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THE BIBLE TELLS PEOPLE TO REJOICE ALWAYS

Posted by Karen Hansen on OP2er @ 2:06 PM

Faith Forum Article by Pastor Timothy Lourash printed March 25, 2017 in Curry Coastal Pilot - used by permission

I cannot imagine a life without joy. I think we all need joy in our lives, especially in today's culture. We as Christians want the culture of heaven, which is established in celebration.

Scripture contains various commands for us to rejoice.  The command to rejoice is just as strong as any command found in scripture.  Rejoicing and giving thanks is good for the soul.  It creates in us a core that isn't easily affected by the circumstances of life.  All of heaven rejoices in the presence of God. We who are god's children should join in the celebration of heaven.

Joy is the nature of God and the atmosphere around His throne. 

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."           1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" - Philippians 4:4 (NIV)

Rejoicing is the will of God for your life; it's the desire of God for every believer. The power of joy cannot be overestimated.  The question is always how, when life seems to take us down or steal our Joy?  We worry, we struggle with our desire to control everything, and long to have a guarantee that life will work out.  The problem with that is we will always have struggles; we can't control everything, we can't control anything, especially the things that matter the most: our relationships, health and lasting security.

Ho do we experience joy, with all the uncertainties of life?  We recognize that we are not God - and relinquish control of our lives.  This is where we learn to exercise our faith.  If our faith is not in ourselves, or in the things we gather, but in Christ alone, why do we waste time and energy trying to control all the items of our lives that we cannot control anyway?

So, let us rejoice!  So let us practice our faith and rejoice!  The perspective that we get through our rejoicing is our best aid to faith.  The joyless areas of our lives must be submitted to God.  Reclaim you inner thoughts as a place of rejoicing.  Joy is something that is unaffected by circumstances.  It is an orientation of the heart with faith in God.  Joy is a place of contentment, confidence and hope.  It's a state of mind.  If joy is a part of heaven and a command of God, then we must reflect that as those who wear his name.

We don't express joy and rejoicing out of naïve thinking that life will not have problem.  We express joy while enduring the trials of life, and our faith in God and His goodness.  Do we truly trust in that goodness?  Do we truly have a deep, abiding faith in God?  Is that just something we say but have never learned to rest our lives on that truth?

If you are struggling to experience joy in all of life - the good and the bad - then I ask, "Where is your faith?"  Have joy today!  Quit trying to be God and give all things over to him and focus on the culture of heaven and rejoice.  Again, I say rejoice!

The Joy of the Lord is for the Present

Posted by Karen Hansen on OP3er @ 3:53 PM

Article by Pastor Timothy Lourash originally published Dec. 24, 2016 in Faith Forum of Curry Coastal Pilot - used by permission

"His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy spirit and prophesied: Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.  He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us - to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.  And you my child will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.  And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel."  Luke 1:67-80 NIV

Zechariah was a priest, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, he became a prophet.  The word "prophesy" describes three kinds of speaking: the telling of future events, the telling of the truth in the areas of ethics and theology, and the resounding praise of God.  this section of scripture is called Zechariah's song, and in it, all three kinds of prophecy are found.

I would like to focus on the truth-telling aspect of Zechariah's song and, more particularly, in verse 75 that says, "through the power of the Christ child, we have the power to serve him without fear but with holiness and righteousness all of our days."  In these statements God promises holiness and righteousness to all who are his children.  In the terms of holiness and righteousness, we see the basic focuses of the Christian life. 

Holiness describes how we are to relate to Christ.  To serve him in holiness means to have an inward nature that has been conformed to God's nature and will.  Righteousness describes how we are to relate to others.   To serve God in righteousness means to be upright in all of our human relationships. So to live a life of holiness and righteousness before God means to not only have a passion for God, but also a passion for good relationships with our fellow man.

The excitement of being able to live a life that is both inwardly and outwardly reconciled to God is the core of the gospel.  What is interesting is that Zechariah is not talking about some future blessing that is in store for God's people.  It is for now. We are to live a life of holiness and righteousness before God all of our days. 

This Christmas season is a great time to ask yourself, "Am I living out a life of holiness?  Are my heart and passions directed toward pleasing God by the power of his Holy Spirit?  Is my life reflecting a life of righteousness?  When I look at my earthly relationships, are they upright an pleasing to God?"   If these things are true, I can walk in the joy of the Lord - not in the future, but now - because I have found the path of peace.

SETTING A CHRIST-LIKE EXAMPLE

Posted by Karen Hansen on OP3er @ 3:07 PM

Article by Pastor John McKenzie originally published in Oct. 1, 2016 Faith Forum of Curry Coastal Pilot - used by permission

"So who do you Christians hate this week?"  As a Bible- believing follower of Christ, it is very disappointing to be asked this question.   Despite being told that the comment was made in Jest, I stopped and thought about it, and realized that this very well could be some of the world's perspective on Christianity.   I do not believe that it is the sum of who we are, but I am constantly bombarded on social media sites with reminders of why Christians are viewed in such a negative way.  I see people who are very vocal about their Christianity also being very vocal about who and what they hate.

Christ's sacrifice on the cross allows us to have freedom from the bondage of certain lifestyles.  It is up to us to help others understand and embrace this freedom as well.   Many times telling the "good news" to people who have not yet realized the fullness of God's love for them through Christ becomes a "do not" lecture.   As Christians, our focus should not be on these specific actions done by non-believers, but on what God did for us.

The way for lifestyles to change is through the Holy spirit's work, as a person enters into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  The focus should be on why people change, not that we disagree with what they are doing.   As Christians we should recognize the Bible as our authority and we are given the command to love one another 11 times in the New Testament.  Not only should we do this but this should be our defining characteristic.

Jesus tells us in John 13:34-35 "A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV)

The language used here is important.  When Jesus says "as I have loved you," he is setting the standard for what this love should look like.  Jesus showed us this love in the form of the cross.

In Koine Greek there were several different words for love.   The word used by Jesus in this passage is the Greek verb agapao and its noun form agape.   When broken down to its roots it can be translated as a self-sacrificing love, one that puts others first.  This love that we are commanded to show is one where we put others first.

Philippians 2:3 says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather in humility value others above yourselves..."   This is how we as Christians are to stand out, by replicating the love that Christ showed us.

We need to take Christ's example and love - not offering others this love with conditions or stipulations but instead love them first.  In doing so we become different than our culture.  In doing so we remind people that we as Christians should emulate Jesus Christ.

THEORY OF LIGHT DESCRIBES BODY OF CHRIST

Posted by Karen Hansen on OP2er @ 2:01 PM

This article by Pastor Joshua Farmer originally published in July 30, 2016 Faith Forum of Curry Coastal Pilot.  Used by permission

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.' " (John 8:12)

I find it interesting that Jesus related himself to light.  In fact, throughout the Bible this dualism between light and darkness is associated with God and evil more than 200 times.  Upon further study of these passages, there appears to be a clear interpretation which suggests that light is used as a metaphor representing the message of God, and darkness is used as a metaphor representing that which is opposite of God's message.

God's message was given to humanity throughout scripture through the law and the prophets, but it was fully revealed through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.  It is the message of hope to a world lost in darkness, the message of salvation from our sins and freedom from our guilt.  As Christ's followers, this message has now been given to us and we have the responsibility to take this message, or this light, to the ends of the earth.

During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "You are the light of the world.   A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."  (Matthew 5:14-16)   Therefore, the message of this light is the message of salvation through Jesus Christ, which has been bestowed unto us so that the world may know God through the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

However, if we take this metaphor of light further, it is amazing how much physical light can teach us about the light of Christ and the message we as Christ followers are spreading.   In 1905 Albert Einstein developed the Quantum Theory of Light.  Basically, this theory suggests that light and matter consist of tiny particles with wavelike properties.  Billions of these tiny light particles, known as photons, exist all around us.  Even in darkness, there are still billions of photons present.  Darkness is the absence of visible light, but it is not necessarily the absence of photons.  We experience dimness and darkness simply because there are fewer photons and the photons which do exist are scattered and can no longer trigger the receptacles in our eyes.   Thus, these tiny scattered photons are absorbed by the vastness of space.

When photons are numerous and focused, they create a light wave which produces visible light and we experience brightness, thus having the ability to see clearly.   The same is true for the light of Christ that we carry throughout the world.  If we as the body of Christ are scattered, then the message of salvation is invisible - unrecognizable by those we pass by in the world.  Even though there may be many of us, if we are separated in our theologies and practices, then we are easily absorbed by the vastness of philosophical and theological thought.

However, if we are united then the light of Christ will act as a wave that overwhelms the darkness and the world will be able to see clearly the message of salvation, which we hold.   Therefore, the brightness or effectiveness of our message, depends greatly on the church being unified in heart, practice and message.

Just before Jesus was arrested, Jesus prayed not only for his disciples, but he also prayed for us, hi church.  Jesus said, "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me."  (John 17:20-21)  If we are to bring the message of salvation through Jesus Christ to the world, then we must bring that message with the same unity as the Trinity.  Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in complete unity, so we must also be in complete unity so that the message of Jesus Christ, which we hold in our hearts, can be made known to the world.

WHO NEEDS TO BE WELCOMED TO THE DINNER TABLE?

Posted by Karen Hansen on OP4er @ 4:05 PM

This article by Associate Family Pastor Josh Dees was originally published in the May 28, 2016 Faith Forum column of the Curry Coastal Pilot.  Used by permission.

The dinner table is a special place.  We have so many memories around our dinner tables, but most importantly, those memories would be nothing without the people sitting there.  Our dinner tables are unique; no one is like the other.  They are sacred and intimate spaces.  You wouldn't just let anyone sit at your dinner table.  They must be known by you.  They must be trusted.  They must share some strong bond with you.

When you think about it, who you let at your dinner table says a lot about who you are.  It tells us who we care about the most.  It tells us about who we trust.  It tells us what kind of people we allow in our life.  So who are you letting at your table right now?

Take a moment to read Acts 2:42-47.  It paints a beautiful picture of the infant church as it was freshly empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Despite our differences these days in the church, and there are many, I believe the church can still look like that today.   We have been called to something much bigger than our theological convictions and our denominational stances.  We have been called to further the kingdom of God together.  We can continue to shut each other out and stand by our convictions and stances, or we can watch the kingdom of God flourish before our eyes when we look upon the body of Christ with the eyes of Jesus.  God's spirit moving through us allows us to see everyone as a son and daughter of God.  Our complaints about each other's theology or the way they "do church" turns into a desire to look for the very best in everyone.

You see, sometimes we hinder the Holy Spirit's work in our life when we choose to ignore the uniqueness and diversity of the church around us.  It is like the dog who drinks out of the toilet bowl and says, "Wow! It doesn't get any better than this!"  We go for petty alternatives that don't even compare to the wonderful privileges that come when we see the church through the eyes of Jesus.  This church, the body of Christ, each and every believer, has something special to bring to our tables.

When Christ left this earth he didn't leave us hanging.  He sent us his spirit.  What's better is that his spirit is not only with us but in us.  What a wonderful gift and responsibility.  Together as the body of Christ, we come together to go and make Christ-like disciples among the nations.  We can continue to expand the Holy Spirit's presence in our life if we continue to step out in faith and submit every square inch of our hears to the Lord.  When we do this, we might find ourselves welcoming some people at our table that we would least expect.

So who is at your table today?  Who needs to be welcomed to your table?

erc said...

Posted on OA9er @ 6:45 AM -
The more perspectives you get in your YouTube video http://views-great.com/ the higher of a possibility you've in getting recognitio or more leads

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FOLLOWERS CHANGED WHEN JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD

Posted by Karen Hansen on OP5er @ 5:11 PM

Article by Pastor Josh Farmer originally published in April 9th, 2016 Faith Forum of Curry Coastal Pilot used by permission

The resurrection is the most significant aspect of salvation.  Without the resurrection, the crucifixion would have no significance.  The only reason we know that Jesus Christ saved us from our sins on the cross is because he defeated death in the resurrection.  Jesus demonstrated his power and authority through his resurrection from the grave and only God has the power to overcome death.

If Jesus was not raised form the dead, then Jesus' ministry, message and claim to being the messiah would be insignificant, and death would remain a very real threat.  So the question is this: How do we know that the testimonies of the early Christian church leaders are true?  How do we know that Jesus was raised form the dead?  The answer remains within the reactions of the early Christians and the disciples of Jesus.

Jesus was not the first to claim to be the messiah.  In fact, scripture presents the names of two men who claimed to be of significance in Acts Chapter 5.  During the apostles' trial, Gamaliel addressed the Sanhedrin and mentioned Theudas and Judas the Galilean.  Both of these men spoke well, gathered disciples and demonstrated credibility and authority.  Both of these men were arrested, put on trial, crucified and were buried.  When these two men were arrested, their disciples became afraid and they abandoned their leaders and scattered.

When we examine the events surrounding Jesus' ministry and death, we observe similar occurrences.  Jesus spoke wisely, gathered disciples, demonstrated credibility and authority, was crucified, died and was buried.  His disciples, in fear of persecution and death, abandoned Jesus and scattered.  In fact, of the 12 disciples, Judas betrayed Jesus and handed him over to authorities, Peter denied Jesus three times during Jesus' trial and Thomas would not believe that Jesus rose from the dead unless he saw Jesus for himself and touched his scars.  Eight of the remaining disciples fled and hid when Jesus was arrested.  Only John remained with Jesus and stood next to Mary when Jesus was crucified.

The reactions of Jesus disciples and followers are not surprising.  They are exactly what would be expected under these circumstances.   However, what is not expected is their actions three days after Jesus' brutal death on the cross.

After only three days, all of the disciples and hundreds of Jesus' followers gathered together and began a movement that proclaimed Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.  Suddenly all fear of persecution and death, which originally caused them to scatter when Jesus was arrested, disappeared and they boldly preached to the ends of the known world the salvation of Jesus Christ, even in the face of a very real threat of torture and death.  In fact, all of the 11 remaining disciples, except John, were brutally martyred for their testimony to the resurrection and messiahship of Jesus Christ.  Not only that, but hundreds of Jesus' followers faced this same fate because of their testimony.  So what changed?

What is even more compelling, is the fact that the greatest apostle of them all was a man named Paul who, before he encountered the risen Christ, devoted his life to destroying the Christian faith and the testimony of Jesus Christ.  Paul, who was named Saul before his conversion, was considered to be a great persecutor against the Christian church in Jerusalem.  Acts Chapter 8 says that he "ravaged the church and entered house after house, dragging off men and women and committing them to prison" (ESV)  But, for some reason this Christian-killer and extreme skeptic of the testimony of Jesus Christ suddenly shifted his philosophy, theology, passions and emotions, and became equally devoted to spreading the testimony of Jesus Christ to the ends of the known world.  What changed?

The questions that we now face are these:  What did the disciples, the followers of Christ and the apostle Paul experience?  Why did these experiences create such a dramatic change in philosophy?  And how did their experiences cause such courage, drive and passion in their lives that they would face persecution, torture and death in order to testify and proclaim that Jesus Christ is the son of God?   What changed?

The only explanation for their actions is an encounter with the resurrected Jesus Christ.  The resurrected Jesus Christ would render fear and death irrelevant.  The resurrected Jesus Christ would initiate a movement that would rapidly spread throughout the world.  The resurrected Jesus Christ would provide courage, drive, passion and purpose in these early Christians' lives that would be worth the sacrifices they endured.  These early Christians demonstrated the truth of their testimonies through the sacrifice of their lives.  We know that their testimonies are true because only an encounter with the resurrected Christ would create the passion and conviction in which these men and women lived their lives.

Jesus is risen, death is defeated, fear is obsolete, salvation is here.

gary said...

Posted on OP11er @ 8:39 PM -
How are the group appearances of Jesus to the first Christians any different from the group appearances of the angel Moroni to the first Mormons?

https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/shocking-parallels-between-mormonism-and-early-christianity/

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IDENTIFYING WITH GOD IN HUMAN SUFFERING

Posted by Karen Hansen on OP1er @ 1:48 PM

Article by Pastor Timothy Lourash originally published in March 12, 2016 Faith Forum of Curry Coastal Pilot. Used by permission.

Recently I was on a trip with the church staff and Pastor Farmer got extremely sick and needed to go to the emergency room.  While there we had a great discussion on suffering and God.  The conversation was more theoretical for me in that moment, and extremely practical for Pastor Farmer who was in a great deal of pain. 

It is difficult for us to reconcile the occurrence of evil and suffering in the world with characteristics of an all-loving, all-powerful and all-knowing God.  To find an answer, we basically have to identify God in human suffering.  We all have a hard time watching our fellow human experience undeserved hurt and tragedy, and we question how can an all-powerful God really love us?

How do we deal with a loving God when we see the pain and suffering of life?  We must always start with Jesus.  It all begins with Jesus; he is the perfect reflection of an all-loving God.  He came to earth to show us what God is like and to also show us what we should be like.

Unlike many of us in the church, Jesus never tells people who are hurting that it's because they did something wrong or have unconfessed sin in their life.

When Job was suffering, his friends would have been better to be quiet.  When they started talking about "why" Job experienced all his tragedy, they showed their lack of wisdom of what God is really like.  What they could not see in the midst of Job's suffering was the presence and movement of God. 

Jesus always responds with compassion.  He makes wrongs right and justifies suffering and pain with love and mercy.  What we see in the life of Jesus is that God always sides with the one who is suffering.  He's not aloof somewhere or angry at people wanting them to feel worse.  God is on the side of the sufferer, and we cannot find an exception to that in the life and work of Jesus.

Many times the disciples and the Pharisees demand answers as to why bad things happen to some people and not others.  Remarkably, Jesus never addressed the reasons why, he always moved past the questions of "Why?" and instead moved on to the response.  He asks, "What can we do about it?"

When suffering our pain happens, we in the church have many times declared God's judgment on the person or people suffering.  Instead, we should respond in the same way as Jesus by saying, "What can I do to help?"  The scripture specifies that God grieves about human suffering even more that those who are experiencing loss. 

On of the ways God wants to respond to pain and suffering is to send us the ones called by his name to help.  When we hear or see tragedy, our first response should always be like Jesus: not to ask why, but to respond with "What can I do to help?"

By the way, Pastor Farmer has made a full recovery.

WEIGHING THE COST OF FOLLOWING JESUS

Posted by Karen Hansen on OP12er @ 12:31 PM

Article by Pastor Melissa Dees Originally Published Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 Faith Forum of Curry Coastal Pilot, used by permission.

Consecration is a sign of dedication to a purpose or person.  It takes hard work, discipline, and willingness to be dedicated.  We all have this desire to be a part of something that gives us purpose, helps us learn, grow, and ultimately become the best that we can be.  However, the key component is willingness.   You have to be willing to learn from others, willing to make sacrifices, and willing to follow your leaders. 

Jesus wanted his disciples to be obedient and loyal to him.  He knew they were not the smartest group of men, but he also knew that if he gave them purpose they would be willing to be devout followers.  The disciples learned from Jesus, and applied his teachings to their lives, as well as taught it to others.

At first, the disciples probably thought it would be easy to follow Jesus, but they soon found that was not the case.  To follow Jesus meant they had to surrender their whole lives not only to the plan, but to Jesus' sovereignty.  The disciples had to make the choice to serve God (Jesus) fully or not follow him at all.  Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money."  (Luke 16:13)  It was a complete sacrificial life the disciples had to lay down before Jesus.  People thought Jesus was a crazy criminal who claimed to be the savior of the world and that was a risk the disciples were willing to take.

To follow Jesus is not always an easy task, especially when the easy road is so enticing.  In order to serve the one master, we must be ready to fully surrender our lives to Jesus.  The work of God's Kingdom is sacrificial, and that was a result of following Jesus' teaching.  His teaching were radical.  Many people who followed Jesus would back out as soon as he began asking people to leave everything to follow him.  But Jesus never chased after them to bring them back.

In his book, "The Master Plan of Evangelism", Dr. Robert E. Coleman states, "[Jesus] was training leaders for the Kingdom, and if they were going to be fit vessels for service, they were going to have to pay the price" (p.51).  Jesus knew there would be challenging days for the disciples, and days that would make it difficult for them to trust him.  He knew they would question his teachings and get frustrated with him, but despite all of their shortcomings, they were still willing to follow him and that is why Jesus chose them.  He did not care if they were young or old, smart, good looking, rich or poor.  All Jesus wanted was their willingness and trust to accomplish his mission.

Are you willing to follow Jesus with this in mind?

MAKE THE NEW YEAR A BEGINNING WITH CHRIST

Posted by Karen Hansen on OP6er @ 6:46 PM

Article by Pastor Ann Wharton originally published in Jan 2, 2016 Faith Forum by Curry Costal Pilot, used by permission.

We are already a couple of days into the new year, which is a time of new beginnings.  How do you face the new year?  Is it a time of promise and hope or is it a year you would rather not think about? 

"New" means, among other things, "different from the former - not formerly known or experienced - being in a position or a place for the first time."  The word "beginning" means "to do the first part of an action; to undertake or undergo initial steps" (Webster's Dictionary).   When we put those two words together, they imply that we are going to be stepping into unfamiliar territory of some kind.  We will all experience change in some way in the coming year.  For some the word "change" means adventure and challenge.  For others it means uncertainty and danger.  Some embrace change and some avoid it at all costs.

Amazingly, though, God himself does not change.  He is constantly doing new things.  He is the God of second chances and "the Lord of new beginnings" as I read in my devotional the other day.  He wants to share those new things with us not just once a year but every day.  In Isaiah 43:18-19 God said, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up: do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."

In order to experience the new things god has for us, we have to be willing to let go of the past and take that first step into the new thing.  Lau Tzu said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  Taking that first step requires courage and trust.  Picture a father standing in the swimming pool with his arms outstretched encouraging his little child to jump into his arms from the side of the pool.  The child must trust that his dad will catch hi and that he will be safe in his father's arms.  So it is with each one of us and God.  He is the best of fathers and he wants us to trust him in every situation.

In order to trust God, we have to know who he is.  We read in 1st John 4:8 that "God is love."  God is always love and his love will always choose for the highest good of it object.  The objects of his love are you and I!  God is also good and kind.  God is wise.  He knows what is best for us.  God is holy.  There is no error or wrong in him.  He has never made a mistake and he never will.  You will never hear God say, "Oops!"  God is with us every step of the way.  He will never leave us and when we ask Christ into our lives, he lives in us by his spirit.

God is always creating and he is never done with us!  He says in Jeremiah 29:11 "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 

Diets and exercise, getting better sleep, being nicer to family and co-workers are all good goals.  However, the very best of new beginnings is the one we have when we meet and surrender to Jesus Christ.  When we meet Jesus, we begin an eternal relationship that will last forever.  Now that's a new beginning!

Have you begun a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ?  If you have, let 2016 be the year that you go deeper with him, get to know him better and become more like him.  If you have not yet begun a relationship with the son of God, let 2016 be the year that you surrender to him, come to know his love for you and all the good plans that he has for you.  This is the best of new beginnings, the beginning of a relationship that will last for all of eternity.  Make 2016 the best year of your life.  Begin it with Jesus Christ.

HAS THE PASSION OF ADVENT LOST ITS MEANING?

Posted by Karen Hansen on OP10er @ 10:47 PM

This article by Pastor Joshua Farmer, originally published Dec 5th in the Faith Forum of Curry Coastal Pilot. Used by permission.

In the last eight years of youth ministry, I have discussed advent with hundreds of teens and young adults.  Throughout the course of these many discussions, I have come to realize that the majority of these teens and young adults do not understand the purpose of advent, nor did they understand why churches all around the world celebrate this Christian season.  In today's society, advent is just another Christian tradition which has lost all substance and meaning.

So what is advent? Why is advent so important to Christians all around the world?  Has advent lost all meaning and passion which it had once possessed?

The story of advent started when God, the creator of all things, reached down into his creation and molded humanity from the dirt of the earth.  At this moment, all of creation was as God desired.  But then humanity fell and turned away from the perfect, loving God.  It was at this point, the point of the fall, which inaugurated the need for the hope of redemption in a perfectly created world.  Humanity was separated from the creator and walked into the depths of darkness.

But, God did not abandon humanity to this hopelessness.  God brought forth a promise that he himself would bring creation back into the perfection that he originally designed.  Throughout the years, God worked in and through humanity to bring forth this redemption.  Kings and prophets foretold the coming of a Messiah and the world eagerly awaited.

But then there was silence - 400 years of silence.  It was a period of anticipation of the coming of a great light that would overwhelm the darkness of sin and death.   Then something unimaginable happened.  God himself stepped down into creation and humbled himself in the form of a child.  God himself, who is perfect and without blemish, stepped into the darkness of sin and hopelessness in order to overcome the darkness with the hope of his light.

Why?  After all humanity had done, after all the evil and destruction which humanity brought, why would God step down from his throne to become a human?  Out of the infinite possibilities, why would God choose to carry the weight of sin on his shoulders in order to save us?  It was us, humanity, who brought sin into the world.   But this omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, sovereign God who had all authority to come and bring destruction on this humanity that destroyed his perfect creation, did not come in the form of wrath and vengeance.  Rather, God in all of his love and goodness came in the form of humanity, humbled and weak; but willing to carry the weight of sin on his shoulders in order to seal the chasm that had separated the creation from the creator for so long. 

In this moment when God stepped down from his glory to walk among the dead, he revealed the depth of his great love for this fallen humanity.  It wasn't good enough to simply destroy us and start over.  It wasn't good enough to allow us to be separated for eternity.  It wasn't good enough to allow us to take the punishment for our own sin.  No.  God wanted us and he desired the ultimate act of love to save us.

The prophets foretold about him, the world was anticipating his arrival and after 400 years of anticipation and silence, the people walking in darkness had seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light had dawned.  The power and glory and honor and hope and light of our Lord Jesus Christ overcame the darkness.

This is advent.  The season of joyful anticipation of the coming of God himself into a world of sin and death.  As we celebrate this advent season, remember that the creator of all things was willing to step down from the highest of glories to the depths of darkness because of God's great love for us.

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