It’s Not the End of the World

Guest post by Rev. Rollie Simmons.

Well, here we are in another year where the world is apparently supposed to end according to the ancient Mayan calendar. Did you know that there is an official 2012 end of the world website? (Please don’t go find it.) I noticed that it offered other important predictions if you wanted to click on the link (I didn’t), but my thought was what other predictions do I need if the world is ending? It also had some articles on how people can prepare for and survive it. Survive the end of the world!

This of course is nothing new as these kinds of predictions have been going on for generations. Does anyone still have some Y2K supplies in their garage? I will never forget how some Christians I was pastoring at the time were very upset with my evident lack of concern for the crash of 2000. I wasn’t preaching on it or providing weeks of survival coaching from the pulpit. And then when nothing happened, it was amazing how some believers actually acted sincerely disappointed that the end of the world didn’t happen.

I have discovered one very good thing about these repeated end of the world predictions. They are signs to me of what Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Is that not the prophetic truth about mankind? All these predictions are evidence that God has placed eternity into men’s hearts and, no matter how we may try, we will not figure it out. He placed eternity there to point us to Him, but man still stubbornly tries to find a way around God.

I don’t know what 2012 holds for us but I know God is holding us in His hands.

Rollie Simmons is the pastor of Trinity Church in Tacoma, Washington.

2012: A Year of Completion

Guest post by Pastor Gesner Lefort.

Dear reader, a new year is upon us. It is an opportune moment to turn ourselves to God more than ever before so that we might receive a fresh anointing and the fresh perspective that comes from faith.

The people of God are a people of faith. In Hebrews 11:6, the Bible says that without faith, it is impossible to please God. “The one who draws near to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of the one who seeks Him.” In order to receive the faith that pleases God and for which God rewards us, we must turn to His Word — “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

The people of God are a spiritual people with spiritual vision of a spiritual destiny. We do not base our view of the future or our hope on the news of the day or what the government is doing. Rather, we put our faith in Christ and this faith is our assurance of things hoped for, the things that will bring us peace.

No matter what the situation, God always provides a door of hope for those who put their trust in Him. In the Bible we read (and we know this also from experience) that “in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

At the beginning of last year, God spoke to me intuitively and told me that 2011 would be a year of lack. At the same time, He gave the faith to believe that God would take care of those who put their trust in Christ. To be perfectly honest, 2011 was indeed a year of lack for us in Haiti, a year of political, financial, and public health crises, the year when an ongoing cholera epidemic began. Despite all of this, I continued to believe God, that He rewards those who seek Him. No member of my family, and no member of my church, was touched by cholera. God took care of me and my family, providing for our daily needs, and He gave us enough to take care of those He brought into our path as well. God is faithful.

At the beginning of this new year, I believe that God has entrusted me with a word different from what he spoke to me last year. I have shared it with my local church, and I would like to share it with you. I believe God told me that 2012 would be a year when God would complete those of us who trust in Christ in every domain. I believe that that meant that he would provide for our needs, although it didn’t mean that we wouldn’t have to seek his face in faith. On the contrary, it is faith that would give birth to the work that God is doing. As such, in our church in Haiti, we set the last week of 2011 apart, and went into spiritual combat to take hold of that which is ours in the Kingdom of God. There were some vibrant testimonies that came out of this period of spiritual combat, and the name of Jesus was glorified. Because of this, I would greatly encourage everyone this new year to be vigilant in the Lord to enter into all that Christ died to obtain for us. “Grace be with all those who love Jesus Christ with incorruptible love” (Eph. 6:24)

Gesner Lefort is the pastor of Centre de Formation Chrétienne (Christian Training Center) in Ste. Philomène, Haiti.

Haiti, May Your Soup Bowl Overflow in 2012

Guest post by John Adams.

In Haiti, the land of my childhood, January 1 is not only New Year’s Day but also Independence Day. It was on this day in 1804 that Haiti officially became independent from France, throwing off two centuries of slavery to become the world’s first independent black republic. To celebrate, Haitians eat soup joumou, a soup made from a squashy kind of pumpkin, laden with cabbage, turnips, and large pieces of beef rubbed with lime. It is believed that the newly freed slaves, forced for so long to serve the good food to their masters, chose to make it a symbol of their independence one they were free. Never again would master tell slave what he could eat. The Haitian would eat his freedman’s soup under his own vine and fig tree and profit gladly from the abundance of peace.

Sadly, for most Haitians, the Haiti of 2011 is nearly the polar opposite of the 1804 ideal. Today, Haiti is a weary, devastated nation teetering on the edge of extinction. Nevertheless, we serve a God who raises the dead, “calling things that are not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17). Jesus stated bluntly that the Kingdom of God belongs to the poor, and promised that the meek would inherit the earth. There are many in Haiti now who are of His flock, who hear the shepherd’s voice. I keep praying that as the Gospel bears fruit in their lives, it will spill over into an abundance of common grace for all their fellow countrymen. That is my prayer for Haiti in 2012 — individual, communal, and societal restoration through the overflow of forgiven hearts that are moving into the “Yes and Amen” promises God makes to those who love Him.

Oh, may it be so! May Haiti’s soup bowl overflow in 2012. May it know abundance and prosperity once again. May so many centuries of injustice be washed away by the rivers of God’s justice rolling like a river, His righteousness like a mighty stream. May the light of God’s truth pierce through spiritual darkness. May the knowledge of His love bind up the wounds caused by so much hatred. May He cause the sun of righteousness, who has risen with healing in His wings, to rise. May the day come when Haiti’s beautiful people go forth leaping, like calves newly released from the stall (Mal. 4:2).

John Adams is our son. He has a blog of his own, Oxford Circus, which he updates intermittently.

A Better Word than Happiness

Guest post by Pastor Corey Kope.

In my own life, I must say that hope has depended mostly upon my perspective. Hope is a deeper word in the western world than, say, “happiness” in most of our minds. Hope denotes something that can rise up out of the ashes of conflict and pain, of unstable circumstances, of lost situations. Too often, we’re seeking the FEELING of personal satisfaction when idealism in a relationship, or in anything actually materializes. But disaster strikes and the shallowness of our trust in God is revealed when we strike out at Him or those He has carefully placed in our lives because it didn’t turn out the way we thought it should. Hence the lack of Kingdom effect in our lives. We need to take a hard look at ourselves. We brag in the sunshine “though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him”. But when He has the nerve to do something for His own reasons we cry “unfair!”

It is ridiculous to beg God for fairness when that is the last thing we could handle. And the last thing I want is a god I can handle. No, hope in my life has happened in the darkness, when my last cry is one of despair and I throw myself on the mercy of the One. Mercy I never deserved and never could. And in the receiving of mercy, when I know in my heart that 5 minutes of the right kind of pressure could make me run from my own Master, a most basic shift takes place inside and the words “my Lord and my God!” are forced out of me. And hope is reborn. Not the hope that things will turn out OK for me, but that the Kingdom could continue without me. That there is something worth dying for. Only then can I look behind me and see God’s handling of my life. And I find rest in knowing that He can do what He wants. My ego is gone and my only question is, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”

Corey Kope is in the process of becoming senior pastor at Chinook Winds Christian Centre in Didsbury, Alberta.

A Good Dose of Hope for 2012

Guest post by Pastor Scot Painter.

Hope – a confident expectation of good things to come.

I remember reading this definition years ago from a pocket dictionary. I have quoted it often when talking to others that needed a good dose of hope in their lives.  You know, a good dose of hope is just what we need as we move forward into the New Year.  We need a confident expectation of good things to come!

“Hey! Easier said than done, preacher. You don’t know what kind of year this has been.” Well, believe me, I know. Adversity seems to be coming an old companion of mine.

I look at adversity like this: I can let it whip me down or whip me up, into shape, and I always seek to choose the latter. If trouble’s going to be hanging around I can let it be either bad company corrupting good character or I can let it be good company exposing bad character (1 Cor. 15:33).

Of course, the great secret is that as we place our hope in the Lord, he will always renew our strength and cause us to soar on wings like eagles, to run and not be weary, to walk and not to faint (Is. 40:31).

That’s always my prayer, “Lord, let those adverse wind currents blowing into my life lift me up into new realms of your glorious likeness and let me ascend from glory to glory as I abide in the shelter of the Most High” (Ps. 91; 2 Cor. 3:18).

Hebrews 12:26-29 reminds us that God promises to shake not only the earth, but the heavens, so that the things that can be shaken will be removed, and the things that cannot be shaken will remain. It doesn’t take a Christian rocket scientist to figure out that God is shaking not only the nations and governments, but he is also shaking the financial kingdom of this world. But we have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken.

If our confident expectation of good things to come is in anything of this fallen world, we will be in for a big disappointment. But if our hope is in Christ’s kingdom that cannot be shaken, we will be standing on solid ground. As the fallen world crumbles around us, let us not be moved from the place of giving thanks, worship, and reverence and awe to God (v. 28).  When you see God as a consuming fire burning up all the wood, hay and stubble around you, take courage and comfort in the fact that, that which is truly God’s work will not be lost.

We all need a good dose of hope as we move into the new year of 2012! Let’s not allow the pruning process to cause us to lose confidence in God’s Word. Instead, may the root of hope in us find nourishment deep in the soil of God’s faithfulness so that new sprigs of faith will spring forth, bearing new and mature spiritual fruit in our lives. People of God! Let’s renew our hope in the Lord and start a new year with expectations of good things to come. God bless!

Scot Painter is the pastor of Father’s Heart Fellowship in Hampstead, North Carolina.

Bonne Année! (Happy New Year!)

Marie, our ''cuisinière'' preparing ''soup joumou."

Happy New Year! to all our readers! 2012 has come! I (Dana) am writing from Pittsburgh where Prit and I were invited to attend a fundraiser for Haiti. The goal was to raise money to help dig wells all over Haiti with the purpose of providing clean water. The culmination of the meeting was to ring in the new year with awesome praise and worship. If you’re interested in more information, you can visit resolutionhope.org

In Haiti, our church members (as is the custom)  entered the new year on their knees in prayer. New Year’s Eve is always spent giving thanks to God for all His blessings and imploring Him for new mercies to accompany the future.  As well as looking forward, however, January 1st is also spent in reflection of a more oppressive and dark era of Haiti’s history.  A time-honored tradition, embraced by the Haitian people as a whole, is to consume pumpkin soup on New Year’s day to celebrate their freedom from the tyranny of slavery. Haitian tradition maintains that when Haiti was a French colony, the slaves were obliged to prepare pumpkin soup for their French masters  on New Year’s day. The slaves prepared it, but never were allowed to partake of it. Today, they celebrate their independence by preparing their own soup and eating it too. It is not a simple pumpkin broth. That would never do. Soup joumou is carefully prepared with potatoes, turnips, carrots, onions, beef, and sometimes macaroni. The heavy-laden soup  (not a scanty one) speaks of abundance as opposed to lack. Our washlady/cook (Marie) informed me that, prepared any other way, it would be incomplete. Pumpkin soup on New Year’s day is what turkey is to Americans on Thanksgiving. We (nor they) would have it any other way! C’est délicieux!

Vision for a New Year

Guest post by the Rev. John Finochio.

Every year as we approach the threshold of a new year, a flood of thoughts go through my mind as they probably do yours as well. What is God saying about this new year? What is the vision for this year? What goals do I need to set personally? What objectives do I need to set for our church? What new strategic approach is needed to obtain the promise for this new year? I usually also do a month-by-month run through in my mind of the past year to remember what significant things the Lord did and to spend some time thanking Him for His good hand upon me, my family and the church we serve.

I’ve read/listened to a few prophetic words that seem to float around also at this time of year from some high profile ministries in which they announce what they claim to be the Lord’s word for the coming year. I never put too much stock in those words as I don’t think the Holy Spirit’s calendar always matches man’s. When all is said and done, I come back to the realization that Jesus promised to be with His disciples to the end of the age, that He would never leave us or forsake us, and that we are to occupy until He comes. I try to resist any flashy ostentatious approach to the New Year. I simply position myself to continue to seek Him, to rely on His absolute faithfulness, believe in His overwhelming goodness and anticipate seeing Him work in a greater way — in me, through me, and for me.

I approach 2012 with the greatest of hope because I have been “begotten again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” I remind myself that I’m caught up in a purpose that is eternal and unstoppable. In 2012, we will continue to see that purpose unfold in our world to the glory of God!

John Finochio is the pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Harriston, Ontario.

A New Leaf for the New Year

Guest post by the Rev. Matt Garrett.

What am I going to do about my expanding waist line! When am I ever going to start being more patient! When will I learn to keep my house cleaner! Now is the time that so many people are making New Years’ resolutions. They are promising themselves that they will make many important changes in the coming year. They will eat only nutritious foods, they will exercise regularly, they will rise early to pray, they will stop losing their tempers at home or work, they will learn a new language, they will watch less TV, and they will take up some new hobby. Hope burns in our hearts as we believe the changes that our resolutions promise to bring. Sadly, most of these resolutions will fall by the wayside before January even ends.

But a resolution can be a good thing indeed, if it is our response to the Holy Spirit leading us to walk in the Word and follow our Savior. Didn’t the Apostle Paul tell us his resolution when he said “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14).

Forgetting those things which are behind? Like what, Brother Paul? Let’s face it, we all have baggage that weighs us down and interferes as we try to make our way through this life. We have all made mistakes. We all have certain weaknesses and inabilities. We all have some sins in our past or some present struggles with sin that may still plague us with guilt. (We would do well to remember Psalm 103:12 — “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west,”) Perhaps some of us carry a sadness or a past grief that prevents us from fully knowing the joy of the Lord. Most people admit that they missed some great opportunity that would have reaped a great profit in some endeavor, but the opportunity is long gone. Sadly, a few people allow themselves to be distracted with bitterness, hatred, and the desire for revenge, not accepting that it is inevitable that we will all be mistreated and misunderstood at various times. (“Is the servant greater than the master?”) And I better include envy as a typical baggage. Even in ministry we struggle not to envy the other minister whom God seems to bless and use so abundantly, while we may plod along faithfully sowing, but seeing little harvest. And beware of past successes. They can become baggage too, as we try to keep repeating the old methods that “worked” before, as if following God is a science that can be “cook booked.” As a new year dawns, what is limiting you, distracting you, holding you back from fulfilling your potential? What is dimming your hope?

What are we to do with our baggage? What is Paul’s resolution? “To forget those things
which are behind.” You can only forget those things, however, if you also follow Paul’s example in the rest of the verse to “press on toward the prize.”

Did you happen to see any children tearing open Christmas gifts this year? Oh my, how some of them go at a package, simply ripping the paper in every direction, so eager to get inside. St. Paul encourages us to press toward our prize with that same vigor and intensity. What is that prize? It is the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, of course! It is to live like Jesus, to know Jesus, to please the Father like Jesus, and to do the work of the Father that He has planned for our individual talents. And as we do this we will collect a lot of spiritual fruit as by-products along the way. Joy, peace, love, wisdom, and so on will be welling up in us and seeping out to everyone around us. Oh press on, Saints! Press on toward that prize. Nothing else is worthy of your best efforts.

“But Matt, I’ve tried all of this before and failed.” Oh no, who said that? Friend, you’ve missed the whole point of the verse. Didn’t you hear Paul say “Forget what happened before and press on toward the prize?” So don’t bring that old failure up. Just press on with your eyes on Jesus, who personifies the prize. Keep your head up, God’s Word on your lips, a song in your heart, and forgetting what’s behind, press on.

There’s an old hymn that I sang in church as a child. It is about resolutions, that is, it’s about being resolved. The first line is “I am resolved no longer to linger, charmed by the world’s delight. Things that are higher, things that are nobler, these have allured my sight.” May that be our theme in the New Year. And that, my fellow pilgrim, gives great cause for hope.

Matt Garrett is the pastor of Moncure Baptist Church in Moncure, North Carolina.