Jan 5, 2020
2 Timothy 3:10-17 “Biblical Lenses: Seeing Clearing through Scripture”
As we begin a new year and a new decade, we are embarking on a new series that will take place over the course of 2020.  This series is called “2020 Vision: Clarity on what Matters.” Over the course of this coming year, we will be looking at a wide variety of topics and zeroing in on what Scripture says about them, gaining clarity as to how God calls us to live out our faith. Scripture is the first and primary source that we turn to as we seek out the truth.  It is the Word of God and, as it says, is useful for teaching, rebuking, and training in righteousness.  As we begin this new year and this new series, we lay the groundwork for study, putting on our “spiritual glasses” so that we can see the world as God calls us to see it, through the lens of His Word. Questions to take home:
  1. What do you think of when we say that the Bible is “The Word of God”?  Where do you place it on a level of importance in your life? How does this phrase impact how you read the Bible?
  2. Re-read our Scripture passages for today.  What does the Bible say that we should be doing with it?  What are some of it’s uses? How do these passages impact your approach to Scripture and interaction with it?
  3. How would you define the word “truth”?  Do you think that truth is unchanging (static) or variable (fluid)?  Read these passages in John: 14:6, 8:32, 17:17, 16:13, 1:14 &17, 18:37.  How does this impact how you think about truth?
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  • Jan 5, 20202 Timothy 3:10-17 “Biblical Lenses: Seeing Clearing through Scripture”
    Jan 5, 2020
    2 Timothy 3:10-17 “Biblical Lenses: Seeing Clearing through Scripture”
    As we begin a new year and a new decade, we are embarking on a new series that will take place over the course of 2020.  This series is called “2020 Vision: Clarity on what Matters.” Over the course of this coming year, we will be looking at a wide variety of topics and zeroing in on what Scripture says about them, gaining clarity as to how God calls us to live out our faith. Scripture is the first and primary source that we turn to as we seek out the truth.  It is the Word of God and, as it says, is useful for teaching, rebuking, and training in righteousness.  As we begin this new year and this new series, we lay the groundwork for study, putting on our “spiritual glasses” so that we can see the world as God calls us to see it, through the lens of His Word. Questions to take home:
    1. What do you think of when we say that the Bible is “The Word of God”?  Where do you place it on a level of importance in your life? How does this phrase impact how you read the Bible?
    2. Re-read our Scripture passages for today.  What does the Bible say that we should be doing with it?  What are some of it’s uses? How do these passages impact your approach to Scripture and interaction with it?
    3. How would you define the word “truth”?  Do you think that truth is unchanging (static) or variable (fluid)?  Read these passages in John: 14:6, 8:32, 17:17, 16:13, 1:14 &17, 18:37.  How does this impact how you think about truth?
  • Dec 29, 2019Matthew 25:1-13 “Praying for 20/20 Vision”
    Dec 29, 2019
    Matthew 25:1-13 “Praying for 20/20 Vision”
    Series: Prayer
    Pastor Jim Harrison - Guest Preaching
  • Dec 22, 2019Luke 2:8-12; John 1:14; 3:16; Luke 4:16-20; Matthew 25:31-46 “Love All”
    Dec 22, 2019
    Luke 2:8-12; John 1:14; 3:16; Luke 4:16-20; Matthew 25:31-46 “Love All”
    The angel declares to the shepherds, “unto you is born this day…” as they deliver the good news of Jesus’ birth.  Often, I think, we take the *you* of that very literally, remembering and celebrating that Jesus indeed came for us, His people.  Culture only serves to emphasize this reality, encouraging it with self-centered materialism and commercialism. Yet, the very fact that Jesus’ birth is announced to shepherds, the lowest of the low in society reminds us that Jesus came for “them” as well.  Looking further into Jesus’ life and ministry, we see very clearly that those we often forget, the least, last and lost of the world, the “them” people in our lives, are exactly who Jesus came to save.  After all, to God, we were on the outside at one point as well. We run the risk of uncoupling the bigger picture of God’s salvation plan for the world when we forget the true nature and meaning of Christmas and the Incarnation. Questions to take home:
    1. What are, or have been, some of your favorite ways to celebrate Christmas?  Who do they involve and what makes them special for you? Of these memories, how many involve people outside your normal family, friend, work, or church circles?
    2. Think about the contrast of people who were a part of the Christmas narrative.  What differences do you see here? How do these differences inform how we think about the “big picture” of Christmas and Jesus’ mission in the world?
    3. In your life, who are the “outsiders” that you find yourself associating with normally?  How could your Christmas celebrations or reflections include them? How can you follow Christ in His mission to bring “Good News of great joy for all people”?
  • Dec 15, 2019John 1:1-17; 3:16 “Give More”
    Dec 15, 2019
    John 1:1-17; 3:16 “Give More”
    One of the greatest stressors during the Christmas season is what (and how much) to give to other people.  Whether it is your kids, your parents, or the obligatory gifts to extended relatives that we barely have a relationship with, knowing what to get them can be daunting.  Sometimes, this task is so overwhelming that we simply shut down, defaulting to a meaningless (and often disposable) gift, given out of duty rather than in love. In the Advent season, we should look to the coming of Jesus as the center of our celebration.  Jesus’ own teachings, then, to follow His example ought to be what informs our giving. If we give gifts at Christmas because God “gave us the greatest gift of all,” what lessons can we learn by looking to His example.  God’s giving of Himself, the Incarnation of Jesus, wasn’t an act of obligation, it was a movement of love that should be the prime example for us to follow in our lives. Questions to take home:
    1. What is one of the best gifts you ever received?  What is one of the best gifts you ever gave? What was it that made those gifts so great?  How can your giving this season reflect that to others?
    2. How would you define the word “Incarnation”?  What does that mean for the world and how can we use that as an example and directive for our giving around Christmas?
    3. Where do you see yourself defaulting to duty-bound or obligatory gift-giving this season?  How are you communicating about your relationship or God’s love in those moments? What is one way you could “Give More” to that person (those people) this year?
  • Dec 8, 2019Matthew 6:19-24 “Spend Less”
    Dec 8, 2019
    Matthew 6:19-24 “Spend Less”

    Advent is a season of anticipation and expectation, an invitation into excited preparation of the coming of Jesus.  These descriptions amount to more than simply waiting for the day to come, Advent is an invitation to an intentional posture in our lives.  When we anticipate and expect something, we purposefully prepare for the encounter that is to come.

    Worshiping fully, keeping Jesus at the center of our Advent and Christmas focus then assumes that the other things with which fill our lives in this season will be secondary at least.  As we consider this, we must naturally turn our gaze toward the role our money takes and the direction it goes as we Worship Fully in this “season of giving.”  

    Questions to take home:

     
    1. How does the story of Jesus’ coming into the world challenge our cultural practices surrounding Christmas?  What contrasts do you see in the Biblical narrative? Do you see any ways that you can be more intentional in your use of money this season?

    2. Think about Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-55 and Jesus’ reading in Luke 4:18-19.  How do these words speak into the materialism and consumerism that we fight against during the Christmas season?

    3. Have you ever taken into consideration whether the values that you (and/or your family) hold to reflect the type of spending that you do, particularly around the holiday season?  Do the companies that you purchase from hold similar values? How does Scripture challenge you in this respect during this Advent season?

  • Dec 1, 2019Isaiah 9:2-7 “Worship Fully”
    Dec 1, 2019
    Isaiah 9:2-7 “Worship Fully”
    Advent Conspiracy was founded on the radical idea that we can celebrate Christmas humbly, beautifully, and generously. Advent is the story of a wondrous moment when God entered our world to make things right. It is the greatest story ever told and it changes everything—including the way we celebrate Christmas.
     
    All themed slides, icons, and sermon titles from https://adventconspiracy.org
  • Nov 24, 2019Romans 15:1-13 “Final Thoughts”
    Nov 24, 2019
    Romans 15:1-13 “Final Thoughts”
    Series: Romans
    At the end of every paper is a conclusion, returning to the original thesis to either reaffirm or amend the author’s original thoughts and purpose for writing.  Before Paul begins his parting words, a more personal part of the letter, he too returns to his original premise for writing: that Jesus is the Son of God, confirmed in His Resurrection, and is Lord over the whole world, both of Jews and Gentiles. From the very beginning, Paul has been adamant about this point: the Gospel is for the Gentiles as well.  Here, at the end of his letter, he also reminds us that God’s love for the Gentiles isn’t some surprising twist in Scriptural writings, but has actually been the point all along.  From the promises to Abraham to songs of the Psalms, to the messages of Isaiah, each one foretold and celebrated that God’s mercies were and are for all people who believe! Questions to take home:
    1. Read Romans 15:1-6 again. Paul reveals the ultimate purpose of our acceptance of others, particularly those who may exercise their faith in Christ differently.  What do you think is the purpose of “bearing with” others, even in their “weaknesses”?  
    2. Read Ephesians 4:1-6.  Here Paul talks more about this notion of “bearing with” others and of unity.  How does this passage add clarity to Romans 15:1-6? Are there places in your life that you are/aren’t doing this?  How is the Spirit convicting you regarding this?
    3. Read Isaiah 2:1-5 and Romans 1:1-6.  As Paul draws together his thoughts in Romans 15, how do you see these two passages speaking into Paul’s conclusion?  As we transition into the Advent season, how do Paul’s words give you hope and peace?
  • Nov 17, 2019Romans 14:13-23 “Strength and Weakness: Part 2”
    Nov 17, 2019
    Romans 14:13-23 “Strength and Weakness: Part 2”
    Series: Romans
  • Nov 10, 2019Romans 14:1-12 “Strength and Weakness”
    Nov 10, 2019
    Romans 14:1-12 “Strength and Weakness”
    Series: Romans
    In every church from the very beginning, there have been people that have been in different places in their faith walk.  Truth be told, in Jesus’ ministry, we see Him interacting with people that were all over the map with regards to their maturity and understanding of faith.  From Pharisees to the woman at the well to Mary Magdelene the reformed prostitute, Jesus provides an example of love, acceptance, and even challenge in these relationships. Paul, with this in mind, applies Jesus’ teaching and example in the shadow of his own teaching on the command to continual (Agape) love (Romans 13:8) in the way that we interact with each other.  Specifically, he talks about how believers should interact with each other. Paul speaks at length about “Christian freedom,” how that freedom is governed by the command to love is precisely what he addresses here. Questions to take home:
    1. What are the images of “strong” and “weak” faith that Paul sets up here?  How does he describe them? Does any of that surprise you? How does it impact how you think about your own faith journey?
    2. Paul uses the example of “sacred days” in the exercise of faith, referring specifically to Jewish high holidays and feasts.  What do you think he is really getting at here? What “disputable matters” do we find ourselves quarreling over and how can we learn from this?
    3. One of Paul’s main points here is that “we belong to the Lord.”  What do you think he means by this? How does that impact how you think about your life and faith?  How does it change how you view others, particularly other believers?
  • Nov 3, 2019Romans 13:8-14 “Wake-up Time!”
    Nov 3, 2019
    Romans 13:8-14 “Wake-up Time!”
    Series: Romans
    Everyone has a particular way that they like to fall asleep.  Whether it’s pulling all the blankets over your head, reading a good book, or falling asleep in your chair watching TV, each one of us goes through the various motions of turning our brains off as we drift off to dreamland.  But how do you know when you are asleep? Realistically, though, we aren’t aware of our unconsciousness until you wake up. This is the essence of what Paul has been and currently is saying in his letter to the Romans.  Being “conformed to the pattern of this world” is much like being asleep. It looks “normal” and feels “normal” to the point that we may not even be aware of it.  Paul’s words here are like an alarm clock, jarring us awake to the realities of what a life surrendered to Christ looks like. Christ’s resurrection brought about the “morning” of new life and this is no time to sleep in! Questions to take home:
    1. Paul writes, “Owe nothing to anyone…” at the beginning of this section.  This one verse has carried with it multiple interpretations from everyday finances to forgiveness.  What are some ways that you would interpret Romans 13:8?
    2. Read 1 John 4:7-12.  Love is a word that, in our cultural context, has been infused with many meanings.  How does the Scriptural definition of love (“Agape” Love), as it is shown in Jesus, impact the way you read and apply this Romans passage?
    3. The imagery of darkness (night) and light (day) is not unique to Romans.  Read Isaiah 9:2, John 1:4-5, John 8:12 and 1 John 1:5-7. What does it mean to walk in the light, as in the daytime?  How are you doing that well? Where is the Spirit convicting you here?
  • Oct 27, 2019Romans 13:1-7 “God and Government”
    Oct 27, 2019
    Romans 13:1-7 “God and Government”
    Series: Romans
    From the perspective that we have as citizens of the United States of America, hearing Paul’s words at the beginning of Romans 13 doesn’t strike us as being too out of place.  Despite some of the disfunction, our government could hardly be compared to some of the dictatorships or other corrupt, abusive governments that exist in the world today. We are blessed to live with such freedoms and protections as we have here. It is no secret, however, that even the best governments in the world deal with corruption and acts in ways that are clearly outside of God’s desires.  Paul was writing in the midst of a corrupt government structure, not just to encourage Christians, but also to remind governments where their authority comes from.  We submit to governing authorities with an eye on the one and only, true source of all authority in heaven and earth. Questions to take home:
    1. Paul uses the word “subject” or, in other translations “submit” verse 1.  What does this word mean? Another place that this word is readily used is Ephesians 5:21-6:10.  How would you define the word “submission”? What is it’s implications in your life?
    2. Reread Romans 12:17-19.  How are verses 3-5 informed by the latter part of Romans 12?  Paul speaks of God using governments and authority as part of His judgment and wrath against sin.  How do you feel about this? Does it make you see things any different?
    3. Why do you think Paul felt it important to include verses six and seven with regard to taxes?  Read Matthew 22:15-22. What does Jesus have to say about this? Why do you think this is an important part of how we live out our faith in Christ?
  • Oct 20, 2019Luke 11:1-4 “Lord, Teach us to Pray!”
    Oct 20, 2019
    Luke 11:1-4 “Lord, Teach us to Pray!”
    Series: Prayer
    Introduction A. Why We Pray 1. God’s appointed way of ________________ all we need from Him – Lk. 11:9-10 2. Prayer is the key way we relate to God:  ACTS = Adoration / Confession / Thanksgiving / Supplication  PUSH = Pray Until Something Happens!  PRAY = P R A Y 3. Prayer is important for our spiritual…_ B. Jesus’ Disciples Ask Him How to Pray 1. “Lord, teach us to pray” – Luke 11:1 2. Jesus gave them what we now refer to as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ 3. Exposing our Evangelical bias – Brian Zahnd, Water to Wine C. Application: Learning to Pray Well 1. Follow the lead of the earliest church – Acts 2:42 (ESV) 2. Learn to ‘pray through’ the Scriptures 3. Challenged by the Muslim adhan (Call to Prayer) 4. Growing in our own prayer life
  • Oct 13, 2019Romans 12:9-21 “Sincere Love”
    Oct 13, 2019
    Romans 12:9-21 “Sincere Love”
    Series: Romans
    Some of my favorite movies find their scriptures based on a plot that involves both revenge and some manner of a romantic love relationship.  Often, the main character has been wronged or experienced a great loss at the hands of some evil force and, in his or her campaign for revenge, meets a person that they eventually fall “in love” with.  It is a basic plotline, but apparently it makes for good cinema. Neither of these notions, however, have much of a Biblical foundation.  Paul calls those who are “transformed by the renewing of their minds” to a Biblical definition of love for one another and a redefined way of thinking about our interactions with others, especially (and specifically, in this case) those whom we feel have wronged us.  If we have crowned Jesus as Lord of our lives, then we are called to trust Him with everything, even matters of justice for ourselves. Questions to take home:
    1. 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 have a similar ring to Romans 12:6-8.  Both are followed by statements regarding love in relationship to the use of spiritual gifts.  How is Romans 12:9-16 and 1 Corinthians 13 related and what are they telling us?
    2. Read Matthew 5:38-48.  What similarities do you see between Jesus’ teaching and Romans 12:17-21?  How does this relate to the perfect justice of God?
    3. How do you think the specifics of chapter 12 (right thinking about ourselves, being part of the body, appropriate use of spiritual gifts, being sincere in love, and revenge) are related to the main theme of the chapter: not conforming but being transformed?
  • Oct 6, 2019Romans 12:1-8 “Living Sacrifice”
    Oct 6, 2019
    Romans 12:1-8 “Living Sacrifice”
    Series: Romans
    All throughout my time in school, whether it was pre-college, under-grad, or seminary, I found myself in classes being taught things that seemed to have little to no impact on my life.  What I, at the time, thought of as the endless droning of teachers and professors appeared to (and in some cases) be worthless information that I would likely discard from my brain after the coming exam, if not before.  In my head, I was asking the question “So What?” Romans 12 begins the section of Paul’s letter that is dedicated specifically to answering the “so what” questions.  Paul has, in a number of places, already done some application work (see Romans 5-7), but here he moves into specific examples and statements about the impact of the theology he has been teaching on the lives of Christ-followers.  For Him, all theology has practical application because being in Christ means your life is and will be changed! Questions to take home:
    1. Why do you suppose that Paul uses the term “living sacrifice” rather than just “sacrifice”?  What do you think the difference is? How does this difference impact how you live out your faith day today?
    2. Read verses 2 -5 again.  How does the renewing of our mind help us with regard to how we think about ourselves?  How does the Holy Spirit help us in this process transforming to better recognize our place in the greater body of Christ?  How does this help us to better recognize our God-given Spiritual gifts?
    3. Are you familiar with your spiritual gifts?  Are you putting them to use on a regular basis in the church and in your life?  Two places you can check out are: www.giftstest.com and www.fivefoldsurvey.com.  Both can help you begin to discover your unique gift-set and how you can better put them to use in your life and building up the church!
  • Sep 29, 2019Romans 11:25-36 “Mystery Solved?”
    Sep 29, 2019
    Romans 11:25-36 “Mystery Solved?”
    Series: Romans
    Many people love a good mystery, one where the answer is right in front of you the whole time but you don’t necessarily see it until the end.  This is kind of what I think of every time I read the word “mystery” in Scripture. Paul has been working out the question of what happens to ethnic Israel now that Jesus has come; how do the promises of God get applied to them? As we have talked about at length over the past several months, God’s answer to His promises (and therefore the answer to Paul’s question in chapters 9-11) is Jesus.  There is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to God except through Him. And, interestingly, this has been the case all along.  It was and is the Messiah of God, the one promised all those years before, and the grace of God received by faith that God’s people are called to, which ultimately made them the truest sense of who they are. Questions to take home:
    1. What ‘mystery’ is Paul referring to in verse 25?  Who do you think Paul’s statement of ‘all Israel will be saved’ refers to (see 9:6 and 4:16 for some insight)?  How do these two things fit together and why does it matter for us?
    2. How does verse 32 act as a summary statement for all of Romans 1-11?  When you think about others in your life, whether Christian or not, how does this verse measure the status of these people?  How does it change the way you think about them?
    3. We’ve covered a lot of theological ground in the last 5 months.  Paul pauses here before he moves on to some practical application to praise God for His infinite wisdom. Take some time, wherever you are, to pray and praise God for His wonderful gift of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!