That’s right … He is even next door!

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ – Matthew 25:40

This is an exciting time for Redeemer!  And this month it seems that two themes are coming together in an interesting way.  The first is our church’s vision for Redeemer to be “a church family joining Christ in our community.” The second, appears unrelated, but as I will point out, is actually much related: this month’s message series called “God Is Closer Than You Think.” It’s based on a book by John Ortberg, and the premise of the book is that God has “broken” into our world in the person of Jesus Christ, and He promises to remain with us in this world even though bodily He has risen and ascended into heaven.  It is through His Holy Spirit, that He remains with us in presence even though our eyes cannot see Him.

Who among us is not thrilled that Jesus has given us God’s Holy Spirit to dwell within us through our baptism?  The question I am posing for us to consider is, can we see God’s Holy Spirit present and at work outside of us? … even in our community? I believe Jesus has told us that He is. In fact you’ve probably heard me say at one time or another that “God is always at work.” This is something that we are counting on as we set out to accomplish our vision and goals this year – to discover God at work in our community.  That means then that we need not dream up our own activities that attempt to do God’s work, but rather we simply observe what He has begun and is already doing in our midst and join Him there!  If we are going to be about looking for where God is present and at work, perhaps the best place for us to look is in the lives of our neighbors.

Jesus told Parables to His disciples often having to do with neighbors. Perhaps the most memorable is that of the Good Samaritan where the question was asked of Jesus, “who is my neighbor?” Jesus pointed out that our neighbor is the one to whom we show love.  He confirms this in another setting: Matthew 25 – only this time He does not speak in a parable, but uses plain language.   Jesus tells His disciples that when Judgment Day comes, He will be concerned about how we have showed love to “the least of these.” Why does this matter to Jesus?  Because, He says, when you loved them, you were loving Him.

I think it is no accident that our vision emphasis for the year is to join Jesus as He works in our community, and now our first message series following Easter has to do with looking for the presence of God in our lives. I believe Jesus wants us to discover that He is present and at work in the very people around us that we are seeking to reach and serve with the Gospel!  Whom might Jesus be directing you to reach and serve with the message and love of Christ?  You might be surprised … you may also discover that God is at work in your life through them too!

I recently read a book where the author pointed out that an important part of spiritual growth and even conversion to faith, comes through what he calls “providential relationships.” The idea being that when people tell their faith stories, they invariably include the work of Jesus that they saw in another person. It may be a couple who just “showed up” in their lives, or a person that talked to them about Jesus, or a teacher that really opened the Scriptures to them.  Whatever the case, there was a relationship where they felt the love of Jesus coming through.  And the thing is, you and I cannot manufacture these relationships … but we can work to create “margin” in our lives for these relationships to form.

It’s my goal and prayer that we continually ask these complementary questions:

  • How can I join Jesus where He is already working in my neighbors’ lives? And
  • How is Jesus revealing himself to me in His Word and the people and circumstances around me?

I’m increasingly viewing our world as not just a “waiting room” to get into heaven, but rather a place where Heaven has broken through, and a place that Jesus is already transforming by his grace. You do not need to wait until you die to be in the presence of God. He is closer than you think.

I hope that you’ll join us for the rest of this message series, and that together we will be used by God to bring His love and salvation to the people we meet along life’s way!

Joining Jesus on His mission with you,

Pastor Augie.