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Facing Down Giants

Last week’s post focused on finding “shalom” as we live 2018. Part of living in “shalom” is feeling at peace, and part of feeling at peace often relates to being prepared. We can face many challenges if we feel prepared, like when the shepherd – soon to be king! – David faced down Goliath. (1 Samuel 17)

  • David was spiritually prepared. He understood it was more than just a physical battle, and that he was not alone.

“I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands…”

  • David was emotionally prepared. He knew who he was and how to be at his best. Saul tried to fashion him into a warrior by putting him in armor, but it felt so unnatural, David gave it back and went out the same way he would to defend his sheep.

Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.”

“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.”

  • David was physically prepared. He was battle tested though his encounters with the enemies of his flock.

“Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

 

What giants will you be facing in 2018? Our “giants” can be all kinds of things: maybe you are pursuing a goal like finishing your degree, or getting a promotion at work. Perhaps you are trying to overcome some physical challenge, or you have relationships that need to be restored. God may be leading you to consider cross-cultural missions and you are not sure how to begin. Whatever your giants, how are you preparing?

Like David, we should prepare spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Spiritual Preparation – Bring these giants before your God and King. Understand who and whose you are. Rest in God’s power. Be still and see the salvation of your Lord.

Emotional Preparation – Be confident in who God has made you to be. Understand your strengths and your weaknesses. Play to your strengths and surround yourself with people who will have your back in areas of weakness.

Physical Preparation – Bring the best of yourself to every venture. Focus on your health and fitness. Equip your mind with tools that you will need as you move forward. See everything happening now as preparation for what is ahead. Make each moment count for the kingdom.

Face down your giants in 2018. Claim new ground. Fight the fight. Finish the race. Keep the faith.

 

Seeking Shalom in 2018

The Hebrew concept of “shalom” is not simply defined. Used mostly as a greeting or a farewell, it has come to be understood as “peace,” but it goes much deeper than simply wishing someone peace.

To experience shalom means to be in harmony with oneself, with others, and with nature. It is to be whole, complete, and fully satisfied. Someone living in shalom is balanced in all areas of life, completely fulfilled and at peace.

Only in Christ can we find true shalom. Isaiah prophesied about Jesus, saying he would be the “wonderful counselor, the mighty God, the prince of ‘shalom.’” In him we find peace. In him we are content. In him we are complete. He is our balance. But most of us admit that, though we are in constant search for shalom, we rarely possess it. If we are not experiencing shalom, we need to immerse ourselves more deeply in Jesus.

Kingdom workers are not very good at shalom. We live in cultures different from our own, speak languages not native to us, worry about our financial support, and are constantly bombarded by the needs around us. We tend to define ourselves by the results of our ministry. If anyone needs the gospel of shalom, it is those who are in full-time ministry, and especially those who do it cross-culturally!

Whatever your goals for 2018 may be, consider adding this one: commit to pursue shalom in your life, and to give shalom to those you meet each day. Take a step deeper into your walk with Jesus. Go beyond where your feet can touch and let him keep you afloat.

Three Kings and the Kingdom

Have you ever wondered where the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” came from? It’s fun to think of getting presents for 12 days in a row, especially in increasing measure like the song describes!

The twelve days begin with Christmas and end on Three Kings Day – or “Epiphany” – on January 6, when traditionally, the three wise men arrived to worship the Christ-child. Three Kings Day is most celebrated in Latin countries, where presents and fireworks shower down on everyone!

But there is a deeper meaning to the Magi’s visit than just gift-giving, as important as that is. When Christ was born in Bethlehem, the angels announced the birth to the shepherds, who then went around sharing what they had heard and seen. Israel’s Messiah had come! But the angels weren’t the only announcers: the heavens foretold the coming of the Messiah as well. Those that studied the night sky welcomed the news. A new king was to be born to the Jews, and they would travel far to worship him.

Jesus did not just come for the Jewish nation. Jesus came to establish a global, even a universal Kingdom. The visit of the Magi demonstrates this to us. The Kingdom of God is the Kingdom for all, and Jesus is its King. When he comes to reign, every eye will see him, every knee will bow, and every voice will proclaim him as Lord of all.

This year, don’t let Christmas end on the 25th of December. Celebrate the coming of Christ for the salvation of all and the establishment of his kingdom every day. Follow the example of the three kings as they sacrificed much to worship our king.

Get involved. Be Jesus to others. Live the Kingdom!

A Christmas Present for Sara

“Sara lay in bed, her eyes glazed and staring at the stucco ceiling while her ears were bombarded with the incessant sounds of fireworks exploding all around her. Occasional flashes of light filled her room through the same window that allowed daylight and diesel fumes to enter her flat. “Do these people ever go to sleep?” she thought as she forced her eyes closed. Sara had been told this night would be “exciting” by some of her expat friends; this level of excitement, though, she had not anticipated. She could’ve sworn that some of the popping sounds she was hearing were semi-automatic rifle related, though she couldn’t be certain… and she sure wasn’t going to get up and look out her window to find out!

It was Christmas Eve – well, it was actually the wee hours of Christmas day – and that is when, in many Central and South American countries, the Christmas celebration really happens. Fireworks at midnight announce the beginning of the holiday, followed by the opening of presents and a huge Christmas meal. Wine and other drinks would flow freely, allowing any inhibitions for noise levels to melt away. Sara tried to convince herself that, as she had been told, “it’s not wrong, it’s just different;” however, the longer she lay there, the more she was convinced that this difference was wrong!

Eventually the din subsided and Sara felt her mind and body relaxing, sleep drifting over her. Though not fully asleep, she seemed to be at home in Michigan, and all was right with her world except for the loud knocking sound of a woodpecker against a nearby tree. The knocking became frustratingly loud and eventually roused her enough to realize that someone was at the door. She regretted leaving her visions of home behind, but she shook her head to clear out the drowsiness and glanced at the clock… 2:30 AM… who could this possibly be? She hesitated, with safety issues clouding her awakening mind, but then she heard Luz calling her name from outside the door. She got up, shouted for Luz to wait for a minute, and threw on some clothes.

She opened the door to a loud and genuine “Feliz Navidad!” accompanied by the usual hug and kisses on each cheek. Luz was a friend from her voleibol club, one of the few local relationships that Sara had developed more deeply. Why on earth was she here in the middle of the night? Sara offered Luz some café and the two settled into some conversation about the holiday. Luz filled in some of the gaps in Sara’s cultural understanding about this holiday with her animated descriptions of the rituals her family enjoyed every Christmas season. As Sara began to share about her love of Christmas and the reason for the celebration, she noticed that Luz became more and more pensive. She stopped Sara midsentence to comment “Hablas about Jesύs like amigo,” in her best Spanglish.

Sara sat there, open-mouthed, for a second. Was this happening? This was why she was here.  Without having to think about it, her mind jumped into the Evangelism Explosion training that she had received years ago on sharing her faith in Jesus. As a Catholic, Luz certainly understood who Jesus was and what he had done, but to trust in him alone for salvation, or to consider him a friend as well as savior, were new ideas. Sara prayed constantly as she talked, all her tiredness and frustration a distant memory. By 4:30 AM, there was a new member of the Kingdom. God had given Sara an unexpected Christmas present.”

 

Excerpt from “Prepare for Impact” by Jeff Boesel.

What Gift Will You Bring Him?

Giving gifts has been an essential part of Christmas tradition for a long time. We even sing about it, and we’re not sure it can be sung any better than this!

As we approach the third Sunday of Advent, and Christmas in just eleven days, we want to focus on gifts. The Magi began the gift giving tradition, bringing some to the newborn king. Following their lead and bringing gifts to God during the Christmas season has been a tradition in the church for millennia. In our time, gifts abound for each other and, occasionally, we may donate more to the church or the missionaries we support; but it seems we have lost the joy of bringing a gift to the King.

Even considering this brings up one big issue. What do you give to someone who owns it all?

There are some things we can bring to the Christ-child become King of kings. They are all things that he has given us and, because of the free will we enjoy, are ours to use as we want. Consider giving these things to Jesus this season.

Time: Time is a gift given to all of us by God. Everyone has the same amount and we can use it just as we please, but giving God time is not as easy as it seems. Our lives are so busy that we leave ourselves no margin, and there’s just something wrong about keeping God in the margins. This Christmas, our gift to Jesus could be to bring him out of the margins of our lives and commit priority time to him.
One suggestion would be to pray daily for the nations. Operation World is a good investment to guide global prayer.

Ability: As with the opening song, The Little Drummer Boy, we can offer our abilities to God as a sacrifice of praise and worship. Some of these abilities are innate, gifted to us by God when he formed us; some of them, we have used God’s gift of time to develop. No matter what the origin, offering our skills and training to God is a wonderful gift.
How do we do that? One idea is volunteer to help those in need, or the organizations that help those in need. This is really a gift of both time and ability.

Heart: There is no greater gift to give to Jesus than to turn over our whole selves to him. Most people reading this post have decided to follow Jesus and have been adopted into his family, but there is a difference between following Jesus our Savior, and following Jesus our Lord. If Jesus is Lord of your life, he owns and controls all of it. The Apostle Paul described this as being a bond slave. A bond slave is one who was set free, but chose to remain and serve their master. This slave’s will is, in all ways, the master’s will.
The sign of this gift to Jesus is singular: complete and willing obedience.

James Taylor sings of this in his rendition of “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

Enjoy and Merry Christmas.