HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

GOOD NEWS!

God Himself declares again through Isaiah, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns” (Isaiah 52:7)

SisterMary-Joseph-and-Jesus1, may you and your family have a blessed Christmas! We have received the best news ever through the Christ Child who died in our place.

See you in the New Year!

Love, Kathy

 

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THE WONDER

Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; speak of all His wonders! 1 Chronicles 16:9 (AMP)

contributor for today's post

contributor for today’s post

This week is the countdown to Christmas day! Four. More. Days.  images (6)What word comes to your mind at this very moment?  I have been hearing the words “manic” and “panic” recently! “YIKES” is another word that comes to mind.  I would think there may be a wide range of answers if we are totally honest with one another.  Many love love love all the hustle bustle; the parties, the Christmas-Lights-turned-o-007decorating, exchanging of gifts and being with friends and download (1)family. Or maybe you aren’t in the love love love category; maybe you are in the toleration or even loathe category. How about those of you who may be lonely or low because you aren’t able to be with your families and really can’t be bothered to put any effort into the season of jolly? Or are you in the most difficult mindset of all? Indifference: the fruit of years of tradition which has lost its meaning-a meaning which is eclipsed by disappointment, unmet expectations, and the superficial, commercial, “niceness?”

I write this partly from personal experience of past Christmases. I am learning to boss my feelings into their proper place with God’s truth.  Even now, the gospel of my Lord Jesus is what protects me from indifference and the mundane familiarity that may come with the season.  The baby Jesus in the manger brings balance; perspective; Mary-Joseph-and-Jesus1purpose.  But I have to choose to allow the Spirit of God to saturate me with the true reality of the season. The wonder of the incarnation begins the redemption story. Heaven intersects earth.  Randy Kilgore says it beautifully: Mighty, all-knowing, all-powerful God wrote His name on the heart of humanity, stunning us with the generosity of forgiveness and the joy of unconditional love. The birth of Christ is the answer to our most fervent prayers for love and forgiveness. Can you feel the wonder?’

All the loveliness of the holiday season is but a taste of God’s kindness to us. The Christ Child is the purpose. For without Jesus, we have no reason to celebrate. With Jesus, we cross-cultured-2have every reason to celebrate.  Our Rescuer, our Lord Jesus, loved us and died in our place, and we can now love others; and not just at Christmas, but all year round.

So even if you are feeling a bit of panic or manic, CHOOSE today to look to Jesus to centre you; to restore your purpose to all your “doings”—the wonder of the Christ Child; the wonder of His redeeming love.

MARY SAYS YES TO GOD

contributor for today's post

contributor for today’s post

“Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:18

In this short drama, Mary and Joseph both have their eyes to the future, but about very different things.  Mary struggles to tell Joseph about the future God has in store for their family.

Doesn’t this scene bring to life the humanness, the ordinariness, the simplicity of Mary and Joseph in God’s plan of our coming Saviour?   God chose 6a00d8341bffb053ef00e55373d0fd8833-500wiMary to be the mother of the Saviour of the world.  She was a pre-teen from a normal everyday family—not from nobility or high status. Somehow, someway, God’s work is going to involve using this humble person. Mary, no doubt, had expectations and dreams of marriage to Joseph. She might have expected an uncomplicated life of quiet domesticity.  But God had other plans for Mary. The angel told her she was highly favoured and the Lord would be with her as she gives birth to the Saviour of the world.  Mary could only be dimly aware of all that this would entail. What could she possibly have known of the emotional cost of her response to God?   But any questions she may have had were overshadowed by her faith and trust in God. She said, ‘I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.’  She chose to accept His call.  She chose to say yes to God. And that yes to God was committed, sincere, surrendered.

images (4)When she says YES to God, Mary also chooses to FOCUS ON GOD and the BIG PICTURE. She trusted that God would make it right even if it wasn’t easy. She knew that her Lord God has a vision and plan of redemption.   This was her focus; not on all the difficulties that will inevitably come.  She knew her mother would be upset. How might she explain it all to Joseph? In Matthew it says he was deeply troubled. Pregnant fiancé! YIKES! Mary had to temporarily endure the bitterness of suspicion from Joseph. The Law stated that if a Hebrew bride betrays her husband, and was not a virgin at marriage, she was to be stoned without pardon. (Deut. 22:20, 21) We read of course the Lord disclosed the true nature of the situation to Joseph through an angel. Mary’ faith was rewarded.

images (3)She’s probably not going to have the happy typical Palestinian wedding. People will be gossiping; her reputation sacrificed.  Yet, she sings praises to the Lord (Luke 1:48-55) This is such a great model for us. She’s praising God as she deals with LIFE. It won’t always be easy or easily understood. Isn’t that like us?  We say on Sunday morning, I am yours! I am singing your praises!  I really feel I am on your wavelength Lord!  Then LIFE happens….relationships suffer, misunderstandings, unmet expectations, illness, conflicting agendas, or a longing for temporary relief in unhealthy ways. That was Mary’s life! The eternal glorified Son of God in her cave house. Only a life centred on God and His END GAME could navigate that. SHE did navigate it! We know this because she was at the cross at the end of Jesus life. She didn’t cut and run. She didn’t say, you know I was only 12 when I said yes, and this is too hard. And we have the same Saviour and rescuer. The same great God. We can trust Him too.

In making wise choices consistently against the tide of our culture we need to remind ourselves of this big picture.  Faith grows, not as we try harder to believe, but as we meditate more on God and His glory. We are called to a radical trust in God.  Are we going to choose to say yes to God; to focus on God and his greatness? Are we going to choose to trust in His big Picture?  This is Mary’s witness to us.

images (5)Girlfriends, God knows what your life is like. He deliberately limited His life to share in your life! We are surrounded by brokenness, limitations, frustrations, and yes –darkness. And our God came to share that.  In fleshly form he shared your struggles. Heaven intersected earth. God wants heaven and earth to intersect in your heart. In how you live your life, the wise choices you make can be for your good and God’s glory.   Will you let God be God? Will you yield control over the details of your life? Like Mary, let’s say yes to God. Let’s focus on God and the big picture as we celebrate Christmas this year.

 

 

 

HEBREWS 10:23 LET US HOLD UNSWERVINGLY TO THE FAITH WE PROFESS, FOR HE WHO PROMISED IS FAITHFUL

Sharon Durant, contributor for today's blog

Sharon Durant, contributor for today’s blog

Teachers are traditionally progressive, forward-thinking lefty socialists. They work tirelessly to challenge young people. They spur them to do their best, be the best sort of people they can. They shape adults who will think independently and not just swallow the ideas of whoever shouts loudest. They believe in the power of human reasoning. They believe knowledge can improve people. They believe the world can be a better place. They have to, or they would all quit in a heartbeat.

This is a truly bizarre time to be joining the teaching profession, when most are leaving it. During my first teaching placement I have certainly questioned why on earth I am doing this. Long hours, mountains of marking, sleepless nights agonising over lesson plans. But what has kept me going so far is hope. Holding unswervingly to my hope.

The majority of teachers (perhaps unwittingly) hold unswervingly to the hopes of famous_people_desiderius_erasmus_1466_1536_postcard-rb826930906b74c6f9032b71aa719ad7e_vg8ny_8byvr_1024Erasmus. Sometimes called ‘The Prince of Humanists’, Erasmus (1466-1536) had a sharp mind and challenged the whole of Europe to think, to reason. His editions of the New Testament in Latin and Greek inspired other great Reformers to translate the Bible into their own languages. He disagreed with Martin Luther’s idea that ‘faith alone’ was enough to save humans and stuck with the Catholic Church. Erasmus’ 22 principles promote a virtuous life by working hard, trying hard, and being a good human being.

500 years after Erasmus, many clever people (teachers among them) claim to have no faith. They don’t see themselves as religious. Indeed, for many in Britain today, trusting in God is a rather quaint and old-fashioned idea, a relic of an ignorant past. Religion lacks intellectual curiosity. Yet for teachers, their hope – that humans might improve, learn from the mistakes of the past, make good decisions, look after the world and respect each other – smacks of faith to me. In fact, it reeks of Erasmus.

What-is-our-HopeThe principles of Erasmus are great, brilliant and intellectually rigorous. But looking at the news today, Erasmus offers too little hope for me. My hope is not in humans.

As I write, the country is troubled by terrorism, flooding, civil violence and football referees being verbally abused. Humans run hot with temper, anger, frustration and powerlessness. Just thinking about these problems won’t help solve them. Our news pages show our human limitations, our helplessness and inability even to build decent flood defences.

Teachers need faith; we all need faith. Otherwise we would just give up. The question is, are you going to put your faith in humans, who are extremely limited by time, distance, age, technology, and brain power; or would you put your faith in a God who knows you and can be known by you? Whose power is unlike anything else known on the planet? God whose compassion is unfailing and whose patience outlasts anything ever seen in the classroom?

maxresdefaultThe hope I profess is an unswerving hope in this God. It’s God who can change hearts, God who provokes our intellectual curiosity, and the knowledge of God which improves people. As we hold on to this hope, we see more and more that the God who makes promises keeps promises. In the run up to Christmas, we hear how God kept his old promises to send a Saviour. We know he is faithful, we know he keeps his promises. Hold unswervingly to your hope; let nothing move you.

My African friends sing a great song, which sums up my thoughts today on Erasmus vs. God:
10550884_535404786559630_8047595921489392735_n“Jesus never fails. Jesus never fails. The man of the world will let you down but Jesus never fails.”