Sunday, December 30, 2012
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for January 6th – Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12; Theme: Epiphany; Song: I want to walk as a child of the light - UMH 206 Ephesians : Paul understood that every place that he was and every situation that he was in, was an opportunity to tell people about Christ. Not everyone was interested in what Paul had to say. Many people attacked him. And many times he even ended up in jail. Paul is in jail, and he is still telling people about Jesus. He realized that when he spoke, either they were going to get it or they weren’t. But that it was not about him. It was not anything that he said, it was the power of Jesus in what he said. Paul says that God was a mystery because there was no one to talk of what God was doing on the earth. God came to the Jews, and made them his people. It is a mystery why God is now coming to the gentiles. But as Paul says, it is a mystery that we can be grateful for. When we speak of Christ, we are a part of that great mystery. And it is not us that transforms, it is the power of Christ within us. Matthew: This is the season of epiphany. It is the season of understandings of things that are a mystery. It is a season of realizing things that have been there all of the time. It is a time for journey’s into the unknown. The wise men set out on a journey that they did not know. They did not know who they were going to see, they did not know how long it would take to get there, they did not know how what would happen to help them know that they have reached their destination. And yet by faith and a star they set out. When looking for Jesus , we all have to set out on that same journey. And know that it is the star of Jesus leading us. and when we arrive – it is an epiphany – we just know that we have arrived! All of our lives is for such a time as this, we are the right person, in the right place for the right situation. We just have to trust Jesus. And we have to have our gifts prepared. During their journey, they also had to be able to discern the good people from the bad people. They did not know Herod, but they knew that he was not an ally in their to see good, right and hopeful. Questions: How do people respond to you when you tell them about Jesus? How do you respond to rejection? Are you able to stay faithful when people reject you? Do you allow God to speak for you, or do you think you have to come up with your own words? What criteria do you use to tell if someone is helping or hindering your journey with Christ?
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for December 30th: 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26; Psalm 148; Colossians 3:12-17; Luke 2:41-52; Theme: Living in our gifts; Song: Go Tell it on the Mountain Colossians: Advent is 4 weeks long, but the season of Christmas for the faithful is only one Sunday. Next Sunday begins the season of epiphany. We have been spending the last month in expectations. One of the major expectations have been a time of peace. The events of today remind us just how lacking peace is in our world. Our children are being shot, even while they are in school. Nothing seems to make a difference, we are constantly asking, when will there be peace in the world. And yet the scripture promises that the one who comes will bring peace. We are the people who follow this prince of peace. Colossians challenges us – if we are truly followers of peace, if we truly believe in Christ, if we truly believe that peace will only come with Christ. Then we must act like it. Colossians challenges us to live in peace, to clothe ourselves in peace as well as all of the other fruits of the spirit. It is time for us to be the peace that we are praying for. Luke: This is the only time that we will hear about Jesus growing up. We hear about him as a baby, and then we will not hear about the life of Jesus until he is thirty years old. What has he been doing all of this time? Did he go through any formal training to be the great teacher of all time? We will never know. But at the age of twelve, we learn that he felt that he needed to spend all of his time in the temple. We also learn that at the age of twelve, he was very well versed and able to converse and to challenge scholars who had been studying for years. Jesus knew from day one that he was a special child and that he was expected to do something great. His parents were intentional to make sure that their first son was raised correctly in the ways of his faith. But the son of God, made the choice very early in life to be obedient and to follow the ways of God to the letter. He showed us that we can do the same. Questions: How is it possible to be clothed in peace, in a world that is far from peaceful? Have you ever been in a situation where you noticed that doing the right thing made a difference for you and for others? How will you life be different now that you see the gifts that God brings to us all? How do you think Jesus spent his childhood? What did he learn and what did he teach? If Jesus was already good, why did he need to go through life?
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for December 23: Micah 5:2-5; Luke 1:46-55; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45; Theme: 4th Sunday of Advent – Peace, song: O Come all ye faithful – UMH 238 Micah: As we read this text, it is important to remember that Micah is a prophet of old. We have to hear this in his terms and not in our terms. The basic message of the lesson is that there is going to be a new reign of a new David. Things will be different from the present. This new David will rule in the midst of Peace, and not war. He will make laws that fit the needs of the people, not the government. This is an important scripture to hear today because it talks of the new David being born in Bethlehem. It reminds us that Jesus is born the Prince of Peace. He Which kingdom do we live in, or preparing for? The kingdom of this world and the kingdom of Jesus world? Luke: For the last two weeks, we have been reading about the ministry of John the Baptist. He says that he is preparing the way for one who is greater than he is. Now we hear the story when both of these men are in the womb. Their mothers are cousins, but they have different lives and different pregnancies. When Mary discovers that Elizabeth is also pregnant, she comes to visit her. They share in joy. Elizabeth recognizes Mary’s baby as blessed, The baby in Elizabeth’s womb jumps for joy. The husband Zephaniah is still silent. When the angel spoke to Mary she believed and was excited. When the angel spoke to Zephaniah he does not believe and is rendered mute. So Elizabeth says blessed is she who has heard and believes. She gives Mary three blessings. But they are both a support to one another. So one wonders, did John and Jesus grow up together and continue that relationship. Questions: What would it means to live in a world where our laws are based on a peace economy and not a war economy? How do we prepare ourselves to live in God’s kingdom? Do the politicians remember us or the needs of the systems? What does it mean to be the prince of peace? How do you recognize the spirit working in the lives of those around you? How do you share in their joy? How do you share in the role of John by telling others about Jesus?
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Scriptures for December 16th: Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18; Theme: third Sunday of advent; song: In the Bleak Midwinter UMH 221 Isaiah: This is a song of joy. The exiles were celebrating the fact that God had restored their lives and their land. This song is a response to the words of Zephaniah. But the interesting thing about this text is that it was written centuries before the Israelites were allowed to return to their homeland. It is was song of promise, not a song of presence. It is the perfect verse for advent. We are in time of promise. We are in a time of thanking God for what he is about to do in our lives. Advent is also a time of rejoicing before we reach eternity. On this third Sunday of advent – we have joy that the darkness is almost gone – we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, even though we are still in the tunnel. Our joy is inside of Christ. Our salvation is inside of Christ. We can testify to how wonderful God is, even when we are suffering. Luke: This week we continue with the story of John the Baptist. But more importantly, we continue with the story of what baptism means for us. For us it means salvation. John is still stuck on repentance. No matter how far we have come in faith, there is room for us to turn around and to repent. Different types of people started to ask John the Baptist what they must do in order to repent. We are to think about others this holiday season. If I have already given, how can I give more. Giving starts in our hearts, not in our pocket books. Giving starts with how we feel about Jesus, not how we feel about the people that we are giving to. John the Baptist message to us is that judgment is coming, the messiah is coming, we have to prepare ourselves. We have to prepare ourselves by sharing, being fair, not taking advantage of others and being content with what we have. Questions: What songs of promise do we sing in church? What promises can we celebrate today? What do you have to do in order to have joy in the midst of pain? How do you get others to celebrate in this time of darkness? How are you giving on behalf of God this season? How are you preparing you heart? What do you need to repent of?
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Scriptures for December 9th: Malachi 3:1-4; Luke 1:68-79; Philippians 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6; Theme: Second Sunday of Advent; Song: Take Time to Be Holy – UMH 395 Philippians: Paul was not always welcomed in the places where he preached. Oftentimes he was run out of town by the very people that he was preaching to. But that was not the case in Philippi. Everyone liked him and welcomed his message. In a small greek town, you could meet any number of different people. There were soldiers, farmers, rich benefactors. And these people had no reason to come together, except to perhaps someone preach the good news – that God loves all of his people, and that Jesus came to save us all. These different groups of people all came together and welcomed Paul, but more importantly, they welcomed the God who sent him there. Paul knew that he was among good people, and he had a prayer that God would continue the good work in them long after he was gone somewhere else. We pray that God continues that work today in us. Luke: On this second Sunday of Advent, we are asked to prepare the way for the coming of the king. But we are also reminded that before the king comes, his messenger comes. This is the Sunday of John the Baptist – the one crying out into the wilderness. We have already been told to watch and to wait – now it is time for us to clear the way for an entrance. How are we on our spiritual journey to Christmas? Has John the Baptist caught us in sin once again? It is time for us to turn around and to repent. If we are followers of God, then we can be grateful for God’s salvation anew. Today we stand in the desert, stripped of our normal selves, vulnerable to God. We let God come into our lives one more time, and we are saved by our baptism. Questions: How is the church a place for different people to come and hear God’s message? What is the diversity in the church today? Who are the people who are different from us that we need to learn to accept as God’s people? What is the good work that God continues in us today? Is John the Baptist present today? What message tells us to prepare the way? What do I need to clean up out of my life in order for Jesus to really come into my heart? What sins do I need to repent of?
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Scriptures for December 2nd: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36 Theme: first Sunday of Advent; Song: O Come, O Come Emmanuel: Jeremiah: During the season of advent, all of the Old Testament lessons point to a promise that God has made to the people. The prophet Jeremiah is talking to a people who have lost everything that has any meaning to them. They have lost their land, their identity, their religion. They are still alive, and yet they feel as if they have died. That is why the prophet used the metaphor of a tree to explain their life as a people. Even when cut down to a stump, the tree is not dead. The roots are still growing underneath. God has plans for the people, in the midst of their appearance of being dead. Out of that stump will come a new branch, that will grow just as strong as the original tree. God promises that their fate and faith will be restored. For us, winter is a time of death of appearances, yet God is working underneath the surface. Our faith in God and its outward expression will be restored, if we are willing to hold on. Luke: The New Testament lesson for advent always shows how the promise has been fulfilled through Jesus Christ. At the beginning of the year, we don’t start at the beginning of the story, we start at the end. The tree which Jesus refers is the fig tree. The fig tree is known for its rich life and its big leaves. Jesus wants those we are disheartened to know that they should not lose faith, because things appear to be dead. He is encouraging them to observe the signs of the times, to know that the end is near, but for the faithful, the end is just a precursor to the beginning of new life in Christ. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. He knows what awaits him, but he also knows what awaits us – if we are willing to endure. The fulfillment of the promise must occur. That is okay. Advent is a time for us to be aware of what God doing. We are to get excited about what is to come – The death, and resurrection of our lives, through the Easter acts of Jesus. Questions: How does life appear to be dead to you right now? How does the church appear to be dead? What must happen for there to be new life? What are the signs of the times that give despair to our faith? What are the signs of the times that give hope? What does it mean for us to endure a time of trouble? What are the things that you do during Advent in order to prepare for Christmas? How do you prepare for Christ?
Saturday, November 3, 2012
Scriptures for November 18th: 1 Samuel 2:1-10; Hebrews 10:11-25; 1 Samuel 1:4-20; Mark 13:1-8 Theme: God’s abundance in the midst of Man’s scarcity; Song: O God our help in Ages Past – UMH 117 1 Samuel: We are getting closer to Advent, we are getting closer to the day when the world will be turned on its age. Today we hear not about a widow, but about a wife who cannot bear children. Once again, even when married, a woman without a child is nothing. It looks like Hannah will have to live a life of misery. But she prays constantly to God. As a matter of fact, all that she prays for is for a son. When she gets a son, she gives him over to God. this is her song of celebration to the God of reversals. God reverses her fortune. This song is a precursor to Mary’s song of celebration of reversal not just for Mary, but for all of her people. Hannah is so grateful to God that she allows her son to be raised in the service of God. Would we do the same with our gifts? Mark: Jesus has come to the end of his journey. He knows that he must travel back to Jerusalem. He is also very clear about what must happen when he get there, it is the end of the story. Then end of his story. His disciples are not ready to accept that truth yet. Jesus must explain what is happening in terms that they will understand. Once again this is another story of the world being turned upside down and we still have two more Sundays before advent. Jesus destroys the temple, but then he tells them that all of the buildings will be destroyed. There will be wars and disagreements, and people will be hungry. (With the occurrence of hurricane Sandy – that sounds like today). But once again in a reversal of fortune, Jesus says this is not an ending but a beginning. Questions: How is Hannah’s song a song of celebration for us? How is Hannah like Mary? How is she different? What would it look like if the poor became rich? Would they act the same, or would life truly be different? What do the women have to contribute to history? How are widows and women with children treated in today’s world? Where are you seeing birth pangs, locally and globally? Who is putting themselves forward as Savior? How are folks modeling or learning what it means to live light on the apparent powers and "lean heavy" on Jesus? Note: Rev. Cross’s sermons can be found online at http://www.aplaceforshalom.blogspot.com/ She also has a personal blog: Reflections on life at http://www.reflectionsoflife4me.blogspot.com/ Breaking open the scriptures can be found at http://www.breakingopenthescrptures.blogspot.com/ You can also follow Englewood UMC and Rust UMC on Facebook
Scriptures for November 11th: Ruth 1:1-18; Psalm 127; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44; Theme: Giving all that we have to Jesus; Song: Take My Life and Let it Be – UMH 399 Ruth: This is a story of the effects of a failed economy on a family. At one time this family lived happily in Bethlehem (the house of bread). And then tragedy struck as if often does. The family moved away in order to find food and a decent living, when their homeland experienced a drought. And then stable marriages fell apart, when husbands died from the stress of survival. Things were so bad, the mother Naomi (happiness) wanted to change her name to Mara (bitterness). All that was left of their family was three women. Women who had not means to support themselves. One daughter in law goes home to face the shame of returning home after marriage. But Ruth not only clings to her mother in law Naomi, she clings to her lifestyle and her family. Ruth’s faithfulness pays off – she saves the life of both of them. Eventually she remarries and gives birth a son – A son who will become the father of a king. Even though Ruth is a foreigner, she earns her place in the royal family. Surely, if we are faithful God has a place for us too. Mark: With the coming of advent, we come to the end of the year. We also enter into the discussion of end times, the end of life as we know it. Everything will be turned on head. The story of the widow’s mite begins that process. Jesus expects those who support the temple to give money that will support the widows and the orphans. They are the ones who have no place in society and no means to really take care of themselves. Jesus notices that those who have money are not really giving. But the one who is supposed to be supported, stands in line and gives all that she has in order to help others. Sometimes it is not what we have in our hearts, it is what we have in our hearts that determine how we give to God. Questions: what are our stories of living in a failed economy? Does being without money mean that we also live without faith? How does our faith get us through those tough times? How accepting are we of foreigners and those who don’t belong? Is there ever anything that they can do to be accepted? Do we see evidence of the world being turned upside down? How does our love for God affect our willingness to give to help others? Note: Rev. Cross’s sermons can be found online at http://www.aplaceforshalom.blogspot.com/ She also has a personal blog: Reflections on life at http://www.reflectionsoflife4me.blogspot.com/ Breaking open the scriptures can be found at http://www.breakingopenthescrptures.blogspot.com/ You can also follow Englewood UMC and Rust UMC on Facebook
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Scriptures for November 4th: Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 24; Revelations 21:1-6a; John 11:32-44; Theme: All Saint’s Day; Song: For all the Saints – UMH 711 Revelation: It seems that only on special occasions that we seem to look at the verses of Revelation. The book contains seven visions of the end times. This is the last of those visions. But it is not a vision about heaven, it is a vision of earth. As a matter of fact heaven descends and becomes home on earth. We can celebrate the fact that God is with us. We can celebrate the fact that all of those bad things about life have passed away, and we can celebrate a new day. Life has been fulfilled. Being a saint is not about those who have passed on, we are all saint. Our life in eternity begins today – in how we choose to live our life and the role we let Christ and his salvation play in our life. John: This is the one New Testament story that addresses death head on. A close friend of Jesus dies. Mary and Martha understand that Jesus has the ability to heal – they tell him that if he has been there, then this would not have happen. They have no idea of the power of resurrection. They don’t know that Jesus has power over life and death. When we think of those in our lives who have died, we all say to Christ, had you been there this would not have happen. They would still be here. Forgetting that God gives us free will. God allows life to take its course. Death is a part of life. Resurrection is a part of our faith in things unseen. Medicine has learned to prolong death, but it still happens. Eventually Lazarus passed on again. But his family and their faith had changed forever, they now knew that there is something beyond nature. There is God and eternal life. Questions: What are the events that you will stop crying about when the new heaven comes to earth? What does it mean to live in eternity now? Would you prefer to go up to God or have God come down here to you? What does it mean to be a Saint? What is the difference between healing and resurrection? Who are we looking for God to resurrect in our lives? What would happen if there was new life in your world today?
Sunday, October 14, 2012
Scriptures for October 21st: Job 38:1-7, 34-41; Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45; Theme: Laity Sunday Song: Are You Able? UMH 530 Job: This is the moment that we have all been waiting for in the book of Job. We have all been wondering, when is God going to speak and address some of these issues. We have heard from Job as he laments his condition, we have heard from his wife as she feel sorry for him, we have heard from the friends who try to give him some comfort. Finally scripture says that the eternal one speaks out of a whirlwind. But God does not give Job any answers. He instead asks Job questions, where were you when I created the world? What do your friends really know about the truth of wisdom. If they knew anything they would shut their mouths. But that is always the challenge for us in this life, do we sit in silence and accept what it happening, or do we stand up and protest. The bible says that God answers those who speak. We just have to be sure that when we speak to God that we are in total awe of what God has done for us and for the world. Mark: As we approach laity Sunday, this text has an important message about what it means to be a leader in the church. Being a leader is not about how much honor we receive, it is about our willingness to serve. And we have to be willing to serve out of love for God, not our expectation to get a reward. And we all know what this verse id saying, but what does leadership mean in our lives, and in our churches. Sadly, we sometimes would rather be the boss in control, than to even have to right information. We will do anything, even if we know it is wrong in order to be the leader. Perhaps that is why our country seems to have such a problem with leadership and having faith in our leaders. We have to follow the example of Christ and be willing to serve others. Let them honor us, not us demanding honor ourselves. To be a Christian leader is to drink from the cup that Jesus drunk from and to share in his suffering, so that we may ultimately experience his gain. Questions: How does nature affect you when you are in it? Do you experience the presence of God? When you have a question or a problem how do you seek out the presence of God? Does it help you, or do you leave still needing to hear a word from God? How does our church view leadership? Do you have a biblical model of leadership, or a worldly model? What does it mean to drink from the cup of the lord?
Friday, October 5, 2012
Scriptures for October 14th: Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22: 1-15; Hebrews 4::12-16; Mark 10:17-31 Theme: cry to God in times of trouble Song: I Want Jesus to Walk with Me – UMH 521 Hebrews: We live in a world where there are many choices for our faith journey. It used to be that everyone that we met, believed just life us. Even in the same church there are differences. John Wesley says that it is okay to have diversity of belief in things that are not essential to our salvation. But in the essentials – we have to be united. The author of Hebrews (who is not Paul), is trying to tell us that the essential of life is Jesus. Jesus is superior to any other revelation of God. Jesus is also the word of God. He is the revelation of God for our time. That revelation is not always nice to us, nor does it always tell us what we want to hear. It can cut you like a knife. It is designed to perfect us for the journey to heaven. It is designed to address the sin in our lives. Jesus also knew that in order to truly follow His word, that we have to have an example. Hebrews says that Jesus is the high priest, the one responsible for taking away our sin – through example and through action. Jesus is the complete package of all that we need. Mark: We have heard this story before. It is the story of the rich young ruler. It is the story of the young man who had been raised in a good home, who had did everything right, who has some success in his life. Everything seemed to be going right. But he has the foresight to realize that there was one thing missing. He may have had it all together in this life, but he also understood that this life is not all that there is. He needed to start to work to receive eternal life. But Jesus undermines all that he has worked for in this life, he tells him to sell it all and give it to the poor. That takes a spiritual insight that not everyone has. It goes against all that we have been taught in the world. And all of us are just like that rich ruler, we don’t want to give up what we have in life. Jesus encourages us to take a chance and to trust God. Trust God to transform your heart. Trust God to open the door so that you can see things that the rest of the world cannot see. Just as Job received his riches for trusting in God, God makes the same promise to all of us. What we don’t receive in this life, we will receive in the next. We just have to have faith that there is a next world. Questions: How often do you read the word of God? How often are you challenged by what you read? How often do you grow since you read the bible last? What is it about your life that it is hard for you to give up for God?
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Scriptures For October 7th: Job 1:1,2:1-10; Psalm 26; Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16 Theme: World Communion Sunday; Song: A Charge to keep I have – UMH 413 Job: We continue our journey into the exploration of wisdom literature. Job is perhaps the most well known example of wisdom. Job is a story that we can all relate to. We have all been touched by health issues, but money issues, and issues of our family being affected by problems of life. We have all at one time of another wanted to question why God is doing this to us, at the same time that we are trying to hold onto our faith. Theodicy is the study of what do we do when bad things happen to good people. Job goes through two sets of test. In the introduction, God is talking with Satan (the accuser) and he asks if he has considered the faith of Job. He gives Satan permission to take away everything from Job, except his life. Satan takes his family, his wealth, everything except his wife. The second affliction is a sickness – his wife remains. As Job sits mourning for himself, his friends tell him to blame this all on God. That does not seem right for Job. So he has to have his own conversation with God in order to get a better understanding. Hebrews: Who is this book written to? Who is the author of this book? We are not sure, but we can use the message that he has given to us. Hebrews helps us to understand who Jesus Christ is – especially in light of our faith. Jesus is ruler of all Jesus is not just someone to love, Jesus is someone to respect. He does not just rule our life, he rules all of life. We are reminded that the faithful have a pretty high place on the spectrum. He says that we are a little lower than the angels. God thinks very highly of those who follow his son. When we are faithful, we can almost be put on the level of Christ. We are his brothers and sisters. Hebrews teaches us about Christ, but it also teaches us about ourselves, and the investment that God has in us. But we have to put Christ as the center of our lives, or we are nothing much to ourselves, to Christ or to God. Questions: What test have you gone through that have really tested your faith? What did you say to God? How did you come to realize that God really loved you? How supportive were your friends during this time? Is there anything that can happen to you that would make you doubt God? How is Jesus the ruler of your life? How is Jesus the ruler of those who do not even believe in God? What does it mean to be a little less than the angels in heaven? What responsibility does that give you if God thinks so highly of you?
Friday, September 21, 2012
Scriptures for September 30th: Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22; Psalm 124; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50; theme: If you love God it will change your actions; O Jesus I have Promised – UMH 396 James: This is the end of the book of James. James starts out with some very harsh words. James ends with words of peace. He tells us that we find peace by getting to close to God in prayer. James starts out with our personal behavior, James ends with group behavior. He tells us that we can make a difference in our world and in our church by praying together. He says that we can find healing by praying for one another. We can hold one another accountable and take responsibility for one another’s actions. James says that is our faithfulness that makes a difference. It is the faithfulness of the congregation that makes a difference. The power in our prayer lies in the righteousness of our lives, not how well we pray. When we are sick, we can some to church for healing. As we work together and are faithful to God, we find life and healing. Mark: Jesus was dismayed because his disciples were arguing about the greatness. He told them that it is more important to serve, then to lead. He continues that teaching on what it means to be humble. What it means to live a life of righteousness. Not only are we to let children into our lives and accept them. We also have to make sure that we do not mislead them. We will be help accountable for what we teach our children. Jesus reminds us that we are the salt of the earth. We are the flavor of the world. We are to be an example to others as to how life should be lived, and the advantages of life. Jesus and James tells us that life close to God is a life lived in peace. We have all that we need in prayer. And if God does not give it to us, then we can live without it. We all need a community of faith, in order to help us center our lives and ambition on Jesus. Questions: When you are feeling sick at heart, who do you call for relief? What are you in need of healing in your life? How can your church members make a difference? Do you trust the church to help you and make a difference in your life? How often to you pray to God? How do you get an answer? Who are the vulnerable in your congregation? Are you or your actions a stumbling block to others? How do you lift up others? What does it mean to be the salt of the earth?
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Scriptures for September 23rd: James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a; Proverbs 31:10-31; Psalm 1; Mark 9:30-37; Theme: wisdom is living in the right way; song: I surrender all – UMH 354 James: James is considered the wisdom book of the new testament. He uses a lot of the themes from the Hebrew testament. In proverbs there is lady wisdom and lady folly. James says that there are two types of wisdom. A wisdom that comes from above and a wisdom that comes from the world. James is much more frank about the consequences of following folly. He is very frank about sin. It is not enough to have envy and want something you don’t have, when the wisdom of the world is present, you will murder someone just to get what they have. You engage in conflict out of jealousy. It is important to choose the wisdom of God. A life walking in the fear of the lord is a life in which you are at peace with God, with others and with yourself. Mark: The disciples are still confused about what their role is. They still think that the closer to Jesus they are, the more power they have. They are still striving for power. Jesus tells them that real power is not being close to Jesus, but being close to the least of these. To help those who are not able to help themselves. Children are of absolutely no value to this community, to be a child was to be nothing. Jesus tells his disciples to take care of the children. To create a safe space for children. We are to be servants of God, not leaders of God. We are not to go to the front of the line, we are to go to the end of the line. God will elevate us. God will show his power through us. Even Jesus who is the greatest, must undergo the greatest of punishment on our behalf. What do we need to do in order to day thank you? Questions: What ministries do you do personally to reach out to children? What do you think about children? How to you demonstrate servant leadership in your life? What reward do you think Jesus owes your for serving him? What reward do you think you will actually receive? When you are in a negative mood, what do you do to become positive? How do you draw near to God? How do you send the devil away? What does it mean to seek the wisdom from above?
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Scriptures for September 16th: Proverbs 1:20-33; Psalm 19; James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38 Theme: The wisdom of God in our life; Hymn: Be Thou My Vision UMH 451 Proverbs: Legend has it that when God was creating the world, wisdom was at his side. Jesus says that he was present since the beginning of time. But in the book of John, it says that wisdom was there with Jesus, instructing him on the ways of God. In Proverbs, wisdom is crying out in the streets – trying to give humans the same advice. But she is having a hard time, because even though she speaks at the top of her lungs; no one is really listening. Wisdom is Sophia- a womanly form of God. In the beginning of the book of Proverbs, she is trying to tell people that there will be consequences for not listening. There are consequences for not living a godly life, there are consequences for not taking care of the earth, there are consequences for not following the directions of Jesus. But for those who stop and listen, there is eternal life. James: James also continues his words of wisdom. His message is not the same as the book of Proverbs. James message is about our mouths. The words that we use make a difference. What we listen to and see with our eyes, effects what comes out of our mouth. But once it is out of our mouth, we can’t take it back. Faith without works is dead- be careful how your faith affects what comes out of your mouth. Most of us don’t know how to control our mouths, especially when we are upset. We cannot do it alone, we need help. We need a group of people who hold us accountable, and tell us when we are wrong. James is not written to a specific congregation, and it is not written to address a certain situation. It is general advice that we all can use. James wants us to know that we are what we say, we can never say that we don’t mean it. Make sure that what comes out of your mouth is what you hear from God. . Questions: What voice of wisdom is out in the world, but we are not paying attention to? What words of wisdom did your parents give that you wish you listened to? How do we determine who to listen to for good advice? What do you do when you say things to people and you regret that you said it? Who has said positive words to you that have made a big difference in your life? Who is to that holds you accountable and watches what you say?
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Scriptures for September 9, 2012 – Proverbs 22:1-2,8-9, 22-23; Psalm 125; James 2:1-17; Mark 7:24-37; Theme – If God is good, be good also; song: Open my Eyes that I might see – UMH 454 Proverbs: Every culture produces a set of wisdom sayings that are passed on from generation to generation. They are things that our mothers always told us as a child. The book of proverbs is a set of these wisdom sayings that a mother passes on to her son. He is preparing to be king. His mother wants him to be safe as he is going out into the world. In this message she is telling him that being rich is not everything. God loves the poor. She wants him to be the best that he can be, and to pursue as much education as possible. But to never lose touch with the poor. To make sure that he is helping, volunteering, treating everyone with respect. He may have power some day, but not to let that go to his head. Be more concerned about integrity, than money. James: How to deal with the poor is the subject of both scriptures. We are reminded that we need to remember that we are blessed so that we can be a blessing with others. James is very blunt to remind us that God wants us to be able to help others. And if we love God, then we will do God’s will in other’s life. The church is the place where all people are equal, we have to give everyone a chance, even if they are poor. As a matter of fact, God is always on the side of the poor, and holding you accountable for trying to help. This is the chapter where James comes out and says that Faith without works is dead. If we love God, then we will work to build God’s kingdom and help God’s people. Questions: What are the sayings that are important in your life? What do you know about proverbs? Is there a part that you remember to live by? How does the message to a future king help ordinary people like us? What do you think about the poor in this community? What are you doing to help them? How does your faith affect your actions? What lessons in life can you learn from the poor?
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Scriptures for September 2nd: Song of Solomon 2:8-13; Psalm 45; James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23; Theme: The love of God and us Song of Solomon: This is the only time that we will read from the Song of Solomon. On the surface this is a love story. It tells of a young girls preparations to marry the love of her life. We don’t hear from it because of its sexual overtones. But it can also be interpreted as the beginnings of the love story of God and us. God prepares for us. But more importantly, our faith journey here on earth is about us preparing for a lifelong relationship with God. This book is considered a part of wisdom literature. Wisdom is a big part of the Jewish faith. It is said that wisdom sat alongside God as he created the earth. Wisdom cries out in the streets for us to understand the ways of the creator. The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord. In order for us to know love, we have to respect the power of God. That is how we prepare ourselves for God to come into our lives, in fear and trembling. James: How do we prepare for a love affair with God, by living according the God’s precepts laid out for us in book such as James. We are not for sure if this was written by James, the brother of Jesus. But what we do know is that he lays out five understandings that every Christian should have. First God always sides with the poor over the rich, God does not need to test us, we test ourselves, God gives to all of us abundantly, life demands that we make a choice for God or the world, if we are faithful, we receive from God but we have to ask for it. If we believe these things about God and about our lives, then we must live them in our lives. Questions: Have you ever been madly in love with someone or something? Are you madly in love with God? Why do we frown upon the expression of deep love in our society? Do you think about faith, or do you live your faith? What is the difference? What do you think about the five beliefs about God?
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Scriptures for August 26th: 1 Kings 8: 1,6,10-11,22-30, 41-43; Psalm 84; Ephesians 6:10-20; John 5:56-69; Jesus gives us everything; Song: Standing in the Need of Prayer – UMH 352 Ephesians: Paul has been explaining to us what it means to live a Christian life. People should be able to look at our lives and tell that we are different. When we give our lives to Christ, we should change. We should put on new clothing, so that people will notice that we are different. We live in a very mean world. And no matter how you want to be different, the world has a way of sucking you in. So Paul says that not only do we need to put on physical clothing, we need to put on spiritual clothing. We need to make sure that we are spiritually protected. Our biggest battles are in the spiritual realm. We have to put on salvation, peace, truth, and the word of God. Being a Christian, and changing your life is not a passive activity. We have to be strong in Christ, not in ourselves. This is the end of Ephesians. Paul wants to send us out in the world protected. The biggest thing we can do to protect our spirit is to stay in prayer. John: We also come to the end of the John lesson on Jesus being the bread of life. Jesus tells us to eat his flesh and to drink his blood. This angers the Jews. They are told not to eat the blood of animals, much less the blood of a man. What does that mean? It means to take on spiritual nourishment. Jesus realizes that not only is this confusing to the crowd, but the disciples don’t understand either. The church does not understand what it means to take communion. Is the flesh contained in the bread? No this is not about flesh and blood. Flesh and blood are temporary. Jesus says that when the Israelites ate manna they died. That is what happens to flesh and blood. But when you believe in Jesus, you have eternal life. Not because of what you eat, but because of what you believe. Believe in Jesus and have eternal life. Questions: How have you been threatened by the evil of the world lately? What did you have to do to protect yourself? What is the armor that you put on everyday to keep yourself grounded? How do you take in the word of God in your life? What does it mean to have eternal life? What do you have to do in order to earn eternal life? What does the fact that Jesus is the bread of life mean to you?
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Scriptures for August 5th: 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13; Psalm 51:1-12; Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:24-35; Jesus is the bread of life; Samuel: This is a continuation of last week. Last week we witnessed the sinful act, this Sunday we learn how the story continues. Even if he fixed the situation on the outside, he still had to live with the consequences. David thought that he had silenced anyone who had witnessed his sin. But God was there also, God saw it all and God refused to be silenced. The prophet Nathan tells him that God is not happy. And God will not ignore that has happen. David was favored by God, but he still had to atone for his sin. God had promised that his kingdom would last forever, but God says that it will be a troubled reign. I often wonder if we would have heard this story if Bathsheba was not the mother of Solomon. It seems that it is Solomon that must tell this story of his father’s sin, in order to legitimize his reign. We wish that he had taken the story seriously and not made the same mistakes. Interestingly, in the end, justice is served. Bathsheba is not remembered as Solomon’s mother, she is remembered as Uriah’s wife. She is listed in Jesus genealogy. She becomes a part of our story of salvation, even though she is in the story of David’s sin. John: This scripture is also a continuation of last week’s story. The feeding of the 5000 becomes a teaching moment for Jesus to tell is that he is the bread of life. Man cannot eat by bread alone; we also need to live by the word of God. But when our stomachs are hungry, we are less likely to listen. Jesus fed their bellies and they still did not understand. They thought that Jesus was feeding them so that he could be an earthly king. Jesus wants to be an eternal king of our lives. John chapter six is a lesson for the church that we are the hands of Jesus for the world. Jesus continues to feed us – when we take communion, he says, do this in remembrance of me. But everything that we should do should be in remembrance of Jesus. But it is our power to give to others and to live a holy life. It is our faith in eternal life. If we follow Jesus, we will do well in this world, but we do better in the world to come. That is the world that Jesus is preparing for those who follow him all of the way. Questions: Are you still living in the consequences of sin? What lesson about forgiveness does this story of David tell us? When was the last time you asked God to create a clean heart for you? What signs that Jesus is taking care of you have you received? How has that sign turned into an act faith for you?
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Scriptures For July 29th: 2 Samuel 11:1-15; Psalm 4; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21; Jesus provides even for sinful people; Song - Oh Jesus, I have Promised – UMH 396 2 Samuel: We have been following the life of David, we have watched all of the elements that made him king. This story reminds us that, no matter how faithful we are, we are in danger of sinning. It is not always our character, it is the position that we are put into. David started out as a modest shepherd, and became a very spoiled king. Once he got to the point where he could have anything that he wanted, he decided he wanted someone else’s wife. He was not able to overcome that sin. This is the man who wrote, create in me a clean heart O God. But this sin followed him the rest of his life. God reminds us that even though we are forgiven, we cannot overcome the consequences of our actions. Most of the time that is punishment enough. David goes on the life a good life, but not necessarily a happy life. John: The feeding of the 5000 is such an important story that is it included in all gospels. We have been studying Mark. Last week we leave off with Jesus taking his disciples aside for a rest. But the people are in need. The need to be fed. Jesus feeds them with the word of God, but he also gives them food. There is a saying which says that sometimes the gospel is a full belly. In order for people to listen to the gospel, they have to be fed first. This also shows us the beginnings of our communion, where Jesus gives himself as bread and drink. So that we can see that we are spiritually fed. We are called to continue that mission. Jesus tells the disciples to feed the people, and they use what they have. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit who takes what we have and makes it enough to feed even 5000 faithful followers. Questions: What do we do to stay holy when we are surrounded by sin everyday? How do we ask for God to create a clean heart in us? What consequences of sin are you still living with? If power corrupts us spiritually, when needs to be done to handle power? Have you witnessed the increase of the Holy Spirit in your efforts to feed others? Have you ever been spiritually hungry? How did Christ make sure you were fed? Why do you think this is such an important story?
Saturday, July 7, 2012
Scriptures For July 22nd: 2 Samuel 7:1-14; Psalm 89:20-37; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34,53-56; Theme: Sometimes God has other plans than we do; Song: Great is Thy Faithfulness UMH 140 2 Samuel: All summer, we have been following the story of the Kingship of David. We learn how he got to be King, what is character was like as a King. David is so grateful to God for how he has been blessed, that he promises that when he is established, he will repay God. He has established Jerusalem as his city, as the capital of his Kingdom. He has embarked on a massive building project in order to build the city up. Now it is time to do the same for God. And yet God refuses the offer. He does not to live in a house of cedar. He would prefer the congregation to be on the move, and living in temporary space. He is the ultimate builder, it is his job to build up David, not the other way around. Mark: Mark spends a lot of time concentrating on the messiah on the sea. This is the time when the disciples seem the most scared, when they should be to most confident as fishermen. It is as if Jesus is preparing them for mission that will truly transform. Next week we will look at the story of the feeding of the 5000, that is contained in the book of John. After Jesus sent them out into the world 2x2, everyone is exhausted. Jesus is teaching them rest, when a storm comes and they see Jesus walk on water. He tells them not to worry, everything will be okay. He calls not only Peter, but all disciples to work hard and have faith in him. When the crowds are coming for help, Jesus is ready to not only teach that he is the messiah, but to actually feed and help them. Questions: When have you had plans for God, and he told you not to do him any favors? When is God the strongest? In times of struggle and desire, or in times when all of our needs are met? How is God building up your life and your faith, in the midst of your desire to serve God? Where is your faith tested the most in your life? How is the church like a ship on the sea? In what ways does Christ call those we are weary and worried to calm down? Have you ever experienced something like to feeding of the 5000 in your life today?
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Scriptures For July 8th: 2 Samuel 5:1-5,9-10; Psalm 48; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13; Theme: How can we be faithful to God, when everything else is going wrong? Song: We’re Marching to Zion – UMH 733 2 Corinthians: Paul is giving us a lesson in what it means to be a good steward of the gifts that God has given us. He goes through great pain to be an example of what it means to be a good leader. He teaches us that it is important to be humble. All of those competing against him like to brag about what they have done. For Paul, his service to God brags for itself. Paul also points out that he has a little help from God in being humble. God has given him a thorn in his side. He does not say what it is, but he says that it is with him always. Everyday he has to overcome the pain and suffering in order to have the right frame of mind to continue to love and serve God with a happy spirit. Mark: Jesus has been all around the countryside healing and doing miracles. People have come to realize that he is not an ordinary man, he was the power to do really special things. Just as Paul realizes, success in doing the Lord’s work does not mean that one can afford to rest on one’s laurels. Jesus goes to his hometown synagogue in hopes of making a difference for them. But they are not willing to believe in the power of God that Jesus has. But that is okay, because it gives Jesus a chance to send out his disciples to go throughout the land. He sends them two by two, and he gives them the power to do what he has done and more, so that more people can come to believe in the power of God in their lives. Those disciples continue to send out people two by two, throughout the world, even throughout Englewood. Questions: What is the thorn in your side that keeps you humble in your service? How is your service different from those who like to brag about what they are doing? How do you imitate Paul in your service to God? How does your hometown reject Jesus? How does Jesus send you out to spread the gospel? What power has he given you to heal and to go up against evil?
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Scriptures For July 1st : 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43 Theme: The miracles of Jesus; Song: Pass Me not O Gentle Savior – UMH 351 2 Samuel: David is now the king. He has had a long relationship with Saul’s family. Saul was intimidated by David’s power. He even sent soldiers to kill David. Saul’s son, Jonothon, was David’s best friend. David even married Saul’s daughter. But in death, David’s worst enemy became his best friend. Both Saul and Jonathon were killed in battle. After their death, David called the whole nation together and called for a national time of mourning. Saul may have had a lot of faults, but he served his country with all of his heart. The people had an easier life things were better. David called the nation to remember the moment of his death, and to honor what he had done for his country. He was genuinely sad because of the death. Today we don’t honor any leader, the way David honored Saul. Mark: We are hearing more about the miracles of Jesus. How much he was willing to enter into the lives of ordinary people, and change circumstances, and to save lives. In this miracle story, we hear about the woman who had an issue with blood, and Jairus’ daughter who had already died. Jesus was able to save them both. But that was not the end to the miracle. When Jesus saves the lives of the individual, he also works to save the community. He changes their expectations, he teaches them to have hope in the midst of a dire situation. He teaches them to look beyond social understandings in order to accept those who are sick and who are different. He taught love for those who are sick. But most importantly, he taught us to believe in all that he could do to transform our lives. Questions: Who was the last person that the whole nation mourned over his death? Who is a modern day David, that can influence us to mourn the lives of a great person? What are the things that we do to mourn today? How long do we take to mourn a death? What do we believe about the miracles of Jesus? Do we still see miracles today? How do we feel about people who are constantly sick?
Saturday, June 2, 2012
Scriptures For June 10th: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13; Psalm 20, II Corinthians 5:6-17; Mark 4:26-34 theme: learning to trust God; Song- Precious Lord – UMH 474 I Samuel: This marks an important movement in the history of the Jews. God had always told them not to have a king to lead them. That king would take resources and power intended for the people. But not only did the Isrealites notice that those around them were getting ahead because they did have centralized leadership. They also realized that sometimes the judges were corrupt, and were not doing what was best for the people. So God consents and lets them have a king. Samuel has the task of anointing this first king – which is Saul. Saul remained nervous that someone would overthrow him. But God assured Samuel that he would protect the king, and that he would protect Samuel’s decision as long as Samuel was willing to listen to God through every step of the process. Mark: We have returned to the book of Mark. The story continues with evangelism. We go to work with the disciples as they are fulfilling their duty as fishermen. Jesus is teaching them to be fishers of men. Our text for today deals with the parable of the sower, which is found in many other versions. Mark explains to us that we all plant, but the growth happens in the night. We don’t have anything to do with it, and we cannot really explain how it happens. Jesus goes on to tell another parable, of how a mustard seed is the tiniest of seeds, but it multiplies into the biggest of plants. Jesus is giving us faith to hold and and trust God in examples of normal everyday life – parables. The text ends by saying that Jesus is telling these parables to help us understand the mystery of God. Questions: What big changes are going on in the world today? In the life of the church? How do we as faithful people accept change? When we are in the midst of change, do we trust God, or do we think that we have to have the answers for ourselves? What do we think about evangelism and growth? Is it something hard to do? Impossible to do? Once again, what role do we give to God in our task to bring in new members? If Jesus was here with in the flesh today, what normal everythings would he use in the parables?
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Scriptures For June 3rd: Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17; Theme: Trinity Sunday; Song: I am Gonna Live So God can Use Me - Faith We Sing #2153 Romans: Last Sunday Jesus told us to wait for the Spirit to come to help us understand what was really happening. Now that the spirit is here, what difference does it make in our lives. Romans 8 gives us instructions of what it means to live in the Spirit of Christ. Paul makes a distinction between living in the Spirit and living in the flesh. When we live in the flesh we are slaves, but God intended us to be free. When we obey God, we also inherit the Spirit of God. We are brothers and sisters of God, which means that we can live with Christ as our example for all things. Suffering does not stop us, because God has given us the Spirit to overcome. Jesus says that if we are baptized then we not only have the grace of water, but of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that saves us from the fate of the world, and helps us not to fear suffering or anything else. John: We have talked about this important chapter many times before this year. This is John chapter 3. Nicodemus comes to talk with the master to understand what he must do to be saved. He must be born again. He must be born of the Spirit (and not of the flesh). Jesus is alluding to what it means to be baptized, what it means to share in the death resurrection and the ascension of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we cant help but to be a part of the world that we are born into. But if we are Christians, we realize that at some point if we continue to follow the ways of the world, we are going to die. We have to do something different. When we are baptized, the path to a new life is opened up to us. Not guided by flesh, but by Spirit. We truly can be born again, and we can accept what doing for us. But we have to remember, that door is not open just to us, or our friends, but all flesh. Questions: Have you read chapter 8 of Romans? What keys of faith does it offer? What does it mean to live in the Spirit? What does it mean to live in the flesh? What does it really mean to be a child of God? If that a gift or a responsibility? What does it mean to you to be born again? Has baptism made a difference in your life? How do you witness the spirit in your life?
Scriptures For May 27th: Acts 2:1-21, Psalm 104:24-34,35; Romans 8:22-27; John 15:26-27, 16:4-15; Theme: Pentecost; Song: Holy,Holy, Holy UMH 64 Acts: This is the classic story of the birth of the church. Jews from everywhere were in town to celebrate the fifty days after Pentecost. They gathered in the synagogue, and the Holy Spirit fell upon them. Jesus had told his disciples to just be patient and to wait for the Holy Spirit. If I am not mistaken he also told them that when it comes, they will know it. The Holy Spirit made itself known in a very mighty way. It was the birth of the church – when the spirit fell upon a group and people began speaking in different languages. The birth of a church was very sudden, because later, when the disciples told the gospel, 3000 people joined in one day. They did not do a lot of work, all that they did was to witness to what Jesus said. It was not what they knew, it was obedience to the will of God and the words of Christ. What would happen if we did the same? • John: This is the promise that Jesus makes – that the Holy Spirit is coming. And that things will happen when it comes. Jesus describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit: o To testify about Jesus (15:26) o To prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment (16:8-11) o To guide believers to the truth (verse 13) o To glorify Christ (16:14) o To declare the things of Christ to believers (16:15) It will give us the power to witness, and it will add power to our witness. God already has a plan for the salvation of the world. A plan so strong that there is nothing that we can do to sabotage it. There is reason for us to trust God and to trust his plan. Questions: How have you witnessed the Holy Spirit at work today? What difference does Pentecost make in your faith? When people are speaking in tongues, who is present to interpret what is being said? How is that a message from God? How do you wait on God? How do you know when the Holy Spirit has arrived? What gifts have you received from the presence of the Holy Spirit? Do you have hope for the future of God’s church? How are you preparing for that future?
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Scriptures for May 20th: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53 Theme: the Ascension of Jesus to heaven; Song: Swing Low Sweet Chariot – UMH 703 Acts: This is the beginning of the book of Acts. It is the story of how Jesus appeared to his disciples and the church began to take shape and grow. There were no special techniques in growth, the apostles just told what they saw, and the believers came forward. Perhaps we make things too difficult today. This is a retelling of the original story in Luke. The disciples are standing there watching as Jesus goes up to heaven. But after he is gone, they continue to look up at the sky. Jesus tells them twice and an angel repeats the advice, not to look “up there” for heaven. Heaven us not up there, Heaven is in our hearts. Jesus has not gone anywhere, he chose to live the rest of his life through us and through our hearts. Now that he is not with us, what does that mean? When is he coming back? And what is he doing? Useless questions according the advice we are giving. We just need to go on living, living as if Jesus never left. His presence is with us when we do things in his name. Luke: When Jesus was with them, nothing made sense to them, they could only speculate on what he was trying to help them to understand. But Jesus knew from the beginning that this day was coming. He prepared them for this day. And when he went up to heaven, he did not leave in secret, he left where those with eyes to see could see what was going on. The gift that he gives to each of us is power. But the power to do what? The disciples were still hoping to overthrow the government, and to be leaders. It was at this point that they realize the Jesus kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, not of this world. We have been given spiritual power! If we understand that power and how to use it – we can conquer the world. Not the physical world – but the spiritual world – which sometimes has a much stronger hold on us. Scripture says that Jesus led them to Bethany, blessed them, and ascended to heaven. Leaving them in complete joy and celebration of what they had been given. Finally it all made sense and they had the power to go out into the world and to proclaim the gospel. Questions: How can we get people to believe in the story of Jesus and come and stand with us? What do you think about heaven? Is heaven present with us now, or will it come in the future? How are we witnesses to the acts of Jesus today? What do you do with the power that Jesus gives you? Where do you look when you want to find Jesus? How and when you do feel the presence of Christ in your life?
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Scriptures for May 13th: Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17; Theme: What does the Love of God Mean for you? Song: Come Thou Font of Every Blessing – UMH 400 Acts: Peter is still at Cornelius’ house, and the Holy Spirit is still pouring out blessings and new understandings for Peter. The book of Acts starts with the Pentecost, when the Holy spirit came upon the believers in Jerusalem. Where here, the gentiles who hear the story and believe start to also speak in tongues. Peter realizes that God shows no favoritism, that salvation is a gift that is offered to all. Peter also realizes that he can’t just walk away now. That he has to baptize this household and treat them like he would any other sister or brother. He knows that God is calling him to get to know other gentiles and to trust that the Holy Spirit is leading them to Christ. John: Jesus continues to talk about the love of God. Loving God means obeying God and God’s son. Jesus says something interesting to the disciples – “I no longer treat you as servants, I treat you as friends.” That is huge! The entire old testament says that a follower of God must be a suffering servant. They must always respect the word of God. And here the son of God is making you an equal. He also reminds us and them that we are here, not because we ourselves want to be, but because God called us. God chose us before we chose God. He chose us to be his friends. We have access to all that God is, if we read the scripture, and do indeed obey God as if we were a servant. In order for us to know we are loved, we have to love. Questions: What does it mean for us that God works in the lives of all people? How does that affect the way we treat people? How do we get back to the faith of Acts – one where there are always people in our lives who need us to tell the story of Jesus? What does it mean to be a friend of God? What does it mean to be a servant of God? If we are chosen by God, and not the other way around, what does it mean to be free? What would the world be like without the love of God?
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Scriptures for April 15th: Hebrews 12:14-25; John 20:19-31; Act 4:32-35, Psalm 133 Theme: There is life after Easter; Song: Christ the Lord is Risen Hebrews: This is a warning not to dismiss God. To make sure that we honor God and honor the things of God. This is not a lectionary text, but something for us to think about after the Easter is over. Easter is not just one day, it should be a lifetime. There are 50 days in the Easter season. Our lesson for today is about mountains. Specifically about the mountain of God. It talks about Moses experience on the mountain, as he was able to talk with God. That mountain does not exist for us, no one knows where it is. But we can come to a spiritual mountain in order to talk with God. When God speaks to us, we are not to be afraid, but should honor God and love God. And make sure that we pass that love onto one another. John: In all of the gospels except for Mark, we have material to see what Christ is doing after he is resurrected. He walks around and talks to many people. The disciples discovered the miracle of the resurrection on Sunday. But Thomas stayed behind, and did not see. He did not believe when it was told to him that Jesus us alive. So Jesus appears to Thomas, but he brings to all of his disciples peace. He also gives us another gift, the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the midst of tough times, we can know that Christ has sent a comforter to help you through. After the resurrection you cant always see the comforter, the he is always there. He gives us the strength to have peace. But it is not a peace that is given by the world, it is a special peace, that only the faithful can see and understand. Because we understand the power of resurrection on Jesus and on ourselves. Questions: Where to do go to experience the holiness of God? How does the holiness of God change us? Is it easy to see the holiness of God in other people? What is the difference between fear of God and awe of God? Now that Easter is over, what needs to be done in order to make the time special? How easy is it for you to accept questions of faith? Do you believe in the nails of Christ, or is it all just a myth? What does it mean to have peace in your life? How do you know that the Holy Spirit is real?
Saturday, March 31, 2012
Scriptures for April 8th – Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; I Corinthians 15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8; Easter Sunday; Song: Lord of the Dance Mark: Of course the resurrection story is the center of all of the Gospel books. But each of them tell the story from a different perspective, even with different characters. In Mark, a whole group of women have gone to the tomb in order to put spices on the body. They wonder how they will be able to get to the body, with the stone in the way. But when they get there the work has been done for them. The angel tells them not to worry what happen, but to just go and tell others what they have seen. But scripture says that they were not able to move, they were stuck in the moment, overwhelmed by the awe of it all, not able to speak at all. It is interesting that these words are the every end of the gospel of Mark. The rest of the story was added because later Christians felt that something was missing, there had to be something after the empty tomb and the resurrection. I agree with Mark, that there is not. We should live our lives in awe of what God did for Jesus Christ, and the that wonder and mystery extends today to our lives. We should also remember that of God can raise Jesus from the dead, then surely he can give us life. Acts: During the Easter season, we read from the book of Acts, not the old testament. The scriptures are preparing us for the season of Pentecost, when the gift of the Holy Spirit came upon the church and the church grew. We have a lot of consultants who are willing to come to church to talk about what we need to grow. When the truth is all that we need to really do is the read and understand the book of Acts. In our scripture for today, Peter is talking with Cornelius, a Roman soldier who is seeking Christ. He has been instructed to let Peter stay in his household. Peter is telling him what he knows about Jesus. Acts 10 is a proclamation of who Jesus is as the Christ, and what difference it makes to us all. Jesus shows no partiality, he died for everyone everywhere at all times. Jesus spread the message of salvation. He got rid of the devil in all of our lives. Because He is lord of all, Christ will judge the living and he dead, the faithful and the unfaithful. There is no way for us to escape the salvation of Christ. It will find us, even when we try to escape. When we sin, Jesus forgives, it as simple as that. Questions: What stones need to be rolled away in your life? What obstacles stand in the way of you being the person Christ wants you to be? Are you trying to roll them away on your own strength? Or are you trusting in the holy spirit? How would the church be different if we trusted in the spirit to help us to grow?
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Scriptures for April 1st – Mark 11:1-11; Psalm 118:1-2,19-29; Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1-15:47. Theme: Palm/Passion Sunday; Song: When I Survey The Wondrous Cross – UMH 298 Isaiah: This is the description of the suffering servant. Someone who is totally devoted to helping his community, and yet receives no regard for his work. It says that the suffering servant is a teacher, a teacher who takes his instruction from God. But who is intentional in giving people what they need to sustain themselves. What does he get in return – ridicule and shame. But because he has a relationship with God, he is able to be sustained. What better way to acknowledge the passion of Christ, than to understand the example that he was following. He spent his career teaching people and telling them what they needed to know. And he was rewarded by betrayal and cruxificion. And yet we all know that it was God who resurrected him and gave the suffering servant the victory. Philippians: This is thought to be a hymn of the early church. It reminds us that we should be like Christ in our service. He did not elevate himself, neither should we. Jesus did not have to elevate himself, because God chose to elevate him. Since God elevated him, he is indeed worthy of our praise. This is an appropriate scripture for Palm Sunday. It was been a part of church’s reading for this day for ages. This helps us to understand who Christ is for us, but is also helps us to understand God. The mystery of God. The relationship of Jesus to God. Questions: What is the significance of Palm Sunday for us? Are we just like to crowd, acknowledging Christ in public, while in private criticizing him? How can we be an example of a suffering servant in our lives? How do we deal with the criticism? The violence? What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? How does the mystery of God sustain us when we are down?
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Scriptures for March 25th: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-12; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33; Theme: Keeping our Covenants with God; Song: Lift Him Up Jeremiah: Have you noticed that the scriptures during the season of lent all have a theme. The theme of the old testament lessons has been our promise with God. Or should I say, God’s promise with us. Along with that promise is God’s contract to be in relationship with us – that is called a covenant. In Jeremiah, he is telling us that God is about to make a new covenant with us. In order to make a covenant, something has to be cut. God says that this new covenant will not be written in stone, but will be written on the hearts of the faithful. Instead of cutting into stone, does that mean that God will cut into our hearts? Does that mean that we will understand that the new promises require something of us? Will we understand that if God changes the covenant, that God will make the sacrifice for us? if God loves you, what does it mean for you to love God? John: Jesus has always said that his job is to save the Jewish people, so when Greeks come to him and ask question what does that mean? How does he respond to them? Does he extend to them the gift of salvation? Yes, Jesus tells them the truth, just as he has shared with his disciples. He predicts that things will get worse for him, but that is okay. Because he is the sacrifice, not just for the Jews, but for all of us. If a grain of wheat does not die, it does not produce. He is that grain of wheat. But it helps us understand what it means to follow him to the cross. We too have to sacrifice our will for God’s will. If he be lifted up, he will draw all people (Greek and Jew) to him. Lenten season is about waiting for new life, but the only way we have new life is to experience death on the cross. Good Friday is still before us. Questions: What does it mean for the covenant to be written on our hearts? If it is not our hearts, what is it that is being sacrificed inside of us? (our sinful nature) What difference does forgiveness make in our lives? If Jesus can share so easily with strangers, why is it so hard for us today? What are you doing to lift up Jesus? What difference will the resurrection make in your life?
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Scriptures for March 11th – Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22; Theme – A Covenant requires rules to obey; Song: The Old Rugged Cross – UMH 504 Exodus: This is the story of the Ten Commandments, or the “ten words” as the Jews call them. In the season of lent we are looking at the promises of God and our response to those promises. What does God ask of us? The Ten Commandments are about freedom, or freedom. It is ways that God says that we are free. The first 3 commandments have to do with our relationship with God, the fourth establishes the Sabbath rest, and the last five have to do with our relationships with God. Before giving the commandments, God states who he is, and why that is important to us. This is the God who bought us out of slavery. We should take this freedom and live it out in every aspect of our lives. Keeping or covenant with God touches every aspect of our lives, and all of our relationships. John: Passover for the Jews comes at sunset on April 6th. As we approach Good Friday, they will be entering into Passover. Passover was a special time for Jesus; it was in this time that he lost his life. It was in this time that he needed to observe the holiday with his people. It was in this time that he found something wrong. God’s house was a house of prayer. But it seemed that people were more concerned about consumerism then they were about prayer. Jesus repeats the words of Isaiah – you have made this a safe house for thieves. Wow! Those are pretty strong words – a safe house – for thieves. What would Jesus say about the church today? Who are we harboring? And for what reasons. But Jesus says that he can rebuild the temple in three days if you let him. The Jews felt his words were blasphemy – but how can we allow Jesus to rebuild our church? What about our lives? Questions: Do you make a commitment to live by the 10 commandments in your life? Does Jesus require us to live by the 10 commandments? Are there moral dilemmas today that the bible does not help us with? What are they? When we have no sense of direction- what do we use to make moral decisions? If Jesus visited our church today would he be pleased? What practices would Jesus overturn and restructure in our church? How would Jesus feel about the way the church handles money?
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for March 4th: Genesis 17:1-7; 15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38; Theme: Covenant – Our Promise to God; Where he Leads Me – UMH 338 Genesis: Abraham was 75 years old when he started his walk with God, and God promised that Abraham would be the father of many nations. When he is 99 years old, there is still no baby. He and his wife have given up hope. But God never gives up on his promises. The baby is born, and the story continues. We are a part of that story. We are a part of that covenant. The Isrealites, the Ishmaelites, the Edomites all consider themselves to be a part of the covenant, because they are descendants of Abraham. Through Jesus Christ, we become a part of the family. When we are faithful to Christ, we become a part of the promise. However, we live in a world, where we sometimes wonder if God maintains his promise. God’s promise is never a straight line that we understand, it includes the twists and turns of life. Mark: What good is a messiah that suffers? The messiah is supposed to have all of the answers, the messiah is supposed to be an example for those who are struggling. And yet Jesus is saying that he will suffer and die. The disciples can’t understand what is going on. But Mark gives hints of what must happen in order for Jesus to be the messiah all throughout the book. What good is a messiah who suffers? – He can relate to what we are going through, and we can relate to him. Lent is an invitation to follow to Christ to the cross, to be willing to suffer. When we accept suffering, we are prepared for victory. And we come to understand why the messiah must suffer. Questions: When God makes a promise, he elevates our status. What does God promise of faithfulness mean to you? How do you maintain your promise to God? How do you remind God of the promise? What does the messiah mean to you? How does suffering affect you? Do you feel Christ’s presence in your suffering? Can you think of a time when you were able to claim victory in Christ over your suffering?
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for February 26th – Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15; Theme: First Sunday of Lent – the effect of sin on the world; Song: We’ll Understand it better, by and by – UMH 525 1 Peter: The Epistle lesson is intended to give us a better understanding of the gospel. This week, Peter touches upon the old testament and the new testament. It reminds us that Christ died for our sins. We do not have a chance to die at the cross with Christ, but we do have a chance to enter in Christ salvation. We do that through baptism. The baptism waters contain the whole history of salvation, going back to God’s promise with Noah. The waters are not intended to be a cleansing of your body, but they are intended to cleanse your soul. The Lenten journey is about us looking at our souls, and seeing what needs to be cleansed, and opening that part up to God to let God do his job. Jesus went to free the souls already in prison. Jesus invites us to live a life of sanctification, in which we are constantly cleansed in order not to know that spiritual prison for ourselves. Mark: We are back at chapter 1 of Mark. We are being taken painfully slow through the book of Mark. If we don’t understand chapter one, the rest of the book is a waste of time. Before Jesus goes into the wilderness, he is baptized. He knows the power of the water, and the power of baptism. That is where he comes face to face with the sinners of all generations. This is where he hears the voice of God, saying that I want you to save my people from their sin. After he has spent time in the wilderness, facing the devil, facing the sins of man is easy, he is ready. When we face the world – how do we prepare ourselves? How do we take advantage of the 40 days of lent? Questions: What does sin mean to you? How do you think your sins affect everyone else? How has your baptism helped you to overcome sin? What does it mean to continue to live a holy life? How does community help you live that life? What will you do to prepare yourself this Lenten season? Jesus says the time is now – what is the message that must be gotten to the rest of the world about today?
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Scriptures for February 19th: 2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9 Theme: Preparing ourselves for lent – Transfiguration Sunday; Song: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot UMH 703 2 Kings: This is the most meaningful bible story for me, with my two favorite characters. Elijah and Elisha. The most important prophet of all time and his protégé. As a matter of fact, this story is about exchanging of power between the two. Elijah knows that he cannot live forever, and that he will not be the prophet of his people – he must turn that mantle over to Elisha. He asks his protégé what gift would he like. Elisha, says that I want to be twice as good as you. He realizes that Elijah is powerful, and he wants to be twice as powerful as Elijah. Elijah one of the few people in the Bible, who does not experience death. Instead, God comes to carry him away. Elijah wants to be alone at the moment, the Elisha will not let him. Elisha is rewarded in his efforts, because he sees his master taken away, and he inherits a double portion of his power. We never hear who Elisha’s protégé was, or how we continued the work of spreading the message of God. But we can celebrate that God is still spreading the message of salvation today. We who hear the story of Elijah and Elisha, also know the God of which they speak. Mark: Today is the story of the transfiguration. The divine nature of Jesus is revealed to those who faithfully follow him. His closest disciples listen to him every day, and yet they have no idea of who they are with. Jesus tries to give them clues, he tries to give them the strength to see the truth. But the disciples do not understand. Jesus tells them (and us many times) to stay awake pay attention, but they fall asleep anyway. And they miss the time that Moses and Elijah come to visit him, and it looks as if his body is transfigured. This story always marks the beginning of the Lenten season. It is a story of transition from the new to the old. It proves that the prophets of old are fully behind Jesus in his work of salvation. Now that he has their support, he can walk to the cross and not worry about what that means for him. The disciples understand the significance of this story once Jesus is resurrected, is risen from the dead. Questions: Who have been the important mentors in your life? What qualities did you inherit from them? How have you passed those qualities onto the next generation? Who have you mentored? What qualities are important to doing the work of salvation today? How is today a transitional time for our faith? What things are changing? What things are staying the same? What is it that we still don’t understand about the mission of Jesus to the world today? How is our understanding of Jesus different from what it was even last year? Does that mean that the transfiguration is still important and happening today?
Sunday, February 5, 2012
Scriptures for February 12th – 2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Mark 40-45. Theme: How does Jesus heal us? Song: Just As I am – UMH 357 2 Kings: Kings starts not with the family of the first kings of Israel, but with the first prophets. Elijah worked hard to unite the 12 tribes. His protégé did not do a bad job of continuing that work. Elisha’s name is just as well known as Elijah’s. The miracles that Elisha did for his nation are just as impressive. As we read through the gospel of Mark, we will be amazed at Jesus’ ability to heal. But Jesus was not the first healer that God sent to his people. Elisha was also a healer. This is the famous story of Namaan, an Aramean general, who needed healing, no one in his country could help him. When Elisha tells him to bath in the waters of the Jordan, he is reluctant. Yet, Elisha’s faith is enough to get the job done. Where to we go for healing today? Mark: So far, Jesus has healed a demon, a feverish mother in law, and others who have asked. The stakes are raised with this healing, because he touches a leper; someone who the society has ostracized. Those who have been deemed untouchable, Jesus touches and heals. Jesus survives and is okay and so is the leper. So why does Jesus tell him not the tell anyone. Once the secret is out, what is the consequence. Everyone comes to him, and Jesus cannot move freely. Why don’t people flock to Jesus like that today? We would love people to come to church for healing, but what do we offer them in terms of healing? Questions: Where do we go for healing today? What does it mean to be truly healed? How do we treat strangers who come to our country, our city for healing? If Lake Michigan were the only place to get water (and it is), how would we feel about sharing our water with people from other states? Other countries? Who are the outsiders today? How do we extend our trust in healing to others? How does Jesus call us to treat those whom we consider outsiders?
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Scriptures for February 5th – Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39 God heals; song – Precious Lord – 474 Isaiah: Isaiah the prophet was given the job of bringing a good word to the people no matter what they were going through. He was supposed to preach that whatever the needs of the people, whatever the pains of the people God will make it better. God cures violence, war, starvation devastation. And in this verse God cures our discouragement, our tiredness, our frustration. Those are all normal parts of life that we all go through. But there is a reward for those who trust in the Lord. God is in the resurrection business, and God will resurrect our inner strength. Isaiah ask all who read whether you have heard the good news – Have you not known? Have you not Heard? Everyone needs to know that God is the source of our strength! Mark: Mark wants to make sure that we know that today, Jesus is the source of our inner strength. Jesus has the power and authority to heal us. Last week Jesus heals a demonic person. This week Jesus heals Peter’s mother in law. Jesus is meeting the needs of God’s people. His mother in law is sick and needs a doctor. Jesus prays for her and she gets better. Once the word got around, everyone was coming to him asking for healing of all sorts of things. Jesus realizes what he must do, and he continues. And he continues today to be a healer. In Jesus day, he did his work, but asked that people keep it a secret, until the world was ready for the fact that it was the Spirit of God at work, not just the spirit of man. In his prayers, he attained more power to help more people. We get the same from our prayers and our faithfulness. Questions: What is it in your life that drains your strength? What is it that gives your strength? How does the church give you strength? What ways of Christ were hidden from you, that have been revealed in God’s presence in your life recently? When you name something, you have power over it – how do you feel when others call your name? How do you feel when you know that God calls your name?
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28 Speaking with Authority; Be Thou My Vision – UMH 451 Deuteronomy: In the stories of Moses, we learn that it was not an easy thing to talk with God. God’s voice was very scary, and his face was not intended to be seen. If someone was not properly trained, then they could get seriously hurt in talking with God. Yet the people longed to have a word from God. God promised them that God would raise up a prophet from amongst them that would be properly trained and properly gifted to be a prophet. But the people still have the problem of determining if that prophet knows what he is talking about – is he from God, or from elsewhere. Today, we have to wonder if our prophets are leading us in the right direction. But today all we have to do is read the bible and learn from Jesus ourselves. Mark: Jesus is our prophet today. He speaks with authority, because He is one with the Father. As Jesus begins his ministry to the people, he starts to speak in the synagogues and to exorcise demons. But unlike others, who say that they speak on behalf of God, Jesus speaks directly. Not only do the people listen, the demons flee. Who is this person, and why does he speak with such authority. Once again, if we become his disciples, and we study his words and we obey his ways, we too have that same authority in our lives. We can speak confidently, and know that God is behind us; Just as long as we are behind God. We can address the evil that we see, and expect something to be done about it. But we have to be steeped in the truth of God. It is not a task to take lightly to address evil with authority. Questions: Is there anyone who has a prophetic voice today? How do we determine if what they are saying is really right? Do you know of people who claim to be prophets, who are misleading people? What are the demons of our society that must be driven out? How do we learn the teachings of Jesus? How do gain the authority to speak as Jesus spoke? (This is an easy question).
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Scriptures for January 22nd: Jonah 3:1-5,10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-21; Mark 1:14-20; Moving from being called to being a disciple; song: Softly and Tenderly Jesus is calling – UMH 348 Jonah: This is the only time that we read this story of Jonah and Ninevah. And if the story was not so true today, it might be funny. God gives Jonah a job to do, and instead of obeying God – Jonah walks away. He ends up in the belly of a whale, and needs to be rescued by God…in order to do what God called him to do in the first place. The text for today is not about Jonah, it is about Ninevah – that great city that he is called to save. Ninevah is probably a lot like Chicago – a city set in its ways. Jonah tells God there is no need to speak, because they will not listen. God shows mercy on the city, and the city repents of its ugly ways. People are not so bad after all. Sometimes all we need to do something differently is someone to care enough about us to be a prophet for God. Mark: This story transitions from Jesus with John the Baptist. John is eventually arrested, and Jesus realizes that now he must continue the mission. But he cant do it alone, he must have a team. This is the story of how Jesus got his disciples to drop everything and to follow him. They left behind their jobs, their families, their responsibilities. But they gained so much more in following Jesus. Who is this man that he has the power to recruit people? What is he preaching? What is he asking me to give up in order to follow him? This is a transition for us. Now that we are called, what does that mean? What do we do next? How so we become disciples? What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ? Questions: What are the sins of Chicago? How does the neighborhood of Englewood respond to the call of God? How do they respond to the request to come to church? What more needs to be done to reach them? How is the Holy Spirit at work before us, softening the hearts of the people? What do we need to do in order to be a disciple of God? Does Christ ask us to give up anything in order to follow him? What does it mean to be fishers of people? Why is it so urgent that we preach the gospel to the people?
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Scriptures January 15th: 1 Samuel 3:1-20; Psalm 139:1-6,13-18; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51 Theme: Living in God’s favor Song: Be Thou my vision – UMH 451 1 Samuel: Samuel was living with the Priest Eli and his family. His mother dedicated him to the service of the Lord. Scripture says that visions and callings from God were not common in the day. God always speaks, the truth was that people probably did not have a need to listen. When God spoke to Samuel, he did not even understand what was happening. Eli had to teach Samuel how to pray. He told him to just listen, not to speak. God will say what God will say. Being called by God comes in many forms. God does not call all of us to be ministers. God does not tell all of us to do the same thing for the rest of our lives. There are many task that need to be done. We just have to learn to listen. What Samuel was told to say was not positive, it was a message that some people needed to repent and turn around. The voice of the Lord still speaks today. 1 Corinthians: This verse encourages us to think about what it means to live holy. To think about how to make healthy and holy choices. As Christians we are free to do whatever we want. But not everything that we do is in our best interest. Just because society says that it is okay to do something, that does not mean that God says that it is okay. Paul reminds us that our bodies are a temple. It is the place where God lives. God and the devil cannot occupy the same space. When we take good care of our bodies, we are glorifying God. Our bodies play a big part in our lives, in our relationships, and in our service to God. Questions: What does it mean to you to listen to God? Have you heard God say something to you? How did you respond? How do you tell the difference from a call from God and other voices? Who are the prophets of God today? What does it mean to you to live healthy? What are the voices in society that encourage us to do the wrong things? How to we overcome those voices? What one thing can you do within the coming year to live a healthier life?