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"His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them." (Luke 2:41-50, NKJV) [1]

This is a familiar story to anyone who has been raised around the church or to anyone who has a Bible that they read with any regularity.  The account of Jesus, the eldest child of Joseph and Mary, being forgotten as the family headed home after the Passover Feast.

The idea of a child being misplaced somewhere by his parents was central to a couple of Christmas movies that we have come to enjoy in the recent past.  McCauley Caulkin played a young man who was left at home alone in the first movie and then in New York City alone in the second.  Part of the hilarity of the movie is that viewers soon discover that this young man, probably about the same age as Jesus, was not nearly so helpless as they feared.  He single handedly thwarted and captured a couple of bandits intent on robbing his home and then on exacting revenge in the second movie.  They were no match for this young man.

The scriptural account today is certainly understandable.  The family traveling in groups of friends and relatives, men normally in the front and women together in the rear, could have assumed that a child absent in one group would be present in another.  At any rate, they were a day into the journey before they missed Jesus.

Have you ever started out on a trip and then forgotten something?  If there is one thing that tests my patience, this is surely one of them.  I know, it’s human, we all do it but I just hate turning back and wasting time for something that I should have remembered.  And these people were walking.  So it was another full day back with the rest of the family and finally after 3 days the scriptures tell us that they found Jesus, almost oblivious to the fact that anything was wrong.

He wasn’t in a video arcade or in front of a game system.  I know how my own son gets when he is like that.  He loses track of time, forgets to eat, wash . . .  you know what I mean if you are a parent.

In the Message, Eugene Petersen describes the reuniting of parents and child like this:

"The next day they found him in the Temple seated among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. The teachers were all quite taken with him, impressed with the sharpness of his answers. But his parents were not impressed; they were upset and hurt. His mother said, “Young man, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been half out of our minds looking for you.”" (Luke 2:46-48, The Message) [2]

And then Jesus response that shocks us when we think about this level of awareness in the life of a 12 year old boy.

"And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”" (Luke 2:49, NKJV) [3]

Again in the message, Petersen paraphrases this response:

"He said, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be here, dealing with the things of my Father?”" (Luke 2:49, The Message) [4]

Both Mary and Joseph knew that their son was from God, of supernatural origin but still the scripture tells us:

"But they had no idea what he was talking about. So he went back to Nazareth with them, and lived obediently with them. His mother held these things dearly, deep within herself. And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people. " (Luke 2:50-52, The Message) [5]

And then, equally amazing, Jesus returned home with them and spent the next 18 years of his life there, the son of God, the son of a carpenter with the mind and heart of God, giving his attention to menial earthly matters and normal family conflicts.  If it had been me, I would have been impossible to live with – way too big for my britches.  When you have a teenager who thinks that he or she knows everything that is extremely difficult to deal with but when you have a teenager who does know everything then that is just plain frightening.  It would seem that Jesus was as intentional in those 18 years at home as he was in those 3 lost days in Jerusalem.

I do think there is a lesson here for everyone.  If God can live at home until he is 30 years old – “obediently” – with parents whose knowledge is clearly inferior to his own then perhaps we ought to be able to do the same.

And to parents, the ability to recognize the purposes of God at work in your children is so important.  They too have a heavenly father whose will for them is ultimately more important then your will for them.  God knows His plan for their life and it may differ from your plans for their lives.  Allow God to work these purposes out and reduce any unnecessary conflict in the process.

But anyway, the point of the message today is the idea of intentionality.

One way of explaining what is meant by “intentionality” in the (more obscure) philosophical sense is this: it is that aspect of mental states or events that consists in their being of or about things.  Intentionality is the aboutness or directedness of mind (or states of mind) to things, objects, states of affairs, events.

Franz Brentano, more than any other single thinker is responsible for keeping the term “intentional” alive in philosophical discussions of the last century or so, with something like its current use, and was much concerned to understand its relationship with consciousness.

The word “intentionality” is ringing constantly in my ears, through my heart and soul.  I am being reminded that the best parts of life and spiritual experience do not come to us unless we pursue them.  Our experience with God can reflect second-hand faith or something brand new.

The second hand stuff comes from people living off of the experience of others, whether it is the sermons that we listen to or the books that we read or merely being a part of a church that is moving forward, along for the ride.

I’d like you to ask yourself today whether your experience with God and the process of your relationship with Him is intentional and deliberate or whether you are hoping to get to know Him by osmosis.

Is there a sense of “aboutness” to your life?  I know of one of our families who did not want to go home to spend Christmas with their earthly family because they wanted to be about something on Christmas Day that meant something and so they spent several hours of their day, as a family, about their father’s business, in the temple so to speak.

Accidental spiritual growth – doesn’t occur.  While there are parallels between the way that we measure our physical growth and the way that we measure spiritual growth, it doesn’t happen accidentally.  You cannot avoid growing physically but unless you give attention to your spiritual development it will not take place.  People who come to know God are people who pursue Him and focus their lives around His purposes and His pleasure.  It would be a similar expectation to hope that you might somehow reach an elite level of athletic achievement by chance.  Lance Armstrong and others like him are deliberate and intentional about the things in life that represent their priorities.

So was the apostle Paul.  Listen to his words:

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NIV) [6]

Look at some of those words.  Don’t they stir your hearts? 

·         “Run in such a way as to get the prize”.  The prize is there for everyone who loves the Lord but Paul says that he runs his race, his spiritual life as thought there is only one person who will get the prize.  Wouldn’t that be something if we all ran as though there were only one spot available?

·         “I do not run like a man running aimlessly”.  “I do not fight like a man beating the air.”  There is some point to all of this that is greater than making it to church on Sunday mornings.  Until we embrace our spiritual lives as more invasive than an hour and a half on Sunday mornings we will be more frustrated by what we know than anything else.  There are times when the service may run even a bit later but let me just remind you gently today that your relationship with God will take much more time than this if you are really to discover the heart of God.  It will require doing less of the things that make no difference and more of the things that matter.  It will require a re-prioritization of your life to the point that those who are not similarly focused will not understand and at times be upset with you over your decisions.

·         Jesus was focused in this way throughout his life.  Peter, immediately following his confession relative to the identity of Christ, felt his wrath when he suggested that he focus differently.

" When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ." (Matthew 16:13-20, NIV) [7]


" From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”" (Matthew 16:21-23, NIV) [8]

He never lost this sense of “aboutness”. 

This morning I would like to challenge you to develop this within yourself as we enter the New Year together.  Next week we will introduce the 40 Days campaign.  Pastor Rick Warren will be speaking to us through video.  Much of our service next week will be on the big screen.  I believe that this is necessary for us to fully grasp the nature of these next few weeks together.  We have copies of the book “Purpose Driven Life” available for $11.00 each.  We will encourage you to begin to read these books on the 10th of January, one reading per day for the next 40 days.  The sermons, Sunday School classes, small groups will all focus on this material for this period of time so that we may become more sensitive to the church and God’s plan for it, in order to be more effective in today’s world.

Here are 3 personal challenges as we approach this campaign:

1.    Develop an elevated “God-consciousness”.

Intentionality, “aboutness” is related to your consciousness of God.  The more conscious you are of God the less conscious you will be of anything else in your life and the more active you will be in living out a sense of eternal priorities.

"Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." (1 Peter 2:18-25, NIV) [9]

A persons’ consciousness is raised as they deliberately expose themselves to information and experience that provides perspective and learning.  Donnie Leblanc is the proud owner of 2 greyhounds.  He knows more about these animals than you or I do.  He and Jenn – she was the original motivator – adopted these animals because they are being “put down” when they are no longer valuable as racers.  Don was opposed to this at first until he began to expose himself to information and to other owners.  His perspective was changed and ultimately his actions.

This will not happen accidentally.  Read something that will challenge your minds toward spiritual matters.  Put down the fiction and the novels and read something that matters something that will challenge your minds and your hearts.  Read the Bible – always, diligently, faithfully but read books about the scripture and spiritual truth as well.  If you raise your consciousness of God you will awaken something within your heart that will change the way that you live.

2.    Have an eye for opportunity.

We are approaching the Super Bowl season.  I can’t tell you how many times I – we have watched these games.  Teams evenly matched walk onto the field.  The winner is the team that capitalizes on opportunities afforded by the mistakes that their opponents make.

God help us to live this way from a spiritual perspective.  Look at these verses.

"Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." (Ephesians 5:15-18, NIV) [10]

" Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." (Colossians 4:2-6, NIV) [11]

While Satan is our enemy he makes mistakes.  We have the chance to capitalize on them.  Every foothold that he gains in a person’s life provides an opportunity for ministry to the church of Christ.  He will enslave people to their own appetites and desires.  After a period of time people realize their bondage to the things that once held appeal.  The church needs to be there to meet people who are looking for deliverance and there must me people who are willing to extend their hands to these folks to help them out.  Often the best equipped are those who have experienced this deliverance.  There are always in a given church, people who are equipped to minister in this way but they hoard their redeemed experience and refuse to re-invest in the lives of others.  Would you please consider the investment of your life in an area of ministry to others this year?

Don’t put faces and names to your enemies this year.  The minute you do this, you have lost a spiritual battle.

3.    Adopt an effective delivery system.

It’s one thing to have a weapon, it is another thing to have an effective delivery system.  Ask Saddam Hussein.

It’s one thing to have a product to market, another thing to have a system that can deliver the product.

As people of faith we need an effective delivery system.  I believe that Jesus tells us clearly from the scriptures that it requires the posture of servanthood if the church is to most effectively deliver the gospel.

" Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”" (Matthew 20:20-28, NIV) [12]

“Nothing is more dangerous to a revolution than winning.  When a revolution wins, it must face the prospect of becoming an institution.  No better example of this exists than when Constantine began mandating national baptisms.  Christianity changed from a movement to an institution, from a global revolution to a world religion.  You could now become a Christian without ever having met Christ personally. . . .  The irony in this is that the force of Christianity first changed the Roman world and then relinquished it’s power in the name of accommodation. . . . We need to recognize that the Christian expression in this nation is far more institution than revolution.  We’ll never discover the inspiration or desperation it requires to awaken the apostolic ethos if we do not recognize the serious condition of the (American) church.  It is critical that we regain the power of ethos.  In doing this we will not only be able to restore the evangelistic focus of the local church, but we will be able to produce the transformational influence that shapes and reshapes culture. . . . Sustainable change occurs when actions are in response to values.  But helping a community based on legalism change to one based on ethos can be terrifying.  A community really can’t be based on both.  You can either invest your energy in attempting to control people’s actions and thereby lose their hearts, or you can focus on winning their hearts so that, in the end, their actions will represent the values that are important to you.”

As Jesus was about His Fathers’ business so we need to be about the same thing.  We cannot lose focus.  We cannot allow ourselves to believe that the world can be changed by gaining political advantage or power or expecting that the society in which we live should somehow treat the church with respect that is different from other organizations.  If we pursue this path we lose the source of our power.

The church is most powerful when we become servants after the pattern of our Christ.  It is the absolute, most powerful delivery system for spiritual truth and life transformation.

Extra Material

When I was a Youth Pastor, a long time ago now, our denominational youth leader was a man named Keith Drury.  He was used by God to impact my life in dramatic fashion.  He used to have a ministry model that he called “Grab Bag Programming”.  It was an observation that there are some who do ministry simply by searching for what the current wave or trend was and then doing that without a thought any more profound than being current.  I have always been adverse to this approach to ministry.  There has to be a better reason for what we do. 

I have never been able to be satisfied with the idea of taking life as it happens to me since that time.  I am haunted by the notion that we should just sit back and wait to see what happens next and I have the feeling that many people do this.  Those who do not seek to shape their futures and their experience of life.  Of those who do, many are driven to satisfy their material wants.  They mistakenly believe that if these are satisfied then they will find peace and satisfaction.  That’s like drinking salt water to quench your thirst.  In the end it just intensifies.

I believe that our satisfaction comes to the degree that we are able to align ourselves with the purposes of our Creator.  God not only created life but he designed an optimal experience for us.  If we live in rebellion to Him then life becomes a hard experience, which leaves us restless and full of questions.  The closer that we come to the end of our resourcefulness or the end of our time here on earth, the more that we realize the extent of our mistake as we have sought for temporary resolution to eternal issues.


[1] The New King James Version. 1996, c1982. Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[2] Peterson, E. H. 2003. The Message : The Bible in contemporary language. NavPress: Colorado Springs, Colo.

[3] The New King James Version. 1996, c1982. Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[4] Peterson, E. H. 2003. The Message : The Bible in contemporary language. NavPress: Colorado Springs, Colo.

[5] Peterson, E. H. 2003. The Message : The Bible in contemporary language. NavPress: Colorado Springs, Colo.

[6] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[7] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[8] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[9] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[10] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[11] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[12] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

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