- The First
- The Second
- The Six
- One Another
- We have a Savior.
- We have the Spirit.
- We have the Scriptures.
- We have the Saints.
- John claims he has “great joy” because some of us have learned how to walk in the truth.
- What is the truth the Church is walking in that so overwhelms John with joy?
Truth appears at various levels for Christians
- The literal understanding of what is true and what is false, as these truths have been woven into creation.
- Maturity introduces you to a deeper and more complex understanding of truth. The more you learn, the more you respect the truth that is enveloped in mystery.
We believe truth is finally and ultimately found in a person. And that person is Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life.
- The true leaders of the society and the Church have always found truth in mystery.
- Our society, and sometimes even the Church, didn’t naturally create the visions of these men and women.
- Great leaders have left that false security to plunge their lives beneath anxieties, uncertainties, and risk in order to explore the mysteries of life in hopes of discovering a true dream for how we could live.
- If the Truth doesn't make you loving, it is not God’s truth.
- To live in Christ is to discover the greatest truth of all – God is in love with all of His creation. And like all love, it isn’t done.
- Christians are always trying to hold together truth and love, passion and conviction. And that is a challenge!
- The only way that we can hold together truth and love, conviction and compassion, is by walking with Jesus every day.
- We pray about these things we need, but our belief that God will provide is mixed with unbelief.
- So, being smart, careful people, we have learned the importance of having a back-up plan.
Significant differences between God and Baal
Baal wasn't transcendent.
Baal made no demands of worshipers.
Baal did not require fidelity.
- Baal is alive and well today and remains in a corner of our hearts – just in case.
- Elijah has exposed our implied polytheism that we must silently confront.
- Why does God call us to Mt. Carmel to confront the two altars in our lives? Because God loves us and hates to see us limp along without real, gutsy, vital faith.
- You can bleed for an idol, but there will not be any salvation from a god you have made for yourself.
- When your favorite Baal fails to pull through for you, it isn't because God is angry. Sometimes Baal has to let you down before you can see that he is not God.
- God doesn't want to judge you but simply wants to get your heart back.
- The first apostles didn't want a god they could drag about like Baal. They had the Holy Fire in their hearts.
- If we are ready for passion in our faith, we don’t have to look up to the sky for a miracle. Now we have only to look deeper into our own hearts. The fire is kindled. The Spirit can make it burn bright.
- Ideas and beliefs are extremely important.
- What you believe determines who you will be and what you will do with your life.
- You want to make sure that what you believe is the truth.
- Our faith in God isn't something we have conjured up in our own hearts. It has come through the faith of those who have gone before us.
- To call yourself Christian is to claim that you have inherited a set of entirely life-transforming ideas.
- Doesn't it make sense to believe in a faith that has guided people through persecutions, plagues and wars, loss and heartache, and everything you could possibly face in life? It is waiting for you. It is your inheritance. But like all inheritances, it has to be received.
- We will all lose a lot of things we love along the way in life. If that is all we believe, then our lives will be a continual experience of despair. But if we lean on the great 2,000-year-old faith of the church, then life will be a continual experience of the salvation of Jesus Christ --- Very God of Very God. It is your choice.
- God is at work in big ways and in small ones. Of course it is harder to see the small miracles.
- The real miracle is that Jesus had compassion on the crowds.
- We have lots of reasons to be wary of the crowds.
compassion = to suffer alongside
Henri Nouwen, the late theologian of spirituality, died while he was serving in a home for disabled adults in Toronto. Many of Nouwen’s earlier writings depicted a relentless searching. A search that he tried to satisfy by becoming ordained in the Catholic Church as a priest, by getting a PhD., by serving as a seminary professor at Yale, by leaving seminary and becoming a monk at a monastery in Geneses, and later by serving as a missionary in South America. Through many of these experiences, he wrote profound books depicting what he was learning about the spiritual life. But if he did find what he was looking for, it came to him through this little crowd of mentally handicapped adults in Toronto.Nouwen would spend the first two hours of every day caring for a man named Adam, who had severe Picture: Henri Nouwen’s disabilities and couldn't speak. Nouwen would wake him, get him washed and dressed, and take him to breakfast where Nouwen would eat beside Adam. Then he would bring him to the place where he would spend his day. At first Nouwen was afraid of this assignment, thinking it would be overwhelming. But before long he began to look forward to the assignment as he always received a glimpse of the love of Jesus in the eyes of Adam. He would write about these experiences in his last book, Adam, God’s Beloved.
- Jesus cares about the large crowd and the small crowd, and He has a miracle for all of them --- even the small, demanding crowd of need that you carry in your heart. Jesus cares.
- It isn't our job to perform miracles. That is the Savior’s work. Our job is to follow Christ Jesus into any crowd that He leads us.
- God has compassion on you and on the little crowd He has led you to serve. When you believe that, you are finally able to engage in authentic acts of compassion yourself.
- We engage in acts of compassion to the small crowd because we believe a Savior is in our midst, and the Savior isn't nearly done providing the most miraculous gifts. There is even a miracle for the anxious crowd within our own hearts.
People would ask Nouwen if this was the best way to be making an impact for a man of his academic training and whose writings were read by hundreds of thousands. It was, after all, such a small crowd --- a searching scholar and a disabled man who couldn't speak. But Nouwen would always explain that he didn't spend time with Adam to perform miracles. He did it because Jesus led him there. And he did it because it was wonderful to be in a place where people’s handicaps were obvious, and he could deal with his own hidden handicaps. He did it for the compassion he received as much as for the compassion he gave. And he did it because he had finally found joy.
- There are already people around us --- in our small crowds --- who have hidden disabilities. This is our small crowd. The Gospel is crystal clear that Jesus is moved with compassion for them. And as we enter His compassion for this small crowd, we too will find the miracle of joy.
- It is along the way, through so many seemingly ordinary choices, that you decide what kind of person you will be.
- Paul is telling us to let gentleness be our life’s legacy.
- For Paul, gentleness has nothing to do with weakness. In fact, he would claim that only the strong can afford to be gentle.
- To be gentle means that we are always watching for the strength of Christ to be revealed.
- The strong believe the Lord is near, as near as their hearts, and nothing can defeat His power. This means the gentle are actually bigger on the inside than on the outside.
- Jesus Christ was so often in conflict but never in an argument. He would simply state the truth and then back away from it. He seldom used a second paragraph. It is the second paragraph that gets us into trouble.
- The gentle simply state the truth and then step back to allow the truth to do the convincing, believing that the truth doesn't need to be defended. It is the truth – and that will always persevere.
- The peace of God will guard the heart and mind of the gentle. What this means is that if you invite Christ into your life, He brings His sentry, called Peace, who guards your heart and your mind.
- No one ever gets to stay at Christmas.
- The point of holidays or holy days is to help us live more faithfully in the ordinary days, which is mostly what we have.
- Most of life is not spent in the dark valleys of crises or in the mountaintops of ecstasy. Most of it is spent in the flat plains of ordinary.
- When we are just riding out a long blank space in life, we become bored, easily distracted, or tempted to create something extraordinary on our own. That usually leads to problems. So we are most in need of divine help when we are handling the ordinary.
- Real glory isn't the beautiful lights, music, and glad reunions of Christmas. Real glory is seeing God with you in the ordinary, gray, blank days that follow Christmas.
- Did your time at the manger help you glorify God as you now return to these routines? Do you leave Christmas a bit different than you arrived?
- If God is with us, the ordinary is holy. So who knows what can happen? And that is the secret of enjoying God.
- The silence of Christmas is quite important to our souls. It is the time we gather up all of the other silent moments in our lives.
- This silence forces us to confront ultimate questions like: “Why am I here?” “Is there anything I get to keep in life?” “Does God remember me?”
- Christmas insists that we bring the familiar silence into these days that lie ahead this week, and we hear the incredible news of a Word from God that enters the silence. But this Word can’t just be spoken. It has to become flesh and dwell among us – as it did on a silent night long ago.
Zechariah = “God will remember”
John = “God has been gracious”
- We all live somewhere between these two names at Christmas. We are between our great hopes and their fulfillment, between silence and the Word that enters it.
- (Verses 68-71) The first stanza gives praise to God for giving us a Savior.
- (Verses 72-75) The second stanza claims this Savior, Jesus, is the fulfillment of promises from long ago.
- (Verses 76-77) The third stanza describes the role of Zechariah’s son John in preparing the way for this Savior, Jesus, who would deliver us all from the enemy within.
- (Verses 78-79) The fourth stanza looks for the tender mercy that the Savior will bring to the people.
- You would think that if a father who has spent his life waiting to have a son was going to break out in song, he would sing about his own kid. But, no, Zechariah begins to sing about Jesus. He doesn't get to his own son until the third stanza. Then he goes back to singing about Jesus again.
- As adults who were formed by these early expectations, we live our lives trying so hard. We act as if it were all up to us, and as if the hopes and fears of all the years are met in us. So is it any wonder that we have so many silent moments that make it painfully clear that we cannot save anyone? We can’t even save ourselves.
- In the silence, Zechariah and we are forced to look and wait for a Word from God.
- Christmas is a big week not because of what you have to do or because of the things you get to do for the people you love. It is a big week because God enters the silence in Jesus Christ. God has remembered, and God is gracious. That is an amazing song of redemption.