Welcome Home: Ask for help with your heart.

Welcome Home: Ask for help with your heart.

Hebrews 2:9-18

9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 

10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.[g] 12 He says, 

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; 
    in the assembly I will sing your praises.”[h] 

13 And again, 

“I will put my trust in him.”[i] 

And again he says, 

“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”[j] 

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them,[k] fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. 

Listening guide

If every family is not really or actually a family, then not every group of believers is really a ___________ _____ _______________. 

Become a real family of believers.  

  • How Jesus feels about us 

  • How we feel toward each other 

  • What we can say to make it happen  

Verse 11 “Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” 

Jesus wants to _____________ with you.  

Verse 14 “he shared in their humanity … to break the power of death … and free those … held in the fear of death.” 

We _____________ people into the group. 

Verse 18 “he[Jesus] is able to help those being tempted.” 

  • You got to say here is what is going on in my life. What is God trying to tell me.  

  • You gotta say, here is what I read in the word. What is God trying to say to me? 

Ask someone for help with your ________. That’s how you become more of a family. 


 Some creatures can reproduce asexually – worms and such. Every human being has to be part of a family. Humans bare minimum have a mother and father. There is at least a family by blood.  

Similarly, Christians don’t reproduce all by themselves. Everyone has a spiritual father or mother or siblings. There is a spiritual family. That comes from a real physical connection. That comes from Word and Sacrament.  That’s just a fact.  

Some of you have lived in families that aren’t really families. Even though you are related by blood, the families have been broken. Abuse is probably the worst. Neglect. Absenteeism. If you describe your family life, you would say, we’re not really a family. I fully recognize that not every family actually is a family.  

Here is the push today.  

The same is true of a group of believers. Not every group of believers is genuine group of believers, a spiritual family.  

There can be spiritual abuse. Neglect. Absenteeism. We’re not really a family.  

You can’t expect family dynamics in a congregation. People will frequently say, “we’re a family of believers”. That’s true. What they mean is, we share a physical connection by baptism and the Word of God. We also share a nonphysical bond. Large group dynamics will never be the same as family dynamics. You can’t expect the same intimacy. You can’t expect the same transparency. If you do, you’re setting us all up for disappointment.  

Let's push on that. Not every group of believers is really a family. Immorality can hurt a group of people. Take the biblical example of Jacob who married both Leah and Rachel. 2 wives and 2 concubines made for a tough life. After Leah had her first kid she said, “Surely my husband will love me now.” Wow, that is a lot of pain. The poor woman. About money there is the reminder that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. These things easily hurt or damage the physical connection a group of believers has. Baptism and the Word start to mean different things when immorality and greed are commonplace in a group of people.  

Most of us, we can’t do a whole lot about the physical things that challenge a group of believers. You can’t do much about someone else’s moral choices. You can’t do much about someone’s financial choices. You can make a huge difference to a group of believers when you focus on the nonphysical connection.  

The writer to the Hebrews here today, he challenges us and he says, if you’re good at dealing with immorality or greed in a group of believers, what you’re really saying is all we have to do is protect the physical connection and we’ll be just fine. We’ll really be a family of believers. What he says is, you need to be good at dealing with the deeper, spiritual connection. That’s the way to be a real family of believers. That’s his invitation 

Let’s become more of a real family of believers. Let’s deal with this deeper spiritual connection and become more of a family. And he has this great progression for us that helps us become more of a family. First, how Jesus feels about us, then how we can feel toward one another, and lastly, what we can say both to him and each other. Those three things, how Jesus feels about, how we can feel toward each other and lastly, what we can say to make this happen.  

First, how Jesus feels about us. He says it pretty plainly. “Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” (Verse 11) Wow. Incredible, isn’t it? Jesus isn’t ashamed to call us brothers and sisters. 

One part of the Bible that everyone skips over quickly is the genealogies. Literally. I actually tell people when they start reading the Bible to skip the book of Numbers except for the first 10 chapters or so. It will kill your happiness. I’m sorry. Save that until you’ve read the Bible 5 times or so. Same with huge chunks of 1 Chronicles.  

But there is one genealogy you need to know something of. Here is the genealogy of Jesus.  

  • Rahab  

  • Solomon 

  • Ruth  

  • Tamar  

  • David 

Do you know any of these names? Do you know these people?  

  • Rahab – prostitute from Jericho 

  • Solomon - polygamist son of David  

  • Ruth – widow foreigner, eager to remarry 

  • Tamar - incest 

  • David – murder, adulterer 

These are the people Jesus is not ashamed of. These and many more. I know there are many times where I have either jokingly or seriously said, “Them? I don’t know them.” Jesus says, “they’re my brothers and sisters.”  

What’s he doing? He is identifying with us. If someone loses a key for the church, we might make them feel badly. Maybe badly enough that they don’t want to be around anymore. Jesus says, I gave up my key to heaven for you. Threw it down into hell. We might say something that makes someone feel badly about how they clean, so badly they don’t want to clean again. Jesus says, I came into the mess of life. I am okay with rolling around the muck of life with you.  

And by doing this, what he has done. He has shifted our attention from all the stuff we thought was hurting our physical connection. What hurts he says is shame. What helps you, he says, is me identifying with you.  

We think immorality, greed hurt our physical connections. They do. They cause problems without a doubt. We hurt our spiritual bond just as much when we’re ashamed of someone who cleaned the church.  

What he feels about us, what he feels about you, can totally change how you feel about yourself. It doesn’t matter how bad you think you are. Jesus wants to be with you. He wants to connect with you. He wants to identify with you. He feels so strongly for you. That’s how he feels for you.  

How should we feel for each other.  

In verse 14, the writer says, “he shared in their humanity … to break the power of death … and free those … held in the fear of death.”  

What he is saying, he is saying that people live in fear of death. You and I, we live in the fear of death.  

I think most of us would say, no I don’t. It’s been a while since I’ve thought of death and been afraid for myself. I do a lot of funerals. I often think of death. I realize my life is short. I’m afraid of the insignificance of my own life. But I’m not usually afraid of death.  

If I had to admit, I would say that I am afraid of the death of other people. I think about the loss of my parents and what it would be like without them. My family. Some of my friends.  

So you know what does dominate my thinking? The fear of the loss of connection. That’s shame. Shame is the fear of the loss of connection. This is incredibly corrosive to our lives.  

The German psychologist Sigmund Freud actually has a comment here that helps us. He points out that the fear of death dominates our consciousness. On the one hand, he said, we have a death wish – feelings of guilt, shame, not living up to what we ought to; on the other hand there is an enormous fear of death, it seems like the end of everything; the unknown. Our response is to repress the whole conflict. We hate to think about it.  

If you come home at the end of the day and someone says, And so instead of incorporating people into our lives by telling them what is going on, we leave people out. We experience guilt, shame, and judgment and fear death. We hate it all. We repress it. We push it down. We step by step separate ourselves from other people instead of letting them in.  

What Jesus does then is incorporation. I’m going to take away the fear of death and death itself and bring you in.  

Jesus defeats death. He puts death to death. And not only that he raises life to life.  

What he is giving you is a family where there is no shame and guilt. You’re forgiven really and truly, so there is no death wish. Plus there is no death itself. Life lives. So there is no fear of the loss of connection.  

Believers in Jesus will live forever. You can stop repressing and hiding all the stuff you’re thinking about. This is a good place to talk about it. There is no shame. Come be part of this family.  

His resurrection naturally brings people. It says all that fear that drives doesn’t need to anymore.  

We got to see a pretty unique example of all this in the last few weeks, but it took three people to pull it off which shows us just how special what Jesus does actually is. 

As a country we have experienced the trial of Amber Guyger who shot Botham Jean. That was pretty awful.  

What Amber is experiencing now is shame. She was afraid that she would lose her position as a police officer, as a family member, and as a part of society,  

Everyone noticed when Brandt Jean forgave Amber. He was giving his testimony. He said this. He said, “I forgive you, and I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.” It was an incredibly powerful moment. Great compassion. People have praised him to no end for what he said.  

A few people noticed what his mom said. Allison Jean who lost her son, watched Brandt forgive Amber. She hugged her. She also said, “Forgiveness for us as Christians is a healing for us, but as my husband said, there are consequences. It does not mean that everything else we have suffered has to go unnoticed,”https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/october-web-only/botham-jean-forgiveness-amber-guyger.html  

She is right. The sorrow, the guilt it’s incredible.  

Who is paying those consequences? She is. Allison is. Amber is. Brandt is. And the country is. We’re all slowly taking away Amber’s shame. Brandt got to hug her. We take away the shame. 

What Jesus does, he is all three roles. Jesus is all the Jeans. Jesus has done what it took Brandt and Allison and Botham to do. Jesus made himself the sacrifice. He gets to incorporate you into a family where there is no fear of death because he died himself.  

The way we should feel about others is no shame. Incorporate them. Bring them in.  

We incorporate people into the group.  

What we can say 

So what do we say to make this all a reality.  

The last verse of our lesson says, “he[Jesus] is able to help those being tempted.” Verse 18 

Sometimes you get help you don’t want. It’s called unwelcome or unsolicited advice. How many of you are good at taking help that you didn’t ask for? (Show of hands)  

Most of the time help goes better if you as for it. It just does. 

If you want to be a family, a real family, you got to ask for help.  

You got to say here is what is going on in my life. What is God trying to tell me. You gotta say, here is what I read in the word. What is God trying to say to me?  

Here is what I want you to do this week along with all the other homework I give ya.  

Take one of those two questions and ask someone else.  

Ask someone for help with your heart. That’s how you become more of a family. You ask someone for help with your heart.  

Unbelievable value!

Unbelievable value!

Genesis 12:1-8, Philemon 1, 10-21, and Luke 14:25-33

Discussion guide

Getting talking 

  1. Share a high and low from your week.  

  1. How do you feel about moving? Which place have you lived in that you liked the most?  


Into Genesis 12:1-8 

  1. How many times did God call Abram?  

    1. Acts 7:2 

    2. Genesis 12:1 

  2. In 12:1 God told Abram to leave his country, his people, and his father’s household. Describe what God is making Abram leave behind. 

  3. “By leaving Ur and Haran, where moon worship was the dominant cult (the name Terah is related to the Hebrew for ‘moon’, Abram would be set free from the drag of the familial culture… and the ancestral tradition as far as these were idolatrous…” (Joyce Baldwin, Genesis 12-50, p. 29)  

  4. The blessing of verses 2-3 is one of the most wonderful in the Bible. Explain some part of it. What’s your favorite line?  

  5. What is something that God might be calling you to through his Word and his people? What will you have to leave behind to do it? What might you discover if you do it?  


  6. How much risk or fear do you feel in following Jesus?  

  7. According to verse 7, what does Abram do when he gets to the new land? What brings you the joy of worship?  


Dear Lord, we all must build some of our identity on the things around us: our family, our county, our nation, and our work. That easily leads us to confusion about what is truly good and God pleasing about us and what is false and of the devil. Thank you for calling us to leave behind everything that misleads us and giving us a new person set up by your promises and blessing. Give us this new identity in Jesus’ name, Amen.  


Wrap up 

  1. How did you see God at work in your life this week?  

  2. What has God been teaching you in his Word?  

  3. What’s something that you would like someone else to check in with you about this week?  

  4. What kind of conversations are you having with non-Christians? 

  5. Pray for one another.   

Unbelievable mercy!

Unbelievable mercy!

James 1:1-13

2 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 

5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? 

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,”[b] also said, “You shall not murder.”[c] If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. 

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 


Listening guide

“believers …. must not show favoritism” (verse 1)  

 -- Not Aristotle, nepotism, and art criticism 

What’s better than fairness?  

Partiality breaks the law. 

“Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (verse 13) 

Fair is _____, but mercy is ________. 



Fair is fine, but mercy is more.  


Discussion questions

  1. In this section of Scripture, James urges followers of Jesus that “mercy triumphs over judgment” (v 13). Christians have a pretty bad history of injustice or oppression. A small example would be the pastor who walks into the local coffee shop and expects free coffee. A more egregious recent example is Bill Hybels (Willow Creek Church) who sexually harassed ladies from his position. What examples of failures to show mercy have you seen from Christians, or perhaps perpetuated yourself?  

  2. In your experience, what leads people, even Christians, to fail to show mercy?  

  3. In verse 5, James says that “God has chosen the poor to be rich in faith”. One of the odd facts of history is that Christianity often gains a better hearing in poor countries. The countries where Christianity is currently growing the quickest are on the African continent into the middle and far East. What reasons can you think of for this?  

  4. In verses 2-4, James offers the hypothetical example of giving special attention to a rich person. What is wrong with favoritism? That is, what law or laws does it break (see verse 4 and 7)?  

  5. It may just be a chance occurrence, but right now two curious trends are happening at the same time in the United States. First, church membership and practice is declining. Secondly, inequality (the gap between the rich and the poor) appears to be increasing. Do you think there might be any connection between the two?  


6. Mercy is really hard to practice in our daily lives. What are some ways you and I can practice mercy? 


James talks to us today about fairness and favoritism. He says “believers …. must not show favoritism.” (verse 1)  

We don’t realize how awesome, incredible that is.  

One of the greatest people in world history is Aristotle. - “In the first book of his “Politics,” written in the 300s B.C., Aristotle argues that some people are by nature (rather than circumstances) fit to be slaves: “For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.”  (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2018/04/06/aristotle-father-of-scientific-racism/, accessed 09/19/2019) 

Woah, right? Crazy? He supports slavery basically on the basis of external appearance.  

That shows how awesome what James says is. We’ve gone far. We’ve gone from one of the greatest thinkers in the world saying, “Slavery is right based on birth” to “all people are created equal”.  

That’s not to say that Christians have always done the right thing or the best thing along the way. The word nepotism. The word nepotism is from an old Latin word meaning “nephew”. During the late medieval times, it was the practice of popes - not average Christians – but popes to put their nephews into prominent leadership positions. One of the worst, a pope actually made his 14 and 16 year old nephews cardinals – some of the most important leaders in the Catholic church. Nepotism means putting people into leadership positions because of relationships and not skills. It’s the exact opposite of fairness. 

Now that doesn’t mean fairness is perfect. Or that it is working out the best for us as a society or a culture right now.   

Let’s say I have these three pieces of art. Which is the best?  

If I asked you your preference, that’s no problem. But that’s not what I want to know. I want to know which is the best. We’ll all say, “woah, I’m no art expert.” and “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. The thing is, even art experts would say much of the same. In 2011 an art critic wrote a summary article on the art of the last 40 years. And he had to admit that intellectually, from a professional perspective, “there was no way to establish any aesthetic criteria – no one had the right to say that this art was good or this was bad.”  

What he is talking about is postmodernism and that’s a complicated thing. All we need to note is that yes, fair is good, but if you push the idea of fairness too far, you get stuck saying nothing is good or bad.  

I don’t think that is really the kind of world any of us want to live in. Are we really going to give up arguments that the Wolverines are better than the Spartans or that Dean’s ice cream is better than Plainwell (which it is by the way). Absolutely not!  

Really then what James has for us this morning is something better than fairness. Fairness is good, we need fairness he says, but that’s just the start. It’s not the end. Right now all the kids are saying, wait a second, are you saying that if grandma makes 12 cookies for 4 of us, there is a way to get more than 3 cookies? That would be fair. That would be equal. But I can get more?! And James is saying, yes, yes you can. There is a way to get more cookies that isn’t unfair.  

What is better than fairness?  

He starts this way. In verse 5 he puts it this way: “has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith (verse 5); I realize that saying, “God has chosen the poor” doesn’t mean God rejects the rich or hates the rich or kicks the rich out. He still says God has chosen the poor.  

This is hard. This is something that we need to wrestle with. Because we grow up thinking and feeling, hey, if I have a poor person and a rich person in front of me, I better treat them the same way. They get the same thing. Everything fair. Equal. Then we see what God actually does.  

Take a look at all the places where Christianity is growing most rapidly. Go home and look it up. The fact is that most of the people who become Christians are people of lower socioeconomic status. Today Christianity has grown 1,000 percent in the last 50 years or so in Latin America and Africa and Asia. Those are poorer places. That is where Christianity is growing.  

And what about your own experience? I can tell you that in my own personal experience, I’m way less likely to discuss Jesus’ sacrifice with someone who has a big house on Gun Lake or Gull Lake than I am with someone who has lost their job, their house, and calls the church looking for any kind of help.  

I realize some of you live on those lakes. And we’re friends. I’m your pastor. We love each other. If we don’t talk like that, we say it’s because we have different interests, different priorities, and different experiences. We don’t have anything in common. All that is true.  

The thing is, the good news of Jesus isn’t theoretical. It’s not a philosophy. It’s immensely practical. It’s God’s whole life.  

The poor, for the most part they are already seeing and feeling God’s message. They’re wrecked. They’re disasters. They know it. They live it every day. They can see that in so much that counts, not just house and car and job, but in character and love and morality and genuine goodness and self-worth and identity, just how broke they are. How hard it is.  

The only thing they have that gives them any confidence is the good news. Because of Jesus, they are richer, they are valued, they are worth something. They are priceless. They’re good. People around them don’t see it but they are good. That’s what the poor person experiences and feels all the time.  

 Does the hardworking and fairly successful person worth a couple of million dollars really want to hear, “you’re a wreck, you’re a disaster, you put on a good show but it’s all worthless”. Do they really want to hear that only in Jesus are they actually successful, worth something, and have great value?  

Look, I’m not trying to beat on you. I love you. I’m with you. I’m in the exact same boat. I may not be super wealthy, but I’ve never gone without food for more than, maybe 36 hours. I’ve been homeless a couple of times for a few weeks, always had a friend or parent to stay with.  

And then I see how important this is to God. He says in verse 9 that if I show favoritism, I break the law. I break the big law. I’m as bad as a murderer and an adulterer. There is no way that I’m as bad as a murderer because I’m playing favorites. That's what he says.  

God never says, “Let’s call it equal. I’ll give you a fair shot.” In verse 8, James doesn’t say “be fair to your neighbor”. He doesn’t say “treat your neighbor like an equal.” He says, “Love your neighbor.”  

What God says is, “let me put you on the winning team. Let me give you something that you don’t deserve.”  

A guy named Matt Chandler tells this story. He says that in college he played on a flag football team. For intermurals. They had a great team. They were actually really bad at football, but they were all good soccer players and so they could just run and run and run. They beat all the other teams until they had to play the rec league staff.  

They were on this great run. Should have had the game in the bag. But they were decimated. There was this one guy named Mitch Ables. Just one athlete. He says that at one point Mitch through a 30 yard pass to himself. No idea how it happened. Two guys man on, two guys in a zone, he still throws a pass to himself. There was nothing they could do to stop him. He has no memory of anyone else on that game. Mitch won it all. (https://www.tvcresources.net/resource-library/sermons/judgment-mercy)  

What God does, he doesn’t need any good wide receivers or offensive lineman or anyone else on his team. He’ll take the poor, the weak, the worst and he’ll welcome them all. And in a very real way, he takes the worst of the worst and makes them all winners.  

That’s the cross. He dies for the worst. The sinners. The lost. The broken. And he says to all of them, you win. Now go make other people winners.  

In verse 13 he says it really plainly. “Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”  

 So we can just say this: Fair is fine, but mercy is more. Mercy is so much more.   

Action: Show mercy 

I need you all, no God wants you all to really take hold of this. Some of you are just baby Christians. You are just starting out. Enjoy this victory. You are a symbol of God’s victory. You give us so much hope. You’re awesome encouragement. Praise God mercy wins.  

For all of us, especially those of us who don’t see the win, don’t feel the win so much. Mercy starts with simple stuff. Don’t prefer certain people at church. I know we all have our friends. We have the people we like to talk to. We have people we like to hang out with. We need to say to ourselves, I’m not going to talk to the people I like to talk to. I'm going to walk over to that person there and deal with them. I'm not going to criticize or condemn. I’m just going to enjoy them.  

But I think the bigger deal we need to see goes like this.  

James says, “believers … must not show favoritism”. The word “favoritism” is literally a word that means “to receive someone’s face”.  

Have you ever done one of those stare at an image see a different image exercise? I’m sure most of us have. Here is one if you haven’t.  

If you stare at this image for 30 seconds or so, then stare at the wall or something else that is pretty flat, you will see the face of Jesus. And the longer the you stare at this image, the longer you will be able to see that face of Jesus on the wall.  


An Italian scientist named Caputto actually did this with people. He had 40 volunteers stare into each others eyes for 10 minutes.  

And what happened is that after 10 minutes, basically everybody said they started seeing things. Their partners face got distorted. They saw monster figures. They saw faces of relatives or their own face! It’s called dissociation. The human brain actually dissociates the image of the person you stared at for a long time.  


He has given you the only face that you can look at that will both make you feel loved and keep you from despising other people. If you look at the face of a poor person, you might feel pity, or maybe you feel sick to your stomach. But you would never look at the face of that person and feel loved.  

And if you look at the face of a friend, you might feel loved.  

The face of Jesus is the only face where you can feel mercy. It’s a face that is both broken and full of love.  

The most merciful, the most compassionate, the most considerate people don't spend their time looking for people to be nice to or worrying about how much money they have. They fill their eyes, their ears, and their hearts with the face of Jesus Christ. So that when they look everywhere else all they do is they see his face. 

And the more you see that, the more you stare in his face and see how beautiful he thinks you are, the more you will not just be fair. No, for you, mercy will be so much more.  

Let’s pray for that.  

Unbelievable strength!

Unbelievable strength!

Judges 7:1-8

Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”

So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.

The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.

Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley.

Listening guide

“I’ll do it myself.”  

Gideon = least likely to succeed at Ophrah High 

We need _______________ for _____________. 

Strength often breeds ______________ and ______________. 

God makes ____________ those who give up their __________. 

Discussion questions

  1. “I’ll do it myself.” When do you most often find yourself saying this? Is it a good plan?  

  2. Skim Judges 6, 7, and 8. Summarize the story of Gideon.  

  3. The external idolatry in Gideon’s life is pretty obvious. How would you describe the idolatry of his heart?  

  4. Gideon must have been terrified to go to war with only 32,000 men against 135,000. I have to imagine his terror increased when he only had 300. When have you experienced something similar in your own life?  

  5. It’s almost always easy to see in retrospect when we have relied on our own strength. How can we learn to see it in the moment and so avoid doing it?  

  6. How is Gideon’s victory over the Midianites a picture of the gospel?  

  7. How we can get God’s power in our weakness?  

  8. Judges 8:28-35 What is the sad ending of Gideon’s story? How does that serve as a reminder for all of our lives?  

Open Hearts: When he gives everything, then we can give something.

Open Hearts: When he gives everything, then we can give something.

Mark 12:38-44

38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Listening guide

“They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” (Acts 2:45)  

“I never would have been able to tithe the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week.” J.D. Rockefeller  

Andrew McNair, “One of the mysteries in my wealth management practice is the glaring coincidence that a large majority of my wealthiest clients are some of the largest givers and tithers I have ever met.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2014/04/21/why-i-tithe-and-so-should-you/#24c998aa77a5 

Let’s get to giving:  

  • What real giving is  

  • what giving does  

  • What real giving makes 

“41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.” 

Verse 43 “This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.” 

2 couples  

Point: Some giving is actually _____________. 

Is money more to you than it should be?  

  • Can you give large amounts of money away (whatever large might be for you)?   

  • Are you scared that you might have less than you are accustomed to having?   

  • If you see a person who is doing better than you, even though you might be a harder worker or a better person, does it get under your skin?   

Giving is giving away the __________ to control your own _________ 

Verse 44 ““she out of her poverty put in everything – her whole life.” 

Real giving is to go so far as to give away our _________ so others may __________.  

Charles Blondin 

If he gives away everything, then we will be able to give away something. 

Discussion questions

  1. Roughly calculate the following amounts in your life right now. We won’t share these numbers with others. How do you feel about these choices?  

    1. income for the year 

    2. amount given away and where it was given 

    3. amount spent on possessions 

  2. In Mark 12:41, contributions are placed into the temple treasury. The treasury would have been a locked room, like a vault. Most likely the offerings were placed into one of 13 chests around the temple. Each was shaped something like a trumpet. Some churches have the habit of passing the plate, others place offerings in a box around the sanctuary (like the temple). First, what do we learn from this about appropriate cultural adoption? Second, do you think it would be better to use boxes?  

  3. The poor widow gave a quadrans, which was a Roman money denomination. The contrast between this event and the last (the master and his stewards) is incredible. This woman’s offering wasn’t worth 10 minutes of work (it would be like someone making minimum wage and throwing a buck in). In the other story, one slave gave 40 plus years of money to his master.  

    The research on Americans and generosity is mixed, but it seems like generally speaking, the wealthier a person is, the less they give. 

    1. In 2011, the top 20% income achievers gave about 1.3% of their income. The bottom 20% income achievers gave 3.2% of their income. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/why-the-rich-dont-give/309254/  

    2. "The research is also mixed on whether people with more money are more likely to give it away. While some studies suggest that wealthier people are more likely to donate money, other studies do not." https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/wealthy-people-give-to-charity-for-different-reasons-than-the-rest-of-us/ 

    3. "Those who earned less in salary actually gave more to the poor. In fact, according to a recent study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, based on IRS data, those earning $25,000 or less donated an average of 16.6% of their adjusted gross income. By comparison, high-earning citizens gave only 4.6% of their incomes. The higher you go in income, the lower the percentage of your salary that you gave to charity. So if someone earned between $50,000 to $75,000, their giving only rose to a trickle of 5.7%." https://www.theguardian.com/money/us-money-blog/2014/oct/09/wealthy-give-less-back-society 

    What are some reasons behind this? Is this good, bad, or irrelevant?  

  4. Mark 12: 43 Jesus says the woman put more into the treasury than all the others. Explain what he is saying.  

  5. Do you see the woman’s gift as an act of love, of generosity, of worship, or of foolishness?  

  6. What do you learn about true generosity from this passage? 

  7. There is somewhat famous example from Hudson Taylor, a missionary to China.  

Hudson Taylor, a missionary to China and founder of the China Inland Mission, was called to a home to pray for a sick woman. He was chosen because, unlike other religious leaders of the day, he did not charge the family to pray for her.  

The woman was very poor. When Taylor saw her poverty, he clutched the coin in his pocket. It was the only money he had. He wished that there were two so he could give one to her. After all, he had only two meals left at home for himself.  

He knelt to pray for the woman, but found that he could not pray. God was asking him to give up his precious coin. He tried again to pray. How could he walk away with nothing to live on? Again he could not pray. Finally he gave her the coin, was released by God and felt great freedom and blessing as he prayed. 

Is your heart as moved as Taylor’s was?  

Open Hearts: We become trustworthy with resources when we see he trusts us.

Open Hearts: We become trustworthy with resources when we see he trusts us.

Matthew 25:14-30

Listening guide

Which piece of advice are you most likely to follow?

  1. Think happy

  2. If you want to offer people something truly extraordinary, don’t ask your current customers.

  3. Money is the answer for everything.

We tend to think: The more we have, the more trustworthy we become.

“5 bags of gold” not talents

Matthew 6: 22-23 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, you whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy your whole body will be full of darkness.”

Money makes you blind.

The more he had the less trustworthy he became.

Everyone still needs to trust something.

We become trustworthy when we see God’s trust in us.

Discussion questions

1.     Matthew 25:14 says the master gave the servants or slaves his possessions. What are you trying to do with the possessions you have now and what would you do if you had more?


2.     Do you know your net worth? Did you know your net worth 10 or 20 or 30 years ago? Are you living in such a way that even if you don’t increase your net worth, you can say you have increased your net kingdom worth?


3.     In Matthew 25:24-25, what mistakes and failures does the third man commit? (Hint: there are a few)


4.     According to Matthew 25:21, how does Jesus praise the servants? I’m confused. What does Jesus praise them for? What exactly is the standard for winning?


5.     Remember that parables about God’s kingdom always use things we know (bags of gold, making money) to tell us about God’s kingdom and his ways (which we don’t know). What is something surprising we learn in this parable about God’s kingdom?


6.     Capitalism says that we should increase our own assets and resources. Socialism says we should share our resources with others so that everyone has an equal amount, particularly by letting the government redistribute that wealth. How does this teaching from Jesus challenge both?


7.     In Matthew 25:29 Jesus teaches us that “whoever has will be given more”. He doesn’t say that whoever accomplishes a lot or whoever achieves a lot will be given more, but simply that whoever has will be given more. What do you have? How much more do you imagine God gives?


“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory)

Open Hearts: Generous living begins with God first giving

Open Hearts: Generous living begins with God first giving

Haggai 1:1-15

Haggai 1:1–15 (NIV)

A Call to Build the House of the Lord

1 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua  son of Jozadak,  the high priest:

2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’ ”

3 Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

5 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. 9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”

12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord.

13 Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: “I am with you,” declares the Lord. 14 So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month.

Listening guide

Listening guide

Giving: the gardener and the nobleman

Which of these challenges to giving do you most often face?

  • I give unwillingly or even begrudgingly.

  • I give selfishly, almost manipulating. I give in order to get.

  • I gave scarcely, focusing on my lack of resources instead of how much I have.

  • Others?

The Bible describes the generous giver

  • cheerful 2 Corinthians 9:7

  • Honest, unmanipulative Matthew 6:3 “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”

  • Generous 1 Timothy 6:18 “Command … to be generous”

Scarcity often comes from the wrong priority.   

The challenge of giving: rocks in the container  

Verse 13 “I am with you.” 

Generous living begins with God first giving. 

Can you give to God first?  

Generous living begins with God first giving. 

Discussion questions

  1. Introduction: What do you think are some of the biggest obstacles that hinder or prevent people from using their resources well? Both internal and external forces should be considered.  

  2. Read Haggai 1:1-11. What is the situation the Israelites are going through?  

  3. In Haggai 1:2, we hear that the people decided not to build the Lord’s house. What reasons do you think might have led the people to not build the Lord’s house?  

  4. Around the world, thousands of Christians gather without a church building. Is this passage suggesting that it is wrong if we decide not to build or have a church building?  

  5. According to Haggai 1:5-6 what should have alerted the Israelites to the fact that they had a problem? 

  6. Are you seeing signs that we have a stewardship problem? What signs are you seeing?  

  7. In Haggai 2:1-9, what does God promise the Israelites to spur them on in stewardship?  

  8. It is easy to think of “stewardship” as being a discussion about money. Consider the following quote: “Stewardship isn't a subcategory of the Christian life. Stewardship is the Christian life. After all, what is stewardship except that God has entrusted to us life, time, talents, money, possessions, family, and his grace? In each case, he evaluates how we regard what he has entrusted to us—and what we do with it.” (Randy Alcon in Money, Possessions, and Eternity, p. 140) 

Deeper Connections: Watchfulness only works with acceptance

Deeper Connections: Watchfulness only works with acceptance

Romans 14:1-9

1Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2One person's faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the LORD is able to make them stand. 5One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6Whoever regards one day as special does so to the LORD. Whoever eats meat does so to the LORD, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the LORD and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8If we live, we live for the LORD; and if we die, we die for the LORD. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the LORD. 9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the LORD of both the dead and the living.

Listening guide

Last week: When connected Christians pay attention to his Word (watch his Word), we stay safe. 

John Koehler 

What goes with watching?  

14:2 “One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” 

Watching well cannot keep us from ______________ ___________________ the gospel to our lives. 

14:3 “The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not [eat everything].” 

14:1 “Accept the weak” 

Shantung Compound  

“There was a quality seemingly unique to the missionary group, namely, naturally and without pretense to respond to a need which everyone else recognized only to turn aside. … If there were any evidences of the grace of God observable on the surface of our camp existence, they were to be found here.” (Langdon Gilkey, Shantung Compound, pg 192) 

People with the gospel don’t just ___________ the weak, they ____________ the weak. 

14:8-9 “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.” 

Watchfulness only works with _____________________. 

Discussion questions

Deeper Connections: When connected people watch his Word, we stay safe.

Deeper Connections: When connected people watch his Word, we stay safe.

Matthew 7:15-29

Matthew 7:15–29 (NIV)

True and False Prophets

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

True and False Disciples

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

The Wise and Foolish Builders

7:24–27pp—Lk 6:47–49

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Listening guide

“Nathaniel, the towel is on fire.” 


“Watch out for false prophets.”  

Separatism =  

Christians don’t stay safe by ___________ from everyone. 

Arius and Socinus 

Unionism =  

Christians don’t stay safe by __________ with everyone. 

You have only three minutes to answer these questions. 
1. Read everything before doing anything. 
2. Put your name on the upper right hand corner of this paper. 
3. Circle the word "name" in sentence two. 
4. Draw five small squares in the upper left-hand corner of this paper. 
5. Put an "x" In each square. 
6. Put a circle around each square. 
7. Sign your name under the title. 
8. After the title write "yes, yes, yes". 
9. Put a circle around each word In sentence no. 7. 
10. Put an "x" in the lower left hand corner of this paper. 
11. Draw a triangle around the "x" you just put down. 
12. On the reverse side of this paper multiply 703 by 9805. 
13. Draw a rectangle around the word "paper" in sentence number 4. 
14. Call out your first name when you get to this point in your paper. 
15. If you think you have followed directions up to this point in the test, call out "I have". 
16. On the reverse side of the paper add 8950 and 9850. 
17. Put a circle around your answer. 
18. Count out loud in normal speaking voice backwards from ten to one. 
19. Now that you have finished reading, do only steps one and two. 

What we _________ ________________ ______, we _________________. 

Discussion questions

  1. Here’s an interesting historical development reported by the NY Times. “Just one senator voted against the Patriot Act, calling it a violation of civil liberties when it passed in the frightening, angry days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Nearly 14 years later, 77 senators voted to advance a bill ratcheting back its expansive scope.” Which do you value more: security or freedom?  

    The Christian church has concerns about both freedom and security. This lessons helps us think through those concerns.  

  2. What reasons are there to be concerned about the safety or security of Christians?  

    1. See Matthew 7:15-18 

    2. Romans 16:17-19 “17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.”  

    3. 2 John 7-11 “7 I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what we[a] have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. 11 Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.”  

  3. How do we recognize false teachers? False disciples?  

  4. One thing the Bible teaches us is that some people are weak and need encouragement to mature whereas others are false. How can we differentiate between the two?  

  5. Romans 15:1-2 “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.”  

  6. Hebrews 5:12-14 “12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”  

  7. When would you know that you should leave a teacher or group of Christians?    

  8. Have you ever felt compelled to leave a group of Christians or a Christian teacher? Can you explain why?  

Deeper Connections: Satisfied Christians build stronger connections

Deeper Connections: Satisfied Christians build stronger connections

1 Corinthians 11:17-22, 27-34

1 Corinthians 11:17-22 17In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. 20So then, when you come together, it is not the LORD's Supper you eat, 21for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!

1 Corinthians 11:27-34 27So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the LORD in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the LORD. 28Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the LORD, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world. 33So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.

Deeper Connections: Christians connect deeper

Deeper Connections: Christians connect deeper

1 John 1:5-10

5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

Listening guide

We become most like the people who ___________ ___________________ ________ ____.

Christians need to be good at _______________.

Fellowship means Jesus ___________ himself with us. 

Christians connect _____________.   

Discussion questions

  1. What are the biggest things that hinder you from sharing with someone else, or other people from sharing with you?  

  2. Verse 9 – what does it mean to “confess our sins”?  

  3. Verse 9 – John says that if we confess our sins, God will share something with us. He will share forgiveness and purify us. In your own words, explain how confession leads to fellowship with God.  

  4. Verse 9 and 10 – according to these verses, what keeps us from God?  

  5. What does these verses suggest will be the single biggest thing to strengthen our fellowship?  

  6. What do you think hinders fellowship in a congregation? Are they the same things that hinder you from sharing with someone else?  

  7. Share a time when you confessed and you found greater fellowship. Can you imagine if that would happen around here?  

Faith makes amazing people

Faith makes amazing people

Luke 7:1-10

When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Gospel for life: Work

Gospel for life: Work

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Listening guide

When is the last time you took a whole day off? Here is how I’m defining a day off:  

  1. Stop all paid and unpaid work  

  1. Rest by engaging in activities that restore and replenish us.   

  1. Delight in God’s creation and all the gifts he offers us in it.   

  1. Contemplate and ponder the love of God  (Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality)  


Dorothy Sayers “Why Work”  


If we want rest, we need to work well 


Work is an expression of __________. 


Good work comes from _______ ________. 


God has ____________ so _________ for you in Jesus Christ   


God has worked so hard for you in Jesus Christ, so get some rest.   


Discussion questions

  1. Everyone has certain events and stories that reflect their perspective on work. Share some of the events of your life that describe your perspective on work.  

  2. In Genes 1:26 and following, God’s creation account shifts into the majestic first-person plural, “Let us make...”. Adam and Eve are immediately put to work. List the jobs that God mentions.  

  3. According to the following passages, what are some descriptions God uses for our activity in eternity:  

    1. Isaiah 60:4-10 

    2. Matthew 25:23 

    3. John 5:17 

    4. 2 Timothy 2:12 

    5. Revelation 2:26-27 

    6. Revelation 21:24-25  

    7. Revelation 22:3  

  4. In 1 Thessalonians 4:9, Paul says, “about your love for one another” and then goes on to talk about our daily lives. One commentator describes the concern in this way, “It was rather common for Greek men to leave the manual labor to their wives and slaves. This left the men to spend their days in the marketplace. There they would gather to discuss political and economic issues, and (all too often) to indulge in idle gossip. Thus they often became busybodies in other people’s affairs.” What is Paul teaching us by connecting our love to our daily lives and work?  

  5. 1 Thessalonians 4:9 Agree/Disagree Love for one another is the most important fruit of our faith.  

  6. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus famously tells us not to store up treasures on earth, but to work for and store up treasures in heaven. What are some good ways you have seen people work to store up treasures in heaven?  

  7. The most important phrase in that section is Matthew 6:21, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. We might expect it to say, where our heart is, that is our treasure. But Jesus teaches us that our hearts follow what we treasure. How does Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection change what you treasure?  

  8. A little cliché has become popular: “Don’t “rest from work”, “work from rest”.” What might people who say this be trying to communicate?  

  9. One way to ensure that we work well is to celebrate, reflect on, and give thanks for all the good things God has given us through our work and the work of others. This is part of what we don on the Sabbath. In an article called “Bring Back the Sabbath” in the New York Times Magazine we read,  

“There is ample evidence that our relationship to work is out of whack. Let me argue on behalf of an institution that has kept workaholism in reasonable check for thousands of years. Most people believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work. The inventors of the Sabbath understood that it was a much more complicated undertaking. You cannot downshift casually and easily. This is why the Puritan and Jewish Sabbaths were so exactingly intentional. The rules did not exist to torture the faithful. Interrupting the ceaseless round of striving requires a surprisingly strenuous act of the will, one that has to be bolstered by habit as well as by social sanction.”  

This quote explains that scheduled rest will not work without a great deal of intentionality and discipline. Brainstorm the kind of practical habits and useful practices that can help us observe Sabbath.  


Gospel for life: Eternity

Gospel for life: Eternity

Isaiah 60:15-22

15 “Although you have been forsaken and hated,
    with no one traveling through,
I will make you the everlasting pride
    and the joy of all generations.
16 You will drink the milk of nations
    and be nursed at royal breasts.
Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior,
    your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
17 Instead of bronze I will bring you gold,
    and silver in place of iron.
Instead of wood I will bring you bronze,
    and iron in place of stones.
I will make peace your governor
    and well-being your ruler.
18 No longer will violence be heard in your land,
    nor ruin or destruction within your borders,
but you will call your walls Salvation
    and your gates Praise.
19 The sun will no more be your light by day,
    nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.
20 Your sun will never set again,
    and your moon will wane no more;
the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your days of sorrow will end.
21 Then all your people will be righteous
    and they will possess the land forever.
They are the shoot I have planted,
    the work of my hands,
    for the display of my splendor.
22 The least of you will become a thousand,
    the smallest a mighty nation.
I am the Lord;
    in its time I will do this swiftly.”

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Listening guide

Time to move!  

For sale: The city of God, the new Jerusalem 

Price: Buy without money 

60:11 Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations— their kings led in triumphal procession.” 

God has brought the good of all creation into eternity.  

____________________________________________________ home and city for sale.  

60:18 “No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.” 

People themselves have been healed and the relationships they have with one another have been restored.  

___________________________________________ neighbors and community.  

60:19-20 ““The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.”  

The entire city is filled with the glory of God. 


Your heart and a home here won’t fit together. 

When you let God make his home with you, then you will be home. 

Let God’s heart give you a home.  

Discussion questions

  1. Sociologists point out that there are basically 5 attitudes religious and believing people have toward the cities and people groups around us. These attitudes are not 5 neat or separate groups, but still generally reflect categories. Which one of the following do you most hold to?  

    1. #1 Assimilating the city – Christians give in and adopt the culture’s values and worldview. The goal is to blend in and lose any distinct identity. The time of the Judges offer many examples.  

    2. #2 Reflecting the city - Christians keep some aspects of Christian faith and practice, but they adopt the more fundamental values and worldviews of the dominant culture. Faith is for Sunday services and does not shape the way they live, their lifestyle is fundamentally no different. Micah and his mother in Judges 17 & 18 is an example.  

    3. #3 Despising the city – Christians respond to the culture with hostility. They feel polluted by the unbelieving arts, culture, and education. They may either disengage from civic life and denounce the decay, or they may attack and try to gain power to change the culture. The Pharisees and Zealots tried this approach.  

    4. #4 Ignoring the city – Christians focus almost entirely on building up the church and their own numbers. They believe God performs miracles, but forget God works through people. Hananiah in Jeremiah 28 is an example.  

    5. #5 Loving the city – Christians simultaneously accept and challenge the city. They operate out of a very different view of money, relationships, human life, sex, and power even when they engage in the same actions as the people around them. Jeremiah 29 and Acts 4 are examples of this.   

  2. What will heaven be like according to Isaiah’s description in verses 17-21? How does this compare with the description in Revelation 21:1-4, 22-27?  

  3. According to Isaiah 60:9-16, how will God’s people know that the Lord is their Savior and Redeemer?  

  4. How can the knowledge that there will be no violence or destruction in the future kingdom help us, and those we come into contact with, to cope with the violence and destruction we experience around us?  

  5. Richard Mouw writes, “My own hunch is that God has provided us with a rich storehouse of diverse images of the afterlife, all of them hints in the direction of something that is beyond our present comprehension, so that we can be free to draw on one or another of theme as a particular situation in our life may require.” Try this exercise. Each person in the room should share some situation they are currently experiencing in life. Then everyone else can try to apply a theme or image of eternity to encourage or direct that person.  

  6. What attitude have you adopted toward eternity? Share it with someone.  

Gospel for life: Witness

Gospel for life: Witness

Acts 7:54-60

54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  

57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.  

59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. 

Listening guide

Fearful <-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------> Confidence 

Let’s become wonderful witnesses. 

“Verses 54-56. 54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, (Sanhedrin = ruling religious leaders of the day) they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 

Everyone cares about what someone thinks about them. 

When you look around, your witness will fall down. 

V55 “Stephen looked... and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God”. 

See Jesus standing for you and I can promise you you will become a more courageous witness. 

“59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.” 

When Jesus shares himself with you, you will be filled with wonder. 

You’ll be a wonderful witness.  

Follow up questions

  1. “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people... Religion, Politics, and The Great Pumpkin.” (Charles Schultz) Despite the fact that some people think the Internet is changing that maxim, the chart below shows large percentages of American Christians believe it is wrong to share the gospel with someone else.  In your experience, what do you think are the reasons for that?  

  2. Isaiah 55:1 gives us one way to express the witnessing message. List some characteristics of that message and describe them.  

  3. Acts 7:56-58 Why do you think the religious leaders were furious when Stephen said, “I see heaven open”? What does this tell us about our witnessing? While we can’t control how other people respond/react to us, what could we do to help everyone have healthy conversations about these important matters?  

  4. Isaiah 55:17 tells us what is often the most detrimental to our witness: our “sinful greed” and “willful ways”. Are there any instances of sinful greed or willful ways that have hurt our witness that you would like to point out so we can confess our sin?  

  5. Isaiah 55:5 tells us that witness work is summoning nations we do not know. Most people would think of witness work in a foreign land. How can witness work in our own neighborhoods and cities often feel like summoning nations we do not know?  

  6. I found this quote from Frank Retief, a pastor, and have heard similar sentiment from WELS pastors and missionaries: “People without Christ go to hell – if you believe that you’ve got to take risks, take a chance, and be prepared to fail.” What do you think of that statement? Do you agree?  

  7. Peter Wagner, a leading missiologist, writes, “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.” What are some reasons that starting new churches is the most effective way to reach people?  

  8. What are some of the greatest obstacles for you to witness to others? How can I/we help?  

  9. A little acronym I have found helpful for witnessing is BLESS.  

B = Begin with prayer.  

L = Listen with care 

E = Eat together 

S = Serve with love 

S = Share your story  

  1. One or two people that God might be calling me to pray for would be __________________ and __________________. 

Gospel for life: Community

Gospel for life: Community

Acts 2:41-47

41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke breadin their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Listening guide 

Gospel for life:  

  • Jesus fights the _______ and we live with __________ __________. 

  • We exchange our _________ for the stuff with _____________ in God, then the stuff has less power over us. 

God invites you to be his __________.  

That new _________ is incredibly _________.    

Verse 44 = They were __________. They’ve become together. 

Devoted people make for a lively community.   



Follow up questions 

  1. In your experience, how do people naturally relate to one another? Well, not so well?  

  2. Have you experienced a strong, healthy, vibrant community? What do you think made it so good and strong?  

  3. What practices does Dr Luke list in Acts 2 that make for a good, strong, healthy Christian community? Explain each.  





  4. What other practices, not listed in this section of Scripture, are also important or even necessary to make a strong, healthy Christian community? What practices might not be good or helpful or useful, perhaps even hurting the body?  

    1. Affirming one another’s strengths, abilities, and gifts 

    2. Affirming one another’s equal importance in Christ 

    3. Affirming one another through visible affection  

    4. Sharing one another’s space, goods, and time 

    5. Sharing one another’s needs and problems 

    6. Sharing one another’s beliefs, thinking, and spirituality 

    7. Serving one another through accountability  

    8. Serving one another through forgiveness and reconciliation  

    9. Serving one another’s interests rather than our own  

    10. Some unhelpful or unhealthy practices would be........ 





  5. What are some practical ways we can put these practices into this group or another group to strengthen our community?  

    1. Romans 12 offers a good list of ways to love even people we do not naturally like. Which of them tends to be a weakness for you? Which tends to be a strength? Is there a time or place where you strength could help others?  

    2. Love honestly, speaking out against what is wrong v.9 

    3. Love even unattractive people, because they are your brothers and sisters v.10 

    4. Love by making others feel honored and valuable v.10 

    5. Love by being generous in practical ways with your home, money, and time v.13  

    6. Love without bitterness. Don’t “pay others back,” or hold resentment against others. V.14  

    7. Love with empathy. Be willing to be emotionally involved with others. V.15 

    8. Love with humility. Be willing to associate with people who differ from you. V.16  

  6. How do you react to this quote from Don Carson? If it is true, what does it say about the power of the gospel? “Ideally, however, the church itself is not made up of natural “friends.” It is made up of natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything of the sort. Christians come together, not because they form a natural collocation, but because they have been saved by Jesus Christ and owe him a common allegiance. In the light of this common allegiance, in light of the fact that they have all been loved by Jesus himself, they commit themselves to doing what he says – and he commands them to love one another. In this light, they are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.” (Love in Hard Places) 

Gospel for life: Idolatry

Gospel for life: Idolatry

Ezekiel 14:1-6

14 Some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat down in front of me. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all? Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When any of the Israelites set up idols in their hearts and put a wicked stumbling block before their faces and then go to a prophet, I the Lord will answer them myself in keeping with their great idolatry. I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.’

“Therefore say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!

Listening guide

Gospel for life: Heart

Gospel for life: Heart

Romans 7:21-25

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[d] a slave to the law of sin.

Listening guide

When this happened _______________________, I was heartbroken. I ____________________

When this happened, ________________________, my heart was healthy, well, and full. I _____________.

“Our hearts are restless till they find their rest in thee.” (Augustine, Confessions, 1.1.1)

God invites you today to have a whole, healthy, well heart.

What’s in your ___________ matters most.

There is a ____________ in our _______.

Jesus does _____________ on the cross.

Let Jesus fight the war and live with your whole heart. 


Discussion questions

Which way do you think we move as Christians? On the chart below, draw what you think is the direction of the Christian life.  




  1. In these verses Paul says there are two different laws or principles that could govern his life: God’s law (V22), the law of sin (V23). V21 offers a different law or principle. According to that verse, what law/principle did Paul feel at work in his life?  

  2. V22 Paul says he finds “delight in God’s law”. What does that tell you about God’s law? Is that how you feel and think about God’s law?  

  3. V23 The “law of sin” is the other principle at work in Paul’s life. Describe what that principle does. What does it feel like? Consider the phrase Paul uses in V25 “slave to the law of sin.  

  4. V24-25 What is our only delivery from this battle? Is it more delight in or obedience to God’s law? Is it succumbing to the “law of sin”? For another way to answer this question, look at Galatians 3:6.  

  5. Martin Luther summarized who we are then saying, “The saints in being righteous are at the same time sinners; they are righteous because they believe in Christ whose righteousness covers them and is imputed to them, but they are sinners because they do not fulfill the law and are not without sinful desires. They are like sick people in the care of a physician: they are really sick, but healthy only in the hope and insofar as they begin to be better, healed, i.e., they will become healthy. Nothing can harm them so much as the presumption that they are in fact healthy, for it will cause a bad relapse.” (Luther, Romans Commentary) Most people term what Martin Luther is describing as “simultaneously sinner and saint” (simul iustus et peccator) or just “sinner-saint”. In your own words, describe what he means?  

  6. Lutherans have always said that human beings operate according to the “opinion of the law”. This means that we assume that we can do what is right to satisfy God and others by being a good person. Other teachers might explain this as religion – the assumption that God will accept me if I do good. Do you agree that this is the default mode or assumption of the human heart? Have there been times or circumstances where this is how you lived?  

  7. One of our WELS professors, Richard Gurgel, said this: “Instead of doubting your own faith or the faith of others, recognize the reality of the spiritual struggles we all face to defy our heavenly Father by the arrogance either of careless sinning or self-satisfied morality.” What is he saying about the tension we live in as sinner-saints in this life? While he certainly issues a good warning about doubt, at what point do we cross the line from the struggling sinner-saint into unbelief?    

  8. Do you feel this tension in your life right now? If so, describe it. Or describe a time when you felt it. 

  9. If you don’t feel this tension, which way are you leaning? What will you do to move toward the tension?  

  10. Who in your life needs the message of the gospel – that Jesus did battle on the cross for us – so that they can have a whole heart?  

Easter wonder!

Easter wonder!

Do you long for a new day, a new dawn, a fresh start? Easter promises us forgiveness, hope, and a new life as the death of Jesus drives death out of us! 

Luke 24:1-12

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Sermon guide

The Lord Jesus invites you today to a _______________ ___________________. 

The resurrection of Jesus is a _______ ___________________ truth. 

The Gospel according to Luke dates to 65-70 A.D.  

The resurrection is ____________ so everything _______________ change.   

“sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people” ~ Paul, Rm 5:12, see 5:12-15  

His death drives __________ from your _________.   

Wonder! Easter wonder.  


Discussion guide

  1. How many different religious leaders or great thinkers do you know? How many of them have you even followed for a time? What inspired you or got you to follow them?  

  2. Verses 1-3 Who were the first people to go and see the tomb of Jesus? Why is that important? 


  3. Verse 3 What did the women go to the tomb to find? What then are the expectations of even religious people?  

  4. Verses 3-4 What did the women do when they found the tomb open? How did they feel?  

  5. Verses 5-7 What is the message of the angels?  

  6. Verse 11 What is the natural response to the message of the resurrection of Jesus? What are some of the reasons, either ancient or modern, that people have for thinking Jesus does not live? 

  7. If men and women who had spent the better part of three years following Jesus don’t receive the message of the resurrection, what does that say about our hearts?  

  8. What does the angel’s proclamation mean for you?  


Easter wonder!  

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.  

9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.   




Imagine if you could please a person accused of a crime. Maybe they’re falsely accused, maybe they’re rightly accused. The police investigate. The DA decides to file charges. They issue an arrest warrant for the individual. The person is arrested and released on bail. The damage starts. People began to whisper about them. They criticize the individual. Their reputation takes a dive, they lose their good name. It doesn’t matter that later, a lawyer steps in and discovers the entire mess was false. The charges are dropped. The person is pronounced innocent. But it’s too late.  

How can that person ever go on? What do you do? That person might need a fresh start. A new day. A new start to get their good name back.  

That’s a common occurrence. Maybe it isn’t false charges. Maybe it’s conflict at work. Conflict with coworkers can easily lead to poor job performance. Bad job performance leads to conflict with your boss. You get a bad job review. The cycle continues. How are you going to get out of that cycle? You might need a fresh start, a new dawn, a new day.  

If it’s work struggles, maybe it’s an addiction. Addiction has an incredible power over us and there is no way to get out of it with a fresh start. Maybe its family challenges. Maybe its marital problems. Whatever is going on, there can be countless situations that seem to call for a fresh start and a new day!  

And I know from experience how great that new day can be. I’ve had times in life where work get mired in conflict and trial. I got to the point where I just said, yuck, I want this to end. So I did. I quit or found a new job or something and moved on and got that fresh start, that new dawn. It was so freeing, so exhilarating. I needed that fresh start and I got it. And if you have ever experienced it, you know how wonderful it is.  

Now here is the thing about that new start. Most of us can’t change the circumstances of our life most of the time. In fact, most of us don’t want to. Even if your job is going badly, we don’t quit because the pay is good, the benefits are solid, the family so stable, and the grass is definitely not greener on the other side.  

How can you and I get a fresh start, a new day without changing any of the circumstances of our lives? One time a mentor asked me a significant question: are you happy? The challenge for you, like all of us, is to be happy apart from, without our circumstances. Can you be happy no matter what situation you are in in life. Today God promises you and me a fresh start, a new day, a new day that has nothing to do with changing the circumstances of your life.  

The Lord Jesus invites you today to a fresh start, a new dawn, a new reality.  

We’re with the women today on their way to the tomb of Jesus. It’s early Sunday morning. They head out of the city of Jerusalem and find the empty tomb. Luke who is something of a medical professional and an amateur historian, tells us that the women wondered when they got there.  

This wondering that they did, it’s not a positive thing. You and I might wonder at the beauty of the stars against a dark black backdrop on a cool summer night. We might wonder at the beauty of a newborn baby. We might wonder at a sunrise. This is not that kind of wonder.  

This wondering. This is more like the wondering that you do as a parent when you step out of the dining room for three minutes to take a phone call. You come back and there is food all over the table, food on the floor, some food on the walls, and food in people’s hair. You say, “how could this have happened in just two minutes!” That wondering, that perplexity, is what the women experience.  

These women grew up in a time and culture where no one thought people could come back from the dead. It didn’t happen. In our world, it could happen in at least a little way. I think, what was it, maybe three months ago, someone I knew was at home, they had a stroke or a brain aneurism. They stopped breathing. Paramedics found this person 15 or 20 minutes later and started CPR. Over the next hour or two even though the person’s brain had stopped functioning, their heart and lungs started working again. They were dead and they come back to life. If someone says, so and so died and they came back. Then I ask, “how long did they stop breathing or their heart stop beating or how long did their brain stopped functioning?” Nobody expected that in the ancient world.  

The Jews thought that at the end of the world, people would come back to life, but before that it didn’t happen. That meant these were very perplexed, very confused, food on the walls and in the hair confused, by an empty tomb. This part of the gospel for them was perplexing. 

What this is saying to us then...The resurrection of Jesus is a deeply challenging truth.  

I was reading and listening to someone’s story making exactly this point a while back. She is a twenty something now, but went through this experience much younger. As a child, she read a shortened, children’s edition of the Bible lots of times. Then she read C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books. She read Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials books. That’s a fiction series that basically makes the opposite case as the Chronicles of Narnia.  

She started to think about many of the ideas of the Bible. She looked at the fall into sin and asked, Is the fall into sin really a fall, or is it just a story in ever important book that teaches us how we need to choose good or evil. Or what about God. Are goodness and faith mutually exclusive? Do we need God to be good? Or could God just die? She was perplexed. (https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/religious-childrens-fiction-and-the-books-that-helped-shape-my-atheismaccessed 4/20/2019)  

Let me give you just two examples how the resurrection of Jesus has significantly changed the world. You can tell from these that the resurrection is going to perplex if you are going to figure it out. It is a deeply challenging truth.  

If you lived in the time before Jesus or even to this day in areas of the world that have not been deeply impacted by the resurrection of Jesus, most people think of history in a cyclical fashion. In the West, we tend to think of history in a linear fashion. It has a beginning, middle, and an end. It tells a story. It moves from start to finish. That is not how most people would have thought of the history of the world or how many people do to this day. For many, history is a ceaseless cycle of events. They basically all mean the same thing. They simply happen in different ways. There is no real progress or progression.  

Or what about the fact that we think the physical world is real? You can touch it, trust it, and depend on it. Do you know that in the ancient world everything you can touch and see and feel was bad and meaningless and it didn’t matter? The only thing that mattered was the immaterial life. Science as we know it has significantly come about because of the resurrected of Jesus.  

Think about that. That is how much the resurrection of Jesus challenges the reality we live in. So when this pushes on you, when it presses you and challenges, you probably should say, “is this true” or “well, what do you want from me” or “what does this have to do with me?” And I’m going to tell you, everyone has that reaction at some point, when they wrestle what the good news of Jesus really is. I don’t think I know a single person who knows what the resurrection of the dead means without some wrestling, some perplexity, some confusion. When that happens what do you say to yourself? 

Either the gospel is wrong – it's not true, it’s not good, it’s not accurate, it doesn’t apply - or I’m wrong. I think you have to ask that question.  

It’s easy to think that in the ancient world before news stations and Wikipedia and everything that everyone thought people would rise from the dead. But that isn’t the case.  

For example, there is one time where the Apostle Paul is talking to people Rome. He is telling them the events of Jesus’ life. He gets to the part where Jesus died and rose. And do you know what the people say? “What is this new teaching? You are bringing strange ideas to our ears.” (Acts 17:19, 20) Even many Jewish people did not believe in a resurrection. During the week Jesus died, a group of people called the Sadducees came and asked a hypothetical question about people getting married after they rise from the die. They use people get remarried as proof that there can’t be a resurrection. Imagine they confusion they say, if a widow gets to heaven and has to pick between two husbands? Who is she going to be married to? This is before Sister’s Wives. Even in the ancient world, the idea of a resurrection was strange.  

Now you’ve got this guy Luke who wrote the book of Luke. At the very latest he is doing this 40 years after Jesus. He is asking Mary the mother of James or maybe James’s sister, okay, “so what happened that morning? You went to the tomb and the tomb was empty? And angels and people told you that he had risen.” Then Luke says, “what did you think about that?” “I was perplexed” she says. I mean, people don’t rise from the dead and a guard was there, so what happened to his body? I didn’t really know what to think until I saw Jesus.” “You saw Jesus then?” he says. “Yes, that night” she says. “The next week, and many times after that.” “Wow, Luke says.”  

Luke writes that all down. Copies it a few times. Distributes a few copies. People read it. Now, other than maybe 1 other document, the only documents that talk about the resurrection of Jesus within 100 years of him are in what we call the Bible. That’s all there is. At the same time, the only document that denies the resurrection of Jesus is also right here in the Bible. According to Matthew, some people tried to deny Jesus’ resurrection.  

What this means is, here is Matthew, Mark, Luke, John all saying Jesus rose from the dead. Nobody argued with them. 40 years after Jesus Luke writes “Jesus rose from the dead.” Nobody says, “no he didn’t. I saw him. I went to his tomb. I saw him lying there. Dead.” 

Don’t you think if someone is walking around saying, “Hey look at that guy he rose from the dead” someone is going to say, “Um excuse me. No he didn’t. He is right there.” They didn’t have IQs of 50, which is very low by the way. Maybe they didn’t have antibiotics or do MRIs, they didn’t mean they lacked all intelligence. 

So what are the odds that nobody disagreed with Luke? Remember, most people thought people don’t rise from the dead. They didn’t have IQs of 50. They maybe didn’t have MRIs and antibiotics, but they were no fools.  

I think then we have to say Jesus rose from the dead. It doesn’t matter how much it changes reality. It doesn’t matter how perplexed, how strange, or how confused that makes our life. It doesn’t matter how many challenging questions we have to face. It doesn’t matter how much our world gets remade. Jesus is risen. Christ is risen! (hopefully they say he is risen indeed.) 

The resurrection is real so everything must change.  

The angels make it happen in a surprising way.  

The angels say to the women, “He is not here; he has risen!” And then they say the key line that will change everything for you. “Remember what he said, “The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Did you hear that? They said the Son of Man must be delivered to the hands of sinners and be crucified. There is that little word must there.  

 Do you have a favorite “not happily ever after” story. Shakespeare is pretty famous for all of his tragic endings. If you’re a Stars Wars buff maybe you say, “The Empire Strikes Back”. If you’re into Disney fairy tales, you’ll need to turn to the original edition “Little Mermaid” to find a story that doesn’t end with a happy ending, you can go to the original Hans Christian Anderson story.  

That had to happen. That’s what had to happen. Do you realize what they are saying here?  

Since the beginning, death has hung over all people. “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people”. It has bent the trajectory of our lives. 

It doesn’t matter how hard you and I work to fix the circumstances of our lives. We can’t make ourselves a new reality. You’re too sinful. You’re too lost. You’re too guilty. He had to die. If you dislike that idea, you’re making the same mistake as the women. What you are saying is, I don’t believe Jesus actually had to die. I think that it was enough for him to be a good person, maybe a great teacher, so that he could show me the way to a life without sin or death. No! That doesn’t work. The only way to undo the reality of the old world was to put it on the sinless Son of God and let him die with it on the cross.  

The angels are saying there is no way for you to have a happily ever after if there is no unhappy ever after for somebody else.   

There is a deeper truth at work. When a willing victim makes a sacrifice in our place then death itself will begin to work backwards. Death itself is undone. Death will begin to lose its hold on us. That is how we get to a new reality, a new world.  

Do you believe that death has already begun to be undone? Then it is undone in your life. Then you can see more and more how death itself loses it’s hold on you.  

When we believe a willing victim is sacrificed for us, then death itself begins to work backwards in our lives. What will change your reality, what will change everything about how you see the world is when you let his death drive death from your life.  

One of the games I play with the kids when mom goes out for the night is dad scare the kids to death. They say, “Dad, put on your black sweatshirt and turn off the lights and scare us.” Sometimes it goes terribly. The kids have fear and terror in their hearts even before we start the game and it doesn’t matter If the kids believe that I love them and I’m going to protect them and I’m not going .  And in the darkness I’m not such a terror. I bring joy to their lives. The darkness that I bring to them drives the darkness and fear from them. Then terror turns to giggles. Then the fear becomes fun. We’re rolling on the ground wrestling with each other.  

This is what Jesus’ death has to do for you and me. We’re walking in a world of darkness and death and we don’t even realize it. But when his darkness -  this cross - drives the death from your life, boom, you’ve got a new reality.  

His death drives death from your life.  

So what do we need to do here?  

Action: Wonder  

When Peter and the other men heard these words, they sounded like nonsense to them. The resurrection is a deeply challenging truth. It will change everything about the way you think and the way you act.  

Then they say it was real and how did Peter respond? V12 “Peter went away wondering to himself what had happened.”  

If death itself has been driven away, then you have to wonder, in the most wonderful way, what’s next. 

I want you to remember back to your child when you were interested in secret doors and secret rooms and hiding places. Do you remember when you looked for secret rooms in a house? Sometimes children will come and ask, “Where are all the secret rooms in church?” They want to see what is behind the new door. It doesn’t matter that they don't know the reality behind that door. Death has driven death out of them and they want to see what is behind the next door.  

You too, you have to wonder about the reality that is behind the next door.  

Because here is the thing: If the resurrection is real, then as we let his death drive death from our lives, there is a wonderful new reality to discover.  

Let these words make you wonder: “‘The Son of Many must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’" That’s how you’ll discover a new dawn, a new day, a new reality.  Easter wonder. 


Mark it finished

Mark it finished

John 19:28-30

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Listening guide

Good Friday tells us is how hard we would have to work if we really want to fix the brokenness, the sin, the failure, the pain, and everything else that is wrong in this world. 

There is an incredible pressure to right the wrongs of life.  


Ps. 42:1-2 As the deer pants for streams of water,  

         so my soul pants for you, my God.   

      2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  

         When can I go and meet with God?   

Ps 22:14-15 “I am poured out like water. My strength is dried up like a piece of earthenware in the furnace. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You lay me in the dust of death.” 

“To march into hell for a heavenly cause.”  

“It is finished”  

2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”   

Mark it finished.  


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