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 are overwhelmed by the characteristics of the world: prejudice; war; disease; overpopulation; energy shortage; terrorism; economic depression; environmental issues; poverty. Yet, we are even more overwhelmed by the characteristics of Christ: enduringly strong; entirely sincere; eternally steadfast; immortally graceful; imperially powerful; impartially merciful.
Sometimes we all get stuck – stuck in traffic and stuck in unhealthy reoccurring thoughts, attitudes and habits. Like the struggling prey of a python, our unsuccessful attempts toward liberation can lead us to despair. In the Apostle Paul’s first visit to the ancient Macedonian city of Philippi, we meet a young girl, a business woman and a law enforcement officer who all find themselves entrapped. The good news for them is great news for us – our stuck-ness need not remain. True deliverance beyond tolerable recovery is available because a loving and infinitely powerful Deliverer is at hand.
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.
All of us, no matter our status of faith, encounter times when it seems Jesus is far away. In this post-resurrection account, we find two travelers literally experiencing just that. Suddenly Jesus himself appears and as he walks with them, unbeknownst to them, Jesus listens to their hopes and dreams and disappointment, revealing a pattern […]
Has life been more difficult than you expected? If so, December may be a tough month as you see others celebrating while you struggle. On this second Sunday of Advent we recall a series of disappointments in Joseph’s life and we discover how these difficulties were used by God in a way that Joseph could have never imagined. His setbacks paved the way for the coming of Christ for the good of the whole world. In his first advent (“coming”), Jesus also modeled bowing in the midst of unexplainable difficulty and He taught His disciples to do the same. Therefore, we bow to our Sovereign God to plead our case, worship in our pain, and trust with full confidence that our difficulties in this damaged world will contribute (most likely in ways that only God currently knows) to God’s glory, our future joy and the restoration of all things.
When heaven is silent we often wonder, “Where is God?” and “Does He care?” Beginning in the mid 400’s BC God’s voice was suspended from Israel and many gave up hope. Yet everything changed in 5 or 6 BC when God announced and then sent His promised Anointed One through a virgin in David’s town. Some received Him, others did not. This message travels from the days of Caesar Augustus to our own because He came not only to be with 1st century Jews but He came to be with you as well.
On this 4th Sunday of Advent we worship God for His gift of hope. Like oxygen, we all need a positive future to anticipate. Yet most everything we hope for is perishable. In this message we remember the hope of the Wise Men as they journeyed to see the new born King of the Jews. Centuries before His birth the prophet Isaiah announced that “in His name all the nations would put their hope” and years after Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension Paul called Christ “the hope of glory” and Peter described Him as “a living hope… imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” So, let us wisely and humbly set our ultimate hope on the only King whose birth announcement was a star.
As thousands of runners passed by mile 21 ½ for the Denver marathon this morning, many people encouraged them to keep going all the way to the finish. In our service we received 3 encouragements from God’s Word to “run the race with endurance that is set before you.” Endurance is the ability to continue in the midst of pain until the task is finished. If you ever consider giving up on Christ because it is too hard, first reflect on these encouragements and the huge reward at the finish line for all who run with endurance!