Latest Resources

Corpse Raiser

Purpose To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships To participate in God’s mission to the world  Opening Prayer Holy God, creator of life, you call us out of our dark places, offering us the grace of new life. When we see nothing but hopelessness, you surprise us with the breath of your spirit. Call us out of our complacency and routines, set us free from our self-imposed bonds, and fill us with your spirit of life, compassion, and peace, In the name of Jesus, your anointed one, we pray. Amen. Responsive Prayer—Psalm 107:1-9, 15 1Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,  for his steadfast love endures forever! 2Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,  whom he has redeemed from trouble 3and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west,  from the north and from the south. 4Some wandered in desert wastes,  finding no way to a city to dwell in; 5Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. 6Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,  and he delivered them from their distress. 7He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. 8Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,  for his wondrous works to the children of man! 9For he satisfies the longing soul,  and the hungry soul he fills with good things 15Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,  for his wondrous works to the children of man! Summary and Connection For the past few weeks, we have been looking into the gospels to discover The Authentic Jesus. So far, we have discovered Jesus to be scandalous in his association with people he called friends, radical in the claims he made, and authoritative in the miracles he performed. We have discovered Jesus to be both a compassionate friend and a commanding teacher. We have seen Jesus exercise authority over nature and human nature. This week we will discover Jesus as the Lord who is sovereign over life and death. Today, we will take a close look at John 11:1-44. This familiar Johannine passage deals with the death and raising of Lazarus by Jesus. John uses this long narrative (44 verses), to masterfully draw us into the story with excellent dramatic development. It is important for us to understand John’s literary techniques from the outset. Throughout the gospel we see John employing irony, deeper message, and double meanings to establish theological truths about Jesus’ identity and sovereignty over life and death. As a narrative, this story is obviously about a man whom Jesus rescues from the pangs of death. However, it is also a symbolic story that gives us insight into Jesus’ identity, his power, and his upcoming death and resurrection. In other words, the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from death foreshadows Jesus’ death and resurrection. Lazarus’ miracle points to Jesus’ Lordship over death and the power of resurrection life. This narrative structure could be summarized into four things that Jesus does which establishes one fundamental truth of who Jesus is — “I am the resurrection and the life.” Let us briefly look into the four things that Jesus does in this passage:   Jesus waits: This incident happens in Bethany, a village just east of Jerusalem over Mount of Olives, about two miles away (11:18). Early in the passage we learn about Lazarus’ illness and Jesus receiving the message from Lazarus’ sisters Martha and Mary. We learn about the central theme of the story in Jesus’ response to the message: The ultimate result of Lazarus’ tragedy is not his death, but God’s glory, and the impact on the disciples’ faith in God. It is important to know that Jesus’ delay is not the cause of Lazarus’ death. In fact, when Jesus arrives in Bethany after delaying for two days, Lazarus has been dead and buried for four days. This means that Lazarus likely died right after the departure of the messengers. Jesus waits, and his waiting is significant. The Jews believed that the soul of a dead person remained in the vicinity of the body for three days. Lazarus was considered truly dead by the fourth day. Thus, Jesus’ delay serves not to promote Lazarus’ death, but to heighten the significance of his own miraculous work.  Jesus weeps: Jesus arrives in Bethany, and he sees Mary and the mourners weeping. The Greek verb klaio describes loud wailing and crying. Loud wailing and public displays of grief was very common in Jesus’ day. In verse 33 we see Jesus’ response to the wailing — Jesus is deeply moved. In Greek the verb embrimaomai describes outrage, resentment, fury, or anger. Jesus’ anger is displayed in his weeping (11:35). Jesus is overcome by the futility of suffering and death in light of the reality of his own death and resurrection. Jesus, in other words, is angry at death and the devastation it brings. New Testament commentator Gary Burge makes an insightful observation: “Jesus’ tears should be connected to the anger he is feeling so deeply. The public chaos surrounding him…and the scene of the cemetery and its reminders of death — the result of sin and death — together produce outrage in the Son of God as he works to reverse such damage.”  Jesus comforts: This story gives us a deep insight into the emotional life of Jesus — his compassion and sympathy towards sufferers. Martha meets Jesus before he enters Bethany (11:30). We see Martha’s deep faith and confidence in Jesus’ authority. Jesus comforts Martha by reminding her that Lazarus will rise again. Martha, like the disciples, fails to understand the deeper meaning of Jesus’ words, and simply agrees by saying, “I know he will rise again on the last day.” Jesus gently corrects Martha and reassures her by pointing to the reality of the power of resurrection life in the here and now. As Christians, we can trust Jesus with not only life but also death. Only Jesus can provide comfort in both life and in death. Furthermore, we see Jesus comforting Mary (11:32-34). Notice Martha and Mary’s words to Jesus: They both say, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (11:21, 32). However, Jesus’ response to them is remarkably different. Jesus knew both Martha and Mary’s personalities. He addresses Martha’s grief by providing theological assurance, and Mary’s grief with emotional assurance. We see Jesus enter into Mary’s sorrow by weeping with her (11:35). Jesus is the sympathetic savior who comforts us by entering into our grief and ministering in our suffering.  Finally, Jesus raises Lazarus: Jesus arrives at Lazarus’ tomb (11:38). Jesus’ confrontation of death at Lazarus’ tomb foreshadows Jesus’ confrontation of death on the day of his resurrection. Jesus’ prayer (11:41-42) reinforces the theme and purpose of this miracle — to glorify God, and to deepen the disciples’ faith in God. Jesus commands Lazarus to come out of the tomb. Jesus’ command is followed by a spectacle that symbolizes the power of salvation — the Word of God restores life. Lazarus comes out of his tomb. Most importantly, this miracle also points to the ultimate and all-encompassing sign of victory over death — the cross and resurrection of Jesus. In his seventh and final sign, Jesus points us to the ultimate fact that Lazarus’ empty tomb anticipates his empty tomb — The Lord who has power over life and death has power over his own life and death as well. As Christians, we join Lazarus as the beneficiaries of the living hope of resurrection in Jesus who is the resurrection and the life.  Discussion Questions 1. Looking at the Bible What does the text say? What according to you is the theme of this passage? In verse 4 we read about Jesus’ cryptic response after receiving a distressing message about Lazarus’ illness. What does Jesus mean by, “this illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God so that the Son of God may be glorified through it?” What was the significance of Jesus visiting the tomb of Lazarus on the fourth day? In verses 23-27 we see the interaction between Jesus and Martha on the topic of resurrection. How are we to understand resurrection — is it primarily a future hope as Martha believed, or a present experience as Jesus claimed (11:26)? Why was Jesus deeply moved and greatly troubled in his spirit (11:33, 38)? 2. Looking at Jesus At Central we believe that all of Scripture points to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the theological center of the Bible. Every passage not only points to Jesus, but the grand narrative of the Bible also finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus. In this story we see the humanity of Jesus displayed in his comforting presence with Mary and Martha. We see the divinity of Jesus displayed in his commanding power calling Lazarus to come out. Why is Jesus’ comforting presence and his commanding power important in our suffering? 3. Looking at Our Hearts In this story we see Jesus delay his visit to Bethany by two days while Martha and Mary waited for him to arrive. What is the significance of waiting in Christian life? How does this passage help you to understand Jesus using tragedy — personal suffering or death of a loved one, to glorify God’s name and to deepen your faith in God? 4. Looking at Our World In light of this passage, how does Christianity offer a robust understanding of death? How does this passage give us hope and confidence to live in a culture that avoids the fatality of death?   Sending God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Christ’s teachings are a light to our path. May God’s word take root in our lives. May Christ’s love nourish and sustain us. Amen.

March 26, 2023 | Read

Nap Taker

Purpose To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships To participate in God’s mission to the world  Opening Prayer Lord God of all creation we come to you from our storm-tossed lives to seek your peace; we come to you with our questions and uncertainties, our worries and anxieties, we come to you from our joy and our happiness. Eternal God as we ask that you accept our prayers through Jesus Christ our Lord, we pray that from the grace we have received, what we say and what we do will enable those around us to glimpse the life of the your Son—who calmed the storm with words which still echo down the centuries, ‘Peace be still.’ Amen. Responsive Prayer—Psalm 67 1May God be gracious to us and bless us  and make his face to shine upon us. 2That your way may be known on earth,  your saving power among all nations. 3Let the peoples praise you, O God;  Let all the peoples praise you! 4Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,  for you judge the peoples with equity  and guide the nations upon earth. 5Let the peoples praise you, O God;  Let all the peoples praise you! 6The earth has yielded its increase;  God, our God, shall bless us. 7God shall bless us;  let all the ends of the earth fear him! Summary and Connection This week we will take a close look at Matthew 8:23-27 to discover Jesus’ awesome display of power and authority to rescue his disciples from cataclysms of both nature and human nature. The pericope begins with the disciples following Jesus onto a boat to travel across the Lake of Galilee. In the parallel account of this passage in Mark 4, we learn that there were other boats present as Jesus and his disciples embarked on their journey (Mark 4:36). In verse 24 we read about a great storm rising. The storm was so intense that the fishing boat was vigorously shaken, and the water level began to rise in the boat. Matthew uses the Greek word “seismos” to describe the nature of the cataclysmic event. Seismos can refer to an earthquake or a raging storm. It is interesting to note that the Lake of Galilee is located around 700 feet below sea level surrounded by steep hills on the west and forbidding mountains on the east. Several commentators believe that the rapidly rising hot air drew cold winds from the southeastern tablelands that could churn up the water resulting in a violent storm. In any case, both Matthew and Mark’s accounts describe this storm as catastrophic in nature. In verse 24, Matthew contrasts the violent storm and the upheaval it caused among the disciples with Jesus sleeping soundly. According to one commentator, Jesus was “dead asleep” as the storm was threatening to destroy the lives of everyone aboard. The disciples cry out to Jesus saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” Jesus wakes up and rebukes his disciples for their little faith, and extreme fear. Jesus also rebukes the raging storm. His authoritative command immediately subdues the storm, resulting in a great calm. Matthew records the response of the disciples. The disciples extreme fear is replaced by inexplicable awe and reverential fear. Their experience ranged from distress in response to extreme upheaval, to great fear and awe in response to great calm produced by a single rebuke from their Lord. They couldn’t help but marvel, “what sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?”  In this passage we see a brilliant juxtaposition of human nature of Jesus with his divine nature. We see Jesus’ true humanity in his sleeping, and true divinity in his nature commanding authority. In the previous section (8:18-22), we learn about the cost of following Jesus. In this section, we see the disciples experiencing the true cost of following Jesus. The disciples who had only seen Jesus saving others now personally experience the saving power of their Lord.  We learn about the vital characteristics of Christian life, discipleship, and faith from this passage. Firstly, those who follow Jesus onto the boat over the ocean of life must expect storms by the way. The reality of storms in our lives is not evidence against the power and presence of God, rather the storms act as means to prove the power and presence of God. One commentator makes an insightful observation: “If the disciples respond to an absolute call to discipleship and hence leave all and risk their lives, they must also understand that the one who calls them will also preserve them in whatever circumstances they find themselves in.” We also learn a vital lesson about faith from this passage. Jesus rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith. The literal Greek translation is “little faiths.” A little faith is a passive acceptance of truths and a mere intellectual affirmation of dogmas. It is a faith that is built on the sand and not on the rock. Thus, when the storms of life hit, it comes crashing down. True faith, as depicted in the gospels, is a form of courage, and its absence is a form of cowardice. Thus, when Jesus rebukes the disciples for their little faith, he does not rebuke them for their quantity of faith, but the quality of their faith. Matthew Henry captures this truth well: “He does not chide them for disturbing him with their prayers but for disturbing themselves with their fears.”  Most importantly, this passage gives us an insight into Jesus’ heart. Jesus responds to our cries of feeble faith. Jesus listens to our cries, even when our faith is weak and cowardly. He responds by rebuking the storms that threaten to destroy us. He replaces our great storms with great calm—shalom: the wholesome peace of God’s presence. Finally, this passage provides a picture of a church. The boat represents the global church, and the storm is a picture of persecution the church is subjected to. Church history is filled with accounts of persecution, heresies, and moral failures of ministers and leaders. Although it may appear that Jesus is asleep while the church is struggling to survive, we must not forget that he is still in complete control. Through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has united himself with his bride—the church. Jesus has calmed the greatest storm—sin, by giving his life to establish and sustain his church. Discussion Questions 1. Looking at the Bible What does the text say? What according to you is the theme of this passage? In verse 24, we see the disciples in great distress. They cry out, “Save us Lord; we are perishing.” What can we learn about their faith in Jesus and their understanding of the divine nature of Jesus? Jesus rebukes his disciples by saying, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Was Jesus’ rebuke fair considering the predicament the disciples were in? What can we learn about the nature of faith from Jesus’ words? 2. Looking at Jesus At Central we believe that all of Scripture points to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the theological center of the Bible. Every passage not only points to Jesus, but the grand narrative of the Bible also finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus. What do you make of the fact that Jesus was sleeping during the storm? Why is it important that Jesus would calm the storm? What does that say to us? What can we learn about the heart of Jesus from this passage? 3. Looking at Our Hearts Do you trust that Jesus is fully God and in control of the storms? Do you trust that Jesus loves you and cares for you even as he allows you to endure the storms of life? If not, why not? If so, how has that helped you in difficult times? 4. Looking at Our World How does this passage give us hope and confidence as a church to respond to the storms of persecution, moral failures, and scandals with faith and not fear?   Sending God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Christ’s teachings are a light to our path. May God’s word take root in our lives. May Christ’s love nourish and sustain us. Amen.

March 19, 2023 | Read

A God-Shaped Imagination

The face-off between David and Goliath in the Valley of Elah is one of the most well-known and beloved stories from the Bible. Even people who have never read the Bible have heard this one. And yet, despite its familiarity, it is often misunderstood. We love stories like David and Goliath because we read it as an inspiring story about an underdog. David is a small, young, and inexperienced boy who does not stand a chance against the battle-tested Goliath. But David doesn’t play by the traditional rules of combat. He relies on his brains rather than his brawn, and he takes Goliath out with the unconventional weapon of a sling. Goliath literally never sees it coming. The moral of the story seems to be: The bigger they come, the harder they fall. We find stories about underdogs so compelling because we see ourselves in the same light. We like to imagine that it is “us” against “the world,” and if we can meet life’s challenges with enough courage, grit, and strength, we, too, can be the hero of our own story.  But this is precisely how the story of David and Goliath—and the Bible as a whole—is often misread. The Bible is not all about you and what you must do for God, but rather the Bible is all about God and what he does for you by his grace.  David is not simply a brave little boy who is unafraid of the big, bad giant. He is not merely an underdog who is unusually courageous. He is the Lord's Anointed who has been chosen to fight the Lord's battles. He does not demonstrate mere courage, but rather the courage of faith. Most people think that faith is believing without, or even against, the evidence. It is a blind, irrational leap in the dark. But that is not a biblical conception of faith. Faith is simply learning to see things the way they really are. Faith means perceiving reality. By reality, I do not mean a world that has been stripped of God, but rather a world that is saturated with God. We will never become fully human, discover our truest selves, or be able to navigate the myriad stresses and strains of life until we learn to live by faith. An Imagination Dominated by Goliath or God? The difference between David and everyone else in the Valley of Elah was that David was filled with a God-dominated imagination rather than a Goliath-dominated imagination. The fundamental problem for many of us is that we have a Goliath-dominated imagination. Goliath is all we can see. Goliath becomes all-important, and everything else is insignificant. Goliath becomes the defining reality of our lives and paralyzes us with anxiety and fear. For some of us, our Goliath is relational. There is a person—a boss, teacher, family member, or colleague—who is standing between us and something we want. The person opposing us consumes all our thoughts, directs all our emotions, and controls all our actions. For others of us, our Goliath is situational. We are dealing with a challenging circumstance we never saw coming, like the betrayal of someone we love, the loss of work, or the diagnosis of a chronic illness. Suddenly, we are forced to contend with circumstances well beyond our control, and we wonder how we will ever get through it. Or maybe our Goliath is societal. The latest political news or the volatility of the markets casts a looming shadow over the entire landscape. It is all we can ever think or talk about. David, by contrast, had a God-dominated imagination. Eugene Peterson writes: “The moment we permit evil to control our imaginations, dictate the way we think, and shape our responses, we at the same time become incapable of seeing the good and the true and the beautiful. But David entered the Valley of Elah with a God-dominated, not a Goliath-dominated, imagination. In the Bethlehem hills and meadows, tending his father’s sheep, David was immersed in the largeness and immediacy of God. He had experienced God’s strength in protecting the sheep in his fights with lions and bears. He had practiced the presence of God so thoroughly that God’s word, which he couldn’t literally hear, was far more real to him than the lion’s roar, which he could hear. He had worshiped the majesty of God so continuously that God’s love, which he couldn’t see, was far more real to him than the bear’s ferocity, which he could see. His praying and singing, his meditation and adoration had shaped an imagination in him that set each sheep and lamb, bear and lion into something large and vast and robust: God. His imagination was so thoroughly God-dominated that he couldn’t believe what he was seeing and hearing [in the Valley of Elah]—Goliath terror, Goliath phobia. It was an epidemic worse than cholera, everyone down with Goliath-sickness, a terrible disease of spirit that had Saul and his entire army incapacitated.” All the people could see was Goliath, and they were filled with fear. All David could see was God, and it filled him with hope.  David engages Goliath in single combat as a “champion,” a Hebrew word that literally means “the man in between.” In order to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, two warring parties would choose a warrior to represent each side in the conflict. In keeping with this common practice in the ancient world, David risks his life to fight for his people as their representative. If David wins, his people win. If David loses, they lose. The stakes could not possibly be higher. But the reason why David enters the fray when he hears Goliath’s taunts is not to defend his honor, nor his people's honor, but God's honor. He says in 1 Samuel 17:26, “‘Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?’” It is God's name that is on the line. And he places his trust, not in himself, but in God to deliver him. In verse 37, he says, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” He comes to Goliath in apparent weakness, and it is precisely his apparent weakness that is his strength. Verse 50 emphasizes: “There was no sword in the hand of David.” The only reason why David saves his people is because God gives the blessing. David wins, and now the people win in and through him, even though they did not do a single thing to contribute to the victory.  David’s Greater Son The story of David and Goliath is meant to encourage us to be courageous, but in order to understand how we can be courageous, we must recognize the real hero of the story is not David, it is David’s greater son, Jesus. Like David, Jesus voluntarily chooses to fight the ultimate enemy on behalf of his people. Rather than running away from the danger, Jesus runs towards the danger, not to defend his own name, but God’s name. Jesus does not win the victory against sin, evil, and death by relying on a sword or a display of brute force, but rather he utilizes the unconventional weapon of a cross. Like David, Jesus is our champion and representative who fights, not merely for his people, but as his people, and he does so not only at the risk of his life, but at the very cost of his life. When you put your faith in Jesus for your relationship with God rather than yourself, your faith so unites you to Jesus that everything that is true of him becomes true of you. If Jesus dies on the cross in your place, then you have died in him. If Jesus has conquered over sin, evil, and death through his resurrection, then you have been raised to new life in him. It is as good as done. His victory is yours because of what he accomplished on the cross. When you understand that Jesus is the true champion and the mediator who does for you what you could never do for yourself, then you can handle anything life throws at you. And you will gratefully realize that you are not the hero of your own story—Jesus is. With a God-shaped imagination, you can deal with whatever lesser giants you may face, recognizing that although you did not do a single thing to contribute to the victory, the real battle has already been won. ___ Adapted from David and The Good Life: Imagination, a sermon delivered by Jason Harris on September 25, 2022. Listen to the sermon or read the full transcript. "Christ and Contemporary Culture" is a journal written by Jason Harris which reflects on the intersection between Jesus Christ and our contemporary culture. If you are skeptical or resistant to Christianity, the hope is that you might pause to reflect on your pre-existing ideas about the way things are and perhaps think again. For those who have embraced Christianity, these posts will serve to encourage you in your ability to communicate the gospel in a way that takes our current cultural context seriously. Produced by Mary-Catherine McKee

March 15, 2023 | Read

The Caller and Our Calling

After being anointed by the prophet Samuel, David must wait more than a decade before he is publicly recognized as the second king of Israel. In the meantime, God gives David the rather loathsome task of serving Saul, his wildly maniacal predecessor, as the king’s armor-bearer, personal attendant, and musician. Despite the undesirable nature of the role, David’s work becomes not only bearable, but meaningful, precisely because it is God-assigned and God-defined. The Dignity of Work For many of us, work is nothing more than a “job” that helps pay the bills. In fact, the word “job,” originally referred to a mere “gob” or “piece” of work, which implied a petty, insignificant task. The Scriptures, however, invite us to approach our work—in all its forms—not as a job, but as a vocation. The word “vocation” stems from Latin and literally means “calling.” Many of us may resonate with the idea that we must find our unique “calling” in life in order to be satisfied and fulfilled. But here’s the catch. One cannot have a “calling” without a “caller.” Many people refuse to believe there is a “caller,” and therefore they hear no such “call.” But Christians recognize that God calls each of us first and foremost to relationship with himself, and secondarily to various tasks and responsibilities in the world. God’s call, therefore, fills our work, even routine and mundane tasks, with meaning and significance. It is instructive to note that God is presented to us at the very beginning of the Bible as a worker and a creator. As a result, when we receive a calling from God, we should regard our work as not only godly but godlike because all of our work reflects God's own activity as a worker. There is an unfortunate history that has made a distinction between so-called “sacred” work and “secular” work, but the pages of Scripture reveal that this distinction is a false dichotomy. It is not as if the pastors and the full-time Christian ministry workers have a true vocation from God, and everyone else is a second-class citizen within the kingdom of God. Whether it is voluntary or paid, skilled or unskilled, at home or in the workforce, every sphere of life provides us with an opportunity to contribute to God's purposes in the world if we do it all unto the Lord. Finding meaning in our work generally depends less on the external task itself than the manner in which it is done. Every Christian has a holy calling. John Stott once said, “It's good that you come to church, so long as you don't do it too often.” What he meant is that God strengthens and encourages us through our corporate worship together, but the primary place where God challenges us and uses us is in the day-to-day trenches of normal, everyday life—at home, at school, in the office, in the lab, in the studio, in the concert hall, and in the boardroom.  The earliest Christians understood this. By living out their faith in service to their community and by engaging in their work with passion, integrity, and excellence, the early Christians eventually won over the Western world to Christianity. This is important for us today. Once again we live in an age that is awash with other gods and many of our contemporaries are committed to a very different kind of moral code. But as it was in the first few centuries of the church, so it is today. The way in which people will come to believe in the saving power of Jesus, will not be primarily through the church gathered in worship, but through the church scattered in its vocations.  The Dangers Of Work Along with the dignity of work, however, the Scriptures also reveal the danger of work, which is evidenced by the story of Saul. When Saul is initially called to be Israel's first king, he possesses a sincere humility, but over time, he becomes less interested in God and more interested in the work itself. That is what causes his downfall, and this is the danger for all of us. If, as we have said, our work is not only godly but godlike, it is easy to slip into thinking that we are gods in our own right. And if we view ourselves as gods within our respective spheres, then we might not think that we need God—or at least not very much. We can easily fall into the trap of being interested in God only for what he can do for us rather than for God himself. When we do this, we are treating God as a mere means to an end rather than an end in himself. Saul had a great job. He was the king! But Saul shows us that just because you have a great job does not mean you will do it well. Likewise, just because you receive a calling from God does not mean that you will be faithful. Our jobs present an enormous temptation to look to our vocation rather than to the caller to give us a sense of identity, purpose, or redemption. That is the essence of idolatry. The definition of an idol is anything you look to other than God to provide you with your ultimate sense of identity, purpose, or redemption. Your calling only describes a part of who you are; it does not define you or sum up your entire purpose. Your work might be important, but it cannot save, forgive, or redeem you. Only Jesus can do that.  Looking to the Caller What the David story shows us is that receiving a call from God is not about getting the so-called “right job” or the “right career,” but rather it is about doing God's work in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. But how do we discern our own calling in life? Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” First, look at the world around you—your family, neighborhood, community, church, city, and the wider world. Where are the needs great and the workers few? Secondly, ask yourself: What are the gifts, skills, and experiences that bring you joy? Look for the places of intersection. That may very well be the exact spot where God is calling you to serve his purposes. This is, after all, what Jesus did.  Jesus not only scanned the horizon of the world, but he searched the deepest recesses of your own heart and discovered that your deepest hunger—whether you recognize it or not—is to be reconciled to God. But what was Jesus’ deep gladness? Jesus’ heart filled with joy at the thought of being reunited with you forever. This is what led him to the cross. Jesus endured the cross and despised its shame for the joy that was set before him—the joy of reconciling you in relationship to himself.  That’s not all. In the Old Testament, God gave the gift of his Spirit to some people, some of the time to carry out a specific task, but we receive something better—the fulfillment of God's promises. As the result of Jesus' finished work on the cross, he now pours out his Spirit on all of his people, all of the time, to empower us to do everything in service to him. Jesus embraces his calling for your sake, and now he invites you to embrace your calling for his. ___ Adapted from David and The Good Life: Calling, a sermon delivered by Jason Harris on September 18, 2022. Listen to the sermon or read the full transcript. "Christ and Contemporary Culture" is a journal written by Jason Harris which reflects on the intersection between Jesus Christ and our contemporary culture. If you are skeptical or resistant to Christianity, the hope is that you might pause to reflect on your pre-existing ideas about the way things are and perhaps think again. For those who have embraced Christianity, these posts will serve to encourage you in your ability to communicate the gospel in a way that takes our current cultural context seriously. Produced by Mary-Catherine McKee

February 16, 2023 | Read

How should we interpret the Bible?

There are three helpful principles that can guide us as we seek to correctly interpret the Bible. But we will never fully understand the Bible unless we understand its central theme.

February 8, 2023 | More...