Jesus, Our Passover Lamb

Written by: Rev. Jeff Futers

In the early church, Passover and Easter used to be essentially the same celebration until anti-Semitism began to grow and eventually the church banned the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus in conjunction with Jewish Passover.

It’s sad really, because the Passover celebrated by the Jewish people for centuries was not just a celebration of a past deliverance, but a foreshadowing of THE Passover Lamb who would come—Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

I don’t have space in this article to get into the wonderful significance of it all. So let me tell you about one item on the Seder plate. It’s the ‘zeroa’ or the shank bone of a lamb. Up until the destruction of the temple of course, the Jews would actually eat the Passover lamb because lambs could still be brought to the temple and sacrificed. But once the Temple was destroyed and sacrifices were no longer being offered, they stopped eating lamb at the Seder and began to put only the shank bone of a lamb, called the ‘zeroa’, on the plate to remind them of the paschal (Passover) lamb.

‘Zeroa’ is a Hebrew word meaning ‘arm’, but it is very often used metaphorically in Scripture to describe power or might, particularly when speaking of the ‘arm of God.’ The word ‘zeroa’ is the word used by Jeremiah to describe God’s powerful act of creating the universe (Jer. 32:17). It is also the word used to describe the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, and it’s the word that Isaiah used to point to the One who would bring salvation to the world. Isaiah 53:1 says, “…to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” That’s the ‘zeroa’.

Look at Israel’s history, from the story of Abraham and Isaac where God provided a lamb on the mountain of the Lord, to the story of the Exodus when the Passover lamb was sacrificed and its blood spread on the doorposts for the salvation of all Israel’s first born. Then in the wilderness at the tabernacle and later in the temple, a lamb was offered every morning and every night. It’s all about The Lamb. Isaiah 53 describes One who will be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities and then led like a ‘lamb to the slaughter’. Later in Isaiah, the prophet said that God was lamenting that there was no one to intervene and bring justice, so His own arm brought salvation (Isa. 59:16).

John the Baptist would say of Jesus, ‘Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (Jn. 1:29). The shank bone on the Seder plate reminds the Jewish people of the Passover lambs of the past and the hope of their coming Messiah. Praise God, we know that Messiah, the Lamb of God has come. He died and rose again, and through His once and for all sacrifice we are redeemed!

Jeff is married to Sharon and together they are blessed with two great kids, Austin who is married to Amanda, and Alana who is studying Business Management at Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S. A pastor for almost 30 years and a gifted communicator, Jeff’s love and passion for the land, the people and the God of Israel is evident in his presentations. Jeff has a vision to call attention to the importance of blessing God’s chosen people and praying for Israel and for the peace of Jerusalem.

 

The Peace Jesus Brings

Written by: Traci Rhoades

I experience an unexplainable peace in the midst of tumultuous events. Unexplainable in human terms, that is. The days following my father’s death. Delivering an eulogy at funerals, while sitting with my own grief. Riding along with our little girl to the ER after she fell and broke her arm. Handling difficult, monumental decisions that could be a source of great stress.

Each time, certain peace rushes into the situation. It’s the mystery we read about in Philippians 4:6-7:

“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

When we find ourselves in trying times, prayers often go on autopilot. We cry out for the Lord to help us when we need him most. What do we have to be thankful for in these trying times? For one, the assurance we have a Holy Spirit groaning on our behalf, and Jesus interceding for us at the right hand of the father. Without even realizing it, our prayers invite peace to cover us like a blanket. Anxiety lessens. Every member of the trinity has gone to work, on our behalf. In Christ Jesus, our hearts and minds receive divine protection. Peace.

We put up our wooden nativity this time of year. I often reflect on those characters who played a significant role in the Christmas story. Consider the shepherds. Talk about a tumultuous event. To them, it seemed like an ordinary night in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks.

Suddenly. An angel of the Lord appeared to them. A whole company of heavenly hosts joined the angel.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14

Nothing like this had ever happened to them. Few people pay them any attention at all, and now an angel arrives, telling them them about glory and peace and favor. After the angel told them to not be afraid, did they perhaps offer up a few prayers of their own? Did these prayers usher in the peace of God, which passes all understanding? For surely, they didn’t understand. Fields were abandoned in a mad rush to see a baby born in Bethlehem. There, they found the Prince of Peace, lying in the manger.

As believers, we find our peace in Jesus, even when peace seems impossible.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

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Traci Rhoades writes on her blog, Traces of Faith, from her kitchen table in rural Michigan, not far at all from Lake Michigan’s shoreline. When she first started sharing her words, she wondered about what unique voice she could bring. She’s landed on this one-line description: A Country Girl Goes To Church.

Want to connect with Traci? Find her on Twitter: TracesofFaith; Facebook: Tracesoffaithblog; Instagram: tracirhoades3

Peace

Written by: Emily Pelley

“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.

John 14:25-27

How often do we pray for peace in our lives, while at the same time we live as if peace was not at all on our wish list? We set up our lives. Now of course, life comes with busyness. There are important demands on our time that are good, and we need to pray for strength to do everything well. My challenge to you is…how do you decide what gets added to your to do list? In one breath do you pray for God’s peace, and in the next you are making decisions and plans without pausing to ask for His wisdom and direction.

In the bible verse about, we are reminded that Jesus came to give us the best gift of all: peace. It doesn’t say peace once everything is going right. It says peace. Peace is a gift that Jesus promises. Choosing to know Jesus and to follow Him sets our lives on a path of peace. I’m not saying everything will be easy or calm, but in the midst of whatever you are facing, this PEACE is there for you to access.

I’d like to share with you a poem I wrote. It challenges us to live our lives for on purpose- to seek after Jesus and this perfect peace.

The flurry

Ticking clocks, late appointments

Hurried chats, busy schedules, loud voices

Little time, no time

The norm

 

When did we agree, when did we sign on

To a life so demanding, a pace so back-breaking

That we are left with nervous breaks, panic attacks

As we try to fill the gap between the demands and our ability

 

How short-sighted, how self-sadistic we have become

Our pace which will deplete and cripple, not strengthen and build

The life we want, the life we are working for

A life on a different trail than the one we trudge along

 

The truth in the midst of the flurry confounds

To rush through a pause, are we missing the point?

To hurry to the next, do we miss the current?

The immediate, the moment

Lost in the noise of miss-prioritized responsibilities

 

The calm

Deep breathes, thoughtful moments

Meaningful connections, revised priorities, realistic schedules

Time reconsidered, time submitted

The peace

 

This peace doesn’t come from us getting it all together, or from some special meditation with incense burning in the background. No, true peace exists in the person of Jesus Christ. My prayer for you this Christmas is that you would take time to pause. Be still. Take a deep breathe. Remember Who you are serving, and that His peace and provision is all that you need.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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Emily Pelley is a PhD candidate in the Interdisciplinary program at Dalhousie University, doing research with refugee children and youth affected by war. She lives with her husband, Travis, and daughter, Laura, in Halifax, NS. Emily is passionate about the fight against human trafficking and she has used any avenues that come her way to raise awareness and mobilize people to stand up to this injustice. She is also actively involved in her church and has volunteered in many different community groups organizations, including the Canadian Red Cross, Shelter Nova Scotia, Teachers Without Borders, Dubai Women’s College, and Shiloh University Church.

True peace!

Written by: Crystal Torres

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Peace…Where is it? And how can I have it? Peace is one thing that we all humans crave for, but many don’t know how to get. Peace means the freedom from disturbance or disorder. Everyone seems to be searching for this thing called peace. They crave it and long for it, and they want it, no matter the cost. But the Bible clearly reveals to us that true peace is only found with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And it’s not the peace that this world gives, but the true peace of God.

Since the beginning, when God created this world He made it perfect. The Garden of Eden was supposed to be a Paradise for us to live in. There was no confusion, no stress, no backbiting, no gossip, no death, no sickness, no conflict between living things. It was a perfect, peaceful place. But when God placed man in this perfect, peaceful environment, sin entered by fault of man and our peace was compromised. Because of man’s sin, confusion and chaos creeped into our world. Sin is what causes our peace to drift away, and sin is rebellion against God. And God never intended for man to sin. He created us to commune with Him, to walk and talk with Him, and He gave us the free will to choose our own course in life.

No one is immune to life’s difficulties. We all have had our share of heartaches and hardships. The single mother who searches for peace to overpower her doubts. The married couple who searches for peace to crush the chaos in their marriage. The woman with breast cancer who searches for peace to calm her fear of death. Our nation’s leaders searching for peace to flood our broken country. Everywhere we look, someone is crying out for peace, but they don’t know how to get it. Trusting that God knows best, because His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. They are BIGGER! Is how we find peace.

Many Christians have forgotten that God’s true peace is a given inheritance by God, and no matter how badly we have failed God, if we truly repent, God’s peace will always remain with us. The only way our peace can be snatched away from us is if we voluntarily give it away. The peace that God gives us is deep-rooted and cannot be taken away from us by any turn of events in our lives. The worlds peace is no comparison to God’s peace. This world is full of confusion, division, unnecessary noise and when we allow it to creep into our lives our peace will slowly fade away.

True peace is only found in Jesus. It is not found elsewhere nor is it given to us apart from Him. Peace is what calms the storm in our lives, in our souls. When chaos comes in like a flood, God’s peace will rise and command the waves in our lives to… BE STILL!  God’s true peace is not the absence of storms but our inner peace in the middle of our storms. And we will never find that lasting inner peace if we have not found Jesus. When we find Jesus, we will begin to experience God’s true peace in our lives. Whatever storm or trial you may going through today that has taken away your peace and joy, today Jesus wants to restore His peace and joy back into your life. He knows what you are going through—and He cares deeply for you. And He wants you to have His real true peace today!

The way to find Gods’ true peace is to admit that without Christ we are nothing and can do nothing. For it’s through Him that we live and move and have our being. Let’s confess the sins in our lives, renew our mind, put our trust in Jesus, and in doing so be reconciled to God and His true peace!

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Crystal is a prophetic voice to this generation of women. She is the founder of Crystal Torres Ministries and Acts of Love and Hope Outreach Ministry, a ministry challenging women to be all that God has created them to be by aiming to rebuild hope in their lives. She is called to awaken and prepare the hearts of women who have lost hope in this fallen world. She helps to rebuild and restructure their lives whether it be physically, spiritually or financially. So, she strives to work with others in her community to make a difference.

Finding Peace

Written by: Annemarie Johnson

I was listening to a discussion taking place in a business course I attended this year. We were reviewing personal and business goals for the year in regard to family, business, recreation, travel, money, fitness and spirituality.  The question being posed to everyone was, “What you do to find your inner peace?” It was a difficult question for most in the room, as going to church was not an option in this post modern crowd.  A suggestion was made, “ if you don’t have an answer for this one, maybe a stroll in the park, or time spent in nature may be used.” I wondered how could this be enough?  What about the importance of going to church?  Some who couldn’t find an answer, responded with a walk in the woods, or time spent at the beach for lack of knowing what other response to give.

I thought about “the walk in the woods,” and how I had spent many endless hours as a child wandering in the 100 acre farm our family owned in Stirling, Ontario near the Trent River.  This was where we would go to find peace. We didn’t want to go home to the stress and demands of our busy dairy farm.  On the farm, there was never a moment to waste or time to stop and enjoy the surrounding beauty.  When my parents would have company over, it was our opportunity to escape… run to the hills with my sisters and cousins. Beyond the hills, we found peace in the beautiful, majestic hardwood vista where one could disappear into the trees.  The ground below was neat and tidy, peaceful and cared for.  It was as if someone had cleaned up for the arrival of company, like the way my sisters and I cleaned up before our guests arrived.  It was like someone was waiting for us, anticipating our visit.

It was in the woods resting with nature as an 8 year old that I first recognized the presence of God.  I heard his voice.  It was in the little Catholic Church where I first noticed the sunshine streaming through the stained glass window and I felt God’s presence.

Years later it was in Catholic high school my friend Adriano during art class explained his experience with a living God.  I felt a peace that I could not explain, a conviction that I could not ignore.

Is it possible that God is waiting for us?  That perhaps the untrained person in nature could find God? Perhaps the Awesome, Majestic, Presence of God could be felt and experienced outside of church?

As an artist I have observed that artwork is very revealing, hiding nothing about who the artist is, what is hidden in the depths of their being, their thought patterns, their views, their emotions and convictions.  A manifestation of their spirit as it were.  At times I can see and understand the thought process that took place in order to create an art piece.  There are times that you see the linear, mathematical mind, as in Picasso’s work.  Other times free form with no distinguishable structure, as in Monet’s work.  Artwork can be read or understood like musical notes, evoking an emotion like sadness or exuberant joy.

Who can argue that God’s artwork is all around us?  What excuse is there for not knowing that God truly exists? Nature speaks of God’s “artwork”, His law and promises, written on our hearts waiting to be discovered.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”  Romans 1:20

It is in the moments of losing ourselves in the trees and nature of God’s love that we may find a peace without fear of being judged. In this peace there is a love that gives a person permission to talk about their messiness.  The Bible says confession is the path to healing (James 5:16).  Only a culture of love will allow for secret sin to come out of the darkness and into the light.

In knowing God we experience a peace that is without words, indescribable peace.

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Annemarie Johnson is a trained Decorative Artist, Founder and Creative Director of TROMPE L’OEIL STUDIOS INC. a decorative wall finishing studio.

Annemarie and her husband Kevin have 5 children and live in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, in the woods where they experience God’s presence.

Wonderful Counsellor

Written by: Carolyn Ruttan

John 16:33 MSG I have told you all this so that you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But, take heart! I’ve conquered the world!

In this world when we look at all the turmoil going on around us, it can cause us to lose our hope and peace, because really the world is anything but peaceful.  And do we not all long for peace on the earth…especially during the Christmas season?  We worry about what will happen next and worry about all the “what ifs.”   If we dwell what might happen it will steal our joy and our peace and consume us. We may become fearful.  It can rob us of our health too because we lose much needed sleep over worrying over every little thing. I know I am guilty of that.  I have been guilty of staying up all night worrying, and I have a lot of gray hair to show for it. Sometimes it feels like I cannot shut my mind off.

Matthew 6: 31—So don’t worry about these things saying, “what will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?” These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your Heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the kingdom of God above all else and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

God cares about us and he loves us so much!  That is why he sent us Jesus, his only son, as a babe born in a lowly manger all those years ago.  We can take every one of our concerns and things that weigh us down to our heavenly Father.  No matter how small they seem.  We are not a bother to him. He wants us to believe in Him and to have relationship with us. He wants for us to pursue him.  When we have worries or concerns he will remind us with what his word says about that situation. His Word gives us peace. The more we seek him the more sensitive we will be to his voice and the more time we spend with God, the aware of his voice we will be.

There was one time recently where I was blindsided by something. It was devastating. I stayed home from church that Sunday night to have some time alone where I could pray and cry out to the Lord about the situation.  And you know what? In time he answered. I didn’t hear an audible voice but more like a deep sense in my spirit.  Without going into detail, He basically reminded me that ultimately he is in control. I could trust him with this and did not need to panic or fear.  Instead of the words of death I was believing, he replaced those words with words of life.  Faithful, true, unwavering, steadfast. The burden I had been feeling lifted and I felt peace about the situation. Our peace can only come from Him.

Isaiah 14:27—I am leaving you with a gift…piece of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift that the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid…

So I encourage you , the next time you are feeling heavy hearted and weighed down with burdens to take those concerns to Jesus…our Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

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Carolyn loves Jesus and has lived in Tegucigalpa, Honduras for more than four years with her husband Dale. They have been married 22 years.  Along with her husband she shares the gospel to children in the public schools through regular Bible classes.  She is the mom to three amazing children, all of them gifts from God through the miracle of adoption, and all of them now teenagers.  Her oldest transitioned back to Canada over a year ago.  She loves to cook, bake, read , write and work out.  She also very much enjoys coffee  and going for long walks through her neighbourhood with her schnauzer Abby.

Our Prince of Peace

Written by: “Tay”

Christmas; it’s a time of year that we associate with cheer, lots of food, family time, and the miracle of Jesus being born. For many it’s a time for peace, joy, and goodness. I find usually I am able to think of Christmas as a wonderful time with family and friends.

I realize that the season of Christmas can also be challenging for many, whether we are missing family members, working through the holidays, or financially stressed.

This season of Christmas has been a bit more challenging for my family and I as we go through the struggle of a sick family member, our grandpa. Our grandpa is someone who is always apart of Christmas festivities, whether it being going to the famous Christmas store, Bronners or helping our Nan wrap up all the tiny gifts that fit inside our stockings.  This year, our grandpa is unable to be apart of these different events. Instead, we all take time to sit around his bed, comforting him and comforting each other during this time, during his illness.

In this scenario, I can’t really see peace on my own. My heart and my mind strain to understand why illness has impacted our family again. In these moments I have to turn to scripture for answers.

Philippians 4:7 states “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

This verse is something I cling to as I realize that peace does not have to come from our current situations. Peace doesn’t have to be something we only experience if things are going well. Instead, peace is a gift from God that we can choose to experience daily.

This Christmas is a time of peace. Our current situation may be challenging, but I also understand that “The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.” Psalm 29:11.

Our heavenly Father, is a Prince of Peace. Therefore we can cast all our cares and burdens onto Him. We may not understand why things occur, but our God never leaves us. He is our comforter in times of distress, and for that I am thankful. When we spend time praying and seeking God, we find peace- in all situations.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

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I am a wife, a traveller, and a self-proclaimed cat lady who works daily on strengthening her relationship with God.  I am thankful for all that God has done in my life, and I am excited for the journeys He has planned.

Trading in Worries for Peace

Written by: Winter Lawson

This year has not been a peace filled year for my little family. It has been a year of loss; loss and boatloads of change. Out of the boat, waves coming overhead, levels of change.

The year was cruising along, the way life has a tendency to do, when I arrived home from a women’s retreat on a Saturday morning in September. My mom calls and I can tell instantly something is wrong. She asks, “are you home and is Jesse (my husband) home?”I say yes to both questions and her next words changed my life forever.

She says “your brother was found last night. He committed suicide.” Even now, writing the words seems impossibly ridiculous to me.

My brother was a veteran who had been lost to addiction for many years. Yet I always had hope. Hope that my brother would once again be the funny, helpful brother I knew. The week after that loss, we begun bankruptcy proceedings that involves moving from the only home we’ve known as husband and wife. In case you are thinking “Why, on earth, is she revealing all these personal things?” I promise, I have a reason.

That reason is because sometimes life is terribly hard. There is unexpected loss. Your peace has been ripped out from under you.Things that you’ve been trying for so long to not have happen, happen. Your plans all start slipping from your hands. Life literally feels like it’s falling apart, then you realize the calendar doesn’t stop and the holidays are quickly approaching.

Everyone is excited – lights twinkle, trees decorate the windows of your neighbors’ homes. You want to embrace the sparkle, but your heart has this huge gaping hole in it. Your mind races with anxious thoughts. Not the thoughts of all the baking and gift buying like years past. But “how can I be excited when Christmas will look so different?” Different because someone who should be here isn’t. Because financially life has changed. How can you be excited when you really want to hide instead of faking it. Whatever has you feeling like hiding rather than celebrating, I see you.

I see you, when honestly I never had before. I see your heart split wide open. I see your worry. I see your anxiousness.

YET. I feel like we serve a God who says “yet,” “but,” and “however” in all caps.

Yet, God supplies. Yet, God heals. Yet, God fills our cracks with peace. Maybe this year will feel different, that chair will be empty when it should be filled. That pile under the tree smaller than ever before. You might think it’s going to feel different in a terrible way, but it doesn’t have to.

You can claim Philippians 4:6-7
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.” We can claim this because of Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

When the bad happens, we aren’t promised it won’t, so when it does God will use it for our good. When we give our worries to Him, He will trade them for peace.

You, right there with the lump in your throat, I see you. I see you, the brokenhearted, overwhelmed, and hiding from Christmas. Come out, embrace this moment. Don’t hide. God will supply your peace. When the peace comes in, Joy will follow.

Peace and joy will help you remember the true meaning of this season. Loving others. Seeing those hiding and loving them well. Make your moments about who in your life you can love not what is under your tree.

Find another who needs a dose of peace. Sit down with coffee and maybe some chocolate cake and pray. Pray peace, over each other, so that you’ll shine peace and joy onto others!

If you feel like the sparkle of the season is lost on you, I pray peace over you. I pray that you will seek the source of peace. The Source will redeem you and I, and our Christmas joy can be had!

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Winter lives in a small Indiana town and is married to her high school sweetheart, he is the calm to her crazy! They have two children, who she thinks are hilarious! They also have two sweet cuddly dogs. Winter’s perfect day would include sleeping in, bible study and coffee with her best girlfriends and a rousing game of Uno with her family, while eating chocolate cake. She is passionate about sharing the love of Jesus with others, to help them see God where they are. She wants to inspire them by the way she lives, to boldly step out of their comfort zones and do what He is calling them to do.

Count It All Joy

Written by: Ashley Sigrest

For many years I associated the word JOY with happiness. If I wasn’t happy in my life I didn’t feel joy. Joy in my mind meant smiling, showing an outward portrayal of inner happiness. If I was angry or sad I was definitely not being joyful.

I remember early in my walk with God reading James and seeing, “Count it ALL joy when you face trials of every kind,” and thinking how insane that sounded. I came from a hard past that I was still seeking freedom from. How could I look on these painful events and feel joyous about them? Surely that translation was wrong. Yet as I continued to read those verses in James, my spirit quickened and I understood that God would use that pain to grow me in my faith as well as help others who will walk similar paths. My sorrow wasn’t all for nothing.

Hebrews 12 tells us that Jesus even counted the pain of the Cross as joyous because He knew the lasting effects it would have on humanity and the Kingdom of God.

In the midst of our hard times we can trust the sovereignty of God and know that through our endurance of trials and sufferings He is there with us. We can know in faith that He will use even our darkest valleys to strengthen us in Him.

Joy is not an outward sign of inner happiness, but a fruit of the Holy Spirit that we are given the moment we surrender our lives to Jesus. You may have seen t-shirts or other merchandise saying, “Choose Joy.” I used to even have a sign in my home with it. The ironic thing is, as Christians we can’t just simply choose joy in the midst of hard seasons. When we surrender our lives to Christ the Holy Spirit lives within us and He gives us all His fruits (Galatians 5:22-23) to begin growing in them. Therefore it’s not so much choosing joy as it is activating the joy we already possess. Joy is our birthright in Christ!

The Christmas season can be burdensome if we find ourselves alone or if we are experiencing heartache in our lives. Burdens can easily pile on with the colossal to-do lists we make for shopping, preparing our homes, and serving our family and friends. We can let these issues weigh us down so much that we lose sight of the joy in this advent season.

Our joy, just like our hope, is in Jesus our Savior. We rejoice in knowing that He is our Healer and that we get the opportunity to serve Him when we serve others. Our burdens are opportunities to grow and become more like Him. What greater joy is there to be had this Christmas? Let’s activate the joy of knowing our Savior is with us and our Joy is Jesus, our Messiah.

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Ashley is a self-professed dork who loves sharing the Gospel and digging deeper into Scripture! She wants to live her life in such a way it inspires others to passionately seek Jesus and have Lively Faith. She’s a happily married homeschooling momma to four blessings who runs on Holy Spirit power, coffee, and laughter.

You can find her writing about her faith and crazy life at aLivelyFaith.com or over on Instagram. Ashley serves in her local church and community and enjoys helping other women grow in their spiritual gifts.

Joy to the World

Written by: Gena Christofferson

Do you struggle to show, share or be joyous this time of year?

November is a rough month for me. Most years it sneaks up on me and I start to blame the changing seasons for my off mood. Then I will receive an email reminding me to say Happy Birthday to my Aunt Patty. Aunt Patty passed away several years ago. Then there are the Facebook posts wish my Grandpa Don Happy Birthday in Heaven. He passed away in 2011. Not long after that we will see someone remember my Grandpa Jack who passed away in November a few years ago. Most of you would think November 20 would be the worst day for me. For those of you that do not know, November 20, 1993 was the day that my 2nd born child, Kylie Jo passed away.

I don’t talk about Kylie often- it’s awkward. People don’t know how to react to the idea of losing a child. And people REALLY don’t know how to react to me because I don’t suppose I react like the typical parent of a child who has died. Typical is not even a proper word because although we all share something in common – it affects each of us in a different way. Grief is about as unpredictable as life is.

I know many people who are deeply grieving their losses – years and years later – and then there’s me- I don’t normally get sad or weepy. I have very happy memories of life with Kylie and especially the last few weeks of her life. I was able to take a few weeks off work to just rock her and sing to her and my biggest pleading to God was not that she would be miraculously healed but that I wouldn’t be the one to discover she had died in the middle of the night. God answered that prayer for me.

I am thankful for the short time we had with her and I am even more thankful that she has spent much more time healthy and whole in Heaven rather than in pain here on Earth. I am selfish about a lot of things in my life but somehow when it comes to life and death and the hope of Heaven – I can separate myself from my loss and grief here on Earth and focus on the reward that awaits us. Please don’t take that to mean that I don’t get sad here and there or that I don’t miss my loved ones nor do I judge how anyone else grieves their losses. I just choose not to dwell in that grief.

The months of November and December each year are the “Holiday’s – where we are bombarded with reminders of Joy and where to find it. I think as a society we sometimes forget that finding that Joy and the source of Joy can be ever so hard. Please extend grace to those who are struggling. You may not be able to see their struggles but just know everyone has one and sometimes the best thing you can do is share a smile, a hug or a shoulder and say nothing at all.

We must remember what scripture tells us: “Weeping may stay overnight but there is joy in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b CSB – and for me sometimes there is joy in the mourning.

I am one of the lucky ones- one of the ones who know Jesus and has faith and hope for the future. I know God gave his Son over to die for me and for you. “As the Father loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” John 15:9-11 CSB

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Gena Christofferson is a bible loving wife, mother and grandma! She is an aspiring bible teacher, speaker and writer working to encourage others to gather and dwell together in fellowship with one another and God. Gena would love to connect with you on her blog www.gather2dwell.com or on Facebook at Gather2Dwell.