Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Time for Hope

Christmas time is not always the most wonderful time of the year. It is usually cold(depending on where you live of course) and is filled with very long to do lists. It creeps up on us so quickly and before we know it we are flung into a dash to buy presents, write cards, decorate, cook and eat, and eat some more.

In the rush of things our emotions can get all mangled and we can end up a mess: tired and cranky, or disappointed about something not working out ,or angry about the crowds or horrible traffic. We can so easily forget about the amazing hope that awaits us.

Christ`s birth was not a mere entertaining spectacle, which is much of what Christmas has become today. The modern Christmas is covered with all kinds of entertainment,special performances and non-spiritual Christmas songs etc. But Christ`s nativity was a moment where hope was beginning to spawn. Hope amidst difficult circumstances in a very difficult world. When the shepards gathered to see the child there was hope in the room: hope for Israel, an occupied nation at the time, hope for every man, woman , or child who would put there faith in this One.

The wise men of the East came and bowed to this child giving great gifts, why? Because there was hope in the room. Hope for even the gentile, hope that would reach the ends of the earth. Can you feel that hope now? It`s exciting isn`t it? Hope and anticipation of God`s kingdom. Hope that Christ, the King, will restore all creation and that we can dwell in a sin free existence one day with God: no death, no tears of sadness and separation.

This is the meaning of Christmas. That as we remember the beginning of Christ`s story, we can be filled once again with the gift of hope. Let`s look up to God this Christmas and offer our prayers with great expectation and hope! His kingdom will reign and there will be no end to it. When you believe in Him and offer your life to Him, there is great hope for anyone!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Creating Failures

How many times do we fail? How many times have we heard the age old saying "the only way to success is through failure" or something like that?

Living in Japan there are a lot of tests. They love tests here! I work at a company who specializes in getting students to pass tests that will potentially determine the quality of their career/life. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Why is this? I am sure there are many theories on the subject. However, one thing I know is that the system that children go through and that adults face at companies is one that creates failures. I am not saying abolish tests and let`s all be equals, because tests are important...to some extent.

When people try hard and fail tests or evaluations, etc. there is discouragement and there is internal stress. The more you fail the less you want to try. The external circumstances begin to affect the condition of your heart. Soon you see yourself as a failure and the journey into depression begins. Recently, in Japan the number of youth suicides has increased 30% and this group make up a large portion of the 30,000a year who commit suicide.

The Bible usually refers to disbelief or disobedience as an act of failure. In the Old Testament the people of Israel "failed" to remove all the idol worship from their land and failed to keep God`s commandments etc. In the New Testament Jesus says, "Do your ears fail to hear or eyes fail to see.." and Paul writes " so you may not fail the test." What test is he talking about, not one with a point total.

In man`s attempt for improvement there is a snare. The pursuit of excellence for a society can leave a nasty wake for those who didn`t make the cut. Especially in Japan, a country with major shame issues already this is a double whammy!

The funny thing is that even those who passed tests and join the ranks of the salarymen usually have to sacrifice a lot anyways for the sake of career and promotion. Rarely ever are people promoted for their actual skills, but for how much time they put in, or their years of service.

God`s plan is not that we fail, but that we succeed, meaning: that we grow and develop according to the path He has set before us. His tests are not standardized, but are custom made and measure our very soul. Let`s be encouraged that the Bible says "God never fails" to make us complete! (or perfect!)

Let`s share the hope that Christ is indeed daily forging us both on a conscious level and unconscious level! The world is certainly needing a message of hope, not of failure. People want to hear the good news of the gospel that "You are not a failure!"
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