God's dealings with humanity have always been colored by grace. Way back in Old Testament times, Abraham was a selfish, manipulative coward who brought destruction to all kinds of people that he came into contact with. Yet God's plan to bless Abraham, and even to bless the entire world through Abraham, wouldn't be foiled by Abraham's sin. Because grace. Because that's who God has always been.
The way Jesus spreads His message of hope is through His people. In Luke 10, He empowers 72 followers to be just like Him, with spiritual authority, words directly from God, and a commission. If our goal is to see His gospel of hope spread around us today, all we have to do is embody hope where He's sent us.
The arrival of the kingdom of Jesus is good news for outsiders, outcasts, weirdos, and the truly hopeless. It's good news for the poor, people who cry themselves to sleep, and those who don't have enough to eat. It’s for widows and the infertile and gender and sexual minorities. Jesus is hope for the hopeless, for real.
Is there anything we can do when we find ourselves in need of substantive change? What if we find ourselves at the point of saying, "I need a whole new me."? That's the depth of change Jesus shows us to expect from Him in this week's text, Luke 8:26-39.
This year is going to be a year of hope at Redemption Church. That's because we're in such desperate need of hope. But it's also because Jesus is all about hope. If we are going to spend time with Jesus, we're inevitably going to come away with hope. He is hope. He brings hope. He's the cause and the source of hope. So, as Christians, let's hope.
Hurricane Harvey caused massive destruction in Houston this week. Some of that destruction was physical and obvious. But some of that destruction was spiritual and emotional. As a church, we have organized significant efforts so far to help our neighbors start to put their homes back in order.
The great exchange is that Jesus became sin so that we might become God's righteousness. God has reconciled us to Himself, so that we're no longer alienated from Him and no longer at odds with Him. In Jesus, God is turning us into His righteousness, His justice, His means of right-side-upping the world around us. Now that we've been reconciled to Him, our job is to be reconcilers on behalf of everyone around us.
When so much of the world seems to co-opt the message of Jesus for their own mutually exclusive purposes, some of which are blatantly violent and evil, how do we know what His message really is? One way is to pay close attention to what the New Testament, written by those who were closest to Jesus, actually says.
When you realize you're not yet the person you want to be, don't give up hope. Coming into the presence of God, by beholding His glory, is what the Holy Spirit can use to transform you. And transform us He will, by glory, into glory, until we're like Jesus.
Even when life doesn't go as planned, there's a way to end up with an overwhelming sense of purpose and thankfulness. That's what Paul discovered as his life and being became so merged with Christ's that he became the aroma of Christ everywhere he went.
Our God is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. His great desire is for you to see His grace, His warmth, His affection for you. Regardless of who you are or what your story is, He can be your merciful Father, even in this moment. Whatever you're going through, He can directly comfort you right now. Come to Him.
Jesus expected that His followers would fast when He would no longer be physically present with them. We live in a tension of already/not yet: Jesus has come, but we desperately need Him to come back. God's kingdom has broken into this world, but it hasn't yet come in its fullness. We need help to cling to this kind of honest hope, which is why fasting is particularly helpful.
Have you ever wondered why we can have such different experiences with food depending on how it’s enjoyed? We can scarf down a meal in our car to feed our bodies, or we can enjoy a long meal with good friends and feel our hearts and souls fed as well.
God's chosen people got to live in His presence, build Him a house, and walk in His provision. But instead of living His way, they repeatedly turned aside, over and over and over, for almost a thousand years--so He eventually gave them over to complete separation from Him. He left the temple; they left His land; and everything became as shattered on the outside as it already had been on the inside. This is the exile.
Once upon a time, God's people built Him a magnificent temple. Then they asked Him to be present in it, hearing the prayers and looking upon the sacrifices that they'd make in that place. And God agreed. His presence came in brilliant glory, and when His fire and smoke filled the new temple, the people fell on their faces in awe.
God made all of us to know him and join in doing his work in the world. If we lose our faith or our works, we quickly go off the rails. The book of Judges shows a clear and frightening picture of just how bad this cycle can get, and serves as a warning to fight for loving God and loving people every day.
What grace! Our God holds up the story of a heathen prostitute, from a book about ethnic cleansing, as an example for us all today—because regardless of who you are, you are worthy of love. Jesus is ready meet with you by faith. Let's go outside whatever fence is keeping us from Him and draw near to Him to find mercy and grace. He is ready for you.
Jesus is the new temple. If we don't know Him - if we don't come into God's presence in and through Him - then everything else we do is a waste of time. So we pray. We pray urgently like we need Him. We pray like the people all around us need Him. And we pray with the expectancy that He really does heal and transform.
The gospel we preach, believe, and stake our lives on must imply racial reconciliation—if it didn't, it would be no gospel at all. God's grand plan to fix the world wouldn't really fix the world if it doesn't address justice and race. Thus, our gospel is not God's gospel if our gospel is indifferent to these things.
The "Son of Man" was Jesus' favorite way to refer to Himself. Why was that? Because the prophet Daniel had a vision of a Son of Man coming on the clouds to the presence of God and receiving authority over the whole world, an authority that would last forever and ever.
The prophet Jeremiah announced a new covenant that God would make with His people, promising to transform them from the inside out. This New Covenant that Jesus inaugurated is what empowers real, beautiful love.
The Jewish expectation of the Messiah was one of a conquering ruler who would "fill the streets with corpses." So why did Jesus claim these dark songs written a thousand years before He lived for Himself?
After being crucified and resurrected, Jesus continued teaching His followers about His coming empire. He told them to wait for it, wait for it. And then it happened. The Holy Spirit came. God's power was made available to Jesus' followers just like it had been to Jesus. And all of this was because Jesus has been enthroned at God's right hand.
He will come again in glory. Until then, we wait, and we testify to the reality of His empire.
Jesus compares His empire to a field with weeds in it, a tiny seed, and leaven that's being mixed with an industrial sized helping of flour. These statements may sound random to us at first, yet there's meaning hidden in them that could change our lives and our world. Let's listen up.
In Jesus' empire the patterns and ethics of our world are overturned, freeing women to be what God intended in the first place. In fact, women are adopted by God the Father, becoming siblings of Jesus and co-rulers with Him over all of creation for the rest of time. Jesus is the great liberator of women, and at Redemption our goal is to participate in that.
God’s Kingdom is not just a fiercer version of worldly empires. It's an empire of grace, as different from the empires of this world as love is from hate and light is from darkness. It's mercy and love. It's a rejection of merciless power, a rejection of the authority that comes by brandishing fear.
Jesus came to announce the arrival of the empire of heaven. The law of this empire is the law of grace, a law that reflects both the will and character of our Most High God. This empire is coming and will never ever end. So as other-worldly and counter-cultural as it may seem, we can begin to live as citizens of this empire even now. Seek His empire, even when it's at odds with the norms and wisdom of the world around you.
The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. This truth can compel us to change the world, and it can comfort our hearts when we're swallowed by despair. This truth fuses our spiritual lives with our everyday lives, our inner worlds with the world around us, and it reminds us of our place in God's grand plan to redeem the world. Praise God with everything you've got—the darkness is dying!
God says He's making all things new. This is how He always works. It's what He started through the resurrection of Jesus, and it's what we look forward to Him completing, for us and all of creation around us.
On the day of his resurrection, Jesus breathed on his followers, giving them the Holy Spirit and commissioning them as his agents of forgiveness in the world. In doing so, he repeated God's initial act of breathing life into a lump of dust to make the first humans—yes, in doing so, Jesus kicked off the new creation. Our Creator is now re-creating the entirety of creation. He's brought forgiveness, and now He's bringing new life, restoring us and forming us into the highest pinnacle of his intention for humanity. Easter is good news indeed!
Ruth is such a great real life example of relentless grace that she can help us understand Jesus better. Jesus Himself is the embodiment of God's relentless grace in the world. Sometimes we forget or miss or complicate that His grace is ready, will spread contagiously, and will eventually restore the entire world. Ruth reminds us, corrects us, and encourages us.
A young refugee woman brought redemption to her grieving, widowed, son-less mother in law. And she did it by relentlessly embodying the grace that's at the center of who God is. Ruth, the Moabite, relentlessly loved Naomi. She refused to let her go. And then she challenged Boaz to step up into the same relentless grace, twice. Her assertiveness made Boaz a better man. And it turned Naomi's whole life around. Maybe it shouldn't surprise us we have a book of the Bible named after her.
How could a young, widowed, destitute foreigner who found herself in a strange man's bed in the middle of the night be the Bible's example to us of God's relentless grace? That's what the Book of Ruth is all about. Ruth was an outsider's outsider. Yet she was strong, smart, capable, and utterly courageous. Her insistence and assertiveness brought redemption to her family and eventually the world.
Every once in a while we meet the kind of people who, even in the midst of great suffering, are able to maintain deep and unrelenting faith. These people often become heroes to many who encounter them, as their faith far outstrips the ho-hum optimism so often mistaken for faith. Paul was one such hero, and in 2 Corinthians 12 he talks about his own suffering.
Understanding God's plan and God's family can radically transform our view of singleness. Instead of it being a time for adventure (fun! 20-something! and single!) or isolation (aren't you ever going to get married?), what if our singleness was a time for complete devotion to building our spiritual family?
Paul is joining in the work of Jesus, filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions, and carrying both the life and death of Jesus in his own body everywhere he goes. And beyond Paul's claim that he can help Jesus with His work, he goes on to show throughout the rest of Colossians that we can too.
So many of us think and feel like we're anything but necessary. But what if that's based on a lie? What if God has empowered us by His Spirit to play an indispensable role in His church? This is, in fact, what we see in the New Testament. We see that every member of the body of Christ is vital, because each and every one of us has a God-given gift that the body needs.
The church is God's new humanity, His society of the future that's broken into the present by the decisive work of the Holy Spirit. And the church is where, even in the midst of all our brokenness and longing, we can already enjoy mutual affection and love, where we can live in the unity and harmony Christ came to give us. So let's do it.
The kind of church God is building includes people from every family on earth—every tribe, every nation, every people group, every language, every race, every socioeconomic status, every class, every political persuasion, and everything else. Yet in preaching a gospel that could include all these kinds of people the early church faced enormous opposition and even physical violence.
Jesus stepped down into the world and laid down His life for the church--to form a community of people united together in Him. The church is at the very heart of the gospel. It is God's plan for the world, and there is no Plan B. We can see how beautiful and powerful this is when we start living like we need each other.
The church is beautiful to Jesus in part because it's the place of reconciliation. We all have peace and unity with each other because of the blood of Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile, white or any shade of brown, or anything else. This week we saw that this is theologically true, and we also saw how this played out in real life for the earliest church.
The church is so valuable to Jesus that He gave Himself up for it. He feeds it. He cares for it. He's transforming it into His radiant bride by removing all impurities and cleaning her up. And He even designed marriage from the beginning to reflect the relationship He'd eventually have with it.
We're just like the Pharisees and scribes, who are desperate to feel some control over their lives. They got lost in the HOW God is working, and forgot the WHY. We will do the same unless we fight to stay focused on Jesus and the kingdom he's bringing here.
The Bible is not a set of rules or a list of heroes for us to emulate. It is most of all a story--the truest of all stories. It's the story of God coming to dwell in the midst of His people. Praise God that He has made good on His promises in Jesus. We can have profound hope and expectation for this world because God is here with us.
The full divinity of Jesus empowers miraculous transformation for us. Because of who Jesus is, what He has done is more than symbolic--it's truly powerful. He has overcome our alienation from God and is now filling us with all the fullness of God, including His presence, His power, and His transformation.
Humanity has an enormous responsibility, to fill the earth with justice and to seek widespread flourishing for all humans and all creatures around us. We've failed in this responsibility, and spectacularly so. Yet, because Jesus became human there is hope. He has done, as a human, what the rest of humanity was intended to do. And in His success, He's now empowering us to follow in His steps, doing just like He has done.
All Christians believe Jesus was a fully divine being who became human--that's what Christmas is all about. But how important is this? Is Christmas as important as Easter? The earliest followers of Jesus seemed to think this was the central fact in the entire history of the world. This week we turned to Jesus' best friend John to help tell us why.
If the gospel of Jesus Christ doesn't offer us hope for our sexuality, then it's no good news at all. Jesus offers us freedom from our enslaving desires for physical pleasure. He does so by offering us pleasures beyond our wildest dreams.
Jesus offers a radical freedom from our fear and our selfishness--but for us to embrace it means seeking His kingdom and not our own. It means viewing all things, whether our pedigrees, our bank accounts, or our souls, as on loan from God.
Sex and money hold such power over us that many of us would change our theology if doing so meant we could keep our sex and money safe. Let's not do that. Instead, let's cling to the life we have in Jesus. In Peter's words, let's continue partaking of the divine nature.
If we're going to survive the next 40+ years with our confidence in God's goodness towards us in tact, we need our church to be a community of faith. We need a place that's full of mercy for doubters, a place where we can rely on each other when we're wavering in the faith that's so vital for us.
When you have to decide whether to trust God or yourself, who do you choose? And why? If God is really good and really for us--and if He really knows more than we do--then who we should choose is clear. If only that were the choice we always made!
How can we have faith, even in the midst of our doubt? Fear and anxiety can dominate us and keep us from trusting in God. But we can know God's unshakeable love for us in Jesus, even in our most chaotic of circumstances.
We were made to be like God. God works, so we work. But God also rests--so we rest.
Unfortunately, resting isn't quite so simple anymore because even our rest isn't really rest. Our work is sometimes so long that we don't have time to rest, or it's so intense that no amount of rest seems to suffice. And then when we do rest, sometimes it doesn't feel very restful. So what can we do?
What we hope in is what we live for. Our Christian hope transforms and fuels our work in the here and now. As frustrating and exhausting as our work can be, we don't give up. We give ourselves for the good of this world because we have a God of resurrection. Our work here is not in vain.
We may be as helpless as could be, as guilty as could be, and as complicit with worldwide evil schemes as could be, but God is filthy rich when it comes to grace and mercy. So He's in the process of recreating us in the image of His Son, recreating us so that we can once again joyfully partner with Him in bringing order out of chaos. Wherever you are in your work life this week, this gospel message can help you.
How should we think about our work lives in light of the gospel of Jesus? Step one was to realize that we're made in the image of a God who joyfully works to bring order out of chaos. This week, for step two, we were challenged to stop saying "Not my problem!"
This week when you're questioning what God wants you to do with your life, remember you were made in His image. You were made to represent Him and to imitate Him. And you can do that by joyfully bringing order out of chaos, just like He does.
Racial reconciliation is a key component of God's grand plan to fix the world. So this week, as a first step towards enabling that reconciliation, we listened. We listened to six people share about their personal experiences with race and injustice.
Our willingness to suffer is in direct proportion to our victory over sin because resisting sin is likely going to hurt. It hurts as we deny ourselves the things we want, and it may hurt further if the people around us decide our self-denial is worth ridiculing.
The ethic of God's kingdom is an ethic of peace, self-sacrifice, and love. It's the ethic of the cross. And it's the ethic that informs our marriages, even when they're bad ones, the way we share hope with others, and everything else we do.
We are healed by Jesus' wounds. So if He's our hero, not just the one who saves us but also our paradigm of perfection, we've committed ourselves to living like He did, serving others even when they wound us, and using our wounds as a source of healing for them.
When we've tasted Jesus' kindness, we begin to crave it. And as we crave it, we begin to grow up, being built together with other Christians as a house for God's own Spirit. That's because together we are God's prized possession. We are God's wanderers.
When they came across a naked man beaten half to death on the side of the road, two religious leaders didn't stop. But a racial outcast did. Why? Because he had compassion, which along with paying attention, is a key component of true love.
It's one thing to know who a celebrity is—"Isn't JJ Watt amazing?". It's another to have met the celebrity—"It's JJ! I know him!" And it's yet another for the celebrity to know us—"Hey, Zack! It's great to see you again!"
That's what is on offer from God. He wants to know us. He wants to recognize us from across the room. He's as excited about us as we've ever been about anyone. And I'm not sure there's any better news.
No one wants to be alone. We want to be healed from the gnawing, aching loneliness inside of us. That's why we rejoice that Jesus and His Father sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us forever. It's in Him that we find the connection we long for.
Passion and zeal where our hearts are on fire for Jesus may sound like they're reserved for super Christians, but what if they're expected to be normal for all of us? What would it look like for you to love Jesus with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your everything?
When Jesus, who is the radiance of the glory of God, became human, He prayed with loud cries and tears to be saved from death. And His prayer was answered. What if yours could be too? Resurrection for all!
The past few sermons have emphasized the power of prayer in Jesus' name. But what about the fact that there are all sorts of things we pray for that don't come true? What do we say to that? Does God want us to suffer?
Jesus expected His followers to be able to do greater things than He did—just because He was going away to His Father. And in the same breath, He promises that if we ask anything in His name we'll receive it. Do you believe believe all that?
We all want to be free. But what if true freedom is found only in giving up our rights for the sake of others? What if the truly free life is actually found in being everyone's slave? How can we possibly see Jesus' call to self-sacrificial love like this?
No one wants to feel insignificant, small, or unnoticed. But what if our inclination to greatness is the very thing that's robbing us of it? What if the way to true significance is through insignificance?
One of the most convincing reasons to devote your life to Jesus is that His kingdom is the only place you'll find true, deep, lasting change. Whatever kind of change you need to make in life, the power to do it is found in Christ.
God is the precondition for our living, our moving, and our very existence. So the first step in recovering our identity and purpose, whenever we may have lost it, is to be reconnected to Him. He alone is an endless well of living water, and He alone can quench our deepest thirst.
When we realize that Jesus is right—right logically, right experientially, and right implicationally—we’ll joyfully abandon all other things for the sake of His kingdom. Would you pray with us that we’d all realize Jesus is right?
Everyone everywhere has always seen that the world's not like it should be. In other words, everyone everywhere has always seen that the world lacks God's peace, His shalom. But when Jesus was born, the angels announced that shalom had arrived. What on earth?