Thursday, December 18, 2014

When a Carpenter is Called to Raise a King

by contributing writer, Heidi Eastman

When a Carpenter is Called to Raise a King

I was hurt, betrayed and angry.  Mary, my betrothed, was pregnant and it was not my child.  And then she made an elaborate story about an angel and she said that the child growing inside her was the Son of the Most High God.  It was insulting.  As angry as I was, I didn't want to bring more shame upon her and I decided to end things quietly.  But then an angel came to me and confirmed everything Mary had said.

I was terrified!

How does a man treat the woman carrying the Son of God?  I'm just a carpenter.  I couldn't afford to give her everything she deserved.  All I could do was provide a dry house (most of the year), and work hard to provide for her basic needs.  I still cannot fathom why God would tell me to marry her.  But He did, and I obeyed.

I did everything I could to make Mary comfortable and she never complained or asked for anything.  In the midst of morning sickness, sleepless nights, and being the center of gossip, Mary never forgot how blessed she was.  She never forgot how special her child was.

As Mary's stomach stretched, it started becoming real to me.  I was responsible for raising the Son of God.  Wouldn't a rabbi or a scholar of the Torah be a better option?  How would I ensure he learned everything he needed?  I did my best to hide my worries from Mary.  She had enough to deal with without adding a frantic husband to the mix.

Mary was getting more uncomfortable every day, when Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken, and I had to travel to Bethlehem.  I was taking her away from her mother, and any woman she knew that could help her deliver a baby.  I was taking her on a dangerous road, with risks of attack - both human and animal - and robbery.  Not to mention that the stress of the trip could cause her to go into labour at any time.

Yet we went.  And I spent the entire trip in prayer.  I prayed that Mary would be okay.  I prayed that I could be the father this child needed.  I prayed that we would have a bed to sleep in.  I prayed that what we were doing was indeed God's will.

We finally arrived in Bethlehem.  I completed the census and we looked for a place to stay.  Mary was becoming more and more uncomfortable.  She tried so hard not to complain, but a woman in labour does not easily remain quiet.

So many people had come for the census that there were no vacancies anywhere!  Finally an innkeeper offered us his stable for the night.  A stable is far from what I imagined but it was dry and Mary could rest.

Jesus was born that night.  Mary had told me about childbirth on our journey in anticipation of us not finding a midwife.  I had never seen a child born before.  It was long, messy, loud and disgusting, yet somehow beautiful.

I had been expecting a King.  Yet I held a tiny, fragile, helpless infant.  A baby who interrupted our sleep and demanded to be fed and changed.  A simple, beautiful, perfect baby boy.  He was not a king.  He was not born with a crown on his head.  The only miracle was that of birth.  He was completely human.  Yet I knew, when I looked at him, that he really was the son of the Most High God.  And I was given the honour of being a part of his life.

I still do not know how to raise a king.  I will honour his mother.  I will pray for wisdom, and I will teach him what I know.  I will raise the creator of the universe as a carpenter.

Heidi Eastman lives in Neustadt with her husband, two daughters, and a beast of a dog. She has been an active part of the HMC congregation from the moment she was old enough to contribute. You can find her over at her own blog, My Sister Told Me To Start A Blog.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

WARNING: The Holidays Without Faith in Christ can be Dangerous to your Health

The Christmas season is a favourite time of year for many people but for some it's far from pleasant and my heart goes out to those who are suffering through it.

My friend works in retail and the impatience that typically comes with the Christmas season has already begun.  Something as simple as a closed till can quickly unravel a customer's entire day; in fact, she experienced two people who were so upset they threw down their merchandise and stormed out of the store, swearing loudly.

Christmas is the celebration of Christ's birth.  Jesus came into the world to save us and help us through the difficult times in life.  He is the reason for the season; however, if we forget Jesus, the materialism, busyness and time spent with family can turn into more of a problem than a joyful celebration.

Jesus is the reason for the seasonJesus came to give us peace and joy and it is available to all who have a relationship with Him.  But many don't include a relationship with Jesus in their holidays festivities and that peace and joy is passing them by.

Jesus was born in a stable to bring peace and joy to all mankind but this "best gift ever" is only available to those who will accept it and open their hearts to Jesus.  If someone gives you a gift but you don't take it or open it, you don't get to enjoy it or use it.   So how do we receive and open this Christmas gift of Salvation from God?  

Receiving starts with us acknowledging that we are sinners and that our sin separates us from having a relationship with God.  Jesus was born as a baby so that he could grow into a man who defeated sin by dying on the cross.  Jesus was God come down to earth as a human, remaining pure from sin as he grew into a man so that when he died on the cross he was qualified to be our substitute.   This might make more sense if I get Canadian and use hockey to explain: If the goalie gets a penalty he does not serve the penalty in the box because he is the goalie.  Another team member sits in the box and serves the penalty for the goalie while the goalie stays in the net.  Someone had to pay the price of our sin so that we could be reunited with God and that is what Jesus did on the cross - he sat in the penalty box for us and served our penalty.  He served our time so that if we repent and commit to live a godly life we no longer need to be punished.  God wipes our slate clean and forgives us all our wrong.   We can then begin a relationship with the God who created the universe.   Besides asking for and receiving forgiveness for our sin we also begin a relationship with God by humbly giving God ultimate control of our lives.  Basically we yield ourselves completely to God and let Him be the boss.   Once God has control of our lives He can lead us in the right direction, in the ways that bring us peace, joy and freedom.   Our Christmas can be transformed into a good season.

Even those who have a relationship with Jesus can miss the peace and joy if they get caught up in the rushing and trials and excessive busyness of Christmas.  Sometimes we do not actually give Jesus all areas of our life but desperately clutch at control.  We don't leave our concerns in His capable hands but ruminate in them, and our peace is quickly stolen away.  Without trust in God, worry is free to grow unchecked and becomes a force to be reckoned with.  Faith is like an umbrella to protect us from the rain of worry.

The continuous drip of worry has stolen so much joy from my life.  I am not sure why I have been so reluctant to replace worry with faith.  Maybe I did not notice how much worrying I actually do. About 3 months ago I prayed and asked God to heal the emotional part of me.  It has been such a revealing journey since then.  God has been showing me all the messed up things that happen in my brain and one of the main things is the actual extent of my worrying.  I think on average I worry probably once every three minutes!  My mind is so full of fear and concern!  I can't fully enjoy life because I.m continually pouring out toxic thoughts that poison my outlook on everything.  I need AAA for worriers so I can stand up and say "Hi, my name is Kristen Webb and I have a problem with worry" and then get help for my addiction.  Good thing our church offers an emotional 12 Step program and I am in it right now!  It has pointed me in the right direction to find healing and freedom.

The prescription for healing is to take all your worries to God and drop them (actually let go) into God's capable hands.   When you are tempted to take the worry back trust God to handle the issues! Peacefully look to God for the solutions to all the problems in your life.   I discovered that all my planning and scheming was not a really good solution to my troubles.  Instead I give God that responsibility and confidently listen to His voice for the answers and then simply obey Him and do what He suggests.  This faith we put in God enables us to let go of the worry and fear and replace it with peace and a confident expectation in His solutions.

The Bible says that God gives us beauty for ashes which may sound way too good to be true but that is exactly what God has done for me.  As I give Him the ashes of my worry and fear He replaces them with the beauty of faith followed by peace.  I needed to learn to trust God with my life because now, even before the answer gets to me, I can still have peace and joy while I wait :)  This is a truly amazing way to live and more fun than when my mind was overrun with concern because I was tightly holding onto the control of my life.

What are some ways you can let go and let God this Christmas season? 

Kristen Webb boards horses in the country with her husband and three daughters - one of whom has special needs. She has been part of the HMC congregation for almost eighteen years.   You can find her over at her own blog, My Wild Ride Through The Door Of Faith

Samson - Sermon Video

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Adding Your Voice To Sunday Mornings - Why We Read The Scriptures Aloud

"Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophesy, and blessed are those who hear and keep what is written in it..." Revelation 1:3a

Why We Read The Scriptures Aloud - Hanover Missionary Church
As we carry on in our chronological journey through the scriptures there has been an ongoing invitation to participate in the story through Life Groups, discussion questions, and personal challenges.  One more way of bringing the narrative to life is by sharing the Sunday morning reading of scripture among various voices in the pews.

"I see it as a new liturgy," Pastor Jason said from the pulpit on November 23, 2014.  And while Hanover Missionary Church is not traditionally a liturgical church, there is something powerful to be said for actively participating in a service and not just being a consumer. 

The beauty of the liturgical tradition is that it carries a lot of back and forth and calls for active participation.  "Literally translated 'liturgy' is 'the work of the people'," Pastor Jason shared.  "In our context we have to be careful that everything isn't driven from the front - that you become inactive participants in something that is largely being performed...and you are simply there as an observer.  We don't want that.  We want you to be active participants and so, as you read the scriptures and as I share from my insight, from my perspective, from my readings, from my prayer, hopefully our messages jointly - our lips jointly - will be filled with messages from the Lord for each other.  There is power in the good news.  There is power in the scriptures and, as we share the Word of God together, there's transformation that comes as it takes root in our hearts."

Understanding the reasoning behind why we do things the way we do is just one more step in the journey towards becoming a strong family in Christ - a community actively pursuing God together.  And perhaps, through understanding, you will find yourself raising your hand to add your own voice to a Sunday morning service at HMC, making your experience richer, and the Word that much more powerful.

Alanna Rusnak shares her life with her husband, three children, and a cat she's trying hard not to love.  She has attended HMC for her entire life and been on staff since 2003, currently fulfilling the role of Creative Communications.  You can find her over at her own blog, SelfBinding Retrospect.