The promise of the desert is that, when Jesus calls us there, we will stop relating to Him simply in religious terms but as our loving Father and Husband. The empty grave means that we no longer need to approach God on the basis of religion, but we can always approach Him on the basis of His finished work.
While in the desert, success and affirmation can easily detract us from the heart of God that He develops in us. However, by regularly retreating to His presence, we are able to come back to the core calling of our lives.
Temptation is rarely about the sin itself, but rather, about the heart that is ready to engage that sin. Jesus, after having His identity affirmed by the Father, has that identity challenged. Through the temptations to be relevant, popular, and powerful, Jesus affirms that He is indeed who God says that He is.
We live in a world where our identity is determined by what we've accomplished. Jesus's model is the opposite: His declaration of love for us happens prior to anything we do and is never based on our performance. Rather, who we are is based solely on who He's made us to be.
It's only when we are emptied of ourselves that we can be filled with the Spirit of God. As long as we have the option of trusting in our own strength, most of us will. While we long for God to meet us in the dramatic and the miraculous, the majority of the Christian life is lived in the midst of the ordinary.
There are times in our lives when we feel like we're completely lost. Sometimes it can even seem like God Himself is lost. However, there are times that He leads us the long way around on purpose because His detours are always formational. As we journey in the desert, God is shaping us into His people and is preparing us for the portions of the journey that still lie ahead.
During the times that God calls us into the desert, we discover that these journeys have several commonalities: God is the Author of them, we don't know the destination ahead of time, and part of the goal is our blessing and the subsequent blessing of the world. The journey into the desert is a call to trust Him.
The Christian life can often seem like a long list of rules and expectations. However, Jesus never called us to change our behavior through our own effort. Instead, He's called us to remain in His presence and then promised that our lives would bear fruit.
All followers of Jesus are sent into the world just as the Father sent Jesus into the world. The story that they are living out is characterized by joy because the resurrection of Jesus has assured them of eternal life available for all who will surrender to Jesus. They also rejoice because the Holy Spirit empowers them to accomplish the mission no matter the difficulties or complications they will encounter.
The deep desire in the heart of God is to see men and women reconciled to Him. We have been invited into His plan as the vehicles through which the message of Jesus is spoken, both through our words and our lives.
The Word of God shows us the perfection of God and the best way to live as well as how far short we fall of that perfection. That same Word also reveals the cure for our sin and becomes the way that we grow more like Jesus.
We are created to worship. However, much of the fallen world stands in the way of that worship, and it's only through Jesus that we can truly engage the eternal. Worship orients our lives back to what is true.
Among everything that God created, people are His most prized possession. When we affirm the value of one another, we align our hearts with the heart of God. Real connection to one another is an indispensable part of showing and receiving that value.
Our call as a people is simple, but not always easy. We are called to follow God. We must remain with the cloud, not ahead of it, or behind it. When we are moving with the move of God, we will see incredible things happen.
Simeon's song is a gift to us because it's the clear reminder that salvation is for all. His song is both an invitation and a proclamation.
The angel's famous words are unmistakable: It's really happened! God has come among us! Where the presence of the Savior is, there is an invitation into worship and peace.
Zechariah's song is a vivid reminder that God has sent Jesus among us, that He comes to save us, and that we, like John the Baptist, are called to prepare the way of the Lord in our own lives and within the world around us.
Mary "sings" the praise of our God, who is both merciful and mighty. In her song, we find a framework to understand the work of God, observe the power of God, and receive the grace of God. It is only in that receiving that we can truly offer grace to others.
Elizabeth's song, like each of the poems recorded by Luke prior to the birth of Jesus, is full of joy and hope. The fulfilled promise of the Messiah gives us joy in the present and hope for the future.
Even great revival will ultimately give way to compromise when God becomes a secondary aspect in our lives. Nehemiah provides us with a model for dealing with compromise in our lives, but his ultimate prayer provides a call for true revival—a revival of our hearts.