Vacation – June 21

Text: Psalm 62 (Read it here)20160621

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

(Psalm 62.1-2, NIV)

My Soul Finds Rest
Author: Rob Anderson

One would thing getting a good night’s sleep with plenty of rest would be easy. Google “How to get good rest,” however, and you discover that perhaps it is not quite as easy as it seems.

For instance, a Huffington Post article (you can find it here, if you would like) lists 37 things, all supported by science, to help you get better sleep. Things like

  • Slip on some socks
  • Keep your room dark
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid heavy meals when it is late
  • Keep your bedroom quiet
  • But not too quiet

Now, one can do all 37 of these things, or, one can simply find their rest in God.

You see, one of the things that prevents us from resting well is those little conversations we have in the back of our mind about who is really in control and should we do if things look out of control.

The psalmist tells us these words:

He is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

If God is your rock and your fortress and the one who provides salvation, I can see why rest is found in him.

Questions:

Have you ever considered following God a challenge or something you have to work hard to accomplish? What caused you to have these feelings? What aspects of following God do you have to work hardest to do? What is the reward for these efforts?

When the psalmist writes that his or her soul finds rest in the Lord, do you believe him or her? In what ways has your soul experienced rest in God? How would you describe this idea of “soul finding rest” to someone just starting out on their faith journey?

How is salvation and hope tied to the idea of finding rest in the Lord? How do these two things calm fears and reassure you in the midst of what you might at times describe as the “struggle” to find God?

Vacation – June 20

Text: Mark 3.1-6 (Read it here)20160620

Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”

(Mark 3.4, NIV)

Heal or Kill on the Sabbath?
Author: Ralph Beistle

Isn’t that an odd question? Shouldn’t anyone be able to answer that without difficulty?

Why did Jesus raise that question in Mark 3? No doubt, the man with the disability wanted to be healed, regardless of the day on which the healing would occur.

The reason Jesus asked about the legitimacy of His intentions, was to show those who came to the synagogue meeting with evil intents, that their motives were impure, and their perception of the nature of a merciful God was sadly lacking.

Jesus fully expected reasonable people to have the right conclusion – but this time, Jesus was not dealing only with reasonable people. In the next chapter, He quotes Isaiah and tells His followers “that to those on the outside, everything is said in parables, so that, ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven.’”

For those who choose to follow Jesus, He teaches, not always by telling them what to think, but to help them think well. The others in Mark 3 were listening to what he said with a desire to prove His way was wrong. Their legalistic view of religious practice missed the point of the question.

Jesus also said that the Sabbath was made for man – not to minimize the significance of the Sabbath, but to show how much God was doing what was best for His creatures. The man who needed mercy was blessed. The unsympathetic people who came to find grounds to denounce Jesus couldn’t be impressed with the fact that a man who had suffered was now healed. Instead of gratitude for the gift of healing, they indignantly went out to plot about how to kill Jesus.

In our study of Scriptures, may we be those who know to obey what He says, but also to study with a mind trained to think well, ever grateful for the Lord’s mercy. Let’s not forget that those “on the outside” also need to become aware of His word and His way.

Questions:

Why do you think the Pharisees were so intent on making sure the Sabbath was kept pure and holy? Do their actions seem appropriate to the circumstances or do they seem over-the-top? Why do you think this?

In what ways do you find yourself or do we find ourselves at times acting in ways similar to the Pharisees? How can we ensure we are following God rather than putting up barriers to those seeking him?

How would you answer Jesus’ question: Which is lawful to do on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill? How should we react when it seems that doing good (or perhaps what might be defined as the “right” thing) runs in the face of acting in faithful ways toward God and his instructions for us?

Vacation – June 19

Text: Acts 4.23-31 (Read it here)20160619

Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

(Acts 4.29-30, NIV)

Hello, God?
Author: Rob Anderson

Hello, God?

It’s me.

Again.

Are you there?

Are you sure?

Because, you see, last time we had this conversation, I’m not sure you really heard me. At least, I wonder if you did because nothing really changed, or at least, I don’t feel like it did and so, here I am again.

God?

Are you there?

There is a part of me that is jealous of the believers in Acts 4. In the midst of great struggles they pray to God for boldness and what happens? The place they were meeting was shaken by what we can only assume was the power of God.

Too often, my prayers are more like the one above, not prayers of power that God responds to in miraculous ways.

That being said, I don’t want us to assume that our prayers are unheard (they are not) or that a prayer without shaking ground is invalid (it is not). Instead, let’s look at three things that might give us more comfort during our times of prayer.

First, notice that the believers pray to the “Sovereign Lord.” They go on to explain what they mean by this: the one who made the heavens and earth. When you pray, do you remember and acknowledge the power of God?

Second, when troublesome times hit the believers, their first inclination is to pray. Not complain or bemoan their circumstances with one another. They turn to God and pray. How do you respond to troubles?

Last, they seek to move into the fire, not away from it. Too often we try to pray away the problems. In Acts 4, the believers pray for boldness to speak powerfully.

The ground may not shake when you pray, but God’s power is no less real when you do.

Questions:

When you face trouble or persecution (even a minor episode of trouble), what is your response? What would you consider an appropriate response? What would you consider a poor response? How does your response compare to how the early Christians in Acts responded when facing persecution?

Why do the Christians in Acts 4 appeal to God’s sovereign nature when they pray to him? What does their prayer tell you about how they viewed God, especially during times of dire circumstances?

How do you think you would respond if you prayed for God to “stretch out his hand” and at the conclusion of the prayer the place where you were meeting was shaken? How do we assume God will respond to our prayers? Does our assumptions indicate a sense of trust or indicate we may be filled with more doubts than faith? In what ways?

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?