One of the major themes of the New Testament is that followers of Jesus have union with Christ, they are “In Christ.” In fact, this phrase appears 165 times in the New Testament, but what does it mean to be “In Christ” and how does that change our lives? In Colossians 2, Paul tells us that we need to have strong roots in Jesus so that we’re not tossed around in the midst of a world trying to get us to pull away from Christ.
Most times, it’s easier to move forward, especially in a season such as New Years when hope for what is to come is high. However, it’s important for us not to forget and celebrate that the Lord is good during our joyful moments but also difficult times. Using the story of the man healed at Bethesda, the mat that Jesus tells him to carry with him not only was his testimony of where he came from but the indicator for others of the time he spent with the savior.
What’s our mat for 2019? How far has God brought us? How was God with us in the midst of life? Let’s remember and give power to the testimony of the mat as we prepare to move forward.
From gratitude flows generosity. Our gratitude comes from recognizing that our God has been tremendously generous with us. From that recognition, gratitude grows in our hearts and then we cannot help but show gratitude to others.
Historically, this has been the biggest challenge to the Christian faith. How could a good and loving God allow such evil and suffering to plague humans? This is both a personal question and one the Bible raises as well. The fact is that God can exist, be all-powerful and all-knowing, and be completely good while evil exists. The presence of evil and suffering is not evidence against God. The truth is that God is good and our loving all-powerful God helps bring meaning, purpose and good out of the evil and suffering that is in the world. And it is that good God who offers a way to eventually escape the evil and suffering in our present world.
Many question faith because they question the Bible. Many wonder if it is accurate, reliable and trustworthy because they sense it is outdated, irrelevant, and a man-made book of tales and myths. Some are concerned the Bible was mishandled and changed by people with questionable motives who manipulated the text. Others believe the Bible is full of contradictions and mistakes while also being historically inaccurate. And others suggest it is even immoral in how it addresses violence, slavery, gender equality and things like polygamy. But there is evidence that the Bible is not only reliable and trustworthy, but the Bible is powerful to change the human heart.
Jesus is emphatic that we are not just to read, listen or know the Bible, but we are to do what Jesus says. There is nothing more powerful than the transforming work of the Bible in our lives. When we hear the Word and live the Word, then the Word comes alive in us. So every time we read the Bible or hear a teaching, we have to ask the “So what” question. That’s this question: “So what will I do?”
The only way we can be a conduit of God’s love and blessing is to be connected to people who are in need of God and his goodness. We have to intentionally seek to develop relationships of trust. We have to go to where people are, come alongside them as authentic friends and look for the opportunities and open doors God will give us to have spiritual conversations. This is how we love people to Jesus.
Everyday we face countless distractions. Some of these distractions are good (rest, renewal, reflection) and some are even optional (when we choose to clean, etc). We learn from Mary & Martha about making sure that regardless of what we have going on (distractions) that we give proper attention to Jesus. At the same time, some distractions are hurtful to our physical and spiritual lives. These distractions are sinful. Sin separates us from God and must be dealt with quickly. Galatians 5:13-26 describes what this sin looks like and provides hope for the life that’s dealt with unhealthy distractions. The fruit of Spirit are a perfect example of a life focused on Jesus.
One of the greatest fears we have is the fear of death. Maybe when we are younger we don’t think about it as much, but all of us some level of fear because it is the great final unknown. The fear of death can keep us from really living. The fear of death can rob us of the life God wants us to experience now. In Jesus, the power and fear of death have been defeated by the one who faced death without fear and rose from the dead. We want to go to heaven. We want eternal life without pain and suffering. But the path to that place is through death and all must pass that way, including Jesus. He has gone before us and will show us the way.
We’ve been hurt. We’ve been betrayed, abused, rejected, diminished, ignored, lied and gossiped about and more. The hurt and pain is real. But God’s grace is greater than our hurts. He offers release from our hurts and freedom from our past wounds as we choose to his way of grace, which is to forgive.
We are called to be a counter-cultural people who live such good and different lives that folks can’t help but notice. We do good and let God work through the goodness we offer. We let our lives speak for God.
Trusting God doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes a resume of trust to be developed over life experiences. God built his “trust resume” with Abraham over many years and in different circumstances. Abraham had such incredible trust in God that the Bible says he’s the premier example. How do we go about building trust? We lean into the hard times, realizing that we don’t journey alone.
Men are typically known as being stoic. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when dealing with others (especially our family and friends), we cannot experience the fullness of relationship as God intended without learning to show love. This week, we’ll look at one of the same scriptures as last week, but we’ll focus on how God has called us to love as he has loved the church. We display leadership when love others more than ourselves. Biblical manhood requires us to love the way Jesus loves.
Headship is often confused with dictatorship. Sometimes we have this distorted view of leadership where we have to be the one calling all of the shots and telling everyone what to do. This doesn’t just happen in the home, but can happen at work and with friends. Our servanthood is defined by Jesus (Matthew 20:16 First/Last, Mark 10:42-45 Become the servant). Chief servanthood and spiritual leadership begins at the cross. We cannot embrace our call to lead spiritually if we don’t embrace Jesus.
In the beginning, man and woman were tempted by the devil. During this temptation, Adam has the opportunity to defend Eve and God’s creation. Instead of stepping into this role, Adam stood by and was silent. Men (and women) face the same temptation today–to watch the world and everything happening go by. Whether your role is employee, manager, husband, or father (or a combination of these), God has designed you to defend. How do we defend? We make the decision to show up and be present, we realize everyone has different emotional needs, and we are prepared to lead spiritually.
Prayer is often a one way conversation with requests about health, financial, and future concerns. The lists that come out of our hearts crowd out the ability for us to listen. Practicing intentional prayer is crucial to our transformation.
The life of a believer experiences ups and downs. During the process of life, we need a strong foundation to ensure our success. Jesus is reason for life change. In order to remain strong in our faith and continue to grow as a believer, we must develop the practice of listening to God’s Word. Reading and listening to the Bible allows the Holy Spirit to transform us from where we were to where God wants to take us.
Wisdom teaches us how to respond well to difficult situations, whether they be a trial, test or temptation. We will respond to situations and to God out of either wisdom or foolishness. When things are difficult it is easy to assert our desire and respond in anger, but that will not get us to our goal of wisdom and holiness. And we all struggle with pride that seeks to pollute our soul and resist the way of wisdom. When facing challenges, wisdom seeks to first and foremost listen to God and then do or obey and follow his ways.
The way of the fool or evil person will lead to a trainwreck. The path of a wise person leads to life and God’s blessing. But the path of wisdom is hard and is best traveled with other wise people. We need wise people to become wise. We need to help wise people become wiser. Wise people need each other. That’s why we have to do life together. We need to be connected to people who are life giving and to whom we can give life.