Counting the Cost of Following Jesus

This Sunday we’ll be reading Luke 14:25-35. It’s another very heavy section, one that’s going to require some careful examination. When we think of Jesus, it’s probably rare that we associate words of hate with him – yet, in the text before us, Jesus speaks directly of hating people as a requirement for being his disciple. How do we sync that with the many places and ways that Jesus represents divine love, and even commands that same sort of love from us?

In what ways might his challenge be an indication of priorities and value? What then, is Jesus calling us to prioritize the most?

How can we realistically count the cost of being a follower of Jesus? What things in life are easy to set aside, and what ones are hard? What might Jesus be saying to us about our commitment to his way of life?

This will be a challenging, yet encouraging study – hope you can join us!

A Banquet of Grace

This Sunday we’ll be having our first ever Post Thanksgiving Potluck – also known as The Great Big Post Thanksgiving Family Holiday Leftovers Potluck – I hope you can join us! It’s quite fitting, given our text this week will be focusing on a meal, with a story about a great banquet. We’ll be reading Luke 14:1-24 this Sunday.

The text will have a repetition of a pattern we’ve seen already – Jesus heals someone on the Sabbath day much to the dismay and offense of the religious leaders. Jesus will make an almost identical explanation as he did back in Luke 13:10-17. Why do you think this is being repeated? What message do you take from that pattern?

From there Jesus goes on to give what seems like advice on dining manners – but it’s really a parable in disguise. In what ways might we assume a place of honor in God’s kingdom? How could that negatively effect our fellow persons, especially if they feel like outsiders?

It all finishes with a straightforward parable about a great banquet where the people who are invited snub the invitation – so the host invites all the marginalized and seeming outsiders to join in. The meaning of that should be obvious – but what can that tell us about our tendencies to make assumptions about who is in and who is out of God’s grace?

I hope you can join us – we’ll be celebrating Communion during the potluck, so please try to attend! See you Sunday!

The Hidden Kingdom

Have you ever suffered from inattentional blindness? It’s a real thing. I can remember looking for my wife in a crowd once, and I was pretty sure I knew what color shirt she was wearing. I kept looking for that shirt color, and failed to notice my wife who was nearly right in front of me, simply because she wasn’t wearing what I thought she was.

This Sunday we’ll be reading Luke 13:18-35 and it addresses inattentional blindness in a way. When it comes to the Kingdom of God, if we refuse to adjust our attention, we may miss what God is up to.

In this chapter, Jesus talks about small seeds, the invisible process of yeast, few being saved, a narrow door and the least of people. There’s a message about the nature of how God’s Kingdom works in there…what do you think it is? How might our expectations cause us to miss the work God is doing in and around us? What can we do to temper our expectations?

The whole section finishes off with Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem. Much of this lament is forecasting the events of 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed – but it carries another revelation in it….that God doesn’t take pleasure in judgement. What does his lament for Jerusalem speak to you about God’s character? What does the image of a hen gathering her chicks speak to you about God’s attitude toward humanity?

I hope you can join us this Sunday as we explore this fascinating section of Luke!

Stand Up!

This week we’ll pick up our narrative in the gospel of Luke chapter 13:10-17.
We’ll see Jesus heal a woman suffering with a crippling back condition that caused her to be bent in two for 18 years. Not only does he literally stand her up he also stands up for her, pleading her case in the face of legalistic opposition. In our text today we’ll see the high priority Jesus puts on helping the hurting and marginalized in our midst.

In verses 10-13 Jesus is teaching in a synagogue on a sabbath day and catches the woman in his eye. The second he sees her he immediatley stops his teaching to relieve her of her infirmity. Has there ever been a time when you were doing something you deemed important but stopped in your tracks because you saw someone in need? How difficult is it to re-prioritize your plans when faced with an opportunity to help someone? How do you feel if you don’t make time to do so? That can be a real source of heartache or regret but God in his kindness always provides another opportunity for us to act on his behalf.

This is the fourth out of five times in Luke’s narrative Jesus heals on a sabbath day and it’s his last recorded visit to a synagogue…Do you think it’s a coincidence that he chooses to repeat this compassionate act in his last teaching moment with that sort of audience? What do you think that reveals about God’s Kingdom priorities?

In verse 14, unfortunately the synagogue leader continues the trend in misunderstanding and misrepresenting God’s character. Instead of rejoicing with one set free, he responds harshly rebuking and shaming those seeking and needing his help the most. Are there beliefs or opinions you hold that when opposed, cause you to depict a less than loving God? How difficult is it for you to agree to disagree with someone on an issue you’re passionate about?
Jesus responds to the synagogue leaders harsh rebuke in vs 15-16 with a rebuke of his own. He elevates and advocates for the one suffering and secluded, scolding the synagogue leader for his willingness to stand by and do nothing. Have you ever stood up for someone who couldn’t stand up for themselves? Is there a group or cause near and dear to your heart?
Finally in verse 17 we see that overflowing joy is shared by all who see and receive God’s boundless love!

It should be an inspiring study! Hope to see you there!

Bad Things and Hopeful Things Happen

This Sunday we’ll be getting a Missions Update from Dr. Kym Rittman who went to Haiti earlier – I’m really looking forward to what she shares with us. We’ll also be continuing our study in Luke, reading ch 13:1-9.

These are some admittedly perplexing sections that we’ve been reading lately.

Tragedies and hardships and difficult times are some of the most confusing things we have to face as people who believe in God.  Our most common and reflexive response to them is to look up to heaven and ask “why?”.  The why’s of the thing are the biggest wrestling matches we can have in our faith.

Jesus never offers us easy answers. Instead of helping us with theodicy, he warns us about getting a proper focus and right priorities. What do you think Jesus is getting at when he says “And you will perish, too, unless you repent ”? I would like to challenge you to think outside of the box a little on this passage.  There is a very common and accepted understanding about the point that’s being made…but are we sure about the point?  Think long and hard about the context of meaningless and futile deaths before you answer.

The parable Jesus tells is one that has a lot of interpretations attached to it – one more common than the rest. It’s a tricky story, one that also requires more attention than I think we give it. The themes all through this section are about futility and repentance – with the implied goal being purposeful, fruitful living. How does this parable and the previous section go together on those themes, and how might it impact your interpretation of the parable?

Lots to think about. I hope you can join us this Sunday as we explore it!

The Gospel Upheaval

“Burn baby burn!” ~ The Magnificent Montague

While the sentiment behind the deejay Montague’s statement was decidedly anarchical back in ’65 – we are are going to be confronted with a similar statement from Jesus that we’ll have to interpret in our text this Sunday as we study the Gospel of Luke. We’ll be reading Luke 12:49-59.

The passage opens with Jesus making a remark about the world burning and his desire to see that happen. What do you suppose he means? All of Scripture has to harmonize with itself, that’s one of the tenets of orthodoxy. Given Jesus’ other statements about love and being peacemakers, it’s hard to imagine him stirring his followers to chaotic hostility. So then, what is his point? We could look at Luke’s other uses of fire imagery, a statement by John the Baptist and a description of the early church to get a clue.

Why do you think Jesus warns about division? Do you think he’s calling his followers to be divisive, or is it about our expectations as he sends us into the world as sheep among wolves?

Jesus’ rebuke about skills at predicting weather but failing to read spiritual signals is intriguing. It’s similar to our modern phrase “You miss the forest for the trees” – meaning, it’s all right under your nose but you’re failing to grasp the significance of it. In what ways might we miss what Jesus is doing presently in our world?

The closing of the chapter has a dark warning. Who do you think the characters represent in the story? Who would be the accuser, who is the judge, and what might the prison represent? Settling the matter beforehand is the key idea – what do you think that means? What might the “matter” be, and how might it be “settled”?

I hope you can join us this Sunday as we delve into these fascinating words from Jesus!

Ready and Waiting

In my lifetime, I’ve counted 20 different major predictions of a date when Jesus would return. By major, I mean predictions that got a sizeable traction. That averages out to one every three years…that’s a lot of predictions…about something Jesus said “the Son of Man will come when least expected“. It’s enough to get a person discouraged.

We’ll be going over Luke 12:35-48 in our study this Sunday where Jesus warns his disciples to be ready for, we presume, his return.

The overall theme of these verses is that we as Followers of Jesus are supposed to be ready for the end.  The end of what…the world? Maybe, the New Testament seems to have that in view at times, but I would say the end can also include our own, individual lives. Either Christ will return, or we will die…either way, we ALL are facing an end of time here. Jesus uses that fact to challenge us to consider how we are living right now. He warns us to live ready.

Some people not only try to live ready, they obsess about the end.  Sometimes people feel more ready for the end if they can create elaborate charts that explain when the end will come. Others stockpile food, some hide in the woods. None of those things are things Jesus encourages in this passage though.

As you look at the examples he gives through the use of parable, what do you think living ready means in our everyday life?  Knowing that is the key to actually being ready for the end.

I hope you’re able to join us on Sunday as we delve into this fascinating section of Scripture!

The Wasted Energy of Worry

“A day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work” ~ John Lubbock

This Sunday as we continue our journey through the Gospel of Luke, our text will be Luke 12:22-34 and we’ll be tackling the subject of worry and anxiety. Now, as one who struggles with anxieties, I know that often when this subject is covered in a Bible teaching I usually feel worse because it’s generally stated that “worry is a sin, so stop it!” – which flattens out a very complex subject and ignores all that we’ve learned about the sources for anxiety and its management. I will attempt to avoid that sort of oversimplification while still remaining true to what Jesus is teaching us.

For one thing, the primary lesson isn’t about what to stop, but who to trust, which should have the effect of staving off anxiety. We’ll also note that Jesus isn’t necessarily addressing anxiety overall – but is dealing with the specific issue of worrying over finances and provisions, and he has a specific contrast of values that he’s trying to communicate to us. V23 informs us that our lives are more than just what we eat or wear – what do you suppose he means by that?

In v24-28 Jesus uses illustrations from nature and God’s provision for it. As you read it, what do you believe he’s trying to communicate about God’s view of us, his people? V25-26 provide the basis for our title – the wasted energy of worry when it comes to our security and need for provision. How can God’s care for nature encourage us to trust him?

29-34 shifts the focus – and the contrast is made between the values of those who have embraced salvation through Jesus and the systems of this broken world. We are encouraged towards nobler things than scrambling around this earth trying to secure ourselves in it. How can a trust in God’s provision for us lead towards a more generous lifestyle on our part?

I hope you can join us this Sunday as we read this challenging text together.

What Do We Value?

This Sunday we’ll continuing our exploration of Luke’s gospel, reading ch 12:13-21.

It’s the parable of the rich fool – and the focus is going to be on what place money and possessions have in the hearts and priorities of Christ’s followers. There is a chance that this may be uncomfortable – but I really believe if we examine what Jesus is communicating in this text, it will actually relieve any discomfort we may feel about how we handle our finances.

The primary objective of this story is to get us examining our own hearts. As you read the parable, what do you think Jesus is getting at? Do you think God is opposed to having extra stuff, be it possessions or savings accounts? If not, what might his issue be – what had the rich farmer put his hope in that made him feel he could take his ease?

What does Jesus identify as foolishness in that attitude? How would you apply this in the context of a 21st Century American Christianity?

I hope you can join us Sunday as we dig deeply into this challenging subject!

Unhealthy Fears

This Sunday as we keep on with our study in Luke, we’ll be reading Luke 12:1-12.

Fear isn’t always a bad thing – it’s actually our natural warning system when danger may be present. But, there are plenty of unhealthy fears we experience as human beings – just look at the plethora of phobias psychology has identified – many of which are debilitating.

Jesus is going to address some wrong, or unhealthy types of fear in the passage we’ll be reading – encouraging us towards a more healthy pursuit of our spiritual goals.

As you read the passage – what type of fear might prompt a person to become hypocritical in their practice of faith. How might we counter that fear?

Jesus identifies the proper place for fear in v5 – albeit, the fear he’s describing is more like a deep respect for a higher authority. How would that idea help curb our tendency to fear what others might think of or do to us?

Then Jesus cuts to the heart, one of the greatest fears most humans face – the fear of worthlessness. How do Jesus’ words make you feel. How hard is it for you to believe that you are valued by God? What steps can you take to reinforce the reality of God’s love in your life?

Hope you can join us this Sunday as we take a deep dive into this passage!