Lent is a time of repentance and refocusing so that we can experience intimacy with God at a deeper level. Jesus does respond to our faithfulness. When we Seek Him, and Call on Him, and Change Our Ways, and Turn to Him, he offers mercy and forgiveness that allow our hearts to be aligned with Him.
The goal of this message is to focus on how trust is the key to connecting with God. Not the father’s trust in his children, but the child’s trust in the father. God, as a good father, wants to lavish his love on his children. Children, who desire to experience the love of a father, learn to trust that their father really is for them, and acts in a way that is most beneficial for them. God offers to adopt us, not because he trusts us, but because he loves us despite our choices. We, the adopted, choose to receive the love as a child of the father because we trust him. Without trust in our father, we are tempted to run and live a self-centered life.
Generosity is the life Jesus has called us to live. Generosity isn’t a moment when we give something, it’s a lifestyle. It is a lifestyle for each of us individually, but it is also a lifestyle for our church community. The more generous we are, the greater the difference we make in our world. And the more generous we are, the more God honors us and provides so we can keep giving more away. The generous game is one that doesn’t guarantee we’ll be wealthy, but it does promise we’ll win at life!
“Radical generosity reshapes our world. As a kingdom-first church, we share our resources and people selflessly.”
We fear bad things happening. Now, in reality, most of the bad things we fear never really happen. But sometimes, bad things do happen. We lose a loved one. We get sick. Something unexpected causes us to face financial ruin. We get in an accident. But what’s interesting, is that IF something bad happens, we usually somehow manage through the ordeal. Why do we waste so much energy fearing something that God will, in fact, help us through? We trust God in the very toughest of seasons. But we can also trust him before the tough times come, knowing that he is able and that he cares for us when those times arrive. We trust him before as we trust him during the difficulties. Faith helps us overcome fear.
John, in his Gospel story of Jesus, tells the Christmas story in one verse – John 1:14. For John, this is Christmas: God became a man and visited us where we live. We call this the incarnation. God came to us in Jesus. He got close and personal so we could see the glory of God displayed in a real person, full of grace and truth. He came to us so we could have a relationship not with an idea, but with a person. He came to us so we can experience God. He came to transform us to become like Jesus. He came so we could bring Jesus to our world.
What we crave is what will shape us. Peter urges us to crave God. We feed our hunger for God like babies who crave milk. We engage in various activities that help us connect with, know and experience God like prayer, Bible reading and study, and community in a small group. Peter urges us to keep growing, maturing in following Jesus.
God’s plan in marriage is that two separate individuals will become one. But we’ve traded oneness to see marriage as a transaction. What we want is friendship, care, sex, security, and a family. We trade this to get that. I’ll put up with __ (fill in the blank) to get __ (fill in the blank). So we end up creating an unwritten contract. But the problem is that every spouse will fail to keep their end of the contract at some time and in some way. The problem isn’t that we are imperfect, the problem is that we’ve seen marriage as a contract rather than a covenant. Marriage as covenant means that we are making a choice to reflect the character of God by being committed to love and honor our imperfect partner as God loves us. We commit to an imperfect person in a lifetime of learning to love like God to become one.
We can’t overstate the antithesis of love with religion and judgment. Religion and judgement are intimate partners that destroy love. When we take God’s role of determining what is good and evil then we can’t help but create a system of right and wrong and rituals or religion. Then we impose our religion on others and judge if they are good or evil. All of this will snuff out love, which was the eternal goal of God.
We live in a very dark world. Folks are “in the dark” when it comes to knowing the truth and having a cure for the evil of our world and in our lives. We cannot save ourselves! But Christmas reminds us of a dawning of light on our dark world and dark hearts. That light is Jesus, a child born who is mighty eternal God, an amazing counselor and the prince who can bring us peace with God. If he’s all that, then he can’t be ignored or tamed. We need the spiritual light that came that first Christmas.
Faith cannot stop at just believing something to be true. Faith must change us and motivate us to act in ways that serve and benefit others. Faith or belief about something is not real faith and in fact is pointless, useless and can even be dangerous. But real living faith always expresses itself in action.