Saturday, December 27, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scripture for January 4th: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12; Theme: yearly commitment to service; Song: This little Light of mine UMH 585 Isaiah : The exiles have been out of their land for years, and now that prophecy is that it is time to go home and to rebuild their lives. But not to forget, that God is the center of our lives, God is the center of our society. They were put out because they did not follow God. So it is critical to do it right them time. When God’s people are trusting in God, other people will take interest and want to be a part of the rebuilding. The prophecy is to arise, your light has come – it is time to come out and to celebrate, and to see what God has done for you and for me. God is making an example of what we do, so that he can attract the other nations. Ephesians: There is no division that God cannot heal. We as humans constantly find ways to separate ourselves. We make sure that there are insiders and outsiders. There is us and them. Christ can overcome those boundaries. It is important to realize that we are not one in Christ, we are united. We can come together and to find common ground. Paul says that the secret of our unity is grace. Christ reaches out to us all, and saves us in our place and in our lives. Christ wants the world to see that he their salvation to. We are know different from the people in the world. But when we believe in Christ, we can do anything and overcome all obstacles. Paul tells us to be confident and bold in our trust for God’s grace in our lives. Questions: How do you know that God’s light is shining in such a dark night? How do we know that the world sees the light of God? How does God’s light bring hope? What differences have we had to overcome to be united in Christ? How do you feel God’s grace? What does it take to be bold and confident in Christ?
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for December 28th: Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Psalm 148; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:22-40; theme: what gift did you get for Christmas? Song: Away in the Manger UMH 217 Isaiah : As we read through the book of Isaiah, we are taken through a battle. The people are struggling and suffering, they are crying out to God for relief. But if God is up there, and we are down here, How does he get that help to us? He promises that he will send those who speak for him. That he will raise up a suffering servant. He becomes that suffering servant. As we come to the end of Isaiah, we learn that the battle is over. That the people has won. Isaiah starts to tell us what victory looks like, so that we recognize it when we see it. The earth will start to live again, the people will start to live again, We will celebrate. We will become new people. Let us celebrate what the Lord has done, but also what the Lord will do in our lives. Luke: We continue the story of the birth of our Lord. He has to be brought into the Jewish family. So his parents take him to the temple to be blessed and circumcised. But this is no ordinary baby, at this point only the parents know that. Jesus does not have a halo over his head. So how does Samuel know? Because the promise fulfilled is not just to Mary and Joseph, but to the people – to all of us. So the people, the elders bless that baby and put all of their hopes and dreams. The good news is that the child recognized his place in life, and he never stepped out of his purpose. HE grew, he sacrificed, and we have a chance to give our blessing to Jesus even today. Questions: What are signs in your life that things are getting better? How is God answering our prayers even today? Who is the suffering servant today? How do you bless the children of today and tell them they are special? How do you watch them grow into strong children? What do you do to teach them faith?
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Scriptures for December 21st: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Luke 1:46-55, Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38; Theme: God chose Mary to bring Jesus into the world; Song: Hark the Herald Angels Sing Luke : This is the Magnificat of Mary. It is Mary’s celebration of all that God has done for her. She realizes that she is no one special, but that God was not concerned about the special. God realizes that most of his people are a part of the righteous victims. They have become a part of those who are struggling to make it is a world designed for others benefit. The point of the messiah is to make a difference, and to give the lowly a chance. So he would not appoint a prince in a castle to make a difference, but a baby in a manger. A baby that comes from parents who have nothing, but faith in a God that cares for them. Luke: This is the Magnificat that has been played out in reality. Mary did not understand how she would give birth to a son, when she accepted the prophecy from the angel Gabriel. But she trusted that if God gave her a message, then God would make a way for it to happen. She gets support from her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth was a lot older, but she was also pregnant. They could fulfil the prophecy of the future together. God works miracles in our everyday lives, with everyday people. Questions: How does your soul magnify the Lord? How do you live out God’s intention for your life? When God gives you a challenge, what do you do? Do you accept it? Or do you argue with God? Who has God sent in your life to support you in God’s plan?
Sunday, December 7, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for December 14th: Isaiah 6:1-4,8-11; Psalm 126; I Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28; theme: The spirit of the Lord is upon you to do mission; Song: Come thou Long Expected Jesus – UMH 196 Isaiah : God has seen our pain, and God will bring about a solution. That solution is in the form of a leader who can truly make a difference. The jews are still waiting for that leader. And yet as Christians, we know that leader has come in the form of Jesus the Christ. In Luke, Christ proclaims that the spirit of the Lord is upon him to make a difference in the personal lives of God’s people. The spirit has given him the power to do what needs to be done. Isaiah 60 spells out what must be done, and who must be saved. We serve a God of righteousness, but in order for there to be righteousness in the world, there must be people who able to live according to that righteousness. This advent season, we not only serve our leader, but we live as he would live and we do as he would do. The spirit of the Lord is upon us! John: John the Baptist is the evangelist of advent. He is the one who spreads the good news. But the news he spread is not all good. In order for it to be good news, we have to be willing to repent. To turn our lives away from sin and to righteousness. When John stands up and speaks, people want to know who he is and why is he speaking. Are you a prophet? No I am a follower of Christ, I have been called not to be Christ for the world, but to follow Christ in all circumstances. We are not prophet, we are not the one who will change the world – but we are called to witness to the one who has come to make a difference. Questions: How do you know the spirit is upon you? Does the spirit make a difference in your life? In your attitude? How is God calling you to serve others? How are you a witness to the power of Christ?
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for November 16th: Judges 4: 1-7; Psalm 123; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30; Theme: Jesus depends on us ; Song: Jesus Keep me Near the Cross UMH 301 1 Thessalonians : This lesson is a precursor to advent and the season of preparing for the second coming. It is Paul’s demand that we listen and to prepare ourselves for that day. Paul warns us that there should be a huge difference between Christians and others. People should be able to spot us a mile away, simply based in who we are and how we handle every day life. Paul is telling us that we don’t know when Jesus is coming back, but the second coming should always be in the back of our mind. Preparation is not just for a season, it is for a lifetime. It is our lifestyle that will qualify us to go with Christ, when he returns for us. We will receive a reward for being faithful. We have been practicing our faith for thousands of years, Christ is aware of our faithfulness, our we aware of his to us? Matthew: This is another good message for advent. This is a message to get our lives in order. Each of us have spiritual gifts, and they were given to us in order to be used. God is watching how we use them. They are not to be used for ourselves, but to benefit others. We are reminded that the time is now for us to use our gifts, we are not to wait until later. We don’t know when our day will come. Jesus is giving us a call to action. So we all need to give some serious thought to our plan. But when we have a plan, know that God is with you and will give you the strength to fulfill what he has planted inside of you. If you have only one precious gift in the world, who would you give it to? How would you use it? Go ahead, the time is now to use your gift, tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us. Questions: What do you think about the second coming? Are you really prepared for Christ to return? What do you still need to do? What is your talent? How do you need to give it away? What would you do if you lost your talent? What are you prepared to do if God gives you a new talent?
Sunday, November 2, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for November 9th: Joshua 24:1-3,14-25; Psalm 78:1-7; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13; Theme: choose who you will serve Song: Battle Hymn of the Republic UMH 717 Joshua : This is my favorite verse if the bible. The 40 years of wandering is over. As a matter of fact, the first leader has passed on. Now the second generation is taking over. As the second leader, Joshua has a new task. It is time for people to settle down and get to work. In order to help people realize the change, he has a special service for them. But he is not asking them to be spectators on what it going on, but participants. Everyone needs to do their part in order for the community to begin a new life. Jesus tells them to choose ye who you must serve. Is it God or is it yourself? And he asks them to make a commitment that very day – to serve God. I have a sign in my house – As for me and my house we choose to serve the Lord. That is Joshua’s commitment – what is yours? Matthew: This is the story of the bridesmaids. They are waiting for the groom, five of them are ready with oil in their lamps and five of them are out of oil. The lesson is that we should be prepared for the groom when he comes. For many, this is the beginning message of advent. It is time for us to prepare for Jesus to come. We don’t know when the second coming will be, but the message is that we should live our lives as if he is coming back at any moment. It is not about when he comes, it is about how we live our lives. Advent is not just about Christmas, it is about how we live our lives. There is never a time when we should not be alert and ready. God appears in our lives in so many ways at so many times. Questions: When has there been a time when you needed to stop and take account of your faith? How do you choose God? How do you choose other things instead of God? What do you have to give up in order to be clear about serving God? Are you prepared for the second coming? When do you think the second coming will come? Is there really something wrong with waiting until the last moment to do something?
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for November 2nd: Revelation 7:9-17; Psalm 34:1-10,22; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12; Theme: All Saint’s Day Song: Marching to Zion UMH 733 1 John : This verse is the prequel to the book of Revelations. John is reminding us that one day we will all live in heaven with Jesus, but today we all still live on earth. In heaven life will be perfect, but we will be perfect also, but today we are all less than perfect. John tells us that we are not in heaven yet, but we should live as if we intend to get there. We need to purify ourselves and to purify our lives. We need to know that Christ gives us the power to live as perfect people here on Earth. We are perfect when we strive for heaven and do the will of God. The power of Christ lies in our ability to love one another. Matthew: This is the beatitudes. These are the keys to our happiness. Jesus us saying that it is in our struggles, our hardships our suffering, that we learn to have faith. He is saying that those who persevere in spite of those things, have to keys to happiness. God knows their hearts and will bless their efforts. Heaven is only for those who persevered in this life. It is only in this life that we truly come to understand who God is. If everything is going well, then we have no need for God. And if we have no need for God, when we meet God face to face then we will not even know who he is. So do not be afraid of the challenges and struggles. God will be with you through it all, and he will reward you afterward. We also remember the struggles of others, and we thank God that they are now at peace in heaven. Questions: What do you imagine heaven to be like? What would it be like to live in a perfect world? As a human would you get bored? How are you preparing yourself for heaven in your life now? How do you feel blessed? When was a time in your life when you know God bought you through? How were you different after that experience?
Sunday, October 12, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for October 19th: Exodus 33:12-23; Psalm 99; 1 Thessalonians 1”1-10; Matthew 22:15-22; Theme: Laity Sunday; Song: O how I Love Jesus UMH 170 Exodus: This section of Exodus shows a shift in where the people are. God has told them that they are to move from the wilderness and now it is time for them to come to the promised land. And the people are not ready to go – they like where they are. It takes Moses a year to convince them that it is time to go to a different place. In his leadership, Moses goes to God for assurance. He needs to make sure that it is really God leading them. As a matter of fact, God says that he will lead the people to where they have to go himself. Moses needs to sure that he is really talking to God, so he asks if God will appear to him, so that he can see his face. No one can look upon the face of God and live, but God appears to our lives, and more importantly, if we are paying attention we can feel God’s presence. Matthew: This is the section where Jesus is tested by the Pharisees. We learned last week that Jesus took no formal training to be a rabbi. He talked to the common people in common language. This was a direct threat to the power of the religious leaders. No wonder they spent so much time hunting him down and asking him questions. They were not supposed to have a coin with Ceasar’s face in the temple. Jesus uses this coin to show them that they are hypocrites. They are criticizing him, when they are not doing what is right. The lesson from Jesus is that we should do the things of God, and not man. Give what belongs to man to man, but give what belongs to God to God. Your heart and soul should belong to God. Questions: When has God appeared in your life? What did God look like? What did God do? Where has God led you in the last year? Where do you want to go in your faith? How can you give your heart and soul to God? What things do you do to test Jesus? What things does he do to test you?
Sunday, October 5, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for October 12th: Exodus 32: 1-14; Psalm 106: 1-6,19-23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14; Theme: Jesus’ Salvation is intended for everyone; Song: What a Friend we have in Jesus UMH 526 Philippians: Community is the key to being a Christian. You cannot be a Christian on an island. And yet sometimes living with others is the biggest challenge of the church. Paul understands that even the best of churches have conflict. It is conflict that can destroy the worst of churches. In this verse, Paul addresses conflict in the Philippian church head on. Two women are going at it and everyone is taking sides. Paul tells them that it time to cool out. He enlist the help of the local bishop to keep the women honest. He tells all churches that when conflict is destroying the church – the church should rejoice, pray, and once you give it to God to go forward in peace, knowing that God will take care of it. Matthew: Jesus is explaining to the powers that be, the authority that he has to teach people about God. He is the Son of God and received his authority directly from God. God does all that God can to get our attention. God sends all kinds of messages and all kind of messengers. The biggest messenger we can have is Jesus Christ. Coming to God is like taking part in a feast. We are all invited to the party. God learned that is was useless to have an exclusive list. People get so interested in coming to the party that they forget who invited them. Jesus reminds us as church people that we should not get to exclusive and thinking that we are special. We are only special because of God’s love. We have to remember, just because we get an invitation, doesn’t mean we will get in the party. We have to put on the fruits of the spirit, love, gentleness, peace, kindness and demonstrate them in all that we do. God does not need us, we need God. Questions: What happens in your church when there is conflict? What biblical principles are put in place to help solve it, who are the people that serve as mediators? What does it mean for God to invite all people to the table? What role do you play in making that happen? Is being a Christian a right or a priviledge? Is God’s party here on earth, in heaven or both?
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for September 28th: Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 78:1-4,12-16; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32; Theme: God always Provides; song: God will take care of you UMH 130 Exodus: You can survive for a few months without food, but only a few days without water of some kind. In our world we tend to take water for granted. All you have to do is to turn on the faucet, and the water flows. But what happens when you are in a place where there is not water? What happens when you are really thirsty and there is nothing available to quench you thirst? We have to remember that God knows what you need in order to survive. God will provide. We don’t know what is in store for us, But God does. God thinks ahead of us and behind us. We have to live in trust and pray for what we need. God provides for us in even the harshest circumstances. And if he has a plan for our future, he will provide for our survival. If we do not survive, there is no glory for God. God will take care us for his sake and his glory. Philippians: Paul reminds us that Christ is the glue for our unity. Paul reminds us that as Christians, we live in community. We are never alone in our faith journey, Christ provides a community that helps us to survive. So Paul reminds us what belief in Christ does for us. Paul uses a hymn that everyone is familiar with to remind us of the benefits of unity. There is encouragement, comfort, sharing and joy. He encourages us not to do anything to interfere with that unity. Faith is never about me, it is always about us. We have to remember that Christ showed us the way. God always provides so that we can live out his purposes. Questions: what do you do when you have a fear of losing your basic needs? Do you have the patience to trust God in those times? Do you complain or do you pray? How have you experienced the miracle provisions of God? what does unity mean to you? What does it mean to live in community? How do you practice community? How do you pull away?
Sunday, September 7, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for September 14th: Exodus 14:19-31; Exodus 15:1-11,20-21; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35; Theme: How to Forgive; Song: Help Us Accept Each Other UMH 560 Romans: John Wesley said that we should accept diversity and difference of opinion in everything but the salvation of Jesus Christ. There is never a time when we are all on the same page. But we have to learn how to live with one another anyway. We are always on different pages on our understanding of Christianity. We study on different levels. And yet no matter where we may be in our faith, we are all saved by grace. Paul says that if God has given you grace, then you should be able to give grace to others. There will never be a time when we are all on the same page, but the work of the Holy Spirit beings us together in spite of our differences. We just have to believe that the Spirit is at work, to trust and to move forward. Matthew: Last week Jesus talked about the importance of forgiveness. Today, Jesus tells us how to forgive and the difference it makes in the life of the community. This is a part of Jesus, sermon on the church. Jesus knows that being a Christian is hard work. He knows that being a part of a community is hard work. But that we have to be willing to go through the process. Forgiveness is what we do. Forgiveness is the key to salvation. Forgiveness is what sets us apart from the rest of the world. God forgives us, we need to remember that when it is time to forgive others. We follow in the footsteps of God’s actions, and we live according to them. God is a God of mercy, it is mercy that we depend on. Spread the word of mercy to the world. Questions: Who are those who are weak in faith? How do we take the time to understand them? When we see people doing something that we are not familiar with, do we correct them, try to understand them or both? What stands in the way of you being able to forgive others? How has God forgiven you? What does it mean to give others grace?
Sunday, August 31, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for September 7th: Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 149; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20; Theme: Love others as God loves ; Song: Help Us Accept Each Other UMH 560 Romans: The way that we live our lives says everything about our faith. We don’t be Christian, just to those we like. The true test of our Christianity is how we treat everyone. We are encouraged to be transparent in our selves. Paul says to live in honor. Be the same in every situation, and around every person. It is important for us to learn to live in the light. It is the light that makes us strong and gives us strength. Jesus Christ is our strength. The more we claim Christ, the easier it is for us to do the right thing. We should always believe in the power of love to transform any relationship. Love makes the world go around. The love of Christians make a difference in the world. It is about Christ, and not about us. Matthew: Jesus takes Romans a little further. What we demonstrate to others, we must also demonstrate to one another. We have to love one another, but a part of that love is accountability. He have to be honest and to ask for forgiveness, to give forgiveness, and to learn to repent. Jesus says that the church is a safe place to do all of that. It is important to listen to our sisters and brothers. We have to let them judge us, so that we don’t place judgement on ourselves. When we isolate ourselves, sin is more likely to take over. When we are in community, the community has the power to fight our sin, and to bring it out of us. Questions: Is it easy to love everyone? Or is it easier to love people who are most like us? What do you need in order to love everyone the same? What does it mean to live in community? What do you do to intentionally forgive others? What do you do to hold other Christians accountable? Is it easy to be honest with them? Can the church really effectively judge others?
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for August 31st: Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 105:1-6;23-26,45; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28; Theme: Being called by God for Such a time as this; Song: Take my Life and Let it be UMH 399 UMH Romans: These are instructions on how to live according to God’s will. We have to love one another. We have to forgive one another, we have to be intentional about putting love into the world. The only way to defeat the devil to be committed to doing what is right. It is easy to think that evil will prevail. The only thing to make evil win is for good people to stand by and to do nothing. Not only do we have to represent what is right, we have to be willing to teach others. We have to be examples for others. Once we are finally able to transform our minds, we have to transform others, and then have to courage to transform the world. Exodus: This is the story of the calling of Moses. Moses comes face to face with God in the form of the burning bush. God tells him what he must do to save his people. Moses goes away from the experience changed forever. The good news is that God is always in touch with what is going on in the day. God always raises people up to face the challenges of the day. God is always presenting himself in mysterious and miraculous ways. When God introduces himself he says I am who I am. He really says I will be, who I will be. God can see future, and he is preparing us for it. And when our time is up, someone will follow in our footsteps, prepared to lead God’s people into a new day. Questions: What do you need to have hope in the world? What do you need to believe in the power to transform? How do you treat those who mistreat you? What is going on in the world so that God needs a vessel to change the world? How is God appearing in our age today? Who is God raising up to be the new Moses?
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for August 24th: Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 124; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20; Theme: Using God’s Gifts: Song: I am Thine O Lord UMH 419 Romans: In chapters 9-11 we come to understand why we are saved. Now it is time for us to think about what we are to do with that salvation. What does it mean to live in Christ, and how do we change our lives so that we can do that? Romans is a very important book to our faith. It is the book that a lot of the church fathers used to develop official Christian theology. A lot of chapter 12 is used in our communion service. The early Christians gathered for a meal, just as the Jews gathered for a meal. That love meal eventually developed into the communion service. We are called to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. Christ is the sacrifice for us. Our lives are the sacrifice for Christ. The gifts that we have been given, are to use in ministry. Our forgiveness, is to help us to learn to forgive others. And to continue to prepare ourselves when all people will come and feast at God’s table. Matthew: What does it mean for Jesus to be the messiah? What does it mean for Christ to be your personal savior? Jesus is helping the disciples to not only understand what a savior is, but to understand that the savior is Jesus. So Jesus asks them who do people say that he is. The messiah is a spiritual definition. That is why he comes in the form of a person. We can relate to a person on many different levels. The disciples know he is the messiah because they have a personal relationship. We can follow their example in having our own relationship. And coming to realize what it means that Jesus is our savior. Jesus tells them not to tell anyone what they know. We all have to discover that for ourselves. The only way that we understand that Jesus us the messiah is in our personal lives, and our personal questions. Questions: How do you sacrifice your life to Christ? What gifts has God given your to use? What do your feel when you take communion? Is Christ present?
Saturday, August 9, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for August 17th: Genesis 45:1-15; psalm 133; Romans 11:1-2,29-32; Matthew 15:10-28; Theme: God’s grace is sufficient in all circumstances; Song: Rock of Ages Cleft for me UMH 361 Romans: Paul continues to talk about the promise and what it means for the family of Israel, but more importantly, what does it mean for us? How did we get included in God’s family? Paul says that we were grafted in. God’s grace is powerful enough to include us and all of our sinfulness. Just because grace was extended to us, does that mean that God no longer love them? No? God will extend grace even to those who live by the law. God does not make mistakes, and every word of God’s promise is truth. We can rest our faith on that. Salvation belongs to all of the faithful as long as they can claim Christ Jesus. God extends grace to all, but his promise is for the faithful. If you are faithful you are automatically a part of God’s family. Matthew: This is a very important verse of what it means to have God’s grace. Jesus reinforces what Paul has been saying all along in Romans. That responsibility and accountability go along with God’s grace. And that it is possible to do something to fall out of God’s favor. All people are very good at sinning. And it is what inside of us that drags us into sin. But the touch of Jesus is sufficient to make a difference. Jesus assures us that if we have faith in Jesus, then he can enter into our lives and make a difference. Being a child of God is a constant battle. We have to strive to do right and to live right. According to the law however, no matter how hard we try – we will always fail- we are in need of God’s salvation in order to be in God’s favor. It is our faith that makes us whole. Questions: What does it mean to be grafted into the tree? How do you feel God’s grace in your life? What do you think of people who get something for free when others have to pay? Which are you- the one who “freeloads” or the carrying the weight? In God’s eye does it make a difference?
Sunday, August 3, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for August 10th: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Psalm 105:1-6,16-22, 45b; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14: 22-33; Theme: The role of a disciple; Song: I Love to tell the Story UMH 156 Romans: This is my new favorite scripture. It says blessed are the feet of the preacher. All who know something about the gospel are preachers. If we have heard the gospel for ourselves, then we need to spread the message. We cannot just expect people to understand if they have not heard. Paul is really concerned that the word of God be spread to the Jews. He does not want them to be left behind. But we have a responsibility to tell, to teach and to testify. God’s grace is all around us. It is God’s grace that saves us, not the law. Paul also gives the formula for salvation, he have to hear, then we have to believe, and them we confess that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, who delivered us from sin. Once we are able to live in grace, everything else falls into place. Matthew: This is the book of miracles. Time after time, Jesus does something miraculous. Jesus has just fed the 5000 and he gets his disciples away to rest and recuperate. As happens to many of us, when we try to rest, we end up in the middle of a storm. Jesus calms their fears in the midst of the storm. Peter wants to do what he sees Christ do, and cant because he does not have enough faith. And yet his faith was enough to get him to at least try. Sometimes that is all that we can do is try and to let God do the rest. Use what you have and God will supply the rest. We should not focus on the storm, but on God’s presence in our lives. We should expect God to be present in times of fear. Our rest is in God not in our situation. Questions: how did you hear the gospel story? How do you pass the message on to others? When you hear the good news, what is your response? How are you growing in your response to God? Does Jesus still perform miracles today? Are you in the boat or on the water in your faith? When faith does not turn out the way you expected what do you do? Do you give up? Or do you grow forward?
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for August 3rd: Genesis 32:22-31; Psalm 17:1-7,15; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21; Theme: What Does it mean to be a blessing? Song: Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior UMH 351 Genesis: The faith journey of Jacob continues. He is an old man, but the consequences of his actions as a young man continue to follow him. As an old man he feels that he has all that he needs to go home, except the forgiveness of his brother. He is so scared of how his brother will react, that he cant sleep. He wrestles in the spirit. And comes to no conclusions, but he ask for a blessing from God. This the completion of his faith and his willingness to trust in God. He even changes his name to Israel – one who trust in God. Now he is prepared to live the life God has in store for him. He is prepared to be the foundation for his family. He is prepared to be a blessing to his family so that they can be a blessing to others. Al who take heed to Jacob’s story, who believe it and who vow to live in that same faith, will be blessed. Everything in life may not be perfect, but it will all fall into place. Romans: in verses 9-11 Paul tells us what it means to have the faith of Abraham. It is not about family ties, it is about actions. He says that the Jewish family assumes God’s love, but they forgot about their own actions. They took God’s love for granted. So God went into the world to find and create other faithful people. The grace of God covers us all. We too can’t take God for granted – we have to live as faithful people. In the end God will give grace to all who call on him. We too should be graceful and understanding. Jews have an opportunity for salvation just as we do. In Jesus Christ, we are all part of the same family. That is why it is so important for us to live our lives in Christ. Questions: How do you know that you are blessed by God? What is your faith journey? How did you learn to fully trust God? How do you treat Jews? Those who are not yet Christian? Are they brothers and sisters? What does it mean to live in Christ? How is Christ your messiah? What does grace mean to you?
Sunday, July 20, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for July 27th: Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11,45; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33,44-52; Theme: God and our family life Song: Sweet Hour of Prayer UMH 496 Genesis: The story continues with the second generation. This is proof that God keeps his promises. This new generation has its own personality, and its own issues of faith. But they have been raised to have faith in God. and that faith makes a differences on their decisions. Jacob has worked hard to aquire a wife, but it is not the one that he wants. So he has to work twice as hard to earn the love if his life Rachel. After that he never trusts his father in law Laban. As a matter of fact, he says a prayer that only God will watch between the two of them. This is the beginning of the story of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob has so many children, because he has so many wives. This is the story of why he has those wives. And in a strange way, they all became family. We don’t choose our family members, in some ways our family members choose us through circumstances. We have to work where we are to become the people that God calls us to be. Romans: These are some of the most important words of the bible. These are the words that define our faith as Christians. If we live in the Spirit, the spirit will talk to God for us. If we live in the Spirit, the Spirit will help us to make the right decisions. If we live in the Spirit, we can trust that God will see us through all of our trials and tribulations. If we live in the spirit we can be confident that we can stand before God in all circumstances. If we live in the Spirit there is nothing that can come between God and us. But we have to make the choice to live in the Spirit and not in the flesh. We have to be willing to get to know the ways of God and to live by them accordingly. Questions: What are the stories of how your family got to be where it is today? How do those stories demonstrate faith? How important is faith in your family? What is the lesson you have to teach the next generation? What do you think it means to live in the Spirit? What are the things that separate you from the spirit of God? how can you overcome those barriers?
Saturday, July 5, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for July 13th: Genesis 25:19-34; Psalm 119:105-112; Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9,18-23: Theme: family drama continues: Song:Let There Be Peace on Earth UMH 431 Genesis: Just as you can’t talk about family without talking about marriages, then come the children. And as the children grow they each have their own unique story and personality. They each have their own way of fitting into the family. In the last generation Isaac and Ishmael had their own lives and their own blessing. This generation, Isaac also has two sons, and they have their own lives and their own blessings, but they came into the world together. We can be grateful that God has enough blessing to go around. That there is no one child that God puts all of his faith in. but it takes us working together as a family. Unfortunately the first family of faith never learned that lesson, they worked against one another. But we can learn from their mistakes and know that God is with us all. The whole human family is just one family – God’s family. Romans: Paul continues in his conversation of life in the spirit and life in the flesh. Sometimes even Paul admits that there are physical things that we just cannot escape. It is easy for us to feel defeated and to feel that sin will always take over in our lives. There is no sense in avoiding sin, it will always be there. Chapter 8 is a word of hope in the midst of our humanness. It is not all about our will, it is about God’s love for us. God has done all of the hard work through Christ. Christ is a conqueror, so that makes us a conquerer. No matter how much we sin, Christ will not abandon us. the flesh does not have the final word, the spirit does. Sin is with us, but the Spirit of Christ is also with us. the Spirit of Christ is stronger. Questions: Do you know your family history? How does it uplift you? What is the relationship with your siblings? How do you overcome sibling rivalry? What does it mean to have life in the spirit? What brings you hope in the midst of despair? How do you know are you are child of God? What do you do to overcome the fleshly life?
Sunday, June 29, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for July 6th: Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67; Psalms 45:10-17; Romans 7:15-25; Matthew 11:16-19,25-30; Theme: Trust in the Lord; Song: Come Thou Font of Every Blessing #400 Genesis: We continue learning the story of the family of faith; the family that all of those faithful to God are a part of. Abraham is the father of us all – so we need to know his story. Stories of what really happened in our family can be difficult and shocking. But it is important also to remember that the glue that has held our family together has been love. The story of how we came to be starts with a love story. Abraham loved Sarah enough to do anything that she asked of him. As Isaac grew up, he longed to have someone who loved him in that way. He found that love in Rebekah. Their love is the foundation of the whole family. This is the story of how he went home to his mother’s family to find a wife. She was willing to go and to marry. Things were not perfect in their marriage. Their children were not perfect. They did not always agree on everything. But through it all they loved one another, and they passed that love on to others. Their love is an example of how love is present in our family today, and how it will smooth over the difficult stories. Matthew: Sometimes it can be a challenge to get people to understand the good news of Jesus Christ. It is hard for us today, but it was hard for Jesus also. There were many people who did not listen to him, or who could care less. Jesus learned to thank God for the people who did listen. He realized that to listen and to understand the gospel is a gift from God. Not only did he celebrate those who did listen, he celebrated how their lives where changed. He invited more to come and he still extends that invitation. Come all who are weary and carrying a heavy burden. Life does not have to be that way. Follow Jesus and things will get easier? Do you truly believe that? It is the truth about Jesus and what he offers in our lives. Questions: What is the love story in your family? What are the difficult times that love has bought you through? Who are your ancestors? How is your life connected to them now? What is your heavy burden in life? How does Jesus makes things easier? Why do you think it is so hard for the present generation to listen to Jesus? What do we need to say to get them to understand the good news?
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for June 29th : Genesis 22:1-14; Psalm 13; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42: Theme: Families as a blessing from God; Song: O Jesus I have Promised – UMH 396 Genesis: Sometimes, we don’t have to worry about what other people do for us. Our family can do really cruel things to us. family stories can be very violent and sad. Last week we hear the story of how Abraham banishes his own son into the desert. And today we hear how the blessed son, Isaac is almost killed. Abraham takes his son on the mountain in order to sacrifice him. Once again this is a story of how God’s grace abounds in the midst of a horrible situation. And even when people are misled, and do the wrong thing, God knows how to use that situation in order for blessed things to happen. We always have to remember, that blessings are not just for us, they are for the people that follow behind. Isaac and his brother Ishmael had to survive, so that the good news of God’s grace could reach the present generation. And we can be grateful that God’s promises are eternal – they will stand for generations to come. Romans: Paul is telling the story of what it means to live inside of Christ. He reminds us that when we were in the world we were slaves to sin. In Christ, we are free to do what is right for us. We don’t talk about sin anymore. It is a dirty word. We tend to think that if we don’t talk about it, then it will not be a problem. But it does not work that way. If w ignore it, that is when it is more likely to show up. And when it shows up, we will have no control over it. Being a Christian does not mean that you can do whatever you want, what it means is that you have the mind of Christ. With the mind of Christ, you have sense to move on to something better. Freedom means that you have a choice, you can choose to do the right thing. How do we know we are sinning? Does our action lead to life or death. God wants us to have eternal life. Eternal life starts with what you do today. We cant live sinfree, but we can claim our life and repent and start all over. Live in Christ, and not in sin. Questions: What do you think of Abraham? Was he a nice person? What would have happened to us if Isaac had been killed in this story? How does God provide for you in unexpected ways? What does it mean to be a slave to sin? How can we be free of the effects of sin? How does Christ help us to resist sin? ThiT
Sunday, June 15, 2014
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for June 22nd: Genesis 21:8-21; Psalm 86:1-10,16-17; Romans 6:1-11; Matthew 10:24-39: Theme: God’s love for all kinds of people: Song: Just a Closer Walk with Thee FWS 2158 Genesis: For the week of Pentecost, we are dealing with Genesis. This is a time to look at families. Not necessarily how families should be, but how families really are. Family business can be ugly, messy, and even painful. And no matter how a family attempts to be perfect, there are always rough edges that need to be dealt with. Sarah and Abraham had been trying to have a child for years. When Sarah was ready to give up, she allowed her nurse maid to have a child. But now that Sarah had her own child, this was not going to work. So she sends Abraham’s first child away. Even though Sarah did not like Ishmael, he was still a part of God’s plan, God loved him. God vowed that even in exile, he would be an important person, as a matter of fact, the father of a great nation. Sometimes when we feel like the exiled child – we should know that God cares and takes care of us. Romans: Romans is such an important book about the foundation of our faith. It tells us what it means to live inside of Christ. This passage tells us what it means to die in Christ. It talks about baptism. When we go under the water, then we are die with Christ, when we come out of the water we rise with Christ. But we have to remember that without death, there is no life. The sin inside of us has to die in order for grace to truly take its place. No matter how we slice it, we are a sinful people. And without Christ we become comfortable with our sin. Sin takes over our lives. Christ died so that we can be free of that. We can live a better way. But if at any time we decide that we don’t need Christ, then sin will take over again. We have to live our whole life in Christ, and intentionally declare that sin is dead. Baptism is a sign of God’s grace. The waters work forever, and will introduce us to a lifetime of God’s grace that continues to work in our lives. Questions: What kind of a family did you grow up in? How did they help you to understand your faith? What obstacles did you have to overcome? In times of exile, how did God show his presence? Do you remember your baptism? Do you remember what it means for your life? How do you struggle to overcome sin daily?
Sunday, June 8, 2014
Scriptures for June 15th: Genesis 1:1-2:4; Psalm 8;2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20; theme: Father’s Day ; Song: This is my Father’s World Genesis: This is the creation story to remind us that we were created from God. And thousands of years later God is still creating. There are many who would like to make up other stories of how we were created. We have a tendency to take matters into our own hands, and to make up our own beliefs. We have to be reminded that God is the center of the creation story, the point is about what God did and not about who we are. As a matter of fact, we are an important but small part of the story. I think that is a fitting scripture for fathers day – to remind us that our fathers, are sort of like God. They created us, but they also guide us and take care of us when we can’t take care of ourelves. But we thank not our fathers, but God for sending them into our lives. God asks each one of us to take a part in creation, to live a life that makes a difference. But we do not take credit for the small part we play, we give all glory, honor and praise to God. 2 Corinthians: Paul reminds us that God uses us to build his kingdom on earth. We all have a small part to play. This is his farewell to the Corinthian church. He reminds them and he reminds us that if God trust us, we should order our work in the same way that Christ does: put things in order, listen to my appeal, live in peace, greet one another. In order we should do everything with order, peace and respect. And we will see the fruits of our labor. But more importantly, God will be able to use us for his purpose. It is a lesson on how fathers (and mothers) should order their household and raise their children. This is a very short verse, but with a very big lesson for us to hold onto. Questions: What do you think of when you the creation story? In light of all of the scientific evidence, is the creation story even relevant? How does God call us to be a part of creation? What part does man play in the story? What difference does it make to have an orderly life? why is peace so important in an community? Is peace and order possible in a community that you do not have a relationship with? Why does God give the work to a community and not just individuals? What does it take to bring unity in a community?
Sunday, June 1, 2014
Scriptures for June 8th: Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:24-34,35; 1 Corinthians 12:3-13; John 7:37-39; Theme: Pentecost; Song: Many Gifts, One Spirit UMH 114 1 Corinthians: This is an important scripture as we think about our spiritual gifts and how we are supposed to use them. We are all different people, we all have difference roles, God speaks to us in different ways. And yet we serve the same God. It is the same Spirit that leads us, and it is important for us realize that everything that we all do is for the same purpose – to usher in the kingdom of God hear on Earth. Sometimes it is so easy for us to disagree with one another, and to assume that other Christians do not know what they are talking about. And yet I think that is the big point of Pentecost. The tower of Babel proved that we cannot work together, we are all not on the same page. And yet it is important to realize that if we are in touch with God, God will put us in touch with others. It is the same spirit that lives in each of us. Acts: This is the official story of the Pentecost event. Jews from all over the world had come into Jerusalem for the 50 days after Passover celebration. But this year something was different. Everything that they had been waiting for had finally happened. They could stop waiting for change, because change was upon them. There were also 50 days since the resurrection. Jesus had said that the Holy Spirit would come and give you power, and the Spirit was indeed present. All of the pieces started to fall into place. People started to understand one another. People had been given the energy to witness to the love of Jesus Christ in their lives. The disciples had been waiting for this power for quite some time, and it was finally here. It was time to recognize that power and to harvest it for their lives, so they would have the power to change lives. Questions: What are some ways that prove that we in the church are not on the same page? What are some ways that you see that we are united, and God is using us? What spiritual gifts has God given you? How are you using them? How is the spirit empowering you to do your job? What do you do to listen to the spirit? How do you see the spirit working and making a difference in the world?
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Scriptures for June 1st: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53; Theme: Ascension Day; Song: He is Exalted Ephesians: The church of Ephesus was a very intentional community. Paul uses them as an example of what it means to live our life in Christ. That is Paul’s major point to all of us. That we can be nothing without Christ. But we are everything with Christ. And if we take on Christ as our inner being it effects who we are and how we treat other people. Paul was proud that when people talked about the Ephesians, they talked about how loving there were to each other and to others. When visitors came, they always felt welcome. Paul wanted to encourage them to continue to use this power. To continue to go further in Christ power to change the world. And when Christ takes full power of all of the earth and heaven you will be rewarded. Luke: This is the Sunday that we remember that Christ did indeed ascend into heaven as he promised. This is he scripture that he does ascend. Jesus wanted to make sure that his disciples witnessed this event and were able to tell others what happened. He even called all of them together. Jesus reminded them that he has taught them all that they needed to know. He had empowered them to do their job. They can go forward in peace. He also wanted them to know that he had given them all that they needed. He did not want to be the center of his disappearance. He did not want them to be paralyzed in grief. He wanted tem to jump in and get to work. He wanted them to rejoice, not to cry. He reminds them that they have to power of God to change the world. We to have that power. Questions: What is the reputation of your congregation? What do people say when they leave? What does it mean to live in Christ? How does hope make a difference in your life? How do we witness to Christ today? What do we need the power to change today? How are you a witness to Christ’s rising?
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Scriptures for May 25th: Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21; Theme: the presence of God is everywhere Song: Spirit of the Living God UMH 393 Acts: I love this verse. Paul is speaking to the Athenians about an unknown God. He point out that they worship God even though they don’t know God. God was there even when they did not know it. When people become Christians, we are not introducing something new to their hearts. We are naming a relationship that has always been there. We are created to worship, we are created to seek God. But this world does not always give us good directions to what is already with us. Paul is telling us that we don’t find God among the brick, morter or even gold. God is a living being. God is alive and a part of our lives. God has a mind of God’s own. Our task is to pray, to read the bible, to study so that we can identify the living God. It is not enough to have a relationship with God, we have to have a living relationship with what is truly an unknown God. He is not a figment of our imagination, he is truly real. 1 Peter: Where can you go where God is not in control? Where can you go that Jesus in not the Lord. Jesus Christ is Lord of all. He is always in control. There are indeed places where we wish God was not around, we wish that we had some privacy, but that is not the case. God is with us all of the time, and in every situation. Peter is trying to help us to realize that believing in Christ is not just about our head, but about our lives. When you hear the gospel, you should be prepared to live it. To let Christ in, and know that he makes a difference in our lives. The good news is that when we are at a lost of what to do, Christ acts on our behalf. That is the meaning of grace. Once we accept Christ in the midst of our dark hidden places, that is when we come to understand what it means to be saved. Christ does not take the darkness away, he makes the light more relevant. He changes our minds and our hearts, so that we don’t need to spend as much time in the darkness. But seek the light of God. Questions: Where do you go when you need to talk with God? How do you know that God is truly real in your life? In what places in your life do you try to shut God out? How does God help you to feel comfortable in your life? How can you help others to discover the presence of God in their lives? What does it mean to be a missionary, even when you are in your hometown?
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Scriptures for May 18th: Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14; Theme: We are chosen by God; Song: His Eye is on the Sparrow FWS 2146 1 Peter: The bishop Peter is trying to demonstrate to the church community what it means to be a Christian. I know that I seem to say that each scripture that we deal with is one of my favorite. This is my favorite message of the bible – that we are special. All who have been baptized are a part of God’s family. God is royalty, Jesus is royalty and so are we. We are special, and God gives us a special grace. But that does not mean that it is time to rest on our laurels and expect to be saved. God rolls out the red carpet for us, so that we can roll out the red carpet for others. That royalty comes with a responsibility. We have a responsibility to be witnesses to God to those who don’t know God. We acknowledge how we are sinners, and how God has brought us through. When we tell others about our life, we tell them about the goodness of God. We invite them to be a part of God’s royal family also. John: Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples. He has taught them all that they need to know, and now he must prepare them to do without him. This is a part of Jesus farewell speech after the Passover. He shows them what it means to be a servant. He was a servant of God’s will, and they should be a servant of him. Being at the top means no so much getting accolades, but having the humility to give accolades. Jesus us indeed showing them the face of God in his actions. They ask how to see God, and he says that God is in his actions, his love, his devotion. When we are the face of Jesus to others, then they too are able to see God through us. Our power is given to us by Christ himself. And if we ask Christ to be with us in our service, he always will. Jesus is in a place prepared for us that we cannot follow, but Jesus is always with us to do the right thing. Questions: What is it that makes you special? How do you feel special in the presence of Christ? Why is Jesus special to us? Does being special make a difference in your life? Just because you are special, are you better than others? How do you have to confidence to help those who can’t return the favor? How do you witness to others? Just because people are mean to you, does that mean that God does not love them? Sunday
Saturday, May 3, 2014
Scriptures for May 11th: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25 ;John 10:1-10 Theme: the Good Shepherd; Song: Precious Lord UMH 474 Psalm: This is a classic Psalm that we have all known for years. But do we really take the time to think about what it means for us. What does it mean for the Lord to be your shepherd? If the Lord is a shepherd, then we are sheep. Sheep, who are not able to take care of ourselves, but who do have sense enough to understanding love and care when we see it. Who understand that the Lord can take care of us better then we can take care of ourselves. Life is not always easy for us, but when we look back upon it, we can see that we are indeed being led to a better place. That we were protected from danger. In this life, we get a little glimpse of what life would be like, if we were to take care of ourselves. We even have the power to be independent. In the end, the sheep makes the choice to live in the house of the Lord forever. John: This is mother’s Day, but the Fourth Sunday of Easter is also Good Shepherd Sunday. When we remember that Jesus is the good shepherd. In this verse, Jesus makes it clear that he is the good shepherd. Like a child who asks who is going to take care of me, the disciples are asking who is watching over them. Jesus explains that he is the good shepherd that watches over the sheep and keeps them safe. He also says that he is the gatekeeper. When it is time for the sheep to come home, only those who Jesus allows in will get home. This is to provide a safe environment for the other sheep. The wolf will always try to get in through the gate, and come into the inner sanctuary and destroy. A shepherd develops a special relationship with his sheep, so that even though they are free to roam, they know when it is time to come home. They know when their sheep is calling them. How do you recognize the voice of God in your life? Questions: When have you experienced the Lord delivering you from evil? Do you make a choice to follow God or to follow your own voice? What does it mean for you to be a sheep? What do you have to give up in order to obey God’s voice? How to you recognize when God is speaking to you? Do you actively seek out the voice of God? Do you have to practice in order to give up your will and to follow his? Why do we need to be reminded that we are indeed just sheep in God’s world?
Saturday, April 26, 2014
Scriptures for May 4th: Acts 2:14,36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35; Theme: Recognizing the face of God in Everyday life: Third Sunday of Easter - Blessed Assurance UMH 369 1 Peter: We will be looking at the words of 1 Peter for the entire season of Easter. Easter season is a time of discipleship. It is tradition to baptize new Christians over Easter. And once they are a part of the church, everyone looks at what it truly means to follow Christ. Peter is talking to people who are discouraged. He is trying to give them hope. Or he is trying to help them to understand that they should have hope in their faith, then there is nothing that can be done to them. God is the judge of us all. But the God who judges, also as mercy. If you have been baptized, then you have been given a second chance. Not only a second chance, but a third and a fourth chance. If you trust in God, then you cannot fail, God will give you a chance to redeem yourself. Your faith should give you unshakable confidence to do anything that is good. Luke: This is a beautiful story that I cannot get enough of. It is the story of the walk to Emmaus. The disciples are trying to regroup and decide what to do . Two of them are walking alone the rode when a man asks them what is going on. The man pretends he does not know. But he knows, and he helps the disciples to realize the truth. He reveals himself and his plan in the breaking of the bread. Today when we take communion, we should also be able to see Christ clearly. We should be able to see what is going on in our lives. We should be able to see the way forward in our service clearly. This is the season for sightings of Christ, before he ascends into heaven. In his earthly life he was Jesus, in his spiritual life he is Christ. Christ is alive and well. It is time for us to recognize him in our lives too. Questions: What are your fears about your faith? How would you become stronger if you knew that you couldn’t fail? How can you gain more confidence in your faith? How did baptism change your life? what do you feel when you take communion? Has there ever been a time when you clearly saw God’s intention for you after communion? How can you help others to see Christ in their lives?
Sunday, April 20, 2014
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for April 27th: Acts 2:14,22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31 Theme: New Life, New Hope; Song: To Thine be the Glory UMH 308 Acts: Throughout the Easter season, we will be reading from the book of Acts. It is a testimony of how knowing for themselves that Christ has arisen makes a difference. It totally changed the lives of these twelve men. The spirit was with them in order to change the lives of others. They needed to tell the world who Jesus was for them, so that others could see who Christ is for us all. So we start out with Peter’s sermon of how good God is. Peter was preaching hope to a hopeless world, and they needed to hear that message so badly that they responded. If Christ could overcome death, then surely we have to strength to deal with our lives also. If God showed his love for Christ, then he will show his love for us also. The good news is that the message of hope did not stop with those who witnessed Jesus for themselves. We witness the power of Christ for ourselves. We still have hope in a God who loves us. 1 Peter: It is customary for new Christians to be baptized just before Easter. They have been studying all year to understand what it means to be a Christian, and the first of Easter, they get their chance. But they, like all of us find that the test are not over, once you confess Christ. In many ways, the test just begin. That is why Peter is giving us words of encouragement in order to withstand the trials of life. To make sure that God gives the glory in all things – even the things that challenge us. the trials and temptations don’t change, but the way that we deal with them does. Because of Christ we have hope that things will always get better. Because of Christ we have to strength to endure when they don’t get better. Most important we have the faith to make things better for ourselves. Once we are baptized, our lives should be a witness to Christ to the rest of the world, our actions should demonstrate our trust in the Lord in all things. It is our faith that brings us salvation says Peter. Questions: When was the last time that you witnessed to others about what Christ has done for you and what Christ can do for others? Does springtime bring a renewal of your spirit? How do you pass that on to others? How does faith in Christ help you in times of trial? Do trials make your faith worse or better? What would those who see you think about the strength of your faith?
Sunday, March 30, 2014
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for April 6th: Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans :6-11; John 11:1-45; Theme: the miracles of Jesus bring life; Song: He Lives UMH 310 John: Jesus comes into the world to turn everything that we understand about life on its head. And today it is death. We think that life comes before death, and Jesus is teaching us that death comes before life. We don’t have to be afraid of death, because there is a connection to life. Unfortunately, Jesus wont be able to come to bring any of us back to life, as he did for Lazarus. But he did teach us how to roll away the stone for others. There are many people in the world who are alive and well in the tomb. They are alive, but they are trapped and living in darkness. Jesus says that as Christians, we have to power to help others see a better life. We are all like Mary, we believe that if Jesus has been there for us, then things would have been different. When we are suffering, we want someone to make things better. As a Christian, you have the power to make things better. To be present for people. Being present doesn’t always mean having the answers, it means having faith. Jesus would never have been able to comfort Mary and Martha, or to answers the concern of if he had been present this would not have happened. Instead Jesus tells them that he is the resurrection and the life and to have faith. This man Jesus has power over conditions, over suffering and over death- he is the source of our salvation. We don’t always have to have the answers, we can have the faith. Death has already come, now it is time for us to see what comes next in faith and life. Questions: Who do you know that is suffering right now? How can you bring them comfort? How can you bring them to Jesus Christ? How have you experienced death? What about new life? how does your faith help you get through the tough times in life?
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for March 2nd: Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 99; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9; Theme: Transfiguration Sunday Song: Awesome God FWS 2040 Exodus: Epiphany begins and ends with a call from God. When Jesus was raised up from the water, he was a dove, and heard the words this is my beloved son. Transfiguration Sunday is all about going up to the mountain top and coming back changed. The old testament lesson tells us that this is not the first time that God spoke. He also blessed Moses and had regular conversations with Moses. Moses goes up on Mount Tabor so that he can receive the ten commandments. He speaks with God, and those looking up can see the cloud and the glory of God. They know that God is with Moses through this process. When Moses returns, it is obvious that he has been in the glory of God. No one can face God and remain the same. When you pray, when you feel God’s spirit upon your life, what happens to you? Matthew: This event is covered in all of the gospels. It is the story of the transfiguration. Jesus goes up on the mountain to pray, and as he prays his disciples see that his appearance changes. He is on the same mountain as Moses, and he has the same experience. It is important to note that this was a time of Holy prayer for Jesus. He knew that he was on holy ground, and in a holy presence. He knew that prayer changes things. The disciples were not quite sure of how to handle this situation. They had no idea of what happened (until much later). They were afraid and at a loss at what to do. Jesus tells them to tell no one, until after the resurrection. Resurrection? What Resurrection? This is the beginning of a very long journey to the cross for Jesus and the disciples. But God has blessed that journey and assured Jesus that even in the midst of the trouble, that God will be with him every step of the way. Questions: Where do you go to talk to God? Have you ever seen God’s glory in your life? What did you do? How did you respond to God? How have you been changed from an encounter with God? How do you deal with the fear of knowing that everything in life is changing? How can you trust God in the midst of change?
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for February 23rd: Leviticus 19:1-2,9-18; Psalm 119:33-40; 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23; Matthew 5:38-48; Theme: It is not you, it is Christ in you; Song: Precious Lord – UMH 474 1 Corinthians: Paul has been teaching us what it means to become a healthy community. We must be careful to take our cues from God and not from normal behavior. Last week Paul told us that we are co creaters of God’s kingdom. This week Paul says that we are the building of God. The foundation of the future is our behavior. The foundation of the past was what our ancestor taught us. God certainly sends leaders and guides to teach us. But we are not to put our trust in them, but we are to put trust in the way God is leading them. Some people want the praise and acknowledgement, but in reality they are nothing unless the spirit of Christ shows through in their actions. We talk a lot about the building of God’s kingdom. The foundation of the kingdom is in our heart. We are the temple of God. Thus we have to treat our body, our soul, our mind, our thoughts with care. We have to open our hearts, so that God can use us. Matthew: Jesus continue his if this then that statements. Jesus reminds us that we are to go above and beyond even the standards set in the bible. We have to challenge ourselves to go above and beyond the standard. We also have to realize that the only way to rise above human nature is to have a relationship with God. We base our standard on behavior on the way God treats us, not the way man treats us. We do what we do for God not for ourselves. When we strive for a higher standard, those who are less faithful come to understand that it is possible, but they also understand that they need Christ in their life to make it so. When our behavior changes the world becomes a better place for everybody. Isnt that truly what it means to build the kingdom of God? Questions: How are you working to build the kingdom of God? How is God helping you with that project? Do you like to have acknowledgement for what you are doing? How does God say thank you for what you do for him? What do you do to love your neighbor? Do you honestly try to live up to God’s standard? Can people tell you are Christian based on your actions? When have you been able to turn the other cheek? When have you loved your enemy?
Sunday, February 2, 2014
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for February 9th: Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 112: 1-10; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16; Matthew 5:13-20; Theme: Put Discipleship in action; Song: Guide My Feet – FWS 2208 1 Corinthians: This is the age of distrust of pastors. There have been a lot whom lay people feel have misled them. That makes it difficult for those who come after them. Apparently things have not changed much since Paul’s time. There were other preachers who came to Corinth, but they did not have the best interest of the Corinth community at heart. So before Paul can teach them about what it means to be community, a church; Paul has to undo the damage. He has to tell them what it means to really be a preacher. The Greeks place an importance on wisdom. But Paul tells us that the wisdom of God and the wisdom of people are not the same. The wisdom of God is not a mystery. You come to understand God, with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit leads us to the mind of Christ in the word. If we want to understand God, we have to understand Jesus. If you want to understand Jesus, you have to read the New Testament. It is the Spirit that helps you to live according to it. Paul is leading the Corinthians to understand what it truly means to understand Christ. We learn not through our own thinking but through obedience to word. Matthew: This is a continuation of the sermon on the mount. Jesus is speaking specifically to those who want to be his disciples. He taught us what it means to be a Christian. The type of character we need to have. Now he is encouraging us to put our faith into action. To be the salt of the earth. It is our actions that truly make a difference in the destiny of mankind. Our lives are no longer about ourselves, it is about what we do for the world. What we do for the world, is what we do on behalf of Jesus. A light is not hidden, it is put on a pedestal so that everyone else can see. When we decide to become disciples, our actions are put before the rest of the world. People see Jesus , based on what they think of us. the message is that we should be present to make a difference. Show the world that there is hope to change things. Questions: What is the wisdom of Christ? How do you experience it? How do you use it? How do you know that a preacher is authentic and has a relationship with God? Do you want to change the world, or just follow along? How does your faith make you stand out from the rest of the world? What does it mean to be a disciple? It is hard work?
Saturday, January 25, 2014
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for February 2nd: Micah 6:1-8; Psalm 15; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12; theme: The power of the sermon on the Mount and blessings; Song: Trust and Obey UMH 467 1 Corinthians: Sometimes, when we should be thinking about what it is the brings us together under the love of Christ, we as a church seem to get caught up separates us. We work on defining our beliefs, and shutting out those who don’t think like us. Paul spends a lot of time helping us to put our difference aside. Paul says the wisdom of man does not impress God. Those who are not smart have just as much wisdom as those who do not. Those who are poor have just as much to offer the church as those who do not. There is never anything that we can brag about as an advantage. Because all that we know, have and do is a gift from God. Our biggest challenge is to use what we have in order to make this a better world for all people. What we value is what God gives to all of his children. Matthew: The sermon on the Mount is another reminder that God uses our weak points. That God’s value goes against the values of the world. It is times when we are suffering and times when we are down, that we can be confident that God loves us and is behind us. Christ is telling us that it is okay to suffer, it brings us closer to God. But he also tells us what values we should seek after. We have to be intentionally humble. Jesus goes onto the mountain, so that everyone can hear. This is not just a message for Jews, for those who are disciples, or even to those who are suffering. This is a message for all people. This is a life that we should all strive for. This is not just a message for our personal life, it is message for the community. Our mission is to serve the poor and to identify with a humble life. Questions: What are things that you consider to be an advantage over other people? How does God have a way of reminding you that we are all the same? How can we use wisdom and power that we have been given in service to Christ? How does the beatitudes hold you accountable? What is it that you need to work on? How can we as a congregation live out and teach the beatitudes?
Saturday, January 11, 2014
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for January 19th: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42: Theme: The suffering servant makes a difference in our lives – Epiphany – Song: Great is thy faithfulness – UMH 140 Isaiah: The prophet Isaiah is telling us what makes him a prophet. What makes him want to encourage his people during one of the worst times in their lives. He realizes that his life is much bigger than he could ever be. He realizes that none of us are put on this earth just for ourselves. And whatever we do, and whatever attitude we do it in has ripple effects throughout our lives and throughout the world. He says that God called him before he was born to this task, and as he goes through life he can hear the voice of God very clearly. He must give a message of hope. He must help the people of Israel to understand that God chose them to show his glory to the whole world. There is no place for discouragement in this process. “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” John: Last week we had Matthew’s version of Jesus baptism and this week we have John’s. John the gospel writer is not so much into explaining details, but in giving meaning and pointing to the importance of Christ in our lives. When John the baptizer sees Jesus coming, he says here is the land of God, who takes away the sins of the world. There is no question of if Jesus was not a sinner, why was he baptized. This was all done for show – so that others could see God’s intention for Christ and for the world clearly. The disciples were in the audience, so when they say what Jesus did, it was clear that he was the son of God. They not only understood Jesus purpose for the world, they understood their own. He was the messiah, they were called to follow and to obey him. Questions: who in your lifetime has been an example of a suffering servant? How has God been speaking to you all of your life? How have you responded to that calling in your life? What does it mean to you that Jesus was baptized, even though he was not a sinner? How does your baptism help you to follow Christ? How does it help you to understand what it means to be a Christian?
Saturday, January 4, 2014
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for January 12th: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17; Theme: Baptism of Christ; Song: I am Going to Sing when the Spirit Says Sing – UMH 333) Isaiah: This is called a servant song. It talks about all of the things that a messiah will do. It reminds us that our task I serving God is I serving others. We have to be patient, we have to be humble, we have to have a relationship with God. Justice and mercy are important to God. So it much be important to our service. Jesus took these songs seriously as an example, and he made sure that he could follow this example in all that he did. God has a history of salvation and creation. God makes sure that in every generation, that he continues this work. The example of the suffering servant is not just for Jesus, it is for us also. We have to sacrifice our will for God will. And live as God wants us to. If we serve him, he will not only empower us, he will reward us for our faithfulness. We have to know that as we serve God, that we also hope and work for a new world. It is not our vision, it is God’s vision. God gives each of us a part to play in his heroic act of salvation. We don’t have to be the servant, but how else to we truly learn to love God? Matthew: We are following the life of Jesus. The verses that talk about the childhood of Jesus are very few. That was not important for the early Church. Easter was celebrated much before Christmas. Actually, the beginning holiday for the church was the epiphany season. The baptism of Jesus was when he realized his call from God. It was when God acknowledged to the world that this was his son. It was the beginning of Jesus ministry. We don’t realize that his teachings was only one year of his life. When we are baptized, we too are empowered to start our life in Christ. When we get baptized, we have just as much power as Christ does, and we have to power to teach, to evangelize, to heal. So it is importat to remember our baptism, so that we can remember our power. Questions: What does it mean to suffer for God? What does it mean to be rewarded by God? What justice work needs to be done in your community? How do you prepare yourself to do that work? What does baptism mean to you? How do you live out your baptism? How does God affirm your work (and if it is of God you will find some affirmation)? How does God equip you? How have you experienced the power of God to help you? What do you think of the baptism of the kids in the church?