Holidays and special occasions are great opportunities to see the glory of God and the good of those to whom He’s sent us. Throughout the Old Testament God commanded His people to pause several times a year, simply to feast and celebrate. Leviticus 23 shows that God instituted intentional celebration into the annual rhythm of His people.
And God’s people didn’t celebrate by themselves. They included those around them, even people with differnt beliefs. For example, Deuteronomy 16:14, “Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.” Some of the best chances for mission involve inviting our mission field into our special occasions and joining theirs.
If mission is compelled by love, then we must embrace listening as one of the most loving things we can do. Our ability and capacity to listen in love is directly proportional to our patience. Impatience and lack of listening are the opposite of love: they are not kind; they are both arrogant and can be rude.
Patience versuse impatience is one of the most common themes in the Bible: Abraham waited decades for a son, and just before God fulfilled His promise, Abraham’s impatience led him to take matters into his own hands. Moses got impatient with Israel, and let his frustration show many times during their forty year wandering. It took Joseph at lead half a century to declare that God used his abusive family, jealous boss’ wife, and forgetful servants for his good.
Everyday mission is an opportunity to take matters into our own hands or to trust God. Will we take matters into our own hands, or patiently play whatever part God has for us? And can we learn to be patient enough to listen? To listen to the crying world around us? To listen God?
The human mind finds it hard to see God in a stable. That is why we must prepare for His coming. Only the heart that has been made clean of sin by His forgiveness can be ready to meet Him as He comes again this Christmas.
2,000 years ago John prepared the people for the coming of the Savior. Today, we too, must prepare ourselves. We can make His way straight in our own hearts by asking him to help us forget the weary and crowded world, the lonely pain in our hearts, and the confused hurry of our lives. He will come, but we must have room when He comes.
2,000 years ago the world had only a stable for Him. Today there are great churches, chanting choirs, trees and lights and gifts! But greater than all these–and far more important to Him–is the quiet heart that is ready and prepared for Him to come and live there forever.
The Bible uses two main words to describe people’s responses to suffering or bad circumstances: GROANING and GRUMBLING.
Groaning is commanded; grumbling is forbidden.
What’s the difference? Groaning is complaining TO GOD; grumbling is complaining ABOUT GOD. Groaning happens to God’s face; grumbling happens behind God’s back.
In the Bible, the place where people groan is on their knees where they’ve been driven by sorrow, suffering, and adversity. The place where people grumble is in their tents, where they think they are in private and are free to exaggerate, blame, play the victim, and excuse their own lack of obedience.
Grumbling is also contagious. People with a negative grumbling spirit will inevitably look for other grumblers to join them.
In grumbling, I make my irritations and inconveniences known to everyone around me. But in groaning, I speak directly to God about what troubles me. I hold nothing back.
In human relationships, if there’s a problem between us, groaning means I commit to talk to YOU about US, not talk ABOUT you to somebody else.
#1 Myth: Forgiveness = reconciliation
They are similar but unrelated actions. You can have one without the other. Forgiveness is something you can do on your own; reconciliation takes two people. Forgiveness is commanded in Scripture (Colossians 3:13-14). Reconciliation is not commanded but is highly suggested if possible (Romans 12:18).
Sometimes reconciliation is not in our best interest and is not spiritually healthy.
Regardless of what others have said, your ability to forgive is not dependent on hugs, warm fuzzies, and a tear running down your cheek.
#2 Myth: If I don’t forgive, God won’t forgive me.
Authentic forgiveness never occurs when we feel coerced to forgive.
This myth comes from Matthew 6:14-15 and elsewhere. But Jesus is still preaching the old covenant. Salvation isn’t dependent on what we do. This highlights the importance of forgiveness but shouldn’t be made into a “work.” A huge issue surrounding forgiveness is “when” you were “harmed.” We can’t expect IMMEDIATE forgiveness from people we’ve harmed or people who have been traumatized. Time plays a role in the healing process. But bitterness and a refusal to forgive is just as harmful as the original “crime” against us if it continues a lifetime.
What’s the difference between Jesus and us?
First, we’re not God!
Second, Jesus integrated ministry and mission into everyday life, while nearly everyone else we know doesn’t. We compartmentalize ministry into certain times and activities, separate from the rest of our lives. If we’re not careful, “mission” is relegated to a time slot that is scheduled. But if a co-worker asks to hang out, we make up an excuse and take a rain check. This mindset rejects the fact that we are missionaries and demotes “mission” to something we merely do then stop doing in order to do something else.
What’s the solution to compartmentalized, overly busy mission in the midst of our compartmentalized, overly busy lives? From rich to poor, from doctor to fisherman, jesus integrated people, life, ministry, and mission. He redeemed the everyday, normal moments of His life and used them for God’s mission.
What things do you do everyday of the week? What events do you attend every month of the year? There are normal, ordinary, sometimes even boring moments in our lives that can be redeemed for God’s mission.
- We eat about 21 meals/week.
- Many commute to work/school
- You might play in your yard or take a stroll around the block
- You watch TV!
- You go the gym, get your air cut
- You have hobbies: movies, music, hiking, baking, gaming
- You go shopping
Each of these moments are chances to weave mission into everyday activities. Each day is filled with orginary moments or activities.
For most people Christmas may be a time of joy and expectation. But not for everyone. I know too many people who get depressed at this time of year.
Carol Nelson said,
Christmas is a time when you get homesick — even when you’re home.
I’ve known that feeling some years, particularly those years immediately after the death of a loved one. What about you? Or what about those around you? Friends and family and co-workers?
If you’re having a Blue Christmas please talk to someone. Call a professional, cry to a friend; just don’t hold it all in and let it reach a point where you find there’s few options.