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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...


Connections: Scott Wilson

More Than Just the Holidays

Scott Wilson is senior pastor of The Oaks Fellowship (Assemblies of God) in Red Oak, Texas, and author of Act Normal, available through Gospel Publishing House. Wilson recently spoke with Pentecostal Evangel Technical Editor James Meredith. Through their conversation, he offers practical insight and encouragement as believers celebrate Christ’s birth and convey the hope of His message throughout the coming year.

evangel: At Christmas, families gather from great distances, and people go to church who otherwise never attend. What is it about Christmas that stirs people’s hearts so uniquely?

WILSON: Christmas is the great multiplier of emotions. Whatever you’re feeling will be amplified during the holidays, whether it’s joy, contentment, sadness, loneliness or loss.

Christmas reminds people how things could be in their lives, both in terms of their own contentment as well as relationships with family, friends and God. There’s an idealism about Christmas that is attractive. We see it in holiday movies and music, reminding us of what really matters: family, friends, faith, God. People who might neglect or ignore those feelings the rest of the year embrace them around the holidays.

Christmas calls us to give gifts, think of others, and be people of compassion. People around us are hurting, and their emptiness is amplified. They need hope and are more likely to be looking for it during the holidays. Thus they are more open to the truth of Jesus Christ.

evangel: What’s the most important message churches and Christians can deliver to the world at Christmas?

WILSON: Hope. When we celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world, it reminds us that the world is broken, that we can’t fix it on our own, and that there’s a hope available to us all if we believe that Jesus really is the Messiah. The name “Immanuel” says it all: “God with us.” What greater hope could there be?

Think about it. God has wanted to be close to us from the very beginning. In Genesis, God created Adam and Eve, then came down in the Garden to be with them, face to face, in perfect relationship. But sin came into play and brought separation from Him. Yet amid that scene, in Genesis 3:15, God promised to bring us back into right relationship with Him, through His Son Jesus Christ.

So in Matthew 1:21, when the angel comes to Joseph and says Jesus is going to be Immanuel, it’s incredible to think that God didn’t deal with the sin issue from far away. He wants to be with us. He came to be with us. Not only would He be with us, but He would live in us through the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). You can’t get any closer than that.

That is the fullness of the Christmas message. Not just a baby born; not just “Away in a Manger.” It’s a message of joy to the world that God has come to be with us. He has made a way so that He now lives with us and within us. And one day, all who believe in Him will be with Him forever.

evangel: How can we respond to heightened emotions and needs around us at Christmas?

WILSON: Christmas is the time for churches and Christians to rise up! Lead in compassion. Do for one person what you wish you could do for everyone. We can’t solve all the world problems, but we can do something for someone in a practical way.

Here’s an example of something we did at our church. Two years ago, in the weeks before Christmas, our church took an offering without telling everybody why. Red Buckets were passed, and the people were told that if they wanted to help, they should give whatever amount was in their hearts.

The ushers then brought the buckets forward and the people were told that if they had a need, they could come get what they needed out of the bucket. Whether it was $89 for a light bill or $221 for food, they were to take exactly what they needed, not a dollar more or a dollar less. This was done for three weeks, and as people found out about it they began to give all the more.

evangel: We’re not just looking inwardly at Christmas, but outwardly as well.

WILSON: Yes, exactly. In Mark 10:45, Jesus said He did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give up His life as a ransom for many. Then He told us in John 13:1-17, as He washed the disciples’ feet, that we are to have the same attitude. We are called to serve, just as He served.

evangel: The new year is often a time of optimism, with people setting resolutions and aspiring to life changes. Yet our world is gripped by uncertainty and fear. What are some ways Christians can offer lasting hope in 2012?

WILSON: It certainly seems that 2012 could be filled with turmoil and uncertainty. From the financial crisis, instability in government, the coming elections — even predictions of the end of the world — life appears to be really uncertain. But one thing we know for sure is that God is not surprised by any of this. He is not uncertain. He is not caught off guard. The truth is, this is the finest hour for the Church of Jesus Christ!

In Philippians 2:14-17, Paul described our world as a dark, crooked and perverted generation. Yet we shine like stars as we hold out the Word of hope. We shine brightest in the darkest hours.

If we get into the muck with the world that says, “Oh no! I don’t know how to handle the uncertainty,” then we are missing our opportunity to shine. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have problems. It means that we trust in God.

The fact is, people are more open to change at the new year than any other time. As a pastor, I encourage the people of our church, “You need to pray that God will give you help and direction, so that you are solid in your faith and trusting God for your needs.” We’re also looking for the open door, to give an answer to anybody who asks the reason for the hope that we have in Jesus (1 Peter 3:15).

evangel: How about the believer struggling with uncertainty or discouragement?

WILSON: I would point them toward James 1:2-5, reminding them that the testing of our faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that we can become mature and complete.

When people say they want to be mature, complete, and not lack anything in God, I say, “Then you’re asking for a test.” Testing always precedes promotion. God will lead us through these tests, and we can go on to a whole new level of faith, a new level of effectiveness. Our churches will grow. Our lives will grow. Our families will grow. Our relationship with God will grow.

This is an incredible time we live in. It’s up and down, unstable and uncertain. And Christ is the Solid Rock on which we stand.

evangel: What are some “spiritual resolutions” Christians might consider?

WILSON: The new year is a time of evaluation and reflection. First Corinthians 3:10-15 describes how we as Christians are going to be judged according to our works at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This new year, a time of new beginnings, is a good time to ask, “What am I living for? Do I live for eternal things or temporary things? Am I consumed with work or hobbies? Am I too focused on temporary things?”

Here are two practical ideas as we enter 2012: First, evaluate your relationship with Jesus. Prioritize spiritual disciplines such as prayer, reading the Word, going to church, and getting into a small group. Find a place to serve and use your gifts.

Then evaluate your relationship with your family. Resolve to create lasting memories this year with your kids. Have meals together. Think about what you’re doing to raise up that next generation.

Finally, evaluate your life according to what really matters. Are you living for things that have temporary value, or things that are eternal?


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