Hannah’s prayer for a son dramatically shaped and changed her life – and the lives of all who came after her. How might our spiritual practices serve a role in our own spiritual formation? Listen to Pastor David’s sermon on 1 Samuel 1:1-2:11.
Last week, Pastor David attended the Church of God Convention in Wichita, Kansas. Listen in as he shares a few points of reflection from this gathering of our tribe!
A lost sheep, a lost coin: Jesus told two stories about God’s desire for all people in Luke 15:1-10. How do we approach people whom we consider to be “sinners”? Listen to Pastor David’s sermon on this passage:
Fire and water: signs of God’s judgment. Jesus sounds pretty serious in today’s text, Luke 12:49-56. It’s a question of loyalty, really. Where are your loyalties?
Inheritance, possessions, money, power, influence – and Pokemon GO. How can we learn to be rich toward God? Listen to Pastor David’s sermon on Luke 12:13-21.
Today, I would like you to meet my new neighbor. In the past week, a bird has begun building this year’s nest in the corner of my office window. My desk is no more than three feet away from this new home. He (or she?) knows I exist, but as long as I don’t get too close to the window, I don’t seem to frighten the bird away. I am looking forward to watching eggs hatch and chicks feed from this vantage point in the upcoming season. Already, I am enjoying how my neighbor is carefully constructing the family home, one mouthful of mud and twigs at a time.
The Bible makes a few comments about birds’ nests:
If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life. (Deuteronomy 22:6-7 NIV)
This instruction appears in a strange, seemingly disconnected segment of Old Testament law – take a minute to read the whole chapter! Many of the commands surrounding this passage have to do with respecting life: human, plant, and animal alike. How often do we think about our treatment of animals or our use of natural resources as an issue of stewardship? Is our well-being dependent on our interactions with other species in God’s creation?
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. (Psalm 84:1-4 NIV)
My new neighbor’s nest is extremely fragile; in a matter of seconds, I could open the window and destroy all the work that has been done. Yet the fragility of the nest pales in comparison to its setting: a brick building is quite stable and secure. Are we constructing our fragile lives around a solid foundation? Do our souls find their place of safety in the house of the Lord?
Thus Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the wild birds nested in its branches.” (Luke 13:18-19 NET)
When we build our lives on the good news of Jesus Christ, we are participating in something much larger than ourselves. Our spiritual family tree has its roots in Jesus; his kingdom is vast and all-encompassing. Are we living as members of the kingdom of God? Are we working diligently to strengthen our own nests? Are we building meaningful relationships with those who are nesting in other branches? Are we inviting wanderers to find their home in this kingdom?
Let us learn from the birds of the air, for whom God cares. And remember, we are much more valuable to God than they are! (Matthew 6:26)
As people of faith in Christ Jesus, we celebrate this current season with special fervor and religious anticipation. The Christmas season, while maddeningly materialistic and terribly self-centered in our American culture, still holds special meaning for Christians. We want to encourage people in our community to “keep Christ in Christmas” – yet at the same time, we should remember why we celebrate this season and what it means for the faith.
We are people who believe in an “already and not yet” kingdom of God. God’s reign over the universe broke into this world in personal, tangible form through the person of Jesus Christ. This was the content of Jesus’s preaching (see Mark 1:14-15), and this was the reason that Jesus was born into the world (see John 18:33-38). He reigns in our hearts in the present tense. He conquers sin in our lives in the present tense. His rule is already secure because of his nature, his work on the cross, and his empty tomb.
And yet the kingdom of God is not yet completely fulfilled. We await Jesus’s return at the end of the age, at which point his kingdom will come in its completeness and perfection (see Revelation 22:6-21). There will be no more suffering in the future tense. The presence of God will fill us with heavenly light in the future tense. We yearn for Christ to return even within our lifetimes so that we might witness his reign being made complete.
We are “already and not yet” Christians. We believe in an “already and not yet” Lord, one who has already atoned for our sins but has not yet brought about the ultimate fullness of his kingdom.
This ties into our observance of the season of Advent, the season in which we celebrate the “coming” (“advent”) of Jesus Christ: both his birth into the world and his second coming at the end of the age. We are “already and not yet” Christians who celebrate an “already and not yet” Lord!
We tend to focus on the past tense story of Christmas, the birth of Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem, during this season. Let us always remember, though, that our faith points us toward a future tense story of Advent, which is the return of Christ in final victory and triumph. Even as Jesus came to earth in the form of a tiny, humble baby, so he will return again as ultimate, undisputed, unmistakable King.
Who needs Black Friday sales, Cyber Monday advertisements, nonstop secular Christmas songs, and stereotypical American indebtedness to celebrate this season? Let’s celebrate Advent, in word and in deed, as people of true faith.