Advent Week 1 – Living The Advent HOPE Isaiah 9:2,6-7

The Old Testament chronicles the journey of God’s people. In it, we see a growing desire for the fulfillment of a promise, the arrival of a king that would lead them. This king would be different from all the others and His kingdom would be an everlasting one. The Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one would come from God and begin a revolution that would change the world forever. This would begin a time when God would come to live amongst His people in a new and profound way. We often forget that these were dark times for God’s people. Sin had led to injustice and oppression. They needed to be delivered, but not just from the problems that surrounded them, but from the brokenness that resided in their own hearts. As we prepare our hearts for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, we can experience the tension of the deep longing and joyful expectation because we know the end of the story.

What we may easily overlook is that Advent is not just a time when we look back but also a time when we look forward. We also live in dark times. Sin still gives birth to brokenness in every sphere of existence. As you study the news cycle you might be tempted to despair, but God’s plan is still working. We don’t yet see the fullness of His kingdom, but we catch glimpses of it as we labor to make Jesus known in our own families, in our city, and around the world. God will make good on His promises and Jesus will, once again, come for His people. This is a time to remind ourselves, not just of the reality of Christ’s incarnation, but also His promise to come again and forever set things right. On that day we will be finished with sin. No more will we carry the heavy burden of living in a sin-sick world where pain and tears seem to often prevail.

If you are like me, you have grown weary from the brokenness within your own hearts. Day after day we are forced to wage war against our flesh and the sin that so easily deceives us. Jesus has dealt with the penalty for our sin, but we still experience its pervasiveness and power. Soon, He will come and remove its presence completely and we will be with Him forever. This is a time to look back. To see God’s promise fulfilled in His coming and to look forward with eager anticipation for His return.

For Reflection:
• Think of an event in your life where you waited with a longing expectation. What were you waiting for? How did you feel in the waiting? What was it like when the event finally happened?

• Think about someone you know who might be feeling overcome by darkness. What are some ways you can point them to the hope of Christ’s advent this week?

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Finding Unity In Diversity

The history of the church has not always been very edifying, has it? And I am sure that God weeps when He sees how Christians have constantly failed to work through their divisions whilst holding on to love and compassion and kindness.

Paul told the Christians in the church at Corinth – who are not handling their divisions very well – that the way they speak to one another, the way they interact with one another, the way they cope with differences, is actually a reflection to the wider world of how Christ responds to difference and how Christ wants to interact with the world.

The Church is the Body of Christ – and how we are with one another speaks to the reputation of Christ in the world.

The Church is the Body of Christ – it is not just another interest group, it is not just another club we can join.

The Church is the Body of Christ in the world – and we must keep that foremost in our minds every day of our lives because you and I are representing Christ to the world in how we live and how we speak and in how we love…

Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12:12-20 that we shoulder a great responsibility as we participate in the community life of our church. We are reflecting God to the world in our words and our deeds: what people see of us, they see of God – and we need to live up to that responsibility. That means, of course, that each one of must be mindful of how we conduct ourselves at work during the week, within our family lives, and when we are out socialising – because what people see of us, they see of God.

But as a community together, we must shoulder the responsibility of being the Body of Christ together, which is a holy calling. We must hold fast to our unity. We must embrace and celebrate our diversity. We must move as one body, supporting and encouraging one another. And, as we pursue this holy calling together, we must keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and remember that it is only through Him that we have a sense of community; a sense of purpose, and a destiny to fulfil.

God has chosen us and gifted us to represent Him to the world, to our community. We are stewards together of that calling, stewards of the gifts He has given to us, and we must resolve increasingly to use them wisely, and with compassion and with kindness and with love. (REV DR STEVE GRIFFITHS)

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Rejoicing In Trials

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:3-5)

No one delights in suffering. It’s not natural to rejoice as we lose our job or wade through relational conflict. It doesn’t feel good to disagree with our spouse or be the recipient of an offensive comment. We like when things go our way—so when they don’t, it’s unsettling.

When Paul wrote to the Romans, he addressed their problems and trials. Yes, we live in a land where sin abounds. Yes, there will be political strife and moral decay. Yes, the future would be filled with question marks and suffering may lie ahead.

But Paul said we can still rejoice. How? How did he expect them to do that, and how does he expect us to do that today? Because of what we know.

Paul says we know what Jesus Christ has already done for us. We know how we stand in this place of undeserved privilege. We know that our endurance is being developed. We know our character is being strengthened. We know our confident hope of salvation will never disappoint. And we know how dearly God loves us and how He has given us the Holy Spirit.

So even when our plate is full of trials and challenges, we can have peace—because we carry this inside knowledge. We can look ahead and know how it’ll all pan out. Since God showed us His great love by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners, certainly He will not abandon us now. He will use it for good. Salvation is coming.

• How well do you know the Bible and God’s promises—are you familiar with His storyline? If so, do you trust His narrative and His promised ending? The more we know, the more we can rejoice in our current challenges.

• As a friend of God’s, you can approach His throne confidently and boldly. In prayer, lay your trials before the Lord today and find peace in knowing that He will help you in your time of need: “Lord, this is my plight and my biggest heartache: ___________. Bring your truth to light and help me to remember your promises, so I can find peace in the hope that does not disappoint.”

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Kids Holiday Camp (Vacation Bible School) 2019

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Christmas Musical 2019 – This Mountain I Must Climb

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Giving It All To Jesus

“Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ He said. ‘Go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.’ At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had
great wealth.” Mark 10:21-22

One of the many life lessons that thirty years of marriage has taught me is that you don’t make it to thirty years without emptying yourself and going all in. Day by day and year by year, my precious wife, Sharon, and I learned that “me” doesn’t become “we” without both of us putting everything we are and have on the table. This is true of our journey with God as well.

Jesus emptied Himself of all the glories of heaven to come to us and for us that first Christmas. For me to become His, I must also empty myself. As David Nasser (senior vice president for spiritual development at Liberty University) writes, the call to Christ is a call to die. Sometimes, like the young man in Mark 10:17-31, we’re willing to go 50/50 or maybe a little higher. Jesus named 6 of the 10 commandments and the young man was keeping all of them. Jesus then more or less referenced the first commandment which is “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3) For the young man, his wealth was the “god” he had put before God. Jesus loved him and was all in for him but the young man decided he didn’t want to “marry” God after all. In a sense, he just wanted to “date” Him.

How about you? Sooner or later, God will ask you to empty yourself of something you don’t want to let go of. It could be anger, addiction, selfishness, materialism or unforgiveness. It could be rude behavior, a critical spirit or a victim mentality. Whatever it is, it has become your “god” because you value holding on to it more than fully embracing Him. Remember, Jesus didn’t walk away, the young man did. Jesus is still standing there, inviting you to have a fully committed, nothing held back, relationship with Him. You are loved!

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Do Children Belong In The Church?

Quite simply, the church must accept the children. How? Simply by loving them and accepting him or her just as Jesus does. Surround them with a love that makes them feel safe and secure. A love that allows them to be children and be themselves. A love that is also expressed in firm and fair discipline. A love that treats each individual child as special. That is the love that Jesus showed these children and which we must show them as well.

But how can we do that specifically? First, we should accept our children’s statements of faith. We need to encourage our children to take a stand for Jesus at any age. That doesn’t mean that they have a clear understanding of all the theological truths we hold; they don’t understand the doctrines. But we allow them to say that they believe in Jesus with all their heart.

Second, we must teach them. That means more than just preparing a lesson for a Sunday School class. It means taking the effort to get to know each child as much as you are able. It means showing that you care for each child as a person. It means being willing to teach, as some of you have done, when no one else has come forward to be a teacher.

We also should listen to the lessons that our children are continually teaching us. The simple truths of the Bible which we have either forgotten or taken for granted are brought home with striking clarity and power by our children. There was a family who had a little girl named Rachel who had a terminal liver disease. Rachel struggled with this disease for over 3 years until she died from it. It was very hard and very sad for the family and for those who knew them and had been with them through this struggle. I conducted the funeral for Rachel and I remember watching Rachel’s older sister, Julia, before and after the funeral. Julia was running around smiling, bubbling, happy as can be. Her mother said to me that Julia can’t understand why everyone is so sad. To her it did not make sense to be sad. Rachel believed in Jesus. And if you believe in Jesus then when you die you go to heaven. That means that Rachel is with Jesus right now in heaven. What better place, what happier place could she be in than with Jesus in heaven?

That is the faith of a child! But you say, “But they don’t understand the hurt, the frustrations of this life, the difficulties and the disappointments!” You’re right, of course, they don’t. But I think they understand the basics of the Gospel much more clearly than many of us with our vast array of Biblical knowledge. Our children have so much to teach us if we are willing to listen to them. In what ways will you bless the children of our church in the weeks to come? Will you trust and accept the amazing gift of grace with the faith of small child? (PASTOR JERRY HOEK)

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Sowing And Reaping

Years ago, I heard of a missionary who had faithfully served the Lord amongst a group of market traders. During many years of sharing the Gospel with them, he didn’t have a single convert. As he was about to retire, he was asked to train a new recruit, which he did. During that first week, that new recruit led one of the traders to Christ. The young man was initially delighted, and then sorrowful, as he’d been blessed, while the older missionary hadn’t. The older missionary was not in the slightest bit upset, as he said, “You’ve reaped what I’ve sown, and God has the glory.”

Sowing and reaping is an essential part of a farmer’s life and it should be a key part of the believer’s life too.

We’re expected to sow. Mark 4:14 says, ‘The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others’. Sowing God’s Word into the life of others isn’t just the responsibility of the pastor and leaders. It’s the responsibility of everyone in the church. Every member is a minister of the Gospel. Everyone has a part to play. Do you know how to share Jesus with someone? If not, then maybe it would be good to find out!

We reap what we sow. The quality of the seed is important. If we sow discord, gossip, and contention, then that’s what we’ll reap in our own lives, and from those around us. Learn how to sow good seed that’s worthy of God’s blessing, words of encouragement, building up and blessing are the good seeds to sow, especially the Gospel.

We reap more than we sow. No farmer sows one seed expecting the same return. They expect a significant harvest or there’d be no return for their labours. We should expect the same with our sowing – And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s Word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted! (Mark 4:20). Isaiah 55:11 says, ‘It is the same with My Word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it’. Are we expecting positive results? We should be. Not every seed flourishes, but enough do to create a harvest.

We need to be active reapers. The common misconception about the principles of sowing and reaping is that we sow the seed, and then wait for God to do the reaping for us. When we do this, we miss an important part we are to play. We sow the seed, God gives the increase, but we’re to reap (or gather) the harvest. So, we all must become a sower and a reaper.

Let’s ask God each day for opportunities to sow and reap. Let’s be looking out for those opportunities and grab them with both hands. When we do, everyone will rejoice with us and give praise to God for His abundant harvest. (PHILIP ASSELIN)

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