Job Wants a Lawyer

Hey Everyone – I’m trusting that you’re all hunkered down, staying safe and keeping others safe. This Sunday our meeting will be online only – you can watch on Facebook or Youtube. We’ll be continuing our study in Job, reading chapters 8-14. We’ll be reading an abridged version of all those chapters, but again, the audio file is above and you can listen to the text in it’s entirety there.

We’re also going to do a Q&A session about Job right after the teaching – so as you listen, post any questions you have about the text or it’s application and we’ll discuss it. I really enjoyed that last week, hope you did too!

Hope to see you online – pray for one another – pray for our world, nation, state, county and community. Pray for the healthcare workers and those seeking a vaccine, that God will give the wisdom we need to overcome this threat. Pray for our leaders on every level. Pray for peace and comfort for those who are distressed. Pray for the Good News to have opportunity to be shared.

A Dried up Brook of Advice

Another crazy week has passed, a lot of disconcerting things have developed, including the closing of our beaches, which I know has a cascading impact on so many people.  In times of distress, we remember that God is still God and the One we look to in times of trouble. Take heart, in His love, there is hope for you. As always, we will keep our eyes and hearts open for ways we can lighten the burden for one another.

This week, our services will be ONLINE ONLY, but you can watch on our YouTube channel or on our Facebook page or in our Facebook Group –  or just click the link on our website  – tune in at 10 am CST.

We’ll continue our very relevant study in the book of Job – and you may be surprisingly comforted by what we discover as we explore those pages. We’ll be covering a lot of ground, ch 4-7 – which I will only read an abridged version of on Sunday morning, so listen to the audio reading of those chapters in their entirety above.

I’m also hoping to do an extended Q&A about Job after the teaching – so if you have any questions about the book, it’s genre, the characters…anything, leave them in the comment section below and we can discuss them on Sunday.

Keep your eyes fixed on the God who loves you – allow His grace to settle all fear and uncertainty – be still, and know He is God.

Job – an Introduction

This week we will begin a new study in the book of Job. How often have you suffered, or known someone who is suffering and the question that forms most readily is “why?”. Why is this happening? Why God? If there is a common issue that unifies those who can’t believe in God, it’s the issue of cruelty and suffering. How could a good and all powerful God allow so much suffering in the world?

That’s been a question through the ages. It’s really the thematic center of the book of Job.

And yet…Job gives us no real answers. As John Walton puts it in his commentary, Job simply provides us with better questions to ask in the midst of suffering.

This Sunday we’ll be looking at the structure and nature of the book, as well as reading the first two chapters. I’m going to do something different with this study – here on Wonderwhat I’m going to post an audio reading of the chapters we’ll cover – that way, if we don’t end up reading the whole passage on Sundays, you can listen to the whole thing read at your leisure. The audio file is at the top of the post.

Read the first two chapters – or listen to the audio above.

What are your honest thoughts about the set-up to this story? Do you read it as a history, or as a parable? What are some of your experiences with suffering – what questions have you asked during those times? What do you think the significance of the scene in heaven brings to this story?

I hope we’ll have an interesting study on this fascinating book!

Engaging a Secular Culture (Without Being a Jerk)

This Sunday we’ll be continuing our short series which considers practical ways in which we can fulfill what the angel told the women at the empty tomb; “Go and tell” this good news. We’re going to look at another example from the book of Acts, one I’ve taught on before, but which bears repeating. We’ll be reading Acts 17:16-29.

In this famous teaching, Paul is summoned to the Areopagus, or Mars Hill, where the city council would meet. In this setting, Paul related the gospel to a completely uninitiated people. His approach to their culture gives us a fascinating insight as to how far Paul would go with his ideology of being all things to all people (1 Cor 9:22).

Read through Paul’s address. How would you characterize his words? Was he scolding? It says he was grieved by the idolatry he saw – but how did he start his address and what did he point to in his message to use as a platform for the gospel?

In v28 Paul quotes a line from a hymn of praise to Zeus, by the pagan poet Epimenides. He didn’t do that to validate a worship of Zeus, but as a support for his claim about the One, Creator God. How might we learn to do that sort of thing in the culture where we find ourselves?

How can we learn from Paul’s interaction with culture to engage our world without condemning it? Hopefully our consideration of this on Sunday will foster some new ideas for us as we follow Jesus who’s loose in the world! Hope to see you then!

 

Following Jesus Who’s Loose in the World

This Sunday we’ll be starting a short series to follow up on our study of the Gospel of Mark. When Mark finished, we were left with an open-ended command: Go and tell. Simple enough…but not that easy to carry out. We’re in a time and culture that isn’t all that open to historic Christianity; often seeing it as a primitive and phobic worldview. Some of that perception is our own fault, I fear.

No matter if there’s blame to be placed, we are still left with this high calling of following Jesus from that empty tomb into the world where he is now loose and bringing life. How do we join in with his work in a world like ours?

We’re going to look at an example from the early church this Sunday of how one person was going and telling the Good News. We’ll be reading Acts 8:26-39 this Sunday, which is the account of Philip sharing the Good News with the Ethiopian Eunuch.  There is so much that is intentionally unusual in this passage, and I think we need to take a close look at it.

When you read through the text – what is it that causes Philip to head out towards the desert? How easy or hard is it for you to follow those inward nudges of the Holy Spirit to change your immediate course or do something for reasons that aren’t very apparent? How can we be more open to those types of Spirit-inspired events?

The person Philip is directed to is from a gentile, pagan nation. He’s an official which means he’s steeped in the culture’s religion. He’s also a eunuch – someone who no longer functions, in the normative sense, sexually. He seems to be a seeker, or perhaps a proselyte. He’s coming back from Jerusalem, but he wouldn’t have been allowed to worship at the temple because of his condition.

Take some time to think about this man and try to think of what people in our modern world would fit into the categories he represents. How did Philip begin his interaction with this man? What can we learn from that?

What can we learn about advancing the kingdom of God from Philip’s experience? In what ways will we need to look past the outsider status of people in our world to share the hope of Christ with them?

I suspect this will be a challenging study – hope to see you there!

The Gospel Ad Infinitum

So – this Sunday we’ll be coming to our last study in the Gospel of Mark – we’ll be reading chapter 16. For the last year in doing this study I’ve done digital paintings to accompany the teachings – and I thought I’d share my process with you for these. This is sped up by 650% – so don’t get any ideas that I can actually paint this fast. It was fun to do – but I don’t think I’ll bite off anything that ambitious again – it really commandeered my time.

Most scholars, including very conservative ones, don’t believe the last 12 verses of ch 16 were part of the original text, but were added sometime after the 3rd Century. With that in mind, we’ll be keeping our focus of this study on the first 8 verses…which makes for a really open-ended finale.

In the text we return to the women we were reading about at the end of chapter 15. They are going to the tomb to finish the job of preparing Jesus’ corpse, something left undone because they ran out of time before the Sabbath. How does the theme of unfinished work get revealed in the first 8 verses?

Why do you think it was important that the angel singled out Peter as one to whom this message was given? What can that tell us about our own times of falling short? What significance can you discern in the fact that Jesus had gone before them and would meet them when they got there?

If you were to narrow the text down to the first 8 verses, what do you feel at the end of v8? Is there anything you feel prompted to do when concluding with v8? Ad infinitum is Latin for “to infinity”, connoting that something is ongoing. Mark probably intended for his readers to be called to an ongoing action in the wake of Jesus’ resurrection.  What is your response to the news that Jesus his risen, and what does it call you to do?

This has been a really enjoyable study to undertake! Hope you got as much out of it as I did, and I certainly hope you return to Mark again and again to read the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God!

The Kingdom Kernel

I remember helping my mom plant gardens when I was a kid. She loved gardening, and every spring in Michigan we’d walk out in a freshly tilled plot of ground and start planting seeds down the rows. I can still remember looking at those seeds and asking her for the umpteenth time what plant it would be, and she, very patiently, showed me the bright picture of a pristine vegetable on the seed packet.

I’d look at those seeds and try to figure out how the first shape would transform into the second shape. Obviously, horticulture was not something I pursued.

But that memory lingers in the text we’ll cover this Sunday. We’ll be reading about Jesus’ burial in our study in Mark, reading Mark 15:40-47. In so many ways, this is not just the account which fills in a few details whilst we wait for the resurrection (***spoiler – Jesus doesn’t stay dead***). Christ’s burial is something he forecast in John 12:24, when he made the statement: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” 

Once again, I’m a child, looking at the shape of the kernel and wondering about the shape the harvest. As I consider it – I believe we actually do get a glimpse of the shape the harvest of new lives will take as we look at the details of the Kingdom Kernel being planted in the grave.

In v40-41, who are the followers of Jesus that the narrative focuses on? Isn’t it interesting that none of the big names we’ve read about all through this story are mentioned at this juncture? A radical upheaval in the order of this broken world is pictured in this shifted focus – can you imagine what it is?

V42-43 introduce us to another new character: Joseph of Arimathea. A member of the Sanhedrin, he goes to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body so he can have a decent burial. The NLT says he “took a risk” in doing this. Imagine what the risks are for him? How might his fellow Sanhedrin members feel about it? How might Pilate react to another member of the religious leaders bothering him about Jesus? What does this social, political and religious risk tell us about the nature of this new life we find in Christ?

As you finish reading the chapter, what surprises do you come across? What seems unexpected in this text, and what might that say about a new life in Christ?

I think this will be an interesting and encouraging passage to study together. Hope to see you on Sunday!