Let’s focus our worship today on allowing this passage to be a springboard to “pray continually” throughout our day. Let’s return to gratitude, no matter our circumstances, as we follow Jesus today. Pray for God to keep you “completely dedicated” to Him and that He would give you the strength to do so.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 Common English Bible (CEB)
16 Rejoice always. 17 Pray continually. 18 Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Don’t suppress the Spirit. 20 Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, 21 but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil. 23 Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming. 24 The one who is calling you is faithful and will do this.
- When you consider your deepest longing you have identified these last two weeks, if this longing is fulfilled, how will it bring God’s Kingdom?
- What are the things you do that block or deny this longing from being fulfilled?
We’ll keep these two questions in mind as we journey through this third week. Return to them often and listen for God’s voice.
Isaiah 61:1-4 Common English Bible (CEB)
61 The Lord God’s spirit is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me
to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim release for captives,
and liberation for prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and a day of vindication for our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 to provide for Zion’s mourners,
to give them a crown in place of ashes,
oil of joy in place of mourning,
a mantle of praise in place of discouragement.
They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,
planted by the Lord to glorify himself.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins;
they will restore formerly deserted places;
they will renew ruined cities,
places deserted in generations past.
For whom is this coming King coming?
Today, we continue our Advent theme of waiting for the Lord to come by considering who He is coming for. Of course, He is coming for everyone, scripture makes that much clear, but who do you think will actually see Him first? (Don?t miss how that question is phrased!)
Isaiah joyfully proclaims he has been anointed by God to bring good news to the…
These are among those who will see this coming King first, even today.
A coming King means a coming Kingdom
If there is a coming King, there must be a coming Kingdom. In fact, Jesus proclaimed His Kingdom was near so often I get the feeling He really wanted us to not miss this. He wanted us to see this Kingdom and understand the full impact of it.
Jesus’ Kingdom is here now. It’s also coming to fruition at some future time. We live in an already-here-not-yet Kingdom.
It’s as if there is an invisible veil that separates this world from this full coming Kingdom. Sometimes I imagine this world is like the virtual world in The Matrix movie, where sometimes what seems so embraceable and real begins to deteriorate and the hologram begins to flicker and buzz and pop and we wonder what the heck is going on.
These moments, when what seemed so real to us begins to sputter and pop, are where we are being transformed and we begin to see the illusory nature of this world. These moments God gives us the grace to see an alternate Kingdom bursting through and we can thankfully see where we had placed the full weight of our hope and dreams was not on a sturdy foundation, for even the foundation itself was an illusion.
Jesus knows what fuels this world also reveals it
This is why God anoints Isaiah to proclaim this good news to the poor, brokenhearted, captives, prisoners, and mourners – they already know this world is an illusion!
Our big screen projectors and virtual reality goggles are powered by an electrical current. This is how we immerse ourselves in escapist entertainment.
But where we find ourselves – living in this world or God’s Kingdom – is the furthest thing from escapist entertainment; it’s as serious as life and death.
Jesus knows what fuels this world: our devotion.
And Jesus knows what causes the illusion to flicker into oblivion: our devotion being redirected to His son.
This world runs on the electrical current of our belief in its reality. The ruler of this world needs you to believe in the illusion of it all in order to keep generating false image after false image.
We suffer at the hands of this world and its ruler, and he knows if he can just keep us looking at it and him, we will never usher in this new Kingdom.
We are the means by which this new Kingdom comes
Tomorrow, we’ll dive into how our suffering and pain actually thin the space between this illusory world and the Kingdom that is near. It’s our suffering that actually brings Jesus near!
Jesus comes to the poor, brokenhearted, captives, prisoners, and mourners with the soft leading edge of His mercy and grace because they are the most likely to see Him coming first.
Those who have given up on this world are noticers.
When we suffer, in our heartbreak and poverty, we are given the gift of real vision.
Remember, Jesus says look at the blind who can now see! Look who is walking because they’ve been healed!
- Because everyone’s life is a mixture of both good and bad, there are always places at any point in our journey where we can identify with being poor, or brokenhearted, or imprisoned or a captive, or a mourner. Which of these are you most in touch with today?
- As you read through this scripture, what good news do you sense God is proclaiming to you personally?
- How is He inviting you to respond?
The Lord sent Isaiah to proclaim the good news. Today, He sends each one of us as Isaiah. Who is He sending you to today? What will you do?
A Closing Prayer
Help me to see your Kingdom at hand. Help me to rip my eyes from the illusion of this world and its false comforts and illusory rewards. Lord, I know you come to those who have been humbled. Help me to disengage from the comfort of this world to embrace my poor dependency on you. I know, Lord, your Kingdom will come as I surrender – so bring your Kingdom through me!
- This evening, continue again to worship through Psalm 80:3 as a personal prayer. Return to this often over this Advent season.
- As you begin your day tomorrow, re-read these passages of scripture and ask God to help you see His Kingdom throughout your day.
Scriptures from Our Advent Series
Texts for First Advent Week: Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37; Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
Texts for Second Advent Week: Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; Mark 1:1-8
Texts for Third Advent Week: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126; Luke 1:46b-55; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28