Week of August 11th

Why pray?  If our lives are determined by fate and we have no impact on the impersonal forces of reality, prayer would be a waste of time and effort.  On the other hand, if there is a God who is impacted by relationships and interactions with the human creature, then prayer would be the richest and most fulfilling of all activity.  Which do you suppose the Bible teaches?

 

PRAYER:  O God, who has formed me in your own image and breathed in me your own breath:  I yearn to live in relationship with you, to encounter your grace in every moment of every day.  Teach me to pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

MONDAY- 2 Chronicles 7:12-18

King Solomon completed the construction of the Holy Temple.  The Dedication Ceremonies were a tremendous party for and with God.  Much of the sixth chapter is King Solomon’s prayer. In this passage we read God’s response to Solomon’s prayer.  In verse 12 God acknowledges that God has heard the King’s prayer and has chosen action based on that prayer.  Then God makes a promise in verse 14.  If the people act this way, God will do this.  If they do that, God will respond in another way.  Do you believe God responds to your prayers, too?

 

TUESDAY- Genesis 18:16-33

God has appeared to Abraham to reveal that God’s promise of a son is now about to happen.In the midst of that conversation, God reveals the plan to investigate Sodom and Gomorrah.God is anticipating some kind of judgment upon the cities.Abraham, out of compassion for the people, barters with God.And God seems to welcome it.God is influenced by Abraham’s prayer, and God acts according to that relationship with Abraham.Do you believe God hears your prayers, too?

Wednesday – Exodus 32:7-14, 31-33

Moses had led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.  They arrived at the holy mountain where Moses had encountered God in the burning bush.  He was gone such a long time.  The people lost their focus and created a golden calf to worship.  God had delivered them from slavery, and provided them through the wilderness.  How easily they forget, and begin to worship idols!  God threatens to destroy the people.  Who changes God’s mind?  Why? Do you believe God listens to your prayers, too?

 

Thursday – 2 Kings 20:1-11

Hezekiah was a good king.  He was faithful to God.  But God revealed through the prophet, Isaiah, that Hezekiah’s days were ending.  How did Hezekiah respond?  How sincere was the King?  How did God respond?  What did God promise to do?  Isaiah even promises to provide a sign to confirm God’s promise.  Is God affected by your prayers, too?

 

Friday – Acts 12:6-17

It was a dangerous time in Jerusalem.  James, John’s brother, had been assassinated and Peter was thrown into jail.  The believers – fearing the worst – gathered to pray.  But it appears some of them had doubts that God would answer their prayers.  Rhoda became a powerful witness for God and Peter that day.  Does God answer your prayers – even when you have doubts?

 

Saturday – Luke 8:40-48

In case you think you may have to be some special saint to have your prayers answered, here is an amazing story of a woman who had never met Jesus, but believe in his compassion and his power.She may not have prayed some official church prayer from a book, but the yearning of her heart was more intense and more authentic.As soon as she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, Jesus was aware of her presence, her need, and her faith.He acted in response to what she needed.And she was healed.Do you believe God acts in response to your needs, too?

Week of August 4th

Worry!  It is part of the human condition.  From Alfred E Neuman (What, Me Worry?) to Bobby Mcferrin’s hit, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy;” every generation has had its share of worries.  We may not worry about being eaten by dinosaurs, but now it is nuclear proliferation, global warming, and an unproven quarterback for the Buckeyes.  But our faith promises peace in the midst of worry.  Here are some passages to ponder this week.

PRAYER:  O God, the Source of all true peace:  we live in anxious times.  Teach us to trust in you with our “ginormous” problems and our daily fears.  Keep our eyes, our ears, and our hearts focused on your power and your presence.  In Jesus name, we pray.  Amen.

MONDAY- Matthew 11:28-30

Let’s start with Jesus’ words.  In this chapter Jesus hears questions and doubts from his cousin, John the Baptist.  He is confronted with questions, suspicions, and resistance.  Even though he does magnificent miracles, people still don’t believe.  These are tense moments.  What does he promise in these verses at the end of the chapter?  If Jesus believes this for himself in his anxious moments, how does that change the way you manage your worries?

TUESDAY-  John 14:15-31

If yesterday’s reading was tinged with worry, ramp up today’s reading 10 times.It is the night before Jesus’ death.The disciples have been arguing.They still don’t seem to get it.Time is running out.How does Jesus respond?He seems to recognize their fears, their anxieties.What does he promise?Does Jesus recognize your fears and anxieties?What does he promise to you?

Wednesday – Isaiah 26:1-6

These were anxious moments in Israel’s history.  Judah’s cousins in the Northern Kingdom had already been conquered and wiped out by the Assyrians.  Now the Babylonians had overthrown the Assyrians, and were threatening the Southern Kingdom.  Isaiah recognizes that the people have lost their way.  They put more trust in Egypt to save them, instead of God.  But he holds out a vision of a day when the people will trust God again.  How is verse 3 a promise for the people of Isaiah’s day?  How is verse 3 a promise for you?

Thursday – Lamentations 3:22-24

Many historians believe Jeremiah survived the destruction of Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom.  This book, lamenting the disaster, speaks of hope for the future.  These verses frame one of my favorite hymns.  How does one avoid worry in the ashes of disaster?  How does one find hope in the wreckage of tragedy?  Jeremiah has an answer!

Friday – Ephesians 2:11-22

Worry and anxiety come as a result of threat and fear.  But the secret sauce is to focus on the One whose power and grace is greater than all else.  So God gives us peace through Jesus Christ.  See verses 13 & 14.  If God is willing to go to this extreme to forgive our sins and restore us to relationship, how much more God will provide for us and protect us in anxious times.  Why worry?

Saturday – Philippians 4:6-9

Scholars believe this may have been Paul’s last letter, likely written while in a Roman prison facing his own death.  Yet, the letter is filled with hope and joy and peace.  How can this be?  What does Paul describe about his faith in these verses?  What are the habits and practices he uses, even though he faces danger and disaster every day?  How can these habits and practices help you in anxious moments?

Week of July 28th

Studies are showing our youth to be a special and unique generation.  And we see signs of that in the youth of Lewis Center Church.  They are passionate about their faith, committed in their service, and hopeful for their future.  God loves the youth and our task is to love them, encourage them, and pray for them.  Here are some passages about youth in the Bible who played significant roles.

 

PRAYER:  O God, no one is too young or too old to answer your call to follow you.  I pray for our youth.  The challenges are complex and never ending.  Send your Spirit upon them to guide them as they become our leaders in the future.  Amen.

MONDAY- Jeremiah 1:1-10

God knew Jeremiah before he was even born.  Talk about an early start.  Though Jeremiah felt that he was too young to serve as a prophet and spokesperson for God, God instructed him otherwise.  God’s response was not to make him old, but what?  God made two promises:  (See vss 7&9 as well as verse 8).  How does God fulfill these promises in you today, no matter what age you are?

TUESDAY-  1 Samuel 17:20-52

Long passage, but fascinating story.Young David is sent to check up on his brothers, and no doubt, to bring food and supplies.He happens to show up just as the army is confronted with the giant, Goliath.King Saul claims David cannot fight Goliath.Why?(vs 33)How does David respond?(vs 37)David cannot wear the King’s armor.It does not fit him.Instead, he takes advantage of his skills and his strengths.How does God use this young person in the history of Israel?How does God use you, no matter what age you are?

Wednesday – Luke 1:26-38

Mary was young, likely a young teenager.  For an angel to appear to her and inform her that she was about get pregnant, and that her son would be the Messiah; that would be difficult to believe.  Yet, she laid aside all of her dreams and all of her plans; so she could serve God faithfully.  Compare her response (vs 38) with Zechariah’s (vs 18) or Moses (Exodus 3:11) or Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5) or Gideon (Judges 6:15)?  How is God calling you today, no matter what age you are?

Thursday – Mark 10:42-45

Was young Mark – sometimes called John Mark – an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry.  My old Greek Prof thought John Mark was the young man referred to in Mark 14:51-52.  Barnabas recruited young John Mark on that first missionary journey with Paul.  Later Barnabas took John Mark on other missionary journeys.  And today, we believe the Gospel According to Mark was written by or inspired by young John Mark.  From a young eye witness to early leader of the faith.  How is God calling you today, no matter what age you are?

Friday – 1 Timothy 4:11-16

Timothy was one of Paul’s young lieutenants.  He would accompany Paul on his missionary journeys.  Sometimes Paul would leave him in a town to continue the work as Paul moved on.  Sometimes Paul would send Timothy to deliver a message or to investigate a problem when Paul himself could not go.  But Timothy was young.  What did Paul advise?  How is God calling you today, no matter what age you are?

Saturday – Luke 2:41-52

Someone pointed me to this story recently. Even at the age of 12 Jesus was aware of God’s calling on his life. What did he tell his parents? We don’t know everything. In fact, we know next to nothing between his birth and his 12th year. Jesus was answering the call, yet he still obeyed his parents (vs 51). One is never too young or too old to answer God’s call. How is God calling you today, no matter what age you are?

Week of July 21st

Prayer:  Father God we praise you for the ultimate gift of love in your Son. What a marvelous light of hope you have given to our dark world. We thank you for fulfilling your law perfectly in Jesus Christ when not one of us could. We confess that we cannot save ourselves, and we are grateful for the good news of salvation in Christ alone. Please embolden us with the Holy to bear witness to Jesus. It is in his name and for his sake that we pray, Amen. - Luke 2:22-35

 1st week of “Asking for a Friend”    We answer the question, “How Can We Trust the Bible.”  This week’s scripture lessons are focused on helping us continue to develop our faith and grow, even then it is sometimes difficult.  


MONDAY-1 Timothy 4:10-12 (NIV)

10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.  11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 

TUESDAY-Acts 16:30-31 (NIV)

30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

WEDNESDAY-1 Thessalonians 2:13(NIV)

13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.

THURSDAY-Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)

31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

FRIDAY-John 14:1-4(NIV)

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me.My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

SATURDAY-Numbers 14:11(NIV)

11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?

Week of July 14th

In the process of transforming our character, one of the most challenging changes in our lives is overcoming hate.  There are many different symptoms of hate:  fear, prejudice, anger, anxiety, insecurity, bitterness, and more.  But when we encounter God’s grace, it recomposes everything – how we look at life; how we look at others; how we look at ourselves.  Here are some passages to teach us about dealing with hatred.  

PRAYER:  O God, you became human in Jesus to reveal the alternative to hatred:  the grace of self-sacrifice.  Through the cross I can be free to forgive and love others.  Fill me with your Spirit that others may be set free in Jesus’ name.  Amen.


MONDAY- Genesis 4:1-16

Hatred began early in the human condition.  In this story Cain’s hatred led to the murder of his brother, Abel.  But with whom was Cain really angry?  It wasn’t Abel.  We do not know the reasons for God’s rejection of Cain’s offering.  But the writer makes it clear that Cain had a choice. He could have made things right with God, but he chose to make Abel the target for his violence. And it had long ranging consequences.  So, is Cain his brother’s keeper?  He is his brother’s brother.  Who is your brother/sister?  How does your relationship with God shape the way you relate to others?

TUESDAY-  Genesis 37:1-11

This is another story of bitter enmity. Joseph dreamed that someday he would rule over his brothers, even though he was one of the youngest.  His brothers resented that attitude and the favoritism his father showered upon him.  It led to serious violence.  But through it all, Joseph grew into a spiritual leader.  How?  Check out Genesis 50:20.  He could have returned hatred for hatred, but he chose another path.  What is an alternative to hate?

Wednesday – Luke 23:32-49

This is part of the story of Jesus’ crucifixion.  It was a violent act, not only intended to kill a man but to terrorize the conquered people. It was designed to break the spirit of the convicted man as well as all of his countrymen.  But Jesus responded in a unique way.  Instead of breaking his spirit, he offered a gift to his tormentors.  What was it?  How did that affect the soldiers watching him?  And the crowds?  How is Jesus an example for us today? 

Thursday – Acts 7:54-60

There is no scholarship that suggests Stephen knew Jesus face to face; but he certainly was filled with the Spirit of Jesus.  The religious authorities were enraged with Stephen.  His message about Jesus threatened to undo all they stood for. Usually, the basis for hatred is anger, and the basis for anger is insecurity.  One feels threatened – whether the threat is real or imagined. But Stephen, though he was in real danger, chose a different response.  How did Stephen answer?

Friday – 1 John 2:9-11 and 1 John 4:19-21

Some people think serving God gives them permission to disrespect other people.  Not so, according to these verses.  We cannot love God if we do not love others.  Love for God will inevitably and instinctively lead us to love others.  It is part of the transformation God’s Spirit works within us.  When we are confident of God’s grace for us, we are free to offer grace for others – even those who are just as sinful as we are!  Who irritates you the most?  How will God work through you to love them a little more today?

Saturday – Galatians 5:16-26

The Apostle Paul saw this as a battle between the fallen human nature (flesh) and the power and presence of God (spirit).  The characteristic of fallen human nature is hatred; hatred of others, hatred of God, and even hatred of self.  But Jesus came to offer us the power and presence of God’s Spirit that can offer an alternative: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.  What is the alternative to hatred?  In what ways will you encounter God’s power and presence today?

Week of July 7th

I am grateful to live in this land with so much privilege and opportunity.  And I am grateful for those who have gone before me who have given themselves in service and sacrifice so I can enjoy these blessings. But there is One to whom all of us are called for a higher allegiance.  It is God who has given us life, and redeemed us from the meaninglessness of sin and death.  So we worship not our country nor our flag, but the God who stands over all space and time. So what is the relationship between the Christian and nation?  Here are several passages to teach us.

PRAYER:  O God, you are the true source of freedom and liberty.  Focus my heart on the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross so I may be a defender of truth and grace in Jesus’ name.  Amen.   

MONDAY- Psalm 2

We like to pretend we are the masters of our own destiny, and we do have many freedoms that other lands do not allow.   What does the Psalm writer teach us about who really is in charge?  What is the source of wisdom?  And what are the results of rebellion?  Israel learned this the hard way.  If God allowed Israel – God’s chosen people – to be conquered because they rejected God; why would USA be immune?

TUESDAY- Deuteronomy 17:14-20

Israel had just escaped from slavery in Egypt.They knew little of leadership and government.Moses is teaching them how they should govern themselves as they enter the Land of Promise.What does this passage reveal about true faithful leadership?What should the leader avoid?On what should the leader focus?How does that impact the way you lead?

Wednesday – Psalm 21:1-7

This Psalm is credited to King David.  He knew something about humble beginnings as a shepherd and the power of privilege. Yet, this song reveals the “secret sauce” of faithful leadership.  What is it? Does this apply to us “commoners” as well as Kings and Queens?  How does this shape your leadership?

Thursday – Romans 13:1-7

When I get to heaven, I want to ask Paul about this part of his letter.  He teaches us to submit to authority.  Why?  Yet, the Roman government authority later persecuted the church and martyred Paul among several others.  At the same time, Paul never teaches that I should embrace my own authority.  I am to submit to Christ’s authority first and always. I am never directed to “do as I please.” Under whose authority will you function today?

Friday – Luke 22:24-30

It was the night before Jesus’ own death.  Perhaps it was the seating arrangements.  Maybe it was just the tension and uncertainty of the week, but the disciples are arguing about who is the greatest.  Jesus teaches them that true greatness does not come through position and power, but how? How did Jesus demonstrate this? (Check out John 13.)  How would leadership like this change our world today? How would your leadership like this change your world?

Saturday – 1 Timothy 2:1-7

We have many leaders in our world today:  government officials, safety service personnel, teachers, medical experts, business gurus, and more.  Paul is teaching young Timothy (and we readers) to do what for the leaders in our world.  What is our responsibility to them?  Why does God expect this?  What has God done to reveal this to us?

Week of June 30th

Prayer:  O God, we trust in Your power to create, to sustain, to enable. But we could not trust if we did not know that You are always near. Be with us, Lord, as we are gathered here to worship You. Help us not to check our minds or our hearts at the door, but enable us to bring all that we are to You, so that we might experience Your touch upon all aspects of our life. We pray this because of, and in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

MONDAY- 1 Kings 5:13-18

30,000 men to move rocks to build a foundation!?!?! I’ve seen the rocks.  Some are larger than a school bus, but this is what it took to build a house for God in the Old Testament.  The prophet Samuel warned that a king would impose his will upon the people, yet they demanded a “King” from God.  Sometimes God will give you exactly what you desire.  Maybe we should all reconsider our desires from God and ask what He would ask of us.   Wouldn’t that be a strong foundation for a relationship?

 

TUESDAY- Romans 15:17-22

Paul talks about building a foundation in his letter, yet here he longs to build a new foundation that hasn’t been started by someone else.  However, often we are not provided this luxury.  The name of Jesus has been spread across the world, and we’re called to help further that message.  We may never receive the “perfect” situation or environment to our purposes, but we may be called to come along and water the seeds of faith that may have been planted by someone else.  

 

WEDNESDAY- Matthew 7:24-27

How many times have you seen a house on the news get swept away by a raging river or sea waves?  Hurricanes and storms seem to be extremely destructive to homes who have weak foundations.  Although we’ve been warned, we still see people don’t take precautions.  Is this a difficult lesson?  How strong is your foundation? 

 

THURSDAY- 1 Timothy 6:18-19

What is the difference between worldly and spiritual wealth?  One may be poor in the eyes of the world, yet rich in faith.  Worldly wealth concerns one’s financial assets, but Jesus urged us to stock up treasures in heaven (Mt 6:20).  We can acquire heavenly treasures by doing good, showing generosity and seeking the spiritual good in others and ourselves.  Providing for another’s physical needs out of love for Jesus is another way to obtain wealth beyond this world.

FRIDAY- Mathew 16:17-20

What can we bind and loose today? We can bind and loose what the Lord has prohibited or permitted in Scriptures (2 Tim 3:16-17).  To bind means to “forbid, refuse or prohibit.” To “loose” means to “permit or allow.” Jesus intended that the apostles inspired teaching should become the standard for our faith and practice.  God also gives special wisdom and power to the church during times of earnest prayer.  

SATURDAY- 1 Peter 2:4-5

How are Christians like living stones?Believers are the stones of a building, but this building is a living, spiritual building, the church.The living Stone is Christ, the most important building block.When people look at your life and testimony, are they able to see Jesus as your “Living Stone”?What is one way to improve your foundation with God?What can you do today or this week?

Week of June 23rd

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Okay, maybe I spent too much time with my thesaurus, but here are six words that follow Sunday’s story of Peter meeting with Jesus after the resurrection. Peter had failed. Jesus wanted him to grow through the failure to become the tremendous spiritual leader of the church that Jesus knew he could become. But he had to overcome this obstacle of failure.

PRAYER:  O God who revealed your grace and mercy most fully in Jesus:  unpack your grace in my life to overcome my fears, failures, and frustrations. Help me to grow into the person you dreamed I would become in Jesus’ name. Amen.

MONDAY- Repentance:  Acts 2:37-47

To repent is not necessarily to feel bad or emotional. The emotions often come when we feel sadness or regret; but the true meaning of repent is to change our ways. Once we behaved this way, now we choose to behave a different way. Once we were going this direction, now we choose to go a different direction. If what we were doing leads to failure and defeat, then we repent. We choose a different direction that leads to hope and peace. What direction are you going?

TUESDAY- Remission:  1 John 1:5-10

This is the promise that when we confess – take personal responsibility for – our sins, God is willing and eager to forgive our sins. Our sins are gone. The debt is cancelled. Like cancer that is in remission, there is medically no evidence of the disease. When God forgives our sins, God remits them. They are gone. We can live fully and freely. To move from failure to freedom, we trust in God’s promise to forgive our sins.

Wednesday – Redemption:  Romans 5:6-11

God anticipated our need for redemption. To redeem is to make something that is worthless into something that is valuable. A coupon states in the fine print that it has little or no cash value. But when we redeem it at a vendor, it then becomes valuable and provides some advantage to us. In a more profound way, God sent Jesus to redeem our worthless lives of failure through the cross. Because of the cross, our lives now have value in God’s scheme of things. Your life is defined, not by your failures, but by God’s redeeming work in Jesus. How’s that feel?

Thursday – Regeneration:  John 3:1-8, 16-17

Jesus described this experience of regeneration to be like “being born all over again. ”  We see things in a new way. We hear things in a new way. We experience things in a new way. All because we are new persons. This work of God’s forgiveness regenerates us. It is not just a second chance, but a whole new start. It is a mystery we cannot analyze in a science lab, but it is real. How does God’s Spirit regenerate new possibilities in your world?

Friday – Reformation:  Romans 8:1-11

One of the dimensions of our lives that changes with God’s forgiveness of our failures is that we live in the Spirit of God. A life that is pleasing to God is not something we can muster up on our own. It happens as we turn our lives over to the power and presence of God’s Spirit living within us. God’s Spirit changes our perspectives, our principles, our practices. And that is what leads to a life of joy and peace. True reforming of our lives from sin and death to life, full and free. What a bargain – trading failure for freedom!

Saturday – Reward:  Matthew 6:25-34

Don’t misunderstand me. I believe in heaven, but I also believe that God’s gift of abundant and eternal life begins in this space and time. We can live in reward of heaven as we “seek first the Kingdom of God” in the here and now. I confess I often become anxious about the material things, too; but God promises to provide all that we need. And I have lived long enough to see that proven many times over. Old habits are hard to break, but living in forgiveness and freedom sure beats failure. What do you think?

Week of June 16th

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We sometimes refer to God as “Father,” but God is neither male nor female.  Both genders reflect in part the image and character of God.  So when God’s Spirit is at work within us, we become more and more like Jesus who revealed God’s true character to us. Here are several passages teaching us about the character of God.

PRAYER:  O mysterious God who revealed yourself most fully in Jesus:  open my mind and heart to the power and presence of your Spirit that I may worship and serve you faithfully in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Monday- Psalm 90:1-12

God is transcendent and eternal. God is not limited to our space or our time.  God is so above and beyond our concepts of reality, it is difficult for us to grasp the true character of God.  Some have responded by merely limiting God to what we can understand, or even, what we want. The Psalm writer reveals that God is beyond all of that.  Jesus came to reveal God’s character to us.  That is why relating to God – trusting God – requires faith.  God is beyond the limitations of the human mind and imagination.

Tuesday - Psalm 139

God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (present everywhere).  When the angel revealed to Mary that she would bear a son who would be the Messiah, Mary asks, “How can this be?”  And the angel replies, “Is anything too hard for God?” God knows us more fully than we know ourselves.  God is not limited by space and time as we are.  We can see signs of God’s presence everywhere.  This raises questions about the problem of evil, but it is not a limitation of God’s character.  It is a deeper understanding of God’s mission.

Wednesday – 1 Peter 1:13-16

God is holy and righteous.  God is the Master Designer and Gracious Creator of all that is.  God understands how things have been put together.  God also knows how the ultimate purpose and mission of the cosmos can become most fully experienced.  According to writers like Peter and Paul, it is in sharp contrast to the impulses of our natural desires.  Holiness and righteousness are God’s characteristics for true peace and wholeness in the world.

Thursday – 1 John 4:7-19

God is love.  God most fully reveals love for the world – creature and creation – in the person and mission of Jesus.  Love is characterized by personal service and sacrifice.  And the way we most fully experience this unlimited, irresistible grace is by offering love and mercy to others.  When we love others, God’s love is “perfected” in us.  That means God’s love grows and develops.  God’s love transforms us into a reflection of Jesus’ character.

Friday – John 3:16-17

There is a line in “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” where one of the children ask about Aslan, the Lion who represents God’s power and presence in CS Lewis’ fairy tale.  Aslan is not a tame lion.  He is dangerous, but he is unquestionably good!  God is not tame in that God does not perform in ways to keep us happy and entertained.  God has a bigger mission and purpose.  But God is unquestionably good!  God’s mission and purpose leads to salvation and healing, even when we do not understand it or control it.

Saturday – Matthew 28:16-20

In Matthew’s story, these are Jesus’ last words to his followers. He promised to be with them always, even to the end of the age.God is with us. It is the nickname given to the baby Jesus:“Emmanuel.”But note that Jesus’ promise is to his followers as they pursue the mission of making disciples in the world.It is not, “I am with you, do whatever you please.”God’s faithful presence is to equip and inspire us in fulfilling the mission.

Week of June 9th

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12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”  John 1:12 

When brokenness and trauma are inflicted upon us, it would be easy to let those experiences define who we are and who we will become.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  The Bible is full of stories of people who experienced brokenness and trauma, but by faith in God were transformed into children of God, heirs of all that God has promised.  Here are some of the stories.

Prayer:  God of the healing hand:  deliver me from the disasters and tragedies that want to bury me under a mountain of fear and hurt.  Transform me into your child – chosen and lifted up to live fully and freely in your grace.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

Monday- John 8:2-11

This is a powerful story, and it is unfortunate we do not know any more about the young lady. What happened next?  How did her life change?  Did she find hope and healing?  What we do know is how Jesus radically reframed her understanding of her life in the community (not to mention how he reframed the understanding of all the scribes and Pharisees).  First, note Jesus demeanor.  Was he angry?  Was he anxious?  Was he defensive?  I wonder what he was writing in the dirt.  What did Jesus offer the woman – not only in his words, but in his attitude toward her. How does Jesus offer you such grace and respect?  How can we offer grace and respect to others today?

Tuesday -  Luke 5:12-16

Talk about one’s life being characterized by brokenness and trauma.  Likely, this man had done nothing to deserve this fate. Yet, he was cut off from family and community, shunned by everyone.  And maybe he believed he was even distanced from God.  But Jesus does something unique.  He not only acknowledges the man, he touches him.  How can the touch of Jesus heal us from trauma and brokenness? How do we understand ourselves – not as victims – but as children of God?

Wednesday – Ruth 1

When I think of brokenness and trauma, I think of these two women:  Ruth and Naomi.  Loss of a spouse and family is traumatic in any day, but especially for these women. In that day and in that culture, they became most to be pitied.  Their future looked awfully bleak.  But Ruth, out of faithfulness to Naomi and her God, became the great grandmother of King David.  How do you suppose her witness of God’s transforming grace shaped the hopes and dreams of the generations that followed her?  What witness do you share for the generations that follow you?

Thursday – Genesis 50:15-21

And what about Joseph in the Old Testament?  No, he wasn’t perfect, but he certainly did not deserve all the tragic disasters that were thrust upon him.  Joseph’s story begins in Genesis 37.  His insight in Genesis 50:20 reveals a maturity and wisdom that only comes through trials and difficulties.  How can you see God’s blessings in the difficulties you face?

Friday – Job 42

How can I forget Job?  This story is staged as a contest between God and Satan.  Did Job feel like a pawn in the struggle?  Do we?  Yet, through it all he insisted on keeping faith with God.  And in the end, he encountered more of God than he ever realized existed.  He grew. His faith grew.  And he became the spiritual giant that inspires us even today. How does your faith in God reform and transform your picture of God and how God wants to bless your life?

Saturday – Luke 8:43-48

This poor woman had not only been suffering a physical ailment for such a long time, she had used all her resources and received no improvement.  Her life is characterized by disaster, poverty, and powerlessness.  But she had this strange – illogical – faith that if somehow she could touch Jesus, her life would change.  And it did! In more ways than she expected. And what did Jesus call her? “Daughter.”  She belonged.  She had a privileged place in God’s family.  She would no longer be “victim,” but “daughter!”  What name do you carry?

Week of May 19th

“Don’t worry about anything ….”  Phil 4:6

Right!  That’s a little like telling a fish not to swim or a bird not to fly.  Isn’t it in our DNA to worry?  Perhaps, but fixing our concentration on worry can have devastating effects on our health and on our relationships.  Here are some passages about worry!

Prayer:  Gracious and Generous God, you offer your gift of perfect peace through the power and presence of your Holy Spirit.  Wrap your arms of perfect peace around me today so I may bring hope and help to others in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Monday - Philippians 4:1-8

“Don’t worry about anything….”  Sure, Paul.  That’s easy for you to say.  But wait.  Scholars believe that this is the last letter Paul wrote that we still have today.  And scholars also believe that Paul wrote this while he was in prison.  We also know Paul was beheaded by Roman authorities for his faith in Jesus Christ.  How can Paul tell us not to worry?  Where does Paul tell us to turn our focus?  What do we do while we are turning our focus away from our worries?

Tuesday -  Isaiah 26:1-6

It would be easy to live in Old Testament days, wouldn’t it?No worries?No fears?Wait, while Isaiah was prophet the northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians, and later the Babylonians would destroy the southern kingdom including the holy city of Jerusalem.Many of the people would be captured and forced into slavery in the empire.How does Isaiah draw this picture of peace in the midst of war and destruction?Check out vss 3-4.How might Isaiah teach us to not worry in our day and age?

Wednesday – 1 Kings 19:9-19

Queen Jezebel vowed to have his head … literally.  Elijah was afraid.  He ran.  He had just won a tremendous victory on Mt. Carmel against Jezebel’s favorite prophets, and she had vowed revenge.  God finds him in this hidden cave far from Jezebel.  He is hiding.  How would you describe his emotions?  Is he … anxious?  Yet, God reveals to him that there is much more going on than he has had the opportunity to observe.  It takes the wider vision of faith.  And when Elijah turns his face away from the Queen and towards God, what does he learn?  How does that teach us about anxiety and worry in our day?  Any Queens vowing to have your head?  Where is your hope?

Thursday – Colossians 3:12-17

The Colossians had not likely gone to Sunday School when they were children.  They were new converts to the faith.  They may have worshiped other Greek and Roman gods, and knew how superstitious they were.  It is a fearful thing to have to constantly appease some divine force so nothing bad happens to us.  But the Christian faith Paul taught was different.  This was a God who became human in Jesus to express grace and love for the world; not fear and tyranny.  What does Paul teach in this passage?  Where should our focus be?

Friday – Matthew 6:25-34

How can we study anxiety and peace without reading these words of Jesus?  What are his examples of security in God’s loving attention?  How does God look at us compared to these examples?  Where does Jesus teach us to turn our focus?  How would doing this affect your day today?  Your relationships today?  Your attitude today?

Saturday – John 14:1-6; 15-18; 27-31

It was the night before Jesus’ own death. Did he worry? Did he wonder if anyone would get what he was trying to teach? Did he ponder what it would be like to suffer what he was facing? We know it was part of his prayers in the garden before his arrest. Yet, he is teaching his disciples (and us) about real peace. Where does it come from? How do you get it? If Jesus could experience peace in these tense moments in his life, what kind of peace could he give us?

Week of May 12th

Prayer:  Loving God, we know your love because we have mothers. We thank you for the mothers who carried us in their wombs, nourishing, protecting and bringing us into the world. We thank you for the mothers who did not give birth to us, yet loved us just the same.  We honor our mothers with lives of service to you in the name of the Risen Christ, for it is in his Name we pray. Amen.

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MONDAY- Deuteronomy 4:9 

9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 

What lessons can you remember from those who helped you as you grew?   What can you be actively doing or preparing to help others as you’ve been helped?

TUESDAY-  Proverbs 31:10-30

What should we learn from the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31?  We know that, as a partner in her marriage, she has a tremendous influence on her family.  She can integrate her life both domestic and professional, with her family in such a way that their family is stronger in unity.  She is wise in the ways of the world and respected for her strength of character.  Do you think this example still applies today? 

 

WEDNESDAY- Galatians 5:22-25

Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in Galatia. Galatia was a province in Rome, and many of the Christians there were Gentiles, or non-Jews. Paul explained that God changes people who trust in Jesus. God gives them the Holy Spirit, who guides them and gives them power to become more like Jesus.How is God changing you?What fruits are you using?

THURSDAY- Proverbs 22:6

6 Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Their minds are fresh and ready to extract what’s put before them, therefore we have such an awesome responsibility to our children and all of God’s children.  How are you reminded of this bit is wisdom?  How do you put it into practice and serve others? 

 

FRIDAY- Exodus 20:12 

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Have you ever considered why God commanded that we should honor our mothers and fathers?  Or… how we should best do this?  And… what if our parents are truly “wrong”?  Regardless, God created us to be in loving relationship.  How can you continue to honor your parents, or the memories of your parents? 

 

SATURDAY- I John 5:6-12

This week look for opportunities to celebrate the work of God as it shows up in your life (family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.). Don’t miss out on what God is doing because of a focus on man-made rules and ideas about what God can and can’t do.

Week of May 5th

“What’s in Your Hands?”

May 5-11, 2019

 

Some of the most amazing things God has done in this world was with some ordinary everyday object someone was holding in their hands.  Rather than longing for some tool or object that is dynamic and miraculous, God just asks us to use whatever we already have in our hands.  In partnership with God, amazing things then happen – like the little boy’s lunch that feeds thousands.  What do you need from God?  Could it be that all God wants is what is in your hands?

Prayer:  Gracious and Generous God, you have already placed within my hands all that I need to be faithful and true to your call.  By faith, help me put it back in your hands that your Holy Spirit may accomplish the mission in Jesus’ name  Amen.


MONDAY- 1 Samuel 17

David was not supposed to be there.  That was a place of battle, a place for strong and courageous men, a place for heroes to die.  David was just a boy.  What did he know about fighting giants?  Declining the offer of the latest in armor fashion ware, he simply used what was in his hands – his sling.   His sling and one small, smooth stone was all God needed to slay the giant.  Are you facing any giants?  What do you have in your hands?

TUESDAY-  Exodus 4:1-5

God was calling Moses to step up to the plate and lead his people to freedom.Moses didn’t want to go.He didn’t think he was up for the job.He came up with all kinds of excuses.God asked, “What’s in your hand?”“A staff.”A typical tool for a shepherd.But in God’s hands that simple tool becomes the symbol of God’s power and promise to overthrow the most powerful Kingdom on the face of the planet at that time:Egypt.What overwhelming obstacle do you face?What is in your hands?How can God what you already have to accomplish God’s mission?

Wednesday – John 21:1-14

Do you like fish tacos?  I don’t know if the disciples ate fish tacos, but I’m fairly confident they ate a lot of fish.  Several of the disciples were fishermen.  After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the disciples are tempted to go back to a previous life.  It was what they knew.  But Jesus had called them to follow him.  So they fish all night and don’t catch anything.  Jesus incognito tells them to throw their nets over the other side, and they had more than they could handle.  What did they have in their hands?  Nets, a common tool for fishermen.  But using it as God directs leads to abundance and generosity.  What is in your hands?  How can God use it to bless you and others? 

Thursday – Judges 6:1-19;33-40

Gideon was not top rung leadership material, but then God rarely calls the superstar.  God usually calls the fearful one, the timid one, the one everyone else overlooks.  God chose Gideon to lead his people to safety.  While Gideon is certain God has gotten the wrong guy, Gideon decides to test God’s instructions.  He uses a sheep’s fleece – wool cut from the sheep.  This is a typical object for a shepherd.  But just in case he interpreted it wrong, he tried it twice.  God honored his quest and confirmed the call.  Are you uncertain about your next steps?  What is in your hands?  How can God use it to confirm God’s direction for you?

Friday – 2 Kings 4:1-7

One of the prophet’s widows was in dire straits.  Apparently, there were no 401k’s for prophets in those days.  Elisha asks what she did have – one jar of oil.  Common sense would dictate using it sparingly to make it last as long as possible, but Elisha tells her to pour it out.  They borrow all the containers they can find from the neighbors.  And the only limitation on the amount of oil she poured out was her capacity to receive.  Could it be that God wants to pour more blessings into our lives, but we lack the capacity?  What is in your hands? 

Saturday – Nehemiah 1

Nehemiah was a cup bearer to the King.His job was to test the wine and food to make sure it wasn’t poisoned; not a job with a lot of security and longevity.But he did have access to one important thing:the King’s ear.So when he shared his passion and his vision for his home city; the King was captivated.What is in your hands?What opportunities has God already planted in your path?How might God use those to accomplish God’s mission?

Week of Apr 28th

Children’s Sermon & Testimonies

April 28th – May 4th

One of the most effective tools you have for sharing your faith is the story of how Jesus Christ gave you eternal life and how He has enriched your life. The Apostle John wrote, "We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard" (1 Jn. 1:3), testifying about his relationship to Jesus Christ.

Prayer:  Faithful God, we give you thanks and praise For every story of faith found, Every testimony of healing given, Every experience of hope strengthened, And every revelation of your love received.  We pray for strength and courage to speak Your name with conviction and faith.  When I feel weak, I will turn to you!  Amen! 


MONDAY- Luke 8:26-39  Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man

Do you find it easy to believe that there are supernatural (i.e., non-human) entities who are evil?  Why or why not?  Has this always been the case with you?  Have your views changed?  Do you think Jesus believed in demons?  Why do people today doubt? 

TUESDAY-  I Timothy 1:6-14

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 

Paul’s letter to Tim is a careful reminder of the suffering that we’ll all suffer while on earth, but our testimony to share with the world is something that our lost world desperately needs.Where does your strength come from?Who knows or needs to hear your story?

WEDNESDAY- Matthew 10:26-33

We all have fears, but we all have fears.  Many things we fear for no reason.  Some things we don’t fear that we should.  In this text Jesus describes the proper place, of fear.  Three times in this text, the disciples are told by Christ to not fear.  We are told not to fear man, but rather to fear God.  Because we have been made righteous, we have total faith in God’s gift of grace and message(s) that he’s put inside us.

THURSDAY-  Titus 3:3-7

A person is radically changed when they believe on Jesus Christ who came, died, rose again and then had the Spirit of God implanted in each believer to actively live out Christ-like lives.  Why do you think people are afraid to share their faith, despite having an all-powerful father who desires us to share His name and story with others? 

FRIDAY- Psalm 40:9-10

I have told the glad news of deliverance
    in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
    as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
    I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
    from the great congregation.

What is your glad news to share with others?  

SATURDAY- I John 5:6-12

This week look for opportunities to celebrate the work of God as it shows up in your life (family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.). Don’t miss out on what God is doing because of a focus on man-made rules and ideas about what God can and can’t do.

Week of Apr 14

Passion Week – What is it?

Passion Week (also called Holy Week) takes place between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday).

Why is it called “Passion Week”? This name represents the passion with which Jesus willingly went to the cross. He did this to pay for your sins—the sins of all of His people. To study the biblical accounts of Passion Week, read Matthew 26-27 or other Gospel accounts:  Mark 11-15, Luke 19-23, and/or John 12-19.


Sunday- Psalm 31:9-16

It’s the last few verses that help bring hope.

14 But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.”  15 My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. 16 Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.

It’s good to remember the Jesus spent considerable amounts of time in prayer with His Heavenly Father.  It’s likely that He prayed this very prayer.  Maybe this will be your prayer this Holy Week. 

Monday- Matthew 26:14-35

What prompted Judas to turn Jesus in?  Judas greed may have been a factor in his accepting 30 silver coins to betray Jesus.  Some speculate that Jesus’ talk of his burial (v. 12) disillusioned Judas, who may have been put off or confused by the idea that the real Messiah could die.  Others think Judas was disappointed because Jesus seemed unwilling to establish the earthly kingdom many expected.  Whatever the cause, Satan was behind Judas’ act of betrayal.

Tuesday- Matthew 26:36-56

Could God have provided another way for salvation?Scripture tells us that God’s law demanded a sacrifice to atone for our sins, and the death of God’s perfect Son was the sacrifice of atonement made once for all.It is essential for us to grasp the enormity of our sin and the utter hopelessness of our depravity as well as the extent of God’s amazing and gracious love.

Wednesday- Matthew 26:57-75

Why did Jesus refuse to answer the false charges?  These same men had resisted and twisted Jesus’ words before.  Why should he speak to them now?  This was a biased, hostile trial, not an impartial hearing.  The unfair and contradictory changes did not deserve a response.  Jesus did answer, however when the high priest charged him under oath to tell them if he was the Messiah (vv. 63-64)

Maundy Thursday- Matthew 27:1-32

Since Judas confessed, was he forgiven?  It’s obvious that Judas deeply regretted his actions.   Seeing that Jesus was condemned, Judas was seized with remorse (v. 3).  He returned his ill-gotten gains and confessed his sin.  Yet remorse does not necessarily equal repentance.  The despair that led Judas to take his own life suggests that he did not receive the inner peace that comes with forgiveness.  His sorrow, not the kind that leads to forgiveness, seems to be a prime example of what Paul wrote about:  Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death (2 Corinthians 7:10). 

Good Friday- Matthew 27:33-56

Did one criminal repent or not?  According to Luke, one criminal had a change of heart.  The apparent difference between the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke seems to stem from the timing of events.  Matthew recorded earlier events when both criminals hurled insults at Jesus.  Luke picks up the story when one of them seeing Jesus forgives his executioners (Luke 23:34), decides to believe in Jesus. 

Holy Saturday- Matthew 27:57-66

What kind of seal would have made the tomb secure?The stone covering the tomb’s entrance probably had a rope or cord wrapped across it.The cord was then sealed in wax or clay at each end, so that no one could open the tomb without breaking the seal or cutting the cord.It is possible that the seal included the official imprint of the Roman Empire, so anyone who broke the seal would have been violating imperial law.Of course, the detachment of the soldiers stationed by the tomb added force to the seal.

Week of Apr 7

Week 5:  Time, Parables, Plots, Anointing, Last Supper

Sunday- Psalm 130

Because of Jesus, the Messiah, we can have hope and we can experience the Lord’s “steadfast love and plentiful redemption”. Christmas reminds us that the promised Deliverer of Israel is the “Deliver” of today.  Easter reminds us that our sins have been forgiven.  Have you accepted and opened the free gift of forgiveness from sin that is only found in Jesus, the Messiah? Take a fresh look at the amazing mercy the God has given you and share that hope with others.

Monday- Matthew 24, focused on 24:1-14

Whoa!  Jesus got “really dark” in this chapter.  We prefer to hear Jesus talk about love and hope, but he also recognized and shared that following HIM was not without difficulty.  Nobody promised that being a Christian would lead to a life without concern or difficulty.  How far are you willing to trust in Jesus?  When the going gets tough, are you spiritually prepared to walk with Jesus? 

Tuesday- Matthew 24, focused on 24:45-51

“When will He return?” is often a question that the church has struggled with. Jesus is mindful to share that we need to be on the watch, yet we need the heart of a God follower before that day.We need to be prepared to live a “When will He return?” is often a question that the church has struggled with. Jesus is mindful to share that we need to be on the watch, yet we need the heart of a God follower before that day.  We need to be prepared to live a clean and God honoring life and not living a wicked and selfish lifestyle.  How are you preparing yourself for a lifetime of following God?  

Wednesday- Matthew 25, focused on 25:14-30

Why Parables? The word parable comes the Greek word ‘parabole,’ which means “a placing beside” and therefore is a comparison or an illustration. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke contain about 30 of these stories while John’s gospel contains no parables but does use figures of speech. A parable is a story taken from real life (or real-life situation) from which a moral or spiritual truth is drawn. They are not fables (talking animals/walking trees). They are not allegories where every detail has hidden meaning. They are basically an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.

Thursday- Matthew 25, focused on 25:31-46

Whatever else this passage means, it plainly teaches that a day is coming when the Son of Man, pictured as a glorious Shepherd-King in this parable, will judge “the nations.” What do you believe about this? Do you believe that history is headed toward a climactic, inescapable, conclusive day of judgment? How much or little does this coming judgment figure into the way you live from day to day? Are you at all concerned or apprehensive about this day of judgment? Why or why not?

Friday- Matthew 26:1-13

In this chapter, the focus is not on the teachings of Jesus; rather, the focus shifts to preparations for Jesus’ arrest and death:  Jesus speaks again to the disciples of what is going to happen (vss. 1-2); the rulers begin to plot how to arrest Jesus (vss. 3-5); a woman anoints Jesus in preparation for His sufferings and death (vss. 6-13).  Things come to a head, as events align toward the most significant event in human history.Could you imagine sitting at Jesus’ feet and hearing these words?Would you be in denial too?

Saturday- Psalm 46  

1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.Take courage in God’s word. He will be with you and keep you always. Do you believe this?

Week of Mar 31st

Walking Through the Book of Matthew

March 31st – April 6th

Week 4:  Parables, Kingdom of God, King Arrives, & Warnings

Sunday- Matthew 18, focused on 18.21-35

How large were these debts?  It is clear that 10,000 bags of gold represented a sizeable sum of money- probably millions of dollars.  It was an enormous and hopelessly insurmountable debt.  By contrast, the fellow servant in Jesus’ example owed a hundred silver coins- a much more manageable debt, equivalent to perhaps three- or four-months’ wages.  Certainly, this puts things in perspective of God’s grace. 

Monday- Matthew 19, focused on 19:16-26

Are we saved by faith or by obeying God’s commands?  If this were the only thing Jesus said about salvation, it might sound as though strict adherence to the commandments could earn us a place in heaven.  But Jesus said much more to explain this verse.  For instance, he spoke of outward obedience as an indicator of the condition of a person’s heart.  He stressed that our relationship with God must be our primary focus, but that sincere obedience should grow out of authentic faith. 

Tuesday- Matthew 20, focused on 20:1-16

Does this scripture make you feel uneasy?It does many, yet it explains the extravagant love of God.The thief who hung on the cross next to Jesus never did amazing things in Jesus’ name or fed the poor, yet his faith confirmed that he would indeed would soon be in paradise with Jesus.Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t make me pay what would be “fair” to be with him in eternity.

Wednesday- Matthew 21:1-22, focused on 21:1-17

Why did Jesus ride a donkey instead of a Warhorse?  Donkeys or mules were often associated with leaders.  By riding this young colt, however, Jesus demonstrated his humility and gentleness.  He also fulfilled one of the prophecies of Messiah (Zechariah 9:9) and because this king would be a completely different king of king from any the world had ever known.  Zechariah was painting a picture of the coming king’s humility and grace.

Thursday- Matthew 21:23-46, focused on 21:33-45

Are the Jews no longer God’s chosen people?  Jesus was speaking to the chief priests and Pharisees.  These leaders though of themselves as the wardens of God’s kingdom through Judaism.  The use of the Greek ethnos (translated people) does not indicate a new ethnic group but an organized community.  Jesus was referring to his coming church, which would include both Jews and Gentiles. 

Friday- Matthew 22, focused on 23:1-14

What does it mean that many are invited but few are chosen?  Many (perhaps “all” in view of the Semitic usage of “many”) are invited to enter the kingdom of God, but only a few will become rightful citizens of heaven.  God’s invitation must be accepted, followed by appropriate conduct.  Proper behavior is evidence of being chosen. 

Saturday- Matthew 23, focused on 23:29-39

Why was Jesus so angry with these leaders?He was angry because of their hypocrisy, six times in the chapter Jesus called them hypocrites.The religious leaders had exchanged the holy for the hollow.They were concerned with appearance rather than substance.They made a show of obeying God’s law but consistently violated the spirit of the law.Worst of all, they were leading other people to do the same.Jesus, by contrast, said that he desires genuine spiritual commitment.

Week of Mar 17th

Walking Through the Book of Matthew

 

March 17th– 23rd, Matthew, Chap 8-12:

Storms, Matthew the tax collector called, disciples Sent, & God’s Servant 


Sunday- Matthew 8, focused on 8:23-43 

Does having faith mean we should never be afraid? No.  Jesus meant that God is greater than whatever we are facing, and He is in control.  Knowing God is present keeps fear from paralyzing us.  Do you ever find yourself so focused on your fears that you miss the opportunity to trust in God?  

 

Monday – Matthew 9, focused on 9:9-17

Who were these tax collectors?  They were a group of Jews despised by other Jews for collaborating with the Roman government that ruled over them.  Tax collectors paid the authorities for the privilege of collecting taxes; then they overcharged people, skimming off the top to line their own pockets.  As a result, other Jews saw Jewish tax collectors as both traitors and thieves. What must this mean for Matthew to be called into Jesus’ inner circle of trust and to be added as a student? Clearly, Jesus showed us a way to “love one another.”  

 

Tuesday- Matthew 9:18-38, focused on 9:35-38

How were the crowds harassed and helpless? The crowds to which Jesus spoke were made up of common people, and they were burdened for multiple reasons:  (1) They were prisoners in their own lands, since the Romans had taken over Palestine.  (2)They were overtaxed and needed to work overtime to pay their dues. (3) Most of them were farmers and were worn out by hard work in the fields. (4) Most of them were poor.  (5) They could never live up to the rules and regulation of the Pharisees, so they felt hopeless to become right with God. In short, they had wearied souls. 

Wednesday- Matthew 10:1-15

Is it wrong to use our own supplies or money to advance Jesus’ mission?  Jesus wanted the twelve to be completely dependent on God for their provision.  He wanted them to see that God would provide for them through hospitality of others. In fact, the New Testament churches were repeatedly encouraged to support those who ministered to them.  A personal lack of funds or supplies should not prevent us from advancing the gospel.  Sounds like a mistake, or an opportunity to trust in God?  

 

Thursday- Matthew 10:16-42, focused on 10:16-25 

Who is Beelzebub?  He is theprince of demons, that is, Satan.  Baal was a Canaanite deity: the name was expanded to Beelzebull (meaning “Exalted” or “Prince Baal”).  Baal was a Canaanite god meaning “lord” or “master.”  An early related form was Baal-Zebul.  The Jews ridiculed the idol and its worshipers by changing the name to Baal-Zebub meaning “lord of the flies- or Baal-Zebul or Beelzebul meaning “lord of the dung” or “lord of the dung hill.”  We might be careful to remember that Jesus is the way, and Satan is “lord of the dung hill.”  ;-)

 

Friday- Matthew 11, focused on 11:11-19

What role, if any does doubt have in the Christian life?  Even people with strong faith ask tough questions in stressful times.  John was suffering unjustly, so it is not surprising that he sought answers from Jesus. Further, since Jesus’ action as Messiah differed from what many Jews expected, reports of Jesus’ activities must have puzzled John.  Jesus answer was intended to bring reassurance:  the miracles Jesus performed gave evidence that he was indeed the onewho was to come.  

 

Saturday- Matthew 12:1-21, focused on 12:15-21

Why didn’t Jesus want anyone to know he was the messiah?Practical issues may have caused Him to shun popularity.The crowds were already becoming large and unmanageable, and at times Jesus needed to get away.At other times, he had to be firm in leaving one group of people so he could minister to another.Another factor, large crowds would have attracted even more attention.

Week of Mar 10th

Walking Through the Book of Matthew

Matthew, Chap 1-7: Birth, Baptism,

Wilderness, Sermon on the Mount, & Teachings


Sunday- Matthew 1 & 2, focused on 1:18-25

Although some might consider this “scandal” tame in today’s society, this was a matter of life or death for Marry in the first century.  In the eyes of the community, Mary has committed adultery, which was a sin punishable by death, usually stoning.  Joseph was afraid to take her as his wife because it was equivalent to admitting that he was the father of the child.  Do so would have brought him social disgrace and caused him to become religiously impure.  On one would have wanted to associate with him for fear of becoming contaminated, which would also have had a direct impact on his carpentry business. 

Monday – Matthew 3, focused on 3:1-12

Did John the Baptist invent baptism?  No, but John’s baptism was unique. After Judah’s exile to Babylon in 586 BC, Jewish rabbis used baptism as a rite of cleansing.  John redefined this sacred use of water as a public sign of repentance.

Tuesday- Matthew 4, focused on 4:1-11

What would have been wrong with turning stones into bread?  The issues was not the temptation itself but the motive behind it.  The devil often appeals to our pride, hoping that we will take matters into our own hands rather than trust in God.  If Jesus had turned the stones into bread, he would not have been depending on his Father in heaven. 

Wednesday- Matthew 4, focused on 4:18-25

Could you imagine the courage and faith it took to visit Jesus and hope to be healed?  The news about him certainly spread and many came to witness his teaching and seek healing.  We frequently (i.e. incorrectly) attribute to Biblical stories as a time when Jesus was “truly” among us and healing.  God continues to do amazing miracles in our lives today, yet why don’t we hear these stories as frequently?   

Thursday- Matthew 5, focused on 5:1-12

Why did Jesus turn our value system upside down?  He wanted to disrupt the conventional wisdom of the time that said the wealthy and influential enjoyed more of God’s blessing than the poor and powerless did.  Jesus wanted his followers to see that material things are only temporary and certainly not the only reality.  He didn’t want them to think of their current situation as signs of God’s bl4essing or judgement.  Instead, he wanted them to see that the poor can be spiritually wealthy.

Friday- Matthew 6, focused on 6:5-15

Why pray for God’s will to be done?  When we do, we yield to God’s authority.  It is a humble admission that God knows better than we do about what is right.  This prayer also acknowledges our desire to see God’s kingdom (the realm where his will is always done) fully manifested.

Saturday- Matthew 7, focused on 7:15-23

How do we guard against false prophets without judging?  Jesus’ command not to judge is a caution against condemning others.  Pointing out heresy, however is not condemning others but merely discerning an obvious error.  In this case, Jesus urges us to be on the lookout for those whose lifestyle and teaching stand as an indictment against them. 

Week of Feb 3rd

Salvation:  it is a religious word, we do not use much anymore.  But if all roads lead to heaven and grace covers all of our sins, there is not much need for salvation.  But in the Bible, there is a high price paid for salvation.  And our response is more than to simply show up on judgment day.  Here are som passages about salvation to ponder.

PRAYER

O Holy and Gracious God, reveal your truth through your Word that I may live in the grace of your salvation, through Jesus Christ I pray.  Amen.

Monday – John 3:14-19

Jesus is teaching Nicodemus, a religious teacher, about the true nature of God’s plan.  What action did God initiate?  Why?  It is not God’s intention to condemn anyone, but what will lead to judgment/condemnation?  So what is it we need to do to receive salvation?  How do you live that out today?

Tuesday – Mark 8:31-36

These were hard words to hear.  The disciples had given up all to follow Jesus, and now they hear he is to be rejected and killed.  Where did that leave them?  Jesus teaches them a paradox of God’s truth.  What does it take to follow Jesus?  How does one find salvation – save their life?  What will happen to those who do gain all the world has to offer?  How does this truth shape the decisions you will make today? 

Wednesday – Romans 10:9-13

Paul is writing to the church in Rome about the importance of speaking about one’s faith.  To simply be a good person often leads to misconstrued assumptions.  So what does Paul teach about witnessing?  Who is it then that will receive salvation?  In Paul’s day, nearly everyone was either Jew or Greek.  What terms would we use today?  There is no distinction between ____ and ____.  Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved!  Who will surprise you when you discover they are in heaven?  Who will be surprised that you are there?

Thursday – Titus 3:1-7

We live in a culture where we often believe the right politics will solve the world’s problems, and to have political power and influence is the key to salvation.  It is not new to our day.  But Paul – who once had political power and threw it away – teaches something different to young Titus.  What is it?  Who initiated the work of salvation?  How do we earn it or pay for it?  What is the reward of salavation?  How do you plan to live in this salvation?

Friday – Ephesians 2:1-10

The nut and bolts of the gospel in this paragraph.  How would you paraphrase this in your own words?  How do we receive the gift of salvation?  How do we know that?  What are we supposed to do with it?  What is God’s way of life for you?

Saturday – Galatians 2:15-21

Paul was a Jew – a very good Jew.He was a rising star of Pharisees, until he confronted Jesus on the road to Damascus.Therefore, he understood the limitations of the law – living as a good person.Instead of that, what did he discover worked for him?What does it mean to be “crucified with Christ?”How is the power and presence of Christ within us better than doing it on our own?