Monday, November 28, 2016

Virtuous Reality

As we approach the Christmas celebration, every retailer wants to get in your wallet.  As it turns out, God wants to get into your heart! There are so many ways and places we can spend our money; some noble, some less so.  While my electronics clients would love for you to invest in virtual reality, our Savior is more interested in virtuous reality.  The real needs are stark and significant.  While there are many, many examples in the Word of people who are barely getting by, here is one that leaves little room for misunderstanding.

  In terms of our topic for the morning, let's look at Job 24:7-9
  
  Lacking clothes, they spend the night naked;
     they have nothing to cover themselves in the cold.
  8 They are drenched by mountain rains
     and hug the rocks for lack of shelter.
  The fatherless child is snatched from the breast;
     the infant of the poor is seized for a debt.
  
  Things to think about:
  •   The Bible is replete with passages that illustrate God's compassion for the poor, the widow, and the orphan.
    •   can you share a time that was especially meaningful to you when you felt God's deep love for one of the least of these?
    •   How did that impact you in the short term? How has it impacted you permanently?
  •   Have you ever been in a situation where you were one of the least of these?
    •   if so, did anyone minister to you during that time?
    • had did that make a difference for you?
  • As mentioned in the intro above, there is a limitless supply of marketers competing for your dollars.  
    • Are you ever challenged to make your Christmas giving different than in years before?
    • If so, have you actually followed up on that intent?  
  • "For where your treasure is, there your heart is also" - Matthew 6:21
    • let’s talk about some places God has directed (or is right now directing you) to show where your heart REALLY is?
    •  Do you have an idea of how we can we come together as a group to serve the least of these and to deepen our ties with one another?

 Looking forward to seeing what God will do as we search very near the core of His heart!

Monday, November 21, 2016

What are YOU thankful for?

In this week of Thanksgiving, if you need something to be thankful about, this week's study will hopefully meet that need!  Many of you are going through hard times right now. Whether it’s health-related issues, job transitions/pressures, broken relationships, or maybe even a crisis of faith, the “here and now” can be overwhelming sometimes. We can be so focused on what we don’t have and miss the amazing promises of God as to what we do have, both now and for eternity.  Peter gives us a clear reminder that things are not only going to be OK, they are going to be perfect. Below in our notes, I phrased the comments to emphasize that these promises are for YOU, not just believers in general, so that you can feel and absorb these truths in a new and personal way.

1 Peter 1:3-5

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Things to think about (and to be thankful for):

  • Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  He’s not just a wise teacher, a prophet, a good role model, He is the Son of God.
    • YOUR Lord is God in the flesh
    • He wants to be with YOU
  • God is merciful.
    • Mercy is the quality of not getting what you deserve. Why is mercy important?
    • Thanks be to God YOU don’t get what YOU deserve!
  • He has given YOU new birth
    • can you describe your feelings when you held one of your children right after they were born? 
      • I think about all of the promise that is represented in a new life
    • have you ever wished you could push the reset button on life and have a do-over? In a sense, God has done that for YOU. Jesus taught Nicodemus that he must be born again, not of flesh but of the Spirit. John 3
  • He has given YOU a living hope
    • this hope that we have is alive and real.  It is not a fanciful idea or a compelling philosophy. It has been bought and sealed by the finished work of Jesus dying on the cross for YOUR sins and God raising Him from the dead.
    • YOU have every reason to hope because YOU have nothing to be afraid of! The two worst things that can happen, death and paying for YOUR transgressions, have already been taken care of.
    • there is no need for fear, there is no need for guilt and shame
  • YOU have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade
    • Earthly investments can be fleeting things. Bubbles and crashes can wipe out years of savings and perceived security.
    • God is keeping YOUR inheritance in the safest place possible - Heaven, shielded by God’s power.  Now that’s better than the FDIC!
  • Salvation is the big prize waiting for YOU, ready to be revealed at the last time
    • YOUR life will end on the most amazing high note possible - verse 9: for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
  • My prayer is that YOU can take a step back from the real challenges of YOUR life and be thankful for the unspeakably great blessings God has for YOU

Monday, November 14, 2016

Say, See, Step

Say, See, Step

Whether you grew up in Sunday School or not, you’re probably familiar with the little song that warns, “Be careful little eyes what you see…for the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little eyes what you see.” It goes on to talk about what you hear, where you go, etc.  Proverbs 4 is the grown-up version of this and it still has great application for us. We are counseled to be careful with what we say, what we see, and where we step. The practicality of this biblical wisdom is both immediate and important.

Proverbs 4:24-27
Keep your mouth free of perversity;
    keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
    fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
    and be steadfast in all your ways.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
    keep your foot from evil.

Things to think about:
·      Say – why does what we say matter?
o   Matthew 15:17 - But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.
o   What falls under the general category of perversity and corrupt?
§  It certainly seems that lying would be on the list.  Cursing too. What about false flattery? Gossip? Speaking ill of another (even if they have hurt you)?
§  If these bad things fall from our lips, let’s ask God to clean up the dirty parts of our hearts from where they spring.
o   What kind of speech should we have?
§  Ephesians 4:29 - Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
·      See – why does what we see matter?
o   Our verse tells us to look straight ahead. “Straight” is a common metaphor for what is good and righteous.
o   Jesus said in Matthew 6:22-23, 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
§  Research tells us that 65% of us are visual learners.  We process and remember what we see!
§  What are things that can fill us with darkness when we watch/view/see them?
§  Is there any darkness that you’re allowing in?  What would you be willing to give up watching on TV?
§  How are you doing with lust? Have you been working on looking away?
·      Step – why does where we go matter?
o   Again, the concept of “straight” appears here with the admonishment to “not turn to the left or the right”
§  Where are places that can be a temptation for you? If you travel for work, do you go to the bar in the hotel (or somewhere else) alone?
§  Some places we can go aren’t good or bad unto themselves but rather they take us away from where we should be.
·      Think about hobbies or other self-indulgences that when overdone pull you away from where God would have you.  What comes to mind?
o   More broadly, stepping can be a word picture for our actions in general
·      Of these three, which is the area of greatest challenge for you?
o   Is it your practice to pray for wisdom and strength to be victorious?
o   How can a friend help you when you need support in your weakness?
§  Have you ever actually implemented this?
·      The Prescription is found in Proverbs 4:23
o   Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
§  As a wise man once said, “all means all” and “everything means everything”


Looking forward to seeing you in the morning!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Election Day

With tomorrow being Election Day, it seems only appropriate to take a step back and get some heavenly perspective.  As I’ve talked to many people about our presidential options this year, most feel some level of disgust or despair with our choices.  Neither candidate seems to inspire. The pundits tell us that many people will just stay home, not being able to swallow the idea of voting for one or the other.  We worry about what the candidate we’re voting for might do, or more probably, what the candidate we’re voting against might do. This quite nasty campaign season has aroused fears that the very fabric of our nation and society are being irreparably torn and frayed. Today’s study isn’t about who to vote for though; rather it is taking a look at Who is really in charge, both today and for eternity.

Psalm 11

In the Lord I have taken shelter.
How can you say to me,
“Flee to a mountain like a bird!
For look, the wicked prepare their bows,
they put their arrows on the strings,
to shoot in the darkness at the morally upright.
When the foundations are destroyed,
what can the godly accomplish?”
The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord’s throne is in heaven.
His eyes watch;
his eyes examine all people.
The Lord approves of the godly,
but he hates the wicked and those who love to do violence.
May the Lord rain down burning coals and brimstone on the wicked!
A whirlwind is what they deserve!
Certainly the Lord is just;
he rewards godly deeds;
the upright will experience his favor.

Things to think about:
·      Is this election stirring up in you angst about where our society is headed?
o   Does it feel like maybe we have reached a tipping point where our Judeo-Christian values are on the way out? Are the “morally upright” under attack as David suggests?
o   He articulates what many people seem to feel at this point in our history, “When the foundations are destroyed, what can the godly accomplish?”
§  Does this describe you?
·      David starts off in verse 1 by saying his faith is in God.
o   Why is this an important foundational statement?
o   His logic then builds to, “if I’m trusting God then why would I run away in fear because powerful people are intent on hurting the morally upright?”
o   There is a tendency when circumstances appear to be too powerful or inevitable to run and hide.  David clearly rejects this kind of cowardice.
·      Verse 4 is really the key here: The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord’s throne is in heaven.
o   Our hope does not rely on whoever is sitting in the Oval Office, rather it is in He Who sits on His Holy Throne.
o   How does this truth comfort you in the midst of uncertainty surrounding our country?
·      God will not be mocked, whatever a man’s sows, so will he reap (Galatians 6:7)
o   God is watching, He sees and knows exactly what is going on.
o   Both His judgment and His blessing are coming to those according to their deeds
o   Certainly the Lord is just; He rewards godly deeds and the upright will experience His favor
·      As we have remarked a number of times recently, be strong, be of good courage. 

o   Proverbs 21:30 says, “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.”

Monday, October 31, 2016

Three Promises

I was reading Proverbs the other week and this verse jumped out at me. The sowing and reaping aspect of this was compelling, but even more so were the three promises. This is a short but profound teaching.

Proverbs 21:21
Whoever pursues righteousness and love
    finds life, prosperity and honor.

Things to think about:
  • The Message translates the beginning part of this verse as “Whoever goes hunting for what is right and kind…”
    • I’m struck by the intentionality of the verbs used – pursues, hunting. First observation is that they are in the present tense. Becoming a Christian isn’t the end point, becoming Christ-like is
    • These aren’t casual efforts, or stumbling upon something, rather they are focused on their object
    • Do we pursue righteousness and love like our work or favorite activity?
  • The Pursuit
    • Like a good hunter, we must become students of what we’re are after. How do we know what righteousness and love look like?
    • Who in your life embodies these qualities?
    • When you ask God to help you be righteous, what kinds of things come to your mind that would tell you something is righteous or not?
    • Have you had an opportunity in the last week to demonstrate love?
  • The Promises
    • Life, Prosperity, and Honor
      • Sounds like winning the heavenly lottery to me! See Proverbs 3:16
      • Who in their right mind wouldn’t want these things? If that’s true, why do so few go hunting for righteousness and love?
    • What do you think Solomon means by “life”?
      • One hint: John 14:6
      • What does it mean to truly have “life”?
    • Prosperity is a tricky one. Are we being promised financial success if we pursue righteousness and love?
      • If not, what might it mean?
      • Hint Psalm 103:2-5
    • Honor
      • We have talked a lot recently about legacy and significance. How does the concept of honor relate to these?
      • Psalm 103:4 – even God crowns us with love and compassion
      • What is the  opposite of honor? How could that creep into the picture?