How did Jesus remain connected to God and receive God’s direction, empowering, and assurance of love? Prayer was the heartbeat of the relationship between Jesus and his Heavenly Father. For the past few weeks the sermon series, "The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ", has taught us how to center our lives with Prayer. Most all of the ways we have learned to connect with God have something in common: they are a form or a pattern or gateway to prayer. But prayer takes practice, and this week's sermon will give us patterns for finding a more meaningful way to Pray.
Welcoming Jesus into our lives opens the door to the extraordinary in the midst of the ordinary. And that is important for us today. We might be wondering, in the world of conflict, evil, injustice, and oppression in which we find ourselves, in a country so riven with political, social, and economic division, that we should just give up. It is too, too much.
Many of us as followers of Jesus affirm things like the virginal conception of Jesus, the accounts of him multiplying the loaves and fishes, walking on the water, and being raised from the dead, but for whatever reason, we balk at the possibility of an evil spirit, a devil, or the impact of demonic activity in our lives and our world. The presence of personal and systemic evil, the devil, often called Satan, a name meaning The Accuser or The Liar, or The Deceiver, is part of how the Bible describes our world which Jesus has come to save, deliver, rescue, and res
It isn’t unusual for significant events to make people open to the message of the gospel. Sometimes they are tragic events, times of loss or unwelcome change. Other times they are new opportunities and times of unexpected abundance or opportunity. And still other times, they are when something happens that seems to indicate it is time to come close to God instead of holding God at arm’s length.
In worship for these several weeks, we're camping out in the first chapter of the first-written gospel in the Bible: The Gospel According to Mark. Mark is going to introduce us to the good news in the context of or against the backdrop of the bad news. One of those ways of describing the "bad news" is that we are caught in a lifetime of futility and meaninglessness. We can cope with the "bad news"
No matter what we are up to or what situation we are facing, we should face the new upcoming year without fear knowing that God, our Redeemer, our Savior, our Friend, and our Companion, will protect us wherever we go. God will provide in those moments where we feel there is nowhere to go. God’s plan for us is amazing, God’s plans are great and God’s blessings for each of us will be abundant.
Isaiah 9:6-7 New King James Version
6 For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Christmas is awkward for a whole lot of people. All of this awkwardness leads to keeping "God at arm's length" or "God on the back-burner" or "I'm too busy for God right now" syndrome. Whether it is our alternate devotion, our sense that we have outgrown the faith of our childhood, our sadness and disappointment with life, or our questions about Jesus, God, life, death, heaven, hell, and all the rest, we come to the conclusion that if this is important, it will have to wait because we are currently occupied with other things.
There are cultural conventions and expectations that come to us from our families, our friends, our work associates, the whole machinery of marketing. Even our religious upbringing. We are part of a web of expectations that inform us, shape us, threaten to exclude and shame us if we step off of the path of conformity.
For most of us, “content and calm” don’t seem to go in the same sentence as “Christmas”. In fact, “content and calm” doesn’t seem to fit many of us anytime of the year, let alone during the holiday season. How can we experience God’s peace in the midst of our hectic lives?
You and I can go from "how will I ever get through this?" to "May it be to me as you have determined, God", with this simple and profound trust. Nothing is impossible with God.
From the example of Zechariah, Elizabeth, and the message of the angel Gabriel, we overhear the God-given hope that breaks through the common experiences of disappointment, depression, and despair.
We are messengers of hope to others struggling with disappointment, depression, and despair..
Christ’s resurrection guarantees our victory at the time of death; his promised return guides our decisions throughout our lives.Christ’s resurrection guarantees our victory at the time of death; his promised return guides our decisions throughout our lives. Thus, we can ive in the joy of his victory
The U.S. may be on the edge of a spiritual revival! The evidence is somewhat anecdotal. We know that (social) stress has spiked. As a response, many people are looking for larger meaning in their lives — or at least a psychological shelter from the storm. It is a regular occurrence in the history of the Christian movement: in challenging times believers take courage, dig deep in their faith, and extend themselves for the sake of the gospel.
Today we celebrate the Saints who have gone before us. We honor the ones who have marked the trail, established the path, launched us in one way or another. Some may ask what difference do "saints" make to you and me in today's world.
In today's Scripture from Matthew 22:32-40 we learn God's greatest commandment:
In the Scripture of Matthew 22: 15-22 we find the Herodians and Pharisees trying to discredit Jesus by asking him a series of questions. They assumed his answers would trap him. They chose taxes as the temptation for their trap. It appeared that no matter which side Jesus took, He would create problems for Himself and His ministry. If He opposed the tax, He would be in trouble with Rome. If He approved the tax, He would be in trouble with the Jews.
The outline of the story is pretty simple; the meaning is pretty clear. A king is preparing a wedding feast for his son. The king much earlier honored his guest list with the invitation, and the people appropriately responded with a promise to come; the second invitation in the parable is merely to inform them that the feast is now ready and it is time to come. But then, the plot takes an unexpected turn. Amazingly, when the dinner party is ready, and everyone on the invitation list contacted, nobody comes to the party. They all make excuses.
Matthew 21:23-32 is the Parable Jesus tells his disciples about the Two Sons. A father asks his two sons to work in the vineyard. The older son declines but later changes his mind and works in the vineyard; the other son agrees, but doesn't follow through. Which son obeyed his father; the first son!
The parables of Jesus are highly-relatable stories tied to our own experiences which open a window to God’s thoughts and God’s ways. This parable is worth our full attention.
In this second in a series on the parables of Jesus we see that Practicing the Kingdom means treating all with grace and respect. The parable use familiar language and images to give us a peek into God’s thoughts and God’s ways.
Sometimes reconciliation is impossible. What if the effort at reconciliation is ignored or rebuffed or dismissed? Even more, what if the offense is so great or so prolonged, that there is simply no way to restore the balance?
The church is a mission. A movement. A cause. Missions is not a program of the church. The church is a program of God’s mission in the world. Jesus didn’t gather his disciples together except to train, mentor, coach, equip, and empower them to be sent out. Church is the community of believers in which we practice our faith SO THAT we can share the faith we’ve been practicing in words and actions. Committing ourselves to the practices of spiritual growth is a key to being an effective partner in the Jesus Mission – there is no doubt.
The Twelve Minor Prophets, carry a similar theme: the unfathomable and infinitely faithful love of God that offers to rescue us from our faithlessness. What follows in Malachi, however, is a sometimes contentious dialogue: “You love me, God? Show me your love!”
We live in a world of risk, uncertainty, and conflict! The people of Zechariah's day, also sensed gathering dread and anxiety as forces seemed to be preparing them for some kind of life-changing and maybe world-altering conflict.
Joyfully, God intervened peonally to deliver His people and set things right throughout the world.
And God will save our world today through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Haggai's four brief sermons are a wake-up call to a spiritually slumbering community. He called the people to authentic worship, trust in God's word, personal holiness, and obedience to God's leader, Jesus.
What does the Lord require of us? The vast majority of Americans believe that God is either content with us or indifferent toward us. And we return the favor. Just 31% understand God as being not only engaged in the world but also having expectations for human behavior.
People are loyal to their own tribe or social group. It is a dynamic of conformity; there is pressure in the group to conform -- viewed as something very positive and pressure to avoid being like people from another "tribe" -- which is viewed in the negative. In contemporary society this tendency is known as "tribalism". What does this "new tribalism" have to do with God's Word to us through the Prophet Obadiah?
Habakkuk’s written work is not directed at the people. It is a complaint against God. It is an unusual insight into the heart and soul, the expectations and the anguish, of one of God’s prophets. Habakkuk's words ofttimes echo our own experiences. These words may allow us to step into a very difficult, sometimes poignantly painful, place in our own struggles and questions of faith. When violence and corruption abound and evil appears to rule, we may be tempted to wonder whether God really cares about us or is really in control of the world.
Does it ever seem like the world is spinning out of control? State Politics? U.S. Political Gridlock? International Anxiety? Intergalactic Threat? Denominational Unraveling?
The Prophet Nahum invites us to steady faith in anxious times. Nahum’s message from the Lord to the people of Nineveh, in the late seventh century, was that evil will not go unpunished. This week, through Nahum, we are provided with an awesome revelation of God’s nature and character. It is simply this: The Lord is slow to avenge; but his justice does not wait forever.
Abraham and his descendant, Jacob (whom God later called Israel) were chosen with the particular purpose of being the conduit through which Yahweh God would bless all the peoples of the earth. However, the people of Israel and Judah, the northern and southern kingdoms, had made a choice. They wanted to be comfortable rather than different because of their faith. They would give their devotion away if allegiance to Yahweh God became socially awkward, politically risky, or personally costly. In the eighth century B.C.
The dominant theme of Amos’ writing is an unwavering call to social justice as the expression of true faith in Yahweh, the God who is known for his faithfulness and mercy, but also his justice and righteousness. He spoke out against the neighboring kingdoms, the enemies of Israel.
In considering God’s judgment against his people today, in considering the plumb line of God’s righteousness and justice now, we should look at the churches, the congregations, the communities of believers – for we are God’s Israel (Galatians 3:26-29).
We have idols of our hearts that separate us from the Lord; yet, the Lord is willing to redeem the situation if we return.
You don’t have to wait until Jesus returns for the judgment. In fact, most of us needn’t worry so much about his coming to us as we should recognize the certainty that we are going to Him. Our expiration dates are one day closer tomorrow morning than when we woke up this morning.
During that time, in the Kingdom of Israel, you would see assassinations, idolatry, and immorality and nobody seemed to be interested in hearing the Word of the Lord. Then God called his prophet Hosea and told him to get married and raise a family. But God didn’t tell him to marry with a single woman. He was told to marry with a woman who would reflect the same level of purity and devotion that Israel demonstrated toward God. He was to marry a prostitute which indicated that the people of Israel were in a bad relationship with God.
Today is the introduction to a summer sermon series through the Minor Prophets. The Minor Prophets provide examples that invite us to view our current situation from the perspective of God's revelation.
In the next 12 weeks we will have a sermon giving an overview of the prophet and his writing. In reality, however, the sermon each week will focus on a particular verse or set of verses as a sampling of God’s Word to us through the Minor Prophets.
Last week we understood that basically money is a means of storing value and of exchanging value. We can turn our money into educational experiences for children, trip, paint to change the color of the bathroom, or a haircut. But, we can also exchange our money for Kingdom of God initiatives? And, here at First Church, that's exactly what we're doing. We are reaching out to the community-at-large with initiatives like:
Jesus said that money was his primary competitor for worship, devotion, and allegiance. There is an enchanting and enslaving quality to money. So how much money do we need; that is, how much is enough? How do we avoid devoting ourselves to dollars and cents? Is there a way to break the cycle of fearing I won’t have enough on the one hand and being fascinated with more and more and more on the other? Proportionate giving from our income is a confession of trust in God’s provision and a practical partnership for the healing of the world in Jesus’ name.
While we live in a world filled with evil, injustice, and oppression, we live by a dream of God's peace among the nations, between people, and within our own lives.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace -- his followers are people of peace.
Today, we take a look at the Holy Spirit and the long haul of life. Living under the influence of the Holy Spirit over the long haul is not so much to seek the Spirit as to marinate in the Spirit; to settle into the Spirit.
Simple practices allow us to marinate in the Holy Spirit and so be shaped by the Spirit’s work within. We can tend to God’s Spirit-breath within us by living simply, listening attentively, studying intently, and acting deliberately.
Today we come to one of the most challenging aspects of living daily under the influence of the Holy Spirit. It is wildly contradictory to the American way of life.
When we talk about the most mystical and powerful force in the universe, the Holy Spirit, it is almost always in individual terms.
But in our focus on the individual – the focus of so much in our culture – we miss the witness of the Scripture that the Holy Spirit also fills, anoints, and empowers whole communities. The place of God’s presence, the house of God, as it were, is the community of believers…together
In this second of the Fresh Air series, we will focus on how we may release the Holy Spirit’s presence and power among us on a daily basis. How do we experience the freedom of the Holy Spirit? How does the Holy Spirit have access to us every day?