Thursday, July 20, 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
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
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
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?
Sunday, December 4, 2016
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for December 11th: Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 1:46b-55; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11; Theme: What do you see?; Song: 196 Come Thou Long Expected Jesus Isaiah: Isaiah gives us an idea of what the world will look like when God is present. We are all hoping for things to change. For life to be better. But we are reminded that the only way for God to be present is for us to live as if he is already here. For us to make sure that the scripture is written in our hearts and we are actually living according to the principles set out in the bible. When that happens, not only will our community change, but everyone around the world will flock to the city to see how it is done. God’s plan can happen in Englewood, just as well as in Jerusalem. We can vow to live in peace. But we have to convince others the live in our dream. That is what Christmas is all about – spreading God’s vision to the rest of the world who does not go to church. It all starts with Imagine if….. Matthew: How many times in your life have you asked Jesus if he is the one, or should I expect another? The truth is we test Jesus each and every day. We try to make sense of our lives and circumstances everyday. Who is Jesus to you? Do you even recognize your savior when you see him? Do you see Jesus as that baby crying while you are trying to concentrate, or the little child running around needing discipline, or the friend in the hospital needing a visit, or the homeless man asking for food right now. Jesus comes to us in all shapes and sizes. We have to be prepared and ready. People started to see salvation in a man in the wilderness, crying out to repent. He got so popular that he was put in jail. People knew that a change was necessary. And they pursued it. When you look at other people what do you see? You should see Jesus giving you a message, to love, to understand to help, to participate. Questions: What would Englewood look like if God were present in the way we treated one another? How can you give God’s vision to others this Christmas? What has to change before God can get through to the world? How can you recognize Jesus in this modern age? When you see the people in front of you, what do you see? What do you need to repent of?
Sunday, November 6, 2016
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for November 13th: Isaiah 65:17-25; Isaiah 12; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-19; Theme: the end is near; song: Soon and Very Soon UMH 706 Isaiah: For the last few weeks we have been dealing with scriptures that tell us how to survive after a crisis. They are words of hope that tell us to hold on. This is not the time to give up. These words of Isaiah tell us that the bad part is over, now it is time to start over. Things have changed, and we have the golden opportunity to start anew. Our spirits are new. We can forget about the things behind us and look forward to the things ahead. God needs us to be in action and to work at rebuilding the world the way it is supposed to be. God always hears our prayers and bad times always end. But we cant be so wounded that we are not able to pick up and go forward when the daylight comes. Luke: Jesus continues that theme of the end of the world as we know it coming. No matter how bad the end is, when it is over, you are going to have to pick of he pieces and move on. Jesus reminds us to stay focused, to trust in him. To know that all of this is just temporary. We have been told the end of the story, so that we can have hope. Jesus gives a list of things that will happen, and in life all of those things seem to be coming true. When we look at violence and hatred, it is easy for us to be afraid. But Jesus last words to us – By holding fast your will gain your lives. This is not the end of the story. Questions: What are your hopes and dreams for a new world? What needs to be change? What needs to stay the same? What work has God given to you to make a difference? Do you believe the end is near? Has all of the things that Jesus predicted happened? What helps you to hold on in tough times?
Sunday, October 30, 2016
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for November 6th: Daniel 7:1-3,15-18; Psalm 149, Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31; Theme: Remembering our Saints; Song: Holy, Holy Holy UMH 64 Daniel: Many people are afraid of this book. It is the precursor for the Book of Revelation. And Daniel forsee’s a very definite future for both his captors and his own people. But this is more a book of visions. Daniel receives a vision of the future from God and he is just passing it on. As we think of our ancestors on this day, let us remember their visions. We are the people who are intended to make those visions come true. Our forefathers and mothers may have a better incite on the world and its events then we do, they have seen it all before. They more disturbed by what they see, but we in the living world have the power to change it. Luke: Luke is talking about the promise of heaven. Those who are qualified to go to heaven are those who follow in Jesus footsteps in any circumstance. Heaven is for those who earn it. The life that we live on earth is not meant to be ideal and perfect. It is full of challenges that prepare us for heaven. Heaven is for those who dare to be different. We can be grateful for the rules and discipline that our parents taught us. Many children are not learning those same values. But those values come straight for this verse, to do the right thing in all circumstances, you will be blessed in the end. Questions: Who is your family always had visions of the future? How did you live out those visions? How do those visions inform our actions? What important values were present in your family? Why were those values important? Do you believe in heaven? How does your belief affect the way in which you treat people?