But our citizenship is in heaven. In the Roman world to whom these words were originally written, citizenship was a big deal. The designation meant identity, allegiance, and privilege. Not only did being a citizen give someone a higher status, but it gave them many rights others did not have. The estimate was that less than half the Roman empires population were official citizens.
It is clear through all Christian scripture that all of us, all humankind, were chosen by God in creation to be God’s children. We were created in God’s image. So why have we been, why are we such a mess?
There is a lot going on in our country at this moment. Protests surrounding race and equity issues continue, communities are engaged in necessary but difficult conversations, and discussions about going back to school and the office are racing through our communities. We are heading somewhere, but in so many ways, we just don’t know how to get there or what the journey will look like.
Understanding the depths of God’s love for us is hard for our human brains to grasp. It is much deeper and stronger than we can comprehend. We must try to believe it as truth, nonetheless. If we desire to experience the full life, we need to settle this issue in our soul. It’s true. God loves you. Everything God does is an expression of that love.
Our God who has chosen you and me in his love before all creation. He has done more for us than we could ever do for our kids. He loves us more than we could ever love our kids. He calls us each by name. He is the good shepherd and he is the gate. The life we are chosen for is only through Jesus. Anything else isn’t truly life. The good good life, the full full life isn’t in thinking more of ourselves or less of ourselves, it’s in thinking of ourselves less and fixing our eyes on Jesus and attending our ears to his voice. Going through the gate is the life we are chosen for. Go through the gate.
When my children were young, we watched many episodes of Sesame Street. Among the memorable characters, a rather minor one stands out, Telly. He was the eternal pessimist, hopeless in his outlook. In one particular episode, the residents of Sesame Street were preparing to go on a picnic. As they stood under one of the storefront awnings, it began to rain.
Jesus has just been baptized and was led, BY THE SPIRIT, up to the wilderness. The wilderness is a common theme throughout the Bible. It might be easy to just think about the wilderness as the woods or a forest, but the wilderness can be just as confining and broad without a single tree in sight.
Nicodemus had come to Jesus at night to speak with Him. Jesus directed Nicodemus’ attention to the fact that you must be “born again” to even see the kingdom of God. The Greek says, “born from above.” It is a work of God, not of our human efforts.
Paul is sharing with us an important word on building and sustaining community. Our faith in Jesus leads us to community and not away from community. It’s never exclusively me and Jesus. It’s always we and Jesus. A sign of strong faith is being able and willing to bear with the failings of the people who are more readily swayed by the world’s influence. Resistance and isolation isn’t the answer.
What do you think Zacchaeus was really hoping for when he climbed a tree to see Jesus? Luke tells us that Zacchaeus was wealthy and not just any tax collector, but chief tax collector. He was successful, but it’s very likely he cheated his own people as he climbed that ladder of success. He would have been considered a puppet of Rome, a crook, and an outcast. Even though he reached professional success, Zacchaeus would have also been well accustomed to feeling unseen, unwanted, and unloved. .
The story of Joseph is one of my favorite stories in the bible. There's a little bit of everything in it--drama, suspense, romance, comedy, and this sweeping undercurrent of a compelling underdog story. I think, more than anything, I resonate with Joseph's undying resolve. He manages not only to survive in horrific conditions; he thrives in them. He suffers utter catastrophes, and yet, he emerges, every time, greater than he was before the suffering. It may be tempting to think of suffering as the catalyst for Joseph's emergence. I don't believe that is the case.
How many of you like a challenge? And if you like a challenge, how much of a challenge do you want? I mean, do you want to be challenged in small ways, like solving word puzzles or completing a small fitness goal? Or would you like a big challenge, one that causes you to rework your life on a regular basis? My guess is that most of us fall in the small to medium challenge range.
May God arise. May God arise (verse 1). Scripture fulfilled when the stone in the garden was told to move by its Maker. Death has been put to death. “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them
I am often drawn to this story, where Jesus takes the time to sit down on the floor and share an important life lesson with his disciples. Perhaps the disciples didn’t realize Jesus overheard them arguing over who was the greatest, the most important of all the disciples. We can’t really judge them for this, because more often than not, we live with the same misdirected ambition.
The fifth through seventh chapters of Matthew’s gospel continues to fascinate me. Every time I read it, I come away changed in some way. In this, Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount,” He tells us about how to live a good life, a blessed life. In his message, what is abundantly clear is that we often prioritize less important things above what’s most important. In many respects, his message says to us, “The life you are trying to live is not the life you want to live.” We all want similar things.