God-With-Us is Hope 

By Shannon Youell

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day? 

How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.” 

This plea, this lament from Psalm 13 written by the Hebrew David, King of Israel, may resonate with you—perhaps from a time when circumstances were bleak, dreary, seemingly endless and without any hope of changing. 

Perhaps this is how you feel right now.  

David’s lament, one of many poured from the depths of his soul, reminds us how easy it can be to lose hope when we are not seeing or experiencing the promises of God that we long to know. It is the sad reality of our humanness: it is easy to lose hope. 

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I suspect, however, that when we do lose hope, it is likely because that hope is dependent upon some kind of determined outcome, some kind of action, some kind of mystery, miracle, provision.  How many times have we, in lamenting prayer, reminded God of His promises towards us as a passive-aggressive way to demand they be so for us now. For us, disappointment denotes the absence of hope fulfilled.  Yet… 

 “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.”
Martin Luther King Jr. 

Finite hope may or may not appear, but infinite hope, ahhh, that is something different all together.  That hope is not just wrapped up in a promise, but a person, and not just any person, but God Himself.  God-With-Us. 

Often, we look to the promises of God as our hope, when our hope is simply Himself. Incarnated. Emmanuel. With-Us. Here amid our sorrow, our how long! pleas and cries.     

There will be trials and disappointments, but God does not leave us without hope.   

There is hope because God is still With-Us. 

Here’s the thing about hope: it may not always look the way we expect it to, but in the end, it always looks like God. God-With-Us. 

Our hope isn’t found in the promise fulfilled. Our hope is that God-With-Us is our hope. 

God-With-UsChrist, Emmanuelpours upon us the hope of His presence and it leads to the way of peace, and to the way of joy, and the way of love and then to promises fulfilled. Hope is not only clinging to a promise of the future, but more so clinging to the Person who is present, now and always. 

This is the message of Advent. Advent is not an extension of Christmas; Advent links our past hope, our present hope and our future hope. 

Our God-With-Us is hope, and that hope restores our hearts, our minds, our soul and strength towards peace, towards joy, towards love so we can worship fully in the knowing that our God never leaves us nor forsakes us. 

David, as in most of his laments, remembers that hope. He finishes his anguished cries with these words: 

But I trust in your unfailing love;
My heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
For he has been good to me.” 

God-With-Us is Hope. 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” 
Romans 15:13
 

Happy New Year!

By Cailey Morgan

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Happy New Year!

There’s something about turning the page on a new season that opens the possibility for new hope for the future. I don’t know about you but I am so ready for an opportunity to disengage from the patterns and ruts that I’ve gotten myself into over the last year and begin afresh.

I was reminded by a colleague recently, however, that as Christians, we follow a different calendar.

New Year in December
Yes, on one level I am talking about the Liturgical Calendar, which provides a way for us to live into the story of God throughout the year. The first Sunday of Advent is the first day of the Christian or Liturgical year. Anticipation of the Incarnation becomes the starting point, not personal goals for self-betterment, or stirring up willpower to achieve a better you.

No—for God’s kids, New Year’s Day is a day to cease striving and to wait. It’s a day to put all our hope in Emmanuel who is coming to ransom us, captive in our sins and in the atmosphere of sin around us that threatens to suffocate us until the breath of the Spirit comes.

Everyday A New Day
On another level, we as Christ-followers have access to New Year’s Day every day! As Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” We’ve all messed up, some of us deeply, in the past year, month, week. Yesterday. Today already. But every time we turn away from our heavenly Father, there are two arms open wide to receive us back. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:19).

If you’re looking for a way to reconnect with the Lord in this new calendar season, try opening the Psalms each morning for the next couple of weeks, looking for times when the Psalmist uses the word “morning.” There’s a strong theme of God’s unfailing commitment to us, as well as the constantly-failing commitment of us to Him, and the opportunity—daily—to re-align ourselves to the God who has covenanted with His people, promising to never leave nor forsake us.

What Christmas Teaches Us About Church Planting

Did you ever consider that Christmas could have an impact on how we do church planting? Christmas is the holiday, but Jesus Christ is the message of the holiday. His life and how He lived it is the ultimate instruction for how we, too, should live.

Image credit colinjcampbell

Image credit colinjcampbell

We certainly should strive to keep Christ in Christmas, but we can also strive to keep Christmas in Church Planting.

For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us (Isaiah 9:6).

See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23).

The principle that Christ and Christmas teach us about church planting is the necessity to go to where the people are. Jesus left the glory and comforts of heaven to be “with us.” Since Jesus gave us the example of incarnational living, it is necessary for us to go to the people who so desperately need Him. Past are the days when we can hang out a sign and say, “ya’ll come.”

His last instruction to those He entrusted with the job was, “Go into all the world…” It may be difficult and uncomfortable to cross streets or cross cultures, but reaching people with the good news of salvation and seeing new churches begun requires that we leave our homes and church buildings and go to where the people are.

What other elements of Christ’s incarnation story speak to Church Planting? Share your thoughts.

Adapted from Ken Weathersby’s article “What Christmas teaches us about Church Planting”