God With Us

20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 

23 Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” 

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

[Matthew 1:20-25]

“Jesus Christ is God”- There has never been a statement more debated and discussed. More than His miraculous birth, authoritative teaching, remarkable miracles, and even His cruel death, nothing has been more polarizing than Jesus’ claims to His own deity. What do we believe about Jesus? Do we believe Him to be God?

For the Jew, this was the most blasphemous claim a man could make. It is no wonder the pharisees took up stones to throw at Him. When they asked Him if He was greater than their father Abraham, He replied “before Abraham was, I AM”, taking on the very name of God (I AM = YAHWEH). Jesus explicitly took on the identity of God throughout His ministry. He forgave sins (an act that only God could do). He accepted worship (Only God was to be worshipped). He raised himself from the dead (only God had authority over death and life). It is no wonder they feared and abhorred Him.

But the message of the Christmas gospel is the most comforting news to those who believe! The Christmas gospel shouts that God wants intimate communion with his creation. In the garden of Eden, God created man for fellowship. The bible describes Him as walking with man in the cool of day. But sin severed the bond between man and God, and we were cast from His presence. The birth of Jesus did not just mark the birth of our savior, but the reuniting of God with His people. It meant that God would once again walk with His people. In fact Gabriel said He would be called “Immanuel” or “God with us.”

This advent, let us be encouraged that God wants relationship with us. Let us shelter ourselves in the gospel of Christmas and draw nearer to the God who has drawn close to us, Amen.

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God Saves

“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and  you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:20-21

Before we can rejoice over the birth of Jesus, we must recognize Him as savior. And to recognize him as savior means to put to light the sins of our own life. You see, the birth of Jesus is most compelling for the sinner! John Piper puts it like this, “Before Christmas can be a delight, it must first be an indictment.” Do we need Jesus this advent?

The word of God says

  • All have sinned and fell short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
  • Our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9)
  • Our hearts are a wellspring of evil (Mark 7:21-23)
  • No one is righteous, “not even one” (Romans 3:10)
  • We are children of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:3)
  • We are slaves to sin (Romans 6:16-17)
  • We are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1)

What an indictment! And most of us walk around with the guilt that we are not perfect looming over us. We are constantly reminded of our imperfections and the evil deep within our hearts. If people only knew our lusts and addictions and neediness… What great shame we experience when settling on these thoughts! We find ourselves screaming the words of Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25). The Word of God does not leave us to ourselves. The name “Jesus” literally means “God saves”. While we were yet sinners, God had mercy on us and gave us His son! What a gospel we have heard!

The practice of recognizing our own depravity is essential in celebrating the birth of Jesus. When we are ill, we must diagnose ourselves properly in order to treat our condition. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of a savior whom we are desperate for. Do you need Jesus this advent? Our prayer is that you might see and savor Jesus Christ as savior. Amen.

A People Prepared

16 “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”   Luke 1:16-17 (ESV)

A word that has increasingly caught my attention over the past several weeks is the word “advent”. It means the arrival of a notable figure, thing, or event. In Christian jargon, it is the time set apart (usually the weeks leading up to christmas) for meditation and preparation for Christmas. Advent. In latin it literally says “ad-venire” or to come. Advent. I thought about how for months we have been repeating at our large group meetings that we are a “church between two advents”- how we are a kingdom in exile awaiting the return of our king! Advent.

And like a freight train it hit me- Jesus is coming.

This thought immediately evoked in me fear. Jesus is coming! The King of Kings, Lord of Lords, divine ruler and just judge of all creation is coming. I felt overwhelmingly unprepared. I still do.

Thank God for advent. We believe it is God’s purpose for us during the coming days to prepare our hearts and minds for His arrival. Isn’t that the essence of the entire christian life? To constantly be preparing for the day we meet our Lord? For His coming? I would like to contend then that Advent is not just a seasonal tradition to be remembered, but a lifelong practice to be exercised by the Christian.

As we are a part of so many discussions and debates in our community (culture vs. christianity, traditional vs. contemporary, older generation vs. second generation), we want to implore the 1F community to look to Jesus. He is our namesake. He is who we must submit ourselves under. And what better time to look to Jesus than Christmas! Over the course of the next few days our prayer is that through the word of God, the Spirit would prepare our hearts for the coming of our Lord. That we would not merely be consumers and “rememberers” of the Word, but worshippers in spirit and in truth. That when Jesus comes, we will recognize Him for who He really is.

Jesus is coming soon, and may He find a people ready and prepared.

Silencing the Silence

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We’re pleased to present this guest post by our good friend Jenny Zachariah. Jenny is seeking to raise awareness on sexual abuse issues in the South Asian community, a topic our community is unfortunately reluctant to speak forthrightly about. Please check out http://shhh7214.com to learn more. 

I am a woman from the South Asian community who lives in the United States.

My culture is great, it values family, tradition and honor, but at the same time my culture hurts when it sets high standards, keeps secrets, and dominates over my feelings.

One thing I cannot stand about my culture is that secrets are kept in the name of honor. Secrets are not always bad, but there are some that are emotionally traumatizing. It is emotionally traumatizing when a girl/boy has to pretend that their body was never touched in a vulgar/sexual manner by their uncle/aunt, family friend, etc. It is emotionally traumatizing when a mother/father tells their son/daughter to keep quiet after their precious child has told his/her parents something they could no longer bottle up inside. It is emotionally traumatizing when you tell your parents that you have been sexually abused by your uncle/aunt, a close family friend, or even a stranger and they do not believe you. Why do they tell you to keep quiet? Why do they not believe you? Why do sexually abused victims keep quiet? It’s all about culture. This issue of sexual abuse has been lingering in our community for generations and it continues to remain hidden all for the sake of family honor, and it has to stop.

To the “victim”: I have so much love for you, it is pretty unfathomable because this kind of love comes from God. I cannot empathize with you because I myself have not been sexually abused, but God has put a burden in my heart to feel as if I was a sexual abuse victim so that I may speak for you all. I want you to know that you are a survivor of sexual abuse in my eyes even though you may not feel that way because you are currently keeping secrets, hiding the pain with a smile on the outside, and feeling wounded. I will tell you why you are a survivor- because you are STILL smiling, because those wounds are able to be healed, and because there are people in this world who are willing to hear your secret and do something about it. Dear survivor, you are not alone.

To the abuser: You made me fume with anger once upon a time, but then I looked at you with the eyes of Jesus and I saw a broken sinner, just like me at one point in my life before Jesus changed my life forever. So now I thank God for convicting me of my anger towards you. I want to tell you that there is all the more grace for you; despite all that you have done, once Jesus meets you and washes you with His blood in your state of filthiness and wretchedness. God looks at you the way He looks at Jesus and then you are looked upon without a single blemish. This call for speaking out against sexual abuse may make you tremble, it might make you feel angry at me for exposing your sin in the light, but that’s just something that was bound to happen. Sin has to come into the light for it to be addressed and confessed, please don’t hide behind this culture all your life, don’t let sin chain you down. There is help. There is forgiveness.There is redemption….in Jesus alone.

To the people who don’t listen: It takes a lot for a sexually abused victim to come and open up to you. Do not let culture, family prestige, or anything else stand in the way of listening. Maybe this issue could be affecting your child/ sister/ brother/ husband/ wife/ friend—-if that relationship is important to you as you may claim, prove it by listening. That is all they want.

My vision is not to accuse the abusers, but I do want to provide an outlet for the voices trapped under this rug called culture to speak out, to seek help, and experience healing if they would like to. I am done with this culture telling me what I cannot do because I am about to show what I can do with my God beside me, behind me and in front of me.

I am starting up an anonymous blog to share survivor stories/testimonies of those who have been sexually abused in this community. For those of you who would like to share I have set up a website to enter in the posts anonymously.

http://shhh7214.com/–This is our website and on the left hand corner of the homepage there is a hyperlink: anonymous posting- this will direct you to a survey monkey link that will allow you to share your survivor story anonymously and then an administer will copy and paste it to the website.

Why am I doing this? Because i believe that stories have power. People say a picture is worth 1,000 words but I think a testimony/lived experience of surviving is worth infinity more.

My intent is not to expose, the intent is to profess a bold statement “you are not alone.”

You are not alone in your room crying

You are not alone contemplating suicide because this secret is too much to bear

You are not alone in your thoughts

You are never alone even in the most isolated place

“No man is an island”- John Donne

There is God, there are people who care and are going through similar situations.

You are never alone.

This is Project SHHH- it stands for She/He. Has. Hope

How can you help? We have created sub-committees to choose from

1)Communications- Facebook, insta, twitter

2)Media—graphics, website building, video, tech stuff, distribute information pamphlets

3) Advertising- tshirts/create pamphlets/ publicity/ word of mouth:representatives from different regions in the U.S(currently we just have Houston and Dallas) to be in charge of advertising

4)Event organizers/planners for worship nights/workshops

5)Prayer team

If you would like to join me in this movement feel free to contact me: jenniferzach93@gmail.com or message our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/shhh7214/

There is a lot more I hope to do in creating awareness and providing and outlet to speak out. I believe just as much the Lord has put a burden upon my heart, He has done to others likewise.