Why is there so much division among us? The walls that divide us are not between different races or generations but in every human heart. The good news is that in Christ these walls come tumbling down as God forms us all into one new Person.
Why does our pursuit of “freedom” only lead to more bondage? We are too easily entangled in things that once gave us pleasure until, before long, we serve them. The good news is that through Christ the Spirit of God has set us free from the power of sin and death.
Why do smart people do stupid things? Our trouble is not rebellion but folly. Blindness. We walk in darkness, “having no idea what we’re stumbling over. The good news is that, in Jesus, God has opened our eyes and we can see things as they really are.
The gospel is not about going to heaven after we die. It’s about heaven coming into us before we die. It’s more than a message. It’s a miracle. And it’s a way of life practiced in community before a world that is desperate for answers.
It has never been harder, and it has never been more urgent to share the gospel than it is today: harder because people are disenchanted and less interested, yet urgent because so much is at stake. But even when the soil is hard, we must keep sowing.
To humble ourselves and obey is the nature of God: “Being in very nature God . . . he made himself nothing and took the very nature of a servant . . . (then) he humbled himself, and became obedient,” (Phil. 2:6-8). This is not only Jesus’ humanity; it’s ours at its best. It’s who we are and who we want to be.
Sometimes obedience means believing the impossible, saying the absurd, holding onto he improbable simply because we’ve heard God’s Voice. It means being the minority report. Sometimes the certainty of it is unclear, even to us, so it is only by looking back that we know what the will of God was.
Contrary to popular belief, our possessions lie at the heart of our spiritual lives because whatever we do with them, for better or worse, we do to ourselves. That’s why the widow who “put in everything – all that she had to live on” is so impressive a model of discipleship. In sharp contrast to the “long and flowing robes” of the Pharisees, she quietly reflects the character of God’s own gift, Jesus, who noticed her.
But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance… The Lord does not look at the things man looks at… the Lord looks at the heart.” On discernment as the single most important practice for dealing with complexity in our contemporary lives.
Look I have put my words in your mouth. Get up and prepare for action.” On the importance of Biblical imagination.
The voice said to me, ‘Son of man, eat what I am giving you – eat this scroll – (and) let my words sink deep into your own heart first; then go to the people in exile.” On the importance of putting ourselves before the Word and obeying it, whether anyone else does or not.
“He read aloud from daybreak until noon… and all the people listened attentively to the Book.” On getting reacquainted with Scripture as the Speaking Voice of God.
“After the fire came a gentle whisper . . . and Elijah went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” On the importance of hearing the still small voice (meditation).
“Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth and she spoke to Balaam… so Balaam bowed low and fell facedown.” On the importance of hearing God in a multiplicity of ways.
“One night, Eli was lying down in his usual place… and Samuel was lying down in the Temple, where the ark of God was.” On the importance of rhythms and regiment for hearing the word of the Lord.
In this well-known miracle is a parable for the contemporary Church. Like the father’s boy, we have been “robbed of our speech”. In the eyes of the public, we cannot speak because we cannot hear and we cannot hear because we no longer believe. Whenever we’re speechless, the solution is not to keep talking, but to really listen, first to God and then to others before we know what the gospel really means for our world today.
What happens after we believe? What do we do next, and what if nothing happens? Many Christians complain that their lives are not what they expected, not even after they were “saved.” Have they done something wrong? Has God over-promised and under-performed? Or were they wrong about what it means to be “saved?”
At the core of our church is a mission, and at the core of that mission is the pursuit of God in Christ as he is manifest in the Word, the Gospel and the Church. Today’s culture has challenged the Church’s commitment to these three things – offering substitutes that have only a form of godliness – but every disciple and every church will ultimately be measured by their pursuit of them.
Saying “thank you” is one of the first things we learn as a child, yet the words can seem shallow when there is lots to be thankful for. Perhaps that is the plight of most, even poor Americans. The more we have, the more we notice what we don’t have. Yet “thanksgiving” and “praise” mean something different in the Psalms. Here they are not just words, but rituals. They are not just manners, but ways of life.
As Americans we are not accustomed to waiting nor do we wait for the right things. This song, sung on the temple steps by a seeker on his way into worship, describes one whose heart is pure even if the rest of him is not. He was once in the depths and has found God’s forgiveness, but he has not yet found redemption. Here on the steps, between forgiveness and redemption, he waits for himself and for his people.