Assurance in the Christmas Season

Today's guest post by Alex Lomangino, missionary to Vancouver, British Columbia

I hope you enjoy today’s guest post by my nephew Alex Lomangino, where he shares his heart for the lost in Vancouver, British Columbia, his honest struggles about the Christmas season, and how God ministers to him in those struggles.

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

My life changed radically ten years ago when I made Jesus the king of my life. As I grew in my relationship with Jesus, every bit of long-term trajectory I had planned for myself flew out the window.

Honestly, I became less concerned with any dream of personal success or wealth and more concerned with what it means for me to serve Jesus. Instead of doing a traditional degree track in University, I elected to enter a five-year B.A./M.Div. program at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, MO.

During my time at Midwestern I learned of the massive amount of Gospel need our neighbors to the North have. Particularly, in the beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Vancouver metro area is home to nearly 3.5 million people. Close to fifty percent of these people claim no religious affiliation whatsoever. Forty-seven percent hold to philosophies, perspectives, or faiths from around the world. Sadly, only three percent would call themselves a Christian and have a life-giving relationship with Jesus.

God used the stats and two vision trips to break my heart for this city I now call home. I moved to Vancouver in May of 2017 to work with the North American Mission Board as a missionary and church planter in training.

Currently, I work with the Transformation City Church Network. Our vision is to make disciples of Jesus, and see churches planted in every neighborhood in the Vancouver Metro area.

 

ASSURANCE IN THE CHRISTMAS SEASON

Skepticism has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. Anyone who knows me well has surely heard the unnecessary amount of questioning from me.

My skepticism is often exasperated by circumstances and stressors.

Unfortunately, the holiday season can be one of those stressors for me. To be frank, the holiday season wears me out.

Here in the West, we repent of our day of Thanksgiving (please note my sarcasm) with a day of materialism and excessive spending. After that, we start a month long sprint through the Christmas season.

Growing up, I was often told by various people that the Christmas season is supposed to be marked by thankfulness and celebration of God’s provision for sinful man in Jesus’ incarnation.

Instead, I saw what seemed to be a season in which people do the contrast: being stressed, selfish, or downcast in attempts to please others, make themselves happy, etc.

Naturally, this led me to question everything I heard people telling me about the Christmas season and its meaning. More often than not, there seemed to be more conflict than synergy with these explanations.

Honestly, in the past, this led me to doubt the validity of Jesus’s coming.

The place God leads me to gain assurance in times of doubt is Luke 1:1-4:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (English Standard Version).

This is Luke’s short introduction to his full Gospel account. We can see that he’s writing to a person named Theophilus, and his purpose is to help give Theophilus “certainty of the things {he had} been taught.”

From there Luke begins the extended narrative about the birth of Jesus (Luke 1-2:22). Praise God that I can have the same certainty Luke intended for Theophilus to have.

In the midst of my doubt, I can have full assurance of the things I have been taught concerning Jesus. By reading the Scriptures, God gives me assurance of the reality that Jesus took the initiative to come to earth, as a baby, in the mystery of the incarnation we celebrate at Christmas.

I can have full assurance of Jesus’ purpose for coming, which was to reconcile wayward and sinful people to Himself.

I can have full assurance of His resurrection and His desire for people to be in a relationship with Him. I can have the assurance that the Gospel message is indeed true.

Christian, if you find yourself struggling with doubt or stress this Christmas season, please take heart. It does not matter if you’re experiencing stress while preparing to visit family, or if you find yourself in bouts of questioning motivation or truth, as I do.

We can have certainty and assurance that the Christmas story is true. We can rest in the truth of Jesus taking the initiative to come to earth with the goal of reconciling sinful and wayward people to Himself.

We gain this certainty as we study and meditate on the truth of the Bible. It does not return void and by His Spirit, you will find certainty in His truth.

I pray that this season you find hope and peace in the unfailing Word of God.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV).

 

http://www.transformationcity.ca

https://www.namb.net/send-cities/vancouver

https://missionaries.namb.net/full/alexander-lomangino

You’re Already a Godly Person

Today's guest post by Mark Maulding, author of God's Best-Kept Secret

Just this morning, I finished savoring Mark Maulding’s book, God’s Best-Kept Secret: Christianity Is Easier Than You Think. I can honestly say this book is hands down one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Most of the time when I finish a book, it gets put on one of my library shelves. Not this one. It’s going to remain within arm’s reach of my little brown chair in my library sanctuary—the place where I spend most of my time reading, writing, and enjoying Jesus.

God’s Best-Kept Secret is Mark’s warm counselor’s heart in a book. A heart filled with compassion for hurting Christians who are unable to make the Christian life work. A heart that longs to share God’s best-kept secret with struggling believers who are in the ideal position to give up their self-efforts and to begin resting in and living from the luxuriant life of Christ within.

And now, without further ado, here is Mark’s guest post, “You’re Already a Godly Person.” I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Understanding and embracing your identity in Christ, can transform your life. A pastor friend of mine tells his congregation often, “Do you want to know how I grow spiritually? I spend a lot of time thinking about who I am in Christ.” That is my secret to spiritual growth.

For many years, because I had a skewed understanding of who God really is and who I am in Christ, I strove very hard to become a godly man. My erroneous belief was that if I could get better and better at the spiritual disciplines, make more and more wise decisions, and live a holy life, I would one day become that godly man. That was one of the reasons I felt so stressed out and anxious about the Christian life. It was a lot of hard work and even after years of hard work on it, I still felt like a failure.

After God began to show me the truth about him and me, I experienced more and more peace in my life, especially from letting my behavior define my identity. But there was still this nagging voice which whispered to me occasionally that I needed to become a godly man. It was like a mosquito that just will not leave you alone.

One day I was alone in my car headed to work and I was thinking again about becoming a godly man, as I had for many years. It was in that moment that God whispered to me a wonderful truth that set me free from this bondage. “Mark, you’re already a godly man.” When he said that, it was as if the car suddenly got brighter because I saw immediately what Jesus was saying to me. He wanted me to know that I had been a godly man since the day I was saved at age 9. I could stop trying to be a godly man because in my identity in Christ I already was one. To be quite honest, it was a great relief. I felt like I could relax before God. The striving was over.

In my counseling and teaching through the years, I’ve discovered that is where many Christians are. They don’t know they are already godly, holy, righteous, loving, patient and so much more in Christ. So they strive to become that person when they already are that person. That’s clear evidence of living with a false identity.

Are you ready to let go of your false identity based on your behavior, feelings, and the opinions of others and embrace your true identity in Christ? Why don’t you start right now? Here is a suggested prayer.

Father, I have spent all of my life searching for my stolen identity. As a result, I have developed a false identity which has controlled my life. I now give up my false identity and choose today to embrace my true identity in Christ by faith. Please make this more and more real in my life as I agree more and more with your opinion of me. In Jesus name, Amen.

 

 

Are you discouraged by feeling distant from God no matter how much you try to grow closer to him? Reclaim the life God intended for you with God’s Best-Kept Secret! Learn more + get freebies and a sample chapter: godsbestkeptsecret.com

 

 

 

Mark Maulding is founder of Grace Life International, one of the largest Christian counseling and teaching ministries in America. A speaker, counselor, and leadership coach, Maulding is a regular blogger who is passionate about sharing the transforming message of God’s grace with a world in desperate need of it. He and his wife, Ellen, have four adult children, including a daughter with Down syndrome who, along with her three brothers, recently finished college. They live near Charlotte, North Carolina. You can connect with Mark on Facebook or his blog.

Today’s Guest Post by Award-Winning Author Latayne C. Scott – Priska’s Betrothal

My initial contact with the award-winning author of my first guest post, Latayne C. Scott, was in January 2014 when I e-mailed her to ask her permission to use a quote from The Shout of the Bridegroom: Understanding Christ’s Intimate Love for the Church, a book she co-wrote with the late Dr. Glenn Greenwood.

Even though she didn’t know me personally, she asked me to let her know when my book was released and offered to help me with some publicity. That blessed my heart!

Over three years later, I e-mailed her again, this time asking her if she would read and consider writing an endorsement for my soon-to-be-released book, His Banner Over Me Is Pursuing Love.

She blessed my heart again by saying yes and giving my book a glowing endorsement.

She also asked if I would consider reading and endorsing her book, A Conspiracy of Breath, due to release September 1—one week from today.

I was honored that she asked me and gladly said yes. Below is my endorsement of her captivating work:

“Until I savored Latayne C. Scott’s A Conspiracy of Breath, I believed the apostle Paul to be the most likely candidate for authorship of the epistle to the Hebrews. Not anymore. Scott provides a convincing argument through her use of vivid, page-turning imagery that Priscilla, wife of Aquila, could have very well been this enigmatic New Testament book’s inspired recipient. In the future, I will be reading Hebrews through exquisite new lenses!”—Kim K. Francis

And now, without further ado, let’s enjoy award-winning author Latayne C. Scott’s guest post, “Priska’s Betrothal”:

One of the wonderful things about social media is how we can discover deep connections with people we discover there. This was definitely the case when I met Kim! Her book, His Banner Over Me Is Pursuing Love, struck so many chords with me, since I also wrote a book on that theme.

The symbolism and implications of the way the Bible shows Christ’s passionate love for His bride, the Church, are ideas that people today crave. They feed their souls.

In my newest book, A Conspiracy of Breath, I tried to flesh out, in a fictional way, some of those ancient customs. In one scene, my heroine Priscilla, who is a Roman by birth, enters into her betrothal with Aquila and waits, as all biblical brides did, for him to come by night and abduct her. (How romantic is that?)

Here is the scene where she is waiting along with some Jewish and Roman friends and singing love songs:

The three of them began to sing in the pendulous rhythm of Jewish song, one girl stopping to giggle or the other putting her hand over her mouth as she sang.

Not knowing Hebrew, we Roman women had absolutely no idea what they were singing. We sat politely for a long time, until Tirzah began to pantomime as she sang.

A table for eating …

Something hanging above …

Raisin cakes (which Shiprah produced from yet another basket and ate with gusto) …

Apples …

“I know!” I shouted. “It’s the Song of Solomon.”

The women nodded, smiling now, but did not stop singing. I began to recite in Greek to Akantha and Cordelia:

Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest,

so is my dearest compared to other men.

I love to sit in its shadow,

and its fruit is sweet to my taste.

He brought me to his banquet hall

and raised the banner of love over me.

Restore my strength with raisins

and refresh me with apples!

I am weak from passion.

His left hand is under my head,

and his right hand caresses me.

Promise me, women of Jerusalem;

swear by the swift deer and the gazelles

that you will not interrupt our love.

They came every night but the Sabbath, and sang the same songs, until our necks jerked us awake again and again and the Jewish women, yawning and stretching, gathered up their baskets and went home in the darkness, carrying their tiny oil lamps out in front of them, in their outstretched palms.

I dreamt each night of gazelles on mountaintops, of turtledoves seeking their mates, of lilies and honey and milk; of furious north winds and spice breezes;

Of ornaments of silver set with studs of gold, of cedar and fir rafters high above my head;

Of eyes at a window, looking through a lattice;

Of green grapes and their perfumes;

Do not stir up nor awaken love, the women sang to me in my dreams, until it pleases…. They murmured of secret places of the cliff, of sealed fountains and enclosed gardens scented with calamus and cinnamon, of little foxes running.

I dreamed melodious dreams of hair black and iridescent as raven wings, of eyes like doves by rivers of water and cheek-banks of scented herbs; of hands like rods of gold set with beryl and legs as marble pillars;

Of the excellence of cedars;

Of the handles of a lock on a door, dripping with myrrh,

His mouth most sweet,

Altogether lovely

My beloved

My friend

(from A Conspiracy of Breath by Latayne C. Scott, TSU Press, 2017.)

Of course, this isn’t just a first-century love story, because we are all waiting for the Lover of our souls to come and get us. May this help us understand to be spotless as we wait!

Bio:
Dr.  Latayne C. Scott (Distinguished Christian Service Award, Pepperdine University) writes controversial books. Her newest one, the critically acclaimed A Conspiracy of Breath, is based on the scholarly theory that a woman wrote part of the Bible. Her first book, The Mormon Mirage—also controversial—has stayed in print almost continuously for almost 40 years. She has nearly two dozen other published books. One notable recent book is about the discovery of the ancient Biblical city of Sodom (Discovering the City of Sodom). Her first novel is a murder mystery revolving around a code developed by the early Mormon church. Both are … controversial.

She’s also won a national award for humor. Her kids say she’s not so funny, but she just holds up the prize check.

Latayne blogs at Latayne.com.