Crucially, though, they make time for uplift and Big Rube spoken word! Gone are the wailings begging for mercy, found are the sexy pleas of a rocker's invitation to stay the night. While those three shine on their respective cuts, there's no question who real standout star is. It's as if you're rediscovering their characters and music all over again for the first time. We're off the deep end, watch as we dive back in. Speeding by at a song-per-minute clip, Whack World combines fun-house excitement with game-show puzzlement, daring listeners to guess what's behind doors No. Hoping for a heady slow groove?
Isolation shows Uchis stretching her wings, past the lonely condition of the album title and into a mutli-continental community eager to embrace her talent. So instead, he decided to indulge in that other revevenge-related truism: that the best one is living well. He can't help it, it's in his nature. It's hard to talk about The without talking about their relationship to -- particularly when their album title suggests a sprawling conceptual masterwork about subtweeting and swiping right.
Deceptively buoyant lead single "Missing U" was merely an appetizer for what fans were really in for, which is disco heartbreak "Because It's in the Music" , post-fembot melancholy "Human Being" , deep-house innovation "Between the Lines" and whatever "Beach2k20" is. Though the sounds whip from one style to the next, the lyrics all come from the perspective of someone unsuccessfully trying to hide her vulnerability, like a person insisting "I'm fine" despite the fact that nothing seems to be.
If y'all don't understand that, we ain't meant to be friends. Cabello's debut set showcased her versatility as a solo artist, whether she's singing in whispery falsetto on "Never Be the Same" and "Real Friends," honoring her Spanish roots on "Inside Out" and lead single "Havana" or showcasing her vulnerable side on "Consequences" and "Something's Gotta Give. But the album also showcases Travis in his natural habitat -- as a ruthlessly creative visionary, conducting from behind the curtain.
Over 17 sprawling, caps-locked tracks, Travis brings together hip-hop A-listers Drake! Frank Ocean! Kid Cudi! Sure, his ambitions may verge on the overzealous -- Astroworld could stand to lose a few tracks, or at least one reference to Jamba Juice -- but to claim Travis takes a backseat to his collaborators would be missing the point. Maxine Waters reclaiming her time to Colin Kaepernick pouring himself even more into activism after being blackballed by the NFL.
Lamar's guidance topped it all off, as the hip-hop all-star injected his unmistakable vocals throughout without ever taking away from other artists' individuality. Since the G. It's a seven-song masterstroke of brazen, bespoke 'Ye beats alongside Push's own scathing hustler's gospel; where Pharrell once challenged the Virginia rapper with his weirdest beats, Kanye conjures sonic hypemen, soundtracking a ruthless assault. And while no one went into thinking they needed a disco hoedown, "High Horse" is the Studio by-way-of-barnyard banger that served as an ebullient jolt of joy in a year that sorely needed one.
Two things are true about Cardi B -- the stripper-turned-Instagram-star-turned-reality-TV-personality-turned-rapper -- and her record-setting debut album, Invasion of Privacy : 1. She is certifiably fuck-less about whether you like her. She will also use every tool in her arsenal to make sure that you do. But when God confronts us, it is not to destroy us; it is not to embarrass us; it is not to disgrace us; it is to correct us and give us a chance to correct our mistakes.
When God confronts us, we get to see ourselves as we are and we are given a second chance. What is important is how we respond and what we do after God confronts us. In 1 Samuel 3, after Hannah had offered her son Samuel to the Lord for service, Samuel began his training for the priesthood. The priest who was training Samuel was Eli. God saw that Eli had no control over his two sons. These boys were crooks. In 1 Samuel 2, we read more about what kind of sons they were.
The Bible described them as crooks and rascals. Worse of all, they had no regard for the Lord. When it was time to prepare the food for the offering, they would come in and take meat from the pot while it was boiling. It was like a pastor collecting the offering on Sunday and taking it home. It was like the son of a pastor taking what people donate to the church and claiming it was his. God decided to confront Eli. It was his responsibility to raise his children right and he was not doing a good job.
His sons were corrupt. He had to know to give them a chance. God decided to use the young man, Samuel to reach Eli. One night God called Samuel but Samuel did not know it was the Lord. You called me. Go back and lie down. Do we recognize the voice of God when God is calling us? In the middle of the week, this man went to find his son. While he was there, he saw his son had started to fight with another kid but had been held back by his friends. His son was unapologetic and wanted to leave camp.
He pulled together his stuff, and shoved it into the car. This man walked with his son and sat on a rock and asked his son. It was the moment the father had waited for. He spoke to you from within your soul. God spoke to you, and you were able to recognize Him. If he rejected the voice of God coming from deep within and chose to disobey His guidance, his heart would become hardened, and his ears would become dull.
If he continued on this path, there would be a day when he would never again hear the voice of God. Most Christians are like this. We saw how David repented of his sin of adultery. But Eli was different. One day a young lady in college was reading a text message of instructions from her father about meeting him for lunch at a nearby restaurant. I need to know where he will be today. What does it matter to him what you do? I heard your father was an unreasonable man. When you meet him, you will find he really cares about me.
I love him and want to have lunch with him. It means to respond to God the same way. He is our Father who has sent us directions in the Bible to meet him and have fellowship with him. The more we have fellowship with him, the more we will understand our role in the world and what God wants us to do. God want us to be active in the world to help make it a better place. The world is full of negative news and there is too much evil. Sometimes we just want to avoid dealing with it and hide.
But God wants us to make things happen, to become active in our local church, in our community and in the world. When God confronts us, we can become like Eli and say, whatever. He is God. Let him do what is good in His eyes. Then we can say like David did, Have mercy on me, O God,. January 7, Genesis I told you about my side of the family and your mother told you about her side. The reality is that both parents had different views of the genesis of the world and of human beings.
The Father gave the girl the biblical view while the mother offered the scientific view. If the world is based on evolution, are we evolving? If we are evolving, why are people still killing each other? Why is it that the more scientific we become, the more immoral we tend to be? If we are evolving, why do we still have social problems? Martin Luther King put it this way: "Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power.
We have guided missiles and misguided men. Both versions of how the human race started were about the Genesis of the world. God is the foundation, the home, the basis, and the source of all life. Even for those who believe in the Big Bang Theory, the belief that the universe started from a single point and expanded to where we are now, there was a starting point. That starting point was God. Even in philosophy, there is the belief that there was an uncaused Cause, a force which causes everything but itself is not cause.
They also talk about an Unmoved Mover, an energy that moves everything but itself is not moved. For Christians, the uncaused Cause, and the unmoved Mover is God. God is the beginning and the end of everything; yet God has no beginning and no end. The first words of the Bible testify to the power and presence of God.
Before creation, there was chaos, disorder, confusion, and emptiness. You see, when we live in disorder and confusion, God is never in the confusion but God is always nearby to bring order, calm, harmony and serenity into any situation. The rest of the chapter showed how God not only created light with His words, God also created the waters, the plants, trees and animals and other living things. Nature is so magnificent that there are people who worship it. A young man asked his pastor why God made sharks and many other dangerous animals.
The pastor could have come up with many scientific answers, but he wanted to give God glory, so the pastor finally answered, "Maybe sometimes God just wants us to say wow. Yes, indeed. The most powerful Word God gave us was Jesus. It was like the little girl who said, "Some people couldn't hear God's inside whisper and so He sent Jesus to tell them out loud.
There is power in words and words are powerful. We who follow Jesus and believe in God must begin this New Year with a resolution that we will use our words more wisely and more carefully. God has given us words to use and our words carry weight. The book of James talked about the power of words and the tongue. If we focus on the positive things and the strengths of other people, they will become better and stronger.
But if we constantly bring them down, we could turn them into monsters. Look out how you use proud words. When you let proud words go, it is not easy to call them back. They wear long boots, hard boots; they walk off proud; they can't hear you calling-. Another poem demonstrates what words can do. It goes:.
A cruel word may wreck a life;. A bitter word may hate instill,. A brutal word may smite and kill;. A gracious word may smooth the way. A joyous word may light the day;. A timely word may lessen stress,. A loving word may heal and bless. A group of frogs was hopping happily through the woods, going about their froggy business, when two of them fell into a deep pit.
All of the other frogs gathered around the pit to see what could be done to help their companions. When they saw how deep the pit was, the rest of the discouraged group agreed that it was hopeless and told the two frogs in the pit that they should prepare themselves for their fate, because they were as good as dead.
Unwilling to accept this terrible fate, the two frogs began to jump with all of their might. Some of the frogs shouted into the pit that it was hopeless. Other frogs continued sorrowfully shouting that they should save their energy and give up, since they were already as good as dead. The two frogs continued jumping as hard as they could, and after several hours of desperate effort were quite weary. Finally, one of the frogs took heed to the calls of his fellows. Depressed and distressed, he quietly resolved himself to his fate, lay down at the bottom of the pit, and died as the others looked on in helpless grief.
The other frog continued to jump with every ounce of energy he had, although his body was wracked with pain and he was completely exhausted. His companions began anew, yelling for him to accept his fate, stop the pain and just die. The weary frog jumped harder and harder and -- wonder of wonders! Finally this frog was able to leap so high that he sprang from the pit. The other frogs were amazed as they celebrated his miraculous freedom.
Gathering around him they asked, "Why did you continue jumping when we told you it was impossible? What he thought was encouragement inspired him to try harder and to succeed against all odds. This simple story contains a powerful lesson. Your destructive words can cause deep wounds; they may be the weapons that destroy someone's desire to continue trying.
Speak life to and about those who cross your path. There is enormous power in words. If you have words of kindness, praise or encouragement -- speak them now to, and about, others. Listen to your heart and respond. Someone, somewhere, is waiting for your words. December 31, Luke Today is the last Sunday in The week before we celebrated another glorious Christmas, remembering when Jesus was born. One news station reported that in America, we spent the most amount of money on Christmas gifts than ever before.
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. We want to imitate God in all things, not just in giving but also in loving, in sharing, and in creating community. We go all out with lights, decorations, music, food, hospitality, and more. For our Lord Jesus, nothing is too much or too big to give and share. But when they saw Jesus himself, they believed immediately. Today, we still have skeptics, cynics, and disbelievers asking whether Jesus really existed.
In our Gospel reading for today, we see two people who offered the first evidence about who Jesus was. The first was Simeon. Simeon was a righteous man devoted to God. The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. This was a special promise. Israel had waited years for this prophecy and promise to be fulfilled.
Simeon was blessed enough to receive such a promise. The other person was Anna. We are told Anna was a prophet. She was married at a young age and lived with her husband for seven years before he died. After his death, Anna never married again, remained a widow and devoted herself to the Lord. It was a Jewish tradition, according to Exodus We should keep this tradition and continue to dedicate not only our firstborn but also all our children to the Lord. Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:. And a sword will pierce your own soul too. Not long after that, Anna arrived on the scene.
When she saw the child, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. This was the second evidence God gave to all who were there that this was happening; the Messiah also known as Jesus, the Christ, was here. He had arrived. The stage was set for the salvation of the world. Did Jesus really exist? For the past 2, years, Christianity would have died if it had not been for the evidence of our faith.
We have four major kinds of evidence that Jesus was real and existed. First we had Simeon and Anna testifying and confirming that Jesus was the real Messiah. Second we have eyewitness reports starting with four different accounts of Jesus. Some people say there are four gospels, but I think there is one Gospel with four different accounts. Matthew presents Jesus as the one predicted by the prophets. Mark shows Jesus as having an urgent ministry; Luke portrays Jesus as a Savior not only for the Jews but also for the whole world.
Jesus was a universal Savior. Before Abraham was, I am. These eyewitness reports provide evidence that our Lord Jesus truly existed. We have been studying Acts and we have seen how Jesus appeared to Paul several times and how Paul was passionate about the message and about Jesus. Our faith is based on evidence. We have the evidence of Simeon and Anna. We also have the evidence of the Gospel writers and the book of Acts. The third kind of evidence we have can be found in all the places Jesus went and where he lived.
Those places are still there to this day. There is Bethlehem. There is Nazareth where Jesus grew up. There are also the Mount of Olives, the Jordan River, the Garden of Gethsemane, and Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified and there is also the empty tomb where Jesus was buried and rose again from the dead. Our faith and knowledge of the Bible will be transformed and the Bible will come to life. We will never be the same because we will encounter God in a new way and meet the true Jesus. All those holy sites are still there as evidence our Lord was real and truly existed.
The fourth kind of evidence is among us, in our lives. People I could not stand to be around, now I see Christ in them. And I used to hate reading my Bible and praying, but now, I enjoy them both. Throughout the history of the church, there were Christians who transformed the world and made it a better place. From Paul the apostle to took the Gospel throughout Europe, to Martin Luther who reformed the faith, to the millions of missionaries who risked their lives to take the Gospel around the world.
Christianity has promoted human equality, human rights, justice, compassion for the poor, care for children and the elderly. Just imagine what the world would be like if Jesus had never been born and had never existed? His answers? If Jesus had never been born, there would be no salvation and no forgiveness.
There would be only the Law and punishment. People would live by force and light would make it right. The strong would dominate and the weak would suffer. If Jesus had never been born, women would still be slaves, there would be slavery to this day; there would still be human sacrifice and the killing of children; gladiators would still be fighting to kill each other for fun; there would be cannibalism where people would eat other human beings; there would be no universities because Christians produced universities to educate people about the faith; there would be no ethical standards and there would be mainly dictatorships.
Think about the music, art, literature, and scientific developments that Christians have produced. Without Jesus, they would not have been inspired to produce these great works. You and I continue to transform our communities and this is proof and evidence that Jesus is real. As we come to the end of and look forward to , let us continue to be the evidence that our faith is real.
The Gospel writers and Paul demonstrated with conviction that their faith in God was real. The places where Jesus lived and walked are available today for us to go and experience for ourselves. Equally important, just as Anna and Simeon testified to the coming of Christ, we too must testify and provide evidence in our lives and relationships.
There are many others who need to meet Christ and know him as their Lord and Savior. Let us share with them the evidence we have that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. If they need miracles, let us become that miracle. If they need the Words of comfort, let us become the voice of God. If they need forgiveness, let us offer it to them.
If they need companionship, let us become their companion. When we do, we will become the evidence people need to believe. December 24, Matthew A man fell into a pit and couldn't get himself out. Can you tell me about your childhood? A news reporter wanted an exclusive story on his pit.
Creating is essential to align with the fulfillment you seek in this life, for creating is the path of growth. Take a moment now to consciously breathe, relax and release any accumulated density you have absorbed into the light, allowing joy and love to take its place. But moreover, we all must remember that we are co-creators of our own existence and our lessons to learn in this and other incarnations will be presented to us in the forms of various challenges. I am especially grateful for your program on Moby Dick; it has been my favorite books since I read it as junior In college. Imagine calling in Archangel Zadkiel and the power of the violet flame to transmute your past or current challenges into love. Enter into this, for this place serves.
An IRS man asked if he was paying taxes on his pit. The county inspector asked if he had a permit to dig the pit. An optimist said, "Things could be worse. No one helped him.
Jesus Christ came and saw the man, got in the pit with him and lifted him out of the pit. Before we met Jesus Christ and before we knew God, we were lost souls. We were in a pit with no one to help us get out of it. We were lost and confused. We were not sure of anything. Like Joseph, we had more questions than answers. This is how it was for Joseph. Joseph and Mary were engaged. In the Jewish tradition, when two people were engaged, it was the first stage of marriage.
The second stage was when they moved in together and physically consummated the marriage. He was bothered by it. But the Bible described him as a just man, a man who always did what was right. But Joseph decided it was not necessary to disgrace Mary and her family. You know, Church, sometimes the decisions we make in life may not be the most popular ones. The decision may be whether to save people from embarrassment and shame or disgrace them for a mistake they made; should we protect the good name of others and keep them from humiliation and dishonor or drag their name in the mud?
Joseph decided it would not help him to discredit Mary and her family so he planned to take her back quietly to her family. Her child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you will name him, Jesus, because he will save his people from sins. The decision to quietly send Mary back to her family turned into the bold act of accepting her as his wife.
It was not the popular decision but when we decide to follow the will of God, it will not always be the most popular decisions. While the world shuns the homeless, God tells us to welcome them. While the poor face so many discriminations, Jesus calls on us to reach out to them. Before the birth of Jesus, God spoke through the prophets, but something amazing was taking place. The birth of Jesus meant that God was doing something never before done in the history of the world, in the history of all religions.
God had sent Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and so many prophets to bring the world back into relationship and restore the fellowship that Adam and Eve destroyed in the Garden of Eden. Now God was coming to restore that broken fellowship and establish a complete and perfect relationship with God. God was taking on human form to enter our world and live as one of us. God was coming to experience our pain, our hurts, our joys and our humanity. God came to be our divine companion. God came to walk with us each day and to be our constant friend so we never have to ever be alone.
God came so that during time of difficulties, we would be reminded that we are not alone. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor who left his pastorate in London in to return to Germany as the head of the Confessing Church Seminary. When the Nazis rose to power, he returned to the United States in , but the move was short-lived. He called it a mistake to leave while there was a crisis in his country. Bonhoeffer returned to Germany once again and was soon imprisoned by the Nazis. Conditions in prison were horrible and the inmates were not allowed to speak.
The prisoners developed a code. As they placed the rope around his neck, the entire prison body responded with a booming "three taps" quickly on the prison walls. They were sending a message to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. God with us. God with you. Even in death, Bonhoeffer knew he was not alone and did not die alone. He was faithful to God and God never abandoned him. Joseph was a just man, a righteous man, and a man with character. But Joseph heard God because his heart and mind were pure and clear. He continued to hear God because he was a righteous man.
When Jesus was two years old and King Herod realized the three wise men had not returned to him, he decided to kill all the boys who were born around the time of the visit of these men. God sent another message to Joseph and told him to take Jesus to Egypt. Joseph was obedient to God so Joseph, Mary, and Jesus went to Egypt as refugees because Herod wanted to kill the child. With the birth of Christ, a new era was beginning. It was an era in which God would be our divine companion, to be with us, to give us guidance and to show us Jesus cares for us. It is said, When John Wesley lay dying in , he awakened from his sleep long to open his eyes and exclaim, "The best of all is, God is with us!
Notice how around Christmas, people tend to be more kind and more understanding than at others times. One Friday, a woman went to get some coffee at Starbucks and went through the drive through. When she pulled to get her coffee and pay for it, the clerk said someone else had paid for it. It was a random act of kindness, and we as Christians we can tell the world what makes Christmas so special, the love God showed us. God knew what we needed and so He Himself came in the person of Jesus Christ. Someone received a Christmas card that has a special significance for us all.
The Christmas card read, "If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. But since our greatest need was forgiveness, God sent us a Savior. What kind of pit are people in now? Some people are in the pit of darkness; others find themselves in the pit of fear, while others are in the pit of loneliness.
But Jesus is Emmanuel — God with us. All of us who belong to Christ are your family. God is with you because he cares. An author explained in a poem about how much Jesus cares for us. The poem reads:. When you think you're alone In the middle of the night,. When you've just had an awful dream And you're shivering with fright,. You lie there alone and scared And wonder if anyone cares. If you look into your heart You'll always find Me there. Sometimes life is just too hard And you need to get away. You need someone to talk to Who will listen to what you say,.
Someone who will let you know That they'll always be there. When you can't find anyone Just remember that I care. When there is nowhere else to go You can always come to Me. I promise that I'll be there In your greatest hour of need. I'm sure you can find Me If you take the time for prayer. When the whole world seems to hate you Just remember that I care. Today, we are blessed as Joseph was because we have a divine companion, a very special friend in Jesus, who will help us make the right decisions and do the right thing when the time comes.
It may not always be popular, but God is not in the popularity business. May we trust our Emmanuel and act boldly for the sake of the Kingdom of God. December 17, John ; Early in December of this year, the world experienced what was known as a Super moon. The moon was bigger and brighter than it had ever been. This is because the moon moved very close to the earth.
When the moon is closest to the earth, it appears to be larger and brighter. But here is the interesting thing about the moon that you already know. The moon has no light of its own. We humans are just like the moon. We have no light of our own. We are by nature sinful beings. If given the choice between good and bad, we will always look at the bad and reach for it. John the Baptist understood this. He accepted that his purpose in life was to testify about the light. John was like a super moon. John was better than a super moon. John came to reflect the light of the Son of God.
The closer we are to the Son of God, the brighter we will become. The text makes it clear that John himself was not the light. He only came as a witness to the Light. When we reflect the Light, we will let others see Jesus. They act so righteous and perfect and holy and blameless and rub it in that people can see Jesus because of them.
John the Baptist came to bear witness to the light. He was able to reflect the light because he was close to the Son of God. In this season of Advent and even beyond, we must become like John and reflect the light of the Son of God. There are two ways to reflect the Light of the Son of God. The first is to be a witness. There are several marks of a witness. A witness must have firsthand experience of Christ. A witness must be able to verbally express himself or herself.
A witness will have confidence in the power of God. A witness will have compassion upon others. A witness does not give second hand knowledge about what they know. A witness does not rely on the testimony of others. A witness has a personal experience, a firsthand experience of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
A witness will live so that others can emulate them. John Wesley said one mark of a Christian witness is that they are born again and that they spread love around wherever they go. Some people think witnessing is only through words and actively going to find people to share the Gospel of Jesus. Some Christians were attending evangelism training and a man asked them what was their biggest problem in witnessing to others.
They all said fear was their biggest problem. But the reality is that everything we do is a witness. This is one way of reflecting the Son of God and the closer we are to Jesus, the brighter we will be. The other way of reflecting the Light of the Son of God is to be the voice of God. When John came to bear witness and testify about Jesus, many people were curious.
They wanted to know who he was. Are you Elijah? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself? John made it clear it was not about him. He was the voice of God. They only turn around if they hear what they think is a winning voice. People may have their backs turn to us but when they hear the words coming from us, when they hear the voice of God in us, we want to get their attention. The following year, in , church leaders invited Billy Graham to conduct a rally at the Brandenburg Gate. They said that rock stars, entertainers, and political groups had been at the Wall, but little or no attempt had been made to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
One East German woman said that when they first came over to West Germany, they thought they would hear church bells ringing and be handed a Bible. She said, "What we really needed to hear was the voice of God. If we want to reflect the Light of the Son of God, we must be the voice of God. We must be a voice for the voiceless, a voice for the helpless and the hopeless, a voice for those depressed and despondent, a voice for the lost and confused, a voice of hope, a voice of peace, and a voice pointing you to the light of the Son of God.
The world wants to hear the voice of God. God does not want us to be an echo of the world, to repeat what others are doing. God wants us to be a voice declaring what God is doing. There is a story about a young man and an old preacher. So he went to see the old preacher. The old preacher, who sat across the room, spoke something in reply, something so hushed it was soft. The young man stepped across the room. The preacher repeated himself, but again in a tone as soft as a whisper. December 10, Mark One day, a king died.
His servants spread the unbelievable news all over the palace. He had died in his bed of natural causes. When the king arrived at the gates of heaven, he met St. Every element was planned and anticipated. But you made no plans for heaven. You heard about Jesus but you dismissed the idea because you were too important. The trip to heaven is a journey for which you made no preparation.
You did not accept Jesus. You did not join the community of faith. You did not live the life. You did not prepare for heaven. John the Baptist was that messenger and his task was to prepare people for the arrival of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. But there was a problem and a challenge. It is not clear whether it is John, who is in the wilderness, or whether it is the people who are in the wilderness and John went to preach to them. We know the wilderness is a place where no one lives, a place where there is no human life, and a place where there is no civilization.
The wilderness is a symbol of desolation, isolation, and devastation. At the same time, the wilderness is a place of discipline, of preparation, of challenges. The people of Israel traveled through the wilderness from Egypt to the Promised Land. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness before he began his ministry. God was about to begin a new period of the Gospel. The old world of might makes right would be no more. It was love for God and the neighbor. It is clear John was the voice in the wilderness talking to people who lived in the wilderness. People in the wilderness are people who have drifted from God.
People in the wilderness are people who have wandered from their faith. While they are in the wilderness, people do not listen very well. The voice of God is like a distant echo calling to them.
People in the wilderness have a feeling of dissatisfaction. A pastor served for many years in a local church before becoming a professor of pastoral care at the Moody Bible Institute. In he wrote a book called, A Stranger in the House of God , in which he talked about his experience in various churches. The sermon is either too theological or not theological enough. The people are too cold to one another or too cliquish. In the end, the root problem is always the same. It is the people. But the reason people have problems with their churches is because they are in the wilderness, drifting, wandering from God.
But they are frustrated. They are worrying. They have to go Christmas shopping. They have to get a tree and go to the store and buy food and more food, toys and more toys, gifts and more gifts. Something is missing. Do you hear what I hear? When a path is not straight, it means it is crooked. When we become dissatisfied, it is easy to become crooked, to find ways to satisfy ourselves. When we become preoccupied with life that we forget to live, we can lose track of what is important. We follow Christ for the miracles he brings and not for Christ himself.
Dissatisfaction keeps us from hearing God more clearly. God is speaking to us. Can you hear what I hear? John preached a Gospel of repentance and the forgiveness of sin. Can you hear John calling on us to practice confession and forgive one another? There was a tennis star named Boris Becker who was at the very top of the tennis world -- yet he almost committed suicide. He said, "I won the championship twice. I was rich. I had all the material possessions I needed. Yet I was unhappy. Many are so empty that they cannot hear the Gospel that calls them to confession and repentance and forgiveness.
The prophet calls on us to confess what we are feeling. Confess the dissatisfaction. Confess the emptiness. Confess that sometime God seems far away. After we confess, we must repent and express regrets for our behavior. When we repent, God will forgive us and enter our lives and give us a new purpose for living. Repent and seek forgiveness. John was the voice of one calling in the wilderness. People in the wilderness do not only have dissatisfaction, they are experiencing discord. Discord is when there is no harmony; discord is where there is no understanding. Discord is where people do not listen to one another but focus on themselves.
Discord is a sign of confusion because so many other things are demanding and claiming our time. Somebody said there are wilderness Christians. They enjoy feeling sorry for themselves. They are in discord because their bodies are in the church but their minds and hearts are somewhere else. They take their burdens to the altar and put them down asking God to take their burdens away. Wilderness Christians complain about everyone and everything, yet they contribute little or nothing to the mission of Christ.
Wilderness Christians always see the negative side of things. Sometimes we are led to the wilderness by depression; by things we have lost, by sadness and disappointments in life. Other times, God leads us into the wilderness to teach us a lesson and give us strength.
Even Jesus was led to the wilderness for a time to preparation. A tour bus was journeying through Israel with a group of Americans when they saw a unique sight. An Israeli shepherd was carrying a lamb in his arms. The bus stopped to talk with the shepherd and to give tourists a chance to take pictures. A little boy asked the shepherd, "Why are you carrying that little lamb in your arms? This little lamb keeps wandering from the shepherd and I am his only defense against enemies.
He would not listen to me. One day he fell and broke his leg. His broken leg saved his life and now he is learning a lesson. When we wander away from His side, we walk away from our only defense. He finds us in our sin, takes us through brokenness and carries us until we are able to walk with Him once again. John himself decided to go to the wilderness to preach, according to the text. The people went to hear him.
John went to the wilderness to show the people what life in the wilderness was like. When they found him, he baptized those who wanted to be baptized. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. John led the people to the wilderness to prepare them for the coming Messiah. The wilderness is a place of challenge, but it is also a place of preparation. It is easy to miss the voice of God calling us when we are in the wilderness.
There was a missionary who served in China before the days of Communism. She woke up one morning and decided to meet other missionaries to leave China. But as she started her journey, she felt she had no apparent hope of reaching safety. Let us prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord. Yes, we may be in the wilderness, but we will not remain there forever. Our Lord is calling us through the Word and through the prophets.
I hear an invitation to come, all who are tired and burdened. I hear the blessed assurance that we are never alone. I hear the comfort of the Shepherd. I hear love that cannot be measured. May God give the ears to hear what I hear. December 3, When the manager is gone -- be it on vacation or just away from her desk -- some employees act like a teenager whose parents are out of town. They sneak out early or come in late. They chitchat with co-workers more frequently, usually about nonwork-related things.
Some employees act like children whose parents are out of town when the manager is not around. Such employees can be said to give eye service. They are eye servants. Eye servants are those who work only when their supervisors are watching them. As soon as the supervisor turns around, that worker begins to slack off. Those employees who act like children whose parents are out of town also pay lip service to their bosses. Lip service is when we are all talk but no action, when we say one thing and do another. Lip service is pretending to believe a certain principle of value but never practicing it.
In Mark 13, Jesus was talking about a time when the He, the Messiah would come again. Today we enter the season of Advent, the season when we begin the preparation for the coming of Christ. In the First Advent, Jesus came as a baby on Christmas Day, and that is what many people will focus on. In the Second Advent, Jesus will come as the Messiah. When will the Messiah return? When will you come again?
Jesus told them many strange things will take place. He told them there will come false prophets; there will be natural disasters; there will be persecutions; there will be wars and rumors of war before people see the Son of Man come in the clouds with great glory and power. Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. The wicked servant was an eye servant. He pretended to work and be in ministry when he saw people looking at him. But when no one was looking, it was a different matter altogether. The wicked servant paid lip service.
He sang the hymns, but did not believe them. He read the scripture but they meant nothing. He prayed but with empty words because his heart was not in it.