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AS WE ENTER THE NEW YEAR

2nd Advent

For centuries, God spoke through the prophets and upheld the covenant he had made with Israel through the Law of Moses. 
Then he seemingly went silent. He promised that a child would be born, and a new way would be established.
He promised light in the darkness and the forgiveness of sins. But then, the people were left to wait and encouraged to be faithful.
During these centuries, there was much turmoil in Israel. The Bible does not tell us anything about those years, but Jewish tradition and
literature tell us of conquering armies that occupied the land and desecrated the temple. It tell us of battles fought by God’s people and miracles preserving His people.
Then finally, in the fullness of time, God sent His son. Jesus came. He arrived and the first “advent” was met with angelic praise and the worship of
both common shepherds and wise guest from other lands. God had come; Emmanuel, God with us! Yet it was not what they expected.
This gentle king with kindness and compassion for the lost sheep of Israel, and burning with holy fire against what the leaders had made of the covenant
and promise to God’s people, did not overthrow the Romans. Instead, he went to a cross.
A few of his people came to understand what He had done. They began to spread the news throughout the world in the face of opposition.
Those of us reading this, know the story because of their efforts. We know that the Baby of Bethlehem was the Savior of Calvary. We know the new
covenant he brought; the forgiveness of sins and eternal life that is ours by grace through faith. And yet, we still wait.
We wait now for the second advent of God with us. Creation itself groans, awaiting His return, and He will return. At the first advent, Christ appeared
as a helpless baby. He experienced life and loss and became the perfect sacrifice. God came near and made a way for us to be restored to our Father.
At the second advent, He will come as conquering King. The final war with pain, and sing, and grief, and evil itself will be won, and we will live in the
House of the Lord forever. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!

For now we wait, full of hope, still in peace, strengthened by joy, and sharing His love.

Pastor Evan  

 

Love God Most

What are the things that vie most for your time and affections?  Family? Hobbies? Work?
The truth is that we all have things that rise to the top of the heap at different times. This is the nature of life and our attempts to balance all of the different parts of it. Amidst the pressures and pleasures of life, however, God calls us to keep Him first. In Exodus 20:3, we read that we are to have no other gods before Him.  While we would not consider our jobs, kids, spouse, or possessions gods in the classic sense, there is a real sense in which these are often raised to first place in our lives even to the detriment of our worship and dependence on God.

In Mark 10:17-30, we read the story of a young man who by all accounts was a model example of what it means to love God and follow Him. Because of his devotion and desire to be right with God, he approached Jesus and asked what he needed to do in order to receive eternal life. Jesus responded that he needed to keep the commandments. The young man affirmed his adherence to them, but Jesus points out what one thing he lacks. He has elevated his love for his money above his love for God. His possessions have displaced God from the set of affection in His heart. So then, Jesus tells him to sell all he has and to follow him. The man, unwilling to do so walks away sad.

The temptation for us is to make this story about the evils of wealth. The reality is that wealth is not the main point of the story. For this young man, his wealth was indeed his competing God, but that doesn’t let us off the hook. The point was, he loved something more than he loved the Lord. When viewed clearly, we are all that young man. Maybe for us it isn’t wealth, but maybe we put our family, or job, or spouse, or hobbies before God. We spend our time, money, energies, and affections on these things so much that what we have to offer God is the leftovers or perhaps nothing at all.What then is the message of the story? It is a corrective to challenge the gods of our lives that tempt us to offer our worship to them instead of to God.

The story reminds us that to love God and keep him first is to remember that he loves us most. We, his adopted, redeemed children in Christ, are the apple of His eye. He gave himself to restore and save us.
It also points out that just one thing can keep us from God’s best. Replacing him with anything else – even something good – keeps us from His best for us. Lastly it reminds us to follow through and fight for the relationship we so greatly desire. Because we love God most, we must continue to keep Him first. Nothing is so important to the enemy than to drive a wedge between the savior and ourselves. Since he cannot change the love of Christ for us, he attacks our hearts and seeks to grow our affections for other things. In doing so, he doesn’t ask us to love Jesus less, he instead causes us to love other things more so that we never perceive the reordering of our lives in such a way that Christ is removed from his position.

So, what do you love more than God? Are you actively seeking to keep it in its proper place so that your affections for God are first in your heart? Are you willing to give it up or lay it down for His sake? How would your life be different with God in His rightful place? What does God want to do in and through you, but can’t until you love Him most?

Pastor Evan

Who Are You Listening To?

                The team of teenagers had gone out on the streets of Toronto with a sense of excitement and hope. They would be on the front lines, meeting people who were homeless and hopeless and making a difference for Jesus. There was a real sense of expectation that was fueled by an evangelistic fire born of youthful exuberance and heartfelt belief. Today was a day they would make a difference.

It wasn’t long until they saw him. He was sitting there, dirty and sullen, his face aged by life on the streets. Here was a man who needed Jesus. Here was a man who they could reach out to. So they sat down beside him and began.

“Hi, what’s your name?” “Sebastian.”, came the reply. “Hi Sebastian, I’m Katie and this is Tim and Stephanie.” “You’re Christians, aren’t you?”, Sebastian interrupted. “Why yes, we are!” said Katie, “How did you know?”  “Because Christians are always talking”.

The story above is true. A friend of mine, Brian Matherlee, took a group of teens to Toronto on a short-term missions trip and they returned with a lesson they never considered before going. It was a lesson we all need to learn.

Often in our desire to win the world, we neglect to take time to hear them. We know what they need! They need Jesus! But what they need more than anything is someone to listen. They need someone to care, someone to treat them as a human being with hurts, hopes, dreams and nightmares. Yes, Jesus is the answer, but what we need is to know the question.

Sometimes we treat the lost as a target, an objective or a number. This often betrays our need for evangelistic success. The need to feel as if we’ve made a difference. Unfortunately, this is not what we have been called to do.  We have been called to love and serve the least of these. The first step is to listen to them like Jesus does. Then and only then can we hope to give them the answer.

The Bible tells us to be quick to hear and slow to speak. Who are you listening to?

Pastor Evan