This first week of Lent, David’s prayer in Psalm 25 reveals that shame, hurt, confusion, loneliness, guilt, concerns for others and many other afflictions are a part of our humanity. Rather than figuring these things out before we come to God, these are the very things our Heavenly Father, whose love is steadfast, is calling us to bring to Him just as we are.
We believe disciples follow Jesus, are changed by Jesus, and join Jesus in His mission of love. But when we are working in His mission, we often find that loving God and loving one another is easier than loving our neighbors, especially when fishing for people. Perceived failure in sharing the gospel well, both past and present, can be discouraging, but we trust that Jesus is not done with us. Just like Peter, we trust that the more we follow Jesus, the more He will change us to become effective fishers of people, giving us immense purpose and hope.
Since the beginning, God has wanted to have close intimate relationships with His people. Even on Mt. Sinai, He was calling His people to a marriage-like covenant with Him. God is calling, but He allows the closeness of relationship with Him to be up to us. What type of relationship will you choose?
Today we finish our 4-week series entitled, Be Still My Soul in which we are looking to Jesus who lived in communion with the Father, faithfully fulfilled His divine assignments, evaded people’s expectations, loved the right people and sustained a soul at rest. Throughout these first weeks of 2018 we are reminded that God envisions followers of Jesus doing the same. Today’s message emerges from the final 2 verses in Mark 1:35-39 in which we see Jesus faithfully fulfilling God’s priorities. Here He shows us how to do the same.
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.