Ready to make the most of 2015? Notice the intruiging options we’re offered in Luke chapter 4:
As Jesus prepares for his public life, he slips away from daily distractions to gain a greater sense of God’s direction. Sensing his vulnerability, the Devil approaches Jesus with the bargain of a lifetime: “You can have it all today, Jesus. Why not enjoy immediate pleasure, quick success and instantaneous popularity while you can? A sweet little short cut is certainly your best option.”
Yet Jesus doesn’t budge. Opting away from the short cut, he instead chooses the tougher trajectory: to endure through a long series of personal misunderstandings, professional ridicule, and public disappointments . . . all culminating in an untimely death at the hands corrupt politicians. In hindsight, it might seem that Jesus missed out on a devilishly good option way back in the desert.
Jesus’ choice offers us a somewhat surprising perspective: God’s just fine spending time in the slow lane. During his short life span, Jesus endured a lifetime’s worth of setbacks, scorn, and suffering. Led by God’s Spirit, Jesus’ meanderings eventually produce its desired result: to develop a tenacious band of followers who held an unshakeable attachment to Jesus and his way of life.
The little devil on our shoulder whispers the same offer: “Make your future happen today. Why wait around for God’s plodding pace when you can have it now?” It’s standard fare for most every television ad, self-help book and personal success journal. “Seize the day and personal fulfillment is waiting for you just around the corner.”
Yet watch the lives of the great saints and you’ll notice none of them zip their way to quick success. They’re much more likely to zigzag through unpredictable circumstances that eventually produce a surprising devotion to God. Spiritual strength isn’t developed by instant success, or even a perfectly articulated list of New Year’s resolutions, but rather through an often strange series of struggles that slowly create remarkable hope and enduring joy.
So let’s jump in now and make the most of 2015—by choosing to meander through the year ahead at God’s plodding little pace.
Weekly Scripture readings (Blue links to Scripture provided via Bible Gateway)
On January 4th, we’re starting a new Sunday morning message series: “Jesus on Juniper Court: Finding Your Soul in the Suburbs”. This offers us a good opportunity to use January to work our way through Luke’s account of the life of Jesus. I hope you’ll take the time to follow the next steps of his journey:
- Luke 2:41-52: Who doesn’t love to witness a little tension between a teenager and his parents? Jesus shows off his feistiness when contending with his mother about the origins of his “real dad”. Relax—Jesus turns out to be a fine young man, but his feisty spirit will most certainly show up in the years yet to come.
- Luke 3:1-20: Just as a massive offensive lineman opens up a huge hole for the star running back, John the Baptist creates an opening for Jesus’ ministry run. You might always notice how John’s commentary focuses on our calling towards personal generosity and social equity.
- Luke 3:21-38: Before Jesus offers a single sermon, performs a single miracle or pursues any act of compassion; God the Father openly demonstrates his love, affection and affirmation to his Son. Through Jesus, we can also receive this same love, affection and affirmation from God. Luke also offers us the rare opportunity to see the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) on full display.
- Luke 4:1-13: Through a three-part defense from Deuteronomy, Jesus defiantly defeats the Devil in the desert. The connection to the Old Testament is clear: The people of Israel failed to obey God during their wilderness wanderings. Jesus isn’t about to make the same mistake. (Hence, we’d love for you to join us for our “Walk thru the Old Testament” event on Saturday, January 24. It’s essential step towards understanding the full meaning of Jesus’ life.)
- Luke 4:14-30: After a promising start to his personal homecoming, the end result isn’t very pretty. Remember the feistiness that came out during Jesus’ teenage years? It’s back again, in spades. If you try to tame Jesus, he’ll generally make you mad.
- Luke 4:31-44: Jesus gets things rolling with some well-placed words and some well-timed miracles. Notice it’s only the evil spirits who fully recognize his true identity. Jesus isn’t only a great teacher and skilled healer—he’s also an expert guide into the unseen spiritual world that’s all around us.
- Luke 5:1-11: To capture your attention and win your admiration, Jesus is willing to use some rather unconventional means. Peter’s responsive openhearted devotion and unbridled enthusiasm inspired others to follow Jesus. His eagerness sets a pretty high standard for the rest of us, too.