Have your New Year's resolutions fizzled out in the flurry of life's demands? Let's rekindle that spark of transformation together. In our latest episode, we navigate the tempest of personal change, invoking the rhythms of chronobiology and the sweet promise of Mondays as beacons for a fresh start. We ponder the elements that snag our focus—be it the tug of love, the weight of financial woes, or the embrace of family—and how they might be steering us away from the growth we yearn for. I share insights to help you recalibrate your attention, empowering you to pursue meaningful metamorphosis at any time of year.
Then, take a stroll with me through the cobblestoned paths of ancient Jerusalem, as we recount a unique tale from Jesus' youth. Discover how a moment of parental panic during Passover reveals the eternal thread of familial concern that connects us across millennia. No guide or historian needed here; the story of Jesus lost in the temple not only illuminates the cultural backdrop of Biblical times but also reflects our own parenting struggles today. This episode invites you to find echoes of your own life in the age-old narrative of a quest for understanding, both divine and earthly.
To close, we hear a stirring testimony from a 98-year-old stalwart of faith whose life's journey with Jesus Christ has been nothing short of inspirational. Whether you view Jesus as a historical icon, a guiding star, or the cornerstone of salvation, this personal account shines a light on the enduring legacy of belief and the profound comfort it can offer, challenging us to reflect on our own legacy and beliefs. Join us for a heartfelt exploration of faith, identity, and the steadfastness of spiritual companionship.
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Welcome to Medicine Church Online. Stephen Feith Leigh, pastor, I'd love to invite you to join us in person soon. We've got a lot of fun and impactful things going on that I would personally love you to be a part of, and it is, as I mentioned earlier to our in-person audience. All of you guys here today, our community. It's good to see you. I think this is the longest stretch it's been. I was looking at my calendar from the time we last met to the time we've got back together. This is the longest stretch. It was almost the full three weeks between Sundays, and so it is good to see you all again. How many of you because last week was New Year's how many of you have already decided 2024? Not your year, but 2025 might be? Has anyone already there? This is good. If you're watching or listening online, let us know, but everyone in the room, you guys, haven't given up on 2024 yet. That is amazing and, as I mentioned last week as I was talking, I personally believe in the studies and research would back me up on this that picking a resolution or a word of the year, having some sort of goal or ambition for the upcoming year, is good and you actually are more likely to make a change if you do it this time of year. So there's this thing called chronobiology and there's a lot of studies going on about it and what they say is the beginning of the year is a great time to start. The second best time to start is Monday. So if you messed up, monday's coming, and if you mess up tomorrow it's OK because Monday's coming again, but that's the second best day to start things. But perhaps you and I kind of mentioned you last week some of you are cynical and skeptical a little bit about the whole New Year's resolution thing, and that's fine, I get it. What I think is that for some of you and not all of you, but for some of you your skepticism might come from a place of past experience. You've tried really hard. You've read the books, you've listened to the podcast, you've made the goals, you've done the objectives, you've put the time limit on it. It's just like, year after year, it's not successful. Maybe it's not failure, but it's not successful In some cases it's just flat out failure and it's discouraging. And so you're kind of like why do I continue every year to put myself up in a situation that I'm not going to pass, and so I get that, but I think that some of the content that Jason and I have prepared for you today could help a little bit. I'm not saying that I'm not trying to convince you to coming up with a New Year's resolution. That's not my aim for today. It wasn't Jason's either, but perhaps you have something in your life you desperately want to change and you just don't know how. Whether it's January 1st or August 7th, you don't know, it doesn't matter. So some of the stuff that we're talking about today could help. And a question that we need to ask before we can make a change, before we pick the word of the year, before we make the resolution, is what currently has my attention, what currently has your attention? Because the answer to this question is probably precisely why you're having a difficult time making changes, and what I mean is, for example, some of you. There's a person in your life that has your attention. You're deeply in love, you are consumed with them and factuated All of the above. They're great, nothing else matters. And as such, whether intentionally or not, someone and how you're focusing in on them, how they have your attention, could be interfering with your ability to make the changes that you want to make in your life. For some of you, it's not a person that has your attention, but your bank account or you're diminishing bank account. It's not going in the right direction. It's going in the wrong direction. So that has your attention currently. Maybe you have enough money, but you just want more. You know, just a little bit more in the retirement, maybe just a little bit more insurance. Let's add umbrella all of these different things that we can do with our finances. It could be an obsession with money, either having too much or not enough, which could be why you're not able to focus on other areas of your life. You keep coming back to money For others. Your career has your attention. You tell yourself, these are the years. It's just going to be a short season. I got to do the work now. I got to prove myself to my company, I got to put in the hours, I got to climb the ladder, and it won't be like this forever, right. But some of you can let us in on a little secret, because you were saying that in your 20s and then you find yourself saying it in your 30s and now you're in your 40s or your 50s and you're thinking about retirement and you realize you never stopped saying it. You never stopped saying it. You always said this will be the year that it gets better. Next year will be, but it hasn't, and so this could be the reason that you don't have time to do make the changes you want. You want to spend more time with your friends and family, but you can't because your career has your attention and still, for others, it's none of that. It could be that your family has your attention your partner and your kids, or how you determine and make every decision in your life and you can't take care of yourself because you're too busy taking care of them and, coincidentally, maybe you and doing so are inhibiting their ability to take care of themselves. While you're at it, something to think about. You're trying to make a positive change in your life, but something or someone else has your attention, making it much, much, much more difficult for you to make the meaningful changes you want to make in your life. And, let's be honest, for some of us in the room, it's a lot harder than what I just laid out. There are areas in your life that you don't want to have your attention, but there are areas in your life that are holding your attention hostage, like a terrorist. A divorce, a possible divorce, is holding your attention hostage. It's the addiction that screams at you every hour of the day. You want to make a change, you're trying to make a change, but the addiction is holding your attention for ransom. It could be loneliness, fear, apathy, hopelessness that's grabbed your attention. This last one, it gets me. It's this constant feeling of failure, a fear of failure, the fear of being a failure, that holds your attention. So let me ask you again this morning what has your attention? Because I know for a fact someone or something has your attention. And what has your attention has your heart, and what has your heart determines your choices and behavior. So what has your attention? You know we've been going through this series, the Gospel of Luke, called Christmas According to Luke, and we've been doing it for two months. We're finally getting to the end of chapter two. I told some of you it was gonna be word by word and you were curious how serious I was, and you're coming to find out that after eight weeks I was very serious about that. But today is the last part of this series. So you can be, you know, thank Jesus, we're moving on to a different topic, but the idea of doing this Advent series a week before Advent actually started and now a couple weeks after Advent has ended, is that I want you, I want all of us, myself included, to carry the story of Jesus' birth past December. I know every single year you expect us to talk about the birth of Jesus, either from Matthew or Luke. We can be a little creative, maybe dip into some of Paul's stuff, but every year you expect, come Christmas time, we're gonna talk about the birth of Jesus. But it's so much bigger than one month out of the year. The birth of Jesus changes everything every day, and so this is the last part of the series. But I hope that when talking about resolutions and making changes and carrying this series out as far as we've carried it out that we're doing more than just picking up a little bit more information. You don't need more information, you're just constantly bombarded with information, but this is really stuff that you can put into practice in your own life after we leave today, and today we're ending the series on a strange story in Luke. That is about what we have our attention on, or what has our attention. We're going to Luke, chapter two and verse 41,. If you follow along in the house Bibles, I'll have the words on the screen in a moment. But a little context here. This is the story Jesus was just born we were just talking about that and now Jesus is a 12 year old, middle schooler essentially, and so we can kind of imagine Jesus. I mean remember he was fully God. Yes, that's what we talked about a lot of the series. Let's not forget he's also fully human. So as a 12 year old boy, he's probably going through some 12 year old boy type of changes. He's probably a little awkward, a little lanky, a little uncomfortable and unconfident in his own skin. And for Jewish people, like 12 year old Jesus and his mother Mary and his father Joseph, this was a big year because for him, being a 13 year old Israelite, when he would turn 13, he was now considered an adult and as an adult he would be expected to follow the law, the Old Testament law, those five, 600 rules that they needed to follow. He almost there's a little bit of a grace period. They're not saying do whatever you want, little baby Jesus, but there's a grace period. They don't expect you to follow all the rules. That changes the day you turn 13. Then Jesus would be expected, just like every other human or Jewish human, to follow the rules, and when you didn't, he would have to make a sacrifice for himself. Now one final note here. For some of you you like this kind of extra stuff Luke is only going to include this one singular aspect of Jesus' childhood, and you might think that's weird. We don't know a lot about Jesus' childhood at all. Biographers 2,000 years ago didn't have the same priorities that we have today, where you kind of maybe spend equal parts on every part of your life to paint a complete picture. Biographers 2,000 years ago, they would tell one story that they would say this encapsulates the entire childhood. So Luke is saying I don't need to tell you about every detail of Jesus' youth, I'll tell you this one story and you, the reader, you can take this one story and kind of surmise that this is what the rest of the childhood was like before and after. And so that's kind of the why behind we don't have more information. And so, picking up verse 41, luke writes every year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was 12 years old, they attended the festival as usual After the celebration was over, they headed home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn't miss him at first because they assumed he was among the other travelers, but when he didn't show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends and, as we've continued to see throughout this whole series all of Luke's writing, mary and Joseph continued to do all of the things that law abiding Jewish men and women do. This includes an annual trip to Jerusalem during Passover. So they're there because the old covenant law required them to. After they do their little things there, they start to go back home to Nazareth. It would be if they presumably travel about 20 miles a day on foot with a caravan, it would take them three days to get back home. We may think that Mary and Joseph were being a little neglectful. What you left? Jerusalem, and you weren't 100% sure you had all of your children there. But we got to cut them some slack Again. The times were different. Chances are good that Mary and Joseph traveled with their entire neighborhood. You didn't travel alone. That was a good way to get robbed, beaten up, stolen, sold into slavery, all of those awful things. And so, jesus and his family. They traveled with their neighbors. They're going home, and if you're a parent of middle schoolers, do they want to travel with you? Or if all the neighborhood kiddos are there, are they kind of like, maybe somewhere hanging out in the back right, and so let's cut them some slack, jesus. They think Jesus is hanging out with all the little kids in the neighborhood. Hopefully he's not turning water into wine yet for them, but he's traveling with them. And when Jesus doesn't turn up for dinner, they say, oh, where is Jesus? And you know, when they ask around, they ask their neighbors, their friends, and nobody's seeing Jesus. And so this is when panic starts to set in. Where is Jesus? Did he get lost on this journey? It would be hard to get lost from a caravan. That's why they traveled like that. Okay, so he probably didn't get lost. Was he stolen? Was he kidnapped? Holy smokes, maybe we left him in Jerusalem. Did we leave him in Jerusalem? Jerusalem at the time had about 70 or 80,000 people living in it, pre-internet, pre-cell phones. This wasn't like you're in a call back at the temple. Hey, did we happen, by chance, to leave a child there? Like you didn't do that, and now they've already traveled the day. So if you're getting the mind of these parents, you're missing a child. Happens to be the Son of God. Okay, just throwing out that little detail, you've lost the Son of God. You're like it's going to take me an entire day now to travel back to Jerusalem and it's going to be nightfall there, so tomorrow is pretty much a wash, which means it's going to be a day and a half before we can start looking for the kid. Can you just imagine the anxiety that his parents they must have felt. They, I mean just how anxious. They probably didn't get a lot of sleep that night, but even though they would have wanted to rush back to Jerusalem, they could not have traveled by themselves in the dark back to Jerusalem. That just would not have been a safe option. And let's not forget, mary and Joseph have other kids younger than Jesus, so they're not just traveling to adults on their own, they have little kids with them. Luke writes when they couldn't find them, they did go back to Jerusalem to search from there Three days later. Okay, think about that. One day traveling back and the two days hanging out in Jerusalem looking for Jesus. They finally discovered him in the temple. I imagine now this was the first place they went, so why he wasn't there the first day? They got there Like where was he at, I don't know. But then they eventually circled back to the temple. There he is. He's sitting among the religious leaders, listening to them, asking questions, and all who heard were amazed at his understanding and his answers. Three days later, one time, we're at zoolights here in Madison. As anyone been to the zoo lights at the Henry Vila Zoo. It's awesome, it's really great. We do this every year with our friends Dan and Tamara, and one year, I think a couple years ago, our son Oliver. He would have been four or five years old. Eventually, we kept telling him the entire time this is important context kept telling him the entire time it's dark outside, there's no lights. I mean there's lights, but this isn't like the daytime lights. You have to pay attention and follow us. Oliver struggles with focusing in every area of his life and we're looking around and Oliver's not there and it was like the longest 10 minutes of our lives and what our strategy was. Megan, you go look, but I'm going to stay here in case Oliver comes back. And so, like the angst I felt as a parent was like I want to be out walking around and looking for him, but I kind of just got to stand here in case he comes back. And thankfully, you guys know Oliver is here today. We didn't lose him forever. Okay, we did. Eventually, some nice mom found him, saw a little kid and this is not normal for a four year old to be walking around by himself at the zoo. Did you drive yourself here, honey? No, okay, let's find your mom. Okay, so we you know. And also, to add a little bit more to this, it's not like Oliver is the son of God or the Messiah. I keep coming back to this as I read the story. Think about Mary and Joseph and everything they've been through, and they have big dreams, big plans, big hopes. Angels have talked to them here's the son of God and you lost him. Like this is that you had one job moment, I mean like this this take, this is the pinnacle of that you have. Just don't lose the son of God. Just don't do that. They did it. But they did find them. And they find them at the temple and everyone is amazed. You know who wasn't amazed? Mary and Joseph, just throw that out there. They're not amazed at all. Naturally. His parents reading on. His parents didn't know what to think. God, they think they had some ideas. Luke's being nice here, okay, son. His mother said to him, in a way that moms talk to sons who are in trouble why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic searching for you everywhere. Jesus, remember, middle schooler, says but why did you need to search? Didn't you know that I must be in my father's house? But they didn't understand what he meant. Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them and his mother stored all of these things in her heart. Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all people. Okay, so again, luke is going to tell one story and he says this is Jesus's childhood. And right here you get it all. You get a little snarky Jesus, little talking back Jesus. We're also told that when he gets home he is obedient. That's important, right. He gets home, he follows kind of these Jewish rules submitting and respecting, honoring their mother and parent and father, stuff like that. But one interesting thing that, if you're taking notes to underline, they didn't understand what he meant. Why did you need to search? Didn't you know I needed to be in my father's house and they didn't understand what he meant. And what he meant was, and what he's alluding to is his deity, is his divinity, is his supremacy. You see, this is a passage in which Jesus is, the first time in his life, setting himself apart from us. Yes, fully God, fully boy. At this point raging hormones. But he says, mom and dad, I needed to be in my father's house. Don't forget who my dad is. The religious leaders had given decades of their lives to becoming theological experts were blown away by this hormonal middle school kid and the answers that he was giving. Okay, I don't know if you've ever been upstairs to our middle school room, but like it's never amazement of the insights that they're saying, it's the amazement of the sarcasm that comes out of their mouth. But this isn't the sense I get from Jesus. This was like wow, he is very insightful. And his mom to his mom, jesus tells her I have a higher purpose than even being your son. Yeah, mom, I'm your son, but I have an even greater and higher purpose than that. That's why Jesus was in the temple and she realizes at this moment it says that she hides these things in her heart. It actually would be a better translation to say that these things bound themselves to her heart, like she became obsessed with them the moment she realizes that she doesn't have authority over Jesus, even her son. Jesus doesn't have authority over him. He has authority over her. Now, parents and middle schoolers, don't let your kids listen to this talk. Okay, but it does say that even after they went home, even though Jesus had authority over her, because he is God, he is divine it says what? That he continued to obey them, he continued to follow the law and, like the teachers, that grabs her attention. But what does all of this mean for you and I today? Let's go back to where we started. What has your attention? Does Jesus have your attention? Does Jesus have your attention? The way that he held the religious leaders who studied this stuff and devoted their whole lives to this? He had their attention. He had his parents' attention. Does he have your attention? Because what has your attention has your heart, and what has your heart determines your choices and actions. And even if you're not a Christian, you're not sure about Jesus. You're on the fence with it. Maybe he was real, maybe he wasn't real, or he was real. He's a historical person, but he certainly didn't walk on water. He certainly wasn't didn't come back from the dead. Wherever you're at with that, you cannot deny the influence that Jesus has had in our world for the last 2,000 years. That's why, year after year, time Magazine gets together and they have honest conversations, not like at the beginning of the year. They're like should we nominate Jesus again for person of the year? Like, oh yeah, that's great. Like no, they do the research, they do the work, and every year, just about Time Magazine comes out and they say you know who? The most influential person in history is Jesus. So even if you don't believe in his deity, you cannot deny his influence in society. Who is Jesus to you then? Does Jesus have your attention? Who is Jesus to you? A while ago, jason asked some of his friends on Facebook. He said hey, don't answer this if you're Christian. I have a question for all my non-Christian friends who do you say Jesus is? One wrote Jesus's teachings are simply beautiful, timeless, inspiring, enabling, enlightened. Another says Jesus is a really good guy. A non-believer wrote I believe Jesus is a historical figure used by some to inspire good. Another friend says I cannot reconcile that Jesus is the only way to eternal life or goodness at the expense of all other beliefs. I believe the actions of Jesus were solely focused on trust, acceptance, love, second chances and equal treatment, no matter what. My guess is some of you listening online, some of you in the room, perhaps even would answer the same way who is Jesus? Great teacher, great man, great example, One of the greatest of all times? The goat, as the kids say these days. But here's the problem. That's not who Jesus claimed to be. Jesus didn't claim to be the goat, one of the greatest of all times. Because, while it's true Jesus was a great teacher, a great example, a great part of social change that has occurred, he flatly rejected the notion of just being a great dude, of just being a great guy. Instead, jesus claimed unapologetically, boldly, confidently, that he was and is God. Jesus, by his very nature and his teachings, does not allow you and I, he does not allow us in the room to just consider him a great person, to be respected. His teachings don't allow for that. I love the way CS Lewis unpacks this idea even better in his book Mere Christianity. Lewis writes I'm trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him referring to Jesus. I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God. That is one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be a lunatic On the level with the man who said he is a poached egg, or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. My guess is that for many of us, we have friends and family in our lives who would respond to our social media posts. If we were to ask what do you think about Jesus? They would respond the same way, and you probably right now, maybe some of you sitting in your seat and you want to fight or argue, you want to convince them. It doesn't have to be fighting, but you're like. Jesus has changed my life so much and I want you to experience that also. So why can't people see this? Why can't people see what I've experienced? And the sad reality is that often it's because of me, it's because of you. The sad reality is that most people don't like Jesus because of his followers. A lot of people like who Jesus is. They don't like us, they don't like you and me. They see a Jesus who is so full of love and they see Christians who use his message for hate. Jesus, we read over and over again, is a fighter for the vulnerable and the oppressed, and now Jesus' name is invoked to ignore those who are most vulnerable, or we tell people to deal with their own issues, their own stuff. Jesus was labeled as a friend of sinners and now we cite Jesus as a way to heap shame and guilt on people who have real struggles, real addictions, who are dealing with real pain. And we do this all in the name of Jesus. And if you're a Christian or not, if you're not a Christian, you're far from God or you don't know where you're at with God. You're exploring, you're spiritually curious, whatever it might be. If that has been your experience with Jesus' followers, I'm so sorry. They don't represent him. At least they don't represent him. Well. That's not the Jesus of the New Testament and it's not the Jesus we follow here today. And the first step in all of us acknowledging that is not to continue to blame a different side of this or different political party or a different denomination of Christians. It's to do what I did right now, it's to say I'm the problem and it's to say you're the problem, and it's to say we're the problem, because you can't control what anyone else does. You can only control what you do. And so as we look inward and we look at our friends and family and we're like Jesus has changed my life, you can change your life, we don't just say, yeah, those people suck. We look inward at ourselves and we say how can I be a brighter light? How can I be a brighter light For those of you who have already met Jesus? We don't have to push people away from him. We can be different and we must be different. And at Madison Church, that's what I work toward. This is what I do, for a living is to continue to push us, and our community and myself and our leaders do this as well. It's collaborative to push ourselves in a direction to reclaim the beauty and the wonder and the power of the Jesus we read about in Luke. We want to show people who Jesus is really like, who he really is, and when we do that, watch them pay attention, watch them start to pay less attention to the things we've talked about and watch them pay more attention to Jesus. Jesus is asking all of us today who do you say I am? And it's a question every person has had to answer. He asked the question who do you say I am? We all have to answer it and when we answer it, as Jesus is the Son of God, jesus lived the life I should have lived. He died the death I deserve now and he overcame death so that my life could be changed, that I could live life to the fullest. What begins to happen is he gets more of our attention. And as Jesus gets more of our attention, we see changes start to happen. What kind of changes. You can begin to do things that you never thought you could do. Some of you in the room you need to hear this. God wants to use you. You've written yourself off, you've screwed up too many times. You're not talented enough. Whatever it might be, there's a lie rattling around in your head and God is telling you. Jesus is telling you you can do what you never thought you could. If you pay attention to me, you have the power within you, as a follower of Jesus, to change people's lives around you, to change systemic issues in society, to change the brokenness in your marriage and your family, to change the city of Madison and the issues that face us. You all have within you the power, because of Jesus, to change the course of eternity for other people. But it's not just that. One of the changes you're going to experience is that you're loved, even when you feel unlovable. And some of you feel right now that you're never going to get past your past. You feel like you are your divorce. You feel like you will always be a chronic warrior. That is just who you're going to be. And, frankly, when you look at the mirror in the mirror, you don't like who you see. Maybe not the way you look, but you don't like the person who is looking back at you. And yet Jesus says I love that person. Jesus looks at that person in the mirror, says I think they're pretty great and I'm not done with you yet. We're just beginning. It's going to take some work, but we're just beginning. You might need to get some help, but you're loved and you're loved unconditionally. And he's not done with you yet. Another change you begin to experience is that you are never, ever alone. What going on in your life is too much for you. What in your life is just exhausting. It's too exhausting for you to even think about right now. I keep bringing it up and you keep trying to push it back and you're like move on, stephen, to something else. What is a situation? You find yourself so utterly alone, without a solution in sight. The same Jesus who whispered to guys like Peter, james and John is whispering to you this morning just rest, just come to me, find peace, I'm your home. He says I've got this. Jesus says you rest for a while. I'll take this burden for you. Of over the 60 answers Jason received on this question, he posted on Facebook what do you think about Jesus? His favorite answer comes from his Sunday school teacher growing up, who is now 98 years old. It shows you how old Jason is right. Jason thinks it's amazing that she's on Facebook. I don't think it's that amazing. These are some of his notes here I'm reading. She writes Jesus has been with me through thick and thin for 98 years. What would I do without him? Those aren't the words of somebody who has knowledge of Jesus. She hasn't just read the book once and said I know about Jesus. Those are the words of somebody who has walked with Jesus, who has seen Jesus, who has heard him, who has touched him. What would I do without him? She asks that's my Jesus. He never left me, not for 98 years, not once. My Jesus. And let me tell you how he empowered me to do the things I never thought were possible. Let me tell you about the Jesus that, when I thought I was a failure and nobody could love me anymore, jesus still loved me and Jesus still believed in me. Let me tell you about Jesus and how, at night, as I was laying in bed, worrying about my marriage, about my kids, about my job, about my money, about all those things I mentioned at the beginning that hold our attention, let me tell you about the Jesus that, as I laid in bed at night, would whisper, just rest. I've got this. Let me tell you about the Jesus I know and how big and loving and graceful and forgiving and powerful and comforting and surprising he is. Let me tell you about this Jesus. He's my friend, he's my teacher, he's my guiding principle, he's my example, but he's also my God and he's also my savior. He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Let me tell you about my Jesus. What would I have done without him?