God made you to commune with Him while fulfilling His call to love the right people. Once you discern what this unique kind of life looks like for you, get ready because distractions are coming. Jesus’ friends requested that He serve more people in Capernaum, yet He was so clear on His Father’s priorities that He evaded their seemingly good suggestion in order to stay the course with His Father’s will. Good news – all followers of Jesus must, and can, learn to do the same.
People matter to God and so, as followers of Jesus, people matter to us. Yet, sometimes the needs of people can be overwhelming. Jesus came to love people and at times people’s expectations were different than the Father’s plans for Jesus. As we begin this new year we look to Christ who perfectly discerned the Father’s relational priorities and seek wisdom from God to help us do the same.
We all have pressures and priorities. With a New Year beginning tomorrow, it is a great time to remember that God designed us to deepen our lives with Him by living according to His priorities not people’s pressures. Early in the morning after a busy Saturday, Jesus was deepening His life with His Father when some potential distractions arose. In Jesus’ response, we discover how He evaded the pressures in order to maintain union with and obedience to His Father.
We know the nativity story. But the iconic scene we imagine is incomplete by itself. It’s a picture framed by the hardship and pain of Mary and Joseph and of the people of Israel for the centuries that came prior. By observing the sorrow, we see the joy all the more clearly. The tyranny of empires and the death of our Savior make His birth, His resurrection and His return all the more powerful.
Though God made us to live abundantly, everyone in every generation wanders from His best. About 700 BC, God’s people drifted far away and even the kings and priests weren’t able to bring them back. Yet, a prophet named Micah announced that from Bethlehem a leader would come who would shepherd God’s people back in the strength and majesty of the Lord. On this 3rd Sunday of Advent we celebrate Jesus’ coming and are invited to return to Him, the Good Shepherd who alone can restore our abundant life! (To view the video included early in this message see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUngLgGRJpo )
In today’s ancient story we find Jacob succeeding and happy after taking advantage of his naïve brother and tricking his failing father. Isn’t this the way it goes? Dishonesty pays. A subtle manipulation gets the handshake, the promotion and the good life. Yet, what if the good life could be better? On this second Sunday of Advent we discover that satisfaction, happiness and power are for those who strive, but joy, peace and love are afforded to those defeated by and surrendered to an All-Prevailing God.
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!
Many people we know are without hope in their lives. Jesus actually gave a prayer request that more “laborers” would be sent to them. Could we be the answer to Jesus’ prayer request for more laborers? If we were, what would that look like?
Why are some people so generous? What moves a woman, man or child to cheerfully share their food, home, clothing and money? Jesus observed that a woman who had been forgiven much loved much by generously anointing Him with her expensive perfume (Luke 7). While there are many motives for giving, in this message we consider gratitude to God for His grace as divine fuel for generous, sustained and joyful giving.
God’s vision for the church is love. Love for God, love for neighbor and love for one another. In this message we discover how to keep loving one another earnestly and with joy. More importantly, we learn why this command to love one another has implications that reverberate from the local church to the ends of the earth and beyond!