Winter Life Groups: January – March Life Groups start this week. Please visit the Info Table for more information or to sign up for a Life Group.
Prayer Workshop: January 18 The Prayer Team invites everyone to start the year hearing from Jesus. Come and practice hearing from the Holy Spirit on Saturday, January 18th from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm at the Family Center.
Winter Members Meeting: January 19 FOL members, join us for our annual winter meeting before the service at 9:00 am on Sunday, January 19th in the cafeteria.
Faith and Finances Class: January 26 – April Learn how God wants to restore health to your money and relationships through Faith and Finances, an eleven-week course that will be held on Sundays afternoons at the Family Center, beginning January 26th. The class costs $20/person. Please register by Sunday, January 19th by contacting Dave or Shari.
M3ND Abuse & Bullying Recognition Training: February 27 FOL and Stephens Middle School are hosting an abuse & bullying recognition/response training from The M3ND Project on the evening of Thursday, February 27th from 6:30 – 8:00 pm. Parents and any interested adults are invited to this event. The training will define and teach ways to identify the hidden manipulative behaviors that are found in all abuse cases. Participants will also obtain tools for responding in a way that promotes healing for victims and accountability for abusers. Register online using this link: http://bit.ly/2tKEmIs or visit the Info Table for a printed registration.
Youth Weekly Events High school youth meet on Wednesday evenings. Middle school youth meet on Friday evenings.
Winter Life Groups: January – March Life Groups will reconvene next week, January 14. Please visit the Info Table for more information or to sign up for a Life Group.
Faith and Finances Class: January 26 – April Are you tired of stressing about money? Learn how God wants to restore health to your money and relationships through Faith and Finances, an eleven-week course that will be help on Sunday afternoons at the Family Center. Contact David Uyematsu for more information.
The Well Day of Sabbath: February 29 Save the date: The Well will host a day of Sabbath on Saturday, February 29th in Long Beach. More details to follow. Contact Sylvia Palomino with any questions.
Youth Weekly Events The middle and high school youth groups are on break and will reconvene in two weeks.
us for a Christmas cookie bar in the cafeteria after today’s service!
5000 Pies Christmas Cookies & Pies: December
5000 Pies is taking Christmas pie orders until Friday, December 20th. Pick up will be Tuesday, December 24th from 1pm – 5pm.
gifts for coworkers, friends, or teachers? Look no further than 5000 Pies’
assorted Christmas cookie boxes and bags.
for pies and cookies will be at the Info Table after service.
M3ND Abuse & Bullying Training: February 27
FOL is partnering with Stephens Middle School to host an abuse & bullying training from The M3ND Project on the evening of Wednesday, February 27th, 2020 (exact time TBA). This training includes teaching, video learning and interactive breakout sessions to provide deeper knowledge of the various forms of abuse, including bullying, that first responders (e.g., faith-based leaders, therapists, school personnel) are likely to encounter. Parents and any interested adults are invited to this event. The training primarily focuses on defining and learning to identify covert emotional abuse, the hidden manipulative behaviors that are the common thread found in all abuse cases. Participants will also obtain tools for responding in a way that promotes healing for victims and accountability for abusers.
The middle and high
school youth groups are on break for Christmas and will reconvene in January.
Hope and Peace go hand in hand. That’s what Advent is all about. And oh, how we need both as we wait on the Lord! Two other elements that fit right in here are Faith and Love. Jesus came into this world to bring us hope and peace, and that we might know his love through faith in him.
Luke announces the peace that Jesus brings by quoting the messenger, the angel of the Lord: “‘For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord’…And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Luke 2:11-14)
But how can we have hope when things don’t go the way we had thought they would? How can we have hope when we are disappointed in God, when we feel like he has let us down, or when things happen in life that we don’t understand?
Jesus himself answers these questions by telling us that our ultimate hope does not come in this lifetime but in what is to come. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 14:33)
He came that we might have peace. How can we have peace in the midst of the tribulation? The same way Jesus could sleep soundly in the back of the boat while the storm raged on. Because Jesus is still with us, God is with us. That’s what we read in scripture and sing about, especially at Christmastime. Maybe that’s a problem. We tend to reflect upon the name, Emmanuel (which is a promise that means “God is with us”), mainly at this time of year. Yes, the promise is there that God is with us in the Christ child, but we have to remember that God is always with us. That’s why Jesus gave us his Holy Spirit. “Very God of very God” dwells within every person who puts their trust in him.
That’s how we can face tribulation, that’s how we can endure the storm. This is how we can have hope when we’re faced with illness, joblessness, injustice, oppression, broken relationships, hatred, loss, or even death. Peace gives us hope. Hope enables us to be at peace. God is ALWAYS with us and not just when he was here physically roaming the earth as a carpenter’s son. The very name given to him was a sign to us that God IS (not was) with us!
Jesus tells his disciples (and us), “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27) He tells us this right after he promises the Holy Spirit to each and every believer.
This is how we know that he loves us and how we can know his love for us. “For God so loved the world” —that is, God loved the world in such a way— “that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” For Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world but to save it. (John 3:16-17)
We can experience the “Peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) in the midst of life’s difficulties because of the hope we have in what is to come, eternal life, when we will no longer have to face any kind of tribulation. Faith and hope go hand in hand, as well. (See Hebrews 11:1.)
The peace that Jesus promised us so long ago is not a peace that is to come, it is for now, in the midst of the tribulation that he told us we will face in this world, in this life. But there will come a time when we will no longer need faith and hope because we will be right there with the LORD, face to face, gazing upon him in all his fullness. For now, though, we need faith, hope and peace because we can only see God as in a dimly lit mirror. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
For now, we have faith, hope (peace) and love because of the birth of Jesus into the human family and the work he accomplished on the cross for which he was born. That waiting is over. The waiting we endure now is for his return. The greatest of these three (faith, hope and love) is love. Why?
Because love lasts forever, it goes on into eternity. (1 Corinthians 13:8) In the eternal realm, we will no longer need faith and hope (or peace) because our faith and hope will have come to fruition. We will revel in the glory of the perfect and everlasting love of God!
When was the last time you really looked forward to something? Perhaps it was a wedding day, a long-anticipated vacation, a family reunion, or the birth of a new child. These significant events have some common patterns. We think about them. We plan for them. We put a great deal of effort so that we are ready when that day comes. We do this because, in His infinite kindness, God has given us the gift of longing for good gifts. He wants us to long for good gifts.
And while there are plenty of good gifts, none surpass our true and better portion: the Lord Himself. If I’m honest though, I sometimes plan more for vacations than I do for eternity. Can you relate? It’s part of our broken humanity. Left to ourselves, we settle for too little.
So, what can we do? How can the season of Advent help? Allow me to suggest two ways.
1. It revives our hearts to the wonder of Christmas.
If your heart is like mine, then you can grow numb to the Christmas story. I catch it in my heart regularly. I lose my awe for what God has done in my life, and for what God has done in entering our broken world. He is a creator willing to be misunderstood and mistreated by His creation, including me and you!. He became an endangered child, an immigrant, a poor man, one who suffered a criminal’s death. In Jesus coming to the world, God fulfills His promise of crushing the enemy. The Creator rescues His creation from the very problem we got ourselves into.
Lead your heart to dwell on this: God gave it all up for the entire world, and for you and me. God loves each of us uniquely as much as He loves all of us collectively. Don’t miss how marvelous this is!
2. It points our hearts in the right direction
If your heart is like mine, then you are prone to wander. If the first part of Advent is remembrance, the second is longing and preparation. In this season, we are invited to sit in the tension of remembering God’s faithfulness even as we long for a greater, perfect future. We don’t normally do this. And so, we observe Advent because our hearts need it. In a time where we hurt so much, Advent can fill us with courage and hope. It can strengthen our weary hearts and help us live the values of the “Upside Down Kingdom.” It can help us fight for justice because we are reminded that this world is not the end. It can help us strive for purity because we know it will be worth it. And it can strengthen our resolve to make disciples because we remember He is with us always, even to the end of times.
In closing, it can be said that our city needs followers of Jesus that live in Advent season year long—disciples who remember and who long. It is the assurance of faithfulness past that help us believe and move toward a redeemed future. May we trust the Lord together for this.
Daniel Becerra is a missional team leader in greater Los Angeles with Cru. He and his wife Alice are members of Fountain of Life Covenant Church. Learn more about their ministry.
Stephens Middle School, Auditorium
1830 W Columbia St.
Long Beach, CA 90810