Exactly who were the prophets of ancient days, and what are they able to speak into our lives today?
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When people hear that I visited Amsterdam on a sabbatical from teaching preaching at a theological seminary, they often ask, "Did you go to the red-light district?" I smile and answer, "Yes, I went to church there." On a brisk November morning, my wife and I attended services at the Oude Kirk, the oldest church structure in the city that dates back to the 1500s-the state-approved pleasure district has grown up around it. There we worshipped with a small but proud congregation in a central space within the great unheated building, surrounded by the graves of past generations of worshippers, their flat stone markers serving as the floor. The preacher read the story of Jacob wrestling the man, the whole story from Genesis 32, two times in two different translations. I had learned enough by that time to know what was going on.
The Bible often is read poorly in our church services; but when it is read well, it can minister as deeply as a Spirit-empowered sermon. Unfortunately, in many churches public reading of the Bible is little more than homiletical throat clearing before the sermon; but as W.E. Sangster asserted: "Bible reading offers the widest scope for the enrichment of public worship, and it is a great pity that the Scriptures are often so badly readWhen the Book is well read and made to live for the people, it can do for them what sermons often fail to d It can be the very voice of God to their souls."
In his book The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer made the following observation: "It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply." To put it another way, God cannot do much with people who have not passed through a time of suffering, sickness, sacrifice or struggle. How can we be a blessing to people who are going through the hardships of life if we ourselves somehow have been exempted from such hardships?
You are called to a daunting mission. Who has called you? What is the intimidating task at hand? God has called you to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. Paul, the great apostle, missionary and preacher asked the Corinthians a revealing question in 2 Corinthians 2:16 concerning this inconceivable task: "Who is sufficient for these things?"
Figuratively speaking, many of us have been impregnated by God. There is a dream, a business, a ministry, a book, or some great work that He is growing within us. Unfortunately for the average person, spiritual pregnancies are even more difficult to handle than natural births. But, as this sermon attests, the message of Christmas can help you deal with the contradiction of your inner reality and your external circumstances.