1 Peter 3:21-22–Why did John baptize Jesus? Why do we baptize today? Scripture leads us to the conclusion that you must repent and be baptized to obey the gospel. By reading what Scripture says and illustrates about baptism from Jesus through the New Testament, we also begin to grasp the core truths proclaimed by the Christian faith. As we’ve seen recently among our congregation, God is always working. People are searching and responding. The Christian faith, so beautifully summarized in Scripture’s teaching on baptism, shows us God is not far from us if we will reach out to him.
Genesis 3: 1-6 This lesson continues an exploration of humanity’s story in the Bible and its relationship to our 2021 theme of “bonding”. In particular, this lesson consider humanity’s response to the honored place God gave them within the creation as the ones to whom He entrusted rule over His creation – humanity chose to rebel against God and His plan for them. The Bible’s narrative emphasizes the disorder and evil created by humanity’s rebellion, giving special attention to the ways in which it impacted the relationships God created humans to enjoy.
The 1970 Academy-Award winning movie Love Story traces the relationship of wealthy heir Oliver Barrett and working-class Jennifer Calleveri. Oliver, against his father’s wishes, married Jennifer, a decision that motivated his father to disown him and withhold the family’s wealth and privilege from him. Happy but struggling, the movie follows the young couple as they begin their life together until a tragic illness takes Jennifer’s life early in their marriage. The movie ends with Jennifer’s death bringing reconciliation between Oliver and his father, marked by Oliver telling his sorrowful father, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” We respond to stories like the one told in Love Story not merely because they narrate universal human experiences of love and loss, but because we sense a certain nobility them. I suspect we respond to those stories because they reflect aspects of God who “is love” (1 John 4:8). God’s identity as love shapes the Bible’s narrative, which tells a great love story. We will therefore consider the Bible’s love story in this lesson and what it means for our lives.
Genesis 1: 26-28 Well-written stories introduce main characters in both memorable and prescient ways. Whether subtle or heavy-handed, those introductions set the boundaries within which we come to understand the characters and the stories they inhabit. That storytelling technique helps us appreciate the way God introduces humanity in the Bible’s carefully crafted narrative. We will, in this lesson, briefly consider humanity’s introduction in the Bible and how it both prepares us to understand the rest of the Bible’s story and how it helps us understand our place and purpose in the world.
A Battle of the Mind Matthew 15:21-28 Matthew 15 includes a story of Jesus honoring the faith of a Canaanite woman. The story is tense and contentious, as though there is a deeper struggle going on. It makes me think of passages like Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places.” Jesus can be contentious! We learn from Jesus that we are in a spiritual battle for our heart and mind. He strengthens us to know what is worth standing up for and how to stand fast in a godly, biblical way.
Matthew 5:19-20–This lesson concludes a three-lesson series considering Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, a series encouraging us to look back to Jesus’ teaching to help us move forward into the new year. Our first lesson explored the reality and nature of the kingdom Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount while the second lesson considered the rule Jesus assumed over that kingdom. We continue our focus on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in this lesson by considering the behavior his rule expected from those in his kingdom, which reveals an important focus – kingdom behavior focuses on the proper treatment of others.
Matthew 7:24-29 This lesson continues a three-lesson series considering Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, a series encouraging us to look back to Jesus’ teaching to help us move forward into the new year. We spent time last week exploring the reality of the kingdom that formed the heart of Jesus’ teachings. We continue our focus on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in this lesson by considering the rule over the kingdom he talked about in his sermon, which outlines an important message – God has given Jesus rule over the kingdom of heaven.
We tend to associate the beginning of a new year with the possibility of new and good things. That anticipation is tempered by our recognition that we have to work to realize many of the good things we hope to see. As we move into 2021, I want us to consider Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, to look back to his teaching to help us move forward into the new year. We will, over the next few weeks, consider three messages from the Sermon on the Mount that will hopefully compose a perspective that will guide us throughout this year and help us realize the good things God wants to be part of our lives. We begin in this lesson by considering the reality of the kingdom Jesus talked about in his sermon, which focuses us on an important message – we live in the present as representatives of Jesus’ kingdom’s future arrival.
John 17: 20-23 The 151st church family has the following mission: we exist to live, and help others live, a purposeful life by being more like Jesus. Our mission expresses itself in through: = Growing – developing our understanding of God’s Bible and developing ways of helping us faithfully live out those understandings. = Bonding – developing a deeper relationship with God that reveals itself through our deepening relationships with one another. = Sending – identifying ways to both serve and teach the people and communities around us with the goal of one day planting another church. Last year focused on “growing”, the first of the three expressions of our mission. This year we will focus on the second of the three purposes – “bonding” – and explore the Bible’s teachings about relationships and the place they hold within our effort to be more a Christlike church family. Bonding’s goal focuses on helping us cultivate united, Jesus-centered relationships with one another through which we evidence, and develop, our relationship with God. This lesson introduces our focus for 2021 by offering a brief overview of bonding’s place within the Bible.
Trusting God When… Genesis 50:19-21 It’s fairly amazing how quickly the word obey became a taboo in our culture. Think about it. People would rather hear something ugly than be told to obey. Which is why stories like Joseph in Genesis are significant. He is held up for his obedience as an illustration of trust, and even love, for God. Understanding Joseph helps us see the truth behind Jesus’ words “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.”
In Luke chapter two, an angel announced the “good news” of Jesus’ birth to shepherds in a field (Luke 2:10), a passage that has since become a standard Christmas tableau. Imagery of angels, shepherds, and sheep during the Christmas season intends to focus people on Jesus, but those familiar scenes often fail to capture the disconnect between the announcements of good news and the reality of Jesus’ birth and life. This lesson takes advantage of Christmas’ focus on Jesus’ birth to help us think about why it is “good news”, why some struggled to understand it in his day, and what it means for us today.
The book of Nahum contains a small collection of poems announcing God’s judgment on Assyria and its capital city of Nineveh. God did not address its contents to us nor does it speak to any situation in our world, yet it’s message resonates with our world. This lesson briefly considers that resonance by exploring Nahum’s message and the applications it has for us today.
Colossians 3:15-17 — 2020 has been a most unusual year. COVID sidelined many of the church-related patterns that, in many ways, define church life. While COVID’s disruptions created unease, fear, and frustration, they also revealed a number of blessings and created a number of opportunities for us in the 151st church family. This lesson will therefore consider a few of those things to help us think about the coming year and some things we might do to build on our strengths so that we can more effectively represent Jesus.
Unchristian Matthew 11:2-9 What do doubt and rejection have in common? Is it unchristian to experience one? Or both? After ten months of isolation, one of Jesus’ strongest supporters experiences doubt. To make matters worse, this follower spoke out in defense of the teachings of Jesus and against a moral evil. But now there is no end in sight to his isolation and rejection. This story provides assurance that doubt and rejection do not have to be what ultimately defines those who seek Jesus.
This month we have been considering some of the things revealed in the Bible that ought to motivate the thankfulness Paul described in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Last week we looked at the order, purpose, and goodness God’s rule brings into our world. We recognize that God’s order, purpose, and goodness can sometimes be hard to see in our world. Too often, disorder, uncertainty, and pain seem to fill our world, making it difficult to feel thankful. But the Bible presents another aspect of God’s rule, an element that seeks to correct our world’s problems and that ought to engender an abiding thankfulness in us. This lesson explores that element and reminds us that we ought to be thankful people because God entrusts His rule to Jesus.
The role science played in our recent presidential election reveals the prominent place it generally holds in our society. People who advocate for it portray it as a dispassionate, just-the-facts discipline that dispels the myths and wrong ideas that inhibit us. It allows us, they claim, to understand the physical laws that govern our universe so that we can do more and better things. Our society’s upon science creates a problem for many Christians because they find it difficult to reconcile science with Genesis’ account of the creation. That tension attracts attention and can result in people sometimes missing the points made in Genesis chapter one. We will consider some of the points Genesis’ opening chapter makes because they offer another reason for the thankfulness that defines us: We are thankful that God rules.
Luke 12:23 — We generally associate November with Thanksgiving, a holiday that emphasizes thankfulness and family. The usual festive mood associated with Thanksgiving, however, sit uneasily in front of the problems troubling our nation this year – the pandemic, economic hardships, apocalyptic-like wildfires, nation-wide protests, and racial and political violence. While our situation might seem unusual and worrisome to us, the Bible offers a picture of life that gives us reason to be thankful regardless of our circumstances. So, this month, we are considering some of the reasons that motivate our thankfulness even in our challenging times. This lesson continues the series by examining the second reason for our thankfulness – We are thankful because there is a life after this life.
We generally associate November with Thanksgiving, a holiday that emphasizes thankfulness and family. The usual festive mood associated with Thanksgiving, however, sit uneasily in front of the problems troubling our nation this year – the pandemic, economic hardships, apocalyptic-like wildfires, nation-wide protests, and racial and political violence. While our situation might seem unusual and worrisome to us, the Bible offers a picture of life that gives us reason to be thankful regardless of our circumstances. So, this month, we will…
Job 34:10-16 Do you think you would do a good job if you were responsible for “repaying everyone for what they have done” and giving everyone “what their conduct deserves”? Do you think God does better? Is He somehow better equipped to untangle our complicated world of right and wrong, justice and mercy? Job admits he couldn’t do better and says: “If God withdrew his spirit and breath, all humanity would perish together and mankind would return to the dust.” When we are discouraged by all that is wrong with the world and ourselves, and baffled by how complex and difficult hardship can be, we need to spend time thinking on all that is right with God.
Certain beliefs and practices define us as a religious group in our thinking and other religious groups’ thinking. Because we have a responsibility to be “prepared to make a defense” for the things we believe (1 Peter 3:15), we need to have a conversational understanding of our beliefs and practices that we can share with others. This lesson continues a series looking at some of the more apparent beliefs and practices that tend to define us, things like baptism, communion, and music in worship, and will offer a biblical explanation for them. In particular, this lesson explores our beliefs about the Lord’s Supper: We believe the Christian practice of communion follows the Jewish observance of the Sabbath while reinterpreting it through Jesus’ death and resurrection.