Early in my ministry, an older preacher jokingly told me that you “don’t mess with people’s money or kids.” Conversely, I have noticed that people tend to like lessons that focus on other people more than ones that focus on them and their concerns. Despite seeing the same things, Jesus persistently directed his audience’s attention to their problems. His strategy often angered his audience and even motivated them to try and kill him on a couple of occasions. We are a church family committed to following Jesus. Like those who followed Jesus in the gospels, we should also be prepared to be disquieted by his teachings. However, the discomfort Jesus creates seeks to transform us so that we can enjoy the life God intended us to live. We will, in this lesson, consider the transformed relationship with wealth that Jesus expects to take root within the lives of all who follow him.
Nearly twenty-five years ago, I began seeing gender-inclusive religious slogans like, “Our God, She is alive.” Academic debates about feminism and patriarchy had reached a popular level and started to appear in bookstores and on bumper stickers. While some opposed gender-inclusive Bible teaching because of prejudices and others pushed gender-inclusive Bible teachings into unbiblical areas, the debate revolved around a clear center – God does describe Himself using feminine imagery in the Bible. As we celebrate Mothers’ Day today, we…
A [large] contingent of practicing Christians are more inclined toward materialism, the view that the material world is all there is. For them, “meaning and purpose comes from working hard to earn as much as possible so you can make the most of life,” a view held by one-fifth of practicing Christians (20%). The above quote comes from a 2017 Barna Group report summarizing its research into various worldviews influencing the beliefs and practices of self-identified Christians in the United States. While I suspect the finding that many believe “meaning and purpose comes from working hard to earn as much as possible so you can make the most of life” does not surprise us, the number of “practicing Christians” who espouse it should alarm us. That finding should disturb us because its claim that life’s meaning and purpose revolves around wealth stands in stark contrast to Jesus’ numerous teachings about wealth’s dangers. As we continue to explore what it looks like to commit ourselves to following Jesus and learning from him, we will use this lesson to consider Jesus’ teachings about wealth in Matthew 6:19-24.  https://www.barna.com/research/competing-worldviews-influence-todays-christians/
The Cost of Community Jesus promises that his community of believers will be a blessing and a support. How close are we supposed to be in this community? And why will there be challenges? Though Christian community comes at a cost, Christ tells us it is worth pursuing.
One might be forgiven for thinking that Easter means new clothes, candy, and other marketed goods. Even though it might seem that Easter is becoming another consumer holiday, millions of people worldwide continue to use the Easter holiday to reflect on the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Generally, a celebratory mood marks the day because of the ‘good news’ (the literal meaning of the word “gospel”) Jesus’ resurrection brings to peoples’ lives. Therefore, we will use this Easter service to consider one of the reasons why Jesus’ resurrection is good news and what that message means for our lives.
We like to think of ourselves as people who know and obey the Bible. The Pharisees also liked to think of themselves in the same way. The gospels, however, record several occasions where Jesus condemned the Pharisees for failing to know and obey God’s Word; he accused them of “rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish [their] tradition” (Mark 7:9). In our effort to follow Jesus, we need to avoid the disrespect Jesus accused the Pharisees of having towards God’s word. Rather, we need to cultivate proper respect for the Bible that motivates us to submit to the purpose for which God created it. Consequently, we will use this lesson to explore the respect Jesus expects people to have for the Bible so that we can better understand the relationship we should have with it.
We have all endured the challenge of learning a new concept or witnessed that struggle in our children. It offers a familiar, relatable experience common to our education-oriented path to adulthood. While frustrating, struggling to learn a new concept generally carries low stakes. Imagine how that experience would change if the idea held unimaginable high stakes. Jesus was a teacher whose teachings proved deeply challenging to his audience, even to his own disciples. But Jesus was also a teacher whose teachings carried the highest possible stakes. We will consequently consider the story of Jesus teaching two disciples in Luke 24:13-35 to see what insights it can offer us into both the challenge of Jesus’ teachings and how he worked to overcome it.
A megadrought has been slowly choking the western United States for the past twenty-two years. The war in Ukraine has devastated cities and displaced more than ten million people. The COVID pandemic disrupted international supply chains, triggering global economic problems. Even in our modern world, things hang in a delicate balance that always seems to favor the small minority of wealthy individuals who own most of the world’s wealth. It should not surprise us, then, that people feel the need to accrue and protect wealth. Jesus looks at the same world filled with the same problems and comes to a radically different conclusion: Generously give wealth to others rather than collecting it for oneself. But Jesus’ conclusion does not merely promote generosity in an out-of-balance world; it assumes a fundamentally different understanding of the world that leads one to practice charity. As we explore discipleship to Jesus this year, we will use this lesson to consider practical applications to his teachings about generosity.
Jesus did not hide the cost of discipleship to him. In fact, he repeatedly and openly talked about its high cost. While we should pay attention to Jesus’ teachings about ‘counting the cost’ of following him, we need to be careful that we do not place such emphasis on the cost that we inadvertently portray Christianity as a burden. ‘Counting the cost’ should be balanced against the overwhelming weight of Jesus’ worthy identity that far surpasses the cost and that motivates us to commit ourselves to following him. Therefore, we will consider John’s portrait of Jesus in Revelation to remind us of his worthy identity and its meaning for us.
Luke 14:25-33 — We are cost-conscious people. We compare prices. We shop for the best deal. We want the most ‘bang-for-the-buck’. That impulse leads to the common wisdom that success in the marketplace requires a price low enough to attract consumers’ attention without creating suspicion. And then there is Jesus… Jesus desires disciples. Even though he wants people to follow him, he often seemingly discourages people from doing that very thing by setting ‘unreasonably’ high requirements for being his disciple.…
Made for More 2 Peter 3:3-9 God is patient…but are we patient with ourselves? When Noah steps off the ark, he still has years to live for God. Does he hold to God’s unchanging hand? Is this a hard transition? Noah’s life reinforces the necessity to build our lives on God’s eternal purposes.
Matthew 5:43-48 – It is easy to talk about discipleship, but the reality of following Jesus proves far more challenging. That challenge might be why Jesus said few people chose his “narrow” path (Matthew 7:13-14). To help us better understand the challenges associated with following Jesus, we will take time this year to consider “practical discipleship”, to think about the real-world applications of his way in our lives. This lesson will explore the “practical discipleship” of loving our enemies.
English poet John Donne included that phrase in a publication of prose he released in 1624. His statement remains well-known even though nearly four hundred years have passed since its appearance because it simply and memorably expresses humanity’s social nature. While we might acknowledge the phrase’s truth, a tendency nevertheless exists to try and do things on our own. And who can fault us – we live in a culture constantly promoting DIY individualism and rags-to-riches stories of hardworking individuals who succeed against all odds. That tendency to individualism, however, grates against God’s expectation of single-minded devotion to Him. We are taking time this year to focus on discipleship, on committing ourselves to follow Jesus and learn from him so that we can be more like him. Over the last few weeks, we have considered how we can act like Jesus in our relationships. In this lesson, we will consider Jesus’ relationship with God and how his complete devotion to God offers a model to follow in our relationships with God.
Forbes Magazine reported that in 2019 businesses and individuals spent an estimated $166 Billion on leadership training in the United States. The amount of money spent on leadership reminds us of an obvious truth – leaders matter. While Jesus agrees with the importance given to leaders, his understanding of leadership fundamentally differs from our world’s common understandings. Today we begin a process to select and appoint additional deacons, men who will join our church family’s leadership. Therefore, we will consider…
Matthew 6:5-15 –“Jesus, the most important person in the world, authorized only four very limited biographies, four small gospels that focus on just three years of his life. John commented at the end of his gospel that Jesus said and did far more than he included in his story but that he chose only to include the things that would lead his readers to “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:30-31; 21:25). The limited nature…
Matthew 23:29-36 — Jesus gave special attention to interpersonal relationships. He repeatedly called people to embrace an unbiased, selfless love for others in all their relationships, an expectation both challenging and inspiring. But Jesus did merely engage in religious sloganeering; he practiced the love about which he taught. So, what do we do when Jesus, who taught people to “love [their] enemies” (Matthew 5:43-44) seemingly turns on his ‘enemies’ and repeatedly and publicly blasts them? We will consider Jesus’ condemnation…
This year, we are focusing on discipleship – our commitment to follow Jesus and learn from him so that we can be like him and lead others to him. Four areas of focus come out of our definition of discipleship: 1. Learning to act like Jesus – “our commitment to follow Jesus.” 2. Learning to think like Jesus – “to learn from him.” 3. Transforming into a Christlike person – “be like him.” 4. Teaching other people about Jesus – “lead others to him.” Those four areas – acting, thinking, transforming, and teaching – will form the foci for our preaching in 2022. This month, we begin focusing on acting like Jesus and will give attention to learning to act like him in our relationships with other people. This lesson will consider Jesus’ interaction with Lazarus’ family in John chapter eleven to help us think about our interactions with suffering and hurting people.
Man of God 1 Timothy 6:11-16 Paul holds up Jesus as an example to us all. He also holds Jesus as an example to young men of the godly man they are to become. There is the gentle Jesus. Then there is the Jesus who speaks truth forcefully. In Christ, we men learn that godly masculinity matches the circumstance to act as a providing and preserving force.
This year we will be focusing on the theme of discipleship. “Discipleship” has become a trendy word in religious circles over the last few years. Its popularity rests, in part, on the perception that it provides an emphasis upon Christianity’s personal, relational character that counters a culture-influenced tendency to emphasize religion’s institutional qualities. Another reason motivates discipleship’s popularity – it occupies an obvious and important place in Jesus’ teachings – consider, for example, Luke 14:25-27, 33 and Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus,…
1 Corinthians 1:10