Monday, March 28, 2016

Touch Him and see

Hope everyone had an amazing Easter!  I suspect many of you looked at Luke 24 yesterday as part of your church service (me too!)  In reading this beforehand, four little words really struck me about the reality of the Risen Christ, He told them, “Touch me and see”. Let’s take a closer look (and if we’re not too careful, maybe even a touch!)

Luke 24:36-39
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

Things to think about:

  • It’s funny He says to them “Peace” and their reaction was being startled and frightened! I guess if you had watched Him die and now there’s someone there you’d swear was Him if you didn’t know better, saying Peace to you would be fairly unsettling 
    • it would be pretty freaky to think you saw a ghost too! Nothing about this situation is normal so we wouldn’t have much of a precedent to compare it to.
    • a lot pf people try to pass Jesus off as a myth or creation of someone’s vivid imagination.  What’s your best proof He’s actually real?
  • Jesus comes in peace in the midst of our our fear and confusion
    • and He rightly asks us too, “why are you troubled, and why do doubts risen your minds?”
    • we have so much knowledge about Him and many of us many years of life experience with Him.  Why do we sometimes allow ourselves to be troubled and full of doubts?
    • what is the cure for this?
  • I love the fact that we don’t worship a famous guy from the past who died doing a heroic act, but rather a real person, alive today, who is asking us to touch Him
  • Why does He invite them to look at His hands and feet?
    • He is not afraid of our having questions, in fact He invites us to press in and see that His claims are true
  • What in your life could you point to that would show a doubter that His presence in your life is real and not a figment of your imagination?

Monday, March 21, 2016


For our discussion tomorrow, let’s look at Philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Things to think about:
  •      According to the Apostle Paul, approximately how much of our day should be dedicated to selfish ambition or vain conceit?
    • o   OK, that was an easy one, but what if we think about it this way:
      • §  How would you describe selfish ambition or vain conceit to a child?
      • §  What are guideposts or warning signs that signal to us we are acting out of selfish ambition or vain conceit?
  •     Why do we sometimes feel the need to be important, to be recognized?
    • o   How does (or should) our faith alter this?
    • o   How are you different today in this respect than say 10-20 years ago?
  •      What does humility mean to you?
    • o   When was a time you can remember when you were in a state of humility as defined here?
      • §  To stimulate your thinking, typically the three things we have to offer are our time, talents, and treasure
    • o   Warning – if you’re struggling for a recent example, time to take inventory of valuing others above yourself!
  •     Trick question – where does the Bible talk about how Jesus humbled Himself?
  •    What would be an appropriate comparison we could make if we were to lower ourselves as far as Jesus lowered Himself to our level?
  •   What is something you can do TODAY to draw closer to the example Jesus set for humility?

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Performance Review by Jesus

Have you recently had a performance review at work?  Did it incorporate a 360° feedback loop?  Was it a big surprise or did it go as expected?  They can be kind of intimidating if you don’t trust who is giving it to you or if you feel like you are being treated unfairly.  On the other side of the equation, are you in a role where you give performance reviews? Do you try to be specific and blend positive with constructive feedback?  For our study in the morning, let’s look at the job review Jesus gave the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:2-7

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place.But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans,which I also hate.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Things to think about:

  • Jesus starts with the positive.  We’ve probably all been taught that whether giving feedback to our kids or co-workers, we should start off with the positive. It sets a good tone and rightly prioritizes what’s going well.
    • in this case, Jesus focuses on their deeds, hard work, and perseverance.  We know that faith without works is dead (James 2:20).  
    • recently we looked at John 14:15 - if you love Me, keep my commands
    • clearly, it is important that we are walking the walk and doing the work the Master has assigned to us
  • Secondly, Jesus commends them for their strong working knowledge of the truth and their uncompromising attitude towards it.
    • no tolerance for wicked people is a good place to be.  As society keeps redefining right and wrong, knowing and walking in absolute truth is vital for winning the fight.
    • 2 Corinthians 2:11 says that we should not be outwitted by Satan and his schemes, for we are not ignorant his designs
  • Thirdly, He puts more context around their perseverance and patience, even while enduring hardships
  • all in all, sounds like they were doing a lot of the right things
    • but therein lies the rub - lots of doing. Too much of a focus on doing leads to legalism.  When we become legalistic we trade the Lord for the Law
    • Remember Jesus’ admonition to Martha in Luke 10 - 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
  • His criticism of the church was that they had lost their first love
    • Who or what was their first love?
    • Do you remember when you first fell in love with your wife?  Your priorities changed so that making her happy was your first and most important responsibility.
    • but over time, we become comfortable with those closest to us and can tend to stop being as attentive as we once were
  • Jesus goes on to say that the should consider how far they had fallen
    • fallen from what or where?
    • when one first comes to the Lord in the light of acknowledging their sin, and in gratitude for the amazing grace that is extended to us, we can be on Cloud 9 for good reason
    • but of course, life and distractions press in on us and we can lose sight of the incredible gift that has been bestowed upon us.  More importantly, we can forget or simply take for granted the bestower of the gift
    • Why is this a big deal to Jesus?
  • Graciously He offers a path back to intimate fellowship with Himself
    • Repent and do the things you did at first
    • but Jesus is not weak or lacking in authority.  If you do not repent, He warns them, I will remove your lamp stand from its place
    • the lamp stand is the church.  Good trees bear fruit and are pruned.  Bad trees are cut down and thrown in the fire.
  • But Jesus turns back on to the positive tack and leaves them with a compliment and a promise
    • compliment- they hate the practices of the Nicolaitans - they were various sorts of truth-twisters who led people astray
    • promise - to the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God
    • why should eating from the tree of life be tremendous motivation for them and us?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

When Plans are Frustrated

Do you ever feel like circumstances are conspiring against you?  You have a plan, you think God doesn’t object (He may even have given you an indication He’s for it), and you are trying to move forward.  Instead of smooth sailing you encounter one obstacle after another.  Well if any of this sounds familiar to you, stay tuned for our discussion tomorrow morning.  We’ll be turning way back in the Old Testament to Numbers 22:21-35 (click here, it is a link to the entire chapter for context) to catch up with Balaam and his donkey.  

As quick background, the time period is when Israel was wandering in the desert.  The King of the Moabites, Balak, saw the vast horde of the Israelites and was scared since he had heard how they defeated the Amorites, saw they were too many to win against, and feared they would overrun his kingdom.  He called for a “prophet” to curse the Israelites and the best known one was Balaam.  Balaam was not a man of God, rather he was a man of gods.  He would prognosticate in exchange for a fee.  Whichever god you wanted a word from, Balaam was your man. After some cajoling, Balaam agreed to meet with Balak.  

Balaam’s Donkey

21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road.
24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.
26 Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?
29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.
30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”
“No,” he said.
31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lordstanding in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.
32 The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.[a] 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”
34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”
35 The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

Things to think about:
  • Wow, where to start?!
  • Why was God displeased with Balaam?
  • Notice that the donkey tried to stop three times along the route.  Each time the way became narrower and more frustrating
    • When we are making an unwise choice, sometimes God gives us multiple chances to get back on the right road but each chance comes with a bit more pain associated with it.
    • have you ever had a time when the way had to get more difficult for the message to sink in?
  • rather than trying to see God in his difficulties, Balaam rages each time and beats his donkey
    • sometimes in our outbursts we feel like we are exerting power but in reality we are showing our weaknesses
    • this can be especially true with our wives and children
    • do you know anyone who is slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to get angry?  (That’s the opposite of James 1:19)
  • Interestingly, Balaam was a for-hire “Seer” but his dumb animal was the one who saw what was really going on.
    • 1Corinthians 1:27 - But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
  • How about when God gives voice to the donkey, rather than be amazed at the animal speaking, Balaam argues with it?!
    • he straight out missed a miracle in order to argue his case
  • The donkey says he has always been a good servant of Balaam and yet didn’t receive the benefit of the doubt
    • Why do we question God when we know beyond the show of a doubt that He has been, is now, and always will be faithful to our needs?
  • Then Balaam is humbled and humiliated when God opens his eyes to see the angel standing there, sword in hand
    • were it not for the inconveniences, frustrations, and delays, Balaam would have lost his life 
    • when have you had a experience when after all of the facts were presented you were in the wrong?  How did you respond?
    • are you going through something now where the path seems to be constantly thwarted?  Maybe your donkey has something to say???
  • To Balaam’s credit, he admitted his sin.  He even offered to go back and quit his journey to the king.
  • What is one application you can take from today’s study?

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Fundamentals

The Fundamentals

We recently all gathered around the TV to watch the Super Bowl time so nothing like a good sports metaphor to get us going.  When we look at successful athletes, one thing they tend to have in common is a focus on the fundamentals.  Executing the fundamentals with excellence is a precursor to being a champion.  Ignoring the fundamentals causes preventable mistakes that lead to losing.  The worst losses are those that are 100% avoidable.  I’d like to look at an area that is absolutely essential to us having victory in the life God has called us to.

Proverbs 7:22-23

All at once he followed her
    like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer stepping into a noose
23     till an arrow pierces his liver,
like a bird darting into a snare,
    little knowing it will cost him his life.

Things to think about:

  • There is a famous story about Coach John Wooden of UCLA that tells of how the very first thing he did on the very first day of practice every year was reviewing how to put on your socks correctly and how to properly tie your shoes.  Didn’t matter if you were a freshman or a senior, everyone went through the drill together
    • why do you think he would take the time to go over something so elementary?
  • Proverbs 7 is about avoiding the trap of adultery.  Solomon gives us a very stern warning as to what will happen if we do not pay attention to the moral fundamentals of avoiding any contact with a woman who could lead us astray. The chapter ends saying that many are her victims, mighty is the throng of men who have fallen victim to her.
  • As I look at it, there are essentially four characteristics of the man who fails in the area of moral purity
    • Ignoring the truth you have been taught
    • Going to places that might be fertile ground for failure 
    • Stopping and listening to the full invitation that leads to a fall
    • Being impulsive
  • When we look for a man who won this battle,  we can learn from Joseph (Genesis 39)
    • Joseph knew the truth and practiced it
    • He couldn’t avoid the temptation because it was at his place of employment
    • He would not listen to Potiphar’s wife’s solicitations
    • He ran before his hormones gave him bad advice!
  • The truth of the matter is we are all stupid enough to fall victim to this temptation if we ignore the fundamentals
    • I believe there is a great danger in not holding on tightly to the truth we all know in this area
    • In most cases we can choose to stay away from people and situations that could be a trap for us
    • We definitely have a choice as to whether we listen or encourage inappropriate conversations, flirtations, etc.
    • We always have a choice as to whether to stay or leave a compromising situation
  • So let’s:
    • write God’s commands on the tablets of our heart
    • stay away from places/websites that could lead us astray
    • refusing to entertain persuasive and seductive words/pictures
    • run for your life!

I hope you can come to practice tomorrow and reconfirm your commitment to remain pure and win this important victory


Contentment vs. More

We're going to look at Hebrews 15:5-6 

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”” 
Things to think about: 
• last week we looked at keeping our hearts and minds free from lust and adultery. Verse 4 here deals with the same topic and then moves on to money in verse 5 
     • 2,000 years ago the issues were the same.  Modern man is not that unique. Why do you think this is the case? 

• what is the connection between the love of money and remembering that God will never leave us or forsake us? 
     • I feel one of the main areas I still need to work on is being content with what I have. All good gifts come from the Father of heavenly lights so why do I focus on what I don't have? 
      • isn't it a good American value to strive for more? 

• I am learning to take great comfort in knowing I am never without the Lord at my side through the Holy Spirit. 
     • is this part of your daily consciousness? Is it easy or hard for you to acknowledge this reality? 

• with God there is no place for fear. The writer says what can mere man do to me? 
     • are you struggling today with the fear of man (or woman) having power over you?  How can today's passage help you re-orient your thinking?