Birth, crying, rolling over, scooting, crawling, standing, wobbling, walking and ascending stairs. Life is typically a progression of developmental steps and so is life in a church. God created us to eschew the status quo by continually following the voice of Christ personally and collectively. Today we discover what this looks like for a group of 1st century disciples in Thessalonica and for us today.
We have all felt discouragement and hard situations in which we wish His Kingdom would come. What would it look like to join Jesus in seeing His Kingdom realized in those moments and spaces? What does it mean to have faith like a mustard seed? What does it mean to move mountains? We are capable of more kingdom advancement than we think we are!
After Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to the disciples, but Thomas was absent for this momentous event. He requested to see the physical body of the risen Jesus in order to believe, but his greater question wasn’t about receiving physical proof, it was about whether or not Jesus is God. He asked the same question that we and others have asked of Jesus for the last couple millennia: who are You to me? The answer: He is our Lord and God.
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.
Why did followers of Jesus change their day of worship from the Jewish Sabbath to the day of Christ’s resurrection? Why did they transition from an annual Passover to a frequent celebration including the bread and the cup? Why do followers of Jesus continue today to sing about, talk about, read about and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus? While there are many reasons to celebrate Jesus’ emergence from the tomb, on this Resurrection Sunday we reflect and give thanks to God for three. Through the resurrection of Jesus, God blesses us with certainty in our faith, clarity in our hope and charity in our neighborly love.
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.
The world is packed full of hopeless, dark, desperate, dead-end situations. God’s people often find themselves in seemingly hopeless situations. But, how do God’s faithful ones see the world around them and respond? They see the world with God’s very own eyes! They see themselves, other people, and situations the way God sees them. This is how Elisha lived – by faith, by the eyes of God. If we are Christ’s hands and feet, we ought to see the world with His very own eyes.
After Jesus’ announcement of the Kingdom, He clarifies it and demonstrates it in numerous ways, through direct teaching and parables, through demonstrations and miracles, and ultimately through His declaration of His own impending suffering and death. Unfortunately for many, it is not what they expect. Jesus disappoints, upsets, and frustrates those who are looking for their version of what the messiah should be: a Conquering King, a Righteous High Priest, and/or a Populist Governor. Jesus supersedes all those expectations, and points to Himself as the way, the truth, and the life.