Who Misses Out When You Miss Church?

Who misses out the most when you miss church?

It’s not the church. The church isn’t an institution; it’s a movement. The church knows that it is in people’s best interest to live sacrificially – giving their time to attend church, trusting in God by giving tithes and offerings, and serving in their church and in the community. But the church has existed for thousands of years. And while a church can’t function without people or volunteers, the church and its pastors are more pained that people aren’t living out their greatest potential more than being pained that people aren’t filling the seats. The church as a whole doesn’t miss out when you miss a church service.

It’s not your community. When you don’t come to church, that also means you aren’t bringing a neighbor or friend or coworker who needs to hear the truth about who Jesus is and what he has done for them. But there still might be next week or next month to invite them to church. With all of the different media sources out there, there are so many opportunities to hear about Jesus and the church. And, I’m sure there are other people who know them who could invite them to church or share the gospel with them. And… believe it or not, you can share the gospel with someone without necessarily inviting them to church. So the world isn’t missing out more than they already are when you miss church.

What do you miss out on when you miss church? You may miss out on being in community and worshiping with other believers, but most churches now have a completely interactive online campus, where you can worship and hear messages. Not only so, but just because someone doesn’t attend church, it doesn’t mean that a person is in spiritual decline. I can skip going to the gym but that doesn’t mean I’m not working out in my free time. A person might still read their bible and pray and be in community with Christians regardless of their Sunday attendance. So people don’t necessarily miss out themselves when they miss church.

What about your children though? Most children I know don’t have the means to get themselves to church. Most don’t have the discipline to know to read their bibles. They may not have the understanding of knowing the value of worshiping in a community. An adult might miss a Sunday and make up for it by listening to a podcast or watching online, but what is available for their children? There are no kid’s sermons that church’s post online. There’s no “online experience” for children. The biggest loser when families miss church are their kids – plain and simple.

Have you ever thought about what your kids or family miss out on whenever you miss church? Do your kids have a community of friends their age who are a positive example? What kind of priorities are you raising your kids to have? Who are the adults who you allow to speak into their lives – coaches, teachers, friends’ parents? There will be a day when your kids will give less value to your voice as their parent. Parents need to raise their kids around adults who will speak life and wisdom into them, so that when the time comes and these kids start to pull away, there are voices around them that speak the truth. We need to see who it really costs when we miss Sunday services. The next generation is at stake.

At The Feet of Jesus

I sat on the ground disheveled, bruised… petrified. There was so much yelling going on around me and there was a precipice before me. It was as if an explosion occurred with all of the surrounding calamity, and my ears began to ring. My life was on the line. And I couldn’t focus. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t stay calm. And as I stayed on the ground, fearing to move, one of the men, the man they dragged me to, bent down next to me. It was there that a divide opened between time and space.

He drew a line in the sand.

I was dragged out of my house while in the act of committing adultery and was set at Jesus’ feet, though I didn’t know who he was at the time… But then again, did I really know myself at the time? In the heat of an argument, Jesus drew a line in the sand, a precipice, that divided me from my accusers. “The one who has never sinned should be the first to stone this girl,” he said. They knew at that moment that they all stood condemned. In a world where I was seen as a whore and they as God’s elect, Jesus put us on the same plane – we were sinners. And there, amidst the chaos and confusion is not just where I saw God, but it was where I met Him.

That was the first time I sat at Jesus’ feet.

Jesus always knew the right thing to say. That’s why I was always so enamored by his teachings. One time, he and the disciples came over to my house. As Jesus began to teach, I became so enraptured in his words that I completely forgot what I was doing. They were at my house, and I wasn’t doing what was expected of me as a woman or the host. I wasn’t helping my sister clean or tend to the house. But at that moment, I didn’t want to be the host – I wanted to be a student. I wanted to be a disciple. My sister tried to do everything herself but eventually her frustration spilled out, and she asked Jesus if I could be excused to help her. Jesus’ response was astounding.

He said that I chose the better thing by sitting at his feet.

As a woman, I was expected to tend to my male guests. The last thing I should have been doing was to sit while my sister did all the work. In a culture where I was expected to fit a certain role, Jesus included me with his Twelve. I was part of His own. I was a disciple.

That was the next time I sat at Jesus’ feet.

I was with Jesus even when the rest of the disciples fled. It was John who came to me and Jesus’ mother to tell us that Jesus was taken. It was then that we found out that Jesus was to be executed. I observed in horror as my mentor and my friend was beaten within an inch of his life. They dressed him up and paraded him around like an animal. They were making an example out of him, and there was nothing we could do but watch.

We followed him as he carried his cross through the winding city to the place where he would be made a spectacle. I had to look away when they hammered the nails into his fragile hands. What we thought was the end was soon approaching. Through everything Jesus was never hostile or angry. The religious leaders who were putting him to death were irritably standing next to us. Jesus looked at them with compassion and then looked up to the heavens. “Father forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” They weren’t his villains. They were merely victims of a sinful world – the world he came to save.

It was then that I realized what it truly meant to sit at Jesus’ feet.

Jesus truly lived out what he said were the greatest commandments – he loved God with everything he had, and he loved others like their needs were his. He deserved more than any ruler or king to have others bow at his feet, but instead he washed the feet of those who followed him. At the feet of Jesus is a place where all sins are seen the same. It is where all people are equal regardless of the gender or race they were born with. It is a place of unconditional love and forgiveness.

Do you sit at the feet of Jesus?

 

A Theology of Expression

Some people have a problem with being thankful. I am not one of those people.

I thank God for things all the time. But I am not one of those irrational people who thanks God for everything – like inventing cars, or soda, or diabetic socks, or bacon. God didn’t invent those things, stupid people. But I usually pray a prayer of thanksgiving every time I eat a peanut butter sandwich that goes something like this: “God, thank you for creating the man who invented peanut butter.” Now, you might say that is George Washington Carver, but you’d be doubly wrong. So, maybe I have to retract my statement about bacon, but the rest still stands.

I’m so glad that God has inspired so many men and women to think, invent, and create.

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can cause a person to paint a picture, write a song, develop an invention, or pen Scripture. All forms of expression come from some form of inspiration. The key to discovering a great form of expression is to look at the inspiration. God is the highest form of inspiration there is. He is the Creator of the whole universe – from the stars in the sky to the fleas on a dog. Every night when I walk into my house, I look up at those stars and am continually reminded at how inspiring God is.

Just like you can look at a great painting and see the heart of the artist, you can look at the heart of mankind and see the hand of God. You can look at Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and see the love of God. You can see the conquest of Joshua and see the wrath of God. You read the Psalms and see how God inspires man. The Bible itself is another example of God inspiring man – in more ways than one.

Expression is only as good as the inspiration behind it. If your inspiration is temporary, if it is fleeting, if it can fail you, your expression loses significance. People who don’t live in an area where there are peanuts probably don’t care for the inspiration behind peanut butter. People who write songs about sex or drugs or money don’t create inspiration. But songs and paintings can be temporary or about current situations in time and still hold eternal significance depending on the inspiration. Great expression always inspires. It’s contagious.

My pastor said a few weeks ago that the gospel isn’t centered on expressing oneself but denying oneself. This is one of those statements though with a paradoxical twist – it is only when denying themselves that people can truly express themselves. If God is the highest form of inspiration, the highest form of expression comes through Him. This can be heard in Handel’s Messiah, seen in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, or experienced while walking through a park on a nice day.

A great thing about expression is it speaks about and to its inspiration regardless of how explicit that mention might be. There are some great worship songs out there that are glorifying and directly speak to God’s character. Then there are those songs that speak through metaphor or situations to point to spiritual and godly truths. I think one of the disasters today of the Christian music industry is its forcefulness of the inclusion of God. People love NEEDTOBREATHE and Switchfoot because their expression isn’t forced; it is fluid and it is natural.

One of my favorite songs of all-time is called “John Wayne Gacy Jr” by Sufjan Stevens. In the song, Stevens talks about one of the most prolific serial killers to ever live. The song is disgusting and it leaves the listener feeling sickened as the song progresses. In the heart, the listener feels how wretched this killer was. Then in the last line of the song, Stevens says: “In reality, I am really just like him. Look beneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid.”

There it is.

What a phenomenal song to express the fallen nature of mankind and to show the morality engraved in the hearts of man to feel sickened by evil. It is something I loved about the show Breaking Bad. No show in the history of television has painted such a vivid picture of right and wrong. This is the key to great expression. This is a key that opens many doors and leads the artist down many corridors. This is the key that allows one to think outside the box, outside of themselves, and potentially outside their present reality.

What inspires you?

Personality Tests and Remembrance – Galatians 2:10

“Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” –Galatians 2:10

I really enjoy personality tests. I think it is because of a few students who came to my college my junior year. They really enjoyed the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, and through their excitement the whole campus gained an understanding of the test. Through taking the test I learned that I was a highly intuitive person and very thought driven. Because of this, I am not as sympathetic with people, and my mind tends to be looking towards the future and not back at the past.

My life started making more sense after taking the Myers-Briggs. For example, any time I have ever moved or gone anywhere new, I forgot what I left behind. Many friends that I have made growing up I have grown apart from, because sometimes my mind is so forward driven. If I get too busy I sometimes even forget to call my family! It is one of the negative sides of my personality, and it is something I am working on.

The one request that Peter, James, and John ask of Paul and the others is that they remember the poor. Why is this their only request? Who exactly are the poor? And what does it mean to remember them?

Many commentators and pastors try to make this statement about the spiritually or the monetarily poor. And it very well might be about them! There was a famine that was going around Jerusalem at the time, so it would make sense for the apostles to remind Paul of that. But why would Paul mention this statement as the apostles’ only request? It wasn’t a very subtle way to ask for money. Though a monetarily poor can make sense here, there would be better ways to articulate this idea aside from using the vague word “remember.”

“Remember” in Greek can carry the same idea as it does in English. It might not be that the apostles were asking for Paul to give money, but to just keep the poor in their thoughts. So what does this mean then? Should Paul just think about poor people?

I imagine a Sheryl Crow song playing as the montage flashes in Paul’s mind.

What would make more sense would be if Peter and the others were telling Paul not to put his mission to the Gentiles above that of the Jews. It is like they are saying: “Paul, don’t be so busy ministering to the Gentiles that you forget about your people – the ones who are poor in spirit.” It fits in context. The poor here is definitely referring to those in Jerusalem. And the sense of the word “remember” is continual – that Paul might continually remember the “poor.”

Peter and the others might have been afraid that the Jews would be forgotten about once the message of the cross was brought to the Gentiles. Just like I move on with my life and forget about those that I love, the apostles were afraid Paul might do the same and forget about his people – the Jews in Jerusalem and throughout the Roman world. The one thing they wanted him to remember was that his mission wasn’t just to the Gentiles. It was to all people – both Jews and Gentiles.

Who do you need to remember? Is there a loved one who you used to pray would find the Lord that you have long forgot? Do you find your time invested into only trying to reach one people group – whether it is divided by age, race, or economic income? God is reminding us to remember those we have forgotten. Find the physical and spiritually poor. Maybe you forgot about those that are outside the church altogether. Don’t expect to find the poor at church. Be the church – the hands of Christ outstretched into the world.

Will you remember the poor?

Independence and Immunity – Overview of Galatians 2:1-14

Galatians 2:1-14

My family loves the show Survivor. Though it has been a couple years since I’ve watched the “reality show” that was the catalyst for them all, I still love the show. The strategy and deception that goes on in the tribes is suspenseful. To win, one needs to be good enough to win competitions and nice enough to have friends, but they can’t be too good or too nice, because then people will vote them out because this “nice guy” is a threat.

Every season, Survivor is in a different location. There are usually entirely new people every season (except for a couple fan favorite seasons). CBS has done a pretty good job balancing out having a general theme, but changing the show enough to where people stay interested. There is one challenge that the show seems to have every year. It is one where the contestants balance on a pole in the water. This is usually one of the last “immunity” challenges the contestants have. They have to stand on a wooden pole in the water, and whoever can stay up the longest makes it to the next round. While the show may change throughout the seasons, most serious watchers know to look for this competition at some point every year.

Though my whole family doesn’t have a big party celebrating the finale anymore, I’m sure the show still holds a special place in all my family’s hearts as it does mine.

In the second chapter of Galatians, Paul starts a balancing act of his own. Paul’s main aim in this section is to show his independence. He is trying to show that his gospel came directly from the Lord and hasn’t been changed by anyone. He is trying to show that his gospel is the same as the church in Jerusalem while stressing it is his own gospel, and not theirs that he is preaching.

It’s a tough situation for Paul to balance. If he seems too independent, the false teachers in Galatia will call Paul a rogue and dismiss him. However, if Paul seems too dependent, the false teachers will call Paul a liar and say that their message is really in line with those in Jerusalem. It is almost a catch-22 for Paul. He needs to show the Galatians that his gospel is his own, while also showing that it is the same gospel the pillars in Jerusalem preach. These pillars are Peter, James, and John.

If Paul seems too independent of Peter, James, and John he might not get their approval. It isn’t that Paul needs their approval to be validated theologically. Paul knows the authority of his gospel. It came from God. Paul knows these men are seen as “pillars” of the Christian faith just as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were the pillars of Israel. To lose their approval would be detrimental to his mission not his message. Not to mention it would cause disunity, one of the biggest issues Paul addresses in his writing.

We need to make sure we have the same thing in our life. We need to have a faith and a relationship with God that is our own, but we need to surround ourselves with people to make sure we don’t start thinking Christianity is something it isn’t. In verses 11-14, Paul talks about how even Peter stood condemned for excluding the Gentiles by eating with a group called “The Circumcision.” We must balance how we handle ourselves in situations, we need to balance our message of hope, and we need to help others to stay balanced as well. We are in this to win immunity – eternal life in Christ. Will you keep balance?

Sons of Serendipity – Galatians 1:15-16a

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…” –Galatians 1:15-16a

A father and son were driving down the road after a fishing trip. During their trip, they were in a car accident. Both the father and son were rushed to the hospital, but the father passed away in the ambulance. When the boy reached the operating room, the doctor walked out of the room. “I can’t operate on him,” the doctor said. “He is my son.” How can this be?!

Paul refers to Jesus as the “Son of God” 15 times in his letters. Every time Jesus is mentioned as the Son, it is in his pastoral epistles. There is no mention of Christ as the “Son of God” in either the prison epistles or the pastoral epistles. Because of this Longenecker asserts that, “… “Son of God” as a Christological title was derived by Paul from his Jewish Christian heritage.” The idea of Christ being God’s son is probably an idea drawn out from Paul’s old life of Judaism. This is important because the men in Galatia who were spreading around false teaching were also Jewish, so they might’ve been using the same words to describe Jesus.

Referring Christ as the Son was also a relational term for Paul. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament states: “‘Son’ describes the bond of love between God and Jesus and hence the greatness of the sacrifice. The title relates, not so much to preexistence, but to the wonder of the saving act. It is grounded in Christ’s passion rather than his exaltation and kingship.” There were other words like “Lord” or “Christ” that could be used to talk about Christ’s kingship. This is specifically talking about Christ’s relationship to God as his Son, sent to save the world. Jesus came as God’s Son in that he was the full representation of God. He was a reflection of God much like many children are walking reflections of their parents.

This is Paul’s logic: If Christ is God’s Son, and Christ is in Paul, then Paul is God’s son. This is why Paul has the privilege to call God, “Abba” or Father (Galatians 4:6). Not only so, but Paul will be saying the same thing about the Galatians later in the letter. To be in Christ not only meant that one was in God’s family, but even more so, that they are viewed as God’s children – his sons and daughters.

The love and sacrifice that God took as a Father to send his Son, and the love and sacrifice that Christ made to offer his life, should remind us just how much God has done to allow us to be part of His family. We are children of God if we follow Christ by faith. Do you see yourself as one of His children? Do you know he loves you? Do you know you are an heir to His promises?

Live today as one of God’s children. Walk as though you are a representative of Him. Just as children are a reflection of their parents, your life is reflective of how you respect your heavenly Father. Represent Him well.

And to answer the riddle, the doctor in the operating room was the boy’s mother.

Flare Jeans and Jeremiah – Galatians 1:15-17

“But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” –Galatians 1:15-17

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” –Jeremiah 1:5

Have you ever noticed how fashion seems to be cyclical? One fashion that was popular in the past will become stale, but within a couple decades it becomes retro again. Almost everything except the fanny-pack has managed to somehow make a turnaround over the years. Fedoras, flare jeans, Birkenstocks, and Converse shoes have all made their way around the hipster circle of life. Even togas have made a popular fashion surge thanks to the popular 70’s movie, Animal House!

Paul was pretty retro as well. I’m not necessarily talking about his fashion sense, though I’m sure if he were alive today he would totally wear designer jeans with a hip and over-the-top button down shirt! I’m pretty sure that is the uniform for a church planter in America today. Paul was retro in how he was called by God.

Paul uses “Septuigantalism” when talking about his calling from God. This is borrowing wording from the Old Testament to describe current situations in the New Testament. So Paul is talking about not only how his authority is from God, but also how God revealed himself to Paul like He used to reveal himself to the Old Testament prophets. The wording in this passage is similar to the prophet Jeremiah’s calling (Jer 1:5), and also with the proclamation of the servant of the Lord in Isaiah 49 (verses 1-6).

The main thrust of Paul’s argument is that he did not immediately consult with anyone (verse 17). His call and the gospel he preached was his own that he received from God. He, like the prophets of the Old Testament, has a calling specifically from God! He has a mission much like the prophets to proclaim the message of God – the Good News, which is the Gospel. Notice how Paul’s calling is seen as a past event, but his mission is seen as present. “To preach [Jesus] among the Gentiles” is Paul’s past, current, and future mission from God. He might have a calling resembling those of the past, but he has a message that is completely new – a message that Christ has come and has saved the world!

Sometimes we get so caught up on looking for the new coolest thing that we forget what we already have. Coming from a Pentecostal background, I have experienced people who seek the newest revelation, experience, or prophecy from God, but they disregard what God has done in the past. The Bible is our measuring stick. If we don’t see it as the authority with which to filter our experiences through, then we might fall into error. We can have a new experience on old principles! We must make sure our experiences and expectations fall within the framework of God’s Word. Progress is not just movement. It is movement in the right direction.

Remember your calling. Even though you were saved in the past, God is calling on you to act in the present. Bring back the calling that you received in the past to the present. Dust it off like an old pair of flare jeans and wear your purpose with pride.

Radical Restoration and Racy Reputations

In a small town, it is easy to get a bad reputation. And this scenario isn’t any different.

This woman (we will call her Jessica) was not only known for having a bad track record, but even now she is living with a man who isn’t her husband. I guess I should clarify and say, “one of her husbands,” because there are several. All in the town have marked her as an outcast… I mean, except for the men that are looking for a “good time.” Jessica is a slut in the eyes of the civilized and uncivilized alike.

This past weekend I helped lead worship at our church’s satellite campus in Stamford, CT. The city isn’t in the pristine condition of neighboring Greenwich. As a whole, however, Stamford isn’t much different than any other urban city in America. The church meets in a movie theater right in the heart of the city. Before the theater opens and people stream in, the church sets up, meets for congregational fellowship, and tears everything down with the coming crowd being completely unaware of all that had happened earlier that day.

What struck me as strange in my commute this week was passing the building where the “Jerry Springer Show” meets. Just two blocks away from where our church meets (in a movie theater) is one of the most degrading and debasing shows ever to hit the boob tube. I passed the building a couple weeks ago, and there were people flooding the street, waiting in line, hoping to get in to see the crudeness that would soon ensue.

Jessica isn’t a woman you or I know. She is a woman whose name has been lost over time. Today many Christians know her as “the woman at the well.” When the people in her community saw her as an outcast, Jesus came and shared with her the secrets to the kingdom of heaven. When men had spent years taking advantage of her and debasing her, Jesus chose to share with her, more than any other human, the secret of who he was as the Son of God.

She was neither worthy nor deserving of even being spoken to by a Rabbi of such high esteem. She was someone who today we would see on the Springer Show.

The woman at the well wasn’t even a Jew. The Jews saw themselves as the heirs of the Promise of God. The Samaritans, to whom the woman belonged, were a group of mixed lineages who worshiped at a different Temple than the true Temple in Jerusalem. Many Jews saw them as half-breeds. And this woman was the lowest of them.

The most profound moment of the woman’s encounter with Jesus was when she asked him about the Temple where she worshiped. She was wondering what he, as a Jew, thought about these “half-breeds” worshiping at a different Temple than the one they were supposed to. This is what Jesus said: “The time is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… but the true worshipers will worship the Father in sprit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.”

With Christ’s statement, he opened the door! A message of hope that was once exclusively to the Jews is now being offered to everyone! Where the people of God once had to go to the Temple to experience the Presence of God, now God’s Presence is made available to all people.

God isn’t looking for people who attend the right or wrong temple or church. God is seeking those who worship him in spirit and truth. That’s why we can meet in a movie theater down the road from Jerry Springer. That’s why any person from any walk of life is welcome to worship Jesus as Lord.

Jesus seeks out those who are hurting and abused. He doesn’t care how the world might view them. Jesus brings the message of reconciliation and restoration.

Are we doing the same?

The Day That Death Was Defeated

Imagine a Jew living during the time of the Second Temple. Nehemiah might have brought some of the Jewish people back to their Promised Land, but the Jews were still in disarray. A Temple might have been built to replace the former one, but the Israelites were no longer a nation of God – they weren’t a nation at all. The Israelite people were floating from nation to nation – Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans. They might have been “post-exilic”, but they were definitely not out of exile.

Imagine an Israelite who was alive amidst the captivity in Egypt. Their ancestors might have freely come to the land, but that isn’t the case for them now. People through whom God said he would bless the world are now captives in a foreign land. The Israelite people weren’t “people” at all – they were slaves. They might have been promised a blessing, but their children were still getting slaughtered by the hundreds.

Moses was sent by God to deliver the Israelites in Egypt from their physical bondage. God parted the Red Sea, and from Mount Sinai Moses presented to the people of God how they should live according to the Law.

They were to be God’s chosen people.

Through them the whole world was to be blessed.

But they took the Law and saw it as a way in which to separate them selves from the world they were supposed to bless – a Law they couldn’t even keep. They needed a truly Faithful Jew through which Abraham’s covenant could be fulfilled. But they were looking for a way out of their physical bondage of exile during the Second Temple Period. They lost sight of the promise that God made to them. They lost sight of their purpose as the People of God.

Jesus was sent by God to deliver all of mankind from their spiritual bondage of sin. God’s Spirit fell on Jesus during his baptism, and from there Jesus presented the Sermon on the Mount, where he showed the people what it meant to live by faith.

He was God’s Chosen One.

Through him the whole world had been blessed.

But the people crucified him. When given the chance to free this man who knew no sin, the people chose an insurrectionist instead… How fitting. They took an innocent man and gave him a death sentence expected for the worst of people. Just as Moses and his people were the first to celebrate the Passover, Jesus was presented as the final Passover Lamb the day he was crucified during that Passover week.

The Passover. The Passion.

Moses. The Messiah.

Physical Bondage. Spiritual Bondage.

God’s Deliverance.

If Christ’s story ended there, then this wouldn’t be a story worth being told. When Jesus was taken to be crucified, the disciples fled. After his death they left in shame believing that they were merely following an allusion of grandeur that he was there to set them free from Roman rule.

But Christ’s story didn’t end there. When Jesus rose from the dead, he proved his reign as King! Christ didn’t ignore death; he defeated it! And by defeating death, Christ showed how he was the Ultimate Deliverer. He isn’t just Christ – but he is Lord! He is the I Am! And though the Jewish people were expecting their Messiah to come and deliver them from their bondage from Rome, he came and delivered all people from their spiritual bondage of sin.

This is the day in which death was defeated.

We now know that there will be a day when we are resurrected.

We now know that there will be a day when all things will be reconciled to him.

We now can go to the world knowing that he has ALL authority.

We can now go bringing this news of reconciliation.

Because this is the day in which death is defeated.

Isaiah. Illustration. Immediately.

I was sitting in a church service a few weeks ago. As I was sitting and enjoying the sermon from the very illustrative pastor, I heard him say something that really interested me. He was reading an Old Testament prophetic passage, and upon finishing it he said that this was a passage EXPLICITLY about Jesus – showing that even hundreds of years before his birth there were prophets talking about his coming.

As the pastor trailed down the idea of future-casting, my thoughts started to trail down the idea of what he said. Though I agree that there are passages that talk explicitly about Christ’s coming, most prophetic passages are actually touching on situations that were going on at the time of their writings – which would be fulfilled even fuller at the coming of Christ. This is called sensus plenior.

One of the great things about God is that He can be touching on situations of our hearts now that we don’t even know will effect generations to come. He can speak something to us in the present that we aren’t even aware will point to His glory in the future. This is one of the reasons I love reading the Old Testament. I can read passages in their context, and see in writings several hundred years later how God will use what he spoke to one prophet. He will speak in one specific time period, not only to minister to that specific time, but to point to a future hope – that hope which we are celebrating this holiday season.

Ahaz was king of Judah in the seventh century BC. Ahaz was receiving threats to the kingdom of Judah from the kings Israel and Aram. This is when Isaiah received a vision from the Lord. The Lord wanted Ahaz to stand strong and not be afraid – that the Lord would deliver Judah from the hands of his enemies. The Lord offered to give Ahaz a sign, anything with which to ease his fears. When Ahaz refused the Lord said:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” -Isaiah 7:14 (see the rest of Isaiah 7-8 for context)

Some theologians interpret this passage as such: “Ahaz, look at some of these young ladies in your kingdom (whom we would call “virgins“). By the time these women become old enough to bear a son, your kingdom will be oppressed no more. This will show that God is with you.” Some theologians also think that Isaiah could have been talking about the future king Hezekiah – Ahaz’s son who witnessed the destruction of Israel by the Assyrians. Regardless of what theologians think of this passage, it is clear that first and foremost this passage was meant to minister to the people of Judah (particularly Ahaz) during the time of Isaiah.

But the great thing is that several hundred years, this passage is seen to have a fuller fulfillment. The virgin Mary went to Bethleham and gave birth to a son. He was truly King and a true sign that God was with His people. Mary gave him the name Jesus. To this Matthew writes: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”

Don’t forget this holiday season that God isn’t just interested in future-casting, but He is interested in what you are going through right now. He might even use what you are going through right now to help you personally minister to someone else someday. Crazily enough, He might even use your testimony to minister to people hundreds of years from now. It’s very humbling to consider how temporary all of our lives are when they are put in the realm of eternity.

Be blessed today and may you all have a Merry Christmas!