“I am convinced that what characterizes people who know Jesus is not their lack of sin, but the presence of a radical, wild, mysterious calling from God.”
-Collected Writings of Mike Yaconelli, p. 138
Often we think of following Jesus as a list of “nots” and “don’ts.” I hear people say what they’ll have to leave and what they’ll have to quit and what they won’t be able to do if they follow Christ. In the Scriptures, the witnesses who heard and recorded Jesus understood something quite different. What Jesus spoke of was “life more abundant.” Life is more than food, clothing, possessions. Above and beyond any of these things, life is about calling, the Divine calling on your life.
“The mission of the church in America is not only saving souls, it is saving people from a life without calling. The Church, through Jesus, must save its people from a life of meaningless, unfulfilling empty work.”
-Collected Writings of Mike Yaconelli, p. 139
At mid-week prayer meeting we read Ephesians 4 together. What stood out for me was verse 28, which says, “Those who have been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.” The thief is told not to steal and to do something meaningful with their hands on behalf of those in need. Instead of only being told not to steal, the Bible says what they should do.
Jesus came to be the “Bread of Life” that truly satisfies, the “Living Water” that quenches our thirst and “The Life” that ignites passion in our hearts – infusing our everyday with meaning and purpose.
Instead of what you’re not, or what is not in your life, realize what Jesus has made you to be.
Yesterday, over 20 volunteers went door-to-door, inviting our neighbors to give to our food drive for the needy. All food will be given to a local organization, Philabundance, who will distribute the items to those in greatest need. I am pleased to say that together with our Chestnut Hill community we have collected in the neighborhood of 1,000 – 1,200 lbs. (we’ll know the exact weight at drop off) of non-perishable food! This is in addition to the fresh and canned food that we collected as a church for the Thanksgiving Baskets for those in need in our church community! Thank you so much for your generosity! Together, by Jesus’ power, we can make a difference!
May you live life more abundantly.
May you live a life of calling.
-Pastor Tara VinCross
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.
- Isaiah 64:1-4
In this passage we see Isaiah crying out, longing with all of his being for the first advent of Jesus Christ. As he looks around and sees the injustice, the pain, and the hurt in the world, his response is to turn to God and cry out in deep desire for his coming. He was waiting for the Advent of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
The word ‘Advent’ comes form the Latin adventus meaning arrival or coming. For Christians, the word is filled with hope and promise, for by saying this, we speak of the Advent or Coming of Jesus that sets the world right. We believe Jesus came in his first advent to live, die and raise to life – providing a way out for all of us, a way to live a life in connection with God. Scripture says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whosoever believes in him would not be lost, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
When Jesus left, he promised that he would return again, at the second advent (or coming) to set the world right and destroy sin & death forever.
As we anticipate the Christmas season and the celebration of the first advent, contemplate these words: “if the church cannot proclaim and look forward to the second Advent of Christ, then in all honesty there is precious little sense in making much ado about his first advent in Bethlehem." (Scott Hoezee)
We celebrate with joy the first advent of Christ, but we don’t stop there. For it is this longing that gives voice to the desire of our heart for Christ’s second Advent. Like Isaiah, we look around at the financial ruin, pain, and tragedy in our world and utter a cry of deep longing, “Oh that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” We wait in eager expectation for his return.
So, we add our voice to John’s as we say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20).
As we begin this advent season, we begin with a cry, beyond what our words alone can express. A cry for justice, hope and healing.
A cry for the advent of Jesus Christ.
-Pastor Tara VinCross
One evening this week, a couple leaders and I spent time in the hospital visiting a family from the church. It was a precious visit and we all sensed the Holy Spirit there with us. A lady pushing an older woman in a wheelchair joined us in the elevator on our ride down to the first floor. She told us she was just visiting her dad in the hospital, and identified the woman with her as her mom. She looked weary from the day, burdened with stress and fear.
When we reached ground floor, I helped her push the button to open the doors for the wheelchair and sensed the Holy Spirit telling me to follow her out. I hesitated momentarily, but then told the others to wait a moment and followed the prompting of God.
The two were in the lobby, preparing themselves to go into the rainy night. Walking up to her I said, “I’ll be praying for you.” Immediately she started crying. “Thank you,” she said. “Are you saved?” she asked me. “Yes,” I answered. “God hasn’t forgotten you.” Through her tears she said, “Now I know because He sent you to tell me. I haven’t been able to reach out to God. It’s just been so hard.” She continued crying as I hugged her. “God is walking with you. Even when you can’t reach out to Him.” I held her hands for a moment longer and then we said goodbye.
The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save
he will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.
-Book of Zephaniah
We and the people around us, need to hear this message of love, hope and care. “God is with you, He hasn’t forgotten you.” “He is mighty to save.” “God takes great delight in you.”
Maybe you need to remember that today.
God wanted to use me and I almost missed it. It’s easy to let fear or worry about what words we’ll say or how we’ll look stupid to keep us from sharing, but people need to hear. The Holy Spirit helped me to follow and we, both the woman and I, left the hospital that day, blessed.
Today, may you remember that God is near. Today may you be a reminder to all those around you that God is near to them.
-Pastor Tara VinCross
In Luke 15, Jesus tells three stories about things lost, beginning with a lost sheep and a lost coin, and concluding with a lost son. This son is rebellious and he disgraces his father, takes his money and wastes it in a distant land. A severe famine hits the land and as he’s serving slop to the pigs, longing to eat what they’re eating, he suddenly “comes to,” as if waking from a dream or coming out from under anesthetic, and realizes what he needs to do.
So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ’Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it.
Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
My question is not, do you believe in God, but what kind of God do you believe in? Do you see God running to you, embracing you, loving and accepting you just as you are?
Jesus told us these three stories in response to a certain understanding of the day that God only cared about those on the “inside,” the ones who are following God. The accusation of Jesus from those on the inside was, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” They were uncomfortable with the way Jesus was hanging out with those whom they thought were unworthy.
In reply, Jesus tells these stories to illustrate what God is like. In other words, if you want to know what God is like, look at this father in this story. And what does this father do? He runs, embraces, kisses, holds, welcomes… restores. This is what God is like.
This is the truth, and it is this truth that changes everything.
- Pastor Tara VinCross
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” (Melodie Beattie)
On this day of thanks, may gratitude to God usher you into the abundant life Jesus spoke of – the life not dependent on the accumulation of things, but on Jesus Christ.
It’s the life Paul speaks of when he says:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
- Philippians 4:12-13
This holiday season, I am grateful to God for you! This is such a wonderful, loving Church community and I thank God for bringing us from Seattle to Philadelphia to be part of what God is doing here.
Wishing you peace, gratitude and contentment from Jesus Christ our Lord!
-Pastor Tara VinCross
“You are only limited by the size of your vision,” said Dr. Joseph Kidder, our guest speaker for this weekend. We know its true. We believe that “with God, all things are possible”* yet we have memory lapses and limiting thinking that prevent us from stepping wholeheartedly into the purpose God has for us as individuals and as a church. We buy into the fear and anxiety so pervasive in our culture. We loose the plot. We loose focus on the bigger work that God is doing in our lives and in the world. We settle.
Yet, the truth remains, we were made for so much more. You were made for so much more. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”*
“Sometimes in life we have to become less to be more. We become whole people, not on the basis of what we accumulate, but by getting rid of everything that is not really us, everything false and inauthentic.” – Harold Kushner
To make a difference we must let go of what we are not, even though others may tell us its what we are, and step into the beautiful mystery of who we are in Jesus Christ. God has good plans for you, for us, for this church and this community. Is there risk? Yes. Does it take sacrifice? Yes. Are we sometimes afraid? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely!
In the words of Will Rogers: “Why not go out on a limb? That’s where all the fruit is.”
My prayer today is that we will step into all that God has planned. By God’s grace and His Spirit, let’s make a difference in the world!
- Pastor Tara VinCross
- Matthew 19:26
- 1 Peter 2:9
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