First in a four part series (attrib. David Lose) for the season on Advent. Based on Luke 21:25-36
The risk we take when we live out, “I believe…” Is this real or just a fantasy…Find out
As you may already know, there is an ancient practice of following the days and months of the year focused on the life of the Church. We call this, “The Church Year.” Just like we have seasons in the way we speak of our calendar year, we have seasons in the church year.
We begin the church year with the season of Advent. These are the days leading up to Christmas. Each week of Advent is marked by the lighting of a new candle.
Advent is a time to focus on the coming of Jesus, both as the baby Jesus born into the world about 2000 years ago, and King Jesus who will return to bring heaven and earth together as one in the last days.
Promises of Advent is the theme for each Sunday of Advent. Each week we will hear how God follows through on promises in our life.
Promises of Advent Sundays@ 10 a.m.
December 2 Advent 1: A Promise Big Enough to Save (Luke 21:25-36)
December 9 Advent 2: A Promise So Ordinary It’s Easy To Miss (Luke 3:1-6)
“LIFEhouse Living: All Things Christmas”
December 16 Advent 3: A Promise Each of Us Is Invited Into (Luke 3:7-18)
December 23 Advent 4: A Promise That Changes the World (Luke 1:39-55)
First, we will gather for worship on the four Sundays of Advent. The theme for these Sundays will be “The Promises of Advent.” Each week we will hear how God follows through on promises in our life.
Second, we will focus on living intentionally for God during Advent. We will have various themes for each day on how we can be intentional in God’s world.
Third, we will hear God’s Word for Advent. Thursdays, December 6, 13, and 20@ 6:30-7 a.m. or 6-6:30 p.m. we will gather in the Fireside Room morning or evening, and simply listen to God’s word being read. We will hear the whole story of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of Mark.
Thursdays Of Advent
December 6, 13, 20
The public reading of Scripture is one of the most ancient, time-honored practices of God’s people that is recorded in Scripture. For example, the Apostle Paul gave these instructions to his apprentice, Timothy:
“Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13).
We will listen to the Gospel of Mark, bringing refreshment during this hectic season. Using The Bible Experience, the best selling audio Bible, with the voices of performers such as Forest Whitaker, Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, God’s Word will come alive. We offer the same reading at two different times. One in the early morning to start your day. Or time in the evening to be renewed at the end of the day.
The message of the Good News of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is about being clear, not about trying to persuade. The persuading is done freely by the Holy Spirit.
When you drive away from church Sunday morning- Jesus has left the building…
When you make yourself available to the Holy Spirit, he will supernaturally connect you to others in a natural way…All ages…All hands on deck…
Dear LIFEhouse Friends,
Some of my friends and people I love the most are Jewish…You know what happens when someone says something like this…
“O, no, here it comes…”
But, in my case I say this accurately because one of my closest friends is Scott Friedman, a Jew, and I also have daily conversations with a whole cohort of Jewish friends at my gym. Occasionally, we go to lunch and dinner together. As I have taught you, when you eat together you are more than an acquaintance. Then, there is one of my favorite women in the world, my sister-in-law, Shari, and my beloved nephew, Avi, and my amazing niece, Emma…All Jewish.
I mention all of this because I am a human being. I am naturally impacted when slaughter and murder affect those I am connected to one way or another. Just like, it is close to home for me and I pray for God’s mercy for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted and murdered in many parts of the world.
But, right now, we are all thinking one way or another about Jewish people after the recent despicable and malevolent slaughter of the innocent in Pittsburgh. We are grieved and, yes, puzzled, because something like this is so rare in the United States. Rare too, because other than Israel, the most welcoming country in the world for Jewish people to live in is the United States.
But, there are always people who do evil and dastardly things in life, including in our own country, and even more close to home, including in our own lives. In fact, at times, the evidence there is a devil can seem to cast a strong shadow over evidence in a loving God. But, if you are honest and observant, you will see that God always shows up in remarkably powerful ways.
So, what do we do? Well there is no “we.” We are all individuals and each has a story. My story includes being your pastor, your shepherd. I have the joy of being a shepherd of people who value me, people who are precious to me, whom I value. My friends, here are some observations I trust will be helpful.
How are we expected to live together spreading good? We all have moral values. Even when people say they have no moral values, that, in itself, is a moral value. So what are good moral values?
Here is what I know.
Here are my moral values.
I follow Jesus.
Frequently you have heard me give a definition of love from the biblical sense. Love is “to seek the good of another within your range of influence.”
We love something when we are devoted to its good or well-being.
It starts with God. Jesus said to love God with everything we have. That comes first. Then he said to love our neighbor as ourself. When we are obedient to our loving Father it is possible to love our neighbor as ourself.
Who do we love? For Christians, Jesus tells us to love each other. This becomes a model for the rest of the world.
Then he expands this when he says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s brothers and sisters in the faith and others who aren’t followers of Jesus.
More specifically, your neighbors are those you connect with on a regular basis; those closest to you, beginning in your own household.
And, according to Jesus, before you love your neighbors, created in God’s image, you have to love yourself.
This starts with working for the good of another person who is created in God’s image. In other words, you. Working for your own good. Treating yourself with respect. Being responsible for caring for yourself.
To start with loving yourself means defending yourself against others taking inappropriate advantage over you. You are God’s precious sons and daughters, worthy of love and respect, and God is using you to change the world. You sacrifice your needs for the sake of others, but you also must learn to bargain for yourself so that you don’t end up being stepped on. In the long run this will only make you resentful, vengeful and cruel.
You need to determine how to act toward yourself so that you are most likely to become, and to stay, a good person. It is good for you to be good to yourself to make the world a better place. It is good for you to treat yourself like God wants to treat you. As his precious son or daughter.
A major step in becoming one of those who love their neighbors as themselves is to decide to live compassion. This is made possible by loving God first and seeking his Kingdom.
As we are filled with the power of love that comes from the Holy Spirit, we go beyond anything humanly possible.
Jesus tells us we can love those who hate us and he expects that out of us. Work for the good of those who work against us. You see, how different this is, than what is considered the way of the world?
Jesus makes it clear by saying these very things.
“Love your enemy.”
‘Ask God to bring good into the lives of those who persecute you.’
Now the world around us doesn’t necessarily understand what I have just written. For many today, everything is politicized. The way “politicized” works, is those who disagree with you are demonized and the enemy. This is clearly against the teaching of Jesus.
Lord have mercy on those who politicize everything.
The wisdom of Jesus is so much greater than anything anyone else could possibly teach you, especially if it is politicized. There is a vast difference between teaching wisdom and indoctrination. It doesn’t have to be that way and I know you, as my brothers and sisters, are working hard at not being that way.
Lord have mercy on those who seek to indoctrinate rather than seek wisdom.
Another challenge many people have in our society relates to Judaism. Though you know much of the history of the Jewish people from your studies and what I have taught you, many people have no idea what the Jewish people have gone through for about 4000 years. The history of the Jewish people is not well known.
Anti-semitism has always been a way of life for many, as it is today. In fact it is so accepted all over the world that in many places you can openly hate Jews, and you will not be called on it. For some of you, in your own lifetime, people could openly slaughter Jews and not be called on it.
Lord have mercy on those who hate Jews.
Continue to practice loving your neighbor; those who are near. Live out the ways of Jesus by working for the good of others within your range of influence. As you love, start close to home and personal. And pray for God’s continued presence as he expands that love more and more
Lord have mercy on us all,
16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!
With some of the original disciples it starts with doubt. Can you imagine?
They have lived with Jesus 24 hours a day seven days a week for the last three years. They have witnessed everything. The miracles. God speaking directly from a great hole torn out of the atmosphere connecting heaven and earth. They have seen a man die and then three days later, the same man come back to life, leave the tomb, and keep on going.
Now this man, Jesus, is leaving them. He is entering into the heavens to rule the universe. But before he leaves, he is giving them a final word of encouragement.
They see him, and they can’t help but worship him. This is God himself who has come as Jesus. But, then we get this strange phrase.
“…but some of them doubted!”
Now, what is this doubt? Some versions of the Bible translate this “lingering doubts.” Well if this means I don’t know everything about Jesus and God the Father and the Holy Spirit and how they want the world to turn out, then count me in. This means God is different than anything in the created order. Fair enough. I don’t know everything there is to know about God. In fact, I never will. So, what does that mean when it comes to sharing what I do know with others? It means doubt is not a reason to keep silent.
Once I say, “I trust in God” or “Jesus is my Savior,” everything else I say or do afterward is a witness to my trust.
So, it is not a choice as, “Will I share about Jesus with those closest to me?” I am sharing what I think about Jesus by how I am living my life. It is not possible to not be a witness for Jesus once I say, “I believe.” The only remaining question is, what kind of witness am I?