hope

The Dark Side of Advent

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By: Dan Seale

 

What happens when your experience of the Hap-happiest season of all doesn’t match up to the cheerful music, the smiling faces on commercials, the Instagram & FB posting perfection of your “friends”?

What if the prospect of spending extended time with your family doesn’t bring you holiday cheer but holiday fear? What if the idea of “family time” brings up feelings of profound disappointment and causes your deepest insecurities to bubble to the surface of your heart and mind?

If this is you, you are not alone. This time of year can heighten our sense of brokenness.

Some of you are wondering, why all the negativity? You love everything about this time of year.  That is fantastic!  Enjoy that gift but please keep reading to know how to empathize and love those who struggle at this time of year. 

The truth is that the world is broken and there is great suffering, but the hope of the Bible is that God acts to rescue us and make all things new.  Too often we try to numb ourselves to the pain in the world and in our own lives bypassing the proper means of grace and comfort that God has provided.  This season can be a time where we feel the pain of fractured relationships, financial struggles, failed dreams and broken promises; and we look to other people or things to give us relief from the pain.  The fact that others love this time of year is just another piece of evidence of our own failure. 

Advent in many ways is best described as a season of darkness, a longing for the better reality to come, a waiting for the return of Jesus.  In many ways Advent is the season we live in all year round.

Fleming Rutledge in her book Advent: the once and future coming of Jesus writes:

In a very real sense the Christian community lives in Advent all the time.  It can well be called the Time Between, because the people of God live in the time between the first coming of Christ, incognito in the stable in Bethlehem, and his second coming, in glory to judge the living and the dead…Advent contains within itself the crucial balance of the now and the not-yet that our faith requires.

The disappointment, brokenness, suffering and pain that characterize life in this present world is held in dynamic tension with the promise of future glory that is yet to come. In that Advent tension, the church lives its life.   

(Fleming Rutledge, Advent: the once and future coming of Jesus Christ, page 7)

 

We need to learn how to live as a people in this in between time, in the already and the not yet – in the Advent before Jesus comes again.  We need to learn to hope in a God who is at work and is making all things new.

We need to learn to watch, wait, and act in hope in the promises of God.  We should no longer be surprised by the intrusion of heartache and sadness but anticipate it and fix our eyes on the future coming of Jesus. Sadly, we have lost the spiritual practice of looking forward to the day when Jesus makes all things new.  Sadly most of us are terrible at waiting for anything.  Pregnant mothers have much to teach us about waiting and birth pains and joy (Romans 8).

We need to direct our hearts and minds to the promises of Jesus and allow them to be our comfort and strength as we wait.

It is in this between time that we as the people of God, the church, learn to wait and to act in hope for the return of Jesus.  We must develop the spiritual practice of looking forward to the day when Jesus makes all things new to help us in whatever circumstances we find ourselves today.

Do not be discouraged if you feel the brokenness of the world during this time of year.  However, remember that God kept his promise and sent Jesus the first time, and God will keep his promise and send Jesus again and set things right once and for all.

 

 

 

 

Communicating Hope Amidst a Sexual Revolution

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Often when I am pushing an article out via this blog I let you know that the article I am sending is not very long with the hopes that you will be willing to read it among all of your other life responsibilities. 

 

This article by Sam Allberry is long - well, at least significantly longer than most I recommend. It needs to be long for it addresses significant issues in our culture regarding sexuality with grace. Unfortunately, I find many of the things written by Christians on the topic of sexuality to be lacking in clarity, deep thought, or grace.  I think you will agree that this article suffers none of those errors even if you disagree with his views. 

 

The first part of the article is written to help Christians understand why the historical Christian views on sexuality have come to be viewed as dangerous to society in Western culture.  I think it’s important for everyone to have a greater understanding of the items he draws to our attention in order to have reasonable conversations around the issue of sexuality itself. 

 

The second half of the article is meant to help Christians think through how they might respond to people with opposing views.  One of my favorite sentences is, “Rebuttal isn’t persuasion.” He directs this towards Christians to say that stating a biblical position is not enough.  He invites Christians to understand the Bible’s sexual ethic as a whole and learn to explain it clearly with humility and love.  I think it’s well worth your time.  You can read it here.

Grace in the Midst of Depression & Anxiety

By: Brad Rogers

Depression and anxiety are formidable, if not crippling foes, which have ailed even the strongest of Christ’s followers throughout church history.  In this article, Nashville Pastor, Scott Sauls, writes about two gifted pastors who committed suicide while he was studying for the ministry and his confusion over how this could happen. 

Unfortunately, I have first-hand experience with such confusion.  The first pastor I had as a young adult took his own life not long after I graduated from seminary and had begun working as a college pastor while worshiping at the church he led. Ministering to others amidst my own hurt and disorientation was unnerving; and yet, as strange as it may sound, God met me in that darkness.  While I would have done anything to prevent what happened and wish it had never happened, God changed me and shaped me for ministry in important ways. 

Now, further along in life and ministry, Scott shares his own struggles with anxiety and depression and their impact.  He does so with the hopes that we all might see how “Afflicted does not mean ineffective” and “Damaged does not mean done.” These are good words from a pastor who has felt the pain and found grace and hope in the midst of it. To read the article, click here