with Bob Condly
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December 2016

Transition

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Some of you may have heard that I lost my position at Victory International Fellowship. This will be the second time that I’ve left the staff. Previously, I’d worked at the church from 1996 through most of 2008 and resigned to start Sanctuary Church of the Lake Country.

I wanted Sanctuary to get established in Hartland and make a big impact but I didn’t succeed. By the middle of 2013, I had to make some changes, and that’s when Pastor Rory offered me the associate pastor spot at VIF. So I returned to the Brookfield church. Rejoining the staff on a part-time basis, I was to advance to full-time as soon as it became feasible. It never did.

Given the diminishing size of the congregation, the budget had to be trimmed, and it was decided that the church could no longer afford my position. I was told in October that my job would last through the end of the year.

While this was happening, I’d also been working for West Coast Bible College and Seminary. God knew about the pastoral role wrapping up, so He blessed me by expanding my duties and salary at the college. I’ll now concentrate my efforts full-time to training people for the ministry.

My emotions are split; I feel like there’s two of me.

It hurts to disconnect from Christians I’ve loved and worked with, yet I’m jazzed about the potential of West Coast to prepare disciples all over the world to serve Jesus. I can’t wait to teach pastors and church leaders online and in conferences, but I feel disappointed that I didn’t accomplish all that I desired at VIF.

Should I look back or press ahead? The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If I strain toward the future, He’s already there. If I look back, He’s there, too. So maybe He can handle my waffling!

What about you? As 2016 comes to to a close, where are you at? Your heart, your hopes, your efforts–what effects have they had on your spiritual life? Did your walk with Christ improve throughout the year? What was God’s will for you and was it accomplished? How many of your goals did you reach? What are you aiming for next year?

You may feel torn inside, pulled in competing directions. Half of you may pine for the past, to right some wrong, solve some stubborn problem, or ruminate about your comfortable routine. The other half may yearn to break free and race to undiscovered potential.

Yes, God’s Word warns about double-mindedness. You can’t stay split forever. But for the moment, acknowledge and accept it. From there, in the quiet, you will hear the Spirit address you. Jesus will lead you; He won’t let you down.

“Let go and let God.” It’s more than just a slogan; it’s a great way to transition from one year to the next.

Happy New Year!

Silent Christmas

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I love the Christmas carol, Silent Night, because of how its serenity and dignity envelope my soul. Peacefulness never goes out of style; sometimes, it’s best to take a step back, listen, and allow the scene of the new-born Savior to captivate our hearts.

Today, Christmas is anything but silent. Whether they distort or honor the message, thousands of movies, TV shows, ads, and songs get the word out.

And let’s not overlook the four gospels for they, too, share the hope of the season in their unique ways.

The apostle John takes the broadest approach. He reveals that Jesus is both distinct from and identical to God Himself.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – John 1:1

Christmas displays the mystery and the miracle of the incarnation; the divine taking on human form.

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

Christmas communicates: John identifies Jesus as the very Word of God.

Matthew approaches the birth of Christ from the perspective of His stepfather Joseph. He cannot bring Jesus into the world, but through the directions of angels, he can care for the woman who does and protect his young family.

Christmas communicates: Joseph heard and he obeyed.

Luke focuses on Mary, the one on whom God bestowed the privilege of giving birth to the Messiah. Accepting the possibility of a miracle which threatened her reputation, she persevered through trials and and travels. And so Jesus came to be born in Bethlehem.

Christmas communicates: Mary submitted to the will of God. As a result,  many declared her and her Son blessed of the Lord.

Mark makes no reference to Christmas. Beginning his gospel with the ministry of John the Baptist, he moves right into the baptism of Christ and His temptations in the wilderness. Then, on to kingdom business!

About Christmas, Mark’s is the silent gospel.

Or is it?

The gospel of Mark is all about action. One of his favorite words is “immediately.” Jesus sprints from one event to another–healing here, speaking there, and going on to the next encounter. Christ serves the outcasts and the needy; He challenges the smug and the powerful. He fights with evil and wins.

Jesus’ ministry is so provocative that it gets Him arrested, tried, and crucified. But as Christ defeated all the enemies of humanity–sin, sickness, oppression–so the Lord vanquished death itself. This is the good news!

Mark may not describe the details of Jesus’ birth, but he stresses the purpose of the incarnation. Jesus was born to be our Savior. He served us to the point of giving up His life and rose again to vanquish everything that degrades and cheapens our lives.

So allow the story of Christmas to warm your heart. Recount with joy all the wonders of that day. But remember why Jesus came to us. Listen to the silence of Mark’s gospel about the first Advent. Let it direct your attention to the purpose of His arrival into our world, where sinners need forgiveness, the sick need healing, and everyone needs hope.

Hear the gospel, even in silent testimony.

Merry Christmas!

with Bob Condly

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