Matthew 21:23-32 “The Right Way?”

This morning we come to worship God through Jesus Christ, His Son, the embodiment of Truth.  God’s Truth, Love, Grace, and all of the characteristics of God are communicated in His Word to us.  From that we are able to learn both who we are in Christ and how God calls us to respond and live into that identity.

Sometimes, however, we like to pick and chose which truths we think are the right way to live while ignoring others that seem to be more culturally acceptable.  We claim to have Christ in us, claim Him as our Savior, even claim to follow Him, but then choose not to when it’s too difficult or inconvenient.  Sadly, in that same thought, we also readily question and point fingers at those who are “off the path” in a more visible or, perhaps, culturally unacceptable way forgetting that we too are God’s people, fully dependent on His grace alone.

Questions to take home:

  1. Are there some Truths that Scripture teaches that you tend to look at more than others?  How about us as a church?  Is there a way that we could be better about not cherry picking the truths and sins for our own convenience?
  2. Jesus poses an interesting question about which kid actually did what the father wanted.  Is it better to say yes and then not do something, or say no and then change your mind?  Why do you think so?
  3. What if we cast this question in the form of “religion” vs. “relationship”?  Who is doing what the Bible wants, the one who says yes to relationship with Christ but then follows religion, or the one who says no to religion but then finds a relationship with Christ?

Mark 10:17-27 “All In”

It’s hard to give 100% of ourselves to anything these days.  Not only is there so much to do each and every day, but there are so many things battling for our attention.  Families run here and there, bringing kids to the next sport or school event.  Technology, with its constant updates and instant communication, makes it incredibly difficult to be fully presence in any situation, at any time.  Even church has become something to do, and faith more of a “checklist” religion than a relationship.

Scripture challenges our “do everything culture,” in the same way it challenges a “do everything” religion.  We cannot simply follow all the rules, go to church each week, and call it good.  When the rich young ruler asks if this is enough, Jesus challenges him to be “All In.”  Are we “All In” when it comes to our relationship with Christ?  Or is faith simple another thing we have to do?

Questions to take home:

  1. What does it mean for you to be “fully present” in a situation (at work, at home, with a friend, in your time with God, etc.)?  Do you struggle with this?  What is one way that you could help yourself to be more present wherever you are?
  2. Jesus tells the rich young ruler to “go sell everything” and follow Him.  Do you think he was serious?  What do you think He was referring to?  How could we apply that to our own lives today?
  3. It’s really easy to turn a conversation about “giving things up” into legalism, creating more “to dos” while removing others.  Are there things that are inhibiting your relationship with Christ?  What things can you adjust in your life to better represent your priorities?

Luke 9:1-17 “Authority and Abundance”

Thoughts for Reflection:

Today is World Wide Communion Sunday.  It is a day that the Church around the world, from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people group celebrates communion as one body, the Body of Christ.  We remember together that we are not here because of what we have done, but because of what God has done through Christ, in us.  We also remember that we are, together, called to be on mission with God in the world.

As we open Scripture today, we encounter a moment when Jesus sends out His disciples with His authority to continue the mission and work He was doing.  We also hear that, upon their return, much had been accomplished for the Kingdom.  Jesus is foreshadowing an even greater call that would go out to all His followers, the Great Commission, in which the whole church participates.

Questions to take home:

  1. Scripture is full of instances where God’s authority is given to a person or group of people for the purpose of fulfilling God’s will.  Can you think of some examples?  What is similar or different about them from today’s passage?
  2. After some time following, Jesus confers His authority on to His disciples and sends them out.  They return, Luke says, not as disciples but as apostles.  Today we talked about the difference in meaning of “disciple” and “apostle.”  What was that difference?  Where is God calling you to step out and make the transition from disciple to apostle?
  3. The Kingdom of God is one of abundance; every need is met beyond anything that could be asked for or imagined.  We are sent out to be proclaimers of the Kingdom.  How has God already met some of your needs for this task?  What needs do you feel still need to be met?  As we take communion (or as you remember it later), ask God to provide abundantly for them as He has for so much already.

Matthew 13:31-34 "The Little Things"

There is no shortage of needs in the world today. Whether it is hurricane relief, earthquake recovery, the battle against hunger or poverty, or perhaps even standing against injustice, there is always something more we could be doing. Far too often, however, these momentous tasks are way too large for us to handle, and it frequently leads to inaction.

This week Jesus describes the Kingdom of Heaven in terms of things that are start off very little but have a profound amount of growth and impact in the environment around them. He doesn’t tell us that we have to be the most wealthy, popular, influential, or powerful. Instead, Jesus simply points to the faithful and trusting actions of God-fearing individuals that have far-reaching effects in the world.

Questions to take home:

Have you ever experienced a moment in your life where you knew you could help someone with something? What did you do? What caused you to do (or not do) what you should have done?

What is it that usually stops us from taking action when the Holy Spirit prompts us? Can you think of any Scripture passages that would help to encourage us when those times comes? Write them down on a card and keep that card with you this week.

Sometimes the “big things” scare us into inaction. What is one “little thing” that you could do this week that could sprout into something much greater? Will you do it?

Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 7:36-50 "Debt Forgiveness"

The Kingdom of God/Heaven is one of the central parts of Jesus’ teaching during His earthly ministry. Over the next several weeks we will be looking at what Jesus meant and what the Bible refers to when the “Kingdom” is mentioned. We will also look at how this teaching impacts and transforms our lives through the message of the Gospel.

Forgiveness is the central pillar of the Kingdom of Heaven. Embodied in the life and work of Jesus Christ, our Scripture today reveals Scripture in terms of a massive, unpayable debt that is wiped away. Rather that treating us the way we deserve according to the Law, God shows us His great Love and Grace, forgiving our sins and setting us free from their burden when we place our faith in Jesus Christ.

Questions to take home:

Read Ephesians 2:8-9. How do you define “Grace” and “Faith?” What does this passage mean to you? How does it impact your daily life?

Jesus’ teaching on God’s forgiveness involves action on our part as well. How does this impact how you view the subject of forgiveness? Why is forgiveness so hard for us?

What changes need to take place in your life when it comes to forgiveness? Are you quick to forgive, or better at holding a grudge? Is there someone in your life you’ve not forgiven that needs to be? Pray that the Holy Spirit would soften your heart and help you to see that person as God sees them, no matter what you may have against them.

Ephesians 6:10-20; Matthew 4:1-11 – The Sword of the Spirit

The final weapon that Paul describes in the armor of God is the Sword of the Spirit.  Unlike the rest of the weapons, he describes this weapon clearly in this passage: the Word of God.  This sword has both offensive and defensive properties to it, however, the important thing is that knowing how to wield it.

Too often, Christians take the Bible and swing it wildly, hacking and slashing with their sword.  However, thinking that possessing a Bible or knowing a few verses allows us to swing it.  It is not the words on the page that give us power, but the authority from which they come.  The words of Scripture are given authority through the Holy Spirit who illumines it in our hearts and minds.  For us to wield it well, we much practice and be intimately acquainted with its message.

Questions to take home:

  1. For a Roman soldier, skill with the sword was the difference between life and death.  More important than even food and water.  Do we treat Scripture this way in our lives?
  2. Have you ever experienced an event in your life that you knew the enemy was involved in?  How did you respond?  How did the enemy respond?
  3. What steps can you take to sharpen your skills with your sword?  Write down your answer, form a plan, and stick to it!


Ephesians 6:10-16; Romans 8:1-14 "The Helmet of Salvation"

We often talk about salvation as a commodity, a gift that we will receive upon our death. Biblically, however, God’s salvation, while carrying that theme, is seen as a lived reality that we experience daily when we put our faith in Christ. This echos the truth that we do not fight for victory, but rather we fight from victory.

Far too often, however, we find ourselves in bondage, trapped in cycles of thinking that keep us immobilized rather than walking in victory. Today we are reminded that salvation is ours in Jesus Christ as we witness the sacrament of Baptism and remember the promises that are for Raven Hope Pavlak and for us as well. We remember that God has given us the “Helmet of Salvation” for both protection from attack and freedom to live in Christ.

Questions to take home:
What changes does your mind need to make in order to walk confidently in the knowledge of past, present, and future salvation? What game plan do you need to put into practice in order to fill your mind with Truth and Hope?
Can you identify any patterns that undermine your faith and confidence in God’s ability to deliver? What verses can you use to counter them?
Think of what you consider to be your biggest failure or mistake in life. How does the helmet of salvation protect you from ongoing guilt, regret, or fear about “the next time?”

Audio Credit: Pricilla Shirer, “The Armor of God” DVD Bible Study video series. Copyright 2015, Lifeway Press

Luke 5:1-11; Ephesians 6:10-16 "The Shield of Faith"

Scripture says that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  The Bible also says that “faith, if not accompanied by action, is dead.”  We often talk about faith as a subject, the concept that we are “saved by faith,” but what does that look like?

Biblical faith is more than just a theological concept or a subject to discuss, it is a verb, an action word.  Paul’s language in Ephesians 6 changes as he talks about “taking up” the shield of faith.  For us, it means living out the things that we claim to believe on Sunday in our everyday lives.  It means applying them to the situations we find ourselves in.  When we stand on God’s promises and apply them to our lives, we take up the shield that defends us from the bombardment of doubts and fear that the enemy is sending our way.


Questions to take home:

  1. Have you ever experienced a time in your life where you were bombarded with doubt, fear, or feelings of inadequacy?  What impacts did that have on your life?  How did you respond?  What Scriptural truths do you think you could apply to a situation like that?
  2. Why do you think it is so hard for us to believe God’s promises?  In what ways do we try to place conditions on them or water them down?
  3. What is that thing that God is calling you to right now that you need to step out in faith to actively answer that call?  How are you going to take that first step?

Ephesians 6:10-15; John 14:15-28 "Gospel Shoes"

The world around us swirls with chaos. Whether you experience this through your home life, your place of employment, or the constant barrage of updates coming from your smartphone, it seems like peace is something we no longer expect to experience in our day to day living.

Jesus, however, offers peace to His followers, one that transcends even the most uncertain of circumstances. In Him, we have peace with God, peace the assures us of our salvation, the forgiveness of our sins, then the promise that nothing can ever take that from us. This peace gives us a firm footing on which we walk in newness of life even when storms rage around us.

Questions to take home:
Are there places in your life where you are experiencing a lack of peace? How have these things crippled or caused you not to be able to move forward in life?

How would you define peace after hearing from God’s Word today? How does that definition impact the situations in your life in which you aren’t feeling at peace?

What are some Truths in Scripture that give you peace in the midst of difficulty? What would it look like to apply these truths to the situation in question one?

Ephesians 6:10-15; Romans 3:21-26; 6:15-18 "The Breastplate of Righteousness"

Having put on the Belt of Truth, affirming God’s standards and opinions as they are revealed through Scripture, we now seek to align our lives with that Truth. This is the meaning of the breastplate of righteousness. For us, it isn’t enough to simply know the Truth, we are called to put it into action in our lives.

Discussions about righteousness, however, can quickly lead to legalism. For those in Christ, however, righteousness is not an outer change that leads to inner salvation. The Truth of this righteousness is that is comes from Christ’s sacrifice, imputed to us by grace through faith, and begins the transformation with in our hearts that leads to a transformed life.

Questions to take home:
Do you think that “right living” can act as a guard against the enemy’s attacks? Have you seen wrong choices and behavior become an invitation for the enemy’s work in your own life or in the life of someone you love? How?

Righteousness often times gets confused with perfectionism, our own attempts at making ourselves right with God. What do our Scripture passages on Sunday say to this? How can you use this Truth to combat the lie of perfectionism?

In Christ, we are made righteous. This transformation occurs from the inside out and is led by the Holy Spirit’s work, with our cooperation. How does knowing that the Holy Spirit is the One doing much of the work encourage you to cooperate with Him?

Where is one place in your life that you know you are making wrong decisions that you will start cooperating with the Holy Spirit’s work? How will you do this?