Starting in Luke 9:51, Luke's narrative is geared toward getting Jesus to Jerusalem. As the story unfolds, we are presented with a question regarding our discipleship to Jesus. Do we really want to follow Christ? Jesus presents the costs of discipleship and we are left with a decision to make. Pay attention as Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem.
Having spent a great deal of time with his disciples, Jesus would marvel that his closest companions were still doubting who they were following. In a series of events, portrayed his power over evil, over troubling circumstance, over sickness and over death.
The inclusion of women in the Gospel narrative has also presented a challenge to traditional thinking in the first century. The attitudes toward women were often degrading and dismissive. We will briefly highlight Luke's inclusion of women in the gospel record and ask ourselves how we can remain faithful to the spirit of the usage of women in God's kingdom.
In one of Jesus most powerful and influential speeches, Jesus reveals his radical message of love, grace, forgiveness, and mercy. This famous sermon pronounces blessings on the lowly, curses to the high and mighty and invites us to reorient the way trust in God and treat others.
Luke's inclusion of stories featuring non-Jews presents for the reader a theme consistent throughout Luke-Acts. God's activity and plan of redemption includes everyone on the earth. Luke-Acts retells stories repeatedly of god's intention to include men and women of every race and every culture. In this story, we encounter a character whose faith led Jesus to pause and display amazement. We will explore that moment when God was amazed.
Like the other synoptic gospels (Matthew and Mark), Luke features several parables. Parables were a preferred method of teaching for Jesus. Through reflections offered by some individuals, we will explore the way the parables play a significant role in the teaching ministry of Jesus. These parables may highlight (but are not limited) to the shortsightedness of disciples, the importance of embracing sinners or the urgency of doing good and following God.
One author said that the scandal in the gospel of Luke is that Jesus ministry described what God looked like and that was offensive to the status quo. How does our view of God inform our view of ourselves and others? How does our view of God challenge the way we do ministry?
The popularity of the ministry of Jesus had a lot to do with his many instances of healing. Scattered throughout the gospel of Luke are the stories of Jesus healing. These healings were both physical and spiritual. His healing ministry was in complete harmony with his statement in Luke 5:31-32 - "Jesus answered them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'"
We now immerse ourselves in the ministry of Jesus. He is baptized, his ancestry is explored and his hometown reacts unfavorably to his message. How do we live in harmony with Jesus' calling, his ancestry, his ministry and his rejection by those who knew him best?
The introduction to both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts provide for us a window into intent unlike many of the writings of the New Testament. The author says pretty explicitly in his intro that he intends to write an "orderly account" so that Theophilus would know the certainty of what he has already been taught.
On the fourth week of Advent, we explore the faith and commitment displayed by Joseph and Mary who were chosen to be caregivers of the Messiah. The tender commitment to the Christ-child inspires us to live in response to the miracle of Christmas in faith.
On the second week of Advent, we explore the eyewitness accounts of two aged individuals. Both display passionate and emotional responses to the "Consolation of Israel". We learn from these passionate responses that this baby was destined to change the course of history for the world.
On this first Sunday of Advent, we begin our seasonal journey of exploration into the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. The Angelic response to the birth of Christ involved worshipful choruses as well as cosmic communication of the news to lowly shepherds, who in turned observed the birth and responded in worship and sharing the news. The presence of God in flesh is the ultimate call to worship and call to Go and tell!
In the conclusion of this series in Galatians, Paul makes his final plea against those who are insistent on teaching circumcision. Paul's final appeal takes us to the core of the gospel message - the Cross of Christ. It is the Cross that makes us new creatures, not circumcision (or any other ceremony).
In all of Paul?s letters, Paul commits time and space to speak to the relationship Christians have with one another. In Galatians, he urges the disciples to use their freedom to deal with the hardships of others. Freedom in Christ is not freedom to disregard brothers and sisters. It is all the more the reason to engage and help carry loads that were never meant for one person to bear.
Primary text(s): Galatians 6:1-10
To many, this dichotomy is the core message of Paul's letter. He marvels that the Galatians have seemingly made preference to the Law (Rules & Regulations) over God's extravagant Grace. Paul makes a compelling case and puts the recipients of this letter in the position to make the better choice.
The Galatians church was inundated with teaching that tried to syncretize Christianity with Judaism. As such, the Christians believed that their salvation would be the result of their performance of rituals and rules and not God?s work of Justification. Paul will make the strong case using the story of Abraham that salvation is a matter of Justification in Christ.
God's roadmap for mankind includes everyone even those who the Jews saw as unfit for God's love. Paul explains that his calling was from God to minister to the Gentiles and even opposed one the earliest and most prominent leaders of the early church, the apostle Peter. It also sets the stage for Paul's discussion of the yoke that Jews desired to place on Gentile believers.
Who were the Christians of Galatia and why did Paul start his letter off with such a stern warning against those who preach counterfeit gospels? In this introductory sermon, we will set forth the occasion of Paul's letter to Galatia and his attempt to convince the Galatians to celebrate their life of freedom in Christ.
"Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." ? 1 Peter 5:8 (NASB)
No one is immune to sin. The Bible states clearly in Romans 3:23 that all people have sinned and fall short of God's standard. There's no escaping that we all are imperfect.
There's also no escaping the fact that we are susceptible to sin in two ways:
We have an enemy that is out to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10a); and
Our flesh is weak and is lured by the things of this world. (Matthew 26:41)
Separated from Christ, our defenses are too weak and we will succumb to our struggles. Separated from community, we are isolated and are unable to be sharpened by our fellow believers.
Thus, we must readily prepare our defenses. We must rely on God's strength, read God's Word, and participate in Christian community. We cannot live apart from these safeguards without falling victim to a life controlled by sin.
The second part of John 10:10 encourages us that Christ came to give us an abundant life. Even though we may not be immune to sin, we do not have to live in bondage to our sin. We can live as new creations as we daily renew our minds and are increasingly transformed into the likeness of Christ.
"He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion." ? Proverbs 28:13 (NASB)
It's easy to believe that our sins are unique to only us. Pair that with the competing thought that we are the worst of all sinners, and we begin to feel trapped. A vicious cycle then ensues:
We continue to commit the sin.
We desire to stop committing the sin.
We feel like what we've done is unforgivable by God and/or people.
We hide our sin from others, spurning community and its healing accountability.
Repeat steps 1-4.
Sound familiar? There are many reasons that we become a slave to this cycle. Often, we become ensnared in consistent sin because we hope to avoid the consequences that we know we deserve. Or, we might be afraid to disappoint God, our friends, our family, and others. Even worse, sometimes we become content with our sin patterns and reach a point in which we don?t desire change.
Proverbs 28:13 makes it clear?if we continue to hide our sins, we isolate ourselves and create a barrier between us and God. But, if we confess our sins, we receive mercy and healing.
Mercy and healing are truly what we least expect when we confess. We expect to be hated. We expect others to look down at us and be disappointed. We expect that others will never trust us again.
Yet, 1 John 1:9 promises us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us. So when we expect judgment, we receive grace. People can surprise us, too. They are quick to love and forgive, and they desire to help us overcome our struggles.
The greatest danger to the epidemic of sin is confession and revelation. It's scary and unpredictable and that's what keeps many of us from full disclosure.
"But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy'"
? 1 Peter 1:15-16 (NASB)
When you think about the word "sin," what comes to mind? Often, we think of the big stuff, and with good reason. When celebrities, politicians, and even prominent church leaders are caught in scandals it's because they've stolen money, used drugs, or cheated on their spouse. At church, we often focus on avoiding these "big sins" ? adultery, addiction, sexual impurity, and any activity that could land us in jail. And let's be clear, we absolutely should avoid these things. None of these destructive behaviors are consistent with the life God intends for us.
The only problem with focusing on this list is that it allows us to minimize other sins. We think the "little stuff" ? a white lie or a lustful glance, for example ? is OK every now and then, as long as we don't go too far. When we rank sins in order of their seriousness, our little slip-ups don't seem so bad in comparison. Obviously, this is a trap. Why? Because we've based our understanding of sin, character, and integrity on our culture's sliding scale. Rather than pursuing God's standard for our lives as portrayed in Scripture, we compare ourselves to others. We draw arbitrary lines signifying what is "good enough" and then we try to stay on the right side of the line. As the passage above from 1 Peter states, we're called to lead lives that are holy in all we do.
In Ephesians 4:27, Paul the Apostle warns us not to "give the devil an opportunity." As Paul teaches the church at Ephesus about following Christ, his implication is that seemingly minor lapses can be exploited by Satan. Satan desires distraction and destruction in our lives, so it's wise to deny him even the slightest bit of leverage. Seemingly small compromises allow the devil to get his foot in the door of our lives. Therefore, as men and women who want to live fully surrendered to God and His kingdom, let us be wary of the temptation to compromise. When "little stuff" arises, let's slam the door shut.
"Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
? Hebrews 4:16 (NASB)
Temptation is everywhere. From food to television, what starts as an innocent moment in which the Lord delights can quickly turn into an ugly cycle that is not of God. When we are surrounded by both obvious and subtle seduction, sin that once seemed unthinkable loses its sting and begins to feel comfortable. Advertisements that assault us with their less-than-modest images become so familiar that we don't even think to turn our heads. A means of nutrition can easily turn into a pattern of inappropriate proportions. Our senses are so overwhelmed from moment to moment that taking a step back to reconnect with God becomes less of a priority.
We know that Christ promises that we are not alone in temptation. In some circumstances we hold tight to that promise, but in others we make excuses. We say, "It's just too much. There is no where I can go without being tempted."
The truth in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is encouraging: "No temptation has overtaken you, but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also so that you may be able to endure it."
There is an escape from daily temptations and it is always available. Philippians 4:6-7 says that as we talk to Jesus, his peace will guard our hearts and minds. Each day we can ask for protection from our struggles and when we fall we can receive mercy and grace.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
? Romans 3:23 (NASB)
In general, we prefer to do the right and moral action when we are faced with difficult situations. For most of us, our conscience kicks in and helps us desire to stand for righteousness. But our enemy and flesh still have a way of weaving sin into our lives when we least expect it.
Since we all fall short of God?s standard of perfection, it should not surprise us that we can find the effects of sin everywhere. We can see the effects at work, home, and even church. There is no safe place to hide away from sin.
Being on the lookout for temptation and potential pitfalls is certainly a wise approach to life. However, we must also recognize that our enemy is deceptive and his goal is to entangle us in sin where our guard is down.
The bad news is, with sin ever-present in this world, we will fail. Time and time again, despite our best efforts, we will slip up and disappoint our friends, family, church, and God. The Bible is filled with Scripture that reminds us of our fallen nature and our propensity to sin. This propensity to sin is evident with the people we read about in the Bible. Though many of them (King David, Peter, and Samson, to name a few) walked closely with God, they each had moments in which they failed spectacularly.
The good news is that Scripture reminds us that our enemy will one day be defeated, and in the meantime, his tactics can be beaten. James 4:7 encourages us to obey God and stand up to the devil?s schemes. In doing so, the Bible promises us that the devil will flee.
Our calling is to live in obedience to God. His desire is to protect us from sin and its consequences. Thus, when trust His promises and remember that His path leads to life, we can overcome Satan?s attacks and the deception of sin.
"There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins."
? Ecclesiastes 7:20 (NASB)
It's hard enough that we have to deal with our own fleshly desires, but there is also a real enemy that actively attacks us. His end goal is always sin and its consequences.
Young or old, spiritually mature or a new believer, no one is immune from sin. Even Christ had to fight against temptation. There is much to learn about overcoming sin from Matthew 4:
Jesus was prepared for the devil?s attempts because He knew God?s word (see Psalm 119:11).
If Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus, imagine the kinds of tricks he will use with us! Spending time in prayer with God and in community with his followers helps us develop discernment (see Proverbs 1:5).
The devil is persistent, but trust the Lord and stay strong in the truths you have learned (see Psalm 40:2).
"Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.' God will not leave you alone (see John 14:26-27).
In Matthew 26:41, Christ tells us, "Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." One of the worst mistakes a Christ follower can make is to think they won't commit
a specific sin. When we think we are stronger than temptation, we forget to wholeheartedly seek the Lord, and then we are vulnerable to attacks. The enemy plays at our weaknesses and loves it when we forget to guard against him.
We can hold tight to the promise of victory over sin (1 Corinthians 15:55-58), but we are human and we will
struggle. In those times, we can praise God for His Son who redeemed us and we can confess our sins while
At the conclusion of Solomon's musings, he offers one of the most simplistic and to the point messages found in scripture. "The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you." Ecclesiastes 12:13 MESSAGE While this statement appears to be empty of explanation and details, when coupled with all that Solomon wrote prior to this statement, it is actually rich in helping us to arrive at meaning and functionality in life.
Two or three or four is better than one! Foolishly, we sometimes think doing life alone is better than doing life in community. The futility of this thinking has led many to dismiss that power of a group. Solomon said two is better than one. In our quest for meaning, it is important to involve the presence of God and others as the process of self-discovery is much better as a group project.
Solomon wrote there is a time and season for everything under the sun. None of us are excused from experiencing activities of life including pain, loss, death, fatigue and disappointment. But how does the one who believes in God handle these seasons?
Have you ever asked the question, "What is my purpose in life?" This is a question that haunts and angers many because seemingly they never arrive at an answer. Solomon lived a life of excess (money, power, sex) and at the end of it all he exclaimed, "Meaningless". As we kick off this new series, we will explore popular culture's definition of meaning and see how it compares to God's definition.
What If... We spent 30 days in the Word and Prayer?
The plight of churches of Christ throughout the American Restoration Movement has been one marred with debate, division and discord over the interpretation of some biblical passages. Most of the discord flows from good intentions to be accurate in interpretation, but also an unwillingness to wrestle with the tension often offered in scripture. What do we do when that which we want to be clear, isn?t as clear as we suppose?
Primary text(s): Acts 17:10-12; Luke 6:27-28; Judges 11:31-34; John 5:37-40
What If... We spent 30 days in the Word and Prayer?
The most consistent practice of the people of God from the beginning until now is the practice of prayer. As we explore the prayer offered by Solomon at the dedication of the temple, we will look at what it means to become a community shaped through prayer.
What If... We spent 30 days in the Word and Prayer?
Prior to the invention of the printing press by Guttenberg, there were few copies of the Bible available. As such, church communities relied on the art of listening in communal worship and gatherings. Today, there are billions of copies of the bible available, yet we still struggle with listening. Whether we are praying or reading scripture, we need to be a listening community. During this worship experience, we will read through Psalm 119. There will be limited commentary on the text. We will engage in the simple act of reading and listening.
What does YOUR list look like? Are you dotting all the 'i's and crossing all the 't's? How often does Satan remind you of your failure to do what is right? Let's take a look at whether we can know if we're good enough. Primary text(s): John 6:22-40; Micah 6:8; Amos 5:15; Deuteronomy 10:12-13; Galatians 5:19-21; Romans 3:10-20; Romans 7:14-25; Romans 8:1-4; Romans 8:31-39; Ephesians 2:1-15.
Will our church put on even footing the command to love God and the command to love one another? It starts right here in the body as Paul encouraged the church to always do good, especially to those in the family of God. Key Passage(s): Galatians 6:1-10
The conclusion of this series involves a commission. How "great" that commission will be remains to be seen. Yet the greatness of this commission will be determined by our understanding of the mission that God has laid before us. By looking at the personal call of Isaiah and the communal call given to the "Twelve", we will be encouraged to go forth as those ignited by the fire of God!
Key Passage(s): Isaiah 6; Matthew 28:16-20
It isn't a foreign encouragement for followers of God to allow their lives to be surrounded fully and totally by God. In allowing God to consume us on the inside, we see the organic movement of this change on the outside of us. God understands that he is competing for your attention. Does he have your attention?
Key Passages: Deuteronomy 4:15-24; Hebrews 12:14-29
As Disciples of Christ, we understand the metaphor of fire to represent life, light, activity, influence and faithfulness. Thus it is our constant desire for God to keep the fire burning within us. Constant attention must be given to our spiritual lives including attention given to our relationships, our habits and our outlook on life.
Key Passage(s): Leviticus 6:8-13; 2 Corinthians 4:7-16
The Psalmist writes, "I rejoiced with those who said to me, 'Let us go to the House of the Lord'" What would happen if we stopped saying "we have to go to church" and started saying "we get to go to church"? Our enthusiasm in approaching God in worship can be an igniter for our collective souls. Thus our lives, no matter what the circumstance might be, would be lived full of joy, excitement and the anticipation of God?s lingering presence.
Key Passage: Psalm 122
As the ultimate servant leader, Jesus modeled that an effective servant leader would engulf himself/herself in building relationship with those who follow. In this final sermon, we will engage with Jesus? ministry of relationship and his call to us to continue this model for generations to follow.
Primary text(s): John 15:5-17
Servant leaders should be only willing to expect followers to do what they are willing to do themselves. Jesus command to wash one another?s feet was intensified when he himself got on his knees and washed feet first. Thus servant leadership is not telling what people to do, it is being.
Primary text(s): John 13:1-16
Servant leaders are consumed with the task of helping others grow and mature in Christ. It becomes the heartfelt joy of servant leaders to see the growth of others and the growth of the church. Since growth of others is so key, cooperation with others is preferred over competition with others.
Primary text(s): Ephesians 4:7-16
Servant Leaders are not seduced by the trend to obtain as much power as they can. They are much more concerned about empowering others to fulfill their mission in Christ as members of the kingdom of God. Thus servant leaders reduce obstacles and help others seek opportunities.
Primary text(s): Colossians 4