The Living Hope of the Church
Sunday’s sermon focused on Jesus as the church’s Living Hope and Living Water, and then it called us to be committed to praying and proclaiming so that we might see God do great things.
READ 1 Peter 1:3.
Case study: Rich isn’t rich. In college he put his faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and was born again. Since college he hasn’t been able to find a job that fits his degree. He has bounced around to various part time jobs. Now, three years later, Rich is routinely discouraged, feels aimless, and he dabbles with binges in porn and alcohol. He wonders if God really cares.
The Might of the Church is PRAYER
What does prayerlessness reveal that we think about God? About ourselves?
Review these common reasons given for a lack of prayer. What practical suggestions would you give to help someone stuck in each one get past it?
In what ways could your church engage further in prayer?
The Mission of the Church is PROCLAIMING
READ 1 Peter 2:9
Conclude your study in prayer about your calling as a proclaimer of the excellencies of Jesus.
Ice Breaker: what is one of your favorite Easter or springtime memories?
Pastor Thomas celebrated Easter in his sermon with these five realities that Christ’s resurrection brought about.
Go through each reality individually. How does the resurrection bring these things about for those who belong to Jesus by faith?
Match Game. Which of the above realities do the following verses proclaim? Each reality matches with two below.
Which of the five resurrection realities brings you most assurance and/or encouragement? Why?
Pastor Thomas concluded the sermon with the question, “Will you take Easter’s importance with you into daily life or will it remain as a one-day holiday on your calendar?”
Pray to the Living Jesus that the reality of the Living Jesus would give you a heart of courage and obedience to live for the Living Jesus.
That was the question she approached and asked me while I prepared my Easter sermon in a coffee shop. "Are you a pastor?" she began.
"I am," I replied with hesitation and hope.
"Can I ask you a question that I've never received a clear answer on?" her tone pleaded.
"You can," I invited.
"Why did Jesus have to endure such an awful death? Couldn't God have done it in a way that didn't involve such suffering," she wondered.
We talked back and forth for several minutes, and, by the kindness and help of God, she had some moments of clarity and amazement she's been chasing for decades. What follows in this post isn't the dialogue that I had with her, but a Good Friday reminder of what Jesus did and why He did it.
As the sun prepared to rise on the day of the Messiah’s death the following events unfolded (times approximate based on Scripture).
5:55am: Jesus is falsely standing trial while being verbally degraded and physically abused.
He is the Patient One who endures anger and ignorance so that He might identify with our anger and ignorance and bear the guilt of them on the cross.
7:30am: Two men are presented to the agitated crowd. They chose the murderer rather than the miracle worker, a criminal rather than the Creator.
He is the Despised One whose grace and truth are reviled, but whose grace and truth will engulf all that the Father has given to Him.
7:45am: Governor Pilate has Jesus physically tortured beyond recognition seeking to satisfy the crowds.
He is the Crushed One who stood devotedly in love for us despite our rejection of Him, so our rejection might be forgiven.
8:30am: Mocking soldiers "robe" bloody Jesus, crush "crown" of thorns in His skull, and use a reed "scepter" to beat Him more.
He is the Kingly One who set aside His royalty so that doubters could be pardoned and invited to His eternal Kingdom.
8:45am: Weakened, wearied Jesus is cruelly paraded through Zion’s streets while being weighed by the instrument of His death.
He is Committed One whose steps now, and in all of life, were walked for us so that through Him we might be healed.
9:00am: Jesus is pierced crudely and hung nudely. Real nails. Real shame. Real murder.
He is the Willing One who endured the cross, scorning its shame, for the joy of liberating us from sin's shame and judgment.
10:00am: They make a game of His garments, scoff with wicked words, and dare the Deity to deviate from Eternity's Plan.
He is the Silent One abiding the unfair day of brutal Grace to bring about an unceasing day of blazing Glory.
10:30am: Surrounded by sin, He speaks, "Father, forgive them," and to one with faith, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise."
He is the Atoning One washing soul stains and breaking depravity chains by substituting His life for ours.
12:00pm: Darkness. Rocks breaking. Earth quaking. Creation depicting Father's forsaking as He who knew no sin became sin.
He is the Forsaken One experiencing our condemnation so that God's face and smile and favor can be forever towards us.
1:00pm: A curtain has stood for 1500 years dividing Holy God and unholy man. Now it shreds.
He is the Mediating One bringing rebels and Ruler together, reconciling enemies into eternal family members.
2:00pm. He lifts His fainting eyes upon His mother and calls for her care.
He is the Loving One who devotedly, endlessly sets His eyes upon those He calls family, as our adoption papers are signed in His blood.
3:00pm. "It is finished." He says so. He chooses to give up His spirit because the suffering servant is the sovereign King.
He is the Conquering One who stands on the head of the enemy at the moment the enemy thought to vanquish Him.
Watching our 3 month old every minute of every day is hilarious. She is so active and expressive, but the thought keeps hitting me, that though she exudes so much energy and passion, she never actually goes anywhere. Kick-Kick. Shimmy-Kick. Shimmy-Shimmy. Nothing. Same spot she was when she was picked up and moved by her parents.
Have you ever felt like you are working so hard and you are going nowhere?
Quick clarification for a moment. We feel this emotion all the time in our culture: Discontentment. I know deep down that there are probably 25 things that cause me to wrestle with discontentment. Little things, big things, it doesn’t matter. However, that is not what I want to write about, so let’s push this tendency to the side for the moment, and talk about another aspect of this scenario with our daughter.
Little Lady Larson loves life. She is a social butterfly already and has killer good looks. She smirks at anybody and everybody, and loves to get moving and grooving with her little potato sack body. As I watch her shake it and have a good time, this thought came to me: I wonder when she will learn to crawl and move around. She has no idea what it means to be in control of your destination and adventures because she has no clue there is another phase to our growth and development as a human being.
We are the same way in our daily routines of life. We desire good things like opportunity to travel more, or give more, or do missions trips, or spend more time with our families and less time at work. These are all well-intentioned items, but we keep feeling a sense of hopelessness as we never grow any closer to our hopes and dreams.
We easily forget something: Before you can crawl, you need to be able to roll.
Tessa's Day Out
Tessa spent time at a women’s Bible study with Rachel this week, and as the women spoke encouragement into one another, learned about Jesus, and did life together, they took a super cute picture of the babies that were also in attendance. “Ahh, so cute!” we all oohed and awed. Yes, super cute, but this was a powerful moment.
At this moment, Tessa saw the oldest child roll over and do the cutest army crawl away from all the other babies, as if yelling, “See ya, chumps!” as she shimmied away. Tessa liked that sweet rolly-thingy. She tried it. And again. And some more times at home. Before we knew it, Tessa rolled over for the first time by herself 3 days later. Not only did she roll over on her tummy, but she even rolled back over onto her back. Now, though this is a proud dad moment, I want to focus in on what God is teaching us through these babies’ miraculous feats of strength and skill.
We cannot do life all by ourselves. We don’t know enough. We need two things: An EXAMPLE and a COMMUNITY.
Tessa's Example...And Ours
How glad we are that Tessa will grow up with the perfect example in Jesus. He shows us all the things we can do in His strength, that would be impossible on our own. He leads by example, and He asks us to “follow, Me.” Tessa needed an example from an older, more experienced baby in her life, so that she could glean wisdom from her and learn. In the same sense, how much more should we look to the wisdom of Jesus.
Colossians 1:15-17, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
Philippians 2:5-8, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Jeus was in the beginning and was before all things. All true wisdom for us is found in Jesus. Not only that, but Jesus lived it out. He taught humility, as well as practiced it. He washed His disciples’ nasty feet. He met with lepers and others in deep, hopeless need. He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes. He shows us how to live past ourselves.
We have our great and perfect example in Jesus. Now, where is our community?
Tessa's Community...And Ours
Parenting is amazing. You get a front row seat into every humans’ infant stages by observing your child’s first years. Tessa craves community. She sees what others do, and she mimics their every movement. She mocks their every noise. She will do whatever she sees someone else do that seems interesting to her. This is where she learns how to move past her spot on the floor, and move to something greater.
We need community. We need Gospel-centered (Jesus-centered), community. This is not a group of people who make sure you are making it to church and volunteering enough. These are groups of broken people who have realized that they are stuck without the saving power of Jesus. These are not people who are perfect and without blemish. Gospel community is made up of people who mess up constantly, but know there is a perfect Savior who took their place on the cross. A Savior and Friend who will not leave you there on the floor, in your brokenness, but a Savior and Friend who desires for us all to grasp and be changed by the freedom we have in Him.
Philippians 1:27, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel…”
No more kicking, shimmying, wiggling our way to a better life. Look to the perfect example in the all-loving and all-powerful Jesus, and strive side by side with other broken people in Jesus-centered community. This combo will teach you to roll, then crawl, and walk, and one day run. All in the direction of the One who designed it. Jesus.
by: Craig and Rachel Larson
Craig and Rachel were part of the group that founded RSBC. They eagerly worship Jesus within the church family through youth leadership, musical gifts (Rachel), and being a member of our Leadership Team (Craig). Baby Tessa was born in Dec. 2016.
I walked into the dimly lit sanctuary and found a seat near the middle of the congregation. It was the night everyone looked forward to all week. I knew the layout of the night well. We would spend hours singing worship songs as the retreat came to an end. This was my 9th year participating in this annual fall ritual with my church’s youth group.
However, this time around would be different for me. I entered the sanctuary with a heavy heart. This night was not going to be what I wanted it to be. I had always loved to sing. It had always been my easiest and most joy-filled connection point with God. But on this night, I had no voice. A cold had crept in and that mixed with the cheering screams of retreat activities had taken my voice. I was not pleased.
I had always loved to sing. It had always been my easiest and most joy-filled connection point with God. But on this night, I had no voice.
The band came on stage and invited the students and leaders to enter into a heart of worship. We were encouraged to join in when we were ready. We could sit, stand, kneel, raise our hands… whatever we needed to do to honestly focus on and approach God. In my frustration over my limitations, I stood to listen as the band started playing. I couldn’t sing along, but I could at least sing in my head.
I’d known God for as long as I could remember and had heard countless sermons about how worship was not about a band or the best songs. Worship was about encountering God. Worship was meeting with Him. God regularly uses music but it’s not about the music, and yet, for me, music was my way to worship. And in that dark room full of singing voices, God had a lesson for me. He was going to show me what true worship was. God was going to break me out of my comfortable shell. As I stood there listening to the voices of 300+ students, a different song started playing in my head.
When the music fades
all is stripped away
and I simply come
longing just to bring
something that’s of worth
that will bless your heart
I bring you more than a song
for a song in itself
is not what you have required
you’ve search much deeper within
to the way things appear
you’re looking into my heart
and I’m coming back to a heart of worship
‘cause it’s all about you
It’s all about you Jesus
I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it
and it’s all about you, it’s all about you Jesus.
How beautiful those words are to me, even to this day! My desire to meet with God was real and strong that night, but what I knew in my head had never quite reached my heart. God had to take away my voice to give me something far greater. A heart of worship, not just a heart of singing. While God is blessed by us lifting our voices in singing praises to Him, it is not the only way he wants us to come to Him. Music is one conduit to glorify Him and enjoy His presence. Other conduits are prayer, words of thanksgiving, obedience, reading your Bible and serving others. These conduits are appointed by God for our worship of Him, and they all hold equal value to Him.
God had to take away my voice to give me something far greater.
As I stood in that sanctuary singing a different song in my heart, God brought me to my knees and turned my heart to prayers of thanksgiving. After a while, I opened my Bible and started reading psalms and letting Him pour back into me. At some point in the night one of the other leaders had knelt beside me for her own private worship time. As the night drew to a close she turned to me and with tears in her eyes said “This is what heaven is going to be like. There are saints all over this room.” I couldn’t have agreed more. Each person in that room, meeting with Jesus in their own God-appointed, Biblically rooted way. All of us, coming back to a heart of worship.
by: Nikki Watermolen
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
Ice Breaker: These verses describe a Christian’s cultural role as “shining as lights in the world.” What are some ways that Christians ought to shine? What are some ways annoying or unhelpful types of shining that we ought to avoid?
READ Philippians 2:12-18.
Living the Miracle (v.12-13)
Verse 12 instructs us to “work out your own salvation.” What is the difference between “working for your salvation” and “working out your salvation.” Why is this an important distinction?
What does it mean to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”?
How does living with an awareness of the holy presence of God compel you to live a life of holiness?
How does verse 13 encourage the obedience, the working out, and the fear commanded in v.12?
Shining Instead of Grumbling (v.14-15)
On what occasions in life are you especially tempted to participate in ‘grumbling and questioning’?
What does v.15 say about the proper relationship between the Christian and the world?
Running and Pouring Out Our Lives (v.16-18)
In these verses Paul uses images of holding fast, running, laboring, and pouring out our lives.
Ice Breaker: Share or write down a moment or season of your life where the high glory of Jesus affected you in a meaningful way. What was it about Him? What impact did it have on you?
READ Philippians 2:1-11.
Observing Our Wonderful Savior in These Verses
Living Together as Compassionate Citizens LIKE Jesus
READ again 2:1-4