This week we continue in James’ letter to the early church and consider what it means follow Jesus in a broken world. Where does the brokenness come from? What does it mean for us to not only hear the truth but live the truth? What should our religion, our faith, our worship be marked by? How does the life and teachings of Jesus inform all of this?
As the old year comes to a close and we pivot to 2018, we consider a story told in Mark’s Gospel of a woman anointing Jesus with precious oil worth a year’s wages. While the disciples scold the woman for the waste, Jesus praises her, indicating that she is preparing Him for His burial. What can we learn from this encounter? What does it mean that the very author of life and creation was himself preparing to die? How do we follow a teacher such as this?
Jesus again returns to the wedding analogy to describe what the Kingdom will be like in that day. Similar to previous wedding parables in which some are welcome in and others are not is the need to dispel any idea of a capricious or demanding God. Instead, we see the opportunity to wait in submission to the Bridegroom's timeline or to impose our own limits on what we're willing to put up with and by virtue submit to ourselves instead of to Him. The big idea is that He invites us to wait in submission, within the context of community for something that is worth waiting for.
In this passage, Matthew's goal is to communicate the two-fold purpose of Jesus' healing ministry: the establishment of both His authority and His compassion. His is a power like none other submitted to the Father and used to extend grace, mercy and life. Though He has ultimate authority, He is not an authoritarian. And, as His people, we experience life at its fullest when we are in full submission to His lordship and participate in the work that He is ripening among the harvest at hand.
Jesus has pronounced the validity of the Law and has begun to push against the common understanding and application of that Law. This week, we look at two more “You have heard it said…” statements relating to lust and divorce. We find in his words much harsher application of the Law than we can stand and also far more grace than we deserve. As such, we find the fullness of Truth in response to Lies.
As we continue deeper into the Sermon on the Mount Jesus broaches a new topic: The Law and its place in the Kingdom of Heaven. When you consider the concept of God’s Law, what is your response? Security? Frustration? Confusion? Despair? As we ponder the words of the text for this week it is my hope that we’ll see the beauty of the Law that has been laid for us as a foundation and likewise see the aspects of the Law that can be laid aside in light of who Jesus is and what He has done.
“What’s love got to do with it?” Well, if it’s the second week in Advent, the answer is “everything." This week, we focus on the theme of "Love" as viewed through the lens of Joseph’s experience in Matthew chapter 1. In doing so, we hope to gain some insight into this pervasive, essential and often mysterious force called "Love" as illuminated in the Christmas Story.
Last week we looked at some of the ugly and uncomfortable psalms. Ones that express emotions and desires we’d prefer didn’t exist. This week, we continue in that vein as we ask two simple questions: good or bad, beautiful or ugly, what is truly the song in your heart today? Are you singing it? We will look at the life of Jesus as we ponder those questions and reiterate the invitation to honestly express the cry of our hearts be it joy or heartache.
We return again to the subject of suffering, one of Peter’s favorite topics. Specifically, suffering for the choice to follow Jesus. What has the choice to follow Him cost you? What could it cost you? If you don’t follow Jesus but chose to, what would it cost you? Is it worth it? These and other questions will be at the heart of our time together and it is my hope that we will see the truth and beauty inherent in suffering for Him.
Why? This is the question implicitly answered by Peter in the verses we’ll focus on this week. The “why” is Peter’s inspiration; the reason he does what he does and lives to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus. What inspires you to walk in the margins as a Christian? Perhaps you’re not a follower of Jesus, what inspires you to walk down that path?
This week we’ll examine the inspiration, the “why” as it relates to Peter and his letter to the early church. In doing so, we’ll examine our own drivers of behavior and seek Truth not only in what we do but why do it.
The depth of joy springs ultimately from right relationship with the Creator. He is truly the Mighty God and it is only when we are fully submitted to His power and authority that our joy is made complete. But what does the “Mighty God” look like? How is his might and power expressed on earth? When His authority is displayed, when His mighty voice speaks, how do we respond?
Having resolved some problems with the in-laws in Genesis 31, Jacob and his family move on to the future and place God has for them. Jacob soon learns however that his brother Esau is close by and that he intends to meet with Jacob. This is the Esau whose birthright was stolen by Jacob. This is the Esau who once consoled himself with the thought of murdering Jacob. Jacob’s past sin comes very much into the present and poses a threat to his property, his loved ones and his very life.
Our journey this week centers on the concept and meaning of "home." As Isaac and Rebekah’s family is torn apart by sin and Jacob is forced to flee, he finds himself at the very depth of the crisis- forced to run as a result of sin after sin. Their "home" is destroyed and all appears lost. The identity Jacob and his family might derive from the place and relationships found within the "home" is shattered. "Home" becomes a memory of pain and a reminder of what’s been lost. Without his "home," who is Jacob? This forces us to ask, who are we when our foundation of "home" crumbles?
This Sunday we’ll explore exactly what Paul is referring to in his writings to the Church at Galatia when he instructs them to “bear one another’s burdens” and what this means for us each day. While none of us are likely looking for more of a burden then we already carry in this life, I think we’ll see that this instruction, when carried out in the spirit with which the Lord intends, is truly a life-giving and life-changing privilege.
In Exodus 16, the children of Israel leave the rejoicing and rest of the oasis found in chapter 15 for the Desert of Sin. In spite of all that’s been provided in miraculous fashion up to this point the fearful faithlessness of the people rises up at the first opportunity. Thankfully however, His provision is not based on Israel’s worth and the Lord feeds and cares for them without fail for 40 years in the wilderness. As beautiful as God’s provision in the wilderness is, it pales in comparison to the Bread of Life provided in Jesus.