Advent Week 1
Advent is a season of great hope and in days like ours, we need hope. All of us, no matter our background, circumstances, beliefs, long for something to give us rest in our souls and lead us to rejoice in our hearts, because all of us experience what this passage describes as gloom. Often we look at our lives or we look at this world and we ask, “Can anyone lead us out of this mess?!” The good news of advent is “Yes. Jesus, our Wonderful Counselor”.
Recent headlines tell us that new AI technology will soon be creating distortions and copies of reality that we won’t be able to distinguish from the real thing. When it comes to our Christian faith, there have been distortions of reality, attempts to twist and mimic the real thing for centuries. In a new age of deep fakes, how can you and I know the real Jesus? This passage about the people of Berea is one that Christians have long looked to as an example for knowing the truth.
In 1979, Bob Dylan wrote a song with a chorus saying “You’re gonna serve somebody, it might be the devil or it might be the Lord, but you’re gonna serve somebody”. I think he’s right. I think the Bible says Bob Dylan’s right. All of us serve something or someone. This passage will press us to look into our hearts and reflect on what or whom we serve. What King do you serve, because we’re all gonna serve somebody.
One of the biggest problems Christians have is with our memory. Many of us have stories of how Jesus has changed our lives, but for some reason we can so easily forget this happened. In this amazing story from Acts 16, God is going to jog our memory and open our vision to the reality that leads us to worship week after week: Jesus is alive, and Jesus changes lives in any place and at any time, even when we least expect it.
Decision making can be excruciating. For Christians, we often will add to the process the good, but often debilitating question, “What’s God’s will for my life?” How can you and I live with any confidence in our decisions? Even more, how can we live with courage? Not just getting by, but living with purpose and boldness and strength? From these three short stories, we’ll see that the secret lies in not trusting our choices and plans, but trusting in God’s.
In the first half of Acts 15, the major issue was a theological question: “What is required for salvation?” The Church leaders in Jerusalem agreed that all people are saved by grace through faith. The issue that we see in the second part of this chapter centers more on how the Christian life is lived out in a culturally dititle world. With our new identity in Jesus comes a new way of living that seeks to establish and grow God’s Kingdom across all cultures.
The truth and meaning of the entire gospel of Jesus Christ depends on how one responds to the central claim in this passage; the answer to the question: “What makes me right with God?” The gospel is that you and I are made right with God by Jesus’ righteousness, his alone, and it’s a gift given to anyone who will accept, free of charge.
Life is filled with difficult circumstances that can negatively our faith. The Bible occasionally talks about people abandoning their faith as though they’ve shipwrecked their faith. And this raises the question of how can we stay strong and hold to our faith in the midst of hardships? From Acts 14, we’ll see there’s great hope and encouragement for us, and at the center of it is a strength we all want and need: God’s strength.
There are many successful people who work hard, achieve nearly all they want, but in the end wind up feeling empty and unfulfilled. What is it in life that actually satisfies us? What will give us the REST that we all long for: the peace, the joy, the fulfillment? From this passage, we’ll see that the answer has to do with one key issue: worship. What we worship determines whether or not we find the rest we long for.
One of the realities of being human is that everyone believes something to make sense of the world and their life in it. Most people don’t have too hard a time explaining what they believe. However, many people do have a hard time answering because they don’t know why. That missing “why” is one of the worst in the world. The good news this week is that God wants to replace that angst and apathy with joy and courage by calling us to live an honest life in the gospel.