listen to as we head into our future, too.
But as the year closes out and a new one gets ready to start, I’m thinking about various wise people I know and those I have read about and how they finish an old year really well, to start a New Year better – and what they do and say lines up well with what these wise guys did too.
1. LOOK BACK
‘We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’
We don’t know where they came from (East is a big place), but they did. They knew God was guiding and calling them and there’s something very powerful about that. Now’s a great time to look back over your last year and reflect on it. John Maxwell says ‘Evaluated reflection turns experience into insight.’ Everyone experienced 2014 – the key word there is evaluated.
Lots of us are having Facebook do this a little for us. I’m getting fed up of everyone’s “I had a great year – thanks for being a part of it’ to be honest, but we all need some method to do this. In the last few days I have thought back through various magic moments in my life in what we at Ivy designated the year of MORE, in the area of my friendships, finance, and family.
I remember hearing RT Kendall say, ‘Count your blessings one by one – you’ll be surprised what the Lord has done.’ Looking back for me helps me think about the ‘it just so happened’ that happened and tie them onto God’s promises and how they got fulfilled in my life which builds my faith so I can pull some principles to help determine where I want to head and what I really want to do next year.
2. LOOK UP
‘When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.’
It was fantastic yesterday at Ivy as many people shared personal stories of how God has helped through hard times, provided unexpectedly, and answered so many prayers. Church should be the place you come to get your faith lifted! If your church doesn’t do that, if it’s closer to the court of Herod than the courts of heaven, can I suggest you get moving?
People who know Jesus Christ ought to be the most positive people on planet Earth! If God is for us, who can be against us? We have just looked at a whole series on Christmas Hope and as I look again through the nativity story I have no right or reason to be afraid as I look at the future.
God keeps his promises. God loves me enough to come to show me. God understands my ups and downs because he left the ultimate UP of heaven to come DOWN to Bethlehem’s messy manger.
God doesn’t want us to just drift into the future or to let 2015 just happen to us. If you’re feeling lost – ask him! His guidance is personal, his promises are powerful and his directions are perfect.
3. LOOK FORWARD
‘They saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.’
What do you buy for a baby? I’d be terrible at this. It’s a good job they didn’t get the newborn size because by now Jesus and Mary are living in a house in Bethlehem when there’s a knock at the door. But what each felt prompted to bring was just perfect. Presents from around the world, fit for the King. God was prompting them when they packed at the start of the journey and they responded. They were open to his guidance in dreams and that soon saved the day, then they set off with purpose, back home. I believe if we follow God’s star he will lead us as we step out. Don’t just wait around for something to happen, set a goal.
Nobody ever just went for a walk and ended up on top of Mount Everest.
Maybe the biggest difference maker I find from leaders I read about and respect is they use a time like this to set goals in various areas and have a clear vision for where they want to be, what they want to accomplish in the coming year with God’s help, and why.
The power is in that word why.
If all my goals are about me and for me, that tells me something about who I’m really living for.
Jonathan Edwards wrote, The happiest Christians are not those who accomplish all of their personal goals, but those who embrace God’s goals.
What are your goals for GOD in 2015?
This year a bunch of us at Ivy set a goal to read the Bible in a year. And we did it. It was so good, I want to do it again. That’s a great goal.
What about a few more specific goals?
For God, family and fun? I’m setting some short, medium and long terms goals for the year. Not too many, maybe 3 or 4 – you decide as you get with God:
Maybe a goal for your prayer life? How are you going to get close to God in prayer this year?
What about a goal for giving to God’s work? Giving more, living more simply and generously. I’m talking about setting some specific, and measurable goals. So when God makes it happen you can give Him the glory.
Goals for personal development; what are you going to learn next year you don’t know now? And where are you going to go to learn?
Goals for Physical fitness? Will 2015 be the year you run that marathon?
What about a mission goal – could following the star that leads you to Jesus lead you on to another nation maybe, helping the poor and spreading the news about Jesus all around the world?
Take some time to stop – and dream again. Dream bigger, and write it down because as a wise person said yesterday at Ivy, ‘A goal is a dream with a deadline.’