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Wednesday, Dec 20 | White as snow

Editor's Note

About the author: RJ and his wife Libby have been members at ZPC since 2014. They have two daughters, age 9 and 6. The Pollak family has gone on the Kentucky mission trip for several years. RJ is also active in the Great Banquet community. 

About this post: This blog post is part of a series of daily devotionals where we are exploring traditional Advent themes of waiting, mystery, redemption, and incarnation. To sign up to receive text notification of these posts, text zpc advent to 39970. Advent booklets are also available at the ZPC Welcome Center. We welcome your comments and questions each day.

Redemption | Isaiah 1:18

“Come now, let’s settle this,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,

    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool."

Growing up a “Chreaster,” Christmas to me was all about the glitz, glamour, parties, and presents. You know, the real important materialistic things in life. Although it was a time spent with family, it was not centered around the real joy and excitement of Christmas – the birth of our savior Jesus Christ! It wasn’t until about 4 years ago that Advent and Christmas became a much more important and personal time for me – much different than it ever was before. In my family, the excitement leading up to December 25th is no longer centered around materialistic things. It is now centered around the joy and excitement of getting to celebrate the birth of a baby long ago in Bethlehem.

Isaiah 1:18 and this third week of Advent, focus on redemption. Redemption is something I have struggled with in the past, but I am sure I am not alone here. In Isaiah 1:18, we read about God taking all of our ugly sins in life and washing them away, making us pure and white as snow. Is there a more beautiful picture of God's forgiveness? This is the redemption promised by the prophet Isaiah.

We often feel ourselves outside the boundaries of God’s grace. We think we have gone too far; we have strayed away too long; we have committed too many sins. But God has given us every reason to believe in him. Give up your sins to God, let them all go. Let him take them, and he will wash them away. This is a great promise indeed, assuring us that no matter how much sin has stained our souls, God can cleanse us completely and make us stand before him as his holy people. Remember Emmanuel – God with us? God tells us through the profit Isaiah right here in 1:18 – “Come now, let us settle the matter.” He settles it once and for all. He is with us indeed as he washes away our scarlet red sins.

This is the good news; this is the gospel. It looks forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus and the shedding of his blood. His taking our place that God might put our sins upon him and enable Jesus to give us the gift of righteousness, so that our hearts will be changed. Selfishness is not taken away but it is overcome by the gift of love.

Posted by RJ Pollak with

ZPC Kentucky Short-Term Mission 2016 - From My Eyes

Never having done “real” mission work in my life, I was excited and nervous at the same time about going to Kentucky. Would I enjoy this work? Would my children understand what we were doing? Would we be welcomed and appreciated? Would I get anything out of this? Would my talents be of use? I feel like the answer to all of these questions is a resounding “yes!

What we were able to accomplish in 2 short days was a miracle. I was part of the group that was at Annie’s trailer (Annie is a single mom involved with a local ministry called Cedaridge.) and I was so happy to hear what was also accomplished from the other work done by the group at the food pantry and Cedaridge headquarters in preparation for the community pig roast.

Seeing the way Annie and her children live was heart breaking for me. Scott Nolan, the leader of the trip, warned us, but until you are on site and see firsthand the condition of this family’s living arrangements, you just don’t understand. Immediately I was overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions about how God can let this happen and what purpose this could possibly serve. We gathered and went inside and said a quick prayer with Annie and her children and the work started. I went outside for quick moment alone and I began to pray, tears streaming down my face. I was truly filled with sorrow and guilt for the things I take for granted on a daily basis, and guilty for all the things in my life I have never thanked God for. God heard my questions and prayers and was quick with an answer to me. “Get in there and use the talents I have provided you to help lift these people up” is what I heard. I collected myself, went inside, and started making job and materials lists with Scott. You could see the determination in the eyes of the men, women, and children from ZPC wanting to help change the living conditions for Annie and her children. Some really amazing things happened this day, not only for Annie and her children, but for me and all of us. We were able to furnish and install a new water heater, something I take for granted on a daily basis as I take a hot shower every morning. We repaired a badly sagging and leaking roof in the bathroom and also removed and installed a new interior ceiling in the bathroom. Still a bit grumpy from two months ago when we spent a large sum of money replacing the roof on our home, I was quickly reminded how blessed we really are. While I was grumpy about spending money to replace our entire roof, Annie and her children were in Kentucky not able to repair a leak, let alone replace the entire roof. We repaired a rotten and sinking kitchen floor so this family is safely able to use that area of the trailer again. I didn’t notice it at first, but Annie didn’t even have a stove. How was Annie providing food for her children without a stove? We were able to give and install a working stove for this family! As we were in the kitchen talking about how to fix the floor, we realized the kitchen cabinets were rotten and had mold growing on them. The decision was made to replace these cabinets. We built and installed new lower cabinets in the kitchen. Big props to Jack Martin, ZPCer and a freshman at Carmel High School, for leading the charge in building new cabinets! Jack and the other younger kids built the cabinets so we could install them, without these young men and women; we wouldn’t have had the time to do all the other work. We painted one bedroom and the hallway; something the children seemed to enjoy, especially when they ALL got fresh paint all over them and the dogs! We brought some life and color in front of the trailer by planting mums. We caulked and sealed the trailer where daylight was coming through, and also repaired broken windows. At the end of this long day, as Scott and I were frantically trying to figure out an electrical panel problem, I couldn’t help but think what we could do over the course 3 or 4 days on site, not just one. My last words to Scott before we loaded up and left were: “we fought the good fight today brother” and I do really know that now after seeing our list of accomplishments!

Something I brought back with me from Kentucky and am personally working on is not taking Gods gifts and blessings for granted. I received such joy and grace by helping Annie and the entire local community those two days. I couldn’t help but think that what I did there was way more of a blessing for me personally than it could have been for Annie. I can’t wait to do more of Gods work in the coming days, weeks, months, and years! Compassion, grace, and love are all things that were very real and evident during this trip. God was most definitely at work here and he is indeed great!

Below is a verse I found that struck a chord with me after the weekend in Kentucky.

Acts 20:35

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Posted by RJ Pollak with 1 Comments