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Dec 20, 2012

Hope In The Midst Of The Unthinkable

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Strength For The Day

Newtown, Connecticut was a quiet, peaceful town when the unthinkable happened last week. A town is in great mourning, a nation grieves, we all cry. The age old question is on the tip of every tongue, “Why? Over 2,000 years ago, Bethlehem was a quiet, peaceful town; then, the unthinkable happened. “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more. (Matthew 2:18)  Job was a righteous man, God called him blameless. He had seven sons and three daughters and a blessed and prosperous life; then, the unthinkable happened. He lost all his children, all his possessions, his health, and the respect of his wife. What we call “the unthinkable crushed him.
Job’s lament is spread on the pages of the book that bears his name in the Old Testament. In the midst of his travail he comes to realize that he has much to learn; primarily, in his wrestling with God and passionately searching for the answer to “why, he understood this:  he is a man, God is a spirit, and there is the desperate need for a mediator who can lay his hand on them both. Job’s answer appears ten chapters later, “I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, (Job 19:25-26) the One who truly lays His hand, of spirit and flesh, on us both.
Next Tuesday we celebrate Job’s answer and ours, for “the Word became flesh and lived among us.  Does the incarnation, the birth of Jesus of Nazareth in Bethlehem, help you at all in answering “why, or bringing hope in the midst of unthinkable evil? Or bringing hope in your own darkest hour? Only in contemplating the One who was laid in a manger on the first Christmas, seeing with the eyes of faith His pilgrimage for your salvation, understanding the necessity and the grand sacrifice of love in the incarnation, which, by His choice, lasts forever; only, ONLY in this can anyone know lasting hope in the midst of the unthinkable. Hope is much more than seeing light at the end of the tunnel; hope is knowing Jesus knows, has been there, and is where you are (“Hey, listen to me, He said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age, Matthew 28:20); hope arises from knowing He is truly Emmanuel, God with you; He feels your pain and places His hand on your shoulder and, simultaneously, in the bosom of His Father; He directly unites you to God as He is your forever Mediator with the Father. There is no surer HOPE!
When you manifest this hope, authentically, in your countenance, in your actions, in your words; when it saturates your being, you bring hope to the darkest places: you bring hope to those who have no hope.
When that father, with tears rolling down his face, spoke of Emilie, his six year old daughter, who died on the floor of her kindergarten room, he spoke through his tears of her Heavenly Father in whose presence he knew she was. There was no greater hope that came out of our television screens last week. Some may mock and scorn, but no one can diminish this family’s hope in the midst of what is, for all of us, unthinkable tragedy.
It is not a vaporous “crutch to get through the evil. It is reality; it is the “sun of righteousness rising with healing in His wings and delivering to you a joy which is truly unimaginable! (Malachi 4:2) It is the joy we have when we fully grasp as Job, as Mary and Joseph, as the shepherds, as the wisemen, as Simeon and Anna, that the Word became flesh and is and will be our Savior forever!


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Paris-
Dec 19, 2012

Paris' Slide Show

As a part of a PAYH graduation ceremony we always show a slide show of images from the young man’s time with us.  It is remarkable to look back and remember his time with us and to see the changes that take place in him.  From the physical changes as he becomes more fit, to the glitter of hope in his eyes, the changes are evident to all.  Below is the slideshow from a recent graduate, Paris.

To view the rest of Paris’s story visit our Success Stories page...


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Three Wise Men Camel Travel Desert Bethlehem Concept
Dec 18, 2012

Tears Like Water: Shooting In Newtown

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My favorite daily devotional, “A Slice of Infinity, has told the story of a young girl who was the victim of a horrible event that took her life.  In June of 2005, People Magazine entitled the article, “Justice for Samantha.”  The story is achingly heartbreaking as it tells how the tears of the 5 year old Samantha, were found on the car door lock, leaving her DNA and a trail of evidence that pointed to the killer.
Stories like this and what we saw with the shooting in Newtown, Ct. this past week do nothing but break the heart.  There are no words one could seemingly offer, no prayers that would seem sufficient.  How does one pray for comfort when tears flow like water?  It is our nature to forget, yet events such as the crime at Sandy Hook Elementary become unforgettable.  How is it that what we want to forget becomes etched in our memories?  Why is it that what we should remember is so easy to forget?
And so, during times like these, my prayer for the parents, families, and communities impacted are that they might remember joy.  That memories and dreams of laughter might ring in their ears.  That in a very dark, lonely, desolate, and seemingly hopeless time in their life, that they would somehow see the Light of Hope.
Their lives and our lives are forever changed by these events.  We are not alone or isolated from one another.  We are a community, made of individuals, families, each other.  Our independence likes to imagine that we can do this alone, but we cannot.  We cannot make this world safe for each other by ourselves.  We need each other.  Remember that!  Never forget that though tears fall like water, to some degree we all share the same hurt and pain as those that are around us grieve.
Today, like every day, love those around you.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  As an individual, find an opportunity to give hope to someone around you.  As a family, deliver joy to your neighbor.  As a community, be a light in the darkness.  Hope conquers fear.  Joy transcends despair.    Light pierces the darkness.
Forget the days when tears run like water.  Remember what you have been given this day.  Have courage.  Be strong of heart.  None of us walk through this alone.


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Hunter
Dec 18, 2012

Biblical Truths for Times of Tragedy

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What should we teach our children in order to prepare them for tragedy? Here are ten Biblical Truths that will be helpful as you speak to your children during times of tragedy.

  1. In a fallen world, in which we live, tragedies will happen. They may strike near us in our community, even in our own family.
  2. Our God, our Heavenly Father, knows us, our needs, and our capabilities.
    He knows our beginning and our end. He loves us and will take care of us.
    He will deliver us from evil and the evil one. Even if we die, He will receive us into His heavenly home to be with Him forever. All those who trust in Jesus will be together again. Death cannot separate us forever.
  3. We may not know in this life all the reasons for a tragedy, but in Heaven we will see clearly the answers to all the questions we have now.
    Until then, we must live by faith in the promises of God. We can trust Him!
  4. Sadness and tears may last for a short while, but joy will return again.
  5. No matter what happens, God will never leave you or forsake you. He will never forget you. Do not forget Him!
  6. Stay near to God and talk to him all the time: before, during, and after a tragedy. Pray for others for God to heal them and comfort them.
  7. Help others with your kind words. Serve them without being asked, do something for them. Always be thankful if someone helps you.
  8. Remember that Jesus experienced great pain and suffering. He knows what you are going through when you hurt and are sad. He will always be with you.
  9. Pray now that no matter what happens in the future, God will strengthen you to endure and you will not fear what could come. Pray how you can encourage other people who are suffering.
  10. Always remember, nothing can ever happen, not even the worst tragedy, to separate you from Jesus and His love for you.

 


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Young Black Boy
Dec 13, 2012

Story of Hope: Ray

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Leadership, strategy and growth text on wooden road sign outdoors in nature.
Dec 06, 2012

The Gritty Work of Your Salvation in a Cattle Stall

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Strength For The Day

One Christmas/Advent commentary I received last week asked what Jesus as a baby did in the manger; and answered their own question, “Nothing. What He would do was yet to come, they wrote, when He went to the cross to die for us. This ignores a vital part of your salvation, which Immanuel (God With Us) accomplished for you. Jesus, the Son of God, was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and grew as a fetus (a baby) inside of her. Just as David expresses of himself in Psalm 139, God the Father saw His Son’s unformed body as it was being knit together in Mary’s womb, even as He saw you while yet in your mother’s womb.
Part of the Son of God’s emptying of Himself in leaving the courts of Heaven and becoming “poor for us, that we might be made rich (Philippians 2), was His experiencing the pre-natal development of His body in the womb, and the experiences of being an infant, toddler, and child; and all of this with the critical vulnerabilities of pre-natal and natal circumstances in a primitive first century world. Consider the precarious, nearly week journey on a donkey within his mother over dusty, dangerous, bumpy paths; and the lack of pre-natal medicines and exams (no ultra-sound except God’s eyes). Consider the lack of an antiseptic labor and birth room and the latent germs of a typical animal stable. Consider the deadly political environment created by an immoral king with authority to send soldiers to wantonly slaughter infants (how amazingly similar to today, only the foot soldiers for the present-day “king are minions like Planned Parenthood and scurrilous abortion radicals). Jesus as flesh and blood was vulnerable to all of this. Unlike Moses he did not live in a palace as His childhood home with a slew of servants and the protection of a king in whose house He lived.
Two kinds of obedience encompass Jesus’ work for our salvation: passive and active obedience. Passive obedience is all that Jesus suffered and endured for us, in every circumstance, throughout his life on earth from conception to cross. Active obedience is His conscious, purposeful will and obedience to obey His Father in all situations, to keep the Law and every commandment from His Father’s lips, and of His own disciplined will choose death as the perfect sacrificial lamb for our salvation. I do not know where the dividing line is in this early stage of Jesus’ life in sustaining sinless perfection. When does a baby cry only to alert his parents to a need, and when does an infant learn that crying produces results even when something is not critically needed. I do not know for sure, and neither do you. God knows.
The beloved Christmas Carol, “Away in a Manger, has been criticized in recent years for the words, “no crying he makes. We assume the baby Jesus, as any baby, cried; but who has ever observed a sinless baby, other than Mary and Joseph and close family and friends? Crying is a natural response to needs and to pain, but as we all know, not always. I think the words of the carol were chosen by the author to describe the sinless perfection of Jesus, rather than the necessity of His humanity, though “no crying he makes does not cover every circumstance of a baby or small child. In His older life, the Bible tells us, Jesus cried passionately with tears for good reason (Hebrews 5:7); so crying and tears are not sin, indeed no similar response when it is truly warranted is sin; rather the expression of deep love for something or someone or from hatred of sin and its consequences.
We are able to know Jesus took the path of the womb and infancy, childhood, and, yes, even the period of most parents’ trepidation, the teenage years; and all the trials of adulthood. As we experience our trials and tribulations we can refresh our knowledge that Jesus has been there and done that. He knows what it’s about. This Savior is the fortress to whom you can flee for rest and protection and know He knows what you or your children are going through, personally! The Bible tells us truly, that He was tempted and tried in all ways that we are, yet He won victory in every situation without sinning. Therefore, Jesus is able to always provide a way of escape for you in any trial or temptation, because he has been there. (I Corinthians 10: 13, Hebrews 4:15)
Jesus was winning your salvation in the manger, in childhood, as a young adult, as well as on the cross, in the tomb, and even now. He did not experience old age, but I would say that the cross certainly covers the gamut of the arthritis years.  In this Advent Season engage your mind with all that your salvation encompasses in the birth and life of Jesus, and share those personal reflections with your children or grandchildren. How will they know without a teacher? And you are their best teacher!

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