Sunday, August 20, 2017

August 27, 2017

Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for August 27th: Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 124; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20 Romans: Paul has reminded us of all of the wonderful things that God has done for us. He reminded us that God is indeed there for us in all situations. Now Paul is telling us what our response is to God’s mercy. This chapter starts out with Paul telling us to be a living sacrifice. Not to kill ourselves, but to live our lives for God not ourselves. It is not a sacrifice to live for God. But it is an intentional way of living. It is easy to get caught up into what is going on in the world. It is easy to think that the goal of life is to be our best selves. Paul says that life is not about you it is about God. So he challenges us to use our gifts for the good of God. to know that God gave each of us a purpose in life. That understanding of life does not make us special, it should make us humble and willing to serve. Matthew: Jesus has been trying to teach the disciples about having faith in God. but they don’t seem to get it, until now. They are finally starting to realize that he is the Son of God. Jesus says that they did not get this knowledge from common sense, but a message from God. In this passage Peter makes the confession that he is the son of God. Now Jesus says that he can finally start to build his church. And Peter’s confession is the bedrock of the church. Peter is known as the first bishop of the church, ordained by God, because Jesus lays hands on him and says that he has the power to build. Today many of us have been ordained, not by the church but by God to continue to build. To believe for ourselves on the wonders of God, but to pass them on to others and to make a difference. Questions: What are your gifts from God? How are you using them to build God’s church? Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God, or is church just something to do? How do you know this? What are you doing to help others believe?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

August 3, 2017

Scriptures for August 13th: Genesis 37:1-4,12-28; Psalm 105:1-6,16-22, 45; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33 Genesis: As we look at the first book of the bible, we look at the first family of faith. We learn more about their mistakes, then their example. They are a typical family like one of our families. The episode for this week is a case of sibling rivalry. Jacob has twelve sons. But he does not love them equally. They all want to be loved, but Jacob loves the son of Rachel the most. He seems to spoil Joseph. Yet he is hard on all of the others. So, grown men decide that they are going to get rid of a troublesome little boy. Little do they realize that this event will have consequences that affect their family, their people and all people of faith. When they dump Joseph in a hole in the ground, they open the door to be saved from a famine. This is one of the first stories that we will hear about Joseph. And we learn how Joseph is an example of understanding and forgiveness in our own faith journey. Matthew: Interestingly when Jesus does a miracle for over 10,000 people, all he wants is some alone time. He had went off by himself when all of these people showed up. When they leave, he goes off alone again. This time the disciples are in crisis, they are caught in a boat in a storm. Jesus comes to them calmly walking on water. When Peter sees him, he wants to walk on water to. Jesus tells him that it is just a matter of faith. It is natural that we all want to do what we see Jesus do. No one has been able to walk on water. As a matter of fact, we have to be told not to walk on water, not to do miracles. I have a sign in my office that says, please do not attempt to walk on the water. Be human, be realistic, make sure that my trust is in keeping with my context. Let Jesus do the miracles. Questions: How do you feel about your sisters and brothers? How do you feel about your church sisters and brothers? Are their some people that you would like to dump in a hole? How can those people help you in ways you never thought of? How much do you trust in Jesus? When has Jesus come to save you from the waves of life?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

August 6, 2017

Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for August 6th: Genesis 32:22-31, Psalm 17:1-7, 15; Romans 9:1-5, Matthew:13-21 Romans: Now that Paul has made a case for the omnipotence of God in all parts of our lives, He now speaks to his toughest audience – the Jews. If they are the children of God, then why do they need Jesus. Paul makes a case with them that God is doing a new thing through Christ. He says that he is telling the truth to them and not making something up. That God does indeed love the Jews, but God indeed loves all people and needed a way for others to have a pathway to him. He explains to them that Christ was a Jew and understand and respects what it means to be Jewish, so if those who are dependent on Christ, follow him they are akin to the Jews. But it is not the ways of the Jews that leads to salvation, but following Christ. Paul feel caught in the middle, but he is clear that the way to God is Christ. Matthew: The story of Jesus feeding the 5000 is present in all of the gospels, including John. This mirrors the events in the Hebrew Testament when God provided manna for those wandering in the wilderness. This story takes place in each gospel after John the Baptist has been killed. Matthew intentionally makes this the first act that Jesus does in response to starting his ministry. It tells us that Jesus can supply our needs. But Jesus also says that man cannot eat by bread alone. We need to have our bellies full in order to fully take in the gospel and to live according to it. We need to be fed spiritually. Since this story is in all of the gospels, it is an important story and one that fully demonstrated the nature of God in Christ. Questions: What part of the gospel still does not make sense to you? Are you able to accept it on grace, or are you a jew in heart and need proof? How are we like Jews? How are we different as Christians? Have you ever experienced a miracle of God? How has God used you to be a blessing to others?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 30, 2017

Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for July 30, 2017: Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11, 45; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33; 44-52 Romans: The book of Romans contains all we need to know about giving our lives to Christ. Chapter 8 is the pivotal chapter of the whole book. In it Paul gives a framework for living on earth, but living in the spirit of Christ. There is a constant battle between the spirit and the flesh. Paul says that the key to winning that battle is to have a prayer life. So Paul gives us a framework of what it means for us to pray, even when we do not have the words. A lot of times, we do not pray because we don’t believe that God can hear us, we are cut off from our own spirits. But Paul says that God is always with us. More importantly God always wants what is best for us and will provide a way for us to achieve it. In all of Paul’s writings, you will hear him talk about living in the spirit of Christ. That is what a Christian should strive for. We will never be perfect, but as long as we are connected and living in the spirit, God will understand us and forgive our sin. When we live in the spirit, we want to do what is right, even when we do wrong. We are always striving for something better. That is the definition of being saved. The spirit takes over our mind, our body and our soul. Matthew: in this second half of Mathew 13 Jesus continues to use parables to explain what the kingdom of heaven is like. None of us have ever been to heaven, so we have no context to put it in, so Jesus uses experiences from this earthly life to help us to imagine. Jesus tell five parables – heaven is like a mustard seed because size does not matter. Yeast that rises to the top. Hidden treasure – joy unspeakable. A merchant – a treasure. A net able to catch anything. And the scribe – able to be recorded. Why would we want to go to heaven if we did not understand it? Which is why Jesus spends so much time giving examples that we can relate to. Jesus says that anyone who wants to go to heaven should become a disciple, and disciples take what is old to define what is new – making the connection is the treasure. Questions: What does it mean to you to have a relationship with the spirit? Do you think that is a challenge to live in the flesh and the spirit at the same time? How do you overcome that challenge? What is the kingdom of heaven like for you? Which metaphor is most important to you? If you were describing heaven to someone, what would you say?

Sunday, February 5, 2017

February 12, 2017

Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for February 12, 2017: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37; Theme: taking it one step further; song: They will know we are Christians by our Love 1 Corinthians: As Paul went around the countryside teaching people a new way, he realized that he had a lot of work to do and that he had to keep at it. People are generally smart about the ways of the world. But we have to be constantly reminded of the things of God. When we learn one thing, another things comes up. That is perhaps why Paul points out that the people were spiritually young minded, but that he had to work so that they could get more mature. He also knew that there were other teachers who were not as dedicated as he was. So he also warned the people to watch out for false teachings. But his last lesson is my favorite. That none of us have the monopoly on teaching – we all have an important part. One plants, another waters, another reaps the harvest. The harvest is not about us but all of the work that others have put into it. Because it is not our ministry, it is God’s. But he wants us to do our part in faith. Matthew: This lesson could be called not this, but that. Jesus tells the important parts of faith – fidelity, honesty, helping. But Jesus points out that being a Christian means going above and beyond what is expected. John Wesley point this out in stewardship also. Tithing is a mandate in the Jewish faith, everyone is supposed to give ten percent. But Jesus takes it one step further. He says that if it takes more, then give more. Do it all to the glory of God. And know that God gives us what we have, so we are called to give back and to obey God. Know that everything that you do is not about God, but about you. So don’t swear on your own abilities, you don’t know when they will fail. But trust and allow God to lead you where you need to be. If you use your strength you will get tired, if you use God’s strength you will do the impossible. Being a Christian is a lifestyle not just a moment. Questions: What part has God called you to play in the building of the kingdom? How can you let others help you? What do you have to trust to others? How can you go further in your devotion to God? What areas of your life do you need to work on? How can you trust God more?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

January 1, 2017

Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for January 1, 2016: Isaiah 63:7-9, Psalm 148, Hebrews 2:10-18; Matthew 2:13-23; theme for today: Epiphany light; Song: Hark the Herald angels Sing Isaiah: It is amazing how God always sends the right word for the right time. This verse tells us that God sent a messenger in times of distress to tell the people that they would be okay. He also told them what they needed to do and reminded them of God’s promises. Christmas is the right time for us to celebrate. For us to know that we are saved, and to go through the darkness without knowing that it was intended for us. So on New Year’s let us testify how good God has been and how we intend to allow God’s blessing in the new year. Let us know that God is still speaking to us to his people and to the world. That is what worship is all about sing, praise pray. Matthew: This is also epiphany – the time when that star made a difference and the wise men finally got it. There is a lot going on in our world this holiday season. This reminds us to pray for the children, to protect them and to guide them. May we be the stars that they are seeking, may we make a difference in thir lives. May we comfort the mothers who are crying. But more importantly may the star rise in your heart, and others see the light of Christ. Questions: What message do you need to hear this Christmas? What message do you need to pass on? How do you praise God in your ordinary life? What great light are you looking for, where do you see light in today’s darkness?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

December 18, 2016

Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for December 18th: Isaiah 7:10-16;Psalm 80: 1-7,17-19; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew1:18-25; Theme: Dare to Dream; Song: 240 Hark the Herald Angles Sing Isaiah: This is the time of year that we start to look at messages from God. We want to know how things are going to change. The bible says that we should not get stuck on signs, but that is all that we can think of. We want some sign, that things are about to get better. The signs are all around us. God is always present in our lives, God is always working to bring about the world that he intended. God himself gave Ahaz a sign that things were getting better-a baby would be born, and the baby would be named Emmanuel - meaning God is present. The child will grow and learn as any other baby, but he will do special things as he grows. And eventually, you will see that it was God who bought you through all along. Matthew: Matthew is the only gospel where the birth of Jesus is portrayed. This story starts with a dream. Joseph could have stopped all of this. He could have put Mary on the street when he found out she was pregnant. But he had a dream where an angel told him to be understanding. Perhaps he had studied Isaiah in bible study that night,where he learned that salvation comes through a child. This was some story that Mary told. She did not mess with another man, she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. What would have happened if Joseph did not get his own message? How would the world be different. Where would our hope be, how could have think of anything ever changing? We can be grateful that God has a way of leading us and telling us what his will is. We just have to learn to listen to your dreams. Questions: How do you know that God is present in your life? What messages has God given you in your dreams? How do you live the Christmas story today? What hope do you have as you see all of the new babies coming into the world? What promise will they bring? Do you believe in miracles? What miracles have been present in your life?