Vacation – June 18

Text: Ephesians 3.14-21 (Read it here)20160618

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

(Ephesians 3.20-21, NIV)

Appealing to a Higher Power
Author: Matthew Killough

Who is the highest power you can appeal to? Who is the highest power you have ever appealed to? Growing up in Grants, NM boasting about a higher power was a common occurrence when I was a young child. This was largely due to the fact that Grants was full of extended families. Here is what I mean: a group of children would be playing in the neighborhood when one child would hurt another, sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose. Then the threats would begin, “My brother is going to beat you up… he is on the high school football team!” The other would fire back, “My cousin can beat up your brother… he has a purple belt in karate!” Back and forth it would go until someone would claim their cousin was a Navy Seal or Chuck Norris!

In Ephesians 3:14 – 21, Paul appeals to the highest power in the universe: the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. However, Paul does not appeal to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine to have him inflict pain or suffering on us. On the contrary Paul’s appeal is to strengthen you with power through his Spirit because God’s has glorious riches. Also, this appeal is not just a simple trivia fact… no, no, no… it is so we may know how wide and long and high and how deep is the love of Christ. Indeed, this love is a love that surpasses knowledge. With this power at work in us God is glorified in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.

So if you are anxious today, appeal to a higher power: no, not your boss or your spouse or even your local government. Rather appeal to the father. Instead of being anxious, allow Christ to dwell in your hearts through faith. Focus on being rooted and established in love rather than being tossed back and forth by waves and blown here and there by every wind that comes along. This Paul’s hope for you, as well as all Christians who read his letter to the Ephesians.

Questions:

How often do you pray that others may be “strengthened with the power of God?” If you do not typically pray this, why do you think you do not? Why do we find it easier to pray for specific illnesses than it is to pray for God’s power to work in people? Think of someone for whom you can pray this prayer for and do it now.

Describe a time when you have felt completely filled with the power and fullness of God? What sort of things transpired to create that moment? How much of this relied on your own actions and how much on situations you found yourself in that you knew was God at work?

What is the most amazing, unbelievable, awesome thing you can think of? Have you ever seen this in real life? What is the most amazing thing you have seen in real life, with your own eyes? Now, what is your reaction to knowing that God is able to do even more than what you have seen or even more than you can imagine?

Vacation – June 17

Text: Psalm 29 (Read it here)20160617

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
The Lord gives strength to his people;
    the Lord blesses his people with peace.

(Psalm 29.10-11, NIV)

Glory!
Author: Rob Anderson

as·cribe

əˈskrīb/
verb

  1. attribute something to (a cause).
  2. regard (a quality) as belonging to.

If one were to look up the definition of “ascribe,” one would find that the definition includes giving a cause for certain qualities or characteristics of someone of something.

Since this is the case, as we begin to read Psalm 29, we need to ask ourselves: what is the cause of the psalmist giving (ascribing) God glory and strength? What has he done (cause) to deserve such descriptions being said about him?

Seems like a no-brainer question, doesn’t it? Or at least, it should. Our lives are filled with things God has done for us:

  • He has given us our family, friends, and loved ones
  • He has blessed us with wealth—even when our bank account seems to be empty
  • He has loved us enough to send his son
  • He offers us salvation

If that list is not enough, however, continue to read further in Psalm 29:

  • The voice of the Lord is over the waters.
  • The voice of the Lord is powerful (and majestic)
  • The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars.
  • God makes Lebanon leap like a calf.

The Lord is enthroned as King forever.

Perhaps most important attributes for us today are found in the final verse:

The Lord give strength to his people;
The Lord blesses his people with peace. (v. 11)

 As you reflect on your day today, think of the ways he has given you strength and blessed you with peace and respond appropriately: “In his temple all cry, Glory!”

Questions:

Make a list of things that you would ascribe (meaning: attribute to or regard as belonging to) to the Lord if you were going to give him glory, strength, and honor?

In what ways have you heard the voice of the Lord present himself in majesty and power? How have you seen his truths present themselves as more powerful than the claims of those who do not follow him?

The “flood” is often considered in Jewish thought as chaos and a fearful power. If this is true here in Psalm 29, what is the psalmist saying about the power of God when he writes he is “enthroned over the flood?” How have you seen the power of God show itself as greater than the power of Satan and the forces of evil?

Vacation – June 16

Text: Psalm 68 (Read it here)20160616

Proclaim the power of God,
    whose majesty is over Israel,
    whose power is in the heavens.
You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary;

    the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.

Praise be to God!

(Psalm 68.34-35, NIV)

The Thunder Rolls
Author: Rob Anderson

For many years, the people of Texas could only imagine what it would look like to have their cities flooded. The state was in one of the worst droughts we had ever seen and too much water seemed an impossibility.

Over the last couple of years, however, everything has changed. While the farmers may tell you that you can never have too much water, we have seen across the state what too much water in too short an amount of time can do.

The National Weather Service office warns that 6 inches of moving water can cause your car to stall and will cause you to lose control of the car. A foot of water can float a car, while two feet of water will sweep away almost any vehicle. When you think about it, that is not a lot of water. Imagine what five or six feet might do.

When we read about the God thundering “with a mighty voice” in Psalm 68, I cannot help but think of the scenes we have seen played out throughout the state of cars trying to cross low-water crossings, only to be swept downstream, sometimes with deadly results. The power of a storm can be both exhilarating and terrifying.

That image of strength and power is found all the way through Psalm 68. It is a psalm written to celebrate the awesome sovereignty of God, who goes before his people to provide them victory.

What may be most amazing about this psalm, however, is not the overwhelming power of God, but on whom he chooses to use that power. We discover he is a father to the fatherless and a defender of the widows. The lonely? He places them within families. It is the people who have the least power for whom God displays his greatest work. And it is this same God who gives power and strength to us, his people. We should indeed proclaim the power of Him!

Questions:

As you read through the entire Bible, God seems to love most saving those whom others seem to value least. What sort of people would you consider least cared for in today’s world? If God is a “father to the fatherless,” in what ways does he also care for those you just thought of?

In what ways has God provided for you in abundance? How does your definition of abundance compare to what the world might define as abundant? How can we as followers of Jesus do a better job of showing the world a value system that recognizes God’s abundance, not a worldly definition of it?

What burdens you most today? Do you believe, as the psalmist has said, that God daily bears your burdens? What would have to happen for you to understand and celebration God’s providing rest from those burdens?

Vacation – June 15

Text: Matthew 10 (Read it here, but please avoid this text if you are content being a casual Christian)chart

Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

(Matthew 10.38-39, NIV)

Casual Christianity…HA, HA, HA, HA!!!!
Author: Trent Roberson

Often we measure spiritual growth by church attendance, conversion, and giving.  Our American, First World, churches are full of good intentioned, God loving individuals, who are fans of Jesus.  Unfortunately, the ideological gulf between a disciple and fan is drastic.  Matthew 10 seems distant to us, almost from another world, with its talk of witness, persecution, poverty, and martyrdom.

As Jesus sends out the 12 disciples he charges them to:

  • Go to the same lost sheep of Israel that he did
  • Proclaim the same message
  • Perform the same healings, exorcisms, and even raising from the dead
  • Live the same wandering, dependent life of poverty
  • Anticipate the same mixed reception

He tells them to prepare for their journey by not packing a bag or taking their wallet.  Jesus challenges them to make themselves vulnerable through relationships with anticipation that they will not be accepted, possibly even broken down or arrested.  He prepares them to anticipate family rejection due to the mission that he’s called them to.  Jesus then sugar coats the message with a simple, “do not be afraid”, because he knew that the value of the mission was greater than the cost of following him.

Matthew 10 reveals what the Christian life essentially is.  It’s a confession of Jesus and focus on His mission, letting go of identity based upon material possessions as well as fear of what others might think about us, placing loyalty to God above all other loyalties, and trusting in God and God’s future.  Jesus’ call to this life of mission is directed only to the twelve, but all Christ followers called to participate in this mission.

We can read Matthew 10 and walk away with 1 of 2 conclusions.  The price is to high and I have too much to lose or Christ has invited and prepared me to participate in His crazy, adventurous, life-changing mission and because of that my life has great purpose!  Let’s leave the fan section and participate in this mission that he has invited us to.

What fears keep you from participating in Christ’s mission? How does Satan control us through fear? What do you have to lose?

Questions:

What instructions does Jesus give the twelve prior to their going out to proclaim the message of the kingdom? If you were planning their venture, how prepared would you consider them, given those instructions? What sort of things would you have rather been a part of those initial instructions?

Do you think the disciples rejoiced in knowing they were being sent out like “sheep among wolves?” In what ways do you see yourself as being a sheep among wolves when you attempt to share your faith and live a life committed to Christ?

We live in a world that often considers life the most important thing we can hold on to. The inverse is also true: death is often considered the final and worst defeat possible. How can you live today in a way consistent with Jesus’ teaching that those who attempt to save their life will lose it and those who lose their life actually find it?

Vacation – June 14

Text: Isaiah 58 (Read it here.)20160614

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
    and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
    and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord,
    and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
    and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

(Isaiah 58.13-14, NIV)

Disappointed with God
Author: Ralph Beistle

Have you thought that things seem to be going from bad to worse?  And wonder why our culture seems to be trying to get rid of religion?  They don’t want religion, and don’t want us to have it either.  Have you wondered why God hasn’t overruled circumstances to right the wrongs that seem to multiply with increasing rapidity?

Isaiah 58 reveals some disturbing questions that God asked people who claimed to be His people, but were disappointed with God.  Isaiah expressed God’s view of their situation, saying:

“For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’”

Those complainers were not trying to eliminate religion, but were people who thought God should be “fixing” things the way they would like them to be.  Notice how they felt so deserving, but God was not impressed.

God made it clear that He had not become distant, but rather they had failed to follow His way:

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.”

But God’s blessings are still attainable, subject to the willingness of the people to accept the conditions He would require of them:

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if
you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord,”

Rather than being disappointed with God, we should remember that God wants to bless.  The question is: are people wanting them enough to change their ways?

Questions:

When we observe the Sabbath or a fast, as is mentioned in Isaiah 58.3-5, we do not do it to gain something or to be rewarded for our diligence to God, but we do it to know God better. How have you found yourself at times fasting, observing Sabbath, or acting on some other discipline is such a way that misses the point? How can you take on such disciplines in a way so as to humble yourself before God?

How do you act to “loose the chains of injustice” or “ set the oppressed free?” How can you do this better? What specific thing can you do to accomplish this today?

How well do you observe Sabbath? Do you find it to be a day of rest and remembrance of God or a day off from work which gives you an opportunity to fill the day with other busy work? How have you found joy in taking Sabbath-rest before God?

 

Vacation – June 13

Text: Luke 1.67-80 (Read it here.)20160613

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.

(Luke 1.68, NIV)

Pictures of the Family
Author: Rob Anderson

People are proud of their children. Don’t believe me, just go to Facebook. Scroll through the feeds of people who are your friends and my guess is that it will not be long before you find pictures posted of their children or grandchildren. This is especially true during this season of graduations.

This is not a trend Facebook started. While it may not be the case as much as it used to be, wallets came with plastic sleeves to hold pictures. Out on the town and run into a friend you have not seen for a while? Whip out the wallet and show the latest snapshot of your spouse, children, or grandchildren.

In Luke 1, Zechariah has an opportunity to show the world a “picture” of his child, his first-born. Yet, when you read carefully his song, what you discover is his praises are directed toward the cousin of his child, Jesus.

How many of us, when given the chance, would pass on telling others about our own flesh and blood? Not many, I would suspect.

It’s not that Zechariah does not mention his son, John (the one we know as John the Baptist). But even when he gets to the praises his own son, his focus is how John will serve as the prophet to announce the coming of the Lord.

Perhaps this can be a lesson for us. While we are certainly proud of the accomplishments of our children—even if they are not the top graduates of their class—we can take even greater joy in the ways they show the world the Messiah who has come to offer salvation.

Questions:

Zechariah says that God has come to redeem his people. What does redemption mean? As you think about redemption, how does your definition of it apply to how you live your life or how you recognize the sovereignty of God?

In what ways has the redemption of God through Jesus provided you “salvation from your enemies?” Has this been a one time thing, or does redemption continue to occur as new enemies appear?

Are you ever afraid to serve God? If so, why is this the case? How does his salvation—or how should his salvation—enable you to overcome that fear?

 

Vacation – June 12

Text: Isaiah 40.1-11 (Read it here.)20160612

You who bring good news to Zion,
    go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
    lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
    say to the towns of Judah,
    “Here is your God!”

(Isaiah 40.9, NIV)

“Comfort My People!”
Author: Jesse Long

With words that echo across the centuries, the God of Israel and all creation charges the prophet to “Comfort, comfort my people” and to “speak tenderly to Jerusalem,” to a people in exile who have paid a heavy price for their sins (vv. 1-2, ESV). A voice cries out: “Prepare the way of Yahweh; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. . . . The glory of Yahweh shall be revealed and all flesh will see [God’s salvation (LXX)]” (vv. 3-5). A voice commands the prophet to “Cry out” that all men are like grass which fades away, but the word of God stands forever (vv. 6-8). The voice then calls Zion/Jerusalem, as a “herald of good news,” to “lift up your voice” from a high mountain and announce to the cities of Judah that the Lord Yahweh comes as king in strength and as a shepherd who will “gather the lambs in his arms” and “carry them in his bosom” (vv. 9-11).

With a powerful, trustworthy voice, Isaiah proclaims the good news of divine comfort from God (cf. Isa 40:1; 49:13; 51:3, 12, 19; 52:9; 54:11; 61:2; 66:13). In so doing, the prophet anticipates the coming messianic deliverance (cf. Matt 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6), when God himself would return as divine warrior and as shepherd to lead His people in a New Exodus from the bondage of sin and death.

Waiting for Isaiah’s promised comfort/consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25), the righteous Simeon saw the infant Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem, took him up in his arms, and proclaimed, “My eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples” (vv. 30-31). Isaiah’s comfort appeared in the form of a baby and flourished in the ministry and mission of Jesus of Nazareth, the divine shepherd who comforts, who in resurrection defeated evil to bring about God’s salvation.

For the Christian who mourns, Jesus offers comfort from God. As our victorious king who has conquered death, He protects us from the evil one. As our shepherd, he holds us close. In his arms, we take comfort!

Questions:

When you think about the story of the Israelite people, why would a word of comfort from God be such an important part of their story? How do you feel when you are punished for something you have done? How do you feel when that punishment is complete? How has God offered a word a comfort to you for sins you may have committed?

How would you define “sovereignty?” How is power and might related to your definition? When we think about God being the one who created the entire universe, what implications does this make about his ability to take care of us?

How would you answer Isaiah’s question: “To whom can you compare [God]?” (Verse 25) What examples would you give to show there is none comparable to God?

Vacation – June 11

Text: Psalm 91 (Read it here.)20160611

Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

(Psalm 91.3-4, NIV)

Rest in the Shadow of the Almighty
Author: Jim Brewer

Do you have a summer memory of finding a nice shade, where you could sit down, cool off and maybe slip into a midday nap? And then that rest is suddenly jolted by the sun in your eyes?

This psalm begins by saying that if you’re living with God you are in his shadow, and there you find real rest. He goes on to describe that rest using two metaphors: a strong fortress and a mother hen.

Think of the contrast, a fort full of shields and a bird full of feathers! A secure strength and a fragile softness.  And what do these two have in common? How do these two provide secure rest? By bearing the brunt of the attack themselves. And that is seen ultimately in the Christ where God’s righteous power and sacrificial love combine equally, and bids us to come find rest by living with him.

Question:

Think of a time when you had an absolutely terrible night of rest, in fact, you got no rest. What caused this restless night? In what ways did circumstances need to change in order to create an atmosphere where you could rest completely?

How does resting in the Almighty create that atmosphere where rest can truly happen? When you think about a fortress, what images come to mind? In what ways do God being like a fortress bring you peace?

In what ways does our acknowledgement of God and his name play into his rescue of us? Why do you think it is difficult for people to call on God, even when they know that doing so can bring peace and rescue? In what ways has your acknowledgement of God bring you a greater sense of rest and peace?

Vacation – June 10

Text: Matthew 6.25-34 (Read it here.)20160610

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
(Matthew 6.25, 33, NIV)

Don’t Worry
Author: Rob Anderson

Simple question for you:

What causes you to worry?

Take a moment to write a list of everything you worry about. No, seriously, get a piece of paper and on it, list your worries. Everything. Even if it is sort of a kind of worry or perhaps something that could be a worry if this or that did or did not happen. Whatever it is, write it down.

Got a good list going? Good.

Tear it up.

Throw it away.

Repeat after me:

Today, I will seek your Kingdom, Lord. I know the kingdom I seek is often the one that entails money, happiness, and contentment from the things I have. I know I feel rewarded by being popular, funny, or by appearing to have everything all together.

I also know, Lord, that I don’t have it together and all of these things and more are the priorities of a false kingdom, which is really no kingdom at all.

So today, Lord, like the birds and the flowers, I simply seek you and your sovereign care for me, knowing by the truth of your word that you will take care of me.

Today, Lord, I refuse to worry.

Questions:

Matthew, writing the words of Jesus, says: do not worry about your life. Why is this so easy to say, yet so difficult to actually do for so many of us?

How does knowing that God cares for you help ease worry that might be present in your life?

When one focuses only on the kingdom of God, one has less time—and need—to worry about your own provisions. Given this, what sort of actions help you focus on the kingdom of God? How does being a part of God’s kingdom help actually provide for things you need? What examples of this would you give to support your answer?

Vacation – June 9

Text: John 15.26-16.33 (Read it here.)20160609

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
(John 16.33, NIV)

Help for Our Struggles as We Live in the World
Author: Charles Stephenson

This section begins with a repeat of the promise stated in John 14:26 (ESV). The Helper, which is the Spirit, was to be sent when Jesus left his disciples to return to his Father. John 15:26-27 (ESV) states that the Spirit will bear witness about Jesus along with the witness of Jesus’s disciples. In our study of Acts in our adult Bible classes we saw that Peter stated (Acts 5:32), And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” Peter’s statement indicates the fulling of that promise given in John 14 and 15. He also stated the Spirit, our Helper, is given to all those who obey God. As God’s obedient kingdom people we have the Helper sent from the Father by Jesus, the risen Christ.

We should note the Greek word translated Helper is translated as advocate when referring to the enthroned Jesus (1 John 2:1, ESV). Jesus referred to the Spirit as another Helper sent to those who love and obey him (John 14:16, ESV). The Spirit is our helper like Jesus was when he was on earth. John 16 contains warnings from Jesus about how the Jews and the world would treat his disciples when he went away. He forewarned the disciples so they would not be caught off guard when these things happened.

Jesus not only forewarned his disciples he sent them a helper like himself, the Spirit of Truth. The fact that Jesus was leaving them did make them sad. They did not understand what was happening. Jesus said to them when they were filled with sorrow, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)

And, what help the Helper offers! He comes to convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment. What help this is for our witness about the power of God in Christ! Those early disciples were struggling to understand what they witnessed happening in Jesus Christ. The Spirit led them to the truth, the good news. THE truth that they preached, taught, and wrote, which is still available to us in the record of what they preached, taught, and wrote, the Bible. (John 14:1-7, Jesus, the only way to God) Compare John 5:19-20 where Jesus spoke of how he received this knowledge from God with John 16:12-15 where he spoke of how the Spirit received his knowledge from Jesus, which is from God.

Look at what Jesus said in John 14:13-17: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” In these words, Jesus said to ask him for anything in his name. Then, he said he would ask God for the disciples needs.

Now, note what Jesus said in John 16:23-24: “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” Jesus continues in John16:26-28: “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” In these words, Jesus said to ask for anything in his name. Then, he said he would not ask God for the disciples needs. Jesus stated that the Father loves us because we have loved Jesus, the one who came from God the Father.

Jesus and the Father know that we have struggles in our world because the world does not believe in Jesus as the One who came from God and returned to God where he remains in glory until his return in glory. Knowing that, they have offered us great help: the presence of the Helper in our lives and a close loving relationship with our Father. In Christ, we can go directly to our Father who loves us!

Questions:

What are the kinds of struggles mentioned by Jesus in John 16?

Where do you see these struggles in the world around us?

What are the implications for understanding Jesus and the Spirit when you know that they can both be called helper, advocate, counselor, and comforter?

What is implied about the Spirit in the lives of Christians and the life of the church when Jesus said that it is to our benefit that he returned to be with God?

What are the implications of the prayer life Jesus described for us? Do you want that prayer life? How can you have such a prayer life?