Scripture/Text: Genesis 47:13-31; Most of us have come to be suspicious of those with authority. We chafe at being ruled in any way by others. This Sunday, we will consider how Joseph's rule during a great famine brought great blessings to everyone under his authority. This enables us to reconsider our negative response to entrusting people with power. Also, the scriptures will show how Joseph's rule revealed to the world around him truth that we cannot do without.
Scripture/Text: Genesis 45:19-47:12; Genesis establishes many patterns -- or as I will say on Sunday -- rhythms, for how God will operate throughout scripture. Through God's lead, Joseph brings healing to his troubled family. In the process, God provides more than Jacob's family could hope or dream. Join us on Sunday to hear how this is just the sort of thing God does repeatedly in scripture.
Scripture/Text: Genesis 44-45:18; God is raising up an Israelite king to bless His people and the world. Both Judah and Joseph together give us a fuller portrait of the Messiah King to come, Jesus Christ. In the midst of famine, brothers, who are representing a nation, are beautifully reconciled. Ultimately, this is God’s transforming power of turning evil to good on display.
Scripture/Text: Genesis 42 & 43; The famine Joseph predicted has come. In the early stages of the famine, Jacob encourages ten of his sons to go get grain from Egypt. What happens when they arrive and meet the brother they sold into slavery is what the majority of my sermon will address. Joseph seems fully in charge, except when he cannot control his emotions. In the way Joseph relates to his brothers, we will glean two brief lessons on how to deal with the treacherous. You may not feel like such concern applies to you. At some point, we will need to respond well to the mistreatment of a loved one. Whether you currently envision someone who has betrayed in this way, my sermon will equip you for either current or future relational tension.
Scripture/Text: Genesis 39-40; It’s wise to develop a set of principles to live by. But if it's just our own strength under those principles, then sooner or later, life will bring us a trial, or a trouble, or a temptation that’ll cause us to compromise – or even fail – in our walk with God. In Genesis 39 and 40, the life of Joseph shows us that the foundation of any successful set of principles is knowing that God is with us. Knowing that God was with him is what carried Joseph through the trials in his life. And knowing that God is with us will do the same as we face the trials in our own lives.
Scripture/Text: Genesis 38; We typically assume we are better than others. It is our default setting for viewing our own life story. The Bible, however, has a way of upending that mode of operation. In Genesis 38, God reveals to Judah, ancestor of David and Jesus, his unrighteousness through the precarious position of Tamar due to his wicked choices (Genesis 38:26). As Judah is gracefully confronted with the ramifications of his actions, we are encouraged to consider how we might be blind to our own evil and the chaos it brings. More importantly, we are encouraged to see God's incredible patience with us. In seeing God's patience, our impatience with others is also undermined. To see these connections in one of Genesis' more uncomfortable stories, join us on Sunday.
Scripture/Text: Genesis 37; We want to see God at work. But how can we see the hand of an invisible God? My sermon's answer to that question is by watching God at work in the Biblical story. God has given us a written witness about His actions in our world. Those actions from yesterday shape what we expect today. Sunday's scripture reveals God's hand in the early life of Joseph. Paying attention to God's method of leading Joseph to Egypt helps us discern God's direction in our lives today. Join me on Sunday to make these vital connections and recognize our unseen Lord.
Scripture/Text: Genesis 36; “This is the account of the family line of Esau (that is, Edom)”, begins one of the longest chapters in Genesis. (Ge 36). The rest of the chapter is almost all raw genealogy. It would be easy to say that this is a chapter we can skip. Join us this Sunday to get an idea of why we won’t.
Scripture/Text: Genesis 35; If you walk with the Lord long enough, you’re going to hit a spiritual slump. We may not even be aware of it right away, but eventually we realize we’ve hit a plateau – that we’ve lost our spiritual “fizz.” We’re still doing all the things that Christians do – like going to church, praying and reading our bibles. But we know we’re in a spiritual slump. For a time, that’s been Jacob’s condition. But in Genesis 35, Jacob gets intentional and goes back to Bethel where he first encountered the Lord. Join us this Sunday as we consider how getting intentional and going back can move us forward in our journey with the Lord.
Scripture/Text: Genesis 33; We all have various fears related to others. Some of us fear our bosses' wrath. Others are concerned about being ostracized from our peers. Perhaps we fear the rejection of a loved one. Whatever the situation or intensity of the experience related to such fear, we all would like more confidence in all our relationships. This Sunday, as we consider Jacob's return visit to his brother Esau, I will present a secret weapon in our battle against what has been called "the fear of man." The tricky part about this weapon: it is not ours to wield, but a gift Another utilizes on our behalf. So join us on Sunday to learn how to apply God's gift in struggle common to us all.
Scripture/Text: Genesis 32:22-32; Almost every story has a turning point where the main character has to make a decision that has long-lasting consequences. Genesis 32:22-32 functions as that turning point for the story of Jacob. After wrestling with a divine being, Jacob has to face who he has been thus far and has to open himself up to receiving new direction and guidance for his life.
Feeling stuck is a common feature of life. We feel stuck spiritually, stuck in our jobs, or stuck in crummy situations. This Sunday, we will realize, in our continuing series through Genesis, just how stuck Jacob has been with his taxing father-in-law. He is stuck because he needs to stay as far away from his brother Esau as possible. It's precisely in Jacob's stuck situation that the Lord prepares Jacob to depend on God in ways he had refused before. God will lead Jacob out, and prepare him for what's next. In seeing this, we will consider three keys for our pursuit of God when stuck.
We're often discouraged by the deceit we see — and experience — in our world. For followers of Jesus Christ, that discouragement comes when we fail to see – or we lose faith – that God is always at work. This Sunday, through Jacob's experience in Genesis 29, we'll see that, in spite of deceit, and sometimes even through deceitful people, God is going to get us to where He wants us to be, and give us what He promises to give us. Join us and be encouraged that the Providential Hand of God is always making order out of the chaos caused by deceit.
This Sunday, we continue the sermon series focusing on the year-long rally cry "Who's Your One? Who's Your Crew?" As I call the church to pray for and pursue One person, this sermon will focus on how our call is shaped by God's pursuit and delight in any sinner God rescues. We will also understand the connection between believing God's love for us, and our glad extension of that love to those far from God. To wrap up, we will consider the necessary connection between having rich Christian fellowship and inviting just one to know Jesus as Lord.
We are all seeking recognition; that is we want to be noticed, heard, and understood. Join us this Sunday to learn how this basic desire is hard-wired into our being by a God who cares for us. Moreover, come find out how our vision for this year invites us into friendships that helps us experience God's specific care for us. Looking forward to seeing everyone outside at 11 AM this Sunday.
Most of us want to be comfortable, and some have even grown to expect ease. The last few years have led to a great deal of discomfort. Experiences of discomfort like ours often lead to frustration and disappointment. But what if we learned to expect God to meet us when we are taken out of what is safe and easy? This Sunday's scripture focuses on Jacob, God's chosen man, fleeing from home and his bloodthirsty brother Esau. It is precisely in Jacob's discomfort that God invites him to deeper trust and knowledge. This isn't the only example in scripture of God meeting and preparing people in a "wilderness." To find out how Jacob's story leads us to expect God to meet us when we are far from our comforts, join us this Sunday!
The tragicomedy where Jacob swindles Isaac for a blessing demonstrates how God's chosen family has four people blind to either God's will or God's ways. On Sunday, we consider how this family provides a warning to those who either lose sight of what God desires, or how our Lord intends to bring His will to pass. Join us this Sunday to see how both Esau and Isaac reject God's work in the world, while Isaac and Rebekah reject God's ways. Each person represents a type of failure. When we heed the warning, we will be better aligned with God's values and ways.
We are in the midst of a global crisis. We are either coming out of, or are still in the midst of a pandemic. The cost of living is skyrocketing. And World War III, not to mention the possibility of nuclear conflict, remains on the table in the short-term future. In the midst of such alarming changes, the philosophies and spiritualities many embrace in Chicago are vulnerable. Our collective suffering and anxiety will cause many to reconsider the stories that shape core concepts for how to live (philosophies), and challenge our understanding of what is unseen (spirituality). Christians of various stripes must consider how much our central story (Resurrection) shapes our lives. Join us, then, on Easter to find out why the Resurrection story alone is able to give us a satisfying life philosophy and true spirituality. As a church, we need to be prepared for how our shared suffering opens opportunities to share Jesus' love with our neighbors. Bring a friend on Sunday and be ready to go back to the core of the Christian philosophy and spirituality: the resurrection of Christ.
This story shows Rebekah becoming Isaac’s wife and portrays how God sovereignly directs Abraham’s servant’s every step. In addition, Rebekah is portrayed as following in Abraham's footsteps as she leaves her family and homeland to settle in Canaan. The story emphasizes how God can use mundane moments and means to accomplish His purposes here on earth.
The sorrowful death of the “first mother of Israel,” Sarah, is the occasion by which Abraham finally gets ownership of a little piece of the Promised Land. It can be considered a down payment on a promise that will continue to grow and expand over time. It would expand, most notably, in Jesus Christ, who said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5.5). As God’s people, followers of Jesus Christ are still waiting for the final fulfillment of the promise. But can we be so focused on what’s going on in the world that we forget, or disregard - or even no longer look forward toward the fulfillment of our inheritance? This Sunday, through Genesis 23, we’ll be reminded to look forward toward home.
If you were to ask the question at various churches: "What makes Christians different than everyone else?", we would receive many unique answers. If you asked the average person in Rogers Park, what makes Christians different than other religions, they might respond, "not a lot." This Sunday, we will see how one of Genesis' most famous—and important—stories teaches us what makes us different. At risk of a spoiler alert, the biggest difference between us and everyone else is that we worship the true God. But there is much more to say about how God is different, and how that makes us different. To find out more about how God sets us apart, join us this Sunday.
The appointed time for the child of promise has finally arrived. Isaac, the first of Abraham’s “as many as the stars of the sky” children is finally born. Abraham’s wife Sarah is filled with joy. But tension enters the family when Ishmael, Abraham’s son through Hagar, mocks Isaac. Ishmael and Hagar are sent away to wander in the wilderness. When they run out of food and water, God rescues them just in time. There are few people today who are untouched in some way by “blended families”. To talk about first wife, second wife, step parents and step-children is not uncommon. When conflict arises, there’s talk about “your kids,” “my kids,”, “our kids”, leaving many feeling forsaken. That’s Genesis 21. An old story with a modern ring to it. But whether we’re feeling joy of being in the family, the sorrow of being forsaken, or concerned about where we’ll live in the future, God’s Sovereign Control is a grace that falls upon everyone.
God often will teach us old lessons when presenting us with a new challenge. Abraham will face a fresh challenge that will not seem so new to us (see Genesis 12:10-20). As Abraham again cowers and pretends Sarah is his sister, I will ask: what is God trying to teach Abraham in this new situation that is much like one he faced before? Once we realize that God is trying to teach Abraham genuine dependence, we are in a position to reflect on how God might be teaching us the same through this pandemic. We will also ask how we can know if we have learned genuine dependence from the suffering of the last two years. Join us this Sunday to reflect on and respond to what God has done to shape our faith through our present suffering.
When we have a problem that appears to have no solution, we often become desperate. In Genesis 19.30-38, the story of Lot and his daughters is the essence of the cliché, “Desperate situations call for desperate measures”. But that approach leads to serious sin for Lot and his daughters. But desperation doesn’t have to be ugly. This Sunday we’ll consider how being desperate for God can be both beautiful, comforting and wise when you’re living in a cave of despair.
The Covenant is more than an old promise made to Abraham in the Old Testament. It is pointing forward to our calling and reminder of who God is.
God has made and reiterated incredible promises that Abram will be father to a great nation who will bless the world. In faith, Abram has grown in courage and righteousness. This week, we see Abram take a step backward. Ten years in the land of Canaan leaves both Abram and his wife Sarai with an itch to move God's plan along, according to their own schemes. Their plan brings another round of chaos. God will once again resolve the crisis, though temporarily. This story shows us that Tom Petty and others are correct in singing, "Waiting is the hardest part." In fact, when God makes promises, one of the lessons we must learn is how to wait on God to accomplish His words. Join us this Sunday for understanding on what waiting on the Lord entails and encouragement in patience for God to accomplish his word.
Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness”. This statement, from Genesis 15:6, is one of the key verses in all of the Bible. It’s often called the Gospel of the Old Testament. It's a cornerstone of the Christian teaching that God’s acceptance of us comes by His grace and through our faith. But is believing enough? "Even the demons believe—and shudder". If believing is enough, why can’t we find rest from fear, despair and hopelessness? Do we believe - but doubt God's ability? It is only when we unite our faith in God together with the power of God, that we find rest in the promises of God.
God will shake up the trajectory of Genesis, and thus, the Bible, by making incredible promises to a man named Abram (Genesis 12:1-9). To fully appreciate those promises, we must grasp whether we receive any benefits from them. The connections between Abram's promises and ours are made most clear in the light of Jesus, the child born in Abram's line, who gives life to us all. When we understand how God's promises 3,500 years ago endure today, albeit in transformed ways, we will be invited to stand on, follow, and remember God's promises moving forward.
Mary is promised that a "sword will pierce [her] own soul." Thus, we learn that Jesus brings a sword less than 3 months into His life. Join me this Sunday to understand how the sword for Mary's soul is one we face as well. Also, join us to consider two other "swords" that Jesus brings as we consider what the child born in Bethlehem will mean for us in the new year and beyond.
Genesis 12 begins with God calling Abram to leave family and land to receive the promises of a nation and great blessings. This week, we see that though Abram received a personal visit from God, those great promises and experiences weren't enough to drive Abram's fears away in difficult circumstances. Also this leads Abram to distrust God's promises and compromise what is most dear to him. Join us tomorrow to consider how we compromise what we hold dear when we fear God won't keep the many promises made to us in Jesus.
Humanity’s desire to be like God culminates in creating a godless structure and society, but God mercifully comes down to order this chaos.
The flood is over and Noah and his family leave the ark to “increase in number and fill the earth” (Genesis 9.1). However, the world is not without sin. Noah, once described as “righteous and blameless among the people of his time” (Genesis 6.9), stumbles into sin with the abuse of alcohol. When his son Ham dishonors him in his fall, Noah lays down both a curse and a blessing upon his sons. Join us this Sunday as we consider the curse, the blessing (Genesis 9.24-27), and the idea that humanity is all one family (Genesis 10).
Genesis 9:1-17 reminds us that our relationship with Creation must be encompassed by our Covenant relationship with God.
There’s always a lot going on in the world, but these days it seems like so much of what’s going on is affecting us personally and directly. With political and social division, a struggling economy, and a never-ending pandemic, who doesn’t sometimes feel like they can barely stay afloat in the raging storms and rising waters? How can we find hope in all the chaos? This week, as we consider the story of Noah and the flood (Genesis 6.9-8.22), we’ll see that we, like Noah, have harbors of hope in God’s precision, God’s power, and God’s faithfulness.
In Genesis 6:1-8, we'll see the wickedness of humanity get so bad that God baptizes the whole earth to wash it clean.
In the broad sense, life is pretty boring. You live, you work, you eat; you’re subjected to frustration; and then you die. Everyone’s walked, or is walking, or will walk that very same treadmill. The genealogy in Genesis chapter 5 confirms this pattern over ten generations as it traces the seed of the woman from Adam, to Seth, to Noah and his sons. But something changes in the seventh generation: Enoch "walked faithfully with God" (Ge 5.22, 24), and did not die. Are there lessons to be learned from those who died? And from those who lived? Join us this Sunday as we consider this walk of life, and see why nothing changes, if nothing changes.
God tells the first murderer, Cain, that the blood of his victim and brother, Abel, spoke from the ground (Genesis 4:10). The Lord, in doing so, gives everyone a warning and a hope. The warning is that God sees all wicked deeds on the earth. The hope is that God will listen to the suffering of those harmed. This Sunday, we will find that the story of Cain and Abel, not to mention Cain's line in juxtaposition to the line of Seth, offers us all a specific warning, a hope, and an invitation. To find out the substance of the warning, hope, and invitation, join us this Sunday.
Last week, we were encouraged that Eden should shape our hopes for the future. This week, I will make the same appeal, while trying to show via the story of humanity's fall more of what has been lost. This will give a crystal clear picture of what we should value and pursue. Adam and Eve's rejection of God leads to the loss of much that is good; but that loss isn't permanent. As we will see, there is hope of a partial restoration in Jesus even now for some of what Eden offered. This incomplete restoration, while satisfying, also stirs up longing for the complete reversal of the results of our fall.
What gets you to reminiscing about “good old days”? Maybe childhood photographs? Your first middle school crush? High school - or college? How about your wedding day? Maybe all it takes is remembering what life was like before COVID. Reminiscing about places we can’t go back to feels good, but it's often an exercise that's full of both longing and empty of hope. Through Genesis 2.4-25 we get to reminisce about the “good old days” in our original home, the Garden of Eden. And even though there's still a sense of longing deep in our souls, the exercise is not without hope. In fact, reminiscing about our lost home fills us with anticipation and hope for our home to come in the new creation. It is this hope that helps us to deal with anxieties we may face in the present.
Christians often claim humans are made in the image of God, but do we have confidence we could explain what this means? Not only will you be equipped this Sunday with clarity about what it means that you are made after God's image, but we will also connect that fundamental truth to discussions happening in our culture. Specifically, we will see that we cannot make sense of our identity without knowing who we are meant to reflect. We also find that the image of God is the only grounds we have for the human rights many take for granted.
Genesis 1 tells about how God created and ordered all of the universe. That much you are familiar with. What often is overlooked is that Genesis 1 conveys God designs the universe to shape how we ought to live. The Lord built into creation distinctions, structures, and rhythms that absolutely influence how we live. But more importantly, these three aspects of creation should shape what we do. To make the connection between creation and our behavior, join us this Sunday. For when we understand God's order and adapt to it, we flourish.
This Sunday, we begin a year-long series in the book of Genesis titled "Ordering Chaos." The idea is that Genesis captures the entire message of the Bible, that God will put in order all that we have wrecked. Before there is anything broken, though, we see that God is ordering the universe and made it orderly from the beginning. Join us this Sunday to consider what that means for how we respond to the chaos in our lives.
Many view the Trinity as impractical teaching or too lofty to be very helpful. This Sunday, we will see how we cannot walk long with God and grow without grasping promises related to our Lord's triune nature. We turn our attention to how all three persons, that are God, empower our grasp of the truth, enable perseverance, and teach us to walk as one. As we wind down our series on "Knowing God By Meeting Jesus," it is appropriate to elaborate on a foundational truth this entire series has assumed: to know God requires Father, Son, and Spirit.
We often think of God’s attributes in a fractured way. We may think that when God is being just, God is not being merciful; but we do not worship and serve a fractured God. God is all that He is all the time. He doesn’t change or shift depending on the attribute we see. God is one. So when Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10.30), was He saying that He was God? That’s certainly the way it was received by those who heard him. But He was also saying that He and the Father are one in will, in purpose and in nature. This Sunday from John 10.22-42, we will consider God’s unity/oneness – and what the means for us, His sheep.
Where does our innate need for Freedom come from? Why is Slavery so offensive to us? Join us Sunday to learn about Freedom as an attribute of God, as seen in the life of Jesus.
We often sing of God's amazing grace. But do we really understand what we sing? More to the point, do we grasp what Jesus' grace is really like? A sure sign we do comprehend Jesus' graciousness is by considering if it changes our lives. The burden of my sermon, then, is to insist that besides simply defining grace, we need to grasp how it works. Sunday, I will address what Jesus' grace does and will not do. This will encourage us beyond mere intellectual understanding, leaving us with hands outstretched for what God promises. See you then!
"God is good all the time!”, often brings the reply, “And all the time, God is good!”
We use the word justice for what’s “right” or what’s “as it should be.” Which is why we often see the attributes of God’s justice, and God’s righteousness used the same way in the Bible. All that God does is both just and right. God is Justice. You may wonder, is it just that God would condemn us eternally? Well, when God repeatedly invites us to come to faith in Jesus, and we repeatedly refuse his invitations, his justice in condemning us is seen much more clearly. If we fail to see it now, we won’t on the Day of Judgment when every mouth will be silenced. So, are you a sheep or a goat (Matthew 25.31-46)? Is heaven or hell in your future? You chose. But Justice is as Justice does. And justice will be done. On the day The justice of God is administered, all will be as all should be.
What do Will Smith and Kevin James have to do with an ocean liner heading to London? Come this Sunday to hear the answer. More importantly, we'll see how the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God is seen in the person of Jesus.
Not many Sundays go by where we don’t hear about the glory of God. We hear it in songs, hymns and Sunday morning sermons. But when we speak of God’s glory, what are we talking about? If someone were to ask you, “What is God’s glory?” Or, “What makes God glorious?” what would you say to them? If you’ve ever deeply contemplated God’s glory, then you know that we can’t really capture it – not with words anyway. Even the word glory falls short of describing how glorious God's glory is. But one day we’ll all see God’s glorious glory in the coming of Jesus Christ. So, as we consider Mark 1.1-8 and Isaiah 40.1-5 for this Sunday, the question of the day is: Are you preparing the way for God’s glorious glory?
As a church, our study of the Gospel of Mark draws close to its end. Jesus' opponents will crucify their King. Yet, as Jesus is arrested and His closest friends forsake Him, we can gain valuable insight from their abandonment of Him and learn some reasons why our love for God can be so fickle. We'll also see how Jesus' warnings and promises to His disciples encourage and enable and us to remain true to Him today. In spite of our sporadic lapses in loyalty, our Lord provides a way for us to ultimately remain true until the day we stand before Him. Join us on Sunday as we take a step by step approach to key beliefs that, when held with conviction, line up with truth and keep us loyal to the Truth.
As our church focuses on "What's The Story?", we will consider how Jesus gives all disciples a meal to enjoy that symbolizes and teaches the "Big Story." Of course, this meal is what has famously been called the Lord's Supper, Communion, or even the Eucharist. On Sunday, we will hear about see Jesus' institution of this ordinance and take a deep dive into its significance. We will leave with clarity on how this meal compels intentionality that we might feast on the love of Jesus. Since we, like the original disciples, are prone to overlook the wonder of what Jesus has done and is doing for us, we will be challenged to a deeper appreciation of regularly enjoying this "word experienced."
Most of us are willing to sacrifice for some ultimate goal. We work countless hours for that important degree, to improve our physical health, or to have more money. This Sunday, we will drive home the fact that Jesus is the only one worth giving up our best to honor. But we will also see why such a call often chafes us and makes us not only unwilling to sacrifice, but even oppose Jesus.
Over the next two Sundays, we will hear Jesus’ famous, and at times perplexing “Olivet Discourse”. This Sunday will be less about putting the pieces together and more about focusing on how Jesus prepares for our difficult days. We will be challenged to avoid getting too comfortable in this world full of catastrophe and hardship. At the same time, we will see how Jesus’ promises give us confidence so we can persevere until He returns.
Because the teachers of the law were focused on the world and self, they were blind to God in the flesh – even though He was standing right in front of their eyes. Quite often we too can have the same issue. Whether it is not fully understanding scripture; or being concerned about the things of the world; or being overly focused on self-glory and self-satisfaction; we can often become blind to God – even though He’s working right in front of our eyes. In Mark 12.35-44 Jesus gives a warning that can help us to see - when we’re blind to the obvious.
Our lives are brief and we want to spend them well. In other words, we often want to know the meaning of life or what we are supposed to do with our 70 years or so in life. This Sunday, come find that Jesus offers us all clarity on both what we are supposed to do in life and, that this answer also clarifies, what life is all about. As we find Jesus giving us a familiar direction, we will be faced with an unexpected plot twist that leaves us needing further answers that only our Lord can offer. Join us on Sunday as we look forward to learning yet again at the feet of Jesus.
In Mark 12.18-27, some people wanted to know what Jesus believed about marriage in the resurrection. We know that they'll be at least one marriage in heaven, Jesus and His Church. Could that be greater than anything we could ever have on earth? Wouldn't any discussion of marriage have to include a discussion of sex? Join us this Sunday as we consider the question: Will there be sex or no sex in heaven? And the answer: Yes. No. Maybe so.
Last week, we heard a challenge to live in 2020 as if the only thing we lack is love. The point was that we need to seek the love of God, for we lack appreciation of and transformation in God’s incredible love for us. But in doing so, we will learn and see that we also lack the appropriate love for our neighbors, and thus owe people love. This week, we will learn how the institution that is a church, and specifically Agape Chicago, can help us uniquely grow in what we lack, namely love.
Join us this Sunday as we continue to talk about swimming upstream in the next year especially as it comes to living in ways that reflect we have understood God’s Agape, that is His perfect love for us.
It is no exaggeration to say that the history of humanity can be summed up in two stories: the story of Adam; and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Join us on Sunday as we finish our reflections on the carols by considering the lyrics, "Born that men no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth." We will see how these words from "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" help us grasp the story that makes sense of everything.
Everyone fears something. That fear, whatever it is, can be traced back to our fear of death. But on this first Sunday of Advent, "tidings of comfort and joy" come to us because God has come into the world to give death its death blow. Come and hear from Hebrews 2.14-18 about how Jesus came "to save us all from Satan’s power" so that we do not have to fear death anymore.
God has put us in His vineyard (Mark 12.1-12) with an expectation of us producing fruit. What are some of the personal difficulties and external oppositions that we face as we work His vineyard in the culture of rejection in which we live? When God comes looking for the fruit in keeping with repentance, will we have something to put in the basket?
Many of us would acknowledge the importance of faithfulness to God. At the same time, Scripture teaches us we are not the best at evaluating whether we are faithful. In fact, Jesus' most ardent opponents would have definitely seen themselves as faithful to God, but were clearly mistaken. This Sunday, join us as we discuss the importance of fruit to verify faithfulness. As we discuss and identify this fruit, we will be better positioned to genuinely evaluate whether we are following the Kingdom of God or rather our own kingdoms.
Often, it is easy to read stories about Jesus as if they have nothing to do with us. This Sunday, we will discover how Jesus' triumphal entry brings calm to those prone to anxiety, and peace to those with great fears. Our hope is to experience, through the preaching of the Word, deepest concerns being assuaged in light of Jesus' composure in the face of His death. Join us and ask God to do that very thing for us this Sunday.
We have been using a catchphrase to describe an intentional rejection of the formative power of our surrounding culture, for such conformity inhibits Christ-like transformation. This phrase, "swimming upstream," requires effort. Our natural tendency is to go with the flow and assume our formation is quite normal. This Sunday, we will find out - in a few words - why this work of counter-cultural engagement is so necessary. For thriving is not all that is at stake; but survival, both as a church and as individuals looking to live "alive in Christ," are also at stake. This will end our Vision series. As we end, we as a church will receive a charge that, by God's grace, will be a lifelong reminder to us all.
Over the last two weeks, our church has considered how formative our culture is on us as Christians. Due to the fact our culture celebrates "the radical self," we need to "swim upstream"; or, in other words, reject conformity so that we are able to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. In our third vision sermon, we will learn how how such counter-cultural work is exactly what our world needs from us as a church and how this work gives people a taste of Jesus' living water as we proclaim Him. We will learn how to relate to our neighbors with refreshing practices that undermine our divisions.
It is hard for us to admit, but it seems like maintaining friendship is harder than ever. Why is this? Join us on Sunday to unpack why enjoying healthy relationships has become uniquely difficult in our time. Additionally, we will address how we can move forward to live as the church God intends, since relational harmony is essential to God's vision for all churches everywhere. One thing will become apparent: we all must make some change if we wish to see God's ideals for our church community become a reality.
Something has to change. Our nation is being ravaged by suicide, opiate addiction, and chronic loneliness. Churches and her leaders are crumbling if not outright rejecting God altogether. How can Agape Chicago hold up in a world where all the energy and momentum seems to be sliding into negative territory especially for those that love Jesus? This Sunday, we will begin our vision series in Romans 12 by looking at the first two verses and discerning how it is essential to swim upstream and embrace God's plan for us if we have any desire of locating living without darkness in our confusing world.
Has anyone ever told you to stop acting like a child? That's not what Jesus says. Jesus says that the kingdom of God belongs to those who come to Him with child-like helplessness and faith. In Mark 10.13-31, we'll see that there is nothing that we can achieve, gain or own that can be compared to the reward of eternal life in Christ. Acting like a child can keep us from being robbed by our riches.
The first half of Mark's Gospel tells the story of how Jesus reveals His identity to the first disciples. This Sunday's sermon will focus on how Jesus surprises those same disciples with the claim that as Messiah, He will die. Beyond that, Jesus will show us why embracing the kind of death He experienced, crucifixion empowers our obedience and love for the one who is on a "Road to the Cross."
When Jesus goes from the glory on the mountain to the reality in the valley (Mark 9.14-29), He encounters contention between people; desperate human need, and failures in faith. Pretty much sounds like our own experience in the valley we call life, doesn’t it? In our effort and desire to overcome, we mustn’t come to the Lord simply as a power. We must come to the Lord, in faith, as the Person He is, who loves us deeply.
When Jesus allowed His disciples to get a glimpse of His glory on the mountain (Mark 9.1-13), they tried to make the moment permanent – when it was only meant to be temporary. When we try to make permanent our mountaintop experiences – spiritual or otherwise – it shows not only our lack of understanding, but it often leads us into the valley and a world of trouble.
Are you hearing clearly the truth of God’s Word? Does it compel you to speak the truth clearly? Join us this Sunday as we continue to see that no one is beyond deliverance when Jesus opens the ears of “a man who was deaf and could hardly talk” (Mark 7.31-37), Overwhelmed with amazement, the people see that when a person hears clearly, they begin to speak clearly.
When confronted by the religious power elite about tradition (Mark 7.1-23), Jesus taught that people can become so attached to a religious tradition that they give it more authority than the Word of God. But while traditions might make us look godly on the outside, they fail to address what’s inside, namely our heart, which is the fountainhead of all our actions.
In a world of spiritually hungry people, do you ever feel like you don’t have much to bring to the spiritual table? Or, after having given so much, do you ever feel like you have very little left to give? In Mark 6.30-44, Jesus feeding five thousand people shows us that the little bit that we do have – given to the Lord – can go a long way in spiritually feeding others.
In Mark 4.21-34, Jesus explained through parables how the Word of Truth should be handled. Our part is to simply, shine a light in the darkness; share the Word with others, and then wait – and watch with great hope and expectation – as God does His part and causes His kingdom to grow tremendously. You don’t have to be a spiritual powerhouse to be a part of this. All you have to know is that you CAN handle the Truth!
Many of the sacrifices we make every day make us feel good. But what Jesus experiences and teaches in Mark 6.1-13 is hard to go through. As Jesus continues on His Road to the Cross, we learn that a climate of unbelief may require a sacrifice of relationships and of “creature comforts” - if we are to expand the Kingdom of God. And even for a short time, that kind of sacrifice does not feel good.
Agape Chicago insists Jesus is healing our world. To some, it might seem Jesus is going about this work in an odd way. This Sunday, we will learn quite a bit about Jesus' while we consider how He heals two people with very different problems. In both situations, Jesus does peculiar things from our typical vantage points. As we try to grasp Jesus' choices, we will begin to uncover a great deal about how He is working in our pain and difficulty.
When you’re hit by the storms of life, do you freak out and go all “Chicken Little” about it? Do you become concerned that the Lord has forgotten about you and is slumbering through the most challenging seasons of your life? Join us this Sunday as we observe the raw power of our Sovereign Lord in Mark 4.35-41. You may be comforted; you may be convicted; but one thing’s for sure: you’ll know that calm is on the horizon when the Lord is in your boat.
Many offer solutions to help us reach our goals. In a very famous parable, Jesus taught us the one way to truly thrive and become exactly who God intended. Come find out how Jesus presents a better and different path to reach our highest potential.
Often, preachers and Christians will spend lots of time arguing for the truth of Jesus' victorious defeat of death. This is good. What happens, however, when we find there are many who couldn't care less if Jesus conquered the grave? Come find out on Sunday how to live in a world full of neighbors less interested in whether Jesus died and rose again than about the new "Avengers" movie. Also, come find out how the resurrection helps us align our affections.
Do you want to hold people to certain rules in an effort to honor God? Or does it just make you comfortable when people do things the same way that you do things? Keeping God's laws has its benefits. But if we lose sight of mercy and compassion (Mark 2.23-3.6), it might be an indication that our obedience is not leading us to where it should - our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many of us have heard the line, "Love the sinner, hate the sin." That statement captures some sound advice. However, experience tells us that loving sinners isn't as simple as reciting the slogan. This Sunday, Jesus will offers a clear picture on both how to love sinners. May we come and learn to follow our Master together!
This Sunday, we will ask: "What is the hardest thing God will do?" There will also be a Bible-based answer. Of course you will need to join us to hear what scripture teaches on this matter. Most importantly, the answer, rightly understood should leave us amazed at what God has done and has willed to do for us.
Amazing authority! That’s what the people said about Jesus’ teaching on the opening night of His earthly ministry. The authority he showed in teaching would be further established by his authority over demons, sickness and uncleanliness. Jesus even showed that he himself submitted to authority – the authority of the Father. The question is: Does Jesus have authority over you?
Jonah wanted to see the Ninevites destroyed. He was more concerned about his own comfort than he was the lives of thousands of people. But God shows him that there’s something bigger – Someone bigger – working, moving and operating in the world. Through Jonah chapter 4, we learn that it’s not all about us. In the face of who God is, our selfishness and self-righteousness is quite ridiculous. Because we’re part of something much bigger than we are.
Jonah, given a second chance, is finally obedient to God, and his commission to the great city of Nineveh (Jonah 3). The city is cut to the heart, and a revival spreads throughout as the people repent and receive God’s mercy and grace. Agape Chicago’s commission is to “invite Chicago to feast on the love of Jesus”. Our obedience could also lead to repentance and revival. It could bring God’s mercy and grace to our great city. The question is: Is our commission being accomplished? Or, do we need a second chance?
As we begin the book of Jonah, we see that a prophet tries, of all things, to escape from God. We will see that Jonah's attempt to escape God's call in his life isn't that different from how we live. This Sunday's message will call us as a church to return to God's will for us as a people and to walk upright as individuals.
Our world assumes that revelry, fun, and joy are for youth; religion, seriousness, and law are for the elderly. Come find out this Sunday how the book of Ecclessiastes takes the exact opposite approach. Find out why God must be our joy today, ASAP.
Wisdom is better than folly, this much we’ve learned. But wisdom is also vulnerable to folly, and it only takes a little bit of folly to nullify a lot of wisdom. This week in Ecclesiastes 9.13-10.20, the Teacher reminds us to avoid allowing folly – even in small doses – to seep into our church, our lives and our mouths.
No one escapes the troubles that come with life, and every one of us will eventually meet death. But while we’re alive on earth, we have hope that the dead doesn’t have, and the opportunity to enjoy this short life that God has given us. This Sunday, in Ecclesiastes 9.1-12, the Teacher strongly urges us to enjoy - to the fullest extent - the basic God-given pleasures of life. Why? Because you only live once.
It was an odd choice for God to become human. Though most of us that have been raised around Christianity have ready made answers for why Jesus' cross was necessary and the resurrection essential, we are less clear on the purpose of the Incarnation. There are many ways to celebrate God's choice to dwell with us in human flesh, this Sunday we will explore through a service of scripture and song the importance of Jesus' being the firstborn in a way all of creation needed. Join us as we worship our God and King in this special last Sunday of Advent.
There’s only one thing we can be sure of when we draw our conclusion from an “under the sun” perspective, and that is: we don’t know. We don’t know why there’s undeserved reward and unfair punishment; we don’t know why we’re unhappy and impossible to satisfy; we don’t know why life is so exasperating and meaningless. In Ecclesiastes Chapter 8, the teacher wants us to know that pursuing wisdom is the most powerful remedy for finding meaning in a meaningless world.
This week, the Teacher offers us seemingly scattered nuggets of wisdom that we can be applied when life gets hard. These nuggets of wisdom, if used, will help us to build character, guide us through grief, and enable us to possess an underlying joy through some of the toughest times of life under the sun. If not used, these nuggets of wisdom, found in Ecclesiastes 7.1-8.1, are otherwise meaningless.
As we begin the Advent season, we find ourselves in the midst of a busy and stressful time of year. Whether you're looking forward to this season or if you're dreading it, we're going to see how we could find joy. Regardless of our current circumstances. Specifically, we're going to where we find joy this season.
We often come before God to be heard. But worship isn’t about being heard. Worship is about hearing: hearing that we know God, and knowing that we hear God. In Ecclesiastes 5.1-7, the Teacher admonishes us to come to worship God by listening with our hearts, rather speaking with our lips.
Are you perplexed by injustice and oppression? Are you motivated through envy and popularity? In Ecclesiastes 3.16-4.16, the Teacher continues to ruminate on life and points us toward justice, contentment, and community for finding meaning in a meaningless world.
Though Ecclesiastes informs us that much we do with our day is meaningless, that doesn't mean our time here has no meaning. In fact, this week, we will discuss how times and seasons operate to keep bringing us back towards what does matter. We will see you on Sunday to discuss "What time is it?" as this Sunday, we ironically gain an hour of sleep as our clocks turn back.
After all, everything we that accumulate from all the work that we do - the little empires that we build – will eventually be left to someone else as an unearned reward. They might even squander it foolishly. Is our work meaningless? In Ecclesiastes 2.17-26, the Teacher continues to offer us wisdom from above the sun, as he contemplates how we can find eternal enjoyment in the things we obtain from our work under the sun – even though we’ll have to leave it all behind when we die.
Last week, we learned about counterfeit types of wisdom. The best counterfeits look a great deal like the real thing. This week, we will see that this preacher continues to utilize counterfeit wisdom before coming to some better insight about what wisdom is intended to accomplish. Finally, we will see that there is wisdom in finding out what wisdom cannot accomplish so that we might seek something even better than wisdom for our lives. Of course, you will have to join us to find out what that is even better than wisdom in this world.
This week, we will hear the early apostles tell us a few different versions of the story of Jesus and how Jesus rescued them. We will pay attention to how these apostles told different facets of the same true story to appeal to their particular audiences. In response to hearing these stories, we will be encouraged to share 2-3 minute versions of our own story and how Jesus has rescued and is rescuing us. Lastly, we will hear from a dear brother about how Jesus has been helping him through bitterness and anger.
How do you hold on to faith during the hard times? Do you draw strength from past accomplishments? Do you compare your suffering to others’ and say, “It could be worse”? In James 5.7-12 we are encouraged to look to our future hope – the return of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ – for the patience to work, profess our faith and persevere through times of suffering.
Many of us have been taught to "dream big" and "make no small plans." James seems to contradict this wisdom in this week's passage and suggest we are foolish to be so presumptuous. This Sunday, we will see if our common guidance about "going for it" does run afoul of James' directives to say "If the Lord Wills," or if James offers nuance that makes space for us to "reach for the sky". So join us Sunday and hear about God's will in our planning, Lord willing!
Our hearts are the major target in our battles against the world, the flesh, and the devil. When our hearts are full of pride it can create conflicts both within ourselves - and with others as well. This Sunday, we’ll see that the road to resolving these conflicts is paved with humility. When we have the humility to submit to God, come near to God and humble ourselves before God, God’s gives us grace that leads to the victory within - and the peace with others - that we so desire.
Competing desires vie for the affections of our hearts: Desire to glorify ourselves and Desire to glorify God. Hear James dissect the hearts of his hearers and prepare for God to dissect our hearts in this week’s text.
The pursuit of wisdom has captivated humanity throughout all of history. Philosophers have thought about it; teachers have taught about it; poets have written about it; and preachers have preached about it. Join us this Sunday as we consider wisdom – where it comes from, its effect on our thoughts and its impact on our actions.
Our mouths can get us in a lot of trouble or do a lot of good. Come find out this Sunday how faith in Jesus enables us to use our words to give life. Also, we will learn why it is so hard to use our words for our intended purposes.
This Sunday, we approach the part of James that has stirred up the most controversies over the centuries for the church. This little section in James seems to teach that it is not by faith alone that we are saved. Genuinely, the answer to the question, "How can I be saved and enjoy everlasting life?" is at stake in this message. Come find out this Sunday why that last sentence is both right and wrong. You really will have to join us for the good stuff!
James shows us that the clash between rich and poor is nothing new, yet he invites us to look at this conflict in a new way. Why do we tend to think of rich people as being “good” in certain ways, and poor people as being somehow less good? And who actually deserves to be honored in the church?
Can you think of a time where someone's words changed the direction of your life for the good? Perhaps it was a kind word, a confidence booster, or advice that saved you from making a big mistake. This Sunday, we will discover how God's Word has an unrivaled power to change lives. Actually, it does more; it saves us and restores us. This Sunday, we are on the beach and listening to God's Word to find out its power!
We often blame our temptation on others. Sometimes, we even blame God. But if we’re watchful and discerning, we’ll see that temptation has a pattern that actually begins with our own desires. Knowing that this pattern exists, and understanding it, are big steps in overcoming sin. Join us this Sunday as we consider the pattern of temptation in James 1.12-18.
Even though it doesn't seem to be in our nature, the Bible encourages us to“consider it pure joy when we face trials…”. This Sunday, in James 1.1-8, we’ll consider why seeking wisdom from God as we persevere through trials helps us to grow toward spiritual maturity.