Saturday, October 14, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for October 22nd: Exodus 33:12-23, Psalm 99, 1 Thessalonians 1:1010, Matthew 22:15-22 1 Thessalonians : This is one of the first letters written by Paul. Our scripture for today is the introduction of the whole letter, where Paul tells them that he is grateful for their faith, but reminds them that they have to put their faith into action. Thessalonica is a large metropolitan city with a lot of diversity. In some ways it was a home base as Paul bought the message to the Greeks. Paul reminds them that they started out as gentiles, but became an example of a church for all people as they professed their faith in Christ. He encourages them to be a beacon of what it means to be united. And to remember that the whole point of faith is to believe in the salvation of Jesus Christ. Exodus: By now, Moses has led the people out of Egypt, he has led them through their complaining and they are starting to understand what it means to be united as a nation. A nation united behind God. God has been giving Moses commands all along. Now Moses is asking for God to show God’s face. He wanted to personally know who he is talking to. God reminds Moses that God’s glory is too great, so the devises a way that Moses can see the shadow of the backside of his glorious face. God wanted Moses to know that as God told Moses what to do, that Moses was not alone in doing it. God was present and working alongside of Moses. God has a plan for Moses, for the Israelites and more importantly for us. It is important for us to have a personal relationship with our maker as we go through life. Questions: How do you put your faith in action? How is your church an example of a place for all different people to gather? What is your personal relationship with God? How does God communicate with you? How can your church be an example to other churches?
Sunday, October 8, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for October 15th: Exodus 32:1-14;Psalm 106:1-6,19-23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14 Philippians: Paul often uses references to running a race. He reminds us that faith is always moving forward. But this verse starts with Paul telling us to stand still. Stand still in the Lord. He continues to address the distress in the church, but he encourages reconciliation. For the sake of the mission, make up with the person you are mad at. He reminds us not to get caught up in believing rumors, but the believe in truth – to see truth. To know that God is always associated with the truth. Paul ends by reminding us that if we are able to stand still in Christ in the midst of chaos – there will be peace. A peace that surpasses all human understanding. Matthew: Jesus loves a party. He loves to gather people together. As a matter of fact, heaven will be a big party where everyone is invited to come. Unfortunately, not everyone who is invited will be willing to come. We come up with all types of excuses of who not to come when Jesus invites us. We are too busy, we are too tired, we have something else more important to do. In the end, no excuse is really good enough. There will be consequences for not coming to Jesus party. Always make time for the things of Christ, because you never know when it may be your last invitation. Our wedding clothes is the attitude that we bring with us when we come to church. Questions: How do you resolve conflict with others? How do you think about the truth? What does peace look like in your life? What areas do you need to find peace? What are your excuses not to accept Jesus invitation to a heavenly life? Where is there dissension in your life? Who do you need to make peace with?
Saturday, September 30, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for October 8th: Exodus 20: 1-4,7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3:4-14;Matthew 21:33-46 Exodus: This lesson is a teaching of the ten commandments. These rules are the backbone of a the Jewish life. These rules give them meaning and purpose as a community. It is not an accident that these rules were written in the midst of the wilderness experience. The Isrealites were walking away from Egypt with its established rules. They were a part of this society, but with no power – they were slaves. It was a society based on economic power. They were in the wilderness to create a society based on the love and loyalty of God. With this new community, they needed to create new rules. In Egyptian society a man was the head. In this new community God was the head. The rules were based not on getting ahead, but on getting along – along with one another and with God. Philippians: The 4 chapters of Philippians tell a very important story. In chapter 2 Paul tells us that Jesus had to empty himself in order to relate to humans. In chapter 3, Paul tells his own story of emptying himself and his life in order to serve Christ. He had attained a lot of status as a priest of his religion, until Jesus appeared to him and told him that all of that did not matter. God had a bigger purpose for him rather than attaining power and status. Paul could actually brag about his past, if he had not given it all up. He was a new person in Christ now. Paul goes on to encourage us to be faithful one step at a time. The only way we are going to win the race, is to run it at our own pace trusting in God to get us where we have to go. The only way we will win, is with God by our side. Questions: Are the ten commandments still relevant in today’s society? How do they encourage us not to be slaves to our economic status? Which commandment do you like the most? Which one is the hardest to keep? Have you ever sacrificed anything for Christ? Did you get it back in time? How is being faithful like running in a race?
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for September 17th: Exodus 14: 19-31; Exodus 15:1-11,20-21; Romans 14:1-12;Matthew 18:21-35 Romans: When we gather together in faith, we have all had different levels of training in church, we all have different definitions of what it means to be Christian. Paul is saying that just because we are different, that does not mean that we are better than others. When you find yourself putting yourself above others, then you need to be careful. We need to be mindful of others. The key to being the church is in being able to accept those who are different without judging them. We are all sinners saved by grace. Christ had a reason for inviting all of us to the table. We have to learn to all get along. Matthew: This is an important next step in learning to live in Christian community. Christian community is based on love and forgiveness. Peter asks how many times should he forgive someone before giving up on them. Jesus says that there is no limit to forgiveness. He then tells a parable about a king forgiving debts – this reminds us that when we judge others, God also judges us. We have had to have some of our debt forgiven. We should keep this in mind. The golden rule is to treat others the way you expect to be treated. Forgiveness is the golden rule of Christianity. We should do it as Jesus tells us to. Questions: how do you treat people who practice Christianity different from you? How do you overcome your differences with others? What does it mean to be weak in faith? When was there a time when you needed to forgive a Christian brother? Was it easy? Did you think about what the bible tells you to do.
Sunday, August 27, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for September 3rd: Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 105:1-6,23-36,45; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28 Exodus: This is the very important story of Moses’ first encounter with God. He stands on a holy mountain and it not only speaks, but it burns with fire. Moses has several physical encounters with God where God directs him. In this one, God tells him to go save his people. He has escaped slavery, but now he must go back in order to free others. But God gives him one very important key to do that – his name – Yahweh. This name means I will become what I will become. The God of the future. Matthew: Last week Jesus makes Peter the rock of the church. This week that conversations continues. Jesus has been actively teaching others the meaning of the messiah. Now that Jesus’ identity has been established, Jesus must prepare his disciples for the next step of his ministry – to go to Jerusalem to die. This is the point when this journey finally gets real. Jesus says some real harsh words, and tells them that if they are not for him then they are against them. He tells them that not only will they have to transform their understanding of their religion, they will have to transform their understanding of a messiah that is standing right in front of them. Once again if God is the future, are they coming along for the journey ahead or not. Questions: Have you ever had a holy encounter with God? What is Holy Ground in your life? How is God working in your life? How is God calling you for the future? Are you afraid to go? How would you describe the messiah in todays terms?
Sunday, August 20, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for August 27th: Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 124; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20 Romans: Paul has reminded us of all of the wonderful things that God has done for us. He reminded us that God is indeed there for us in all situations. Now Paul is telling us what our response is to God’s mercy. This chapter starts out with Paul telling us to be a living sacrifice. Not to kill ourselves, but to live our lives for God not ourselves. It is not a sacrifice to live for God. But it is an intentional way of living. It is easy to get caught up into what is going on in the world. It is easy to think that the goal of life is to be our best selves. Paul says that life is not about you it is about God. So he challenges us to use our gifts for the good of God. to know that God gave each of us a purpose in life. That understanding of life does not make us special, it should make us humble and willing to serve. Matthew: Jesus has been trying to teach the disciples about having faith in God. but they don’t seem to get it, until now. They are finally starting to realize that he is the Son of God. Jesus says that they did not get this knowledge from common sense, but a message from God. In this passage Peter makes the confession that he is the son of God. Now Jesus says that he can finally start to build his church. And Peter’s confession is the bedrock of the church. Peter is known as the first bishop of the church, ordained by God, because Jesus lays hands on him and says that he has the power to build. Today many of us have been ordained, not by the church but by God to continue to build. To believe for ourselves on the wonders of God, but to pass them on to others and to make a difference. Questions: What are your gifts from God? How are you using them to build God’s church? Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God, or is church just something to do? How do you know this? What are you doing to help others believe?
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Scriptures for August 13th: Genesis 37:1-4,12-28; Psalm 105:1-6,16-22, 45; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33 Genesis: As we look at the first book of the bible, we look at the first family of faith. We learn more about their mistakes, then their example. They are a typical family like one of our families. The episode for this week is a case of sibling rivalry. Jacob has twelve sons. But he does not love them equally. They all want to be loved, but Jacob loves the son of Rachel the most. He seems to spoil Joseph. Yet he is hard on all of the others. So, grown men decide that they are going to get rid of a troublesome little boy. Little do they realize that this event will have consequences that affect their family, their people and all people of faith. When they dump Joseph in a hole in the ground, they open the door to be saved from a famine. This is one of the first stories that we will hear about Joseph. And we learn how Joseph is an example of understanding and forgiveness in our own faith journey. Matthew: Interestingly when Jesus does a miracle for over 10,000 people, all he wants is some alone time. He had went off by himself when all of these people showed up. When they leave, he goes off alone again. This time the disciples are in crisis, they are caught in a boat in a storm. Jesus comes to them calmly walking on water. When Peter sees him, he wants to walk on water to. Jesus tells him that it is just a matter of faith. It is natural that we all want to do what we see Jesus do. No one has been able to walk on water. As a matter of fact, we have to be told not to walk on water, not to do miracles. I have a sign in my office that says, please do not attempt to walk on the water. Be human, be realistic, make sure that my trust is in keeping with my context. Let Jesus do the miracles. Questions: How do you feel about your sisters and brothers? How do you feel about your church sisters and brothers? Are their some people that you would like to dump in a hole? How can those people help you in ways you never thought of? How much do you trust in Jesus? When has Jesus come to save you from the waves of life?
Sunday, July 30, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for August 6th: Genesis 32:22-31, Psalm 17:1-7, 15; Romans 9:1-5, Matthew:13-21 Romans: Now that Paul has made a case for the omnipotence of God in all parts of our lives, He now speaks to his toughest audience – the Jews. If they are the children of God, then why do they need Jesus. Paul makes a case with them that God is doing a new thing through Christ. He says that he is telling the truth to them and not making something up. That God does indeed love the Jews, but God indeed loves all people and needed a way for others to have a pathway to him. He explains to them that Christ was a Jew and understand and respects what it means to be Jewish, so if those who are dependent on Christ, follow him they are akin to the Jews. But it is not the ways of the Jews that leads to salvation, but following Christ. Paul feel caught in the middle, but he is clear that the way to God is Christ. Matthew: The story of Jesus feeding the 5000 is present in all of the gospels, including John. This mirrors the events in the Hebrew Testament when God provided manna for those wandering in the wilderness. This story takes place in each gospel after John the Baptist has been killed. Matthew intentionally makes this the first act that Jesus does in response to starting his ministry. It tells us that Jesus can supply our needs. But Jesus also says that man cannot eat by bread alone. We need to have our bellies full in order to fully take in the gospel and to live according to it. We need to be fed spiritually. Since this story is in all of the gospels, it is an important story and one that fully demonstrated the nature of God in Christ. Questions: What part of the gospel still does not make sense to you? Are you able to accept it on grace, or are you a jew in heart and need proof? How are we like Jews? How are we different as Christians? Have you ever experienced a miracle of God? How has God used you to be a blessing to others?
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for July 30, 2017: Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11, 45; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33; 44-52 Romans: The book of Romans contains all we need to know about giving our lives to Christ. Chapter 8 is the pivotal chapter of the whole book. In it Paul gives a framework for living on earth, but living in the spirit of Christ. There is a constant battle between the spirit and the flesh. Paul says that the key to winning that battle is to have a prayer life. So Paul gives us a framework of what it means for us to pray, even when we do not have the words. A lot of times, we do not pray because we don’t believe that God can hear us, we are cut off from our own spirits. But Paul says that God is always with us. More importantly God always wants what is best for us and will provide a way for us to achieve it. In all of Paul’s writings, you will hear him talk about living in the spirit of Christ. That is what a Christian should strive for. We will never be perfect, but as long as we are connected and living in the spirit, God will understand us and forgive our sin. When we live in the spirit, we want to do what is right, even when we do wrong. We are always striving for something better. That is the definition of being saved. The spirit takes over our mind, our body and our soul. Matthew: in this second half of Mathew 13 Jesus continues to use parables to explain what the kingdom of heaven is like. None of us have ever been to heaven, so we have no context to put it in, so Jesus uses experiences from this earthly life to help us to imagine. Jesus tell five parables – heaven is like a mustard seed because size does not matter. Yeast that rises to the top. Hidden treasure – joy unspeakable. A merchant – a treasure. A net able to catch anything. And the scribe – able to be recorded. Why would we want to go to heaven if we did not understand it? Which is why Jesus spends so much time giving examples that we can relate to. Jesus says that anyone who wants to go to heaven should become a disciple, and disciples take what is old to define what is new – making the connection is the treasure. Questions: What does it mean to you to have a relationship with the spirit? Do you think that is a challenge to live in the flesh and the spirit at the same time? How do you overcome that challenge? What is the kingdom of heaven like for you? Which metaphor is most important to you? If you were describing heaven to someone, what would you say?
Sunday, February 5, 2017
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for February 12, 2017: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37; Theme: taking it one step further; song: They will know we are Christians by our Love 1 Corinthians: As Paul went around the countryside teaching people a new way, he realized that he had a lot of work to do and that he had to keep at it. People are generally smart about the ways of the world. But we have to be constantly reminded of the things of God. When we learn one thing, another things comes up. That is perhaps why Paul points out that the people were spiritually young minded, but that he had to work so that they could get more mature. He also knew that there were other teachers who were not as dedicated as he was. So he also warned the people to watch out for false teachings. But his last lesson is my favorite. That none of us have the monopoly on teaching – we all have an important part. One plants, another waters, another reaps the harvest. The harvest is not about us but all of the work that others have put into it. Because it is not our ministry, it is God’s. But he wants us to do our part in faith. Matthew: This lesson could be called not this, but that. Jesus tells the important parts of faith – fidelity, honesty, helping. But Jesus points out that being a Christian means going above and beyond what is expected. John Wesley point this out in stewardship also. Tithing is a mandate in the Jewish faith, everyone is supposed to give ten percent. But Jesus takes it one step further. He says that if it takes more, then give more. Do it all to the glory of God. And know that God gives us what we have, so we are called to give back and to obey God. Know that everything that you do is not about God, but about you. So don’t swear on your own abilities, you don’t know when they will fail. But trust and allow God to lead you where you need to be. If you use your strength you will get tired, if you use God’s strength you will do the impossible. Being a Christian is a lifestyle not just a moment. Questions: What part has God called you to play in the building of the kingdom? How can you let others help you? What do you have to trust to others? How can you go further in your devotion to God? What areas of your life do you need to work on? How can you trust God more?