Oct 28, 2018
Colossians 2:16-23 “Interrupted Connection”
Series: Colossians
We live in an increasingly connected world.  Fueled by technological advances, information and communication are available instantaneously through the internet.  Whereas 100 years ago, an understanding of “lag time” in communication was recognized by the time it took for a written letter to travel a distance, “lag” is not measured in milliseconds between computer and server.  More importantly, when there is an interruption in connection, the results seem almost cataclysmic in our lives. Paul continues strengthening the church in Colossae in their struggle against false teachings and resistance from within and outside the church.  Following his comments in verses 6-15, Paul encourages them not to allow the judgments or opinions of others sway their belief or the practice of their faith.  This is especially true, Paul says, if their religious commitment is centered more on tradition and less on God. For their part, tradition focused worship represents an interrupted connection to the head, which is Christ. Questions to take home:
  1. How did you feel the last time you experienced an internet outage or your phone not working?  How about slow or lagging connections? How immediate was your reaction and what did you do about it?
  2. Have you ever felt disconnected or distant from God?  How did you feel in that situation? Compare your responses between question one and two.  Are you comfortable with how they match up? Would you change something? If so, how?
  3. What are some ways that you can better establish or secure your connection with Christ in your faith walk?  What is one step (make sure this step is specific and measurable) you are willing to take to move in that direction this week?
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  • Oct 28, 2018Colossians 2:16-23 “Interrupted Connection”
    Oct 28, 2018
    Colossians 2:16-23 “Interrupted Connection”
    Series: Colossians
    We live in an increasingly connected world.  Fueled by technological advances, information and communication are available instantaneously through the internet.  Whereas 100 years ago, an understanding of “lag time” in communication was recognized by the time it took for a written letter to travel a distance, “lag” is not measured in milliseconds between computer and server.  More importantly, when there is an interruption in connection, the results seem almost cataclysmic in our lives. Paul continues strengthening the church in Colossae in their struggle against false teachings and resistance from within and outside the church.  Following his comments in verses 6-15, Paul encourages them not to allow the judgments or opinions of others sway their belief or the practice of their faith.  This is especially true, Paul says, if their religious commitment is centered more on tradition and less on God. For their part, tradition focused worship represents an interrupted connection to the head, which is Christ. Questions to take home:
    1. How did you feel the last time you experienced an internet outage or your phone not working?  How about slow or lagging connections? How immediate was your reaction and what did you do about it?
    2. Have you ever felt disconnected or distant from God?  How did you feel in that situation? Compare your responses between question one and two.  Are you comfortable with how they match up? Would you change something? If so, how?
    3. What are some ways that you can better establish or secure your connection with Christ in your faith walk?  What is one step (make sure this step is specific and measurable) you are willing to take to move in that direction this week?
  • Oct 21, 2018Colossians 2:6-15 “‘Really Christian”
    Oct 21, 2018
    Colossians 2:6-15 “‘Really Christian”
    Series: Colossians
    I remember, in my younger days, having to get dressed up to go to church.  Though it seemed torturous at the time and I hated every minute of it, I remember vividly my parents explaining that “we give our best to God.”  The irony our “best” clothes causing a rather chaotic and heated morning prior to entering God’s presence in worship is certainly not lost on me. Paul, in our Scripture today, warns the Christians in Colossae to not be taken captive by human traditions.  He uses the tradition of circumcision as an example. Though the act certainly had meaning in the Old Testament, it was virtually pointless if it didn’t involve a changed heart and a transformed life.  This is the point that Moses makes in Deuteronomy, the one that Jesus draws forward in His life and work, and the one that Paul reminds us today: it’s not about how we look, it’s about where our heart is. Questions to take home:
    1. Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9.  How do the words that Moses speaks there relate to our passage today?  In what ways do these words speak to you today?
    2. Read Mark 7:1-23. How are the words that Jesus speaks here similar to what Paul says in our passage today?  How do they relate to Moses words from Deuteronomy?
    3. What are some “human traditions” that you hold to in your Christian walk?  What are some that we hold to as a church? How do you think that we can keep our focus on the transformative call of Christ rather than the things we feel comfortable with in life?
  • Oct 14, 2018Colossians 1:24-2:5 “Default Reaction”
    Oct 14, 2018
    Colossians 1:24-2:5 “Default Reaction”
    Series: Colossians
    Isaac Newton’s third law of motion states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  Essentially, this is referring to the forces that are acting on two separate objects and how they interact when one acts against another.  This can be seen in everyday interactions such as the collision of football players at the line of scrimmage or the mess that is made when your car windshield is hit by (or hits) a large juicy bug. Each of us can act a bit like this as well.  Whether we encounter a stressful situation at work or naughty kids at home, if we aren’t thinking about it we can have a default reaction, be it anger, sarcasm, or maybe even disengaging.  Paul, in our Scripture today, talks about his reaction to his encounters with resistance, forces in opposition to his faith and his calling to preach the Gospel. Questions to take home:
    1. What is your default reaction when you encounter a stressful situation?  An unexpected situation? What about when you encounter resistance to your faith or the message of Jesus Christ?
    2. Read Romans 5:3-5.  What does Paul have to say about suffering’s place in the Christian life?  When have you experienced a time when, in the midst of a struggle or resistance, you grew in your faith and experienced God in a new way?
    3. Think of someone in your life that hasn’t accepted Jesus or is resistant to the message of the Gospel?  How are you contending for them, as Paul talks about in Colossians, in an effort to help them come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord?
  • Oct 7, 2018Colossians 1:15-23 “All Things”
    Oct 7, 2018
    Colossians 1:15-23 “All Things”
    Series: Colossians
    Have you ever taken a moment to look up at the night sky and ponder the immense vastness of the universe?  Have you ever considered how something as small as an ant or a mosquito perceives the world around them? Did you know that light travels further in a single second than most humans will travel in a lifetime?  Things like this can be mind-boggling. Yet, despite our lack of ability to comprehend some of these things, our Scripture today reminds us that they all exist because of Jesus.  Not only that, they all exist for Him, through Him, AND are held together by Him! Scripture says that God is aware of all of it, knowing the names of every star that HE placed there and, even in the overwhelming greatness of creation, God knows each one of us by name and concerns Himself with every aspect of our lives. Questions to take home:
    1. Can you think of some other Scripture passages that reflect the majesty and awesomeness of God when it comes to creation?  Passages like Genesis 1, John 1:1-17; and the final chapters of Job, are all great places to see the greatness of God’s handiwork!
    2. How does seeing the sheer enormity and immensity of God’s creation change your perception about God?  Will it change how you interact with God?
    3. The extent of God creative ability is rivaled only by the reach of God’s redemption and restoration in Jesus Christ!  Scripture says that all things are reconciled to Him. How does this impact your view of Jesus work of salvation? What difference does that make?
  • Sep 23, 2018Colossians 1:1-14 – “Continual Prayers”
    Sep 23, 2018
    Colossians 1:1-14 – “Continual Prayers”
    Series: Colossians
    Thankfulness is something that is really easy to be aware of when things are good.  Prayer is something we tend to do more of when things aren’t so good. How often do we find ourselves so thankful that we are driven to prayers of thanks to God?  In the same way, how often, in the midst of life’s struggles, do we find ourselves in prayer and overcome with thankfulness that we can indeed come before God and find our help in Him? Paul begins this letter with prayers of thankfulness for the great faith that was being displayed among the church in Colossae.  His joy grew out of the fruit of their faith, people living for Christ and the kingdom of heaven expanding because of it. This morning, as we continue kicking off our fall season, we have the opportunity to offer thanks to God for the ministries present here, the leaders who lead them, and expansion of God’s Kingdom because of them! Questions to take home:
    1. Paul opens this letter with thankfulness for their faith in God and love for God’s people.  How do we take time to celebrate each other’s faith? What do we do to be thankful for the love that we have for each other in the community of faith?
    2. Do you remember the people who were influential in introducing you to Jesus?  Maybe they were parents, Sunday school teachers, or a pastor. How thankful are you for them?  When was the last time you told God that? When was the last time you told them?
    3. Because of what he has heard, Paul says they “have not stopped praying” for the Colossian church.  What are some things going on at HCC that you are thankful for? What are some things you are concerned about?  Commit them to prayer this week!
  • Sep 16, 2018Titus 1:5-16 ; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Peter 5:1-11; John 21:15-25 – “Lead and Feed”
    Sep 16, 2018
    Titus 1:5-16 ; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Peter 5:1-11; John 21:15-25 – “Lead and Feed”
    Series: (All)
    “Where the shepherd goes, so go the sheep.”  I’m not really sure whether this is a common phrase that is used, however, the principle is sound and the concept true.  While it was not the responsibility of the shepherd to make the sheep eat, failure to lead them to sources of food and water and to protect them from the dangers around them could have been devastating to the flock. This is, perhaps, the main reason why Jesus, Peter, and Paul all treat the notion of leadership with such great importance.  Jesus teaches His disciples about leadership and Paul lays out, many time, the expectations for leaders. There is, however, something different about them than the average leader though: Paul doesn’t necessarily seek the wealthiest or most successful, he seeks those who act like Jesus did and point to Him with their lives. Questions to take home:
    1. Read the 1 Timothy 3 passage again.  What are some of the qualifications for leaders that are present here?  How do you think these qualities would be beneficial for leadership in the church?
    2. The closing narrative of John 21 is intimately related to Peter’s reflections on leadership in 1 Peter 5.  How do you think Peter’s experience with Jesus there impacted his future leadership of the church? What do you think we can learn from it as we consider future leaders?
    3. This week begins the process for nominating Elders and Deacons for next year’s consistory; in your mailbox is the nomination ballot.  Given what we have learned and read, prayerfully consider the individuals eligible. Who do you feel God is calling to serve in the next class of Elders and Deacons?
  • Sep 9, 2018John 21:1-14 “What Now? A Conversation on Vision”
    Sep 9, 2018
    John 21:1-14 “What Now? A Conversation on Vision”
    Series: (All)
    Fishing is not my favorite sport.  Sitting in a boat for hours, especially when the fish aren’t biting can be arduous and boring.  Trying different baits, moving to different spots, trolling, drifting, or staying put… so many things to try, but when the fish aren’t biting there’s pretty much nothing you can do to change it. Jesus’ disciples experienced something like this too.  After returning to Galilee as instructed by the resurrected Jesus, they go out fishing together for a night and catch nothing.  Like the first time they met Jesus, though, He instructs them to “let down their nets” in a different way and the result of their obedience is remarkable!  And whereas their nets began to break the in the first experience, almost 3 years prior, this time the nets hold fast and the entire catch is brought in. Questions to take home:
    1. After His resurrection, Jesus instructed His disciples to go to Galilee to meet Him.  Why do you think they decided to go fishing when they got there? What do you think they learned because of it?
    2. John recognizes Jesus first, but Peter is the one who jumps in and swims to shore, leaving the other disciples to manage the great catch of fish.  What significance do you think Peter’s actions have? How about the other disciples? What can we learn from them?
    3. In this narrative, there are many allusions to other actions and miracles that Jesus did during His earthly ministry.  Read John 21:1-14 again. Which things are familiar to you? Do you think this is intentional? If so, why?
  • Aug 26, 2018Hebrews 13 “The ‘Laundry List'”
    Aug 26, 2018
    Hebrews 13 “The ‘Laundry List'”
    “Just tell me what you want me to do.”  It’s a phrase I’ve said to my wife many times.in the midst of some confusion about expectations or something.  I’ve learned, however, that in these moments, our discussions are not actually about the things that need to be done, but about my attitude in doing them.  Rather than simply accomplishing something because it is there, Bethany wants my heart to be in it; I should want to help, not just do it out of obligation. The author closes the book of Hebrews with a list of practical ways in which followers of Jesus live out their faith in the world.  Boundaries such as these can be found throughout the New Testament and can easily be seen as “to-do” list from God. However, God isn’t looking to fill a religion with work, He desires a relationship, showing us love and loving for us to love Him back and to show it in how we live. Questions to take home:
    1. How are the first five general guidelines for Christian life related to each other?  Rather than just being a “to-do” list, how do they challenge our heart as we live into our faith?
    2. Leadership is addressed in chapter 13.  What is the author saying to the church?  To their leaders? What things can we carry from this into the fall when we consider Elders and Deacons for the next year?
    3. Hebrews constantly reminds us that, in Jesus Christ, we look to better things than whatever this world has to offer.  Read verses 9-13, how do the words about a different altar and an enduring city comfort and inspire you? What do they impact your life?
  • Aug 19, 2018Hebrews 12 “Disciplined Running”
    Aug 19, 2018
    Hebrews 12 “Disciplined Running”
    My only real experience with competition when I was in high school was marching band.  We would practice each day during school and on some weeknights. Nothing, however, was more exhilarating than performing at competitions.  When there were people in the stands, to hear the performance and cheer us on, everything was different. Nothing was more memorable, for me than marching on the field of the Indianapolis Colts; there were so many people cheering for us. Hebrews 12 talks about a “Great Cloud” of witnesses that surrounds us as we “run the race” that is life in Christ.  These witnesses are all those who have gone before us, those who have followed Jesus Christ, the one who pioneered the way, faithfully.  They aren’t in the stands judging how well we live, but cheering us on toward the finish line! When we experience the twists and turns of life, feeling tired or worn out, we, of course, can look to Jesus.  We can also look to those who have gone before us and those around us for support and encouragement! Questions to take home:
    1. Hebrews 11 is full of stories of great heroes of faith.  Who are some of your favorites and how do their stories inspire and encourage you in your faith journey?  How does knowing that they are “cheering” for you impact your walk with Christ?
    2. Discipline is an important part of growth, whether you are an athlete in training or a child maturing to adulthood.  Yet, we aren’t necessarily comfortable with the notion of God disciplining us. Why not? How does Hebrews 12 challenge this perspective?
    3. Later in chapter 12, a comparison is made between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion.  Sinai is seen as a mountain of judgment, one that cannot be touched; Zion a mountain of life.  How do we sometimes confused in our lives and in the church? In what ways can we make sure to keep Mount Zion in our focus, the goal of life in Christ?
  • Aug 12, 2018Hebrews 10:19-11:1 “Confident Faith”
    Aug 12, 2018
    Hebrews 10:19-11:1 “Confident Faith”
    Every party requires some measure of planning.  Food and beverages have to be bought and prepared, decorations purchased and displayed.  In many instances, gifts are also involved, which need to be acquired and wrapped for later opening.  People need to be invited to the big event too so that the celebration can happen with others. In our journey through the book of Hebrews, a great deal of preparation has been taking place.  The author has been laying the foundation for the audience of a great celebration of faith in Jesus Christ, which starts TODAY!  As we open Scripture together this morning, we look in wonder at all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ and come confidently into worship, through faith, knowing that He has prepared a way for us back to God. Questions to take home:
    1. Reflect back on the summer so far.  What has been the most impactful thing you have learned from the book of Hebrews?  How has it impacted your life and your walk with Christ? Share that with someone close to you!
    2. What is faith?  How does the author describe faith here in the book of Hebrews?  What is the impact of faith here and what has been the impact of faith in your life?
    3. Chapter 11 in Hebrews is known as the “faith hall of fame,” and is full of stories in the Bible of faith in action.  Pick a few to read about in Scripture this week, maybe one a day. How is their faith confirmed in their lives? How does their story speak to you?  What can we learn from them?
  • Aug 5, 2018Hebrews 9:1-10:18 “Holy Place”
    Aug 5, 2018
    Hebrews 9:1-10:18 “Holy Place”
    There are two seasons in Michigan: winter and road construction. Most of us, at one point in our lives, have been impacted by road construction. Those detours can be incredibly annoying, eating up valuable vacation time or making us late for work. However, we understand that, when best way is closed for construction or repair, another way is needed if we are to reach our destination.
     
    In the beginning, God’s presence dwelled with His children in the garden of Eden. They spoke together, walked together, and lived in perfect relationship, all until sin entered the world. When that happened, the way to God was closed and another way, a detour was set up. This detour is seen most clearly in Scripture in the Tabernacle and Temple. Yet, Hebrews points out that we must not see this detour as the best route, but only a temporary version to the main route built in Jesus Christ.
     
    Questions to take home:
    The Tabernacle/Temple were constructed in such a way as to teach about the pathway back to God’s presence, with many rituals and sacrifices involved. What are some things that we do in our lives to work/earn our own way back to God rather than trusting in Jesus Christ?
     
    Blood was used in the sacrifices to symbolize repentance, forgiveness, and washing; it was a reminder that something had to die in order for there to be life for the sinner. How does Jesus’ sacrifice differ from the animal sacrifices? How does the significance of Jesus blood and sacrifice impact your life?
     
    Today we take communion, drawing on the themes of sacrifice, blood, and God’s presence. How do these things fit into the elements of communion? What significance do you think they have and what does taking communion teach us?
  • Jul 29, 2018Hebrews 8:1-13 “New Covenant”
    Jul 29, 2018
    Hebrews 8:1-13 “New Covenant”
    When I was young, my parents loved to collect antiques.  When we were on vacation, we would have to stop at antique stores in practically every town we visited.  I could never really understand why. Such old things have very little functional use and essentially just sat around in their house, on a shelf, as decoration.  Never would we have dreamed of using them; we had newer, better things. In Hebrews 8, the author applies Jesus’ ministry as the Great High Priest to God’s covenant relationship with His people.  Jesus institutes a New Covenant with God’s people, one that applies grace where once the Law condemned. Though obsolete, the Old Covenant does still serve a purpose in helping us to understand the nature of God’s relationship with His people and the immeasurable grace that is offered to us in Jesus Christ. Questions to take home:
    1. Unlike the priests of the Old Testament, Jesus ministers as the Great High Priest in heaven.  How does His presence there benefit us as the mediator of the New Covenant? What does this change in our lives?
    2. Both covenants are intimately related to God’s work in freeing His people from bondage.  Are there places in which you experience bondage your life? How does Jesus’ establishment of the New Covenant offer you freedom from that bondage?
    3. The author of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34.  How do you see this passage being fulfilled in Jesus?  Are there elements of this that you see coming true in your life as well?  How do those things impact the way we live our lives as God’s people?
  • Jul 22, 2018Hebrews 7:1-28 “Who is this Melchizedek?”
    Jul 22, 2018
    Hebrews 7:1-28 “Who is this Melchizedek?”
    How many times have you changed a light bulb in your life?  I’m quite sure that I’ve lost count. Over time, every light bulb in the world will wear out and need to be replaced, no matter how new, expensive or fancy.  In fact, this is a basic reality that we face with pretty much everything that we experience in life. Today’s Scripture passage talks about this reality in terms of the Old Testament priesthood.  Priests would serve, but only for a limited time due to the nature of human life. Even the oldest, wisest, and holiest of priests would eventually pass on and be replaced.  All, that is, except for Jesus. Our Great High Priest is eternal; there is no need for an upgrade or a replacement because Jesus takes on this role and fulfills it for all eternity! Questions to take home:
    1. We live in a throwaway society, one which values the latest and greatest of everything.  How does Hebrews 7 challenge that cultural influence when it comes to faith? What does knowing that Jesus is our eternal Great High Priest change in your life?
    2. The Old Testament priesthood worked hard, thinking their work would eventually bring them perfection.  They didn’t understand that their role was to point forward to the Messiah. In what ways to Christians act the way the priests did?
    3. For hundreds of years, churches have rotated through leaders, taking advantage of different gifts and strengths to spur them on.  Hebrews says that Jesus, however, “truly meets our needs.” What does this mean for us as Christians? As a church?
    4. Though not directly addressed, Hebrews assumes a familiarity with the act of tithing, referencing Abraham's gift to God after he was blessed.  How does the Genesis 14 narrative and Hebrews 7 inform or challenge our understanding of and commitment to giving and stewardship?
  • Jul 15, 2018Hebrews 5:11-6:20 “Steak or Milk?”
    Jul 15, 2018
    Hebrews 5:11-6:20 “Steak or Milk?”
    Have you ever heard the joke where the comedian says that he love the 1st grade because it was the best four years of his life?  When delivered well, it is quite humorous mostly because we know that this is not how it is meant to be. No one is expected to enter school, work, or even a relationship and then remain at the most elementary levels of understanding; progression and maturation are expected. In what could be seen as a rather confusing set of verses, today the author of Hebrews challenges the audience to move forward in their faith.  For too long, Scripture says, they have been content with “spiritual milk,” and need to grow up and eat “solid food.” In the same way that we would not wish our children to only be drinking milk and needing their diaper changed at the age of 5, we too should strive toward a deeper, growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Questions to take home:
    1. 1 Corinthians 3 and 1 Peter 2 also record their respective authors talking about “spiritual milk” and the need to grow in their faith.  What are some elementary teachings that you are holding on to in your life?  How could steps be taken to move forward from them?
    2. The author of Hebrews encourages the audience that they should be “teachers” rather than learners.  Are their people in your life that God is calling you to reach out to? How do you “teach” about Jesus in your life?
    3. After some difficult words, the author also encourages the audience that they can do better and cites the faith of Abraham in the promises of God as an example to follow.  Do you have a spiritual mentor in your life? How have they helped you grow in your faith? Have you taken the time to share that with them?
  • Jul 8, 2018Hebrews 4:14-5:10 “Great High Priest”
    Jul 8, 2018
    Hebrews 4:14-5:10 “Great High Priest”
    Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you are a “go-between” or a third party for two people dealing with conflict?  If so, you know that you are tasked with communicating information from person A to person B and also for relaying information from person B to person A.  In essence, you are representing each person to the other because direct communication has proven too difficult for them. The second section of Hebrews talks at length about Jesus being the “Great High Priest.”  In the Old Testament, priests were the intermediaries, the “go-betweens” between God and His people.  Sin had cut off direct communication and so priests were called to stand in the gap, as it were. Ultimately, however, these human priests were a foreshadowing of the role Jesus would play as the Great High Priest, the one who would perfectly represent both God and humanity. Questions to take home:
    1. What does it mean to intercede for someone (if you aren’t sure, definitely look it up!)?  Jesus is our intercessor before God in every aspect of our lives. What does this mean for us as God’s people and what impact does it have on our lives and Christian walk?
    2. We have talked about Jesus being both 100% DIvine and 100% Human.  How does this reality amplify Jesus as our advocate, mediator, and Great High Priest?
    3. Jesus, both fully human and fully divine, ascended into heaven and is seated right now at the right hand of God, interceding and mediating for us before God.  What benefits do you think this has for us? For more info, lookup Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 46-49!