Saturday, December 26, 2009


Three questions:

1. Have you ever really been truly scared over something you saw or heard that caused you to literally "shake in your boots?"

2. What would it take to make you leave your job or other important task and go to a place to go where something extra ordinary had taken place?

3. What kind of "gossip" would it take to send you running to a neighbor or friend to tell it?

Scriptures to consider: Luke 2:8-20

CONSIDER THIS, that it was just these kinds of questions that were answered by a group of shepherds who were WATCHING over the sheep on a hillside outside of Bethlehem on a certain night over 2000 years ago. Their responsibility was the WATCHCARE of a flock that they owned or that someone had given into their care. They were to WATCH for anything that would endanger those sheep, to provide a WATCH for good pasture and water to meet the needs of the flock.

In the midst of this task perhaps they had the occasion at night to gaze into the heavens and wonder at the vastness of it all. Maybe as they looked, they even wondered about their purpose in the whole of creation's existence, or perhaps they just took life a day at a time, with no idea of their importance in creation's movement. Which ever, their WATCHING on that certain night took on a significance they could not have dreamed!

Angels appeared in the sky and caused them to quake in fear, falling to their faces. Then came the words, "Don't be afraid!" Can you imagine their reaction? Put yourself in their sandals. Maybe they were thinking what I thought when I read it. "Yeah, sure. That's easy for you to say!" Then the news that was shared about a king, born in a stable, laying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. The information did not jive with their limited knowledge of kings and their births. They knew stables, and mangers, and swaddling clothes, and this information did not fit with kings and palaces, and such an announcement certainly not given to lowly shepherds!

Now, these shepherds did, in spite of their fear, respond to follow the directions given by the angels, to leave their flocks and seek the new born king, and having found Him, they WORSHIPPED! The results of their WATCHING was WORSHIP, and it was not confined to the stable. Their coming and sight of the Lord proclaimed by the angel led to worship before the Child and was continued as they returned to their flocks. They praised and glorified God for the things that were revealed and that they experienced.

True WORSHIP is not just done when one enters the church building, or stable, as the case may be, for service to others and God has WORSHIP as its base root meaning. Their actions challenge our times and places of humility before the Lord in WORSHIP. Their coming and sight of the Lord fueled their WORSHIP's continued activity as they went back to work with the flock. The question for us is, "when we have left our work to come to worship, do we return to work and continue to worship, or have we left it behind at the church's door?" The shepherds challenge us to come and WORSHIP and then, having done so, return to our tasks with new habits of praise that glorify God through what we do and say.

Now, the WATCHERS turned WORSHIPPERS are given a new task to perform within the context of their normal work as shepherds. They were to become WITNESSES of all they had seen as it had been revealed to them. They were to be spreaders of the good news they had WITNESSED. They were to "gossip" the "gospel" message. And they did so!

The question now is - Have we as WATCHERS seen God anew today? Have we truly WORSHIPPED Him Whose truth is revealed? Are we going to go in that spirit of WORSHIP and WITNESS what we have seen and heard, as it has been revealed to us?

It is OUR ROAD TO BETHLEHEM. May we travel it faithfully, just as the shepherds did!

Be encouraged today as you move on this road.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I don't know about your preparations for a trip, but I am the world's worse "over-packer" when I get ready to be on the road anywhere. Ask my family if we've had experience packing for a trip. Their first response will be, "Which trip? We've spent our lives on the road or in the air going somewhere!" And for everyone of those, we carried along everything but the proverbial kitchen sink, and I still wonder if the weight of one of those trunks did not betray that we had even put that in for good measure.

I am making preparations to go to Israel in the near future with a few of my pastor colleagues. We've been told that our trip will be a busy road tour with teaching points where each of us will be taking a turn. The instructions were to pack light, as we will be moving from place to place with our gear. My thoughts at this point are, "What will I give up that I would normally take?" and "What rules do I need in mind as we travel?" Having lived overseas has made me fully aware that there are many "things" I just won't need or use and that each place has its own set of culturally determined rules "of the road."

The two words that describe my need to trim-back what I carry of life's stuff or lifestyle are SACRIFICE and SUBMISSION. Unless I am willing to give up some of what I call my possessions or submit to the accepted rules where I go, I'll not be permitted to participate in the third word's priority - SERVICE!

This brings me to the first couple of travelers that we meet in connection with the ROADS TO BETHLEHEM. Beginning nine months prior to Bethlehem's nativity event, Mary and Joseph were called to walk down the road of SACRIFICE and SUBMISSION to be of SERVICE to the Christ of Bethlehem.

Mary was called upon to SACRIFICE all she had known as a simple maiden of Nazareth, and her future plans for a traditional life with Joseph in the village. Her encounter with the angel Gabriel brought first fear, then doubt and faith as she was given information that to her seemed impossible. SACRIFICE describes what knowledge she had to give up to believe in a conception by Holy Spirit overshadowing. SACRIFICE also describes the good name and reputation she would lose in the community when she was found to be pregnant before her wedding was consummated with Joseph. But all of this she to put behind her in SUBMISSION to her commission to be of SERVICE to God, as shown in her words, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38)

Joseph, too, faced his own need to SACRIFICE upon learning that Mary was expecting a child before their marriage was officially sealed. To keep her from perhaps facing the judgement of being stoned for her supposed immorality, he would privately put her away. His encounter with the angel who informed him of the truth of the situation brought both SACRIFICE and SUBMISSION to follow the same commission of SERVICE in becoming the earthly father of God's Son. Matthew 1:24 records, "Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife."

So, these two entered upon the road to Bethlehem and the birth of the Son of God that they would name Jesus.

As we consider their preparations and the applications to our own lives there are astounding parallels which should be weighed. Consider first the SERVICE Mary was commissioned to give in the Lord's incarnation into life. As she was to be the vehicle of Christ's birth, so is every one who is called upon to believe in the reality of Christ's coming, for each one is called to allow Christ to be born anew in them. It's the new birth of Christ in the heart of every one who is SUBMISSIVE to the call of faith in Christ. The world also calls this impossible, but this idea must be SACRIFICED even as Mary's was. And further SACRIFICE is called for, as in the case of Mary and Joseph, who faced community condemnation for broken traditions. One's standing in the world community will face persecution, as well, when the life commitment to Christ's new birth is made known. But this must be so, for it is the rules of the road to Bethlehem's good news to be given to the world.

The question remains for each of us today, "At what point on the road to Bethlehem do we find ourselves?" For you who has yet to enter the road, Christ is calling you to SACRIFICE all you have known, to be SUBMISSIVE to God's call to repentance and faith, and the new birth of Christ in your life, and inter into His SERVICE as a new child of God. If you already have begun the journey, perhaps it is to lighten your worldly load by SACRIFICE, and SUBMIT to His continued call to faithful SERVICE as a spreader of the "good tidings which shall be to all people." (Luke 2:10)

Be encouraged today and look for another group on the road to Bethlehem next week.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Main Highway between Jerusalem and Bethlehem

Each year with the approach of the Christmas season, each of us takes a special journey back to the stable in an ancient town called Bethlehem. For most, it is not a trip called for by a star in the sky, nor an angel's visitation or announcement, nor even a census called-for by a Roman ruler named Caesar Augustus.

Sadly, it is a journey that is prompted by the commercial enterprises of our modern age, seeking to capitalize on the gift-giving spirit which inhabits this time of year. The road they take is lined with brightly-lit malls and stores, each full of the latest offerings to be purchased, packaged in bright paper and bows, and placed under a tree in someone's home, awaiting excited hands that will tear-off the wrapping and possess what's inside.

The closest that many will come to the stable will be a small replica of the cene depicted in the Gospel of Luke, a carved wood or plastic model that sits on a mantel or under the tree amid the presents. Many will not even hear the story of that first Christmas read, nor understand the true meaning of the season's celebration. For them, it is just another "road-side" attraction to break the monotony of a journey that has no particular destination.

Not so, the first Bethlehem journey and the roads that the individual participants took to get there. Their roads had a destination, and it was for them a life-changing one.

Your road to Bethlehem this year can be a life-changing one, as well. Follow my blogs in the next few days and examine the roads that the ORIGINAL PEOPLE followed as they made their way through that stable manger to their purposed destiny.

Be encouraged this Christmas, won't you?