The first candle of Advent
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9:2-7 NIV
These are the words that begin Christmas for so many of us. However we rarely read the whole verse. We do the ‘unto us part’ and leave out the rest. God saw the sin and death and destruction and pain and bloodshed and said to Himself, ‘I have to send somebody,’ God knew He had to send His son because He was the only one who could right the wrongs caused by the devil through people, He knew that only Jesus could save us, and He knew the pain they would both feel for the sake of our souls. He knew all this and loved us enough to create us anyway, He knew all this and yet loved us enough to send His most beloved treasure to save us. The prophet speaks of more than a baby and a king, he speaks of God ending the darkness and sending His light, and he also is speaking of a Father’s love for His broken and lost children.
‘I try the reins.’
The Bible speaks of horses often, in all honesty I can’t help wonder if they are God’s favorite creation, He seems so proud of them. When God says ‘I try the reins’ and He is speaking of the reins of our hearts it makes me think of my days before my riding accident. Back then I would get on any horse and usually after doing the basic warm up, the ‘trying of the reins’ I could tell what the horse was thinking and how he was feeling. I could tell if something was wrong or if he was ready for a fight. The movement of his body and the tension of the rein in his mouth, how he reacted to the bit, if he strained against me or (heaven forbid) tried to take control of the bridle, all that sensation went into my hands and from the experience I knew how to react and what was happening with the several hundred pound animal beneath me. There were I days when something was clearly off so I got down and found what was wrong, a couple times he seemed to be in pain but I couldn’t find why so I gave up on the ride to spare him discomfort. I know many people who have had bad falls and later said that they knew the horse was in a fight mood and they shouldn’t have gotten on. My bad fall was a stupid mistake and not my horse’s fault at all. God tests our reins. He tests our hearts and tells what we are thinking, planning and feeling. He tests what we are ready for and what should be saved for a later date. He senses if we are fighting the bit or are just too afraid to go forward. He can tell it all and knows when to be gentle with us because something is wrong or painful, He knows when to let us calm down so we don’t do something stupid in an effort to fight back, He knows when all we need is a nose scratch and a bucket of oats. God knows everything about us, simply from testing our reins. And He loves us enough to go forward gently or with conviction depending on what we are ready for. Isn’t that a nice thought?
What combats hate?
And love is stronger than hate.
However, love is a heavier weapon to carry.
It’s easy to hate because hate is all emotion, it doesn’t even take thought to accomplish hate- but love is an action, you have to work at love. Love says ‘you did wrong by me, you brought me low and left me abandoned- but I still love you.’ Love is not an emotion. Passion is an emotion, like is an emotion, love is an action.
There are plenty of people who I have seen show love to people that they don’t like. I have seen a pastor be torn apart by a devil sent destroyer and yet that same pastor went and visited that destroyer when he was hurt and in the hospital. Why? Because as much as that man caused the pastor to feel a sense of dislike deep in his stomach due to the man’s actions and lies, the pastor still loved him. Jesus still loved Judas even though he betrayed Him.
Paul prayed for his prison guards when he was waiting to be executed.
Joseph wept for his brothers who has sold him as a slave.
You can’t tell me they liked them at those moments, but you can see clearly that they loved them.
Love is a heavy weapon to carry and takes great effort, but it also delivers a more powerful blow.
When I was younger and attended youth at camp we sang a lot of Petra. This song was a favorite, slow down and read those words.
Our church has lost something, all churches have lost something, and that is unity. There was a time when if you were a Christian you were a sibling to the other Christians around you, you were family. Then somewhere along the line we became divided, even competitive with one another; and then that devouring, despicable spirit of ‘holier than thou’ clawed its way in and we saw our church as better than other churches and ourselves as better than other believers, then the competitiveness and division turned into an all out cold war. Divided we are destroyed, until we can stand together we are already defeated. Like that old kids game where we stood on our team and held eachother’s hands calling over the other team and daring them to try to break through our ranks, if we are strong enough to hold them from breaking us then they join us, they join our team and fight beside us. Those who the devil has tricked are on the other team, if we stand together as a church, when they come running at us we can stand strong and they might even decide later to join us, but we can’t be divided or we will never be a witness to them.
The Church is not a building or a set of songs we sing, it is a people that follow Jesus, let us seek out other Christians and make sure they know that they are family even if they attend a different church.
Use the thinking side of your brain.
In the horse world we have a saying, ‘use the thinking side of your brain.’
Horses have two sides of the brain like all animals, but unlike us they have a thinking side and a reacting side. Why do you mount a horse from the left? That’s the thinking side. When you try to train a horse to let you mount from the right side, the reacting side, be prepared for the horse to introduce you to the ground awfully fast a couple of times before you convince him not to kill you.
We as human kind have the problem of not having a thinking and reacting side so when we react we stop thinking completely and it over takes us. I can walk up to my horse with a bucket of treats and if I go to the right he will generally take off on me, but if I go to the left he waits to see what’s in the bucket. How often has God come to us with something great but we have reacted and run away because we aren’t sure we trust Him? How much have we missed out on because the thing holding the gift -the bucket- scares us? Unfortunately with people the thing that scares us on our right side usually scares us on our left. We have to let God work in us and calm us down and teach us to trust Him enough that we stop running away and start becoming curious about what is in the bucket.
People get all up in Peter’s business for his failures. He denied Christ, He didn’t have enough Faith to not go under the waves, He followed Jesus at a distance. Do you know why Peter failed so many times more than the other twelve? It was because Peter was always trying. Out of everyone, Peter always tried the hardest. Peter was outside the main area where Jesus was on trial, so he had the chance to be accused of having known Jesus. Peter actually got out of the boat.
Peter followed Jesus when the others ran away.
So what if Peter was afraid and sunk under the waves?
So what if Peter followed at a distance?
Peter was trying harder than anyone else to be as close as he could be to God.
Be like Peter friends, even if sometimes God has to chastise you for not doing things right, keep trying, and trying, and trying, even if you fail. I don’t doubt that Jesus loved the fact that Peter always tried, that is probably one reason He chose to use him in such a great way.
I watched a video of an old Japanese folktale where a man feels corrupted by the world around him and void of peace so he goes to a temple to pray for cleansing. Eventually he returns home and tries to avoid people so he doesn’t become defiled by the world’s… sin? No. Evil? No. But by the world’s pain. In doing so he becomes stressed and worried each day. Eventually he is made to help a woman carry firewood to a hospital and is told to help feed the sick, eventually he becomes so fulfilled in his serving of others that he discovers the peace he was seeking to begin with.
This is not a Christian story, however, it has a point we can take as Christians. Some of us work so hard to be ‘holy’ ‘God like’ ‘sinless’ in a way that makes it so we avoid people because they might corrupt us. That is a true fear and I do not belittle it. It is easy to fall to the sins of this fallen world, however if we close our eyes to the broken, to the needy, to those in pain what are?
We can work so hard to be holier than thou that we miss being the least of these.
Jesus didn’t become the sin or the sinner but He reached to them. He reached out to the pained, the needy, the broken and helped them and loved them. We need to remember that that how we should be. We get so caught up being angry with the sin that we forget to love the sinner, ‘of whom I am the worst’ says Paul.
We are the least of these so let us not forget to show Jesus to the others who are also the least of these with us.
So, here comes Halloween, and thus here comes red popcorn, hot chocolate and the Z movies. Out of all of the different monsters I feel zombies are the most terrifying, not because they are scary – actually they are kind of dumb- but because the zombies are the ones that were originally human. Generally it’s a disease that creates them, right? But in truth they are just people who are sick.
As you walk through the world these days and look around at other people how many are sick? How many are dying? How many are already zombies? Don’t give up yet, I have a point and it’s not ridiculous. There are so many people around us, people we meet in real life, people we meet online, people we never meet at all, and most of them don’t know Jesus and that is sad. Without Christ we are dead people walking, the truly scary thing is that a lot of people who are the walking dead think they have Christ, but knowing Jesus is more than a prayer before bed and Church on Sunday, it’s a sacrificial way of living. You have to sacrifice your time of pleasure to spend time praying, which is something we should find joy in but it can feel like a task at times, but we need to do it even on those hard days. You have to sacrifice carnal desires -no, I don’t mean donuts- I mean things that are sins but seem like so much fun when you see others doing them, better to not do those things and keep your relationship with Christ. Wait. Did she just say keep your relationship with Christ? Does that mean we can lose our relationship with Christ? That’s a topic that lots of people ask about and struggle with the answer to, yes you can lose your Jesus if you are not putting effort into that relationship with Jesus. Here’s the great part about that, even if you don’t spend time with God, even if you continue sinning and just assume that God will forgive you so it doesn’t matter what you do, even if you break God’s heart and make him cry, Jesus will never leave you. You say but that doesn’t make sense because you just said that we can lose our relationship with God, yes we can lose our relationship, but we can never lose God’s love. God will always pick you up when you fall whether you just sinned against him in a drastic and vile way, or you just finished a 2-hour prayer time and I feel you couldn’t be Holier, if you fall and ask God to help you he will always be right there for you. It’s so easy to become one of the sick. This world works so hard to infect us all, and we are surrounded by zombies, but God will never give up on us and he holds the Cure to this disease. So no matter where you are on your Walk of Life, when you’re ready to say “Jesus I Need You, come into my life, forgive me of my sins, please draw me into your power and bring me back to life,” know that he is right there listening to you, answering you, and healing you.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life- John 3:16
The Bible is full of things we should can be thankful for but I feel this verse is the best to highlight today, Jesus didn’t just come for Christmas, He didn’t just come for Easter, He didn’t just come for Sunday, He came for every day of your life. We can be thankful that He has surrounded us with His love everlasting and know that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Today and every day He is our truth and our reason to celebrate.
Happy Thanksgiving! Love the VanBeeks❤
What are two things you are Thankful for today?