Lay Preachers

“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has told us about.’”
Luke 2:15-17 (NIV)

“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph,
and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

When they had seen him,
they spread the word concerning
what had been told them about this child…”
Luke 2:15-17 (NIV)

In most Christian denominations there is a clear distinction between the “clergy” and the “laity”. However, as we study the Scripture we see that all kinds of people preached and taught the Gospel who were not of a special class of church members.

From the lowly shepherds preaching about Jesus at His birth to the woman who went to the empty tomb and returned to Jerusalem and told about the resurrection of Christ, we read stories of ordinary followers of Jesus proclaiming the truth about Him.

We should never think that the only ones who can tell the old old story of Jesus and His love are trained “clergy”. In fact what all Christians are charged with is the responsibility to be witnesses to the Saviour.

A witness does not need to have special training to testify nor do witnesses require lessons in public speaking. All the qualification a witness needs is to remember a situation they experienced. A witness is qualified to testify simply on the basis of being at an event and seeing or hearing something happen.

All the lowly shepherds did was relate the message they had received from the angel and how they verified the angel’s story by going and finding the child. This is all the expertise the shepherds had.

As Christians we need to follow the example of the shepherds and simply tell others what we know about the work of the Lord in our lives. We do not need to be experts in the art of persuasion. It is the work of God to produce acceptance of our testimony in the hearts of our listeners.

You may be a lay preacher today as you tell all you know about how the Lord has come into your life and what you have learned from the Bible about Him. Go and witness about Jesus today and you will find the Holy Spirit blessing your testimony to the good of others. The Christmas message is something to be shared not hoarded.

Longing for Home

“All these people were still living by faith when they died.
They did not receive the things promised;
they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance,
admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.
People who say such things show that they are looking for a country
of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left,
they would have had opportunity to return.
Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.
Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God,
for he has prepared a city for them.”
Hebrews 11:13-16 (NIV)

After moving his young family to the city, my father loved to take us back to his farm for holidays. As we drove north, he would happily whistle tunes while driving. Although his family originally came from Yorkshire, England he loved Scottish melodies especially, “Scotland the Brave”. He would whistle that beautiful melody over and over as he navigated our old 1930 Buick north toward Burk’s Falls. I learned to love the tune but only years later realized its name. Although my Dad spent the last 43 years of his life living in Toronto, farm life never left him.

The people referred to in our text for today were individuals whose hearts were longing for another country, another city which they felt was their true home. These people were able to lift their eyes off the present and looked away to the future home pledged to them by their promise-making God. They believed the Lord was as good as His word.

Reader, are you content with this world or do you long for another made by the Lord Himself? When you read the promises God what do they mean to you? Is your life a journey toward another country and city? Will you settle for what this shattered, broken world offers? Or will you come to the One Who is the way, the truth and the life and become His loyal follower on a journey to the promised land?

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto Me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
Thy head upon My breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad;
I found in Him a resting place,
And He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Behold, I freely give
The living water; thirsty one,
Stoop down, and drink, and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“I am this dark world’s Light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise,
And all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I’ll walk,
Till trav’ling days are done.

Horatius Bonar

Come to Jesus and come now.

God’s Strange Providence

“Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law,
and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace,
he had in mind to divorce her quietly…When Joseph woke up,
he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took Mary home as his wife.”
Matthew 1:19, 24 (NIV)

Very little is told to us about the legal father of our Lord. He is only mentioned a few times in the Scriptures. However, all that is said about him is very positive and causes us to be respectful of his memory.

The first thing we learn about Joseph is that he was “faithful to the law”. Joseph loved the Scriptures and sought to live in a manner pleasing to the Lord.

We also believe that Joseph was a fine man because of the sacred trust God gave him as the one to be highly influential in the life of Jesus during His youth. Joseph certainly had a positive influence on Jesus because just as Joseph loved the Word of God so did Jesus.

Joseph was also merciful in imitation of “the Father of mercies” (2 Corinthians 1:3). Prior to learning about the miraculous conception of Jesus, and after learning she was pregnant, Joseph might have called for Mary to be put to death as an adulteress, according to Leviticus 20:10. His merciful spirit along with his love for Mary halted any such action on his part.

Further, Joseph was submissive to God’s strange providence. We have no idea of the price Joseph paid for marrying Mary who was likely harshly judged by society for her perceived “sin”. Joseph took her reputation on himself and did as the Lord commanded him.

There is no doubt that Joseph suffered as the fiancé—and later husband—of Mary. However it was the will of God that concerned Joseph and not his own convenience or reputation.

We do not know when or if Joseph fully learned the purposes of God in his life. All he knew at one point was what the next step was to walk in obedience to God.

We need to follow the example of Joseph in doing the will of God even when we do not understand it or know the reasons we walk a different way from others.

May you find grace today to do the Lord’s will regardless of how unusual or difficult it may be. Learn to trust the Lord when you cannot trace Him.

Chance?

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.
Proverbs 16:33 (NIV)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree
that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
(This was the first census that took place
while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
And everyone went to their own town to register.
Luke 2:1-3 (NIV)

It was prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea (Micah 5:2). However, Joseph—the legal father of Jesus—and Mary His mother, were living in Nazareth near the time of Jesus’ birth.

In order for God’s prophecy to be fulfilled, the Lord put it into the heart of Caesar Augustus to take a census of his kingdom at just the right time. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that God directs the actions of even ruling kings (Proverbs 21:1).  Hence we believe that nothing is left to “chance”.

The Bible teaches that nothing is left to blind irrational forces. Life events are all under the authority of a sovereign God Who rules everything according to His own will (Ephesians 1:11).

Remarkable comfort is to be found in realizing how God is involved in every detail of our lives and that nothing happens without His involvement.

Certainly the Roman ruler at the time of Jesus’ birth acted freely as far as he knew. However God not only chose who would be our Lord’s earthly parents, He organized the detail to get them to the very place where His Son would be born.

What a blessed truth that nothing takes the Lord by surprise. Even the kings of the earth do His sovereign will. When some apparent disaster comes our way, we may be certain it passed before the eye of our God and He caused it to happen.

Certainly it was most inconvenient for Joseph and Mary to travel by foot all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem when Mary was so close to delivering her child. But they knew their suffering was to fulfil the promise of God concerning the location of Jesus’ birth.

They submitted to their difficulties in that journey knowing God was in charge and that nothing happened by “chance”. May we have a similar attitude to our sorrows in life.

What a Difference!

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth
“will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen.
Revelation 1:7 (NIV)

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2:7 (NIV)

The first coming of Jesus is incredibly different from what it will be like when He comes the second time. When our Lord came the first time it was a very private advent and rare are the historical references to our Lord by secular historians. Only the four Gospels give detail concerning Him.

When our Lord comes the second time “every eye shall see Him”. Only a few thousand people came near Jesus at His first coming. All humanity from every generation shall be assembled before Him when He returns.

His first coming was to act as the “Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world”. When He comes again He will be the Judge of sin and of all who have chosen to remain in their sins.

When our Lord first appeared, only an angel made the announcement to some lowly shepherds. When He returns, all the host of heavenly angels shall sing and shout and trumpets will be blown to make the announcement.

When our Lord came, creation continued to labour under the curse of Genesis 3. When He returns, creation shall be redeemed, the curse lifted, and all that was lost in the first Adam shall be reinstated (Romans 5).

Were it not for this amazing transformation at the second coming, Christians would be of all people the most miserable. Our great longing and desire is to be rid of this sinful nature and have the complete freedom of God’s children as described in Romans 8:18-23.

Pray for patience as you suffer in this life Christian. You know that all the pain, suffering, and sorrow will soon be removed when Jesus returns.

Celebrate the truth that Jesus came the first time and fulfilled all the promises of that advent. Because He was faithful to those promises, we may trust Him for all the promises surrounding His second Advent. The One Who has called us is trustworthy and shall do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).