Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Few Thoughts on the Magi & Us

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of teaching our EDGE, Middle School during Wednesday youth covering the topic of the magi. I learned a great deal from my time of preparation and teaching both personally and biblically and wanted to share a few of those thoughts with you…

1) I find it very easy to take my understanding of Scripture and the things I've learned even from childhood at face value. I find I can do this with both the Christmas story and just in general with Scripture. Rather than coming with new eyes of wonder, asking questions, & seeking to learn and grow in my understanding and joy in God, I can stop with only my cursory understanding, not have really interacted with God and His Word, and actually miss the whole point of my time with Him in His Word. It is a battle we each must do on a daily basis as we read the Word, but I think especially as we ponder the Christmas story anew.

2) The story of the Magi is much more awesome, necessary, and full than I could have ever imagined! I would suggest the whole story is given by Matthew very intentionally. In fact, I would suggest it was given as a very strong proof for the Jewish people to let them know Jesus was their Messiah. Let me see if I can present my logic on this and both prove it to you as well, while also exciting your heart with our amazing God's planning and fulfilling of His Word through Christ…

Matthew's gospel seems to follow a great deal of the order of Isaiah as well as draws a good portion of his Old Testament quotes from the book. Thus it seems reasonable to think that Matthew not only knew the book of Isaiah well, but would draw from not only its prophecies but also its pictures to prove the validity of Jesus' Messiahship for the Jewish people.

Observation Questions:
We read of the Magi in Matthew 2:1-12 and from that passage I would suggest a number of questions that might lead to a better understanding of Matthew's purpose and our inclusion of this in the Christmas story.

Why a Star?
– Why of all ways would God choose to use a star to lead the Magi to the Messiah? He certainly could have simply used a dream as He did later in 2:12.
Why from the East? – Why outsiders from the people of Israel? God used angels to bring the shepherds. Could he not have used them to bring the nobility of Christ's nation? Or for that matter, why weren't the leaders of Israel who told the Magi the location of the Messiah in 2:4-6 summoned by the star themselves?
Why those of High Rank or Nobility? – While we cannot be sure there were 3 or that they were kings as the song states, we do know from the gifts and role of these men in their own land that they would be of a high rank. Why would those of importance and governmental roles be important in this story of Christ and his birth/early childhood? Why not simply bring shepherds from other countries like God did in Israel (Lk 2:8-20)? 
Why Gifts? – Why did these men bring gifts at all? The shepherds in Lk 2:8-20 didn't bring anything. And since they did bring gifts, why these gifts? Why not bring more practical/beneficial gifts to Jesus and His family such as livestock, clothes, food, or other such necessities or sustainable benefits?
Why the superabundance of joy in their response? – In 2:10 Matthew writes, "When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy." … think about that… They rejoiced… exceedingly… with great … joy. Matthew seems to be super emphasizing the joy of the Magi if you couldn't tell. =) So why so much joy emphasized?

So here is my suggestion that seems to answer all these questions… A few prophetic statements and pictures from Isaiah. Some of these are well known and already connected to Christ's birth. Others are seen to still need to take place at His Second Coming.

Isaiah 9:2-3 (NASB), " The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.
You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; They will be glad in Your presence As with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. … For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this." (emphasize mine)

Isaiah 49:5-7 (NASB), " And now says the Lord, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the Lord, And My God is My strength),
He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to  restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and its Holy One, To the despised One, To the One abhorred by the nation, To the Servant of rulers, “Kings will see and arise, Princes will also bow down, Because of the Lord who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen You.”" (emphasize mine)

Isaiah 60:1-3, 5-6 (NASB), " “Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2 “For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the Lord will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you. 3 “Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. … 5 “Then you will see and be radiant, And your heart will thrill and rejoice; Because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you, The wealth of the nations will come to you. 6 “A multitude of camels will cover you, The young camels of Midian and Ephah; All those from Sheba will come; They will bring gold and frankincense, And will bear good news of the praises of the Lord." (emphasize mine)

Isaiah refers to a light that would rise in Israel that all the nations will come to and be exceedingly glad in His presence. He speaks of nobility from other lands coming to worship Him. He talks of them bringing specific gifts that would honor the King. Ultimately these prophecies won't see their full fulfillment until the End Times as we see in Revelation 21:22-27. However, God in His great grace, even in Christ's First Coming seems to gives us a taste toward the full completion of His prophecies through the Magi. They are the partial picture in His 1
st Coming of what will be completed fully in His 2nd Coming. They and their story in Matthew are both a seal on the faithfulness of God's promises as well as a validation of their Messiah King, Jesus, the Savior of Israel and ultimately, all people.

Just a few thoughts of application for us as we ponder these things…

1) How are you doing at slowing down, reading, & pondering God's Word and the Christmas story?
2) As you read Mat 2:1-19 you see the Magi as men who recognized the value of Christ and pursued Him and His presence at great cost of time, effort, and wealth. Do you look like the Magi in your pursuit of being in the Lord's presence?
3) Upon finding Jesus the Magi rejoice greatly, bow down in worship, and offer their expensive gifts to Him. Does your life reflect a joy in the Lord, a submission to His rule and reign, and laying down of all you are and own to Kingship?

May the Lord bless you and your family with a very Merry Christmas as you ponder the Magi and the Messiah King in the manger!


Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Challenge to Single Men

“How do I know if I’m Ready for Marriage?”; I’m often asked this question by single men. It seems to me that this question is daunting to many men in our culture. Yet I believe young Christian men need to step up to this question and take the challenge seriously. I offer the following questions for you to consider yourself if you are a single man as to your readiness for the relationship of marriage. If you’re discipling or have influence with a single man, you might consider these subjects in your conversation to stir him “to love and good works”. If you’re a single woman, please think thru these character qualities as you consider dating someone. 

Before you start, please hear me, no one will meet these criteria perfectly, no one, but as you think thru this, ask “Am I/is he growing in these areas. The Christian life is identified by growth, not by perfection.  regarding what it is to be a godly man. I pray that this document will stir the hearts of the reader to pursue progressive sanctification for the glory of God and for the good of your soul, whether you’re single or married.

1. Are you truly a Child of God?
o  Have you truly repented of your sin and self-righteousness and fully trusted in Christ alone for your eternal life and for your identity in Christ?

2. How long have you been a believer?
o  Wisdom and maturity come over time. It is very unusual for a “rookie Believer” to be ready for a serious relationship. You must first seek to grow and develop your relationship with God before you’re ready to develop an intimate, human relationship.
o  How long depends on the individual, but I would suggest that it most often will take 1-2 years to learn what it means to be a disciple; it takes time to establish new habits and demonstrate true life-change. 

3. Can you accurately and clearly articulate the Gospel? Are you able to present a clear picture, off-the-cuff, of the following key elements of the Gospel?
o  Who is God and what is He like?
o  What does the Bible say about what it means to be human? Where did we come from and why are we here on earth?
o  What does the Bible say about sin? Where did sin originate and what are the effects of sin?
o  Who is Christ and what has He done to deal with sin?
o  What is grace and why is grace integral to dealing with the problem of sin?
o  What kind of response does the Gospel call for from sinful, fallen humans?
o  What are the results that give evidence that a person has fully embraced the above truths? 

4. What are the specific results in your own life that demonstrate that you have, in fact embraced the Gospel for yourself?
o  True salvation will demonstrate a heart-change manifested in different words and actions. What are the tangible differences that you’ve seen in your life as a result of your salvation? Is there a growing difference between you and your unbelieving friends? If not, why not? If not, what do you believe God would have you do?
o  If a young lady has a father that is thinking biblically and wisely, this ought to be one of his main concerns about you. If you have not developed a life-style that demonstrates that you have been transformed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, why would a godly father allow his daughter to develop a relationship with you?
o  If, as a single man, you haven’t demonstrated a hunger and thirst for righteousness and a desire to serve the Lord, it is highly unlikely that you will love and lead a wife the way the Scriptures commands.

5. What are your personal, spiritual disciplines? 
o  Are you pursuing and walking in integrity and purity thru a focused, biblical prayer-life and a disciplined pursuit of God thru daily reading, studying and meditating on scripture?
o  Are you being discipled? Are you learning how to handle the Bible biblically?
o  What does your discipler/parent say about your overall maturity? 
o  What do they say about your “readiness” to be a head of a household? 
o  How do you respond when others suggest you need to grow in certain areas?

6. Are you a committed member of a local church?
o  A man who is not willing to submit to authority is a man who is not likely ready to lead others. It takes humility and submission to lead in a way that inspires others to submit to you.
o  Have you served long enough to have considered how God may have gifted you?
o  Do have a vision for where your life might best glorify God?
o  Are you committed to growing as a servant of the Lord by serving others?

7. What is your reputation in the local church?
o  Do you know your elders? What do they say about your maturity, integrity and your heart for serving others? 
o  What do those who know you say about your integrity? Would they say that you live out your claim of Christianity? (1 John 2:6)
o  Have you served long enough that others who know you can identify your giftings?
o  Do others ask you to help because you’ve developed a reputation of serving and caring for others?
o  What others say about your maturity and commitment to serve God in the local church can be a good indicator of your “readiness” for marriage. If you have not shown yourself to be faithful in serving others, it’s not likely that you will serve your wife “and give yourself up for her” the way the Bible calls you to.

8. What are your closest relationships like?
o  Do you have a healthy, respectful relationship with your parents? 
o  Do you invite them to speak into your life and decisions? 
o  How do you show love and compassion to your parents and siblings?
o  Have you learned how to seek and offer forgiveness?
o  Do you have any broken relationships that you refuse to reconcile?
o  Have your dating relationships been pure and respectful? 

9. Are you growing in your ability to lead others spiritually?
o  Are you discipling others less mature than you are?
o  Do you take opportunities to speak into others’ lives spiritually – in the church body, at school and/or work?
o  Are you concerned with others relationship with the Lord?

Men, no one will be able to say “yes” to 100% of these questions, however if you lack the desire to grow in these areas, you would be wise to post-pone seeking a long-term relationship. 

If you, and others who know you, can say that you are growing in these areas and that your heart desires to continue to grow within the community of the local church, then you may be ready to consider seeking a life-long help-mate. As you move forward, seek good counsel from someone who will speak the truth to you about your maturity to help you make wise, well-informed choices.

You might work thru the book, Marry Wisely, Marry Well, by Ernie Baker for help in thinking thru these themes more specifically.
For help with understanding how to know God’s will, check out Decision Making and the Will of God, by Greg Koukl, (CD Audio or Mp3 download @

May God bless you as you seek to know Him. As you do, you will be equipped to love and lead a wife for her good and for God’s glory.

Kent Kloter

Friday, December 1, 2017

Who would you recommend?

Pastors often get asked their opinions on authors. Sometimes it is an easy answer, and sometimes it is complicated. Some books I would recommend highly. Some books are “gleaners”—meaning that one can glean some good things out of it, but I can’t stand behind all of it. Some books are too difficult for me to recommend.

Long ago, Kevin Sauder, now senior pastor at New Castle Bible Church, interned at Bethany Community. He put together a great resource for us called a Discernment Guide. It helps us to think through whether a resource is man-centered or God-centered. 

At the end of the resource, an “incomplete list of recommended authors” is listed. I love the wording of it. It is not saying that the guide has the corner on the market on knowledge. There are others that are just as good if not better. 

In that vain, let me give you my incomplete list of recommended authors that have blessed me beyond measure:

Kevin DeYoung: DeYoung is a pastor who just moved to help lead a church in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has a great blog located on the Gospel Coalition site ( and has authored some very helpful books like:
Crazy Busy
Taking God at His Word
Just Do Something

Mark Dever: A pastor in our nation’s capital and leader of 9Marks ministries, Dever’s love for the local church and desire to equip her are something for other pastors to model.
Helpful books to me by Dever are:
9 Marks of a Healthy Church
What is a Healthy Church?
Other great audio, video and resources at

John Piper: Piper’s name will be long remembered in Christiandom from his time as pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minnesota to his works and messages logged at Helpful books:
Don’t Waste Your Life
A Godward Life
Desiring God
Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ
Let the Nations Be Glad

Tim Challies: A pastor in Canada, I am most familiar with him through his blog where he writes but also posts a list of the 5-7 most helpful articles/blogs he finds on the internet each day.

I am so thankful for the many resources available—of these men and so many other men and women. There are so many more I could list. Hope this helps.

Pastor Ben