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Advent Day 11: God’s love for you is life-giving

Advent Day 11: God’s love for you is life-giving

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” –John 10:10

In Ephesians 2:1-2, Paul writes to Christians, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience…”

This is the world that Jesus came into. The Creator and Giver of life came to the world He had created and found dead people walking around everywhere He looked. How sad it must have been for Jesus, who breathed life into humanity, to be face-to-face with dead humanity. And how sad it was for Him to recognize that although they were dead, they didn’t know it, and because they didn’t know it, they didn’t hunger for the life that He had come to give them. How sad it is to have the one thing people desperately need, but they’re not interested in what you have to offer.

LIFE was born in that manger; it’s what the Christmas story is about. Life was born among the dead so that the dead could come to life. Because we were dead in our sins, we were completely without any ability to rescue ourselves. We were stuck in our sins and trapped in a cycle of rebellion against God, slaves to our passions and objects of God’s wrath. Not only were we dead, but we were also doomed, and not only were we doomed, but we were also helpless. Here you find the essence of the Christmas story. Here is where it preaches to us about God’s abounding love and His amazing grace. Because we were not able to act for ourselves to change our condition, God acted on our behalf.

The birth of that baby tells you that the story of humanity would not end with the walking dead. It would not end with slavery to sin and separation from God. The birth of Jesus is God acting radically in human history to give life to dead people. The One who is life, who came down from heaven, born as a baby, would later die for the dead so that the dead would have life forever. The birth of Jesus is a sure sign that God will act where we cannot act, and He will act with life-giving grace.

Celebrate this Christmas season that Jesus came to give life, because it’s the one gift we could never, ever give ourselves.

Jeremy Proemsey
Family Ministries Pastor

Advent Day 10: God’s love for you is beautifully invasive!

Advent Day 10: God’s love for you is beautifully invasive!

“The Lord commands His steadfast love…” -Psalm 42:8

Notice the image that the Psalmist uses: “The Lord commands His steadfast love.” It’s a military metaphor. Not only is the love of God constant and always near, but the God of love will invade your life by His grace. I realize “invasion” doesn’t seem like a great term, and certainly not a very ‘Christmassy’ one. But in this case, it’s actually a beautiful description of what Christmas truly was- an invasion of God’s love and grace on the weak defenses of a sin-deceived world. Your loving Father wasn’t and isn’t content to sit back and let you perish in sin, wander far from Him, or work this thing called faith out on your own. God’s love is militant and invasive…and we are so incredibly blessed by that reality!!

Think about it, are there not times when you tell God no? Times when you feel too ashamed to approach Him? Times when you try to handle the weights and pressures of life on your own? Times when give way to the enticement of sin? These are all ways in which you try to keep God out of various areas of your life. And if He were to just sit back and allow you to be successful, you would suffer mightily and crumble under the weight. But that’s what Christmas is about- God’s loving invasion on the hearts and lives of a world who would attempt to reject Him at every advance. And He continues that invasion today. He’s always marching toward you with grace at the ready, even when you’re too spiritually exhausted or deceived to ask for it. The great Captain of love and the great General of mercy will fight for you, every step of the way.

So let this Advent season serve as a reminder that God’s love for you is steadfast and intimate, and that He is relentlessly fighting for the welfare of your soul.

Jeremy Proemsey
Family Ministries Pastor

Advent Day 9: God’s love for you is a willing love

Advent Day 9: God’s love for you is a willing love

“Jesus…who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Hebrews 12:2

Here’s what the Christmas story is all about: a willing Savior born to rescue unwilling people from themselves because there is no other way.

Jesus was willing to leave the splendor of eternity to come to this broken and groaning world. He was willing to endure an disgraceful birth in a stable. He was willing to go through the dependency of childhood. He was willing to expose Himself to all the hardships of life in this fallen world. He was willing to do His Father’s will at every point. He was willing to serve, when He deserved to be served. He was willing to be misunderstood and mistreated. He was willing to endure rejection and gross injustice. He was willing to preach a message that would cause Him personal harm. He was willing to suffer public mockery and endure physical torture. He was willing to go through the pain of His Father’s rejection. He was willing to die. He was willing to rise and ascend to be our constant advocate.

Jesus was willing! That’s the kind of love He has for you- a love so deep and powerful that it supplies Him with the will to do whatever it would take. It was that love for you that brought Him to earth on Christmas. Without His willingness, you and I would be without hope and without God. Without His willingness, we would be left with the power and curse of sin. Without His willingness, we would be eternally damned. During this season of celebrating, don’t forget to celebrate your Savior’s willingness. His willingness is your hope in life, death, and eternity.

But there is still more to be said. We don’t just look backwards to see the personal impact of the willingness of Jesus. The Gospel doesn’t exhaust itself in our past. The Advent willingness of Jesus is your guarantee that He continues to be willing today. Right here, right now, He is willing to love you on your very worst day. Right now He is willing to forgive you again and again. Here and now He is willing to be patient as you continue to grow and mature. Right now He is willing to battle on your behalf against evil within and without. Here and now He is willing to teach you through His Word. Now He is willing to supply every one of your spiritual needs. Now He is willing to be faithful even when you’re not. He, right now, is willing to empower you when you’re weak and to restore you when you are discouraged and protect you when you’ve stepped into danger. And He remains willing to do everything necessary to feed, guide, sustain, and protect you until heaven is your final home.

You see, the Advent story reminds us that our past, present, and future hope rest not on our willingness, but on the willingness of the One for whom the angels sang, the shepherds worshiped, and the magi searched. Willing Jesus is the only hope for unwilling sinners!

Jeremy Proemsey
Family Ministries Pastor

Advent Day 8: God’s love for you is wonderfully incomprehensible

Advent Day 8: God’s love for you is wonderfully incomprehensible

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” –John 1:14

This is the meaning of Christmas. God has come into the world He created, born of a human virgin, in the person of Jesus Christ. What would cause God to do such a thing for such rebellious people like us?

Charles Spurgeon once wrote in reflection of this sweet reality:

“That God should make a creature out of nothing is certainly a marvelous manifestation of power, but that God should enter into that creature, and should take it into intimate union with His own nature- this is the strangest of all acts of condescending love! Human wisdom, in its most happy moments, has never risen to anything like the thought of deity espousing manhood that man might be redeemed! To you and me, the marvel lies in the motive which prompted the incarnation. What could it have been that brought Immanuel to such a stoop as this? What unrivalled, indescribable, unutterable love was this that made Him leave His Father’s glory, the adoration of angels, and all the hallowed joy of heaven, that He might be made a man like ourselves, to suffer, to bleed, to die? That He should be the associate of the worst of men, that He should be called the friend of sinners, so perfectly incarnating Himself and condescending so low that He comes to the very lowest state of humanity? Here is the Creator taking the creature into union with Himself! The Immortal becoming mortal, the Infinite an infant, the Omnipotent taking weakness, even human weakness, into union with His own person! We may truly say of Jesus that He was weak as the dust, and yet, as mighty as the eternal God. He was subject to suffering, and yet, God over all blessed forever. O the depth of the love of Jesus!”

What I love about Spurgeon’s reflection is that he is so clearly blown away by the unimaginable depths of God’s love for us, and the incomprehensible lengths God would go for us. Have you ever truly considered that? The desire of God’s heart is to be with you intimately, sharing your struggles, and give you His endless resources in all circumstances. What does meditating on that do for your heart?

Christmas is a powerful story of God acting on His deep love for YOU. It’s the story of Jesus moving near to you so that you could know Him personally, be restored into perfect relationship with Him, be set free from the power and consequence of sin in your life, and experience life- abundant and eternal with Him.

This Advent season, be reminded by the Christmas story that you are dearly and deeply loved by the King of the universe, and there is nothing He won’t do to show you that!

Jeremy Proemsey
Family Ministries Pastor

Advent Day 7: Hope is for everyone.

Advent Day 7: Hope is for everyone.

17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.
18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.
20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.

-Psalm 33:17-22

What are you expecting for a Savior? The religious leaders of Jesus’ day expected a Savior to be Moses-like, to come and take all the people out from under the rule of the Roman Empire. Just like Moses took all the people out from under the rule of Pharaoh. They also expected the Savior to come be the king that they so longed for. To develop the Jewish people as a nation, showing how awesome, Yahweh, the Holy name of the Christian God, really is; and since the Jewish people are God’s chosen, they’re pretty awesome too. Throughout the Old Testament, it talks about the Jewish expectation of a Savior as, Yom Yahweh, the day of the LORD. When it is talked about, you just get this feeling of hope in the way a small child is filled with hope telling a bully, just wait until my older brother comes, expecting to have justice and the ability to stand over the beaten body of his oppressors. Yet this was not quite what was to happen. Jesus Christ, the Savior, was born in a manger in Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth. Nathanael, in John 1:46, really emphasizes how far off from royalty this really is by saying, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from Nazareth?” On top of that, He hung out with the diseased, tax collectors, and sinners (Mark 2:15) and not solely with scholars and wisemen like a king would.

This morning as I meditate on Psalm 33:17-22, I’ve had to come to the realization that I have a tendency to be like the Jewish leaders of old. I expected God to come into high positions of power like a king, president, or prime minister. I expect His work to be done on the grandest of scales being both efficient and effective; everyone would easily become a Christian. I expect everything to be awesome ad without opposition right now but am reminded that, “the war horse is false hope for salvation and by its great might it cannot rescue.” While God will come and rescue all the believers on a war horse during His second coming (Rev. 19:11, 1 Thes. 4:17, Rom. 14:10-12), this is not what He did on His first coming. Jesus came to expand the kingdom. He came to break down the exclusivity for the Jewish people (John 4:20-26). The war that will be waged, will not be people against people, for God came to declare His love for all people, instead it is against Satan and his army (Gen. 3:15). It is in this declaration of love that our hope is assured and the only thing I have left to say is what Philip said to Nathanael in John 1:46, “Come and see.” Come and see how much God loves you. Dig into His word and see how He is with the characters of the Bible is and this is how He will be with you.

I feel so blessed to have been able to share with you my reflections during this first week of Advent. I pray that it was not my words that were reflected on but the speakings of the Holy Spirit directly to you. During this Christmas season I hope that you remember and receive the true gift, which is Jesus Christ and the hope that He brought into this earth.

Have a Merry Christmas!

Zenas Fung
Pastor of Student and Young Adult Ministries

Advent Day 6: Hope dispels all fear.

Advent Day 6: Hope dispels all fear.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. -1 John 4:18

Fear is one of my biggest pet peeves. It annoys me that it has so much power to stop me in my tracks. For example, I have a fear of pigeons (this is true), if the flock is big enough (more than 2), I will stop walking or choose to cross the street. Sure, I feel a bit ridiculous being afraid of a tiny bird, but ridiculous or not, I still need Jenny to scare them away for me so that I may continue my journey.

I think this is what happens in our spiritual life too. God tells us to do something or to go somewhere, He tells us that He has planned for it, that this is what we are meant to do and we just can’t get ourselves to do it because our fear settles in and we just can’t move forward. It doesn’t have to be something big, a tiny bit of fear has the ability to halt everything! I don’t know what your fears are that are keeping you from God’s plans, but I’m with you. God told me to be a pastor for a long time and I kept passing it off. I just didn’t want to be a pastor, I feared that I wouldn’t be qualified. I looked at my life, my decisions, who I was and what I had done before coming to Christ and it wasn’t pastoral material. Even to this day, I hold onto the same fears that I may revert back to who I use to be, however God says, do not fear for I am with you and I will sustain you (Isaiah 41:10). He gets it that our fears will stop us in our tracks and that’s why He gives us hope that we aren’t alone in this and that He’ll do the work.  This is why there is so much hope in the name, Immanuel, because it is a statement saying God with us (Matthew 1:23).

Jesus came because He loves us and wants us to live free and fuller lives. We are meant to do much in the Kingdom. Do not be stopped by fear, but be hopeful, because God created you for much more.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

What fears do you need to give up to Jesus Christ today to accept that you are made new and made for much more?

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. – John 14:27

Zenas Fung
Pastor of Student and Young Adult Ministries

Advent Day 5: Hope is the ability to let go of my own control.

Advent Day 5: Hope is the ability to let go of my own control.

As we reflect on the first coming of Jesus and anticipate the second, we need to ultimately ask the question, why did Jesus have to come? The answer, sin.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. – Romans 3:23

Sin is sneaky and it took me a long time to truly understand it. I was taught as a child that sin was the bad things that I did and God didn’t like it. Since, I was a pretty rebellious child, I was told that I “sinned” a lot and God didn’t like it. As this continued, I began to associate that the more bad things i did, the more God didn’t like me. I really wanted to be loved by God so I tried to just stop doing bad things. Sure, I would do well for awhile but there are those weak moments that I just couldn’t help myself, and once again, bad things were done; and once again, God doesn’t like that. So I’d try again and again to shed the sin in my life so that God would like me, but time after time I’d fail.  This is where sin is sneaky. It is not because it creeps up in our lives and makes us do bad things, it is because it creeps up in our lives and takes away our identity of who we are as God’s child. It made me question if God that really loves me, if He is a God who is always there for me.

I see the same thing in some of my friends who have given up trying. They have become discouraged and hopeless that God could ever love them and they are burnt out from trying. Here’s my encouraging word for you today, God wants you to rely fully on Him and some of us need to go into hopelessness before we are willing to say, “FINE!”

During my time in the Navy, there was an exercise where we had to learn to rescue people from drowning. The most important advice I remember from that exercise is that if the person you are trying to save is actively trying to save their own life, you let them drown first and then you rescue them, otherwise they can cause themselves more harm and harm you, then no one will be saved. It’s kind of like that, we’re drowning in sin and God wants to save us from it, if we’re trying to save ourselves, we’re just going to hurt ourselves.

This is why God sent Jesus because He’s saying I’m here to save you, whenever you’re ready, I’ll come in. Which leads to the question, are you ready to stop trying to save your own life and let Jesus bring you out of sin? If you are ready, then here’s where your hope will come from, relinquish control of your life and draw close to Jesus Christ. This is the only way to save yourself from sin. Take the advice of Elsa and Let It Go!

6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. -Philippians 1:6

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. -John 3:16-17

Zenas Fung
Pastor of Student and Young Adult Ministries

Advent Day 4: Hope is the promise that God will.

Advent Day 4: Hope is the promise that God will.

Hope is the promise that God will. As I wrote this sentence, I couldn’t help but want to add a word to the end and it made me chuckle to myself a little. I think that’s where a lot of us get stuck; God will what? The only answer is, yes, for your good! Let me try to explain, in Jeremiah 29:11, God says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” What this is saying is that God understands life and that’s why He plans for your welfare. He knows what is going to make you sick and unwell, weary and discouraged, or bitter and angry and He does not want you to remain in that. So, He plans. What kind of plan takes care of sickness, unwellness, wariness, discouragement, and bitterness? The one where He takes care of it! It would be nonsensical to ask for your efforts to resolve an issue that your efforts have caused. This is why, God will, is complete.

During Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus because it is the fruition and ultimate showing that God will. In Romans 10:9 it says, because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. The whole thing hinges on what God has done. What do we need to do? Just receive it! This is what Jesus meant when He says on the cross where He was crucified, “forgive them for the know not what they do (LK 23:34)” and “it is finished (John 19:30).”

God is promising that He will, will you put your hope in HIs plan and accept the life He has in store for you today? Will you receive your gift from Him?

-Zenas Fung
Pastor of Student and Young Adult Ministries

Advent Day 3: Hope of living is not the hope of existing

Advent Day 3: Hope of living is not the hope of existing

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men – John 1:4

Eat, work, sleep, eat, work, sleep. This is the common cycle of life that most of us adhere to and it would be really hard to deviate from this. It all correlates, I must eat for energy to work, work to have food and a place to sleep, and sleep to have energy to work. This is a life where we hope to have food, hope to have a home, and we hope to have a job to pay for it all. I want to tell you that hoping for these things is NOT what God wants for you. What God wants for you is life; He wants you to have a purpose, He wants you to have fulfillment, He wants you to have joy; and all those are found in Him.

In my early faith journey, I couldn’t fathom life without hoping for choice food, a nice house, and a stellar job to pay for it all. This is what everyone was pursuing. When I thought that God wanted the very best for me and had a good life for me, that it would be evident in these aspects because these were the factors that dictated life and as a Christian, I still needed to eat to survive and work to have food to eat and a place to sleep, right? It wasn’t until I burnt myself out trying to make enough and be enough that I realized that  John 1:4, says that the life cycle, that I deemed necessary, was only mere existence; you eat a bit, work a bit, and then you eventually, sleep forever. The promise of Jesus Christ is that If you want to truly live, in Him was life! There’s a big difference.

During this season, I want to remind you that God is saying that He will be sufficient and that you can rely on Him for everything and He is offering a new life that brings you out of the viciousness of mere existence and into life.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. – John 3:16-17

-Zenas Fung
Pastor of Student and Young Adult Ministries

Advent Day 2: Hope is not the same as wishful thinking

Advent Day 2: Hope is not the same as wishful thinking

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. – 1 Thessalonians 5:8

When’s the last time you hoped for something?

I remember as a kid always hoping for a video game console. Year after year, I’ll look in the Toys R’ us ads and just be enthralled by the beauty of that, lacklusterly colored box (Nintendo and Super Nintendo grey are not very exciting colors), that promised so much joy and entertainment. Every year I hoped and every year I was left hoping that maybe next year.

When I sat down to write this, I asked myself, how hopeful is my actual hope; do I truly expect fruition when I say that I hope for anything? To be honest, I didn’t, I had to categorize my hope as wishful thinking where I don’t expect fruition or any intended outcome; I just hope and expect to continue hoping.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:8, it talks about the armor of God that protects us and prepares us for battle against the onslaughts of the deceiver placing the hope of salvation as the helmet. I find this interesting that the deceiver plays mind games and to protect us is hope. I’ve talked about how weak my hope is and that’s what God says is going to protect my head. If that’s the case, Goliath (killed by rock to the head) and I shop at the same armor store. Yet God holds to so boldly as to put it in His Holy Word that the hope of salvation will carry me through and that’s because of this — He will. My hope has been jaded because there was no certainty but God re-establishes true hope because, He will.

This is why we are celebrating Christmas because God has sent His Son down to establish the hope of your salvation which is assured. He declares that He loves you so He did it. It’s funny that it is in this season that the deceiver is trying to deter us by turning our hopes into wishful thinking. Now that you’re aware of what the deceiver is doing, celebrate this season, wish for things and have fun, but remember that true hope is God given, be assured that He loves you.

-Zenas Fung
Pastor of Student and Young Adult Ministries

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