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The birth of a King

With Christmas, we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; a story that captures the heart even of many people who otherwise don’t belief in, or don’t follow, God and Jesus. But the Christmas story wasn’t just a cute story about a baby. Though new life is often celebrated, Jesus’ birth went unnoticed by many. Yes, God sent his angels to announce the birth of His Son to shepherd’s who were watching over their sheep in a field near Bethlehem. He also sent a star to announce Jesus’ birth to wise men from the East. But of His own people, it seems only 1 old man named Simeon, and 1 old woman named Anna, realized who this little baby was, without being told so by angels.

But when Jesus talks about His birth, it isn’t in the same jolly atmosphere we often associate with the Christmas holidays. Jesus talks about His coming from quite a different perspective.

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Luke 20:9-15 “He (Jesus) went on to tell the people this parable: ‘A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.

Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.”

But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. “This is the heir,” they said. “Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him'”  (NIV, 2011).

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Jesus is the heir who was sent to this earth to be killed. His birth was followed by death Mat 2:16; His life would be a stumbling block for many and would cause pain to His mother’s heart Luke 2:34-35. Though He came to “bind up the brokenhearted” and to “set the captives free” Isaiah 61, His own life, was one of suffering (NIV, 2011).

And that is whose birth we may celebrate again in the next couple of days. The birth of a Savior; the birth of a King.

God bless you all as you remember His birth and celebrate this precious life that was given to us. May God be with you all, and may He continue to guide you and bless you as you start the new year of 2016.

NIV, 2011. Holy Bible, New International Version. Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/

“Intentional Living” & Love your neighbor as yourself.

“If you want to be successful, you need to every day: value people, belief in people & unconditionally love people. If you do these three things every day, you will not only be successful in life, but you will have a life of significance.” – Advice John C. Maxwell got from his dad.

As I was listening to a broadcast on his book “Intentional Living” by John C. Maxwell, it was this advice that stood out to me most. We all want to live a life of significance. But though this advice seems simple enough, I know from my own life that it can be very hard to do all of these things every day. Some days we are too busy, at others too resentful, too lazy, too … Whatever it is, there can be a lot of things standing in our way of truly valuing people, believing in them and loving them unconditionally.

Yet, this is exactly what God does for us every single day, and He too has asked us to do so for others, though with slightly different words.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all you mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’” is the correct summary of the law the law-expert gives to Jesus in Luke 10:27.

Our love for others flows from the love we have for God, and out of the love that He has shown us. By reading the Bible, we can be reminded of this. But the Bible also challenges us to love people who we may rather not “value, belief in & love unconditionally.”

    

One specific group that God calls the Israelites to love is foreigners living among them.

Deuteronomy 10:19 says: “And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” Even more, Leviticus 19:34 says: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

This must not have been an easy task for the Israelites, even at the time that God spoke these words to them and it became more severely tested in the time that the Samaritan’s lived among them. The Samaritan’s were Israel’s natural enemies. And yet, when the expert of the law asks Jesus “who is my neighbor,” in Luke 10: 29b, Jesus answers in the form of a story that shows the Samaritan’s are indeed to be loved as their neighbors. (Luke 10:25-37 – The Parable of the Good Samaritan)

Who are your neighbors? Who are our neighbors? Have we justified anyone to be excluded from God’s command to love others as ourselves? Perhaps someone who has wronged us? Or perhaps, like the Israelites in Jesus time, we have a hard time loving the foreigners that seek refuge in our country?

Whatever it is, God can help us. He is an expert in loving those who hated Him. He even died for them. And on Christmas, we again celebrate the fact that Jesus came to live with those who loved and with those who hated Him; calling all of them back to the Love of the Father. Who can we share this news with this Holiday season? Who can we value, belief in & love in ways that we may never have before?

Ask God to challenge you. And I am sure that you will find both value and significance. Good luck!

A Path Appears

Last week, I listened to an interview with Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn who shared on their book: A path appears.

It is a book about hope through giving people the opportunity to step beyond their current circumstances.

Here is a short overview on some of the things they shared:

Inequality is a big problem, bigger than we realize. If we want to address it, we need to address it early. Because poverty goes deeper than a lack of money. It is ultimately, a lack of hope. Hope is like a path in the countryside, when more people walk it, a path appears. We need to help people to dream, because it is their ability to dreams, that gives them hope.

When trying to help people out of poverty, or the results of poverty, we do need to be aware of what methods work. Sometimes our most common way of solving a problem, is not the most effective, or at least not the most cost effective. Often there are some very small and simple solutions, that can change a lot for one person. For example: a parasite treatment, costing only a couple of dollars, can make sure that a child can pay attention in school. This is often more effective than building a school, which does not yet guarantee that the kids will be healthy enough to go there.

Next to the inequality gap, we also see an empathy gap. The poorest 20% of people give proportionately more than the richest 20% of people. Part of this is connected to the fact that poor people are more often surrounded by other people who are suffering. This makes them more willing to give. Whereas it has been tested that the brains of rich people, can be quite unaffected even when they do see suffering.

Helping others is not only good for them, but also for us. We were created to care and volunteering can actually extend our lives. Though helping can be hard and sometimes disappointing, seeing change can also bring a lot of hope and helping one person, affects all who come after him/her. So, though we can’t change it all, we can do some. And for that person, it makes all the difference.

Change has to start with us.

But we have to keep our eyes open. And you might be surprised that often, it is when we start seeing the worst side of humanity, that we also run into some of the very best.

Do you want to help?

There are more ways to help than by giving money. Investigate, find what you like, consider advocacy & get out of your comfort zone. Experience, meet people and it will make a difference not only on them, but on you also.

Our response

A Path Appears is about hope, and about what we can do to give people hope. In September of 2016, we will have our first ever Youth With A Mission – Discipleship Training School in Ogden, Utah. Our focus will be on Compassion and on how we can speak into the suffering that we see in this world.

One of the places where we feel that God is calling us to reach out to, is Eastern Europe. Thirty years ago, this area of Europe was under the control of communism. And though a lot has changed since then, there is still a lot of brokenness that I belief can be traced back to this time of communism. In Budapest for instance, one of the places where we hope to bring God’s Truth, His love and His hope, there are people who have been living on the streets for over 30 years! This is from before the fall of Communism, and yet, it still hasn’t changed.

Do you feel called to speak Hope into people’s lives? Please check out our Utah Compassion DTS page to see how you can join and make a difference in this world!

Want to learn more about a path appears? Click on the link to visit apathappears.org or search for “A Path Appears” on netflix!

Reference: Speaker Broadcast with Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn for The National Society of Leadership and Success.

In the presence of The Lord

If you have ever been to Salt Lake City, you may have noticed that in the very heart of the city, there where the lowest road numbers all come together, stands the LDS Temple (LDS = Latter Day Saints, or Mormonism). And just like the temple is found in the heart of the city, so temples in general still have a central place in the LDS faith.

As found on Mormon.org on 11-12-2015, the Latter Day Saints “Belief nr. 10” states that “Temples are the house of God on earth, holy places where we seek guidance and become closer to our Father in Heaven.”

As Christians, we don’t have temples made by human hands. John Bevere describes why this is as follows in chapter 6 of his book ‘The Fear of the Lord – Discovering the key to intimately knowing God’:

“Chapter 6 – A new sanctuary

Under the old covenant God’s glorious presence dwelled first in the tabernacle, then within the temple of Solomon.
Now God prepares to move into what was always His desired dwelling – a temple not made of stone, but the temple found in the hearts of His sons and daughters.”

He also references 2 Chronicles 6:16 “For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them.'”

The Old Testament tabernacle and temple were indeed a place where God lived among the people – as long as they kept His commands – but it also showed the clear separation between a Holy God and His people. In contrast to the garden where God could walk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening, it was now terrifying for most people to be in close proximity of God. We can see this in the Israelite’s response when God shows himself at Mt. Sinai.

Exodus 20:18-20 “Now all the people witnessed the thundering, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, ‘You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.'”

And God agrees (Deut 5:28-29), because in their lack of Fear of the Lord, God’s presence would indeed consume them.

The Tabernacle
When the tabernacle was built according to the exact blueprints that Moses received while meeting with God on Mt. Sinai, God’s presence descended on the tabernacle.

Exodus 40:34-35 “Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”

When God’s presence descended, even Moses couldn’t go in.

Now we know that God’s presence didn’t rest this strong on His house all the time, but there remained a separation between the Holy God and His sinful people. This separation was made very obvious by the division in the temple. The Most Holy Place, could only be accessed once a year, and only by 1 person.

For years this went on. Sadly, we can see as we read on in the Old Testament that whole generations turned away from God. Many times the temple wasn’t even used to seek God anymore and in the end, the temple got destroyed.

The veil was torn
And then, years after Solomon’s original temple had been rebuilt, the impossible happened. Jesus came and when He died, He made everything that had happened in the temple to that day obsolete.

Hebrews 9:12 “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”

Jesus Himself became the New High Priest. Hebrews 7 speaks of an eternal Priesthood, in the line of Melchizedek. A priesthood that will never stop, that will never be passed down, and that will never end. Jesus is our high priest forever. And no other priest could do what Jesus could by His own sacrifice.

No more separation?
So according to the Bible, we no longer have a need for priests, temples or sacrifices – as Jesus is the high priest, our bodies are the temples, and Jesus death on the cross was the one sacrifice that is sufficient forever.

But perhaps this revelation is more scary than if we could keep some separation between us and God. If we could have priests, temples and prophets to stand in between of us and the Holy One. To still be able to say: No, you please go, but if we would be in His presence any longer, we would die. (Ex. 20:18-20 paraphrased)

People, the veil was torn! We do have access to the Holy One and He wants relationship with us. But like Moses, our hearts have to be in the right place. We need to grow in our understanding of who God is and what this Holiness looks like. In addition, we too have to grow in our understanding of the Fear of The Lord.

Jesus Himself understood this – Isaiah 11:1-3 “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.”

It is a choice
But it is still a choice – James 4:8 “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

Just remember: God = Holy & God = Worthy.

And though He accepts us as we are, we have to be willing to let Him transform us when we go into His presence. We need to be willing to let go of anything that we might be holding onto, and be convinced that He is both Worthy and Trustworthy – so that we don’t have to be afraid. (No: Fear of the Lord IS NOT being afraid of God)

One last question

Q. Would you want to live eternity in heaven, with those you love, even if God wouldn’t be there?
Sadly, many people would answer yes to this question. But if you do, you may not know God for who He really is.

If on the other hand, you know deep down that no matter how good your life, or the afterlife might be, that it would be empty without God – then you are really ready to grow into a deeper relationship with Him. Ask Him – He is not far from those who seek Him, and I pray that you may find Him and realize that the more you get to know Him, the more wonderful He is.

Recognition: Do you want to grow in your understanding of The Fear of the Lord? Consider reading “The Fear of the Lord” by John Bevere.

Winter opportunity in Idaho

It’s getting cold here in the Idaho mountains. And as my son is praying for snow, we are busy preparing for our January 2016 Bible School for the Nations (BSN). Have you done your DTS and would you like to devote 5 months to reading through and studying the Bible? Then I would highly recommend the BSN to you.

BSN-Promo-Card1

I personally did my BSN in the winter of 2014 and it was a great time of studying the Bible together. I specifically like the fact that the BSN is not only focused on studying the Bible, but also in growing you to become more able to teach from it. Throughout the school you will have several opportunities to teach to your class mates and you will have weekly practice in telling stories from the Bible. In addition, you can go on the optional outreach for the BSN called BELT – Biblical Education and Leadership Training. This is a great place to practice your skills while equipping church leaders and missionaries in other countries to share Gods story more effectively with the people they serve.

Interested in the Bible School for the Nations? Please click on the image to be transported to the YWAM Idaho Boise-Cascade BSN website.

Out of the ashes – a DTS was born

We fought, but it didn’t happen. With 2 of our 4 students deciding to stay back this year to support their family, and with only 2 students left, we had to decide to cancel our 2015 Fall DET in Cascade Idaho. But through the process of fighting, and letting go, God taught us a lot.

Lesson 1: Sometimes, though we follow God’s lead, the results are not what we expected.

As we were following God’s lead throughout the time leading up to the DTS, we saw some pretty amazing things happen and we got to speak into the lives of several people. But unlike what we expected, this didn’t lead to us getting more students.

Lesson 2: God is worth being followed and trusted.

As the DTS start date grew closer, the lack of students began to press on us. We were still trusting God, but would He still do it? During this time I found peace in two songs by Lauren Daigle – “Trust in You” and “First”. Especially “Trust in You” was a comforting, but also a challenging song. The song speaks about choosing to trust God, even when things don’t go the way we hoped.

Lesson 3: Sometimes, the answer is no.

As the day arrived on which we had to decide whether or not to run the DTS, God gave us a clear answer. As our staff met together to pray, we first asked ourselves this question:

“Are we willing to run the school with the 3 students that we currently have?”
Our answer was “Yes”.
Then we asked God: “May we run the school with these 3 students?”
God’s answer too was “Yes”.

But during the time leading up to this prayer time, God had showed us the importance of pursuing what is best and therefore we knew we needed to ask one more question.

“What would be best for our students?”

As we were ready to ask this last question, I got a text message from one of our students. She told me she needed to talk with us because she wasn’t sure anymore if she would be able to take the DTS this year.

We asked about what was best for our students, and our answer came directly from one of them. That is when we decided to cancel school.

Lesson 4: God’s way brings peace.

When we had decided to cancel the school, it was as if a peace came over me. I now knew that this was the right thing to do, no matter how anxious I had been that this would happen. The answer had been clear and I knew that we had followed God’s will.

Lesson 5: God has a plan.

Though the DTS was cancelled, God had a plan. One of our students is currently doing her DTS somewhere else, and she will still get to go to India where she had felt God call her to. And the 3 other students that had been in the picture, are all hoping to take their DTS sometime in the future.

And for us? Well, we are now in full preparation for the 2016 Utah Compassion DTS, something we would not have been able to do this soon if the DTS had not been cancelled.

And so out of the ashes of the 2015 Idaho Fall DTS, a new DTS is born. It was only last week that we visited Utah to meet with the different people involved and now we are officially launching our YWAM Utah Campus Website.

God is good and He can be trusted. And only He is worthy of all that we do for Him.

Praise the Lord and God bless you – Amen.