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.
Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s arrive with many reminders that things are not as they should be. Relational tension, loss of a loved one, loneliness, inner struggles and conflict in the world around us are all causes for grief. The title and focus of this message comes from the truth declared in verse 1 of Joy to the World by Isaac Watts, who knew his share of pain. 300 years ago, Watts discovered the truths in Psalm 98 and wrote Joy to the World intending to direct his generation to the glorious and triumphant coming of our Lord. This message will encourage you to prepare Him room and avail yourself to His joy this Advent season and beyond.
Often we begin our careers with high aspirations and hopes, but “reality” often collides with our dreams. The early disciples – who witnessed their Master die on a cross – must have felt the same: a crushing disappointment. Yet, as the early church remembered Jesus’s death and resurrection with wine and bread, the eucharist, their suffering was transformed into words and deeds that gave life to their neighbors. In this message, Jeff Haanen shows how our daily work can be transformed in light of Jesus’s gift of His body “for the life of the world.”
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.
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.
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.
There are many beautiful examples of peace coming at times of crisis in our world: two of them are the Christmas Truce of 1914 and the life of Nelson Mandela. But peace in this world tends to be temporary and incomplete, and it leaves us longing for something more lasting and whole. Humanity continues to be rocked by violence and we continue to be cynical of the word “peace.” The beauty of Christmas is that Jesus comes as the Prince of Peace, to bring peace that is “not of this world.” We are given Him to receive lasting peace, and we can become transmitters of His peace when we receive it.
Sometimes it is hard to follow God’s ways when friends in our culture are critical of us. In this text, Peter reveals reasons to chose God’s will over people’s pressures even if we have to suffer for it.
While there are many challenges we face in our employment, one of the most difficult is when we are treated unjustly. In this message Dan Kaskubar points out that, except for rare situations, God’s general pattern is for Christ followers to follow the humble example of our Lord Jesus who “did not revile … and did not threaten… but entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”