Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
God is working. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. His kingdom and reign is, even now, breaking into this world, and perhaps even more amazingly, into your and my life. The disciples of Jesus saw this. Saw this in ways that many people today refuse to believe (and many of us have struggled with as well at times).
Consider the time Martha stood outside the tomb of her brother, dead four days, and heard these words from Jesus, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
Her response seems measured to me. Safe. Yeah, I believe it, but it isn’t actually going to make much a difference for me today. Cause he’s still dead. And I’m still mourning. And then Jesus raised the anti:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
How do you think you would have answered that question that day? How would you answer it today? Is His kingdom breaking in? Is He working in you, around you, and through you?
Is anything possible with God?
Christians of the west are mourning the death of Christendom in western culture (that chunk of history when the church was respected, in control, influential, and the popular and good thing to be a part). Our institutions might shake, rattle, and fall, but do you believe The Story of God’s faithfulness continues?
St. Andrews will go through major transition this year when two of it’s beloved staff will retire. Do you believe God will continue to write a story of faith and faithfulness in and through us?
I believe God is working. I believe God will keep working. While I certainly don’t have all the answers right now for the changing culture, the challenges of this and other churches, and myriads of other things, I have God’s Holy Spirit calling me and working in me each day to go and get after it one more day. And as long as I’m this side of the Resurrection, I will. With the psalmist we will keep declaring, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea…”
And with Martha we’ll keep saying, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is (still) coming into the world.”
I refuse to submit! I really like to do things my way. I like to make all the decisions AND have the control. However, I also feel so blessed that God loves me enough to not leave me alone, but instead get involved in my life.
When I moved to California at 23, I thought for sure I was going to be a millionaire by the time I was 30. No doubt in my mind, everything in my life that I set out to do I had accomplished, and I was very “confident” this would occur as well.
Well after becoming a Christian at 25, getting married at 29 then losing 3 jobs over the course of 3 years due to downsizing, my dream turned into just wanting to fill my gas tank up above the ¼ tank level.
We then had Cameron and Jordan and were able to hang on and make ends meet until 2008. Then the recession hit. Being in the construction industry my income was reduced to 25%. This made things a little stressful to say the least.
About this time my prayer life really got serious. Cam and Jo’s grandma, Patricia, had continuous migraines for over a year. So every night we would say our normal prayers and then pray specifically for Grandma. One particular evening, when the bills were overwhelming, I remember just praying silently, “Lord I really need some help. I really need help to feed these kids this month”. It was the 10th (we had $500 in the bank) and the mortgage was due ($1,800). Well 2 days later, God came through, we received the needed money and we made it one more month.
This happened again 3-4 more times over the next year. This process really solidified my trust in God. He was faithful every time. After this happening so many times I would pray, “Lord, You know what I need and I know you will provide, so thank you.”
This same process again happened over these last few years in my business. It would be time to pay the bills and payroll was due. The bank account did not match the bills. “Lord I need help”. Time and again he would provide. I can’t even tell you how amazing this is. He is a good father. He always provides.
In my mind, I was always justified to not give my first fruits to God. I reasoned I had no first fruits to give. At least that was my justification.
Ever since Tunde shared last year her amazing story about how God has provided for her family, every time ends didn’t meet I have been wrestling with God. How can I tithe a full tithe when I don’t have anything left to tithe?
I had Kara explain it this way: If someone invites you over for some brownies and ice cream and they bring out the ¼ full freezer burnt ice cream and the left over two day old brownie tray that has only the edges left. How does that make you feel?
In Malachi 3:10 God says, ”Test me in this.” I said OK. My budget does not balance, so I will test you. I went from 2% to 10%. Guess what happened…. he provided again! I believe God asks for my obedience in the things he knows that I can make idols. Because when after years of stubbornness I finally submitted, a new freedom came over me that I can not explain. I am the happiest I ever been in my life!
Don’t take my word for it. Ask God what He wants from you. Then do it. Test Him. It’s worth the journey.
Do you know when we went from Christians celebrating the greatest gift ever given to even irreligious people being annoyed at how materialistic and consumeristic Christmas has become? Like many things, it was a creeping yet steady change. The question, for me anyway, is how can we practically push back against the consumerism that has the Christmas season by the throat.
Estimates of how much Americans spend at Christmas range from $200 billion to $480 billion or more. I’ve seen estimates that eradicating dirty water in the world, which ends the life of millions of people each year, would cost $20-30 billion. Hmmm. So if every American consumer redirected one out of $10-20 or so we could potentially end one of the greatest scourges on our planet? As much as my kids each “need” that second and third gift on Christmas morning, I’m pretty sure that in the long run they’d rather see our family directly contribute to giving life.
We are going to provide St. Andrews some practical steps this Advent on how to push back against the consumerism that is strangling Jesus’ birthday celebration. Each week during worship we’ll talk about a practical way to cut back on consumerism and simplify our Christmas celebration, give to those in need, or just sleep in heavenly peace during the holidays. You can google Advent Conspiracy for even more ideas.
On Christmas Eve we’ll give half of the offering that night to Crossing Cambodia (bringing the love of Jesus, providing basic needs and sponsoring education to the street children of Battambang, Cambodia), Lutheran World Relief (providing aid during disasters and coordinating development efforts-like clean water projects-throughout the world), and Lutheran Heritage Foundation (translating and providing the materials to train church planters and pastors all over the world to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ). We’re calling it our Advent Conspiracy Offering.
Our Sunday messages will focus on the great promises God has given us through the prophet Isaiah (you can join us for discussions each week at the 9:45 discipleship hour) and how they are meant to resonate in our lives today.
In short, we’re simply trying to let Jesus be the first, middle, and last thing we think about and are focused on during Advent and Christmas. We’ll celebrate what He has saved us from, and become a little more what He has saved us for. Looking forward to growing with you as we celebrate the advent of our Lord and Savior.
~ Pastor Dan
As many of you may have heard by now, I went to Ecuador on a mission trip. In preparation for these trips, everyone is asked to prepare a personal testimony that can be shared overseas. Often people tell of their life’s journey that has brought them into God’s family. People speak about God’s faithfulness and love; some speak about a time when they weren’t following God and so can testify to his forgiveness and grace. Preparing a personal testimony gives you the opportunity to truly reflect on your spiritual walk with God and where it has brought you today. Initially the testimony I had written was about growing up in the faith and how that affected me as I got older and entered the real world. I wouldn’t say it was a bad testimony, because all of our stories no matter what they are, are beautiful and a reflection of God’s work in our lives. However, as I was writing it I began to ask myself, is this really my testimony? Is this the thing in my life, today, that is a reflection of my relationship with God? If I’m being honest with myself, the answer to that question would be no. What has become a reflection of my relationship with God is the fact that I don’t have any relationship besides the one I have with God. My true testimony is my singleness. This struggle in today’s world is a bit of what I’ve written for all of you today. I’m going to share some of my story in hopes that it helps you, whether you’re a teenager, a young adult like myself, a parent, guardian, grandparent, etc.
Now, I’m not necessarily saying that I’m planning on being single forever although that possibility has crossed my mind. What I am saying is that I’ve come to a place in my spiritual journey where God has been put first above everyone else. Our culture today is saturated with sexuality and the permissiveness of promiscuity. I do hope that that, in itself, is not news to any of you. Sexuality and the idea of sex before marriage has become so common that it’s an everyday occurrence in our culture today, it is the rule not the exception. I’ve heard stories that truly break my heart because this next generation of adults simply don’t know any different. Being a single woman in her late twenties has exposed me more to this issue than I have cared for it to. I, myself, have been hurt, healed, and grown more in my spiritual faith due to this issue than any other. It has taken me years to understand and discern the yearnings in my own heart of those given to me by God from those given to me by the world around me. Everyone wants to be loved and accepted in some shape or form, God has created us this way. However, this can be manipulated and distorted to become some of our greatest sorrows. So without further ado, here’s a portion of my testimony that I pray could be used to help maybe just one of you reading this:
The Bible tells us that God is love. We are to love God with all our whole mind, body, and soul. We do this because God did it first and showed us how. While we were still sinners, Jesus died for us. This is love. This love is our purpose in life. This relationship with God is what our hearts truly desire. Earlier I said, “everything we want and desire, all this can be found in love, in our perfect person.” This is what I believed when I was younger and it was a lie because we are only fulfilled, content, and complete in Jesus. He is the perfect person we all need. All the pain and brokenness that comes from love and relationships today is because we try to put a person above God. We look toward an imperfect and sinful person to bring us joy, happiness, and purpose. This may be a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, child. For me, it was a boyfriend once. I had my person, this relationship, and yet had never been more lonely, because I did not have a relationship with God. What I found is that only God can provide the joy and peace that I desired. God has loved me, will love me, forever no matter what I do. God’s love is a fact. People are imperfect but God will never fail us.
Sometimes I still struggle because my life does not include a family and children and that this is not my purpose in life like it is for others. Instead I trust in God and ask for him to give me his purpose. Relationship with God is more important than any relationship with a guy. I trust in God’s timing. In the meantime, I tell God my struggles, I tell him my desires, and ultimately I look to him to provide for me and I trust in that. I will not compromise my relationship with God for a relationship with someone who does not respect me and, more importantly, does not respect God. He is my one true love and, with him, I know I will live happily ever after into eternity.