All Praise To God

Brent Young, Associate Pastor of Students & Outreach
The Israelites were surrounded by a world that through time drifted away from their true creator and created and believed in many different gods. But the only one true God always preserved at least a remnant of His followers to be a light to the rest of the world. We saw this with Noah as well as Abraham’s decedents who would be the people of Israel who God would use to continue to reveal Himself to the world. And the church today is the expanded new Israel.
All praise can and should be given to God, not simply because it is demanded or asked of us by some powerful higher being, but because of who He is and has always demonstrated to His creation. We base it on the results of His good actions, His “marvelous deeds”, that are evidenced through all of time and creation. When we take the time to look back at all the good things He’s done, we can’t help but be grateful. And God delights in His creation praising Him, and sharing about His goodness with the world around us.
This verse is echoed by John the Baptist’s father Zechariah when he said in Luke 1:68: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant”. Of all the deeds of God, there is perhaps none greater than the eternal redemption that was provided through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of His person in the Son who provided our salvation. And in that we should not stop praising God for such an immeasurable and undeserved gift.

Never-Ceasing Faithfulness

Brent Young, Associate Pastor of Students & Outreach
Have you ever heard God speak to you? Whatever your beliefs are on how we currently hear from God, one thing we can all agree upon is that God still speaks into our lives generally as well as specifically in our very personal and active relationship with Him. Isaiah and other Biblical prophets were messengers who heard directly from God and conveyed it to the people. May God help us be open, humble, and intentional to be listening for His Words and direction or correction.
One thing that is clear and constantly demonstrated in Scripture is that God neverabandons His people. Even when times are difficult, we know God is faithful and loves us. In this passage God’s people were wandering in the wilderness again after leaving Babylonian captivity, just as they were after Egyptian captivity, and just as we all are in our own ways in this difficult life in our currently sinful world. But we should be comforted that however long or difficult times may be, God will let nothing stand in the way of His plans, nor is it even possible for anything to block them and His final will. And we can all have faith that God wants to help us prepare ourselves, both in our physical lives as well as spiritual, for the “way of the Lord” and what that specifically looks like for each of us. Eventually many people in the Old Testament period got to see God’s glory revealed in Christ Jesus, and we look forward to the glorious day when we will all enter into God’s eternal presence in Heaven.
When Isaiah says “for the mouth of the Lord has spoken”, it’s hard not to remember Jesus’ words “truly truly I say to you…”There will never be a time where God will cease to exist, cease to love us, cease to speak into our lives, or cease to be faithful.

God Bumps

During Christmastime, we often talk about Immanuel, God with us. God is with you as you go through your regular, ordinary days. Evidence of God’s glory and power are all around. The Easy-to-Read version of Psalm 19:1-2 says, “The heavens tell about the glory of God. The skies announce what his hands have made. Each new day tells more of the story, and each night reveals more and more about God’s power.” God’s power and glory are all around you!
I’ve started using the term “God bump” to describe moments in the day when I recognize God’s presence, glory, and power in my life. Think about a typical day for your family. How often do your kids encounter God bumps in a single day? I believe God bumps should happen both naturally throughout the day and diligently, through planned effort. One simple way you can plan a God bump for your family is through the Minute With God devotion. Each day, at a set time, spend a minute or two reading God’s Word, talking about it, and praying as a family.
You can download the December Minute with God Devotion here. Then, stick it on your fridge, fold it up and put it in your sun visor in your car, put it near your dining table or coffee table, or leave it in your bathroom to do during bath time. Put it somewhere your family gathers each day at a certain time, and spend time bumping into God and His Word together. I can’t wait to hear what God does in and through your family as you commit one minute a day to seeking Him together.
Worried your kids are too young for a devotional like this, or the song devotion above? God is working in the chaos of rallying your kids together for those minutes of focused attention on Him. Your kids may not seem like they are paying attention, but I encourage you to be consistent–your kids notice your family habits, and your family habits communicate family values. God does miraculous transformation through our habits of faith. I hope your family will work to build habits of faith this season.

“Joy To The World”

Meredith Palicte, Worship & Internationals Minister
One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is singing Christmas carols. Some of you probably hold to the rule that you don’t listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, but as soon as November rolls around each year I can’t help but listen to my Christmas playlists! There’s something about it that just gets me in the holiday spirit and makes me so excited.
On Sunday we will sing one of the most popular Christmas carols of all time, “Joy to the World.” The song was first published in 1719 and was written by the English writer Isaac Watts. He based the lyrics off of Psalm 98, Psalm 96:11-12 and Genesis 3:17-18. The verses each tell of things we have to be joyful about. First, we are joyful because the Lord is come! We remember the long awaited and prophesied birth of Jesus and the joy that He brought into the world. Next, we are joyful because the Savior reigns. Even the earth repeats the sounding joy! Verse three dives into the joy of knowing that our sins and sorrows no longer grow because Christ has come to give us freedom. Finally, we are joyful because Jesus rules the world with truth and grace and the whole world will one day prove the wonders of His love.
As you prepare for worship, I encourage you to meditate on the lyrics to this song and read the Psalms it was written from (Psalm 98 and 96:11-12). Take a moment to pause and thank God for sending Jesus and for the joy we have through knowing Him.

Joy For All

Meredith Palicte, Worship & Internationals Minister
Growing up, one of our family traditions on Christmas Eve was to sit on the floor of the living read through Luke’s account of the Christmas story. We’d turn out all of the lights except one candle, which shone through a globe with the town of Bethlehem painted on it.

My dad always focused on the passage about the shepherd’s encounter with the angel because it says so much about how the Gospel is for all people. To think that shepherds (lowly, dirty, young men) were the first to meet Jesus is incredible! All throughout Scripture we see examples of Jesus coming for everyone from the lowest in society to the highest.

When the angel appeared to the shepherds that night, they must have been so afraid and confused. “Why would this angel come to us?” they might have wondered. The angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Perhaps the angel first appeared to the shepherds to prove that this Messiah really was for all people. This was not dependent on their wealth or health or social status…it was simply because God created and loves each one of us.

The joy of the Lord isn’t something to be earned through anything we can do. Even when we feel unworthy- the joy of knowing Jesus is simply a gift to be accepted. As you pray today, thank God for the joy we all get to experience through knowing Him! Pray that God will bring to mind someone who does not yet know Jesus and look for opportunities to share that joy with them.

Joyful Transformation

Meredith Palicte, Worship & Internationals Minister
A few days ago our family was taking the scenic drive along the East side of the island. The stretch from Hanauma Bay to Makapuu takes my breath away every single time. As we were driving, we were listening to a worship album and the song “Great Are You Lord” happened to be playing right as we rounded the curve past Hanauma Bay and saw the magnificent blue waters crashing against the cliffs. The bridge says “All the earth will shout your praise, our hearts will cry these bones will sing ‘Great are You Lord!’” As we sang along while admiring God’s beautiful creation, I was in awe of how even the oceans and mountains praise the Lord.
It’s incredible to think that the beautiful waves crashing in Hanauma Bay are in the very place that a fiery volcanic eruption once took place. This passage in Isaiah says that even the desert and wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Even the most dry and desolate places will burst into bloom and “shout for joy.” (v.2)
I love this picture of God’s transforming power- to take something dry and desolate and make it beautiful. Verses 3-7 go on to give examples of God’s radical transformation. He makes feeble hands steady, those who fear will not be afraid, the eyes of the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will leap, the mute will speak, the dry ground will bubble with water.
Transformation leads to joyful celebration. How has God transformed you or someone you know? Where do you see evidence of God’s transformation? If you have time this week, I encourage you to go on a scenic drive somewhere on the island. Play worship music, roll the windows down, and take a moment to notice the way that creation rejoices and invites us to do the same.

The Joy Of Christ

Meredith Palicte, Worship & Internationals Minister
PSALM 146:5-10
Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea and everything in them.
He remains faithful forever,
executing justice for the exploited
and giving food to the hungry.
The Lord frees prisoners.
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord raises up those who are oppressed. The Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord protects resident aliens
and helps the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The Lord reigns forever;
Zion, your God reigns for all generations. Hallelujah!
Through the years of working with international students, it has been a joy to see people from all over the world come to know Jesus. As I read Psalm 146:9 “The Lord watches over the foreigner…” I was reminded of a story.
Several years ago, a young man from the Middle East was getting his master’s degree at UH. He talked about the restrictive government in his home country and how he was never given the freedom to explore other religions. Just a few weeks after moving to Hawaii, he started coming to Bible study and asking lots of questions about Jesus. A couple months later, he made the life-changing decision to give his life to Christ! This decision did not come without risk- he knew that if the government learned of his decision he (or his family) could be severely persecuted. Even knowing the risk, the joy of Christ was undeniable in him. We had a private baptism for him at UABC and I’ll never forget his smile when he came out of the water. He said he felt so different and couldn’t get over the fact that he could have a direct, personal relationship with Jesus.
In Psalm 146 we see that God fights for the oppressed, feeds the hungry and sets prisoners free. He lifts up the lowly and watches over the foreigner, the orphan and the widow. During Advent, we take time to reflect and to look forward to the coming of Christ. Knowing that God takes care of us and that He will reign forever should cause great joy!
Like my friend from the Middle East, I want to live a changed life because of the work Jesus has done in me. Think of someone you know who radiates with the joy of Christ. Pray for that person today and thank God for them. Let them know you are encouraged by them by writing a note or sending a text. As you spend time with God today, read over Psalm 146 several times and write down the things that stand out to you.

Joy Leads To Worship

Meredith Palicte, Worship & Internationals Minister
MATTHEW 2:10-11
When they saw the star, they were overwhelmed with joy. Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
My almost two-year-old son Kainoa has a little nativity set called “The Star from Afar.” Each day, we hide the star in a different place around the house and he has to find it and then put the three wisemen next to it until finally, on Christmas morning, the star will be placed above the manger. It’s been so fun for us to see his face light up each day as he looks for the star and then exclaims “I find it!!”
I wonder what the wise men were thinking as they followed the star to Bethlehem.
Matthew 2:10 says they were “overjoyed.” I can imagine the conversations they must have had on the long journey…disbelief that the time had actually come; wondering what Jesus would be like. The anticipation and excitement must have grown each day as they got closer and closer to the star. When they finally got to the house and saw Jesus with Mary, Scripture says they “bowed down and worshiped him.” The joy they had led them to a place of humble worship.
In the same way, our joy should lead us to worship! 2020 has been a hard year. It’s easy to focus on the negative, but let’s take a minute to think about the things we have to be joyful about. I take great joy in knowing that Jesus reigns, even during a pandemic. Our family has had the joy of welcoming another baby just a few months ago. I also have joy as I watch Kainoa explore and learn about the world with such wonder.
What about you? In the midst of the hardships you have faced this year, what are some things you are joyful about right now? Take a moment to think about them or write them down. Once you have a list of reasons you have to be joyful, take the next several minutes to worship. (Some ideas: physically bow down, like the wisemen did; write a letter to God in a journal; sing along to a worship song, go outside and pray while marveling at God’s creation).
As you think about the wise men this Christmas, may their joy be a reminder for us to worship.

Resting In Hope

Dani Beth Crosby, Family and Communications Minister
Out of the depths I call to you, Lord! Lord, listen to my voice;
let your ears be attentive
to my cry for help.
Lord, if you kept an account of iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that you may be revered.
I wait for the Lord; I wait
and put my hope in his word.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning—
more than watchmen for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord.
For there is faithful love with the Lord,
and with him is redemption in abundance.
And he will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.
What do you do when you find yourself in a foreign country during a global pandemic? I am so very grateful for the trip to Israel this past March. When you plan to travel to the Holy Land you expect to have some “aha!” moments. I didn’t expect for one of those moments to be inside my hotel room, however. Each morning I would wake up and immediately check my phone, knowing that as I slept the world was changing. I would read news alerts and messages from the other group leaders. There was so much uncertainty and I was overwhelmed. We would start the day over a delicious Israeli breakfast while discussing what we should do—should we head to the airport or continue on with our trip? Each day felt like it started in total chaos, but we would continue on in faith and by lunch I would find myself entering into Sabbath rest. By about the fourth day, I began to wake up differently. I knew the world was still in chaos, but I also knew God’s rest was waiting for me in the middle of the chaos. There were many things out of my control, but my hope was in God. Settling into the rhythm of Sabbath rest for the remainder of the trip, I found myself in awe of God’s goodness again and again.
Faith-rooted hope is established on the unchanging, eternal character of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Because He is unchanging, we can always call out to Him—in our distress, in our worry, in our joy. Our thoughts and emotions change throughout the day, but He does not. He is steady. His Word is truth, and we are sanctified by His truth. It is a light to our path. As we surrender control to Him, trusting in Him as we wait, we will find rest. We have hope in His forgiveness. We have hope in His nearness. We have hope in His faithful love. We have hope in His abundant redemption. “Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.” (Psalm 116:7) He has been good. He is good. He will always be good. This is our hope. May you take delight in resting in the hope of God this season.
Hebrews 4:9-11; John 17:17; Psalm 119:105

Armor Of Hope

Dani Beth Crosby, Family & Communications Minister
ROMANS 13:11-14
Besides this, since you know the time, it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep,
because now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is nearly over, and the day is near; so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk with decency, as in the daytime: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.

This year, many people have opted to decorate their homes for Christmas extra early, as a way to cope with these past 8 months of craziness. Everyone copes, responding to stress and overwhelming emotions, in healthy and unhealthy ways. I believe one way the Enemy has been spreading darkness in our world this year is by leading Christ-followers to escape their emotions and feelings of stress by numbing out—by selling us the lie that we just need to get by. When we believe this lie, we adopt habits of complacency. Our coping strategies will either help form us into Christlikeness or deform us, away from Christlikeness.

In his book, For The Love Of God, D.A. Carson writes, “People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”

Paul makes it clear in this passage, the key to avoiding a drift toward deeds of darkness is to intentionally arm yourself with the light of Christ. In one of his lectures, Dallas Willard once said, “God’s grace is not opposed to effort. God’s grace is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action.” It is through grace-driven effort we humbly put on the armor of light we need to withstand the darkness surrounding us each day.

Only the power of Jesus outshines the darkness. Faith-rooted hope is established on the unchanging, eternal character of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our hope is in the faithfulness of God, the power of Jesus, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit—this hope is firm and secure. If our hope is anchored to anyone or anything else, we will find ourselves adrift again and again. In the power of Jesus alone we receive everything we need for life and godliness. As we seek Him in faith, we are given the grace we need to add goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, and love to our armor of light.

John 1:5; Hebrews 6:19; 2 Peter 1:3-7