Part 2 of 2: Today we focus on 1 Thess. 4.12, where Paul gives clarity as to the why behind his instructions around work: so that we can demonstrate a different way of living, and be dependent on no one. However, the unfortunate reality in our culture today is that you can work – even full-time – and still be dependent, due to stagnating wages and rising costs of living, particularly in our city. The sobering reality is that the challenges of finding good work for many in our society, particularly since the Great Recession, has led to significant increases in drug use and overdoses, alcoholism, and suicides. People despair when they can’t find dignity in their work. This presents (1) an incredible opportunity for the church to be the agent of hope and light it is designed to be, and (2) a particular call for business owners and supervisors who declare that Jesus is King, to exemplify true discipleship in the way they employ and supervise!
Part 1 of 2: The ancient Greeks separated the “contemplative” life from the “active” life, and judged labor as something to be avoided. This cultural aristocratic understanding of work likely contributed to some in the Thessalonian church desiring to be a part of the leisure class and avoid work. However, Paul makes it clear that […]
We all have a way we interpret and react to the suffering of ourselves and others. We must recognize and resist any temptations to resolve it for others. The truth is, only God knows why He allows the suffering of the innocent; our role as listeners is to point those who are suffering to God, Who is with the broken-hearted. Through us mourning with them and encouraging them to be emotionally authentic with God, our friends are most likely to meet the challenge, be refined, and develop a greater love of God for who He is, and not merely what He does for us. In so doing they become more like Jesus Himself, who is God’s ultimate answer for suffering.
The 3rd verse of Joy to the World is probably the least known verse. Often when we sing the song, it’s left out altogether. Verse 3 is distinct from the other verses because it doesn’t take its inspiration from Psalm 98, but rather Genesis 3 – the curse. But it does take the form of a Psalm: the first 2 lines are a plea to God Himself, and the second 2 lines are a promise from God to His people. What is your plea to God today? And what is His promise, into that plea? In this world we will have troubles, but take heart! Jesus has overcome the world. And that is cause for true joy.
We have all been exposed to thousands of messages about how to manage our money and our stuff. Money penetrates every facet of our lives. As a result, there are a lot of thoughts and feelings we have about money. The good news is, King Jesus doesn’t remain silent on this topic. Both His words and His actions demonstrate that the Kingdom of God is an economy of abundance, and not of scarcity. The earth belongs to God, and everything in it! We are His stewards who are given free reign to listen for His voice, and use our resources to demonstrate how glorious a King He is.
Last week Arik preached, “On Earth as it is in Heaven.” Yet, recent world events may make us feel like Earth is rather more like Hell right now. A series of tragedies between police officers and African Americans has created a climate of judgment, condescension, fear, and apathy. How are we to proceed as followers of Jesus Christ? In Matthew 7, Jesus makes it clear that when we are tempted to judge and lash out, we are to do serious self-reflection. We are to mourn with those who mourn, lament like David in the Psalms, carefully listen to Jesus and others, repent of what gets exposed in us (especially fear!), act in love and out of faith, and develop habits to continue to Heavenize as Jesus’ agents of reconciliation, no matter the environment.
The subject of calling can be a confusing one. In common vernacular we talk about “finding our calling” and it mostly has to do with following our dreams. Many of us can feel a sense of angst if we haven’t “found” it. But if there’s a calling, then there is a caller. And if there […]
Have you ever been to a wedding with really different families? Opposites attract, and sometimes two people who are madly in-love have families that have never met or come from opposing cultural backgrounds. It takes courage and openness to work through the awkwardness and get everyone excited to unite and enjoy each other. In this text, we see James and Paul using their leadership to submit to one another as representatives of Christ, bending over backwards to ensure their respective Christian “clans” are united as one, under God. In so doing, they act out the prayer of Jesus, to be a united church, so that the world may know that Jesus is sent by God, and sent for everyone. Togetherness is beautiful.
Just as a wildlife biologist exercises appropriate authority in the wilderness for the flourishing of an ecosystem and the enjoyment of it by people, the Apostle Paul exercises spirit-led authority in the epicenter of the “gentile wilderness” for people to flourish with the living water of Christ Jesus like never before. Paul exhibits clear vision, persistence, and responsiveness in developing a team that’s focused, firmly grounded, equipped, and ready to begin a dramatic movement. It’s empowered by the Holy Spirit Himself. When servants of King Jesus capture the opportunities presented to them by the Spirit of the Living God, they exercise authority for a flourishing movement, even (especially!) in the midst of the wilderness. What wilderness are you called into, today?
It’s the time of the year when we reflect on the year behind us and anticipate what’s to come in the new. Most often in our culture (both secular and “Christian”), we evaluate our years in terms of individual success. As Christians, it’s tempting to codify the concept of “success” in terms of God’s “blessings.” But what is true blessing? In reviewing Deuteronomy 28 and Numbers 6:24-26, we can conclude one thing: Jesus is the embodiment of God’s blessing and we are liberated from the need to evaluate our own success!