Saturday, July 23, 2011

August 10, 2011

Breaking Open the Scriptures

Scriptures for August 10th: Genesis 45:1-15; Psalm 133, Romans 11:1-2, 29-32; Matthew 15:10-28. Theme: Are you a witness to the truth of What Christ can do? Song: UMH 140 – Great is Thy Faithfulness

Romans: Paul reminds us that as gentiles, we are just as much a part of the family as the Jewish people. God accepts us as we are, we don’t have to change our identity in order to be a Christian. Jesus died for the right for us to be just who we are. Jews do not believe in original sin. But the scripture reminds us that we are indeed sinful. God knows that we are sinful. God claims us, even in the midst of our fault. Jesus cleans us up, and forgives our sins and glorifies God for the right to do the work. If we are thankful for what God has done for us, then we will be witnesses. We will not only live a life as free from sin as possible, but we will also tell others what God has done for us, and what God is prepared to do for others.

Matthew: For the Jewish community, purity is everything. It is a part of their religion to keep clean. They are not willing to be around anything that will make them spiritual unclean. Being unclean has nothing to do with dirt, it is about a perception. Jesus tries to dispel the myth that something outside of your own spirit can make you unclean. It is what comes or of your spirit , out of your mouth that make you unclean. In the second half of the scripture, a woman tests Jesus determination to save all of God’s children. She was not a Jew, yet she asked to be healed. At first Jesus says that he can’t do anything, but he is soon reminded that God sent him to save all. It was her faith that saves her daughter, not her nationality. The same for us. We have to be careful not about what we put in our mouths, but what comes out of them.

Questions: How is your life a witness to what God has done in your life? How have you received the mercy of God even in your disobedience? What do Christians and Jews have in common in the way that we worship God? Have you ever seen a Christian disrespect their faith by the way they talk with other people? What does it mean to be spiritually clean? Who do you need to pray for God to bless, even though they may not deserve it?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

July 24, 2011

Breaking Open the Scriptures

Scriptures for July 24th – Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11;45b; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52;

Romans: We come to the end of chapter 8, the important chapter on our faith. Paul is talking a lot about what it means to have hope. Hope in something that you can see if not really hope. Needing to see something before you believe it, is not a bad thing, it is just not the definition of hope. We talked about waiting for a new creation and the groaning of birth pangs of a new day. Now it is time to celebrate the fruition of what God has done. Now it is time to sing a new song! Now it is time to sing of what God has done for us. Now it is time to sing of how our hope has been fulfilled. A large part of this final part of the chapter are the words to a hymn that Paul would have had the early church sing to celebrate where God has bought them. We have victory over life, because God has given that to us!

Matthew: Jesus likes to explain things in parables. He is trying to get us to understand what God is like. None of us has ever seen God for ourselves, so God must be like something that we can already relate to. Five times Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is like…. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. Mustard seed would have been a plant that grew everywhere. You did not have to take care of it, water it, or sometimes even plant it, it just grew and did what it wanted to do. When God is compared to a mustard seed, it is not important that it is wild, but that it spreads like wild fire. It is catching on and spreading. And it grows beyond belief. Wouldn’t it be nice if our faith in God spread with the same speed and intensity? The kingdom is like leaven, like rising bread, like the law of the household. Jesus did not come to the world to usher in the kingdom. The new kingdom does not do away with the old law, it just makes it easier to understand. For us to understand God’s world in out terms is all that Jesus is trying to do in this parable.

Questions: What do you hope that God will do for you in the future? What do you hope that God will do for the world? How do you pray for change? What are the signs in the world that change is coming? What are you doing to celebrate what God is doing in our midst? How would you explain the kingdom of God today? How does Jesus parables help you understand and explain God? What does the parable of the mustard seed mean to you?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

July 17, 2011

Scriptures for July 17th: Genesis 28:10-19; Psalm 139:1-12,23-24; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. Theme: The Presence of God; Song: We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder - UMH 418

Genesis: We continue our story about the first family. Abraham has died, Isaac’s twins have grown up. Now it is time for Jacob to find a wife. His mother Rebekah sends Jacob back to her homeland to find a wife. Jacob has never been a faithful man. He has never needed to pray, his father’s have always prayed on his behalf. This is probably the first time in his life that he is on his own. During his travels, he has a dream about God, that the place he sleeps is where God’s angels are traveling back and forth. He realizes that God’s presence is with him, whether he acknowledges God or not. This is the beginning of his own faith, his own family, his own story. A story in need of God.

Romans: Chapter 8 continues Paul’s conversation about the life in the flesh and life in the spirit. I don’t think that Paul is saying that we as Christians should live in the spirit. He is saying that in reality, we live in the middle of these two sides. There are a part of us that belongs to the world we live in, there is a part of us that belongs to God. As long as we are a part of this world, there will always be suffering. There will be problems, there will be struggles. But it is in our suffering that we realize that God is about to do a new thing in us, with us and for us. In the midst of fleshly suffering it is okay to groan and cry out. Our crying gives us hope and peace. Just be patient and things will change.

Questions: When in your life did you start to take on your own faith life and not your parents? What were the circumstances? How did you know that God was present in your life? How does living in the flesh affect you? How does living in the spirit affect you? What does suffering mean in your life? How has your suffering helped you to have hope? How often do you complain, or groan about the things in your life?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 10, 2011

Scriptures for July 10th: Genesis 25:19-34; Psalm 119:105-112; Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23; Theme: How Deep is your faith? Song: Every Time I Feel the Spirit UMH 404

Genesis: We are reading the story of the first family of faith and how God’s promise plays out in the midst of their lives. We also find out that they are not very different from us. There is sibling rivalry, there are deep motions, there is unfairness. And yet the goodness of God becomes evident in it all. When Rebekah is pregnant with her twins, she is in such pain to God that she cries out. His answer is not much comfort. The older twin will live to serve the older twin. That is not right. But she makes sure that Jacob receives the birthright, not Esau. This switch affects the whole story of faith. Jacob continues the promise. Esau’s story may be just as important, but we never hear it. But we can guess that his family is not much different from ours. We don’t have to question why God chose to change the story, but we can be grateful that Jesus made sure that we were included in the family, thus included in the story. What does this story tell you about your faith heritage?

Romans: This is one of the most important chapter in the bible for many people. Romans chapter 8. In Romans, Paul is talking about sin, and how it affects our lives. In chapter 7 he even says that his life is affected by sin and that he needs to be different. We can all relate, because we are all sinners. We all wish that we could just be free of ourselves, but to no avail. What is one to do. We can celebrate because Jesus addressed the problem of sin. We can’t do it alone. But with the help of God through the resurrection of Jesus we can make a difference. The grace of Christ is available to us all, but is used by those of us who are able to focus. We have to set our mind to serve Christ, to be with Christ, and to use Christ as our savior. The gift is a peace of mind, as well as the knowledge that the Spirit of Christ dwells in our lives and all that we do.

Questions: What does it mean to be blessed by God? Are physical things really a testament to God’s blessing? What about others who don’t have as much as you do? Does God bless them? How can your blessings be a blessing to others? It was Jesus’ life that saves us, not his death. How does your life reflect what Jesus was done for you? How do you pass that on to others?