Christmas Heroes: Joseph

I’ve been thinking a lot about heroes recently.  And I know that it sounds cliché, but it’s true, “heroes come in all shapes and sizes.”  When we think about heroes, it’s normal for our minds to gravitate to the most common heroes.  A highly trained surgeon who expertly carves an invading tumour out of your body saving your life.  A fearless police officer who blocks the evil blows of a heartless criminal.  A teacher who goes the extra mile with your child when they are struggling educationally.  A nurse who goes above and beyond to care for your sick loved one.

But it’s not so natural for us to see true heroes in unlikely places.

How about the person who struggles with mental illness, but perseveres against all odds?  Would you ever consider an ‘addict’ as a hero?  I do, because I know a few.  They work hard at recovery, but face a daily uphill battle in the journey to wholeness.  I know lots of heroes who carry on in faithfulness to the Lord despite a soul crushing burden of grief, loss, and remorse.  Not so dramatic a hero, but real nonetheless, are the single moms who sacrificially devote themselves to the well-being of their child.  I wish I had space to tell you about the vast numbers of heroes right here in this local church.  If you slow down a bit and open your eyes (and your heart too) you’ll be amazed at the heroes who sit right next to you in church every Sunday. 

It’s true as true, YOU, the church family at City Centre are heroes to me.  You are weathering the health and political crisis of COVID-19 with courage and grace.  You have chosen to make God’s Word your guide and have resisted getting caught up in the divisive, judgmental, and caustic culture of our world.  Press on everybody!  Go, saints, go!!

I’m very much looking forward to our Advent sermon series this year.  It’s why I’m thinking about heroes.  For the month of December, we are going to examine five people who are “Christmas Heroes.”  They are Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, Elizabeth, and THE GREAT HERO of our faith, Jesus!  He’s our forever Champion, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

This Sunday, I invite you to join us @ 9AM or 11AM as we focus on Joseph, the husband of Mary and the earthly father of Jesus.  The Bible calls him a “just” man.  The Biblical account also reveals Joseph as a brave man with a tender heart.  And the interesting thing about Joseph is that he wasn’t a prince or a political leader.  He wasn’t a sage or a scholar.  He was a “tekton” (carpenter/craftsmen).  He came from the rank and file of the “blue collar” work-a-hard-day, earn-by-the-sweat-of-your-brow stock of a man.  Yet he was the one entrusted to guard, guide, and provide for Mary and Jesus.  He was the man who stepped up to nurture and train Jesus until it was time for him to step away and fade into the background.

Christmas is a perfect time to think about the amazing and ordinary people who were chosen to set the stage for the greatest story ever told.  They are true heroes to fuel our faith. 

See ya Sunday church family,
Pastor Deric

Be Encouraged

It’s sad to watch good people lose their courage, and sadder still to see fools gain it.  The twin commandments “do not fear, be strong and courageous” appear nearly 200 times in the Bible.  Evidently, losing one’s courage is a serious spiritual problem.  And the Bible delivers the antidote to loosing one’s courage.  It’s called encouragement.  It doesn’t cost a dime.  Anyone can give it or receive it, and it has great power in its working.  In fact, as a student of the Bible for many years now, I’m amazed at how prominent and effective this simple procedure can be for us to enact. 

A short digression for a moment.  In our western world evil is encouraged much more than the good.  It’s not enough that we simply tolerate what the Bible calls sin, evil is championed by its advocates making it increasingly difficult to discern between right and wrong.  God responded with a harsh judgment and a promise when this same scenario was repeated in ancient Israel.  Speaking to the “false prophets” who were misleading the Jews morally and spiritually, the Lord said, “Because you disheartened the righteous with your lies, when I had brought them no grief, and because you encouraged the wicked not to turn from their evil ways and so save their lives, therefore you will no longer see false visions or practice divination.  I will save my people from your hands.  And then you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 13)

Now for the good news.  A simple, but ancient, idea can turn a fearful person into a courageous witness for what is good and right.  It’s called encouragement.  Before you dismiss my simple suggestion, hear me out.

Everybody needs encouragement on their journey of faith because there are so many burdens to bear and barriers to climb in order to live the life of faith.  We all remember the famous word that the LORD gave to His mighty military General Joshua.  “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  If Moses’ protégé needed an encouragement boost before undertaking the giant task of leading the Jews into their promised land, all of us do.  God took a moment just to encourage Joshua.  What a cool picture. 

And that’s what the Bible commands every Christian to do for one another, “encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3).  In the daily battle of the Christian life, we lose our courage.  We grow weary and weak.  And the Bible says that “en-couragement” has the power to give us strength.  I know you see the etymology of the word itself, “in – courage.”  To encourage is to put faith and courage into another person’s heart. 

In fact, in the wisdom of God, when He engineered the brilliant idea of the church, He planned encouragement as one of the tools believers can use to increase faith in one another.  All the way through the New Testament you will find that the early church relied on the ministry of encouragement to build the church up in faith.  As the apostles fanned out in the ancient world preaching the Gospel and establishing churches they would often circle back and check on the churches especially to encourage them.  Acts 14 records one of many such trips.  Luke records that the apostles were “strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.  “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. (Acts 14)

Of the many ways that the Bible promises to encourage us (there are many) the ONE greatest encouragement any of us can receive is to embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Hebrews Chapter 6 tells us that we can be “greatly encouraged because we have fled to take hold of the hope set before us.  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  Greatly encouraged in Jesus! 

Do you need courage?  Have you lost hope?  Are you tired and weary of being fearful?  Jesus waits to forgive you, receive you and encourage you every step of the way home. 

Be encouraged, church family.  I look forward to studying God’s Word with you in one of our two services on Sunday morning.
Pastor Deric