Change is a fact of life. No matter how much I resist or fight it, change will happen. Sometimes it’s momentous and can feel disconcerting or disorienting. Other times it’s more subtle, and we barely notice it. Yes, change is inevitable.
As we conclude our series on The End, we have been hearing and reading about some “changes” that are occurring, heralding the end of the world. But through it all, there is one constant: Jesus Christ.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8
I find it interesting that Revelation—a book filled with eye-popping, jaw-dropping examples of “changes” that are coming—begins with a reassurance about the One who does not change. John greets the churches with some of these same words in verse 4, but it’s God Himself who speaks to His people in verse 8.
He seems to say, “There are changes coming. The End is coming. But I remain the same.” As I consider the return of Jesus and the end of the world, this verse brings me hope. It’s a reminder that the One returning is the same One who calls us to take His yoke upon us (Matthew 11:29). It is the same Jesus who forgave the woman who should have been stoned for her adultery (John 8:11).
Is The End frightening? Sometimes. But those who know Jesus can be at peace. Not because we are special or more important or wiser than others, but because we trust in the Unchanging One. The one who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The One who was born to die that we might live.
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. Revelation 22:20-21
God, our loving Father, is the sole recipient of our worship and prayers. We are to keep His Name holy.
Overview of Prayer
Read Revelation 22:8-9
Underline: Worship God.
Write: Pray to God alone
Read Romans 8:26
Underline: the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Margin: Pray in the Spirit
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Underline: pray without ceasing
Margin: Pray a lot!
Read Matthew 6:5-8
Underline: when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Margin: Pray from the heart.
Read Matthew 6:9-13
Underline: Pray then like this
Margin: The Lord’s Prayer
God is to be our sole focus of prayer. Only He can hear and answer prayers. We don’t pray to angels, dead saints or loved ones, or other objects, but to God alone. He not only invites us to pray continually, but partners with us as the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf when we don’t know what to say. Jesus also gave us specific words to pray when we don’t know what else to pray for, what we know as the Lord’s Prayer. So when we are uncertain what to pray, we can confidently pray this.
Our Father in Heaven
Read Luke 11:11-13
Underline: If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
Margin: God gives good
God tells us to approach Him as a loving Father. He is able to provide all things good to us and never fails us.
Hallowed Be Your Name
Read Jeremiah 23:28
Underline: but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully.
Margin: HALLOW God’s Name.
Read Matthew 5:16
Underline: let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Margin: HALLOW God’s Name.
Read Romans 2:23-24
Underline: breaking the law … The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.
Margin: HOLLOW God’s Name.
Hallowingand Hollowingare two similar, but opposite words. Hollowingis the more common and familiar word. It means to take substance or value out of something. So if I hollowout a piece of wood, all that would be left is the outer shell. It is less than it once was. Hallowingis like adding or protecting the value that is already there. While we can not make God’s Name any more holy than it already is, we can protect the value of God’s Name by using it correctly.
Similar to the 2nd Commandment (You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God), we hallowGod’s Name by using it correctly. Through teaching God’s Word, pointing attention back to God for our good deeds instead of ourselves, and calling on His Name when we are in trouble, we hallowHis Name. Conversely, we hollowGod’s Name when we publicly say we believe and trust God, but continually disobey Him. In other words, when we talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.
San Francisco versus the Baltimore Ravens. That’s the matchup this weekend for the Super Bowl, the culmination of a long (and yet seemingly short) season of football. My wife always rejoices when we get here because it means the football season is finally over.
Of course, with the Super Bowl also comes some great parties. Whether you like football or not, there’s a good chance you’ve been to a Super Bowl party. Maybe you went for the joy of watching the game with other fans. Maybe you went to watch the commercials and see what clever new ads are released. Maybe you just went to be with others and visit.
Whatever your reasons, getting invited to the big party is always fun. Maybe it’s not a Super Bowl party, but a birthday celebration. Or a wedding. Or perhaps it’s just a party for the sake of getting together and having fun.
God has invited us to a special party, a party unlike any others. It kicks off when He returns and will last forever:
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Revelation 22:12-13
What will happen at the end of time? For those who trust in Jesus, we get to start a never-ending celebration. You don’t have to bring anything. You don’t have to clean your house and get it perfect for the big day. You simply need to come. Jesus is calling you, inviting you to trust in Him and join Him for the party to end all parties.
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17
Two years ago, we started a new tradition at the annual youth Christmas party. For years, we would gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus by bringing a gender-neutral $10 gift and doing a gift exchange similar to a white elephant, but with slightly higher quality gifts.
As you might imagine, shopping for a $10 gender neutral gift for teenagers can be quite the challenge. Eventually, most of the gifts became gift cards. They were perfect because whoever got them could choose their own gift.
But did we really need to shuffle $10 gift cards between each other? What if there was a better way to celebrate? What if there was a more meaningful way?
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. Genesis 12:1-2
God has blessed us in unbelievable ways, far beyond what we deserve. And while He blesses us out of His great love, there is also a greater purpose to our blessing. Like Abraham, we are to be a blessing to others.
So instead of swapping gifts, we now bring a donation of any amount and we pool it together. Everyone then gets an opportunity to decide how to turn the combined donations into a gift for others. We present a few options and then youth can choose how to help others, whether it’s providing Bibles to people in China or rescuing girls from the sex trade or providing food for kids around the world or helping families in need in our own country. Together, we use our blessings to bless others.
Are you holding on to your blessings, unwilling to be a blessing yourself? Or are you using them to bless others?
Two years ago, we embarked on a journey at First Trinity to evaluate where we were as a congregation in terms of our relationship with Jesus. There was an in-depth spiritual life survey conducted by a professional survey company, which then generated a 100+ page report on the spiritual condition of our congregation.
One of the most interesting things to come from that report was The SEVEN. The SEVEN are seven practices that we know, from research, will help anyone grow in their relationship with God. As we worked at defining and clarifying the seven practices, we wanted a single adjective to describe each practice that tried to convey the bigger picture for that practice.
This weekend we begin a series on practice #7 of The SEVEN: Outrageous Generosity. Dictionary.com includes the following definitions for outrageous:
Passing reasonable bounds.
Highly unusual or unconventional; extravagant; remarkable.
God calls us to an outrageous generosity, one that passes reasonable bounds, is highly unusual or unconventional, extravagant, and remarkable. Why? Because He is outrageously generous and calls us to become more and more like Him!
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! Luke 12:27-28
God provides for us in remarkable and extravagant ways. Beyond all of the earthly blessings like food, shelter, and family, He has gone one outrageous step further:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
It’s that time of the year again… You know, the time when you look back at the previous year, reflecting on where you’ve come and how it’s gone. The time of the year when you look forward to what lies ahead. The time of the year when you remember those you lost and celebrate the new children, friends, and relationships that came into your life.
I imagine that Jesus’ disciples did a little bit of this after Jesus died and in the weeks following His death as they saw their risen Lord. I can see them sharing stories amongst themselves about all the miraculous deeds that Jesus did in their midst. I picture them first consoling one another over Jesus’ death, then rejoicing as they hear the good news that He is alive. I can hear them discussing what all this means and what’s next for them.
Jesus would reveal what’s next. It was a bold plan to change the world. A seemingly impossible plan for so few people:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus gave the disciples a new purpose and mission. This was the moment Jesus had been preparing them for. This was the plan all along. But they wouldn’t do it alone. Did you catch the promise?
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b
How are you feeling about the new year? Are you filled with hope or despair for what lies ahead? Jesus has big plans—seemingly impossible plans—for you in the coming months and years. But you don’t walk alone. He will be with you, to the end of the age.
We are washed clean and connected to Jesus in Baptism, not by our own working, but through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.
The Blessing of Baptism
Read Galatians 3:26-27
Underline: For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Write: I am in Jesus.
Read 1 Peter 3:21-22
Underline:baptism … now saves you … through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
Read Luke 23:39-43
Underline:And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Margin: Baptism not required to be saved
Baptism carries with it an amazing blessing: we are made into God’s special kids. When we are baptized, we are brought into God’s family through the power of Jesus. While we are still sinners, we are able to be in a relationship with God because we have “clothed ourselves with Christ” by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our baptism. Baptism really does bring the forgiveness of sins to our lives, namely the washing away of the original sin that we inherited from our parents and their parents, all the way back to Adam and Eve. While it is a tremendous blessing, those who have not been baptized but believe in Jesus can still be saved (the thief on the cross was saved despite never being baptized). However, whenever humanly possible, we should be baptized to receive all the blessings that come with it.
The Power of Baptism
Read Ephesians 5:26
Underline: having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.
Margin: Baptism works because of Word
Read Galatians 5:24
Underline: those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh
Margin: I am not a slave to sin
Read Romans 8:37-39
Underline: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Margin: I am forever connected to Jesus
Baptism washes us clean not because of the water, but because of God’s Word spoken and connected to the water. God’s Word brings life, and in the case of Baptism, uses water as an additional vehicle for that life. Baptism gives us the power to overcome in our life, no longer being a slave to sin, but alive in Christ. Prior to the Spirit entering our lives, we were powerless to stop sin. Now, we are connected to God’s divine power, allowing us to choose righteous living instead of sinful through the power of God’s Spirit within us. Baptism also connects us to God in a way that can never be severed. No matter what bad things come our way, we cannot be cut off from God because we are connected to Him in Christ Jesus.
Have you ever heard someone say that praying for patience is dangerous? Here’s how the reasoning works: “If God is truly perfecting us, and practice makes perfect, He might just give you something to be patient about!” I know it sure seems to be true whenever I pray for patience.
Where do you need patience in your life? As I reflect on that, I often think about all the tough and trying things going on. When people are annoying me or circumstances are not going my way, I often find myself praying for patience. Yet we are now entering the Christmas season, a time of great joy and expectation.
I remember waking up as a kid on Christmas morning and seeing all those beautiful presents sitting there waiting for me to tear into them. It was like they were calling to me, full of wonder and mystery, with never-ending possibilities of what might be mine. They were adventures waiting to be explored and for fun to be had.
And it had been revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Luke 2:26
Imagine how Simeon must have felt to know that he would not die before seeing Jesus, the Messiah promised of old. Imagine waiting your whole life hoping for that day, and then to find out it would happen in your lifetime. What great excitement he must have felt going to the temple each day, hoping this was the one that would bring him face to face with his Savior!
What promise have you been patiently waiting God to fulfill? What prayer of hope have you been patiently waiting to have answered by God? God is on His throne, working His plan. This Christmas, we celebrate again that the Savior has come and will come again!
And so we—like Simeon—wait patiently for His arrival. We wait patiently for the true Hope of all earth to arrive. So keep praying. Be patient. For Jesus is coming, and He will restore all hope.
Our son loves telling people his name right now. If we ask him what his name is, he proudly tells us, in his excited-about-everything-in-life voice: “My name Eli Noah Christ!” It a good name, but it took us a while to come up with the perfect name for him.
There was so much pressure involved in choosing a name! We know so many kids from our time teaching and leading youth ministry that influences the choice. We struggled because this decision would last a life time. He would forever be called by the name we gave him.
God made a habit of giving new names to His people. The new names always have significance. Abram became Abraham; Saul became Paul. In some respects, their name defined who they would be from that time forward. The “original” name no longer defined them, replaced instead with a newer and greater one by God.
The name your parents gave you isn’t what defines you today. Rather, the name that you bear—the name God placed upon you—defines who you are and how you live.
And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:18
We have been called sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. We are His kids. That is the name that defines us now. Not Jason, Sue, Chuck or any other, but son or daughter of the Lord Almighty.
Baptism washes away our “original” sin and makes us a child of God. God loves everyone, but only those marked through Baptism are considered His children.
What is a Sacrament
A Sacrament is a sacred act of God in the lives of His people. Sacraments meet three criteria:
It is instituted by God. This means that God told us to do it in His Word.
There is a physical element (in the case of Baptism: water) and God’s Word spoken over it.
The act brings forgiveness of sins to the receiver.
Is Baptism a Sacrament?
Read Matthew 28:18-20
Write: “water” in the margin, then connect “baptizing” to it with a line.
Read Acts 2:38
Underline: Repent and be baptized … for the forgiveness of your sins
Margin: Baptism brings forgiveness
As He was preparing to leave earth for heaven, Jesus gave one final command to His disciples: to baptize others in the name of the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). It is considered a Sacrament because Jesus told us to do it, and He tells us that it brings the forgiveness of sins to God’s people. Baptism is a one-time event in the life of a Christian. In it, God washes away our original sin and puts His Holy Spirit in our heart. In Baptism, we become His kid. While we continue to sin on a daily basis, we only need to be baptized once. We remember our baptism on a regular basis, however, through the process of confessing our sins and asking God for His forgiveness.
Who Should Be Baptized?
Read Matthew 28:19
Circle: all nations
Margin: “Everyone”, then connect it to “all nations”
Read Luke 18:15-17
Underline: Let the children come to me
Margin: Baptize babies
Read Genesis 17:3-14
Draw a box around verses 9-14
Margin: See Colossians 2:11-14
Read 2 Corinthians 5:17
Underline: In him also you were also circumcised
Circle: buried with him in baptism
Margin: Write “Old Covenant” and underline it. Write “New Covenant” and circle it.
Jesus told the disciples to baptize all nations, which would include children. He also specifics invite children to come to Him, which they are unable to do without the Holy Spirit. Perhaps most convincingly, children were brought into a special “Covenant” relationship with God through circumcision in the Old Testament. This circumcision pointed to a greater “Covenant” relationship that was coming, and this relationship would be marked by Baptism, not circumcision.
While the Bible does not explicitly state that children should be baptized, it also does not prohibit it. We know that all people are sinful (including children) and in need of forgiveness, that children are included in the “all nations”, and that they were able to receive the benefits of circumcision without being able to act or speak on their own at 8 days old. Therefore, because God is the one acting in Baptism and not us, we are confident that He is working on the hearts of children who are baptized before they are able to confess Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Confirmation is the process of standing up to “Confirm” that the promises spoken on their behalf as children are in fact their own as well.