A message from the series "99 + 1." We have heard it said many times, “God loves you.” But for whatever reason it doesn’t always stick. This is why Jesus spoke in parables. Storytelling captures the imagination and the heart. Jesus was the master teacher. Luke 15 contains three stories that reveal God’s love for all people. The last story is the famous “Prodigal Son.” There is however more than one prodigal son in the story. The younger brother is well known but the older brother has just as much to teach us about ourselves and God. Both sons attempted to get at dad’s wealth. One by being bad and the other by being good. The older son did everything right, but why? So he too can get at the father's money. These boys are lost, each one trying to exploit the father in different ways. The father is gracious and merciful to both. If you say, “I've done everything right and I see others being blessed more than me and now I’m mad!” then you are going to have to slay your deadly goodness. Be moved by the love and compassion of God who says, “I don’t need your righteousness, you need to accept mine.” Return to the one who can satisfy your soul.If you say, “I will earn my way back to God after all the wrongs I’ve committed!” then you are going to have to give up your efforts. God doesn’t need them because Jesus already satisfied them.
A message from the series "99 + 1." As we look into the new year I’m mindful of all the things that make for a healthy church. Certainly at the top of that list is evangelism. After all, this is the reason why Jesus came. John 3:16 tells us that evangelism is the ultimate act of love. Healthy things grow and growing things change so if Illuminate does not see the transformation of lives by the gospel then we’ve missed everything. We should be more concerned with reaching the lost than pampering the saved. Once again Jesus is our example. Beginning this Sunday we embark on a journey with Jesus as he reveals his heart for those who don’t yet know him. The parable of the lost sheep tells it all and I’m reminded of those “Missing Children” flyers. You might spend a few seconds looking at those little faces and perhaps you say a quick prayer that they’ll be found before tossing it in the trash. But what if it was your children? You wouldn’t rest until they are in your home. There’s a sickness inside of your stomach until they return. This is the heart of God for all those who are not yet in his home. We are God’s search and rescue party. So will you pray with me as we ask God to give each one of us his heart for the lost?
A message from the series "Quintessence - Essentials For Your New Year." Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 “None can believe how powerful prayer is, and what it is able to effect, but those who have learned it by experience.” - Martin Luther
A message from the series "Quintessence - Essentials For Your New Year." As we begin this new year let's remember what God requires as Micah wrote: act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.
A message from the series "Glory - Advent 2019." The birth of Jesus changed everything. Just a few minutes before he entered the world, it looked very different. Where there was conflict, there is now peace. Where there was darkness, there is now light. This is why the angels proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest!”
A message from the series "Glory - Advent 2019." The fist half of Luke chapter 2 contains a well known account of Jesus’ birth. But it might surprise you to know that the rest of the chapter takes an interesting turn. What more could Luke want us to know? Perhaps the most important part: What is your response to the birth? When they (shepherds) had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:17-19 Those who heard of Jesus’ birth were amazed. I mean, come on you have to admit the story is pretty spectacular. However, Mary’s response was different. This teenage girl treasured it. The word treasured means to think, to contemplate. She asked herself the all-important question - What does the birth of Jesus mean to me? Luke closes out the chapter by introducing us to two elderly saints named Simeon and Anna. Both were led by the Spirit and knew God’s word. Because of this they had been awaiting the birth of the messiah. Simeon actually held Jesus in his arms and you know what he said? He said this, “Now I can die in peace.” That’s a statement that everyone wants to make but not everyone can. Jesus brought peace to Simeon’s life and death because that baby was Simeon’s savior.Anna was married only seven years when her husband died and for many years after she lived as a widow. Her dreams of a glorious life growing old with the man she loved were cut short. Now she is 84 and and carries the experience of deep loss but not bitterness. Instead she remained faithful to God and was rewarded. She too saw the baby born to save.It is deeply wrong for the aged Christian to throw in the towel and let the heart retire from the fervent devotion of a bygone time. Just look at Simeon and Anna. They had the privilege of beholding Jesus face to face before they died and yet one day we all will see Jesus face to face. Consider young Mary. She had her whole life to experience the joy of living in obedience to the promises of God. After all, she had a front row seat to the greatest promise of all!
A message from the series "Glory - Advent 2019." For the last two weeks we’ve been seeing God’s glory revealed through the birth of Jesus. We learned that a Christian's joy is not tied to circumstances, rather it is tied to Jesus our savior who loves us unconditionally. He is Immanuel, always with us. The Christmas story holds yet another revelation of God’s glory. This revelation is often misunderstood because we’ve heard it misquoted many times, “Peace on earth and good will toward men.” Not quite. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:14 Christmas peace is not primarily between man, it is between God and man. Paul gives clarity in his letter to the Romans. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1 It’s interesting to notice here that Paul didn’t say we have “peace of God” nor even “God’s peace in us”—though both those things are also true. Instead Paul said we have peace with God. That tiny word makes all the difference. You see, when there’s hostility between you and God, it’s a one-way battle. We sin and make ourselves enemies of God, but because of Christ, God refuses to make himself our enemy in return. You and I lash out in defiance and disobedience and selfishness and pride and hurtfulness. We miss the mark and we misunderstand how our own sin hurts us and those around us. Theologian William Newell reframes it this way, “Our peace with God is not as between two nations before at war; but as between a king and rebellious and guilty subjects.” Think of a child who screams to a parent, “I hate you!” and then runs off and slams the door. The kid is angry, but the parent is heartbroken. They don’t want to be close to you but you still want to be close to them. This is how it is with God. We’re that stubborn child shouting, “I hate you!” as we stomp off and slam the bedroom door. Meanwhile, our Heavenly Father refuses to retaliate, waiting instead for us to return again to His presence in peace. Why? Because, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
A message from the series "Glory - Advent 2019." The angel announced to the shepherds the one thing that could put all things right. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” These words broke through human history unlike anything else. What the world needed most, it received. Our sin meets God’s justice and therefore we need this savior. And yet, not everyone welcomed the news. In fact, some tried to kill it…literally. King Herod went on a murdering spree in hopes of preventing this baby from living another day. Many simply ignored the message failing to recognize the significance of the baby’s name. The name Jesus was given at his birth but Isaiah the prophet foretold of another name…"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel". Isaiah 7:14 Immanuel, meaning “God with us”. This God wasn’t content with dwelling in fiction, this God wasn’t content hanging out with angels and this God wasn’t content with bulls and goats anymore. Sin’s debt was being atoned for by a flesh and blood savior. This God wanted to dwell with you, with all of your mess, with all of your failures with all the dirtiness that is you; he wanted to be with you. Here’s the amazing thing, God loves you right where you’re at and wants to restore you from all the wrongs you’ve done. This is the unfathomable truth of Christmas: God with us!
A message from the series "Glory - Advent 2019." Have you noticed the word glory appears in the lyrics of many Christmas songs? “Angels We Have Heard On High,” "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Joy To The World,” and “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” to name a few. This is because the word glory was used by the angel to describe what was happening with the birth of Jesus. “Glory to God in the highest!” he proclaimed. If we are going to grasp the meaning of Christmas we must understand the meaning of this word. Glory literally means weight. It’s like when you hear someone say something profound and you respond, “Wow, that was heavy!” The word also carries the idea of making something known. The prophet Isaiah says this:"Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 40:5. See the connection between glory and reveal? When the angel announces to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest!” He’s telling them that God is revealing something profound about himself. The angel says more:“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10-11Let’s make sure we’re clear on the angel’s message. There will be great joy for all the people through a Savior who is Christ the Lord. If you understand this, then you understand the meaning of Christmas. Profound things are being revealed through the birth of Jesus. Joy is not to be found in circumstances but in a person because Jesus is for all the people. The person of Jesus Christ who loved us all the way to the cross. "Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die…” So when we're singing about Christmas glory let’s remember that Jesus set his glory aside so that we could have ours!
A message from the series "ROOTED - Growing Deeper." I often think about where the church will be in 50 years. Of course the hope is that she is stronger than ever. As I was contemplating this week’s update I received this email from Leadership Network. Church attendance is down by over 7%. Only 49% of Millennials identify as Christians. The number of Americans who would classify themselves as “religious nones” have grown by 30 million in the past decade. In other words, the trajectory is not good. Research shows that more and more Christians view the church as irrelevant. What can be done? In part there is a misunderstanding about what church is and what it is not and why it is the most important group on the planet. The church is not a building. It is not a physical location. It is the bride of Christ. This imagery is rich. What’s more precious to a husband than his bride? Jesus didn’t die for a building, he died for people. The church is not an institution, it is a movement. It is the place where the power of God is on display for all to see. And one more thing the church is not…perfect. Therefore we should all feel right at home. The church is described as a family where you can find help. Let’s get personal for a moment. Life is really hard. Life is a series of problems and it seems that you are only getting over one to face another. Our souls need cultivating and there is no better spiritual greenhouse than the church. On our own we are like little streams but when we come together we form a mighty river that displays God’s awesome presence like nothing else. The church needs you. She needs you to fulfill her mission. This is what makes the church the most important group on the planet because the mission of the church is to reveal Jesus Christ.