But, I want to ask a different question… Why do we need Christmas?
If you are familiar with the creation story, you know that God created a perfect place and gave mankind the unique opportunity to tend to the earth and creation. Man was deeply loved and blessed. Our Creator only asked for love and obedience in return. Pretty simple, right? Yet, in absolute disobedience to God’s command, Adam and Eve ate of the fruit and that willful, sinful act created an awful dilemma for you and me: our relationship with God was broken.
But man was still deeply loved by God. In the wisdom of God almighty and in the face of the willful disobedience of two humans in the garden, God provided a way for us to have a new beginning and a second chance.
His name is Jesus. He is God’s one and only son, born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, and died a perfect death on our behalf so that we could be called children of God.
The essence of the Christmas story is that the dilemma was so great for mankind that we could not solve our own problem. There was nothing we could do to reach the God of heaven. So, the God of heaven came down to us.
Jesus came from heaven to earth; He stooped down low. He left the comforts of heaven and invaded the crisis here on earth. And He did not do it as a warrior dressed for battle, but as a humble servant, as a baby, born of a virgin and laid in a water trough, in a barn.
“Oh come, let us adore Him!” For He is much more than a baby, much more than a baby in a manger. As He conquered death and rose again and now sits at the right hand of the Father, He did so as Messiah, Savior.
If He was not born, He could not die. If He did not die, the penalty for man’s sinful disobedience that broke our relationship with God could not have been paid.
So why do we need Christmas? We need Christ’s birth to make a way for us to be right with God. The wood of the manger rubs up against the wood of the cross. The baby becomes our crucified Savior.
Don’t just believe in the birth, but also relish in the payment He made for us at the cross.
Merry Christmas to all, and may we make much of Jesus… Baby, Holy One, Savior, Light of the world!
Living in eager anticipation of Christmas and the return of Jesus Christ,
Originally posted while I was CEO of Pine Cove. December 5, 2013
I love the David’s honesty in this prayer! He has sorrow in his heart, depression has set in. His circumstances seem overwhelming.
Can you relate? Are you struggling? Does it seem like the world is against you?
If so, read the Psalm all the way through. After crying out to God, David trusts God, he rejoices over his salvation. As David contemplates the Lord – he sings!
No matter the situation, please be reminded that the Lord has not left you nor forsaken you. He loves you. Cry out to him in your despair. Sadness turns to gladness for David as he is reminded of the steadfast love of the LORD.
I am praying that your sadness turns to gladness as you realize the steadfast love of the Lord in your own life.
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
The Lord moves in mysterious ways.
In late 2005 I began to be burdened by the idea of an Awakening of sorts in our country. I studied revivals, talked about them, taught about them, dreamed about them, and prayed in eager anticipation of a great awakening. I have felt for some time that revival was soon to happen. I have prayed that the Lord would show himself through the power of the gospel throughout our country and beyond.
This past January I stepped down from Pine Cove after seventeen wonderful years. It was an absolute privilege to serve as the CEO for all of those years and to see the tens of thousands of campers who trusted Jesus Christ as Savior. Over the years I have shared with our staff and our campers my burden for revival. I prayed that the Lord would Awaken a Generation at Pine Cove!
As I considered how I was to spend my vocational time after leaving Pine Cove, God impressed upon me the ministry of Redeemer City to City founded by Dr. Tim Keller, Senior Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.
Redeemer City to City’s approach to finding and training church planters has been proven to impact urban environments throughout the world. They currently have been involved in planting nearly 350 churches in forty-five global cities. Their ambition is to plant 1,000 churches in the sixty-five global cities of the world and to invest in ten additional cities in the United States in the years to come.
To that end, I have accepted the responsibility of becoming the Regional Director – Partner Engagement at Redeemer City to City for Texas and throughout the Southeast.
My burden for the gospel being shared, leaders being trained and churches being planted is truly exciting to me and I would consider it a privilege to share the vision of Redeemer City to City with you. Call me at 903 530-2865 or email me at Mario@redeemercitytocity.com and let me come see you!
I continue to pray that God would Awaken a Generation and that tens of thousands would come to Christ throughout the world.
The last 17 years have been incredible. They have been challenging, rewarding and, I believe, God glorifying. I will treasure the memories associated with leading the great ministry known as Pine Cove. Tens of thousands of lives have been transformed by the Gospel during this time.
Recently I informed the Pine Cove Board of Directors that I believe it is time for me to pass the baton and allow someone else the opportunity and privilege to be Pine Cove’s leader. I am excited to share that Reed Livesay will be the Acting President of Pine Cove as I transition away.
We have all stood on the shoulders of great men and women who have led Pine Cove for nearly 50 years. I count it a privilege to be named among them.
Pine Cove is a remarkable place that I believe God has used in a mighty way for His glory and His purposes. Lynelle and I will remain its greatest fans and will continue to be ambassadors for this ministry.
Sincerely in Christ,
Mario ZandstraThe following link is the Board’s letter about my desire to pass the baton as CEO of Pine Cove.
Psalm 57:11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
Father, our hope is in you and our hope is that your glory would be all over the earth. There is so much going on in this world. War in the middle east, Ebola in Africa, Hollywood stars taking their lives, marriages in distress, evil seems to be on the rise. Yet, in the end You will be exhalted O Lord. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. So I pray that we would wake up and exhalt you today O God. Be exalted at Pine Cove, in Texas, in the United States, and beyond. We need you O God. We bow before you in the name of Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, amen.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever! Psalm 111:10
Lord, may we as a nation bow before you in awe. May we have a holy respect for you and your power. Let us practice being in awe of your power, your strength, your might, your holiness, your majesty, your Godness! You are great and glorious, and may we praise you forever! Lord, the world seems to be coming unraveled. It will not be solved politically. It will solved by the proclamation of and the understanding of who is the Living Hope. His name is Jesus, the righteous One. The one who died on the cross for our sins. He is the only Savior of the world. Lord, would you Awaken a Generation in the United States and throughout the world. Holy Spirit have your way with us we humbly ask in the name that is above all names, even Jesus, amen.
Lord, as I see the world, the enemies of God rage in the middle east, Russia is on the prowl, poverty is the watch word of Africa, drugs and violence are south of our border. We have articulated evil as good and good as evil. Even in our own country we have bowed the knee to idols. These idols come in many shapes and sizes; and if we are truthful, we all have idols. If we think about it long enough, we could become sad and depressed.
However, for many we have trusted in your steadfast love. We rejoice in your salvation. We sing to the Lord with joyous song. For you are good and your love endures forever. It may be independence day in America celebrating our independence from tyranny. However we have made our own tyranny and wholly submitted ourselves to it. Rescue us from our tyranny. Let us on this day declare “dependence” on the one true God, comfort in the grace of God and be thankful for the mercy of God. May we submit our selves to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Oh God be merciful to me, to us, sinners. On this day, have your way with us through the power of your Holy Spirit. Cause our hearts to be drawn to you whether we know you or not. Awaken our hearts to the reality of the gospel. Help us move from making much of ourselves to making much of you. We ask this in the mighty name of Jesus, amen
Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain
Father in heaven, I ask you to be the builder of my house, my family, my life. Be the builder of Pine Cove too. I do not want to live for me, but want to live for you! Lord, our country is full of people who live for themselves and their own pleasures (including me Lord) and I pray that you would move mightily in the hearts of the people in this great land. Turn our attention from ourselves to you Oh God, to your desires for our life, to our one and only Savior Jesus Christ. We pray Oh God that you would be the object of our affection, have your way with us Oh God, we ask this in the powerful name of Jesus, amen.