Saturday, February 26, 2011


a) K
b) RY
c) SE

1) What do you worry about most? (Most often or the biggest worry.)

(The Message) Matthew 6: 19-24 A Life of God-Worship (Jesus is speaking)
“Don't hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it's safe from moth and rust and burglars. It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!
“You can't worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you'll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can't worship God and Money both.”

2) Do you get how Jesus says the thing that you treasure is where you’ll spend your time? Can you think of any examples?

Matthew 6:25-34
"If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

3) What is Jesus saying? What does the part about birds mean? What about the flowers?

The Bible never pretends that life is perfect, or that following Jesus means things will be easy. In fact there are plenty of warnings that it will bring difficulties and opposition. It was the same or worse for the Israelites. But still, Isaiah wrote:
Isaiah 49:13-16
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones.

But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me."

Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.

4) “Zion” is another way to refer to the Israelites. What is God’s promise here?

What’s Paul’s advice about this? 
Phillipians 4:4-9
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

5) Seems like this boils down to two things.


The author of Hebrews (maybe Paul, maybe not) lets us know that God’s promise to the Israelites (in Deuteronomy 31) applies to us, too:
Hebrews 13:5-6
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

6) Does this seem like it would help you with worry? Why or why not?

Winston Churchill, prime minister of England during World War II, who had things to worry about, said, “When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”

7) What did he mean? Does his view match what Jesus and te Bible says?

8) Jot down one thing you got out of this study:

Web resources:
  • My new favorite: The Hardest Question, where pastors share their reflections on the upcoming week's readings.  Great resource for people who't teaching or study parallels the liturgical calendar.  Even the comments are helpful.
  • Free Bible Study Guides Dealing with Worry
  • Diana Gray's Are You Worried?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Jesus - Human and Divine

So last week we found out we need to be perfect, even as God is perfect.  And, no surprise, we cannot do it.  Just can't.  But it's okay, because Jesus can, and did, and does for us.  So... how can he do it?

This week we're adapting a lesson from the Emerging Youth blog, which is worth checking out.  Jesus: Human and Divine.

Split into 2 groups: human and divine.  Give each a poster paper, and ask them to put on evidence that Jesus is what their group has.

After a few minutes, support them with these scriptures:

Team Human: Matt 8:24, Matt 21:18, Mark 3:5, John 11:35, John 11:36, John 12:27
Team Divine: Matt 1:21, Luke 1:31-32, 1 Thess 1:10, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 1:8

When both teams come back, create a Venn diagram about which qualities, characteristics and attributes intersect with both natures.

The link above has other resources, including videos and songs (some of my favorites), that go well with this lesson.

One of the resources is this tremendous poem, which was new to me.

One Solitary Life by Dr. James Allen Francis
He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty
He never wrote a book
He never held an office
He never went to college
He never visited a big city
He never travelled more than two hundred miles
From the place where he was born
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but himself
He was only thirty-three
His friends ran away
One of them denied him
He was turned over to his enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing
The only property he had on earth
When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend
Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind’s progress
All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life.

Photo credits: Joseph Y. Go @ Flickr

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Top Ten

Top Ten
Reasons we need Jesus

The Ten Commandments are big. Even people who know nothing about the bible have heard of them. They probably don’t know what they are…

1) How many can you name off the top of your head?

Exodus 20:1-17 The Ten Commandments (Also found in Deuteronomy 6.)
And God spoke all these words: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Which are the 10? It turns out different churches count them differently.
2) Number them where you think.

3) People sometimes feel like they can keep these. Not so hard. How about you?

Which one is which is not so important. What is important, is that these became a way of summing up the Law. For Jews, keeping the Law was the most important thing about honoring God. All the rules, and there were thousands. That’s why Jesus was so shocking, when they thought he was not following the Law.

Matthew 5 The Fulfillment of the Law
17-20 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
4) Fulfilling the Law? That’s probably more shocking than changing it. The idea here is that the Pharisees were practically perfect at law keeping. Better than that? What’s an expression we could have like that? If you’re not better at basketball than Michael Jordan, you’re not going to heaven.

Murder 21-22 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
(Raca was an insult at the time that meant ‘worthless.’)

Adultery 27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Oaths 33-34, 37 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all… All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Eye for Eye 38-42 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Love for Enemies 43-47 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

Finally Jesus just says: 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

5) What would it have been like for people hearing this? How would you feel if our pastor said, “Basically, you all have to be perfect or you’re going to hell.”

But then there’s the Good News. Paul wrote in Romans 10:9-13
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

So Jesus was telling people that you can never be good enough. But just so that he could let us know that he was doing it for us.

6) Do you know many people who think they get to heaven by being good? What might you say to them?

Table and parchment from wikipedia.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Dear Men of Corinth

The very small adaptation of the 1st Corinth bible study for the men's group.  It's quite long.  If we're not getting close, I'll skip ahead to the last two questions.

Dear Corinth,
1st Letter of Paul to the Corinthians

Two of Paul’s letters that sometimes feel like he could be writing to me are his epistles to Corinth, an ancient city that received what are called 1st and 2nd Corinthians in the Bible.  Corinth was located between Athens and Sparta on a narrow strip of land (called an isthmus) and was very important in ancient Greece and in Rome.  It was such a wealthy city, that there was an ancient expression: “Well, not everyone can go to Corinth.”  Paul visited there twice, once for 18 months and once for 3 months.  He wrote these letters around the year 55 AD.

All passages today are from the book 1st Corinthians, so we just give chapter and verse.

1:17-25 Paul quotes Isaiah 29:14
1)    Is God ever foolish?  How can God’s foolishness be wiser than our wisdom? 

2:10-16  Paul quotes Isaiah 40:13
2)    This is one of the most direct teachings about the Holy Spirit in the whole Bible.  What does the Holy Spirit do for us?  What does not having the Holy Spirit make hard for other people?

In Chapter 5, Paul is dealing with a particular case, which for him seems to have a large lesson. 
3)    Since this was dealing with a particular case, does it have a meaning for us?  Paul is making a big deal of in the church vs. out of the church; why do you think?  What is the difference?

6:12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say-but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”-but I will not be mastered by anything. … 19-20 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
4)    This is one of the big tensions in a Christian life.  We’re forgiven, completely.  So we’re free.  Then why can’t we do anything?  What does Paul say about that here?

8:9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. … 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.
5)    Is there anything that you’re free to do that someone else might get in trouble for doing?

Paul makes another analogy for how a Christian should lead their life: 9:24-27
6)    Winning?  What does winning have to do with living like a Christian?  What is Paul trying to say?

The Corinthians were having weird problems with communion.  Doing it in different ways, some people eating it as a full meal, etc.  So Paul makes it simple: 11:23-29
7)    So what is Paul’s bottom line about how we should take communion?

Chapter 12 is worth studying all by itself.  It’s amazing in sharing how we all receive different gifts from God.
12:4-6 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
8)    Paul makes it so clear that we are all supposed to be ourselves, to be different.  Why is there so much pressure to all be alike?  To be the same? Do you feel that pressure in church?

9)    In other words, it’s not enough to do good things.  Why you do them matters.  Why would God care about why we do what we do, as long as we’re doing good stuff?


10)    Is this Valentine’s Day love?

15:3-5 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. …12-14 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  19-22 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
11)    Why is it not enough that Christ lived a great life, that he was a great teacher?  How much does resurrection of the dead matter to your faith life?

15:51-57 Paul quotes Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14.
12)    Even if everything else is uncertain, this is what it comes down to for Paul.  If someone asked you why you are a Christian, what is your bottom line?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Be Attitudes

(34,137,542nd time somebody’s made that joke.)

Let’s just try to make sense of this reading.  Matthew 5:1-12
(NIV) Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:
(Message) When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”

1)    What is a blessing?
2)    Is Jesus telling us to be these things to get a reward?
3)    Is Jesus giving the blessing to the people he’s describing? 
4)  Do you think about God being with you when things go well, or when things go poorly?

Sovreignity is the word people use to describe God being in control of everything.  Very sadly, when tragedy happens is when many people hear someone say to them “it must have been God’s will.”  The Sarcastic Lutheran, a preacher I like, said, “Maybe the sermon on the mount is all about Jesus’ seemingly lavish blessing of the world around him especially that which society doesn’t seem to have much time for, people in pain, people who work for peace instead of profit, people who exercise mercy instead of vengeance. So maybe Jesus is actually just blessing people, especially the people who never seem to receive blessings otherwise.  I mean, come on, doesn’t that just sound like something Jesus would do? Extravagantly throwing around blessings as though they grew on trees?... So if there is something we take away perhaps it is not to try and fulfill the conditions of receiving God’s blessing, but perhaps being God’s people is being a people who, like God, bless the world around us not on the basis of the world’s values but on the basis of God’s values. So I say let’s just make up excuses to bless people and places and things because it just seems so Jesusy and kind of fun and I’m pretty sure that human blessing and NOT human suffering is  “God’s will”.

Sarcastic Lutheran, Sermon on the Beatitudes 
Art: Will Humes at Flickr