Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas means something different this year

With Christmas upon us, the familiar sound of Christmas carols fill the air waves.  They are songs we all know, have heard since we were kids.  One can easily sing along to almost any of them as they are so well known.  Often we sing the songs without giving much thought to the words.  This Christmas however, it seems that whenever I hear a song that has to do with Jesus coming to the earth, I well up with tears.  I wondered why this was the case, I have heard the songs many times, they haven't changed.  What did change?
I came to the realization that my increased sensitivity to Jesus' arrival on the earth and the emotion that surrounds it has to do with holiness.  What does holiness have to do with Jesus coming to save us?
Before I answer that, this past year I have done a fair bit of study around the topic of holiness.  What it means and why it is important.  I have a better grasp of the term now than before but I still have a long way to go!  However what it has done is that understanding holiness a bit better has helped me to understand a bit better the extreme sacrifice of God to come "down" to us in the God man, Jesus.  Before we even talk about His death on the cross, to realize that this Holy Holy Holy God would come down to live with us, like us, as one of us is hard to believe.  The fact that He was born in a manger, not even in a home just is beyond my comprehension.  There really are no words.  This is what makes me emotional.  Now that I have a bit better of an understanding of Holiness, it helps me appreciate so much more the sacrifice God made in coming to us.  The name Emmanuel "God with us" means so much more to me now.  This Holy Holy Holy God humbled Himself and stooped to our level in order to save us and show us His love for us!  Wow!  No words.
This improved understanding is why I am so so so  against what Andy Stanley has said recently.  Here is a quote from him, “If somebody can predict their own death and their own resurrection, I’m not all that concerned about how they got into the world, because the whole resurrection thing is so amazing,” he said.  "Christianity doesn’t hinge on the truth or even the stories around the birth of Jesus … It really hinges on the resurrection of Jesus.”
Of course I am not going to minimize the resurrection of Jesus, without it we are dead in our sins.  However in the same way I am not going to minimize the virgin birth of Christ either and neither should Mr. Stanley!
We better be concerned about how Jesus came into this world!  I mean if it wasn't a virgin birth, then it had to be a natural conception that came from the union between a man and a woman.  If that were the case, then Jesus was born from Joseph's seed.  If the man Jesus came to be because of sexual relations between Mary and Joseph, then Jesus was a sinner.  Does that sound like a leap?  It isn't and here is why.
In Psalm 51:5 King David writes this, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me...."  If it is true that David was sinful from the time he was conceived, then it is also true that we were all sinful in our mothers' womb.  How could a baby not yet born, sin inside of a their mother?  Only one way, if the nature of that child was sinful.  It isn't that David was committing sins inside of his mothers womb, he is saying that he is sinful, in his nature!  So the same would be true of us.  Think of it, you don't need to teach your 1 yr old how to be covetous of another child's toy, or how to be mean to them or how to be selfish.  Kids are just born that way!  And it starts from the time they are conceived.
Ok, back to Jesus.  If the virgin birth isn't important (according to Mr. Stanley), then so what if his life was the result of sexual relations between Mary and Joseph?  Why does that matter?  It matters because if Jesus was not born of a miracle of God that we come to call the virgin birth, then Jesus was sinful!  And if Jesus was sinful, then he could not have saved us from our sins.  His death on the cross would have only paid for His sins!  If Jesus was born due to the coming together of a sperm and an egg, then we are all headed to hell!
I have to vehemently disagree with you Mr. Stanley, how Jesus got into the world is of the utmost importance!  If Jesus was not born of a virgin, the entire Christian faith fall apart and we are still lost in our sins with no way to be reconciled to God!

I am shocked that a mainline evangelical preacher doesn't see this!  Those who know me know I am not about splitting the kingdom and arguing over grey matters in scripture.  I think unity in the Body of Christ is very important.  However there are times when we must draw a line and not cross it.  Another way to say it is there are a few hills we must be prepared to die on and for me this is one.  I hope it is one for all who call Jesus Lord.

God went to extreme lengths to preserve His holiness.  He went so far as to do a miracle and be born as a human without a human father being part of the picture!  The reason He did it is because if Jesus had been born of Joseph, then Jesus would be sinful.  The Bible says that "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  Rom.3:23.  It also says this, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin."  Heb. 4:15

So there you have it, we are all sinners, all of us......except Jesus.  Our High Priest who can sympathize with us because He walked in our shoes.  But He never sinned, unlike every other human being who ever lived.  And it is a good thing He didn't sin because if He had, He would not have been able to save us from our sins!

I am so disappointed that Mr. Stanley is casting doubt on the virgin birth of Christ.  He must not realize it but in so doing, he is casting doubt on the fact that Christ was our sufficient substitute, the only one who could save us from our sins.  He is casting doubt on the entire Bible and the Christian Faith.

Jesus was born of a miraculous birth.  God did it to preserve His holiness in the person of Jesus Christ.  He went to extreme lengths to do it because only perfection can create perfection.  The saying goes, "no one is perfect" and humanly speaking that is true.  So that is why no baby born of a natural birth (from sinful parents) can be born anything but imperfect (sinful).  Only imperfection could come from imperfect people.  In the same way, only perfection could come from a Holy perfect God.

Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.  Take some time this Christmas to just be with Him.  He wants to commune with you, for you to seek Him.  Take some time to consider the unbelievable yet real sacrifice of God to come to this earth, to save us.

While you are at it, have a listen to my favorite Christmas song and think about that amazing sacrifice.       https://vimeo.com/113628297

Friday, November 18, 2016

Being with Him

I know that this "routine" kind of life that we are living is good for the twins as well as the rest of the kids.  I knew that it would be a challenge for me but I also knew that it is what the kids needed, especially the little guys.  God is healing them, bit by bit and making the rest of the family more and more like Him, again bit by bit.  That is what His purpose in our lives is, to make us more and more like Jesus (Rom. 8:29).  He will use anything at His disposal to fulfill that purpose of making each one of us more like Jesus.  So the key is to let Him do it, to seek Him through the hardship, through the difficult circumstances, through the suffering.  It is easy to say but not so easy to do sometimes. 

I have been thinking about something lately and preaching it as well when I have opportunity.  Why did God do all that He did when you look at Genesis through to Jesus's death on the cross?   Starting with the fall of man, the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden God then put in motion His rescue plan.  He would teach mankind who He was, that He was holy, before anything else, His Holiness would come first.  He taught us more through the story of Abraham and Isaac, the passover, the parting of the red sea,  wandering 40 years in the wilderness, the arrival of Jesus- God in the flesh, His amazing life and horrible death, the darkening of the earth at mid-day, the earth quake and finally the tearing of the temple veil.
He went to some pretty extreme lengths that is for sure!  Why did He do that?  Was it to save us from an eternity without Him, an eternity in Hell?  Yes.  But it was more than that.  Did He do all He did so that we could go to church every Sunday?  No.  So that we could listen to the Pastor each Sunday?  No.  So that we could read our Bibles?  No.  So that we could memorize scripture?  No.  These are all good and important things to do, but they aren't why God did all that He did.

The answer lies in Jn. 10:10.  Jesus said - "I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly."  The "they" is us.  The word "life" doesn't just refer to eternal life.  It can mean eternal life in Greek but it also means life here and now.  My point?  God did all that He did so that we could have life right now!  And where is life found?  IN HIS PRESENCE.  So here is the question, we know that God is everywhere all the time, but are we conscious of it?  Do we consciously go into the Holy of Hollies now that the temple veil is torn?  He did an amazing miracle in tearing that veil that was huge and thick!  He was speaking very loudly that He wants us to come in, to commune with Him, to abide in Him!  Do you?  Do I?

We can read our bibles, we can listen to sermons, we can pray and make no mistake, they are all vital things that Christ followers should do on a regular basis and they are designed to guide us in our time in His presence, but none of them on their own are guaranteed to change us!  There is only one thing that is guaranteed to change us, His presence.

I have known people who read their bibles and leave unchanged.  I have known people who listen to sermons and leave unchanged.  I have know people who have prayed and have left unchanged but I have never known anyone who has truly been in God's presence and has left unchanged.  It doesn't happen.  We will find life in His presence and we will be changed!

So please make it a practice of consciously going into the "holy of hollies" and realize who you are communing with.  The Holy God of Israel!  Be reverent, be serious and be quiet!  If He is the master and we are the servant, we should do more listening than talking.  

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

One year home

It has been about one year now since we have returned from Mexico where we were full time career missionaries.  I like that term Career Missionaries.  We all do in our family.  Everyone is doing ok but at the same time we all still miss missions in Latin America very much.  We all like to think that we aren't done yet, that Lord willing one day we will be able to return.  Who knows if that will happen or not, only God does.

Each member of the family is still dealing with the loss of our life in Latin America.  Some are doing better than others, some are still struggling quite a bit.  It is hard to relate to someone who has gone through what we have unless you have gone through it yourself.  That kind of leaves us in a position where we have to deal with the loss on our own.  We do have some people in our lives who have gone through it and understand but each situation is so different that even then it is hard to relate.  We never wanted to leave, never wanted to be done, never felt like we were done.  Our reasons for coming home were good but our hearts still have a hard time understanding if that makes sense. 

I try to keep speaking Spanish, hoping that I will be able to use it again someday, everyday.  Again I have no idea if I will but I hope so.  It is a losing battle though, the words don't come as quick and more and more often I am unsure if it "sounds right."

The roller coaster with the twins continues.  They are doing pretty well and have made so much progress in language and interacting.  They really have.  But one can easily slip into the compare game and see where other 4 yr olds are and then get discouraged.  We continue to explore all avenues to help them and have found some success with this, some with that.

We will keep trusting God to help us, to heal the boys, to make sense of our return.  We are blessed and He has been so gracious to us for which we are very grateful.  Our Heavenly Father blesses us and carries us, through it all.  His presence should be enough and when I am in the right frame of mind, having spent quality time with Him, His presence is enough.  Then I lose my focus and so much of this life makes no sense to me.  But when I quiet down and turn my eyes on Jesus, the cares and worries and nonsensical nature of this life we live really doesn't matter and it fades into the background.

Keep carrying us Lord.  We need you! 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Doctors, Psychologists and Therapists

Well we have settled into a groove here in Alberta.  Honestly it has been really hard to find a new groove as it were, but we are on our way I think.  The twins were diagnosed with Autism last October and although that was a huge blow to our family, with lots of prayer, professional help and more than anything a mother who is absolutely dedicated to helping the twins overcome, they are doing so much better!  We have a long way to go for certain, but Jackson and Judeson are starting to hit some of the developmental milestones that they should be hitting.  Their language has improved so much!  Just a few short months ago, they didn't say much of anything, but now they are little chatter boxes! 

We have them in a a type of therapy twice a week at the local school and just this week I went along.  The psychologist who was meeting them for the first time told me it is obvious that both of them are very high functioning and although I have believed that to be the case for a long time, it was so nice to hear it from a professional!  She wasn't the only one present either.  There were also 2 educational assistants, an Occupational Therapist and another Teacher in charge of the program all there at the same time.  Although it was perhaps a little overwhelming for the boys, it almost brought me to tears seeing all of these women who were there just for Jackson and Judeson!  And all of it is paid for!  What a switch from being in Mexico and not having a diagnosis and not knowing how to help them and feeling like we had no supports, to this!

I thank God that we are in a place where they can get help and where we can focus on helping them.  This transition back to Alberta has been far from easy, but I know it is best for now and we trust that we will see God's redemption and restoration being worked out in our midst!  The boys, just like our older kids, are His.  This is truly all about Him!    

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It has been a crazy 3 months since we have posted here.  My apologies for not getting to it sooner.  We arrived in Alberta in mid June after a successful trip back from Mexico.  The twins did very well and we were so thankful for that!  Upon our arrival in Alberta we had to start looking for housing.  It was too hard to do from down in Mexico.  It took some time to find a place, a long time!  We have only been in the place we are renting for about 3 weeks now.  We were blessed to stay with some friends who we served with in Paraguay upon our arrival so God provided for us that way.  It was so good to connect with them again!
Now it turns out that our eldest is attending the same school as their kids and not only that but the eldest child of our teammates in Mexico is also attending there so they all see each other every day!  Our other 2 school aged kids are happy to continue home schooling for now which suits us just fine. 

I have found work with a ministry called GoodSeed based only a half hour drive from our home.  GoodSeed provides tools and training to help bible believers explain the gospel in a way that makes profound sense.  My work involves creating a Spanish website for this ministry and networking in the Spanish speaking communities both here and abroad in order to get the word out!  What a privilege to be able to continue doing missions right here at home!  I am so excited about being able to help get the word out here and Latin America too!  I can see how God has been preparing me for this role.  I have contacts in a few different places in Latin America and they will be helpful to me in getting this life changing message out!

Now we are praying that our supporters will see this as a worthy mission and continue to support us in this new venture.  We are still needing to raise support and as such are still faith based Missionaries.  For that we are so grateful!

To God be the glory! 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Homeward Bound

After much prayer and quite a bit of angst on my part, we have decided that the best thing for our family at this time is to return to Alberta, ending out Foreign Missionary Service.  It is with a heavy heart that we announce this, being over-seas Missionaries has been our dream for so many years now and the only thing the majority of our kids ever remember doing!
The prayer letter link posted below will give you more details on the reasoning etc.  Please click on it and give it a quick read.

However we do not at all feel like we are done being Missionaries.  We believe God is calling us to continue to serve Him going forward.  All the details are not yet worked out so please pray for us.  Pray also that we would find suitable housing and that our transition time will be short (that we would be able to find housing soon!).  Thanks so much, we will continue to post info here as the info becomes available.  Again, the letter below has much more info.  Thanks.

Elliott Prayer Letter 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Humbled at the Vineyards

Last Monday 3 or 4 young men from our church, a fellow missionary and 2 of my kids and I went off to a local vineyard where each week we present a Christian movie and then the gospel message to the Migrant workers there who come from Southern Mexico.  Little did we know, God had something in store for us that we could never have expected.
After the movie which depicted the chat that the strangers on the road to Emaus might have had with Jesus after his resurrection, I presented the message of salvation for the 50 or so Migrant Workers who were there listening.  After I finished speaking, we handed out some tracts, transferred a few audio bibles and handed out a few regular bibles, we were prepared to leave.  That is when an older man came up and asked for a bible.  As we handed it to him he explained how much this bible meant to him.  He said he had been waiting for a bible for 30 years!  I found that hard to believe but even if he had been waiting for 10 years!  Wow.  What a privilege to be able to hand this man a bible!  But that wasn't all that God had in store for us that night.  
A young man came up to me and explained that he was a Christian.  He was from the state of Chiapas which shares a border with Guatemala.  He said that his family in Chiapas was waiting for him to save some of his wages from laboring in the vineyards and send some back to them.  The problem is that he was only able to save 34 pesos a day, the equivalent of about $3 Canadian.  Hardly enough to send back home.  That is when he asked me to pray for him and the tears started to roll down his cheeks.  Then he handed me a folded up piece of paper.  He said that out there at the vineyard he was isolated and didn't have the opportunity to go to church.  He was thankful that we had come and shared the word of God and had encouraged him.  He said his "offering or tithe" was inside the folded piece of paper he had handed me.  I asked if I could open it up and he said yes.  
When I saw what was inside the piece of paper I must admit that all of a sudden I wanted to run away.  I didn't want to be there, didn't want to accept the money, didn't want to be responsible for such a weight.  He had given the Lord (via me) 100 pesos - the equivalent to about $8.50 Canadian or for him, 3 days wages.  All the while his family was waiting for him to send them money.  I wanted to convince him not to give it to me.  I wanted to tell him that he needed it, that his family needed it.  I really didn’t want that money.  I asked him if he was sure that God wanted him to give me this money as a tithe.  He said yes.  I didn’t believe him.  I didn’t want to believe it, more than anything I didn’t want to be responsible for the tithe.  I asked him again if he was sure that he was sure.  Again, without hesitation he said yes.  I felt like God said to me that if He was the one who told this young man to do this, then I had better accept it. 

So I did the only thing I could do, I accepted it and prayed for him.  We wept together as I crouched before him.  I crouched there because I felt less than he.  I felt so humbled by his faith.  He was openly weeping as he handed me 3 days wages, not being able to save a substantial amount to send back to his family, but believing the God of the universe was more than able to meet his need and that of his family. 
As a missionary I am on the receiving end of many blessings, my family and I are the recipients of many dollars from friends and family who by their giving sustain us.  I must say though, of all the hundreds and thousands of dollars we have received over the years, that $8.50 was likely the largest gift I have ever received.  It is not for me or my family, but rather intrusted to me (a stranger to this young Christian) to use as I see fit for the Lord and His purposes.  I am praying about what to do with that amazing gift as it sits on my desk at home. 

So, what is God saying to you through this story that I was privileged to be a part of?  Do you give to God only from your abundance?  Have you ever given to God what you really needed, believing that He is more than able to provide for your need?  Have you ever given to Him when it didn’t make sense humanly speaking?  Have you ever experienced God like this? 
Let me challenge you with this.  Psalm 34:8 tells us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”  Do you give God the opportunity to show you how good He tastes?  Or do you shrink back from extending yourself for God because it doesn’t make “good sense”?  For this young Mexican Christian to give me 3 days wages as an offering to the Lord when he obviously needed the money, well that makes no sense.  It makes no sense at all, unless of course the one who makes the offering knows the one to whom he offers the sacrifice.  This young man showed great faith and I believe God will reward him greatly for obeying, even when it didn’t make sense.  That is how we taste and see that the Lord is good! 
Next time you feel God nudging you to do something that doesn’t make sense (related to money or not), don’t shrink back, don’t explain it away as not making sense and thus lean on your own understanding.  Obey God, do it and taste and see that the Lord is good!
We are heading out again tonight (and each Tuesday and Friday) so please pray for this ministry!      

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