Matthew 13.44-46 – September 13, 2020

Matthew 13:44–46

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. 

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.  (Matthew 13:44–46, NIV)

What do you value more than all of your possessions?

Thought Questions:

What do we understand about the kingdom of heaven when we discover a man sold everything he had to “purchase” it? How does a life of giving up everything compare to what are people often willing to give up to follow Jesus?

In what ways has seeking the kingdom of heaven cost you everything?

When you trade in everything you have for the kingdom of heaven, what do you have left?

Matthew 8:14–17 – September 6, 2020

Matthew 8:14–17

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.
16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 

“He took up our infirmities
and bore our diseases.” 

(Matthew 8:14–17, NIV)

Jesus does not just care if we trust him or “do all the right things,” he cares about us and our illness and hurts.

Thought Questions:

What do you think prompted Jesus to heal Peter’s mother-in-law? How do you think Peter and his family responded?

One of the key things Jesus did during his earthly ministry is heal people. Why do you think healing others was so important to him? How do you think Jesus compared healing others with the need to follow him?

How do you feel knowing that Jesus cares about not just your spiritual health, but also your physical health?

Matthew 6.16-18 – August 23, 2020

Matthew 6:16–18

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  (Matthew 6:16–18 , NIV)

 

Praying. Reading Scripture. Both are spiritual disciplines we are accustomed to hearing about, as well as practicing. Fasting, we we could do without it. Yet fasting may create a more recognized focus on God and his provisions than any other discipline we can undertake.

Thought Questions:

What experience or teaching have you had/heard about fasting? Why do you think it is lesser known–and lesser practiced–today?

As with many of the spiritual disciplines that Jesus talks about, fasting is to be done without putting on a big show. Why is this the case and in what ways might fasting be one of the easier disciplines to do without everyone knowing about it?

Why is fasting one of the best spiritual disciplines to practice in order to understand our dependence on God?

Matthew 13.1-23 – August 15, 2020

Matthew 13:1–23

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables: 

“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’  

16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” 
 (Matthew 13:1–23 , NIV)

 

Jesus used parables to make his message crystal clear to those who understood. Those who did not understand him and his role found such stories challenging.

Thought Questions:

Why do you think Jesus used an example of sowing as the basis for this parable?

Do you wish Jesus taught in more parables or less? Why do you find this to be the case?

Which of the four soils do you most relate to? In what ways do you see yourself as healthy soil and how can you be more receptive to the word of God?

Matthew 7.7-12 – August 3, 2020

Matthew 7:7–12

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
 (Matthew 7:7–12 , NIV)

Ask.

Seek.

Knock.

Thought Questions:

In what ways do we hear these instructions and think: surely it is not as easy as that? In what ways is it NOT as easy as that?

Think of the best gift you have ever received. Now, knowing those good gifts, how well do you understand that God gives even better gifts to his children? Why do we at times assume God is not a giver of good gifts, but someone who wants us to fail?

How do you want to be treated by others? How can you treat others in the same ways today?

Matthew 7.24-29 – June 13, 2020

Matthew 7:24–29

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.  (Matthew 7:24–29, NIV)

Sing along! The wise man built his house upon the rock…

Thought Questions:

At what point do you become knowledgable enough to live out the words of God you have learned? In what ways do we sometimes want to know more before we begin to do more? Why do you think this is our tendency?

What challenges–rain, winds, storms–have you faced in your life and how has God proven to be your foundation?

How have you worked on building your foundation today?

Matthew 12.9-14 – June 5, 2020

Matthew 12:9–14

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.
 (Matthew 12:9–14, NIV)

After a while you begin to see a pattern: Jesus breaks the “rules” set up to maintain holiness (i.e., the Sabbath laws), to act towards others in. … holiness.

Thought Questions:

How do you think the man with the shriveled hand felt being a pawn for the Pharisees’ trap? How do the Pharisee’s actions serve to further humiliate this man who was already seen as “not worthy of the Lord’s honor?” [Individuals who suffered from some disability would have been considered inferior not just in day-to-day life, but also accursed by God or at the very least, outside of God’s favor.]

Why is it too often so easy for people to value stuff and rules above human lives?

What good things can you do for someone in need or who has been rejected regardless of the perception or expectations of others?

John 3.16 – May 3, 2020

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)

“It tells you that he dies for everyone including you. If you believe in him that you will not perish but have eternal life. Only if you believe.”

 

Thought Questions:

What or who do you love more than anything else? What are willing to give for this object or person?

What is the most valuable thing you have had to give or sacrifice? How does this compare to giving your one and only son?

How does belief in Jesus give you eternal life?

Matthew 5.1-12 – May 2, 2020

Matthew 5:1–12

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: 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted. 

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth. 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled. 

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy. 

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God. 

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God. 

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:1–12, NIV)

Thought Questions:

What type of people do we or people we know typically think of when we say: They sure have been blessed? How do the lives of these people compare to what we read here?

Why do we have difficulty assuming the poor or those who mourn should be considered blessed?

Think of a time when you found yourself as one of these people Jesus describes? How would you say you received experienced blessing in those circumstances?

How can you live a life that recognizes and supports these attributes as important and worthy of blessing?

Matthew 20.1-16 – April 26, 2020

Matthew 20:1–16

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
“ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
 (Matthew 20:1–16, NIV)

Where do you want to be ranked? First or last?

Thought Questions:

How much would you have assumed the first workers would have been paid in comparison to the last? Why does this seem like the most logical pay scale?

Why are we so focused on what we consider “fair?” Do we have a similar emphasis on fairness for others?

In what ways are you thankful for God’s generous gift to you?