Today we begin a new series entitled, Listening to God: The Way of Jesus in a Distracting World. In our noisy world it can be difficult to sustain attentiveness to anyone or anything. Yet, the way of Jesus is the way of listening to God and others. Throughout His life, Jesus remained in tune with the voice of His Father. So, all of us who have signed on to be His apprentices can learn from Him how to hear God’s voice in the midst of a busy and distracting world.
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.
At times we all see ourselves as unimportant, unlovable and too small to matter to anyone of importance. These thoughts typically take us into dark places. Yet, in spite of how we perceive ourselves, we are never insignificant in the eyes of God. Beyond the branches in the air and robes on the path, Palm Sunday announces to Jerusalem and to you “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey.” This is great news – for us and for the world.
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.
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.
Throughout the Bible Jesus is portrayed as The Good Shepherd. In this well-known Psalm, we see many of the benefits of following Christ including living with Him in Heaven for eternity. To receive the benefits, we must see ourselves in the proper perspective and follow Jesus, The Good Shepherd, wherever He leads us.
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.
After Jesus presented the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, He did something unexpected and rare. He declared the story’s meaning in a clear memorable statement: God humbles the proud and exalts the humble. Have you ever wondered how to grow in humility? In this message you will discover answers to questions like: What is humility? How does God reward the humble? Why does humility rule in the Kingdom of God? and How can we cultivate humble hearts?
The Prodigal Son just may be the best short story ever told. It’s incredibly concise, yet has both deep sorrow and joy in the midst of scandal and strained relationships. As we look at each of the story’s three characters in succession, it’s obvious that the one thing even more extravagant than the younger son’s self-indulgence, is the Father’s self-sacrificing love. Yet it’s all lost on the older son at the end […]
Two of the most famous Biblical stories are (1) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, and (2) Daniel in the Lion’s Den. They both occur during the 70-year period of Israelite exile in Babylon in the 6th century BC, yet these accounts have tremendous value for us today: they show how God brings glory to Himself in the midst of a culture of critics. Any trial in our lives, no matter how big or small, — when met with courage and faith — can become a demonstration of God’s power and creativity. When that demonstration is simply and humbly attributed to Him, the critics that surround us can become witnesses to an undeniable glory, hungry for more (just like Anton Ego in the animated film, Ratatouille).