We continue with our Giving Up series this weekend, focusing on expectations. Some expectations are good, but when we expect God to conform to our expectations of Him, we are walking a dangerous path. Read on for this week’s cover article for the announcements page.
What do you expect of God? Who do you expect Him to be? I’d really like God to conform to my expectations of who He should be. It’s much easier for me to understand God when I decide who and what He is. It’s much more comfortable for me when I define God, rather than allowing God to define me.
I’d like God to conform to my expectations because then there are no hard truths to face. Things like John 14:6:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
It’s a hard teaching that only Jesus brings eternal life. I’d love to be able to tell people that if they just believe in something, they’d get to experience eternal life.
But fortunately for me, I don’t get to define God. Because every day I serve the false gods that I create. Every day, I worship the “expected” god instead of the true God. And my “expected” god is not a good god. Because only the God revealed in the scriptures is a good God.
God wants to shatter our false expectations and replace them with truth. He wants to replace them with The Truth, his Son Jesus. And when we give up our expectations, we might just find that the God we serve is indeed good, even if it’s not always comfortable walking with Him.
We wrap up our Pain Killer series this weekend talking about the Pain of Rejection. As I reflect on this pain, I’m reminded of the pain God experiences when we reject Him, and how he continually takes us back. Read on for the front page of this week’s announcements as you prepare for the sermon this weekend.
Nobody likes to be rejected. Whether it’s applying for a job and not getting it or asking a girl or guy out on a date, only to get the cold shoulder. Rejection hurts. After several rejections, it’s easy to just give up and not try anymore. How many times can I hear the word “no” and still keep going? Eventually, it’s just easier to give up and not risk rejection.
Have you ever considered how God feels about rejection? He calls us to Himself, to trust Him more than anything else, yet we continually reject Him. Jesus lamented this on His way into Jerusalem:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Matthew 23:37
God is continually inviting us into His loving arms and we are continually turning our backs on Him. But He is a loving God. Unlike us, He doesn’t get tired of inviting. He doesn’t give up on us because we continually reject Him. He keeps inviting us, drawing us back to Him. And when we do return, He’s waiting with open arms. In the parable of the Lost Son in Luke 15, we see a picture of the Father’s love for us. When the son finally decides to return to the father, we hear of the father’s great love:
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20
As you struggle with the pain of rejection, maybe it’s time to return to your loving Father. He’s waiting for you, with open arms, ready to forgive all the times you’ve rejected Him.
One of the things we learned from our Spiritual Life Survey (results here) is the importance of embedding God’s Word everywhere we can. Sue approached me with a project a while back for posters that would have the books of the Bible on them to hang in the classrooms at First Trinity. We also wanted a matching bookmark to accompany them. Here’s what we came up with:
We went with white text on black to improve readability from a distance, but I also liked the contrast of mostly black/white with a splash of color on each. Both the plan and the water convey life, which connects nicely with God’s Word being our primary source of life. The green and blue colors are also reminiscent of our logo, which has a leaf-like shape with green on top and blue on the bottom.
We’re currently in the bidding process to get the posters and bookmarks made and hope to have them available by Spring, assuming the cost is right.
We continue our series titled Pain Killer this week, focusing on the pain of suffering. Read on for this week’s announcement front page.
Lent is fast approaching. In about 10 days, we will “celebrate” Ash Wednesday, a solemn time to remember that we are sinful people. Lent is traditionally a time to focus on the passion—or suffering—of Jesus. If only we could talk about suffering without actually living it.
I once thought that becoming a Christian meant that I wouldn’t suffer any more. No more emotional pain. No more physical suffering. No more hurt. I’ve learned, however, that this is simply not the case.
I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Suffering is a natural consequence of sin. It’s wrapped up in who we are as sinful people. Jesus warns us that we’ll be facing some tough times, even some suffering. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to be hard. You won’t want to walk this path. But thankfully, you don’t walk it alone.
Jesus has overcome the world, and eventually, those who trust in Him will truly have all their pain and suffering wiped away, never to be experienced again. But in the journey, we experience the pain of suffering with one who walked it before us 2,000 years ago. He’s walking through it with us today. We are not alone. Take heart! He has overcome the world!
We start a new sermon series this week title Pain Killer. It’s a series about bringing our pain to Jesus. This week we look at the pain of loss. The front cover of the announcements this week follows.
Death is ever-present. From the moment we’re born, we are moving closer and closer towards death. Babies who warm hearts with their giggles and smiles are moving towards death. Preschoolers, despite their wild play, laughter and energy, are moving towards death. Teens, adults, seniors—we’re all inching closer to death every day of our lives.
Death seems so final. On the one hand, we know that there is life in Jesus for those who trust completely in Him. We’ve heard Jesus’ words to Martha before:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26
And yet, believing and dealing with the pain of loss are two completely different things. Death seems so final because it’s the end of our time with our loved one. There’s life to come, yes, but we’re still stuck with the stark reality that we will never see our beloved child, wife, husband, mother or father again here on earth. Jesus, the very Son of God, wept at the loss of His friend Lazarus—and Jesus even knew He would raise his friend from the dead!
So how do we cope with the pain of loss? The pain so deep and sharp that it threatens to overwhelm us and pull us under the waterline, drowning in it. We bring it to Jesus, the one who understands our pain. The one who understands and walks through the pain with us. The one who understands and brings life through death. The one who is life.
A while back, I wrote an article for thESource, an online publication for youth workers about technology in ministry. There was a recent call out for writers again, so I decided to write a series of devotions about Jesus. The original topic I had been given was about prophecies fulfilled. They gave me a list of 7-10 prophecies to choose from and were looking for four devotions.
The devotions are now published on thESource. For quick reference, they are:
- Called out of Egypt (Based on Matthew 2:15)
- Called a Nazarene (Based on Matthew 2:23)
- Filled with the Spirit (Based on Luke 4:18-19)
- Signs and Miracles (Based on Matthew 8:16-17)
It was an interesting writing experience. Some of the options seemed almost impossible to write about—Called a Nazarene? What spiritual significance could that possibly have in my life?!—while others were fairly straight forward. The most difficult ones ended up being the most fun to write though, as I had to do some serious thinking about them before putting ink to paper… Or fingers to keyboard anyway.
We’re wrapping up a series in Sunday School this week titled TXT. It’s a look at God’s Word—historical notes, background, characteristics and how to study it. This week focuses on studying it. One of the key verses is Psalm 119:11:
11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
As I think about ways to communicate what this means to students beyond the standard “You need to memorize God’s Word”, it struck me that this is similar to studying for a test and learning something.
It seems that more often than not, students (and us adults too) like to cram for a test. Get all the knowledge in our head, get through the test, then wipe the slate clean for more information. Our teachers always told us that studying a little bit each day and learning the material would take us much further.
Many of us are eager to turn to God’s Word in a crisis. It’s much like cramming for that test. We need a shot to get us through the tough time, then we push it out of our minds. Now, there’s certainly nothing wrong with turning to God’s Word in a crisis, but what if we spent time regularly studying it? Internalizing it? Hiding it in our hearts? How much better off would we be?
What do you think? A fair analogy to make?