A Change of Plans

December 22, 2019 – While Christmas is big in our families, churches, society and economy, it’s not big in the gospels. Mark and John don’t mention Jesus’ birth. Matthew describes it in 10 words. Only Luke provides us with the details. Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth (1:18-25), focuses on Joseph, in a similar way that Luke’s account focuses on Mary. Both listened to angels who explained what God was doing, and embraced God’s plan changing direction for their life.  Mary and Joseph willingly trusted God’s direction to pursue a we’ve never done this before experience. What will God do in and through our lives, if we follow their example?

Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25

What do you hear and see?

December 15, 2019 – John the Baptist, the one who pointed others to Jesus as the Messiah, was having second thoughts in prison (Matthew 2:2-11). Jesus’ deeds did not match John’s expectations of a Messiah. What if Jesus was not the Messiah? Jesus responded to John’s doubts: focus on what you can hear and see about God’s Kingdom, not on your expectations which you cannot see. God accomplishes Kingdom purposes in ways which confound rationale thought, like sending the Messiah whose childhood would include life as a refugee.

Scripture: Matthew 11:2-11

God’s Dream

December 8, 2019 – God is waiting for us to embrace God’s Dream for a new creation. When we are impatient in facing all the frightening challenges around us, we can remember what God is already doing. God is creating a city full of joy, where there is no infant mortality, seniors live a full dignified life, and everyone in between (working adults) have employment, housing, food and time for leisure (Isaiah 65:17-25). Our job is primarily to rejoice in, and celebrate what God is doing, and then join God in God’s Dream. It’s not about what we are doing—it’s about what God is doing.

Scripture: Isaiah 65:17-25; Matthew 3:1-12

Let’s Sing All the Verses

December 1, 2019 – God is waiting for us to sing all the verses in Isaiah 2:1-5. We are waiting for the frustrating roadblocks of our time, to be removed. When we sing all the verses, we see a path forward through the roadblocks. Some Christians sing vv. 2-3, because the focus is worship, teaching and evangelism. Some Christians sing v. 4, because the focus is international peacemaking. Few congregations sing all the verses! Do we want to be known as a congregation that sings all the verses?

Scripture: Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 24:36-44

Who drinks the cup of cold water?

November 24, 2019 – Jesus’ Parable of the Sheep and Goats (Mt 25:31-46) concludes his teaching ministry in Matthew’s account. Its interpretation hinges on two questions: Who are all the nations? And who are the least of these who are members of my family? The most common interpretation: give generously and compassionately to the poor and oppressed. But a different application emerges when a few basic biblical interpretation principles are applied. Though it is about end times, it speaks to how then we should live today!

Scripture: Matthew 25:31-46

Growth Happens

November 1, 2019 – Jesus explained the Kingdom of God with a parable of seeds growing secretly and automatically (Mark 4:26-29). It is instructive for Mennonite “quiet in the land” syndrome. We are responsible to plant seeds which others will harvest, and harvest grain which others have planted. Our job is not to control or understand growth—that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. If we do our job, the Spirit does her job. But the Spirit can’t do her job if we don’t plant. Our words and actions become guaranteed to grow Kingdom seeds, when they emerge out of our centeredness in Jesus.

Scripture: Mark 4:26-29

Jesus’ Concrete Plan

November 10, 2019 – Luke 10:1-24 reveals Jesus’ plan for assembling his Church. Jesus’ concrete plan had three essential components then, and those components have not changed: lots of ordinary people, a strategic plan, and Holy Spirit power. Concrete will be an analogy: it requires gravel (ordinary people), cement (strategic plan), and water (Spirit). Any two out of three are worthless, in making concrete or being Jesus’ church.

Scripture: Luke 10:1-24

The Operating System for Jesus’ Church

November 3, 2019 – Spiritual gifts are the operating system for Jesus’ church! They function behind the scenes, enabling all programs to function well. Paul summarizes his teaching on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:7 The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others. When we serve in the area of our passion, using Spirit-given gifts, we serve without burning out. Jesus refers to this concept in Matthew 11:28-30: When we take on his yoke (our unique calling), the Kingdom work is not heavy.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:1, 4-11, 24b-31