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Most of us are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it in heaven. When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, this was his first desire: for God’s Name, God’s Kingdom and God’s Will to become more a reality on this earth, as it already is in heaven. If this is Jesus’ great desire, then it must be ours as well. And in order to join God in the work of seeing more of this good kingdom come, we need to understand what exactly it is.
It turns out, Jesus talked a lot about God’s kingdom in his life and ministry. When he first launches his ministry—on Jesus’ Day One in the job, if you will—he declares this announcement: The Kingdom of God is here! (Mt 4:17, Mk 1:15). The people in Jesus’ day were longing for God’s kingdom. They were eagerly anticipating the day when God would set the world right—free people from all wrong-doing and usher in God’s rule of love and justice and peace. Jesus’ announcement that this new reign had begun with his arrival changed everything! It meant this kingdom is not just a future reality, but also a present reality!
But that understanding didn’t quite match the reality or expectations of Jesus’ contemporaries. If God’s kingdom was finally here, where exactly was it? Why weren’t Israel’s enemies being overturned, why wasn’t Jesus mobilizing a mighty military, why was evil and injustice still permitted? Jesus had to repeatedly explain—in various ways with various tools—how God’s kingdom is different from what they expected. In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a series of parables about the kingdom to do just that. In this short mini-series, we’ll look a four aspects to God’s kingdom to help us enter into its reality more fully. The first two weeks focus on Jesus correcting unrealistic expectations about God’s kingdom. The second two weeks focus on Jesus’ invitation to respond to such a kingdom. The ultimate aim is to recognize God’s kingdom and choose to more fully participate in it, so that God’s good rule will become more and more a reality on this earth, as it already is in heaven. May it be so!
The book of Jonah speaks powerfully to us about the largeness of the heart of God, so that our own hearts might be enlarged to care more deeply about people and make Him and His salvation known to others. No one can read about Jonah without being gripped by the fact that lost people matter to God. The story challenges us to respond in greater measure to the depth of human need that surrounds us.
If we could enlarge the graphic for the series (designed by Pastor Devin), we would see it’s a map of our area. It represents a primary area that God calls us to serve.
The book of Jonah opens with God’s call to the prophet: “Go to the great city…” (1:2). The book ends with the Lord asking Jonah, “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (4:11).
In a similar way, the Lord is calling us to care more deeply for our immediate city. Let’s be praying for an enlarged heart for our neighbors, coworkers, and student friends and that God would use us to serve them in the name of Christ!
The book of Revelation has fascinated readers through the centuries. Written in a style all its own, the book has inspired a wide variety of interpretations. And when you read it, you can understand why. Filled with vivid imagery and confusing language, it can be a very difficult book to understand.
But early in the book, in a relatively straightforward section (chapters 2-3), is a collection of letters to seven churches in ancient world. The author, most likely the Apostle John, wrote these letters to explain God’s will and purpose for their lives. Filled with advice, including both praise and correction, John spoke plainly, accusing some of moral compromise, others of being preoccupied with wealth, and a few of outright immorality. Yet others were praised for faithfulness to God despite opposition. The choice, John said, was between compromise and faithfulness; between resisting or giving into the pressures of the surrounding culture. Prove faithful, he promised these gatherings of believers, and God will reward you.
In the next seven weeks we will take a deep look at John’s advice to these churches, which ends up being strikingly relevant over 2,000 years later. Together, we will explore the searching questions these letters have for the church and our lives.
Confused about Mary? You’re not alone. Some have placed her on a pedestal, others have treated her with neglect, while the rest aren’t quite sure what to do with her. That makes her one of the most misunderstood characters in the Bible.
It’s understandable. After a starring role in the Christmas story, Mary makes just a few cameo appearances along the way. In response, some have rushed in and filled the gap with a confusing mixture of exaggerations and legend. While others, worried they’ll give her too much attention, have let her fade into the background.
Sure, some have taken things with Mary too far. But equally true is that others have not gone far enough. From now through the end of January, we’ll be looking at the life of Mary; not just the Christmas part we’re so familiar with, but her entire story. Along the way we’ll separate legend from fact and uncover the story of this remarkable woman and the extraordinary role she played in the life and ministry of Jesus.
Mary was a great example of faith and faithfulness. She carried Jesus to birth, then raised him. She heard him teach, watched him heal, and never doubted he could do the miraculous. She was fiercely loyal to Jesus all the way to the end. She never deserted him, even when Judas betrayed him, Peter denied him, and the rest fled and went into hiding. So she was there when he took his last breath, and again on Sunday morning when he rose from the dead.
But her most important legacy was her simple faith. Was Mary devout? Probably. Was she pure in heart? Sure. But that wasn’t the point.
You see, God didn’t chose her because she aced the Messiah Mommy ACT. Mary was convinced this great honor had come to her by the sheer grace of God. That is why, after the angel left, she sang not about how great she was, but how great was her God.
The same is true with us. God is still showing up, telling people everywhere, us included, “you are highly favored,” and inviting us to respond in faith.
John Sommerville - Senior Pastor