When we find ourselves bogged down by the chronic nature of our weariness and struggles, it becomes difficult to look forward to or even hold onto God's promises to us. But nothing is impossible with God, and He delivers on every one of His promises no matter the delay or the effort it takes to do so. In a world that celebrates instant gratification, sometimes we mistakenly believe that a promise delayed means a promise denied. In truth, Jesus's sacrifice on the cross is the ultimate proof that God will keep every and any promise He makes. For Jesus knowingly and willingly endured scorn, agony, betrayal, and abandonment, all for the sake of fulfilling God's greatest promise: to redeem, restore, and renew this broken world and His broken people.
Being in a seemingly never-ending COVID war, we can all identify with the feeling of lingering chronic fatigue. Much like how chronic conditions often require novel approaches, resistance, difficult circumstances, and spiritual captivity require different approaches of prayer of ancient and heavenly origin to experience breakthrough. When we fall short on the words to pray or even feel the lack of power behind our prayers, we can rely on the power of the spirit to overcome the cynicism and fatalism that can grip our lives.
Dr. Steve A. Brown is the president of Arrow Leadership, an organization dedicated to the global development of Christian leadership within a multitude of societal sectors. In the spirit of New Years resolutions for 2021, Dr. Brown invites us to reflect on four questions that will point us toward Jesus and help us in our faith journeys. Through reflecting on questions such as how we can love and serve our communities to what we will be our primary focus for next year, we are able to start this new year with the tools to remind ourselves about the goodness of following Jesus' example and to follow Him more deeply.
In concluding his discourse on the ultimate story of redemption, Dr. Darrell Johnson, Teaching Fellow at Regent College, ties together how a story of four key broken relationships are restored through the promise of Jesus Christ. Where original sin separated mankind from the trust of the Father, the goodness of God and his faithfulness to us is demonstrated prospectively from the writings of Genesis to the advent of his son’s coming in Bethlehem. The greatest story of all, the Christmas story, gives reason for why we were made by relationship, for relationship, and saved by grace.
At the center of our lives is relationship, and at the center of relationship is love. As Advent draws to a close and we celebrate Jesus's birth, it is important to remember that the Nativity scene is a story about the Father's love for us: a fierce commitment which came at the greatest of costs and showed the greatest of vulnerabilities. Likewise, our love for God, as well as our love for others, requires both the tenacity of sacrifice and the courage to bare ourselves open to the possibility of rejection and suffering. Love cannot be earned from a display of power and dominance; rather, it is when we make sacrifices and show our own weakness and frailty, that the glory of God shines the brightest through us.
In the Advent season, Joy stands as a proposition and virtue that is inextricably tied to our call and transcending purpose. It is hardly what we would expect out of our personal endurance and sufferings, and yet it’s surprise despite the awful feelings involved, overtakes and brings us into the presence of the Father. The joy found in the cross, despite its shame and suffering, is the joy of Christ - who in our pursuit to become like him, reveals that our attainment, understanding, and obedience to pursuing joy is eternally worthwhile.
In this week's sermon, Paul Lee, an organizational psychologist and member at 180, invites us to reflect on our goals and aspirations in life. We set goals in life because it's human to want to accomplish a lot, but we have a finite amount of resources to do so. Our goals should be driven by our values and big enough to pull us through smaller ones. When we consider the cost of following Jesus as a goal, we learn how many failed to do so. But choosing to follow Jesus does not mean depending on our own resources to obey what he commands. Instead, it means depending on Him to enable us to do His will because without Him, we cannot do much on our own.
Dr. Darrell Johnson, Teaching Fellow at Regent College, helps us in placing context to making sense of our stories through the collective of the Bible. At the center of the universe is a relationship, and in being created for and by relationships, we establish the fundamental understanding of who we are and our place as human beings. In evaluating 4 key relationships, and our relation to a singular command in the book of Genesis, we bring to life the story that makes us essentially human.
Today, we celebrate the beautiful baptism of three members of our community. Through their stories of coming to faith, we are reminded of how vital community and the sacraments are to our personal journeys with Christ. In their public declarations and the inauguration of their faith, and in bearing witness to our brothers and sisters joining the family of Christ, we return to the blood of Christ and the power of the cross in joy and praise!
In a world overwhelmed by physical and emotional struggles, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that spiritual warfare exists and is just as much a part of our daily lives. The reality is that there is a spiritual enemy who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy, and undermine God's mission to redeem this broken world. Without understanding this reality, we are unprepared for the resistance, discouragement, and shame which deters us from serving God's kingdom. That is why it is so important to be prepared against spiritual attack - not by using our own strength to protect ourselves, but by drawing power and strength from God's righteousness, the gift of salvation, Scriptural literacy, prayer, and truth. Only then can we understand the battle of the soul that is being fought, and take part in the victory of God redeeming this world, one person at a time.