For those of you who don't know, before I started working here at the church, I worked in retail. (Glorious retail!) And, although I loved the people I worked with, I was so happy to move into the role I have now. I'm especially thankful as the Christmas season rolls around.
This past Christmas, our family was celebrating at my sister-in-law’s home. And as we were eating our Christmas dinner, my husband Mike said, “Hey Jo, remember the last time we were here for Christmas, we were packing up to go home at this time because you had to start work the next morning at 5a.m.”. Because, if there's one thing you know working in retail, it's that Christmas isn't truly Christmas if people can't go shopping for great deals on Boxing Day.
It just seems like people are always concerned with the next thing. Never content with where we are now, we constantly look to what might lay ahead.
To keep going with the retail theme, one year in late January I remember trying to buy some winter boots for my son who had grown out of his pair. No luck, they've already got the sandals out in the shoe store. Looking to buy a nice summer dress in July? Sorry, they've already rolled out the fall flannels. Sometimes this incessant looking ahead drives me crazy!
With one exception.
On December 26, after all the excitement of Christmas is over and I finally have a moment to rest, I sit down... and I think about Easter. Because the story of Christ's birth is beautiful and miraculous, but it means little to us without the incredible, powerful, life-giving work of the cross.
Sometimes these days after Christmas can be disorienting. You've spent so much time looking forward to a certain day, and – in a flash – it's here and gone. But Emmanuel, God with us, is as true and powerful today as it is on Christmas day, and as it was 2000 years ago. So after the wrapping paper has been cleaned up and the decorations are packed away, let's remember that, as God's people, we still have so much to look forward to. We have new life in Him, and an eternity to worship our Christ the Lord!
Jolene Sanders, Director of Worship
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.
- 1 Peter 1:3-4
Like most people I can get caught up in the hype of a new year:
“It’s a brand new year; are you going to be the same old you?”
"A fresh book with 365 blank pages."
"A blanket of shimmering snow before you, just waiting for your first footprints to fall."
"Sitting at a crossroads of undiscovered adventure."
Oh, I know them all.
But that first one – the one about being the same old me – that one lands pretty hard with me. Because as Christians we are called to be growing in our faith. Growing in our dependence on the Saviour. Growing in our devotion to His Word. Growing in our love for one another. Growing in grace. In Mercy. In holiness.
A number of years ago I was going through a pretty tough time emotionally and spiritually. I felt like no matter what I did, I could never be enough for myself, my family, or my God. Nobody made me feel this way – my family was just as loving and kind as they had always been, but I was held captive by my own feelings of unworthiness. My thoughts consumed me.
Let me rephrase that…
My thoughts about me consumed me. And then Scripture became something I turned to in order to make me feel better about my thoughts about me.
Colossians helped to break me out of my reverie. You see, when I got to Colossians 3 it felt like God was shouting at me, “You have received all the blessings and grace and mercy and kindness of being a child of God, so why don’t you start believing it and living like it?!?” God can shout pretty loud, but sometimes He has to in order to drown out the sound of our own thoughts.
So I started praying Colossians 3:1-3 every day – sometimes every hour. When my earthly mind told me that I was failing again, Colossians reminded me that the victory was already mine. When my thoughts kept my eyes on myself, God used Colossians to remind me to fix my eyes on Jesus. My old self has died, and my life is now hidden with Christ in God.
So when I think of the brand new year, I can honestly say that I don’t want to be the same old me. I don’t even want to be a better version of me. I want to be someone who is changed by God’s Word and impacted by the gospel message that the old has passed, and the new has come.
With this new year before us, Pastor Aaron is beginning a series on Colossians, looking at the supremacy of Christ. As we work through this book, we have put together a custom Bible reading plan for you to follow. Beginning on Sunday, January 13, 2019 the Colossians Bible reading plan will be available daily in the "Bible" tab of the Calvary App. Each day will give you a short passage in Colossians plus a few selected passages in the Old and New Testament. Saturday we have scheduled a catch up day, a day where you can read any passages you have missed, or go deeper with the material you have already studied.
We'd encourage you to read the passages thoughtfully and prayerfully. Consider these things:
- Keep a journal or make notes in the margin of your Bible
- Re-write the passage in your own words
- Ask "Who - What - When - Where - Why - How" questions of the passage
- Think about the "Big Idea" of the passage, and write it down. This will give you a map through Colossians.
- Personalize the meaning: Ask: "How could my life be different today as I respond to what I'm reading?"
Working harder is exhausting, and it just keeps your eyes focused on you. This year, set your eyes on things above. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our salvation. The One in whom we find life.
This morning (Thursday), we had the opportunity to connect with our Fellowship pastors and leaders in the Hamilton/Niagara area for some encouragement and training. The topic today was on “Dealing with Conflict”. While you might not find that the most interesting of topics, I was reminded that a lot of what we do as Christians and leaders in the church is manage conflict – either before it happens or when it is happening. I am so thankful that we had the opportunity to learn about it and ourselves and how we can deal with it better and in a more Christ-like way.
Our speaker was Bob Flemming. Bob is our Regional Director for FEB Central (of which Calvary is part). Bob helps churches get established, grow and at times, steps in to assist a church that is stuck. A lot of the time the problem causing the “stuck-ness” results in conflict between two parties.
I was thankful this morning to be reminded that working towards oneness, harmony and indivisibility is not just a worthy cause, it’s biblical and it honours Christ.
In a church, conflict can come in many forms. From two people who struggle to work together in a ministry, to a family that struggles to get along, to a marriage that is feeling the pressure, and right up to a church that is in conflict because of changes that have taken place.
No matter what the cause of the conflict, we all have a responsibility for the way that we react. This is so true as we are seeking to follow Christ and grow in Him. Yes, we might be hurt. Yes, we might feel that we aren’t being listened to. Yes, we might feel that we are being taken advantage of. Yet we all have the choice for how we are going to react and respond.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemaker for they will be called the children of God.” (Matt 5:9). If you remember from our sermon series in Proverbs, Jesus was calling upon the OT wisdom writers to instruct the new covenant people on how they ought to live out their faith. Peace-making and dealing with conflict is wise in God’s economy. One proverb I especially find helpful is Proverbs 17:1.
“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house fully of feasting, with strife”
Do you get it? It’s better to work towards peace in all areas of our life, rather than living with conflict or strife.
Let me ask you a question as I close – “Is there an area in your life that you are harbouring conflict and strife?” My prayer is that we are called as gospel people to work towards peace. What are you doing in order to be a peacemaker. May we seek God’s wisdom to deal with conflict in a Christ honouring way.
By the way, I am so thankful for the peace and unity that we are enjoying at Calvary these days. God has been and continues to be, gracious to us. May we seek to live for Him and the Gospel for His glory in this area for a long time into the future!
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