On this first Sunday of Advent, we begin in the beginning. The Triune God created the heavens and the earth and then He made His children to live with Him. Yet, temptation invaded, and for the first of many times His children exchanged joy in their Maker for something else. How would God respond? How would He deal with His children after their first wandering? His reaction in the garden, in His later advent and today is consistent. He’s a gracious God!
Sin is the exchange of good things for the ultimate thing: love of God and love for people. Although it can be difficult to admit, we all have a living and relentless sinful nature that drives us to wander from God’s created purpose of delight in Him and service for others. On this 4th Sunday of Advent the good news comes from an angel to Joseph, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” In this message we celebrate how the arrival of Jesus provides salvation over the penalty, the power and eventually the presence of sin for those who believe in the One whose birth this angel announced.
We as Christians often have a hard time sharing the “good news,” for a mix of 3 reasons: First, we’re not really that compelled; second, we’re afraid; and third, we don’t really know how. As ambassadors of God’s peace treaty with the world, we need to be sure we (1) understand its significance, (2) understand our cultural context, and (3) are equipped with a clear “reason for the hope that we have.” It turns out, our culture is very open to dialogue on spiritual things, and the lack of sharing has more to do with our own discomfort than a lack of opportunity. When we share “with gentleness and respect,” what follows can be a beautiful, engaging conversation with our neighbors. We have to get the shape of the gospel right. James Choung’s tool, Big Story, from his book True Story, gives us one example of a holistic Christian worldview that’s theologically grounded and starts with finding common ground with our culture, through drawing 4 simple circles.
What exactly is “Christian Mission”? When we talk about the whole church, taking the whole gospel, to the whole world, what do we mean? Often, Christians think evangelism is something other people do. But what is the origination of that word, and what, exactly, is the content of our “evangelism”? We need to be reminded of what Jesus himself declared to be “the gospel,” and how that understanding was clarified by Paul in his writings to the early church. We also need to understand our neighbors. When we have clarity about what it means to be an ambassador for Christ, and clarity about who we’re being an ambassador to, it will give us joy to share the good news in ways that truly “love our neighbor.”
Having invested the past 4 weeks focusing on our relationship with God, this week we begin to build upon this foundation as we spend the month of October growing in our love for one another. In this message we learn from I John 4:10-12 that grace is cyclical. When we discover God’s grace toward us, […]
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 […]
God loves His children whom He made to delight in Him and shine for Him. Yet sometimes God’s sons and daughters drift away and seek to evade Him. Just as God went to great lengths to bring Israel back to Himself so He has gone to great lengths to pursue us prodigals as well. Sometimes God even brings discipline into our lives in order to bring us back into communion with Him so we can join Him in serving in His harvest as we (like Israel) were made to do.
In 931 B.C. God’s people tore into two nations and sometimes God’s people still divide today. Schisms destroy our joy and our ability to fulfill God’s call to bless all the families of the earth. With so much at stake, God reveals in I Kings 12-16 that relational division is actually the result of one or more people drifting away from God and His ways. For all who know the angst of relational conflict and division, in Christ there is help and hope.
Do you have a “secret” past or present sin? No one is immune from wandering from God into an act or habit that produces guilt and shame. While King David was “a man after God’s own heart” he was still a man. As a man he put himself in a place where he then gave in to the temptation of lust. Next, like many embarrassed children of God, he sought to cover it up. Fortunately, God loves His children, so in His grace, He pursues us to bring us to a moment of clarity in which we can confess our sin. In this text God is so good to reveal that when we confess our sin, He is gracious to restore us to our relationship with Him and to our significant role as laborers in His harvest.
Everyone loves a good story that begins with “Once upon a time…” Genesis 1 begins with the similar phrase, “In the beginning, God…” This message declares that God is the maker of heaven and earth and that He is devoted to relating with the humans whom He has created. When Adam and Eve turned from God for the first time, God unveiled that He is committed to restoring their relationship with Him. This was great news for them in the garden as it is for us today.