One of the biggest questions among those deconstructing their faith today is this: is the church relevant and necessary? The church has, at times, lost its focus and purpose and in the process done a lot of damage and caused a lot of pain. Yet, it’s clear based on scripture that the church was always God’s plan. Despite the brokenness, can we, as Christ-followers, return to a place of beauty within the church – the beauty that Christ always intended.
Persecution/suffering is one of the clearest doctrines in the Bible. It is a significant theme in the New Testament, and yet it feels like a lost concept; something we don’t spend a lot of time thinking or talking about. It’s not a fun, feel-good message. But Jesus is making something clear here in this final beatitude – following him will cost you something, and because of that, few may actually choose to.
What brings you true satisfaction? What do you hunger and thirst for? The paradox of faith is that our perpetual hunger and thirst for God both satisfies and keeps us hungry and thirsty for more of God. What are you doing to get your fill of God?
How do we find peace in a world of conflict, suffering, and turmoil? We go to the Prince of Peace! Our only trusted source of peace is God himself. Peace with God and peace from God is possible because of Christ.
Jesus asks us to love our enemies, which goes against our natural desire to hate and seek revenge. This type of love is a radical call to action that can only be lived out by God’s power in our lives. Loving our enemies displays the perfect love of God to those around us.
The kingdom of God is bigger than our preferences, and that very act is a witness to the beauty of the kingdom of God.
There’s so much to do and so little time to get it all done. Our lives are full. Work, school, the kids, daily chores, and all the opportunities we don’t want to miss. The daily “urgent” almost always crowds out the important. But what’s truly important? How do we know what’s important enough to give our valuable time? Jesus commanded us to make the things of the kingdom just as, if not more, important. We can’t allow everything else to leave no room for living for the kingdom.
Psalm 139 reminds us that God is personal, God is present, and God is forming us. This truth has the power to change how we understand who God is and how we understand ourselves as known, seen, and created by God.
All of us worship something or someone, and that worship is a witness to the watching world around us. Psalm 66 envisions all the earth worshiping God, but that comes through the people of God worshiping Him. Worshiping Him for what He has done in the past, what he is doing in the present (how he is forming us and being with us in the furnace of life and faith), and how he will be with us in the future.
To live on the other side of disruption will always come with a risk. A risk to have the conversation, to press into our hurt or pain, to let go of something, to accept God’s grace. Many times, we miss what God has for us because we give up before our breakthrough happens.
To be fully present with ourselves, God and others, we must pull away to be alone with God. One of our greatest needs and most difficult tasks as a follower of Jesus is silence and solitude with Jesus – to be alone, give our cares and worries to God, and listen to Him so that we can be fully alive in Him.
Life can be a series of ungrieved losses. Loss is incredibly difficult to navigate in life, and if we don’t deal with it, we will become angry, bitter, or depressed. Grief and loss are a part of life and a place that Jesus meets us in. God’s invitation is to bring our grief to him through lament. In lament, we bring the full range of human experience and emotion, the depth of our pain, the reality of our loss, our brokenness, our questions, our doubts to God. As we do that, we also remember his character, we recommit our trust in Him, and we rediscover our hope.
One of the great spiritual tragedies today is that so many folks have not sought to follow Jesus. But an equal tragedy is that many have tried to follow Jesus in their own power and ability. People have tried to believe, trust, obey and live like Jesus totally on their own. They believed if they try harder, they’ll be able to be more like Jesus. They’ve tried to forgive on their own. They’ve tried to faithfully obey on their own. The Apostle Paul prayed this prayer for the church – “Out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. That’s what we need and really want. On our own we are powerless. With the Holy Spirit living in us, we have the possibility of Jesus being so rooted in us that we are transformed to be more and more like him.
Christmas is a time of hope, but that hope that we are supposed to have or the hope that we want to feel, leaves many of us feeling sad and wanting. For many of us, Christmas is a reminder of what could’ve been, hopes and dreams we wished for but don’t have. Elizabeth can sympathize with the person who wants to hope, who is longing for hope, looking for hope. She has hoped to have a child, but she has waited. Elizabeth is Zechariah’s wife and she has not been able to have a child, but after years of waiting in hope, her prayer is answered. Verse 25 is her prayer of hope, “The Lord has done this for me.”
We need to learn to focus on our great God who is all-powerful and intimately involved in the details of our lives. If we understand just how great God is, our prayers will reflect that.
The parable of the prodigal son. Our freedom is dependent on our willingness to receive the love and the forgiveness God is offering.