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Taking Stock of Our Christmas Gifts

Title: Taking Stock of Our Christmas Gifts
Artwork by: Paulina Sangar (@caramel_art)
Description: 
Another Christmas has come and gone. Even though the excitement of getting presents for Christmas never grows old, we’re suddenly faced with a different reality when we look at all the presents before us. Will we ever get to use them all?

As you’re sifting through the gifts you received, why not spend some time thinking about how even the smallest gift could remind us of what it means to live with purpose as Christians. As we celebrate the greatest gift God has given us, hopefully it’ll inspire us to see the little gifts in our lives through a different light.

 

For those of us who live in countries with winter, you probably received a plaid scarf, a Christmas sweater or funky socks. Although we get them every year, we won’t deny we can never have too many of them. As you wrap yourself warm this Christmas, think about the warm love of Christ and bring that to someone who needs it this season.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness,
humility, meekness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12)

 

 

We can never have too many bath products. Even as we use them on a daily basis, may they remind us that we’ve been washed clean by the Word of God. Because of that, we now have the privilege of carrying the fragrance of Christ wherever we go—and it’s a scent that lasts longer than the latest Body Shop or Lush product.  

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. (2 Corinthians 2:15)

 

You’ve received two pairs of earphones! They aren’t in the 2019 list of best earphones. They are not Sennheiser, nor are they Bose, but thrifty pairs from high street stores. What’s not to love about it when you now have a selection to choose from and you’re ever ready to plug in and tune in to your favorite worship playlist, Christian podcasts and sermon videos? God’s Word keeps our hearts tuned to Him.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17, ESV)

 

It’s nearly the end to another year. It’s time to thank God for the past year and look forward to the next! If you’re thinking about new year’s resolutions, how about simply “making your days count”? Don’t leave your calendar empty! Start marking and noting down in your fresh new calendar, friend’s birthdays, events to go to, goals to reach, and memories to make. Live every day with God’s purposes in mind.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

 

Are you someone with a sweet tooth and always happy to have your fix? Or perhaps sweet confections are not quite your thing, in which case, you might be unsure of what to do with the goodies you’ve just received.

Whichever one describes you, what we can all agree on is that once we’ve tasted the sweetness of Christ, it’s unforgettable and leaves us wanting more. Is there someone you can pass a box of chocolate to, share half a cookie with, or make a sweet drink for today? While you’re at it, why not take some time to share with them about the sweetness of Christ in your life?

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)

 

Teas are the perfect pick-me-up when you’re feeling stressed. There’s just something calming and therapeutic about watching the leaves steep and infuse the water in your cup. If you’re feeling anxious about the year ahead, why not put the kettle on the stove, make a cup of tea and steep yourself in the Word of God to prepare for the adventures in store for you? It’ll keep you warm and tingly, recharge you, and infuse your entire being with the knowledge that the God of the Bible will watch over your every step.

Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (Luke 12:31, The Message)

 

Got a notebook to add to your never-ending pile of empty notebooks? Maybe it’s time to fill up those pages—starting with stories of God’s faithfulness, little things you want to thank Him for, and lessons He’s teaching you—and you may find your heart swelling with thanksgiving as you trace God’s hand over your life. He’s writing your story every day—make sure you capture every moment!

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. (Psalm 9:1)

 

You never know how handy candles are until you’re plunged in darkness, but don’t wait till there’s a blackout to use them! The Christmas season is the perfect reminder that we are the light of the world because we have the life of Christ in us. So don’t be afraid to shine your light and help someone get out of the darkness they’re in.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:4)

3 Ways To Respond to A World With Changing Values

Written By Julian Panga, India

Julian grew up in India and then lived in Australia for 12 years. While working in the banking and finance Industry in Melbourne, he also served as a church elder, missions trainer, and Bible teacher. In 2014, he returned to India in response to God’s calling and is currently involved in pastoral ministry and theological training. He is passionate about teaching and training as well as engaging the youth and those in the marketplace with the Gospel.

On 6 September 2018, India’s Supreme Court overturned a 157-year-old law which had previously criminalized consensual gay sex.

This may come as a surprise to many, since India has long been known for its family values and traditional views on marriage. But all over the world, same-sex relationships have become more and more accepted, so this move by India’s Supreme Court was inevitable.

The LGBT community in India—which used to be a hidden minority—are now coming out in the open and reveling in their victory. This landmark decision was a huge relief to the LGBT community, as well as activists and supporters who stood by them. Celebrities and politicians across the country have expressed support and congratulations over social media, reflecting the increasing acceptance of same-sex relationships.

This news has highlighted a growing trend towards changing values that are at odds with the Bible. Going forward, we will more and more frequently encounter people with ideas, mannerisms, and desires different from ours. How then should the Church respond?

Should we respond in protest and anger, or should we continue to spread the message of love, acceptance, and inclusion? Should we seek to hold on to our core beliefs revealed in the Bible, or compromise our message in favor of being progressive and accepting? What is clear is that we need to make these choices with sensitivity, wisdom, and with the help of God’s grace and love.

Here are three ways I believe we can respond to a world of changing values with love and gentleness:

 

1. See each person as made in the image of God

Regardless of what someone’s views on sexual relationships or any other divisive issue may be, it’s important that we remember that we are all broken, sinful, and in need of Christ. All of us need the good news of the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We all need to learn that our identity does not come from our sexual orientation, social status, or even personality—but in the privilege of being called Sons and Daughters of the Living God.

This begins with being committed to seeing each person we meet as made in the image of God and valued by Him. As long as we focus on showing people the love, grace, and mercy of God, the Holy Spirit will bring about transformation in our lives and the lives of those around us. Take time to build relationships and trust with genuine love.

 

2. Demonstrate the love of Christ through practical ways

As Christians, we are called to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40)—and our neighbor is anyone around us who is in need and hurting. This call remains the same regardless of the legal changes or societal views that prevail. There is no list of requirements our neighbors need to meet before we shower them with our love. No one is out of bounds.

Instead of retreating in fear or shame, or inciting anger or hate, we must seek to be the hands and feet of God in practical ways. As Christians, we recognize that only Jesus Christ, the Son of God, can offer real hope to this lost, broken, and damaged world. And His love is demonstrated when we serve others in practical ways.

This could take the form of taking the time to listen to the stories of those who struggle with same-sex attraction with sensitivity or empathy, helping those who are hurting find counseling avenues, and keeping our hearts and doors open to anyone seeking refuge.

 

3. Get to know those who are different from you

Many churches have already begun doing this by breaking down age-old stereotypes, educating themselves, and reaching out to those unlike them. This often comes about through church services that are welcoming, intentional acts of compassion and mercy, friendship evangelism, and providing counseling and pastoral care.

There are also focused ministries that are committed to reaching out sensitively to LGBT communities as well as many others, presenting the message of the Gospel. Much fruit can already be seen as a result of the persistent efforts of these ministries.

My church, for example, has organized a seminar for youth and young adults to hear from experts and ask questions relating to our sexuality. These young people are also encouraged to invite friends who are either curious or troubled about these changes and are seeking frank answers to difficult questions.

As a church, we have also taken steps to proactively approach the transgender community in parts of our city, and invited them to a special service at our church. Many attended, and were received with warmth and genuine love. We desire to continue building relationships with the leaders of this community, so that we may have more opportunities to engage with them and share the transforming love of Christ.

 

In a world where ethical and moral values are shifting endlessly, it’s even more pivotal that we understand our role as Christians—to be the salt and light that will draw others to the Light of Christ and His offer of eternal life. Let’s hasten to do this and ask God to lead us in our interactions with the world around us.

Malaysia’s 14th General Election—How Can Christians be “Salt and Light”?

Flag image from Freepik.com

 

Written by Sharon Lee, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

Tomorrow marks Malaysia’s 14th General Election. It has undoubtedly been the topic that has occupied the attention of all Malaysians, myself included, over the past few months. Everyone has been looking forward to the possibilities that might emerge from this election.

Even from as early as late last year, I began to see many of my friends, whether those close to me or on social media, urging their fellow Malaysians to participate in the election by voting. I even saw Malaysians organizing fundraising events or donating their own money to help Malaysian students overseas who desire to come back to vote but may be lacking in funds, return home to vote. There are also Malaysians working abroad, who applied for a leave of absence from work so that they could come back and vote, even though this may affect their salary.

Everyone has been eager to do their part—for the country, for the next generation, and for all Malaysians to have a better life. I have been so moved and excited to witness these activities—moved, because I realize how deeply we all love our country; excited, because there is so much that we can actually do! Even though many of those who offered help are not Christians, I see them as examples of what it looks like to be “salt and light”.

Generally, Christians around the world have taken a conservative and low-key stance towards politics and other related issues. However, we, the younger generation of Christians, should not distance ourselves from political involvement, especially if it will help improve the wellbeing of our fellow countrymen. There are many ways through which Christians can demonstrate the love of Christ. There is much more that we can do!

Paul counseled Timothy sincerely, just as he counsels our current generation of young Christians: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Perhaps we are young in age, and perhaps we lack the wealth of experience and knowledge that older Christians have, but we have grown up in this time and age, and we are blessed with initiative, energy, and creativity. Since we have such wonderful gifts, then our actions should not be looked down upon by anyone. To prevent anyone from looking down on us because we are young, we must prove ourselves in the five areas Paul spoke of and only then can we convincingly lead by example, teach, and transform lives. At the same time, this will show others that God can work through anyone. It may even result in the gospel being shared!

Are our words gentle, so that others feel loved when they hear them? In our actions, do we show love to others? Are we on time for worship services? If the floor is dirty, would we think of cleaning it ourselves? Are we actively using our gifts to serve the Lord? Do we notice the needs of others, and offer timely care and help? Do we honor God in all that we do, and live out the faith we have in the Lord? Do we keep ourselves clean before God and man? Although none of this is easy, and it is hard to perfectly do all of them, it should not be an excuse for us to do as little as we can or not do anything at all. We can learn by practicing, and then we’ll become better at loving others.

Take the upcoming General Election for example. Every Christian realizes that national affairs are not solely the concern of politicians or high level leaders. It affects every one of us. And for Christians, we should not avoid participating in politics, because Christ has called us to be the salt and light of this earth (Matthew 5:13-16). Even though we may not necessarily need to take the same actions as non-Christians, can we—like them—turn our passion and love into visible actions? Can we Christians be the ones who boldly stand up for the sake of our country? Can we be that one good example, so that others will see that it is possible, and necessary, to approach elections with a good attitude? God placed us in this country as citizens, and so we should be Christ’s witnesses here on this land, serving our country well.

But we must also be cautious. Though we can participate in the political process, and contribute to our country, we should not be easily swayed by the different voices competing for our attention and lose our focus. We should also avoid getting into arguments or causing any trouble. We simply do our best in whatever way we can, and leave the results to God. And so, regardless of whether we think the political situation might change from the upcoming General Elections, we Christians should not only pray for the country and God’s sovereignty, but we can also actively participate and vote, offering what we can in real action.

I currently work in a Christian organization. A work trip happened to be scheduled during the  election date. In the end, we decided to ask for our overseas colleagues’ understanding, and shifted the date of the meeting. This allowed the Malaysian co-workers to come home and vote with minimal disturbance to our work. At the same time, we have also witnessed the love and understanding of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Although this election has nothing to do with our other colleagues, they lovingly accommodated our request, and were willing to change the date of the meeting for our sake.

God is pleased when our love is shown forth in action. Prayer is extremely important, but it will be even better if you can offer your action alongside your prayer. Often times what we lack is action that is birthed from love. After all, we do not become “salt and light” so that people might think Christians are more holy or perfect, but that they might feel our warmth, and see Christ through us.

Finally, may God bless Malaysia!