We’ll try again this Sunday to kick off the new year together at Emmanuel. I hope you’ll be there – I’m excited about worshiping together and finishing up our “Four Looks at the Life of Jesus” sermon series. Our fourth “look” will be a look at His life as presented in the Gospel of John.
John makes very clear his purpose in writing the fourth gospel : “These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).
What is that “life” John says we can have through Jesus ? If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for many years, it’s possible you may have lost sight just a little bit of what the life is that He calls us to … and gives us. Certainly, first of all, it’s eternal life in heaven (another of John’s gospel’s themes). It’s no mistake that John puts the thesis statement of his book immediately after his account of Jesus’ resurrection. In a world where all human life eventually ends, Jesus came to give life ! That in itself is worth our attention and whole-hearted response !
Beyond that, however, new life in Jesus brings with it :
· the filling of a spiritual vacuum in our lives
· purpose and significance
· inner peace
· companionship and love
· new ways of thinking ; gratitude ; self-control ;
· … and much more.
One specific element about the “life” given from Jesus is guidance. Life is made up of a continual series of big and little decisions. The longer we live, the more we realize our need for God’s guidance. He does open up the way when it seems dark or blocked to us.
Based on a well-known passage of the Old Testament, Proverbs 3:5-6, one of my favorite Bible teachers, Warren Wiersbe, suggests these concrete steps for receiving God’s guidance for life :
1. Admit you need it.
The first step in getting the guidance of God is admitting we need it. If we feel self-sufficient, God cannot guide us.
2. Trust the Lord.
The Proverbs passage says “Trust in the Lord with all you heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” God wants us to trust Him, and He promises never to lead us astray.
3. Spend time with the Lord.
It’s hard to trust someone who is a stranger to us. For some of us, due to simple lack of time spent with God, individually or with other people, God is, for all practical purposes, a stranger to us. That doesn’t have to be the case.
4. Trust the Lord. (Repeat)
We list this one again because the verse says our trust must be whole-hearted, not half-hearted. Are you trusting the Lord whole-heartedly ? The Apostle James reminds us of the instability of a double-minded person (James 1:8).
5. Think and work hard at the decision you’re needing to make.
“Lean not on your own understanding” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use the brains or means God has given us. However, it does mean not to depend on our own, human understanding of the situation. To depend (solely, or primarily) on our own thinking, our own experiences, or our own abilities can, if we’re not careful, remove the realization that the first thing is to trust God.
6. Obey God.
We must meet two conditions if God is going to guide us : trust and obey. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” That’s trust. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.” That’s obedience. True faith always leads to obeying God’s will. Noah believed God … and proved it by obeying God and building an ark.
Isn’t a great life available through Jesus Christ ! So many resources, so much fulfillment, so many friends (a new family), … and heaven too !
Come Sunday and let’s explore together more of this look at the life of Jesus.
Adult Studies start up this Sunday morning :
· Discovering Christ and the Church 101 9:00 – in the dining room
· A Study in the Gospel of John
Immediately following the worship service this Sunday :
· Congregational Meeting to elect church officers. All are welcome. If you are a member, please be present. A higher-than-usual quorum is required for these elections. The meeting should not be a long one.
· Ministry Team Leaders (Staff) Meeting. Pizza will be provided. Please bring your own drink and something for your little ones to munch on. Our Staff Meeting will not be simply a time to share reports, but a time for envisioning the upcoming semester together and supporting other ministries at Emmanuel besides our own. We need you very much at this meeting !
An Opportunity to Serve :
· Lock-In Clean-Up Help Needed : The Missions Team is organizing some help to clean up after the JAM lock-in which concludes Saturday morning, January 18, at 7:30 a.m. This would be a great service to the kids, to their leaders (who will have been up all night !), and to the church family and guests coming to worship the next day. Please contact Catherine Mahoney if you could help. Thank you !
A Personal Thought
I wonder how committed the players on a championship football team are to their team and their team’s goals ? I wonder how committed many of us are to our families, … to our schools, … to our jobs, … to our homes and material possessions ?
Where do our commitments to the Lord, His church, and to the great spiritual needs of the world fit into that list of commitments ?
Since the beginning of the school year last September, we’ve been saying at Emmanuel that there are four primary commitments :
· The Relationship Commitment is a commitment to Christ and to a church body.
o “Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful” (Colossians 3:5).
· The Maturity Commitment is a commitment to the habits necessary for spiritual growth.
o “Continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
o “Take the time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit” (1 Tim 4:7, Phillips)
· The Ministry Commitment is a commitment to discovering and using your God-given gifts and abilities in serving God and others.
o “God has given each of you some special abilities ; be sure to use them to help each other” (1 Peter 4:10, LB).
· The Missions Commitment is a commitment to share the Good News with others.
o “… you will be witnesses for Me … to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, GN)
o “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
At Emmanuel, we believe that a great commitment to the great commission (making disciples) and the great commandment (loving God and others) will make a great church !
Part of the commitment we are asking you to make at Emmanuel includes …
every adult person who calls Emmanuel their home church attending the 101, 201, 301, and 401 class series being offered this year.
I can’t tell you how important I feel these courses are for us to be able to function as a team – not just individuals – and to reach the goals God has set for us as a church body. If you missed the first 101 course in September, come this month for a repeat. If you missed the first 201 course, come in March when it will be re-run. In February, we will hold the 301 course, “Discovering My Ministry.” You are missing out on staying in sync with the whole team if you aren’t joining in on these classes.
For those who have already attended 101, another adult study, the Gospel of John, is available to you in January.
· January 101 – Discovering Christ & His Church or Gospel of John
· February 301 — Discovering My Ministry
· March 201 — Discovering Spiritual Maturity or Gospel of John
· April / May 401 — Discovering Our Mission
I realize we don’t have perfect childcare arrangements for these 9:00 Sunday morning classes ; however, Pastor Jeff will organize activities for the younger children in February and April, and the church is always a safe and good place to bring your children, no matter what their age !
Why does Emmanuel exist ?
Emmanuel exists …
· to celebrate God’s Presence (worship)
· to demonstrate God’s Love (ministry)
· to communicate God’s Word (evangelism)
· to assimilate into God’s Family (fellowship)
· to educate God’s People
Let’s go, team !
Like Noah, who proved his faith by building an ark, let’s build some arks !
Hope to see you Sunday !