At first glance, the beginning of Matthew is a long and dry recounting of many generations of Israelites. However, like the rest of Matthew's gospel, the treasure lies beneath the surface. In this list of names we find an invitation into the story of God and a clear reminder that, regardless of who we are, we are all invited.
Shadows are always an indicator of something. The Old Testament created a series of shadows that foretold the coming of Jesus and who He would be. The Christmas season is also full of shadows—and these shadows can bring great joy as long as we stay focused on the reality to which the shadows point.
Learning the discipline of gratitude is not only an act of worship, but it is formative in our spiritual lives. When we fail to practice gratitude, we develop undue attachments and chase after desires that are never fulfilled. However, when we practice gratitude, we are able to say that we are content in all circumstances because we recognize the blessing and grace of Jesus in our lives.
Teaching, practice and community are vital to our spiritual formation. However, if all we do is engage those three things in our strength, we still wouldn't become like Jesus. The power of the Holy Spirit is the fuel for our transformation. The way He works in "the moment" is important, but it's even more important to see how He works “in the moment after the moment."
Teaching, practice and community are vital to our spiritual formation. However, if all we do is engage those three things in our strength, we still wouldn't become like Jesus. The power of the Holy Spirit is the fuel for our transformation. He works in us both in crisis and progressive experiences, working in us individually and as a part of the body of Christ.
Community is a vital aspect of our spiritual growth. We need to learn to celebrate one another, care for one another, and even challenge one another in healthy ways. While structures and programming can create a venue for gospel community, authentic community must be pursued and developed with intentionality.
Our spiritual lives are often marked by the “starts and stops” of trying harder, of intermittently succeeding and failing, and then of giving up… until we are convicted and the process starts all over again. However, engaging the practices of Jesus with effort and intentionality develops our spiritual muscle so that we can do what Jesus did.
The Word is the only real foundation for our spiritual formation. Through the reading and teaching of the Word, we encounter Jesus, the glorious image of the Father, and have the opportunity to be transformed into His image.
We need to engage spiritual formation with intentionality because we are being formed unintentionally, whether we have chosen to be or not. Choosing intentional spiritual formation is at the heart of the call to repentance—it's not a one-time event, but an ongoing ethic.
The startling declaration of Jesus to His disciples is that they/we would do even greater things than He did. The death of Jesus is a sacrifice for our sin and a gateway to the Father. The life of Jesus is a model for what it means to live as One led and controlled by the power of the Holy Spirit. As we recognize the power for Jesus' life, we are called to respond to His invitation into that same kind of life.
Is change truly possible? The expectation for the apprentice of Jesus is that we would become like our Master. This doesn't happen solely through our own effort, but it does require our effort. As we engage the training of Jesus through teaching, practice and community, the Holy Spirit transforms us to be like Him.
If we are to be apprentices of the Way of Jesus, our first step is simply to be with Him. This was the invitation given to the earliest disciples, and it's our invitation as well. We are called to constantly live in two places at once—where we are physically and also in the presence of Jesus. It's His presence that changes us. Too often we jump to the actions of the apprentice without first spending time with the Master.
Jesus' invitation to His first disciples is the same invitation given to us today: follow Him and become His apprentices. We are invited to be with Him, to become like Him, and to ultimately do what He did. The intentional choice is foundational for us to follow the Way because His way is the only pathway to the fullness of life.
The Importance of a Name: There are many instances in the Old Testament when God named people… but then He changed the name! While there are many choices of names, it matters what name is given to each of us.
Two Great Names:“Immanuel” and “Jesus” are names given to the Son of God and are vital in giving us understanding that God being with us paves the way for God saving us.
The Secret Name: In Revelation, we discover that God has a name for us that only He knows. This God-given name is promised to those who overcome and endure to the end.
Following Jesus isn’t simply an addition to a busy life or a way of thinking or believing. Rather, it’s a recognition of my sin and need of grace along with an acknowledgement that the source of that grace is the source of life itself. We are each called to step into that life.
There are many things that are uncertain and unknowable within the spiritual realm, leading us to live by faith. However, in the midst of a faith-based life, there are key things of which we can be certain. Learning to rest in the certainty of life with Jesus compels us to draw near to Him and, thereby, to become more like Him.
God Himself testifies to the reality of Jesus and His love for us. He has provided us a variety of witnesses to the truth of the Gospel. If we build our lives on the truth of the Word of God and sacrifice of Jesus, we build on a solid foundation.
On our journey towards Jesus, certain habits or practices accelerate our progress. For two thousand years, disciples have followed spiritual disciplines practiced by our earliest leaders and other great men of God. In today's message, we look at those "holy habits."
When we have truly received the love of God, we are changed by Him. As we are with Him, we find ourselves loving what He loves, living like He lived, and doing the things He did in the world around us. Just as Jesus has overcome the world, we also can overcome as we become more like Him.
Love is the ultimate test of our faith. True love is always more concerned with other than with self, and the only way that we can love selflessly is when we have been loved selflessly. When we receive the love of Jesus, we boldly love others in that same way.