Summary: Are you making the most of the opportunities God gives you to make a difference in the lives of others?

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Matthew 13:44-46

January 2, 2011

Here we are, our first Sunday together in a brand new year. We’ve had our highs and lows this past year. We’ve experienced God’s grace in our times of grieving, as well as His power and provision on our Big Day this past November. We are living, I believe, in a time of epic opportunities as our world is experiencing constant upheaval, political unrest, financial instability, spiritual shallowness, unrealized expectations, and moral breakdown. All around us we have opportunities to showcase the love of Jesus to a needy world, longing for acceptance, meaning and a higher purpose for their lives. We have unprecedented opportunities to practice “pure and undefiled religion” as James calls for by helping orphans, widows, the poor, the homeless, and those affected by natural disasters. The sky is the limit to what God can do and wants to do through our local church this brand new year. The only thing that will limit what can be done is us.

Do you have any regrets about 2010? A broken relationship maybe? Poor decisions? That broken diet? Failure to keep up with your exercise program? Well, that’s not necessarily the regrets that I am talking about. I’m talking about missed opportunities. I’m talking about having allowed the tyranny of the urgent this past year to crowd out the achievement of the important. I know we will all have some regrets in this area. I know I do. So how can we make 2011 different? How can we look back on this year next year and be blown away by the miracles we trusted God for? The hundreds of people that trusted Jesus because we allowed the reality of our awesome salvation to impact us to the point that we became radical ambassadors for a heavenly country? The money that poured in because we became audacious givers so we could give even more to further God’s kingdom? How will we be able to shake our heads and just wonder at the awesome impossibility of what God was able to accomplish through this little band of kingdom believers? I believe a good start will be simply opening our eyes and our hearts to the kingdom opportunities all around us and buying up those opportunities as if they were precious treasure and priceless. We can either sit on our hands and let precious opportunities to change our world for Jesus slip by, or we can get serious, get passionate, and allow the grace of God to ignite our souls and cause us to become others-oriented as He has saved us and called us to be.

In the Gospel of Matthew in chapter 13 we have the words of Jesus concerning the kingdom of heaven. It is at this time that Jesus had been practically rejected by the Jews and begins to speak in parables, or practical stories with a parallel spiritual meaning not understood by the casual listener. He tells us in verses 13-15 that the people’s hearts were dull. That is, in their heart they weren’t looking for the real messiah – they were looking for a religious reconstructionist. For someone who would right the wrongs in the political landscape and bring Judaism back to prominence. They were the original religious consumerists. “What’s in it for me?”

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