First Snow, First Light

Snow LampToday, as many people in the north know, was the first snow. The first day in a long, cold winter.

Usually, I dislike the winter. It’s cold, people are always inside, we get sick easy, and there is no sun.

But this year seems different. It’s interesting to me because for maybe the first time, I’m finding myself enjoying the sight of snow. When I was younger, I always had a sort of bittersweet thought process about it that went something like,

“Ugh, it’s snowing but maybe school will get cancelled.”

The strange thing is, at the moment, I find myself relishing the snowfall. The white of the snow, the purity of it, the beauty. Some people would say I’m just finally “getting into the Christmas spirit” while others would say my tastes are changing.

I’m inclined to think that actually, maybe for the first time, I’m beginning to see the winter through God’s eyes.

This morning I was woken up by a barrage of childlike, excited Facebook messages (you know who you are -__-) that announced the arrival of the snow. I expected to find myself moaning and groaning about how terrible snow is, but for some reason I was just as excited. Even now I have an excitement in my heart that I’ve rarely felt.

Now, as I look outside my bedroom window and see the snow, the pure blanket of white that visits every year, I’m reminded of what I can be.

Not only does the snow awaken in me an energy-filled child, anxious to go outside and enjoy the powdery blessing, but it also stirs up a solemn, wizened old man who realizes that this is a visualization of God’s promise of redemption.

Yesterday, a fellow missionary and I spent the afternoon collecting and disposing of the dead and decaying yard waste around our house and not even a day later, all that death is replaced with pure, undefiled, white beauty.

If you can’t see God’s message in that maybe you can see it in Isaiah 1:18 (NKJV):

“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow”

This promise of redemption reveals to us that although we may only see our failures, our sin, our death now, our sins shall be cleansed from us and made pure.

We mess up. “To err is human” and all that. We make mistakes. We sin. We deserve to die. We deserve abandonment. We deserve to die.

But God doesn’t give us what we deserve. Instead, He gives us what Jesus deserved. And Jesus, in turn, got what we deserved. Jesus took our death, cleared our names, all so that we don’t have to pay the price of ultimate separation from God.

He saved us. He cleansed us. He makes us white as snow.

So this year when I saw the first snow, I didn’t just see the falling clumps of frozen water.

I saw my salvation and the fulfillment of God’s promise to me.

I saw the First Light of God’s patience and love.

The Fearless Youth

Sea, Sunset, SilhouetteThis past weekend I had the opportunity to go to a retreat focused solely on reaching, ministering to, and exhorting public high school and college/university students. The focus of the retreat was being fearless. 

As a youth in my generation (I’m still debating if I’m a millennial or not…maybe it’s denial…), I’m pretty concerned and passionate with the happenings of young people not only in my church, but also in my community, my state, country and planet.

Yes, that may seem a bit too idealistic for some, but it’s the truth. I honestly care about all the young people in my generation who want to make a change. The ones who want to fight for the cause of the needy, the poor, and the unspoken for.

“The greatest want of the world is the want of men – men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall (White, 1903)”

So what can I possibly do now? How can I possibly grow to be a man who will stand for right though the heavens fall?

What can I do, what can we do to help people where we are? Well I’ll tell you this much: we can’t help by being greedy and stabbing people in the back just to get ahead, we can’t help by being full of pride and thinking we’re the center of the universe, we can’t help by being hateful and prejudiced and looking down on others just because of their social, economic, or religious position.

So stop trying. It doesn’t work.

But what we can do to help is love. We can love through kind, willing service to each other. We can love by showing everyone we come into contact with that they are valued by us an by God. We can love by telling people just how much they’re worth to the King of Heaven: priceless.

This weekend I was privileged to be able to work with young people who genuinely want to help, to care, to provide a solace for those in need. These people, my peers, my friends, and now my spiritual family, impressed me greatly and inspired me to make a difference in this generation. In my generation.

A pair of foreign twins I met, we’ll call them Savannah and Sienna, both expressed their desire to reach people in all walks of life, in many Christian denominations, with the Gospel, Savannah also related to me the advice given to her by a well-educated person within the church. The advice was one based on partition, separatism and ultimately, fear of losing youth in our church to other beliefs.

This broke my heart. Here was a young person, willing and wanting to spread the Gospel and love of Jesus, but she were advised against it because it would be bad practice to collaborate and work with people who believed differently.

Are we not called to be a friend to everyone? Are we not called to “Love your neighbor as yourself?” Are we not expected by God to be a witness to anyone and everyone who crosses our path?

Youth, if you’re reading this, don’t be afraid to give your all to God even if it means going against the wishes of your elders. Never be concerned about whether your parents, friends, classmates and peers disapprove of your ministering to social outcasts. Be like Jesus. We are counselled by the Solomon, the wisest of the wise, to remember our Creator in the days of our youth. We are called to give the Lord our most effective, action filled years to spread His Word.

Elders, if you’re reading this, don’t be afraid to commit your young people to the mission. If you truly raised them right, with a proper love for God and His commandments, they will never depart from it. It may be that the only reason you fear the youth being distracted by the world is because you did not raise them with the knowledge of how to withstand it. We are ultimately God’s children, His sons and daughters that He knew from the beginning of time.

You elders were given the gift of raising us. Now we young people are given the gift of presenting the Gospel to the sinners of the world with a life and vigor that could only come from youthfulness. Please, I ask as a youth, don’t hinder us just because it would put us in a position where we are around the undesirables of the world.

The social rulers of Jesus time questioned His eating with “Tax collectors and sinners” and failed to see the huge change that Jesus brought about by just showing them that He cared about their well being.

This Man, who spent only three and a half years in His ministry, who died as a criminal and was resurrected in glory, was not afraid to witness to sinners, prostitutes, social outcast and unbelievers, because He knew that if He didn’t, no one would.

Don’t be the person that scorns others for their service to the poor in spirit. Don’t be the the one who laughs at someone who is humbling themselves as a witness for Christ. Don’t be the group that hinders the work of the Gospel because the Gospel makes you realize your imperfection and need for a Saviour.

Instead, be the one who loves. Be the one who sees the mission that Christ left for us and accepts it. Be the one who read Matthew 28:18-19 and claims that commission for themselves. Be the only sermon that some people ever hear.

Be a follower of God and His truth.

Don’t be afraid of change.

Be fearless.