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!
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.
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.
Paul continues his 2nd missionary journey, and travels to Athens, the birthplace of modern western thought and democracy. In a proud city of extraordinary architecture, art, and culture – one designed to display its great history, people, and ideas, Paul becomes “greatly distressed” by what he observes – in a way reminiscent of God himself, whenever God-given artistry and ability is not attributed and celebrated as grace and gifts from him alone. Since Paul has been transformed by Jesus himself, he is able to deeply understand Athens, and at the same time love Athens with the love of Jesus himself. In so doing, he gives us a clear example of how to engage in our highly nuanced, pluralist culture… blank Starbucks holiday cups and all.
There’s nothing like a near-death experience to give one clarity about what’s most important. It’s in this context that Paul got thinking about succession: leaving a legacy, establishing a lasting influence, and investing in the next generation. In this text we see the shift in Paul from being primarily a sower, to becoming both a sower […]
You can sometimes tell a lot about a person, from the way they die. Stephen, the “Jesus is Lord” movement’s first martyr, is one of those cases. The narrative of Stephen in Acts 6 and 7 gives us great insight into someone spiritually mature – someone described as “full of grace and power,” “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” and wise beyond his peers. So how is it possible that someone like that would drive the leaders of a nation into a mob frenzy that ends up killing him? The answer is a surprising one: because God was looking for someone to deliver a strong message to his leaders (“your God is too small!”), and in so doing plant the seed of a disciple-making movement beyond the understanding of anyone else living at that time.
Acts 4 picks up the story a few hours after the crippled man has been healed… Peter and John are arrested and detained for upsetting the peace with their “uneducated” teaching, and for convincing people to join the “Jesus is Lord” movement. For the first time, the apostles find themselves in the exact same place Jesus was just weeks prior: in front of the ruling religious council of their day, being strongly questioned. Previously, this environment was the catalyst for Peter’s cowardly denials of Jesus as he observed the hostility and authority of the council to put his master to death. However, in this “second chance,” Peter stays on offense, yet respectfully. Through his response to the council’s intimidation, he provides one of the strongest case studies in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform people fully, into who they were created to be, in the image of Jesus himself.
Our cultural default and the tradition of America is to be completely in control and to live out our dreams. The culture in Jesus’ day was to live “in-control” in a religious sense – full of prim-and-proper religiosity. When Jesus is asked a question about fasting, He replies with a veiled correction followed by 2 mini-parables that almost seem out of place, but after examination, highlight how humanity’s need for control and the familiar has to be given up if one is to have real, deep, intimate relationship with God. Jesus Himself perfectly demonstrated this, maybe no more tangibly and beautifully than in the Garden of Gethsemane.
On Palm Sunday we celebrate the day when Jesus revealed to Jerusalem that He came to be her King. Yet, as we have been learning in recent weeks, the nature of His Kingdom was different than expected. Of the many qualities Jesus unveiled during His triumphant entry, we see His gentleness, grief and glory. All three of these attributes beckon a response from all who bow to King Jesus.