Category Archives: Books Worth A Look

The Star of Bethlehem 2020

The winter solstice just passed a few days ago, December 21, the shortest day of the year. On that day there also appeared in the sky a planetary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. There was a lot of hubbub about it because it’s so rare, occurring about once every 800 years. There were lots of articles in newspapers, magazines, and the visual media hailing it as the Star of Bethlehem.

I personally don’t believe it was the star of Bethlehem. Rather the Bethlehem star was a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus which appeared in December, 2 BC, over Jerusalem as viewed from the East, modern day Iraq or Iran, ancient Persia, making it the brightest star anyone alive had ever seen.

There is something in the human psyche that both loves and loathes mystery. We want to know all we can, and yet we are attracted to the unknown. We like to puzzle things out for ourselves and we like to learn from what others have puzzled out.

Signs in the Sky and Wise Men from the East

I think that Rick Larson got it right in his 2015 DVD titled “The Star of Bethlehem.” He is an attorney, and after reading the biblical account in Matthew chapter 2 came up with nine clues about the star as evidence to what it might have been. That’s what lawyers do. Then he purchased some astronomy software that allows one to view the actual sky and stars on any given date and time from any point on earth. What he discovered is what makes this presentation so riveting.

He contends that in September, 3 BC the king planet Jupiter made three close passes or conjunctions with the king star Regulus, in the constellation of Leo the lion. Many theorize along with Larson that this rare astronomical event, or sign in the sky, may have been anticipated and handed down to the magi from the chief of the magi, Daniel the Hebrew prophet, when he served the kings of Babylon and Persia who in their time ruled the whole known world.

And that the magi made preparation at that time, then followed the king planet Jupiter nine months later as it arrived at it’s conjunction with Venus, and that would lead them to the location of the most famous King who would ever be born, the King of the Jews.

On December 25, 2 BC, the star (Jupiter) was over Bethlehem, 5 miles south as viewed from Jerusalem, and appeared stopped (in retrograde.)

The magi followed it, along with new information from the Hebrew Scriptures provided by Herod’s scribes that Bethlehem was the place of the Messiah’s birth. They went to worship the King, who was a toddler by that time, then returned secretly to their home country, with great joy!

The conjunction a few days ago was unusual because of its rarity, but it wasn’t that bright, and even with the naked eye one could see a little space between the two planets.

What did the wisemen see in the stars that sent them on their journey? It appears that it was the king planet coming very close to the king star, three times in rapid succession, in the constellation of the lion. The lion is the animal representation of the tribe of Judah in Israel. A prophecy that Daniel and the Magi would have known is that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah. (Genisis 49:10) And following that, Jupiter coming in conjunction with Venus, stacked to make them appear as one, very-bright star.

I wonder what the sky looked like to them when they started their 700 mile trek, full of anticipation, awe, and intrigue?

Beautiful mystery!

“After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Matthew 2:9-10

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To watch the best YouTube video of “The Star of Bethlehem” click here, and the information for ordering the DVD with better resolution and bonus material is listed below it. Enjoy!

I Have COVID-19

My first interaction with China was in June 2008. I flew a Boeing 777 to Shanghai from Chicago for American Airlines and spent a couple days in the city. I know Shanghai is more western and showy than the rest of China because of its history and interaction with the West. But I will never forget what I saw there; its vibe, its raw economic and technological power.

My second and most recent encounter with China was yesterday. I tested positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19

I had experienced symptoms for a few days of what I was pretty certain was a common cold, an intermittent wet cough and a mild headache. But I was planning to fly today to a Bible conference and visit some friends in Monroe Louisiana, so I thought it prudent to be tested.

And just like that, the trip was canceled, and I began the prescribed 14-day quarantine from the first day of coughing, along with my beautiful bride who now must also assume she’s contagious, although she’s asymptomatic.

I hope it’s not too much togetherness for her! 🙂 We will try to social distance in the house, using different bedrooms and bathrooms, practice excessive hand washing, and wearing masks if we need to be closer than six feet. But our daughter who is a MD says she is likely to get it anyway. I don’t know many people personally who have contracted COVID-19, less than ten I think, but in every case except one where there was a couple involved, they both got it.

I hope and pray if she gets it, her symptoms will be mild like mine. 99% of the cases reportedly are. The mystery and variety of the 1% is what’s troubling.

The biggest pain for us is the restriction of freedom. Not going out to eat, to shop, to run errands, etc. But we will make the best of it. Lots of reading, writing and journaling for me — that’s not a big change. It will be harder for her.

As someone said early in the pandemic, their baseboards have never been so clean. Those of you who know my wife know they’re already clean. I’ll probably have to get them re-painted after this!

Our kids called last night concerned, but also pointing out this could be a good thing and good timing going into the holidays, as we’ll be immune and not worried about getting it or giving it to others! 🙂

China

A bird just flew into our windows with a thud. Then it flew away in a bit of shock, confusion and with a headache, if birds get headaches?

I guess that’s what having COVID-19 myself means for me spiritually? I feel like I’m awake spiritually, and walking in light, His light. But how does one really know? Deception has the intrinsic quality that if you are deceived — you don’t know it.

But that bird knows it now! Whatever he or she saw enticing or encouraging full speed flight into our window was a mistake. It was caused by an illusion, a wrong perception, not seeing things as they really are.

China — A Piece of the Puzzle

My COVID-19 story has gotten long, so my China musings will be brief. They will serve as an introduction for you possibly of what has recently come onto my personal radar.

A few weeks ago a retired CEO in our 2020 book club and men’s group told us about a secular book he was reading about China. The author is an intellectual, a think tank person, but one who has advised several US presidents on foreign policy and international affairs.

I have not read the book yet, but I will. As our CEO friend shared from his notes and then a summary, it became clear that political China is an enemy of the United States of America. Also that they are probably already the world’s leading economic power, and on a course to be the world’s leading military power. The author, for reasons I won’t go into at this juncture, sees a future war with China as probable if not in inevitable.

I’m coming to see that China may be to us what ancient Babylon was to Judah before 586 BC — on the rise. A tiger. A dragon. Read Habakkuk, as he asks the Lord about what he was seeing in Babylon and Judah, and what would be the outcome of it all?

Ask Yourself

Ask yourself, “Why did China suspend all flights from Wuhan into China while releasing flights into the rest of the world?”

I’ll build my case later for this. But I see China as a major piece of the puzzle for life in the U.S. and on the planet in the next chapter, even in this present darkness.

They are to us a formidable enemy on the rise like Babylon was to Judah before 586 BC. It depends on the prayers and repentance of the church when and whether they come.

Either way one can read Habakkuk and see the Lord’s discussion with the prophet as how it might play out. And more importantly how a true believer will act and regard these times and those times, if it happens the way I’m describing.

Two Streams

To complicate the matter, although it’s not complicated to the Lord, almost certainly the largest and healthiest church in the world is the underground church in China. Its size is estimated about the same as the US population currently. They are our kingdom brothers and sisters in the true faith of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So while they are our true friends, their government is our true enemy. The situation merits watching, just like watching Israel .

You may recall Jesus told us to be alert for the signs that point to the end of the age, or the latter days, and his return.

Israel has always been one of those signs and will always be, because of God’s promises to them and to the nations who treat them well or treat them poorly.

I’ve often thought China would loom large and be a major player in the end time events. Now there is much evidence this is the case. And the time could be now, in the coming decades, maybe even in just a few years?

More on this later but let me point you to a few books and publications that point to the truth and evidence of what I’m suggesting.

The book my friend read: Destined for War by Graham Allison

A recent Hillsdale College article on China: Imprimis Sepember 2020 “Facing Up to the China Threat

About the underground church in China: The Heavenly Man Brother Yun

Also about Christian life in China’s underground church: Bold as a Lamb Ken Anderson The Story of Samuel Lamb

My Advice & My Personal Tact

Stay awake. Stay alert. Stay close.

Abide in the vineyard. Stay close to the Master. Be like Habakkuk at the end of his book. The Lord bless and keep you. The Lord turn his face toward you and be gracious to you. The Lord cause his countenance to shine upon you and give you peace. Amen [Numbers 6:24-26]

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O LORD, I have heard the report of You; I stand in awe, O LORD, of Your deeds. Revive them in these years; make them known in these years. In Your wrath, remember mercy!” Hab 3:3

Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.
” Hab 3:17-19

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you….
” Psalm 91:1-3a

Teach Us To Pray!

Prayer is a piece of the puzzle. Would you agree? Read Revelation 8:1-5 — what does this tell us about prayer? Is this some sort of mystical image or an actual, ongoing event? Something that really happens moment by moment, day by day, that affects things in heaven and on earth? In our lives and the lives of the people we love?

Tomorrow our 2020 reading, friendship group starts our look into prayer.

It’s purpose and practice? How it works? How and why it pleases God? How to approach it and affect changes in our circumstances. How to expect and experience those effects.

I’m expecting new revelation about prayer — its power and efficacy. And I am expecting newly experiential intimacy with our Lord, Maker, Master, Creator, Father, Friend.

Prayer is the spiritual discipline in which I’m personally the weakest, that I understand the least. It’s also possibly the one that matters most to joyful and victorious life and living!

I’m praying for a new insight into its power and practice. That seems to be a good and humble place to begin.

It appears the Holy Spirit has led us to two simple books to read about prayer and ponder as He provides revelation, insight, and grace for the moment, to apprehend this portal into the heavenlies, into the actual throne room, for his purposes and our pleasure, our good. And the good of those around us.

The first book is “Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer,” by Max Lucado. The second is “Talking with my Father: Jesus Teaches on Prayer,” by Ray Stedman.

Feel free to get copies and read along with us, asking the Spirit to open all our eyes and hearts to the practice, purpose, and Person of our prayer.

His grace to you. Amen

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“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:16 NASB

Prophets of Grace

Prophets of Grace

“… even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, … but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you ….” I Peter 1

“Prophets of Grace” is a concept and calling that has been ringing in my ears for a couple months now, since Honduras 2020. My eyes just fell on this phrase in Peter, “prophets who prophesied of the grace….”

I was trying to articulate to a good friend at a Tacos-4-Life lunch yesterday, in our COVID-19-plague and fear-struck world, that I feel I’ve just discovered GRACE for the first time! It’s so new, fresh, big — pervasive in the Word and in my thoughts and experience now. I wonder how I could have missed its centrality and importance in God’s plan and Word all these years?

He kindly and gently replied, “I think we will never understand it all. We are always learning about grace.”

Well I can accept that, but it’s still amazes me….

Grace Attack

“Grace Attack” is a funny way to convey that God sometimes comes in ways to help and be gracious to us that looks more like an attack! But the outcome is good and the test will in time show its benefit, usually getting us out of a rut and on a better path. So whether God caused the virus or allowed it, the only two options I can think of since He’s so powerful and working in His creation every day, the outcome will be good.

Couple that with how good, loving, kind, magnanimous really — I’ll sum those attributes and call them “gracious” — God is, and we know we can and should “trust” Him completely in this world-wide crisis.

If you really know Him, you trust Him. You believe His plan for you is better than even your plan for you. And you will have the same response in all this that Eli, the ancient Israeli judge had on a day when he received some very bad news from a young prophet, “Let the Lord do what seems good to Him.” [I Samuel 3:1-18.]

Stay in Community as you Journey — Start Now

A men’s friendship group I started recently called the 2020 Book Club, meets in our home the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month. To start our discussion and interaction we read a book in the interim and then share our notes or insights.

We often interject a book of the Bible in the mix and are now reading I & II Peter. I just started and look what I’ve already stumbled across! Coincidence? Providence? Synchronicity?


I invite you to put on GRACE glasses with me, and look for the word and concept as you read Scripture. I think you’ll be shocked and pleased — amazed at what you begin to see. And you may become a “Prophet of Grace!”

You should start a men’s (or women’s) group! And let grace start flowing through you! And your friends. :):) Godspeed. Your group will prove inspiring, empowering, life giving. He will see to it.

Stay tuned for more, on GRACE ….

Book Club 2020

Along with four good men and good friends, we’re starting a book club for the new year. Its main purpose is to meet initially twice a month and share lives while encouraging each other in our own spiritual lives to seek the Lord.

The name 2020 is two fold in its meaning. Of course it’s the Year of Our Lord 2020 A.D. And it’s about vision, 20/20, seeing things clearly, from God’s perspective, as He shares with us, in and about our day and times.

We’ve begun our introductory meetings and an introductory book this month to get established. And I’ll include an ever-expanding list of books that have come to our attention as possible good reads below.

While good books will serve as a catalyst for discussion and vision, the main purpose of our group is friendship, listening, speaking and praying into one another’s lives. May I humbly suggest you find a few friends, and do something similar this year, and soon.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Pursuit of God

Beautiful Outlaw

The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming

Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness

Holy Sexuality and the Gospel

Waking the Dead

Fearless

Out of a Far Country

The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings

Scattered Servants: Unleashing the Church

Hell: A Final Word

Grace Works

In the media arena let me also list a few videos or movies we might consider watching together soon.

The Star of Bethlehem

Hell And Mr. Fudge

Patterns of Evidence: Exodus


Books Worth A Look

For sometime now I’ve wanted to start a new category of blogs on books I’m currently reading that [1] seem pertinent to living a life of purpose and adventure in our day,  [2] reflect or speak to what God seems to be saying to His people at our time in our culture, and [3] encourage or equip us to stay in the battle, make our lives count, and enjoy our journey, hopefully with others.

Heavy Rain” by Kris Vallotton of Bethel Church will start the process, and I’ll introduce the book with a letter to one of the three men’s groups I attend weekly.

Heavy Rain Forecast!

[A letter to a men’s group I attend.]

Our leader, Ryan the Curtis, has determined that this week is our last to read and discuss Heavy Rain by Vallotton. Wanting to finish it, and get the most out of it, especially the main point/s, with so many heavy hitting Christian leaders singing it’s praises, I read the last of chapter 10 where I had left off, and now am plowing through to the end.

It’s rich and getting better and better! I encourage you to read it to the end, and be ready to discuss what really stood out to you! Also, you could start journaling your thoughts when something interests you, and see if the Spirit gives you more insight on that point.

The title of chapter 10 is “The Tipping Point.” Indeed, that chapter maybe a tipping point of the book. From there he gets rapid fire, real, and states a lot of truth — no punches pulled. I’ll include a couple quotes as examples from chapter 10. Then I’ll end with a coincidence, or “God-wink “as we call them, indicating to me that this is a word from the Lord–one that he wants us to hear.

“I will not allow someone’s fear to constrain my own exploits. I will not bow down to anyone’s idol or be conformed to old religious ideologies that will render me irrelevant to the Kingdom.”

“I therefore will allow the Holy Spirit to lead me, guide me and correct me. I will submit to true leadership and remain moldable, teachable and humble. I will love passionately, live zealously, work wholeheartedly, laugh joyfully and be completely spent at the end of my life. I will walk powerfully, pray unceasingly, give extravagantly and serve God with my whole being.”

“It takes courage to break ranks with religious clones and think for ourselves.” “What you know can keep you from what you need to know.”

“Mobs become swamps–stale, murky waters of inaction.” “The majority does not rule in the natural world… and God is not moved by the masses in the unseen realm, either.” “He is not the cosmic pollster..” “That is ridiculous, yet it is the predominant mindset of the Church.”

“God told the Israelites,” The eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely is.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)

“God is not looking for a crowd; He is longing for a person.” “Neither is He put off by the powerless.”

“He is simply longing once again for a person like David to emerge from the wilderness and let the giants of life know that… they have taunted the armies of the living God. When we step out of of the crowd and become God’s courageous people, we create tipping points where breakthrough is inevitable.”

See what I mean about the clear message? And it gets stronger and better. It is a message for now — and for the past, present, and future leaders of City Christian Fellowship / Hope Fellowship. To not hear it and heed it will spell hurt for us, our families, and the Kingdom in the River Valley. Brian was right in suggesting it. And Ryan for leading us through it. I’m thankful for the book at “such a time as this.” I hope you feel inspired, as I have, and enlightened … and that you will come with what you hear the Lord saying to you, whether different or the same.

See you Thursday!

Oh, yeah, the synchronicity? Or God wink? I received this Charles Simpson newsletter the same day I read Chapter 10 and started to finish the book. Reading his letter is like reading the same message from a different author. Perhaps it’s what the Lord is saying to His church? 🙂

And a few days later I was led to download and read “Chase The Lion” by Mark Batterson, with much the same message! The synchronicities continue… the Lord is speaking this “now word” to men and leaders in our day of delusion. Listen! Live! Enjoy your journey! For the Lamb’s reward…

Blessings in Jesus Name,

Dwayne