“Home Alone: Almost Home”

Yesterday we celebrated Christmas at Gateway Church in Austin in a message called Almost Home.

This life never quite feels like home. We can feel it. There is something missing. Jesus came to bring more and more of the Home of God into a world that is going away from God. Jesus’ birth announced peace to all people on whom God’s favor rests. As we allow God’s light to shine through us, we let people see a taste of Home.

Message Discussion:

Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner,  life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

Next Steps

Message Video from Gateway in South Austin:

Message Notes from John Burke:

Merry Christmas!

I want to welcome you:

  • Whether Austin is your home, and we’re your church home. 
  • Or maybe you live here in South Austin and just decided to join us today.
  • Or maybe you came with a bit of desperation since nothing seems to be working in the world.
  • Or maybe you live somewhere else but you’re coming home for the holidays, or visiting kids or grandkids—joining us live or online from all around the globe.
  • Welcome Home!

So What is Home?

We all have different ideas of what makes Home…home. We may come from different cultures or different traditions. Some of us had great homes growing up and some of us would rather not think about home, but I would dare to guess that all of us would agree on a few things home is supposed to be—and we get glimpses, little tastes of Home in what I call transcendent moments.

It’s those moments when you have a supernatural peace that I cannot even describe. It’s a peace and a calm that settles over your heart and maybe even overcome with emotion.  Like something, or Someone, had ambushed your busy, crowded mind and all your thoughts and worries were washed away for a transcendent moment –just feeling so right…so “At Home.”

Have you ever had that happen? 

It doesn’t happen all the time, but sometimes, we all have those transcendent moments that feel like “Home.” 

Love, joy, peace, hope break through our chaos, break through our worries, and it’s hard to fight back the tears of emotion that well up inside. 

  • Maybe you’ve had a transcendent moment watching a beautiful sunset
  • or first falling in love
  • or at the birth of a child
  • or watching your kids sleep at night (it’s much easier to feel it when they’re sleeping isn’t it?).
  • Or maybe it’s after a late night conversation with good friends where the conversation and atmosphere shifted—it went deeper, more vulnerable, more real, more connected—and in those transcendent moments you realize, love, joy, peace with each other—that’s what Life is supposed to be.

That’s Home!

I believe those transcendent moments are gifts from God. A reminder that we’re almost home…but not yet! 

  • Home is where we were meant to live, but we’re not there yet. 
  • Home is where peace lasts and worries can no longer wash it away.
  • Home is where joy pervades everything and we become like little children who can enjoy life’s simple moments forever. 
  • Home is where love is being fully known, fully embraced, fully accepted, and there are no conditions attached. 
  • That’s the Home we all Hope for—isn’t it? 

Even if you’ve never had it, or never pondered why–Isn’t that what you want? Peace, Joy, Love that lasts?

And yet…it doesn’t last.  Not in this world.

You have a joyful Christmas Eve moment with your family, and then you decide to go to church and you’re fighting all the way here (yes, it’s common).
You have a Sunday of peace, then Monday morning hits like a hammer in the face. 
You have a moment of feeling so much love for your children, then they wake up.
You feel so hopeful for humanity, and then you check Facebook. 

Why do we all crave to be Home in a place of Love and joy and peace, yet it evades us so often in this world? 

It’s because this world is not home.

This World Is Not Our Home

Oxford professor C.S. Lewis once said:

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

– C.S. Lewis

We live in a world where we’re not Home Yet—we’re almost home—but not yet. 

That’s what Christmas is all about—Hope for the Home we all deep-down desirestarting now, lasting forever.

The birth of Jesus was not a fairy tale story—it was a long foretold historical event by the God who created you, and me, and every human to be His children.

God wants a loving family, at home with God right now and forever, but God doesn’t force us into His family—love can’t be forced or coerced. So God invites us into his loving family.

Have you said “Yes” to his invitation of adoption?
God invites you to come Home to His Love, Joy and Peace everlasting.

The Messiah Foretold

That was why Jesus came that first Christmas—to pay for all our wrongs and forgive us, so that all God needs from you is a “Yes.”

So 800 years before Jesus birth, God foretold the coming of Jesus through the prophet Isaiah (and in the Dead Sea Scrolls archaeologists found a complete copy of Isaiah carbon dated 250 years before Jesus’ birth—so proof positive this was written before Jesus birth):

Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me….And now the Lord speaks—the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant [Messiah]…says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 45:21, 49:5-6.

Salvation just means “to be set right with God—in right relationship.” 800 years before Jesus came God said “here’s how you can know I’m God—I will send my Messiah, Jesus, to restore people to me from all the nations. 

We have 65 nations represented here at Gateway—how did Isaiah know almost 3000 years ago that Jesus would be celebrated as Savior all over the earth?

It’s proof that God is real. God foretold it, so we would know God is love, and God wants a family of loving Children. And that’s what we want too.

Because Home with God is the Peace we long for. In Isaiah 9, God promises that this Messiah, Jesus, would bring Peace.

Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory…For a child is born to us, a son is given to us…And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.His government and its peace will never end. Isaiah 9:1, 6-7.

The first Christmas was foretold–Jesus would be born a child, live and teach in Galilee, yet be called Mighty God, Everlasting Father—and he would bring the peace we all crave.  Could you use some peace tonight? God wants to give it to you as a gift this Christmas.

And God promises in Isaiah 51 that this Messiah, Jesus, would bring joy and justice to humanity:

My salvation is on the way. My strong arm will bring justice to the nations… Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return…singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness. Isaiah 51:5, 11

God Pursues Us

Do you realize the God who created you is not a harsh, mean, demanding bully?

He hates all the injustices we do to one another in this world, and he will make it right, but he longs for you to have Joy and happiness that makes you sing.  Have you tasted that before?

Ever been driving down the road on a beautiful day, windows down, music up, life is so full that you’re overflowing with joy—singing at the top of your lungs (and glad no one’s around because you can’t sing!?).

But you can’t help it.  That’s a tiny gift from God of the joy He has waiting for his children, and it’s everlasting. And it’s all motivated out of Love. God IS love. 

Have you ever been in love? 
You can love another person, and you can long for them to love you back, but what if they don’t? What can you do? You could shower them with expensive gifts, serve them, do things for them—but what if they love the gifts and being served but they don’t really want you? That’s not love, is it!? 

Love can’t be bought with gifts, and love can’t be coerced…or forced.

I guess in desperation, you could hold a gun to their head and demand they love you—and maybe in fear they’d act like it, but it wouldn’t satisfy, would it? 

You know love must be freely chosen.  And that friends, is why we’re not Home yet. God wants love.

We’re in the place of in between—Almost Home–the place of choosing to love God and follow God, or reject God—God foretold it all through Isaiah 800 before Jesus birth—the reason for Jesus’ coming:

But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins…so we could be healed.All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Isaiah 53:5-6.

Jesus’ crucifixion, pierced in hands and feet was foretold. God would pay the price of justice to forgive us if we will just turn our hearts Home. Then God says this:

“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved… So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. Isaiah 30:15,18

God waits for us to turn to him—then He showers us with compassion and Love.

God loves you more than you can imagine—more than any parent ever could. He wants to give you a peace and joy everlasting, but that’s rooted in His love. You don’t have to clean up your life, prove you’re worthy, stop doing this or that, or jump through a bunch of religious hoops to come Home to God.

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. 1 Peter 3:18.

God is compassionate, forgiving, merciful, kind, loving—He just wants you to return home and all is forgiven.  Then you can live life in loving relationship with the One who can guide and grow you from the inside out. 

We worship the King of Kings whose Kingdom (His Home) is where we belong. It’s coming, and when it does we will know we’re finally Home.

Heaven on Earth

Jesus doesn’t want us to wait for Heaven to feel at Home. He wants us to bring the Home of God’s Kingdom to earth more and more. That’s why we’re still here.

Just like entrance into God’s family takes willingness “Saying Yes”. Allowing more of God’s Heavenly Home to invade earth through you requires a daily “Yes.”

As you learn to live in loving relationship with God, day by day, your willingness to trust and follow God’s will and ways is how God’s Home, God’s Kingdom, invades this world–with Peace where there’s division and strife, with Joy where there’s stress and burden, and with a Love Strong enough to overcome prejudice and racism and hatred with forgiveness and kindness.

Are you willing to live at Home with God more and more here on earth? Willingness is all it takes.

Luke tells us Angels announced Jesus’ birth to Shepherds proclaiming “Peace on earth to all those in whom God’s favor [or grace] rests.”  But seems like Jesus failed—there’s not much peace on earth. Jesus last night before he went to the cross, he explained this Peace.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid…I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 14:27, 16:33. 

In a world where people do not think of doing God’s will but doing their own will—we have trouble. We get mad at God for not stopping the trouble, but the solution is to seek God’s will more than your own. If we all did that, there would be no trouble.

Most people don’t so in this world, we will have trouble—Jesus did too, but take heart, God will give you a peace that overcomes it all.

Do you realize God does not want you to live with a stressed out, anxious mind and heart? He doesn’t want you to be troubled or fearful of “what if this” or “what if that.” 

He wants to give you a peace that can invade the most difficult troubles and chaotic moments—you can have peace from the inside out.  That’s Jesus promise. 

How?

By living what Jesus taught us to pray “God your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth (through me…I’m willing), as it is in your Home in Heaven.” 

Start praying that daily: “God I’m willing to do your will today, show me how. And as you’re more and more willing.”

When you do this, watch how God will bring Peace to your life.

And Jesus promised a Love and Joy that transcends earthly love or joy.  That last night on earth, Jesus explained:

If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:10-12.

See God is Love, and God is full of Joy—all those little tastes of love and joy come from Him. 

And Jesus wants us to experience those transcendent moments of God’s Love and Joy coming to us, then overflowing to others—as we love God.

 It’s all about love. We love God by trusting what Jesus taught— Jesus said that’s how we live at Home with God

“All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. John 14:23  

Will you let God bring His Home to your heart tonight?

You choose to love God by following His will more and more (always imperfectly, but He doesn’t beat us up when we fail, like a little child learning to walk, our Father in Heaven helps us get back up to learn from our failures so we learn to spiritually walk). 

And as we live in this love relationship with God, God makes His Home in us, and we find a Joy that’s different than happiness.  Happiness depends on happenings (things going right).

But God’s Joy doesn’t depend on any external happenings, it’s always available.

These things and more are your birthright as His Children—and in the new year we’re starting a new series, “Take as much as you need” where we’re going to talk about how we live this birthright as God’s children—living in a new Hope, a New Joy, a New Peace and purpose and relational richness. Join us in January.

But how about tonight? 

Where do you need the Kingdom of God to come be at Home in your heart?

All God needs is your willingness. 

Maybe there’s no peace with a family member or friend.

Will you let God’s will be done through you tonight to seek Peace with that person?

That’s how you love God and experience God’s joy. 

Or maybe you’re worried and stressed, anxious about the future—will you put those burdens in Bigger Hands tonight? 

Will you trust the One who holds the future, and holds Your life in His loving hands?

Maybe you’re struggling with an addiction or unrelenting struggle.

Jesus has overcome—and God will give you power to overcome as you daily seek Him.

Or maybe there’s something you know deep in your heart God’s been prompting you to do.

Open yourself to His Love by trusting His will—do it–even if you can’t see how it will be good for you…trust God’s will and you’ll see.  You’re Almost Home.

Will you let God be at home with You this Christmas? 

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