Thursday, 21 December 2017

If the Thought of Christmas With Your Family Makes You Cringe



Some of you will have family circumstances that are less than ideal heading into Christmas. You may be feeling the weight of the coming gatherings begin to push you down and rob of you of the “festive spirit”. You may wonder if you are the only one not dreaming of dancing sugarplums, but instead losing sleep on what waits for you around the corner. 

Take heart my friend. 

Christmas is not about an idyllic scene from a movie with the whole family chortling arm in arm as they belt out carols by the roaring fire in sweet harmony. 

It is not about whatever image of perfection you have made it out to be in your mind. 

Christmas is about a God, who loved his people so much, that he stepped into the mess of humanity to redeem it all. Christmas is about dirty, filthy, unlovable people being saved by a mighty and powerful God even though they did not deserve any of it.

 “...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Christmas is about redemption. Period.

God’s redemption can bring about all the peace, joy, hope, and love that we associate with Christmas and beyond. But, before we could even see his grace for what it was, it first had to enter into the darkness of a fallen world. Right there, in the middle of the darkest of days of Israel, came the birth of the Prince of Peace, born in the middle of the sins of humanity. 

Redemption happened when God stepped out of his perfect kingdom and walked in the darkness alongside his children to save us.

If you’re feeling blue, or discouraged, or embarrassed of the less than perfect picture you will walk into this season, let God’s redemptive grace wash you anew. Allow yourself to let go of “perfect” and embrace the mess knowing God’s redemptive plan is still at work in all of us. Despite the mess we may be in, God is still a God who will roll up his sleeves and step into our darkness to redeem. 

There is joy in knowing his grace has not grown stale. 
There is hope in knowing He has not forgotten any one of us.
There is peace in knowing He will not give up on the lost.
HE is love that abounds so deeply it can wash over the gnashes of hurt and pain, cleansing us into holiness.

Blessings on you all this Christmas. See you in the new year!

Love,
Sarah


Photo by Kaboompics // Karolina from Pexels 

Sunday, 10 December 2017

A Season of Transition


It was late August when the first leaf began to display the faintest tinge of yellow. 

“Look,” my daughter exclaimed in sheer glee, “summer is almost over!”

I knew fall was around the corner, there was a crispness to the morning air that had not been there until then. But that’s not what she was excited for. No, her excitement was for a day much later than autumn, and beyond the days of crispy leaves. Her mind had already focused in on Christmas. 

As the leaves became speckled in oranges, reds, and yellows over the coming weeks her anticipation bloomed into daily musings on the coming Christmas season.

After much negotiations her and I, one of us more than the other, agreed we needed to wait until after Thanksgiving before we turned our thoughts to a new season. 

The turkey had barely been put away (keep in mind, we have our Thanksgiving in October), when she promptly began asking if we could set up the tree. 

*sigh* 

She was relentless.

Finally, the day arrived, sooner than I would have liked, but much too delayed for her, where our living room became an explosion of lights, ribbons, and all things that glitter. She was in her glory dancing around the room! She thoughtfully gave ranking order to each fragile heirloom and decided which needed to be in plain sight, and which could be tucked neatly scattered with wild abandonment into a corner. 

That night both girls asked for a few extra minutes to stay up and “discuss” Christmas. This was a serious matter of the heart that needed addressing before sleep filled their little eyes. 

We are now into advent and the expectancy of the season has only heightened. 

As I sat here listening to her latest theory on how the unfolding of Christmas morning festivities will be carried out, my eyes focused on the nativity scene spread out behind her. 

No doubt, I am aware that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus. The focus at the center of this season is the fact that God sent his Son to save all of humanity and redeem creation. But, perhaps I have forgotten that Christmas is a reminder that we live in a transitional season. What fall is to winter, Christmas is to the second coming of Christ.

In front of us lays a season to celebrate the first coming of Jesus, but the story doesn’t end December 26th when decorations begin to be packed away. This season is a reminder that, like the yellowing of the leaves, there is another season right behind this one. 

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. (Matthew 24:32-33)

We have a wedding to be prepared for! Our bridegroom is at the gate awaiting his returning to us for a second time. He is the... 

Wonderful Councelor
Mighty God
Everlasting Father, and
Prince of Peace

...and He is all ours! 

He is waiting in anticipation for his bride, but am I? My daughter’s zealousness has caused me to stop and wonder if I’m making time to get excited for him with childlike anticipation? 

Have I, like her, managed to see what is still to come? Do I make time to allow it to wash over my thoughts?

Or have I fallen into the humdrum of the seasonal festivities? 

Do I share her enthusiasm for the long awaited most glorious season that is yet to come?

What JOY should fill our hearts as we pause to consider who is waiting at the gate for us! 

What JOY to know that whatever this season has to offer in all its splendor, the best season is yet to come. 


Christmas is a reminder, not just of what we have today, but that we live in a time when all of creation awaits the second return of Christ. Let us be reminded of this hope and joy long after the decorations are placed back in their bins. 



Photo credit: alisa anton @ unsplash.com

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

5 W's of Evangelism



... because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 

For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 

For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? 

And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?

And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 

And how are they to preach unless they are sent? 

As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 

(Romans 10:9-15 ESV emphasis mine)



WHO IS CALLED TO SPREAD THE GOSPEL MESSAGE?

It is the call of EVERY believer to make disciples. Some of you will be gifted in evangelism, some of you will fumble your way through it. Either way, you can go knowing that it is the work of the Holy Spirit working through you that will speak to the hearts of the lost, not by your eloquent words. And thank goodness for that, am I right?!

...But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect...(1 Peter 3:15)

WHAT EXACTLY IS EVANGELISM?

Evangelism comes from the Greek word euaggelion. When this word is translated into a noun is means “gospel”, but when translated into a verb it becomes “announce” or “bring good news”.

In simple terms, the bad news is that as sinful humans we are separated from God. The Good News is that God sent his Son, who paid the price for our sins so that anyone who turns from their old nature can be assured of our freedom from condemnation and live eternally with our Father in Heaven.

...For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 10:10-11)

WHEN ARE WE CALLED TO EVANGELIZE?

This one is more of a matter of listening to the gentle tug of the Holy Spirit, than a concrete answer. Perhaps you are out and someone is suddenly standing in front of you pouring out their life story, you are wondering what is going on when suddenly you feel that prompting in your heart. Or, maybe God gives you tunnel vision to see just one person in a crowded room that you are to interact with.

There are many ways God can grab your attention, but the bottom line is be obedient...even when you are shaking in your boots. It’s ok. Remember, Moses led a nation with a speech impediment, because God was on his side. He is on your side too!

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

WHERE ARE WE CALLED TO EVANGELIZE?

Right where you are.

Some of us will be called to a varying assortment of places around the globe, but where you are TODAY is your mission field. Perhaps one day you will be called to serve elsewhere, perhaps you are even keenly aware of where you will be called, but your mission today is where your feet are. It could be the grocery story, your kid’s school, at the gym, the mall, the library, your walk around the block, the bank teller- I think you get it. 

There are people all over this world, in every neck of the woods that are hungry to hear the Good News. You don’t need to travel far to find someone whose heart is being stirred by the Holy Spirit.

 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. (Mark 16:15)

WHY ARE WE CALLED TO EVANGELIZE?

If you are a professing Christian you know the very best news that this world can possibly offer!! You have hope of an eternal future with a Heavenly Father. There is no other message like this in the world! Trust that! 

If you know this message and it is what shapes your daily life than you belong to the Church. God made US His hands, feet, mouth, ears, and body. We are here to bring a message of hope to a bleak and grisly world. It is from your mouth that God’s Truth will speak out over the lies that lost souls have believed. God will use you to point them towards the door that He is patiently knocking at. The Holy Spirit will use you in your willingness to spread the Gospel!

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS...

Remember that faith is a journey we are all on. Some are just getting starting, some are a little further along, and others are much further down the road. When you meet someone who you know God has ordained to be in front of you, be listening for His guiding words as you interact. Maybe your not-so-accidental encounter was only meant to plant the seed of the gospel. Do not be discouraged if you only make it as far as a prayer for a person in need. It is the beginning of a journey for them. Perhaps you will meet up with someone who is further in faith and wrestling with answers when God brings you to them. Whatever the case may be, listen for the promptings and thoughts that the Lord plants in your heart and mind as the conversation unfolds.


Photo credit: Toa Heftiba @ Unsplash