Sunday School

(Please scroll down for weekly updates.)

adultssThe Adult Sunday School class meets every Sunday during the school year from 10:10 to 10:55 am.  The discussion leader develops questions around one or more of the readings from the services that week.  People who have expressed an interest in the class are sent the verses and questions several days before class.  However, no previous knowledge or information is necessary to attend.  Our goal is that folks feel very comfortable dropping in and joining the conversation. This is a dynamic and interactive class taught not by a single teacher but by the whole class.  We discuss the verses and questions, explore what we don’t understand and discuss what the verses mean to us.  This approach deepens our understanding of the Bible, fosters a desire to learn more, and results in a deeper, faith-based relationship among those in the class and inspires us toward action.  All are welcome.  For more information please contact Steve Allenby (sallenby@aol.com) with any questions.

Sunday Morning Coffee With Seekers

 May 1, 2016

Greetings,

Tom Coverdale here. I know today will be communion, and our typical 45 minutes will probably be cut to 35, but here we go anyway.

Two things:

(1)  In 2014, I “taught” this class almost every Sunday morning. During that year, I used to start every week’s questions with the statement Do I know God or just know about Him? For the most part, I have been absent this last six-month run through the class discussions on The Sermon, but from what I have heard-and from my weekly reading of the questions and viewing of Randy Harris-it appears that we are back to that same type of question: Now that we have read and discussed some of the ins- and-outs of what many consider to be the Manifesto of Jesus’ teaching, the question remains–So what? Do I only know how I should live the Kingdom life, or am I actually starting to live it?

Another thing I always did was to start each class with an opportunity for anyone to relate an incident from the week-previous where they really felt as if the Holy Spirit were speaking to him or her. I greatly desire to hear His Voice in my own life, so I want to hear how such stuff is happening in the lives of my spiritual siblings in this body. I would like to start this Sunday with such an opportunity for anyone to share.

(2) This church is putting together a document that the Church Council has dubbed the Behavioral Covenant. It’s a document that is supposed to represent a mission statement of sorts regarding the way in which individuals in this church should agree to treat each other. Considering that this class has just gone through some of the weightiest and most clear postulates from our body’s Head, it seems that this group might have some ideas regarding some of those Christian behavioral characteristics.

Personally, I’m for approaching the number-one scenario first and foremost, because such a question challenges everything about why I come to FBC every Sunday anyway. If I can’t personally know what is so life-changing about this God/Jesus/Bible stuff, why would I come here except as a social exercise?

I would like to pick up in Matthew 7 where the Sermon kind of winds down.

Matthew 7:21-29

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!’

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.

What is the Kingdom of Heaven?

What do you think Jesus meant when he said, “I never knew you.”

How is it possible that all these good things (e.g. prophesying, demon exorcism, miracle working) be described as acts of evildoers?

  1. 24 seems to be a catalyst: “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…

I would really like to focus on the following questions in the coming weeks, especially in light of the things we’ve discussed over the last months.

How is my life changing?

What areas have I felt challenged to change?

What is something I feel specifically the Holy Spirit is asking me to do?

What kinds of contacts/relationships/environments do I foster or pursue in order to facilitate the acting out the precepts of Kingdom living?

It seems, after all of our Sunday school talk, that it might be time to step up to the change we sense the Holy Spirit is leading us to in our lives. Frankly, I can’t think of a group of people that I’d rather start such a venture with….

 April 24, 2016   Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing    Matthew 7:15-23

This is where the warning concerning false prophets exists in the Sermon on the Mount.   So far in this sermon Jesus has only addressed real and actually common problems which we face in day to day life.  Nothing has been rare or fictitious.  Therefore, both true and false prophets must really exist.  So I suspect that this warning is real and serious!  How do I discern a true prophet from a false one?  Or, how do I discern real advice from the Holy Spirit from what looks good and reasonable?  Is the advice beneath the fluffy attractive warm fleece actually authentic??    Does Jesus’s answer seem to parallel the second issue addressed in this passage.   How does Jesus discern a true disciple from a false one?

Below is the link to the video by Randy Harris for you to preview.  Again we will try to que it up for a 10:15 start.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Asakco7TwI4

Matthew 7:15-23New International Version (NIV)

True and False Prophets

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

True and False Disciples

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

(The cross references for this passage were very helpful to me as I formed my answers to the questions today)

 Cross references:

  1. Matthew 7:15 : Jer 23:16; (all of Jer 23 is a revealing message about false prophets!) Mt 24:24; Lk 6:26; 2Pe 2:1; 1Jn 4:1; Rev 16:13
  2. Matthew 7:15 : Eze 22:27; Ac 20:29
  3. Matthew 7:16 : Mt 12:33; Lk 6:44
  4. Matthew 7:16 : Jas 3:12(my addition is to encourage you to read James 3:8-12)
  5. Matthew 7:18 : Lk 6:43
  6. Matthew 7:19 : S Mt 3:10
  7. Matthew 7:21 : Hos 8:2; Mt 25:11; S Jn 13:13; 1Co 12:3
  8. Matthew 7:21 : S Mt 3:2
  9. Matthew 7:21 : Mt 12:50; Ro 2:13; Jas 1:22; 1Jn 3:18
  10. Matthew 7:22 : S Mt 10:15
  11. Matthew 7:22 : Lk 10:20; Ac 19:13; 1Co 13:1-3
  12. Matthew 7:23 : Ps 6:8; Mt 25:12, 41; Lk 13:25-27

Beginning Questions:

  1. What are the “fruits” Jesus uses to evaluate a claimed prophet or disciple? Are they the same for each group?
  1. How many forms of “sheep’s clothing” have you been able to identify? What can I learn or do to improve my ability and speed at recognizing wolves that are authentically disguised?  How does giving the “benefit of the doubt” principle work here?
  1. A possible interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount is that it represents both instructions and a score card for a better life. What if Jesus is telling us that this is actually how he keeps score? What if you spent your whole life and most of your efforts caring about good and important things that Jesus didn’t care that much about?  When all he wanted was a life formed according to the Sermon on the Mount.  How do you guard against that?
  1. If I believe Jesus and the Holy Spirit recognize a person’s genuine heart and will, and if that recognition is involved in how Jesus values relationships, then how does how I evaluate and judge my own relationships with people compare? Is it different or the same?  Do exceptions exist? Why?
  1. How do I value and keep score of my relationships with co-workers?
  1. How does our church keep score with one another?
  1. What are some practical ways you can change the way you value relationships and the way you keep score with one another in your home?

April 17, 2016    Stick In My Eye with Randy Harris @ 10:15.  You can also preview at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP–dKF2fB8&nohtml5=False

Previous lessons from Christ in the Sermon on the Mount have dealt with the issues of anger, contempt, lust and cultivating lust, verbal manipulation, payback and getting even, along with the burdens and anxieties of “looking good” with our peers, to finally securing ourselves through wealth.  What’s left?  The verses today provide insights into our own limitations around judging and generosity, appropriate gifts, and instruction about living a life that leads to more life.

Matthew 7:1-14New International Version (NIV)J

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. 13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Opening Questions for Discussion:

  1. Do you think we can treat others the way Jesus wants us to (with love, compassion and generosity) if we are feeling insecure about what others think of us or we are feeling financially insecure?

Has anyone in the class figured out a way to not feel these insecurities?

If we are unable to overcome personal and financial insecurity, is it impossible to do what Jesus asks?  Even when we are generous and compassionate, is it coming from the wrong place?  E.g. fear that God will judge us the way we judge others or that we will not make it through the narrow path?

  1. Would it be appropriate when I read and interpret the first 2 verses of Chapter 7 to substitute the words blame, or criticize, or correct, or condemn for the word “judge”? Part B, if you decide any of these words could be implied by Jesus in “judging”, how would substituting any of those words change how we apply this lesson to our lives and our families?  Our lives in our church?
  1. Randy Harris asserts that God is generous. Is he generous with mankind or with me?  When we finally accept his generosity as a condition of living in this world with him, God’s generosity becomes our generosity.  Is the “benefit of the doubt” principle a valid extension of God’s generosity?
  1. What would happen in relationships if everyone adopted the “benefit of the doubt” principle? That is, what would be the upside benefits and the downside difficulties of applying this to family, children, or any person in my life? Or to carry the proposal by Jesus realistically a little further; What would happen if only one person in an interaction follows the principle and the others do not?
  2. What are pearls? sacred pearls? How are they formed?  Who are pigs and dogs (definitely not PC terms!)?? and why do they have such a problem with pearls?   Do cute little piglets and puppies have similar uses for sacred pearls?  More directly, how do I “generously” offer valuable knowledge and instruction to my family?  To my Church?
  3. In this passage do you think Jesus recommends we change the way we look at people? Do you actually see what you are primed to look for?

April 10, 2016   Grab a cup and a cookie and meet us downstairs at 10:15 for a discussion and share what the Sermon on the Mount really is or means in each other’s lives.

For both Christians and Non-Christians the Sermon on the Mount provides clues on how to live the “good life”.  The problem addressed in today’s scripture is again based on where your heart is, what you can trust, and what your motivations are.  That is something very important to God and for each person.  What do you feel is of most importance to you; who do you serve and then where is your “treasure” safest?

Below is the link to a video by Randy Harris based on these verses.  It is about 15 min and can be previewed here.  We intend to start it at 10:15 so grab your cup and come downstairs.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdC8sp6n6zg&nohtml5=False

Matthew 6:19-24   Treasures in Heaven(A)

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,(B) where moths and vermin destroy,(C) and where thieves break in and steal.20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,(D) where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.(E) 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.(F)

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[a] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[b]your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.(G)

Footnotes: a. Matthew 6:22 The Greek for healthy here implies generous.   b.  Matthew 6:23 The Greek for unhealthy here implies stingy.

Cross references:

Matthew 6:19 : 6:22, 23pp — Lk 11:34-36

Matthew 6:19 : Pr 23:4; Lk 12:16-21; Heb 13:5

Matthew 6:19 : S Jas 5:2, 3

Matthew 6:20 : Mt 19:21; Lk 12:33; 16:9; 18:22; 1Ti 6:19

Matthew 6:20 : Lk 12:33

Matthew 6:21 : Lk 12:34

Matthew 6:24 : Lk 16:13

Starting Questions:

When Jesus says to place your treasures in heaven what do you think is included in the term “treasure”?

I believe a study of my actions may reveal a different story about my trust and what my real treasures are than do my professed beliefs. Why is that?  Do I have an integrity problem? Is that true for anyone else?

Are the terms used in managing our lives, futures, and security; terms such as net worth, acceptable life style, line of credit, IRA, and annuity, terms that God uses or even recognizes as significant? As treasures?  IF not recognized by God, can they be transformed into something that is recognized stored and protected in heaven?  How?

Do you think that the suggestions Jesus makes here for individuals can be applied to a community of people?  For example, a church?

We are humans and live in this world.  Jesus was God in human form and lived in this world too.  We both see and experience thru human bodies and human eyes.  What is the meaning of the  healthy and unhealthy eyes of this passage?

April 3, 2016  (Continuation of Mar 20 Discussion)

Matt 6:1-18      “Watch Me!” from Randy Harris

Matt 6:1-18, is one of the most informative and instructive passages of the Sermon on the Mount. It contains the Lord’s Prayer.  Study of “the prayer” alone can be a rewarding because it reveals so much of how we and Jesus construct our relationships to God.  A study of just the prayer could be worthwhile for all of us and I suspect many of you have already participated in such a study.  Today’s study (returns) focused on the verses surrounding the prayer.  How do you in unspoken ways communicate “Watch Me!  See Me!  Ain’t this cool!”.  When we do draw attention, and we all do don’t we?  Who are we wanting to impress?   Our friends? God? Who really is meant to be impressed by the poetry of the prayer we construct?  After all didn’t I do my best? Show my best?   —- WATCH ME!

The video which we will begin at 10:15 can be previewed with this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXb4gke_tu0

Matthew 6:1-18 New International Version (NIV)(sorry, underlines added by me CHB)

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
but deliver us from the evil one.[b]

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matt 5:14-16     14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Questions: (In our second go at these questions, in each case, can you consider the effects of your answer and actions upon two relationships; your relationship with the Lord and your relationship with the people surrounding you.  Can a single action or answer consistently be the “right” one?  Where do you want to stand?  Where are you most comfortable?)

1.HELP ME! HELP! HELP!  Does Jesus give us another of those impossible to live ideals?  How can I ever choose the right instruction between Matt 5:14-16 and Matt 6:1-4 or even clear to Matt 6:18?  What is appropriate behavior in a Church? In a grocery store? (what makes these two situations alike or different?)  When I do whatever it is I do for Lent? With ashes on my forehead?     In secret—how secret?  In public –how visible is the light on the hill?

2. In your prayer, thinking especially of when we pray in the congregation, have you ever asked things and praised God with an eye on how what you say is perceived by those around you? How does anyone keep their focus on God in that situation?  Integrity when I pray?  Skepticism and judgement when I hear some prayer?

3. In a Church how do we demonstrate our importance, our worth, our earnestness? I mean how do I prevent myself from being identified as a “bad Christian” when I am not supposed to let the left hand know what the right hand does? Can’t I leave just a little trail?  What if I don’t turn the lock and the door cracks open just a little on my “secret Life?”

4. Can I be a Proud Christian? How can I show that I am proud of my Church without running afoul of this caution of vanity or playing to the audience of many instead of the One?

And if we have time which I know is doubtful. . . . . .

5. Lastly, along a different line of thought: Three examples of Pharisaic “righteousness” —almsgiving, praying, and fasting are presented here. How many of us actually perform these activities?  Aren’t they sort of optional in a world of Grace?  Or are they mandatory Disciplines?   At least the Pharisees could figure out who was actually trying to do something positive couldn’t they?  How different is my life and the behaviors of Christians today from those to whom Christ issued these cautions?  Can we afford to not be concerned with what others think of us?  Is that a safe stance?  What techniques do you use to guide your actions toward God as your audience rather than your friends or must you really do both?

Happy Easter!  – March 27, 2016 – No Adult Sunday School class this morning.  

March 20, 2016 – Palm Sunday

Matt 6:1-18      “Watch Me!” from Randy Harris

Matt 6:1-18, is one of the most informative and instructive passages of the Sermon on the Mount. It contains the Lord’s Prayer.  Study of “the prayer” alone can be a rewarding because it reveals so much of how we and Jesus construct our relationships to God.  A study of just the prayer could be worthwhile for all of us and I suspect many of you have already participated in such a study.  Today’s study is more focused on the verses surrounding the prayer.  How do you in unspoken ways communicate “Watch Me!  See Me!  Ain’t this cool!”.  When we do draw attention, and we all do don’t we?  Who are we wanting to impress?   Our friends? God? Who really is meant to be impressed by the poetry of the prayer we construct?  After all didn’t I do my best? Show my best?   —- WATCH ME!

The video which we will begin at 10:15 can be previewed with this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXb4gke_tu0

Matthew 6:1-18  New International Version (NIV)

Giving to the Needy

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Prayer

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
but deliver us from the evil one.[b]

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Fasting

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Questions:

Matt 5:14-16     14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

  1. HELP ME! HELP! HELP!  Does Jesus give us another of those impossible to live ideals?  How can I ever choose the right instruction between Matt 5:14-16 and Matt 6:1-4 or even clear to Matt 6:18?  What is appropriate behavior in a Church? In a grocery store?  When I do whatever it is I do for Lent? With ashes on my forehead?     In secret—how secret?  In public –how visible is the light on the hill?
  1. In your prayer, thinking especially of when we pray in the congregation, have you ever asked things and praised God with an eye on how what you say is perceived by those around you? How does anyone keep their focus on God in that situation?  Integrity when I pray?  Skepticism and judgement when I hear some prayer?
  1. In a Church how do we demonstrate our importance, our worth, our earnestness? I mean how do I prevent myself from being identified as a “bad Christian” when I am not supposed to let the left hand know what the right hand does? Can’t I leave just a little trail?  What if I don’t turn the lock and the door cracks open just a little on my “secret Life?”
  1. Can I be a Proud Christian? How can I show that I am proud of my Church without running afoul of this caution of vanity or playing to the audience of many instead of the One?

And if we have time which I know is doubtful. . . . . .

  1. Lastly, along a different line of thought: Three examples of Pharisaic “righteousness” —almsgiving, praying, and fasting are presented here. How many of us actually perform these activities?  Aren’t they sort of optional in a world of Grace?  Or are they mandatory Disciplines?   At least the Pharisees could figure out who was actually trying to do something positive couldn’t they?  How different is my life and the behaviors of Christians today from those to whom Christ issued these cautions?  Can we afford to not be concerned with what others think of us?  Is that a safe stance?  What techniques do you use to guide your actions toward God as your audience rather than your friends or must you really do both?

March 13, 2016 – Holy Prank!!

Randy Harris postulates that this is one of the most recognized and least followed instructions by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.   To turn the other cheek, to give not just your cloak but all your clothes,  to go the extra mile expecting nothing in return,  how disarming is this in person to person relationships?  Are these smart or foolish actions for me to recommend to my children and friends?   Harris suggest that Jesus can be a bit humorous and prankish when this advice is delivered with a genuine smile.  As if to say to the angry person, “Now that you have that out of your system, can we move on together?”  Does loving your enemy, your antagonist, your just plain irritating associate really work?  How?

Following is the link to the Randy Harris YouTube video that we will play beginning at 10:15   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWkle6suolY

Matthew 5:38-48

Eye for Eye

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a]39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Love for Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[b] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Compare the following passages from the Old Testament keeping in mind Matt 5:17-20. . . . .

 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

How do you view the verses below?  Why do you believe they contradict Jesus’ instruction in Matt 5:38-48 or are they supportive of it?

Exodus 21:22-25 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely[a] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

Lev 24:20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury.

Deut 19:21   Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot

Proverbs 24:28-29 Do not testify against your neighbor without cause—
would you use your lips to mislead?  Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me; I’ll pay them back for what they did.”

Proverbs 25:21-22 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.   In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.

Lamentations 3:30-31 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.   For no one is cast off by the Lord forever.

Lev 19:18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

 

March 6, 2016   – Notes for Coffee with Seekers (Please click here for notes)

February 28, 2016  – God made Sex Really Good

In the following passage Jesus says some pretty startling things. We (all men and women) have been given a lot of liberty by God to think and make our own choices. What is Jesus really saying and teaching me in this passage? It seems pretty straight forward, but a little harsh doesn’t it? I guess all of my friends are great Christians because I know very few people who have gouged out their eyes or purposely cut off their hands. How are they coping with this instruction or are they ignoring this passage or somehow immune? Looking at my personal world Jesus’ words are once again making me uncomfortable.

Matthew 5:27—32

Adultery
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[a](A) 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.(B) 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble,  (C) gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble,(D) cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Divorce
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’[b](E) 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.(F)

Footnotes:
1. Matthew 5:27 Exodus 20:14
2. Matthew 5:31 Deut. 24:1

Cross references:
1. Matthew 5:27 : Ex 20:14; Dt 5:18
2. Matthew 5:28 : Pr 6:25; 2Pe 2:14
3. Matthew 5:29 : ver 30; Mt 18:6, 8, 9; Mk 9:42-47; Lk 17:2; Ro 14:21; 1Co 8:13; S 2Co 6:3; 11:29
4. Matthew 5:30 : S ver 29
5. Matthew 5:31 : Dt 24:1-4
6. Matthew 5:32 : S Lk 16:18

In keeping with our continuing review of the Sermon on the Mount and focusing on the above passage I intend to start the following video by Randy Harris at 10:10. Following the link below should allow you to preview the video if you anticipate being late getting downstairs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3z3AmH9EffM

What questions come to mind for you from this passage?

Mine include:
Why is Jesus concerned with lust? Why so serious a treatment? Self Mutilation???

What do you think of Randy Harris’s explanation of what is at the heart of lust? Is this explanation in anyway compatible with previous comments by Jesus or does it stand alone as an instruction to us?

Our world has been trending toward a shorter more personal view of how to live our lives. If you are unhappy with something you should try something else or change directions to something more personally rewarding. The ultimate standard is more involved with personal reward. Can or should we rationalize present day personal actions and present day culture with the instruction given here?

How do I apply this instruction to my life and the lives of those around me with whom I have a relationship?

In what ways has sex and sin been viewed as equivalent in church teachings you’ve experienced? How were those “ways” presented and justified?

What have you previously or presently contemplated telling your children about this relationship?

In what ways do any of us objectify or diminish the humanity of other people that we know or don’t know?

Other Questions?

February 14, 2016- Combined Worship Service at 10:00 a.m.  No Sunday School this week.

February 7, 2016 – Idiot! Stupid! Moron!  Matthew 5:21-26
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca” is answerable to the court. Anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to them: then come and offer your gift.
Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

As you read and think on today’s scripture I share with you these thoughts. Please share yours:

• ‘Raca’ is a term from Aramaic that is pronounced with a guttural sound very much like the sound we make in clearing our thought preparing to spit. It is much like the sound a camel or llama makes before they forcibly spit foul smelling stomach contents upon you. This act targets, rather indelibly marks, and shows their disrespect and contempt for the target. I suspect the Aramaic word mimics the camels contempt and was used to express a man’s contempt for another. Perhaps not unlike the single raised middle finger of our culture.

• From The Divine Conspiracy” by Dallas Willard:
“You Fool!” Said with the characteristic combination of freezing contempt and withering anger that Jesus had in mind, is a deeper harm than either anger or contempt alone
. . . . .The dominant sense of “fool” in our culture is that of a benign folly, as in “Feast of Fools”, an ancient idea that became the title of a popular book some years back. Excuse the crudity, but the nearest equivalent of the biblical fool in today’s language would be something more like stupid bastard or F—- jerk, as said to someone who either has just messed up something important we were doing to meet a deadline or has just cut us off in traffic.

• To read the full impact of the scene Jesus refers to, of a first century Jew leaving an offering on the floor of the temple before presenting it and going to reconcile with a brother or sister, we should imagine ourselves being married or baptized or ordained to some special role such as a pastor or similar to the laying on of hands as we seated our deacons recently. In the midst of the proceedings, we say “hold it!” and without explanation we jump up, and walk out to seek reconciliation with someone who is not even there. That perhaps pictures the importance Jesus ascribed to this concept.

• Lastly, many of you may already do this, but as you read the scripture above one more time prior to class, read it adding your own name before or after the appropriate ‘you’ of the text.

Questions:
1. –Sticks and stone can break your bones, but words will never hurt you—or so I was told and so I told my children. This passage seems to indicate differently, indicating that words can be weapons of mass destruction, or they can also be used to rebuild relationships. What are the ways we might begin with degrading thoughts, move to hateful thoughts, and end up with worse thoughts in this church or in some other aspect of our lives?

2. Why is it easier to destroy than to build?? What’s the sense in that?

3. In Matt 22:37-39 Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matt 5:21-26 seems to indicate that your relationship with your brother is important enough to interrupt your relationship with your Lord. How do I ‘reconcile’ these views of which relationship is most important or do I have to? Is there a point where the two views agree?

4. How can I have a different opinion or value than a brother? How can I reconcile a difference when I know I am ‘right’ and the other person wrong? In my church? How can I without expressing anger or subtle contempt or withholding from reconciliation, reconcile a difference with another in my church or my life?

5. As a code of conduct is developed by the FBC in the near future, should Jesus’ teaching in Matt 5:21-26 play an instructive role or is it really applicable? What role if any? a prominent or minor role?

6. What have you done to restore a relationship in the last 10 years?

From Randy Harris:
The Sermon on the Mount is to be lived, so I have a challenge for you. There are people out there with whom you need to be reconciled.
It may be your fault.
It may be their fault.
You may not know whose fault it is. But Jesus says it is important to restore and reconcile those relationships and challenges us to do so. It is much easier to destroy than it is to reconcile.
Identify people with whom you have unreconciled relationships. Make some effort toward reconciliation or start approaching, and do it in such a way that doesn’t blame the other person.

January 31, 2016 – The Heart of the Law

The preamble to our discussion will be a guest via video—Randy Harris starting at 10:13. Mr Harris teaches at Abilene Christian University as well as presenting numerous guest sermons at various churches. As you review and think about this passage prior to class it is worthwhile to note that Mr Harris views the Sermon on the Mount as instruction and guidance on how to live your life—both present and future. If possible I would also recommend that you review Don Weatherson’s study of the Sermon on the Mount as well. Both men believe in the “livability” of Jesus’ advice.

Matthew 5:17-20 New International Version (NIV)
The Fulfillment of the Law
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Question 1: What is the Jewish Law to which Jesus is referring?

Question 2: No one knew more about Jewish laws than the Pharisees. No one made greater attempts to apply the Law to themselves and their tribe than the Pharisees. Why did Jesus mention the Pharisees righteousness instead of their knowledge? Does knowledge of the laws not matter?

Question 3: Can you think of examples from the Bible where Jesus’ “righteous” interpretation of the law differs from the Pharisees “righteous” application? Why do they differ? In our world is not the Law. . . .the Law?

Question 4
Part A. We know that the Ten Commandments came from God thru Moses and are foundational in the Law. Jesus says when we read the law what we find out is what God cares about. What does God care about?

Part B. Accepting your answer to Part A and to Questions 2 and 3; How do I acknowledge those answers in the decisions and actions of my life?
How does this answer look to you in view of “you are the salt and light” of last week?

Question 5: Can you think of times when you personally, or someone you know, FBC or the church in general tries to follow the law but does so in a non-righteous manner? Can you share examples?

Question 7: Does following Jesus require more about rules and regulations or does it mean more calling people (myself) to living out deep discipleship?

Question 7: If you are willing to put yourself (myself) under the discipline of the law that Jesus fulfills and the law the way Jesus sees it, what would that look like? . . . Salt and Light?

January 24, 2016 – Salt and Light –Matthew 5:13-16

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Question 1: Can you think of any recent situations where others probably noticed your light? Does it matter that they know that the source of the light is your faith?

Question 2: Why do you think Jesus gives us the assignment of being “salt and light”? To make sure others “play by the rules”? To bring people to Christ? To increase love and peace in the world? To reduce suffering? Other?

Question 3: Please read the quote from 2nd Timothy below. Do you think Paul is advising Timothy to be politically correct in talking with others? Is this how we should deal with others or do you think other Bible passages trump this approach?

2 Timothy 2:24-26 – 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Question 4: Please watch the following recent short video of Jerry Falwell Jr. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8oJs57bhiI and the response to it by Shane Claiborne (see below). Describe how Falwell’s and Claiborne’s expressions of their Christianity do and/or do not convey “salt and light” as you think Jesus used those words.

Question 5: This afternoon, Dave Hennig, in response to receiving this week’s materials sent me a perspective on faith that he heard from a Mennonite speaker, which is directly below. Do you think this Mennonite statement is the sort of approach Jesus had in mind when envisioning us as “salt and light”? Why or why not?

Members of Mennonite Church USA share a Mennonite or Anabaptist perspective on matters of faith. It’s how we understand our commitment to following the way of Jesus Christ.

• Following Jesus in daily life is a central value. We believe that it is possible to follow Jesus as Lord above nationalism, racism or materialism.
• We believe that it is possible to follow Jesus as a peacemaker. We believe that we can practice the way of Jesus’ reconciling love in human conflicts and warfare, without having to strike out in fear to defend ourselves.
• We believe that we can live life simply and in service to others as a witness to God’s love for the world.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

GUEST POST BY SHANE CLAIBORNE:

The president of Liberty University, America’s largest Christian college, told his student body on Friday that “If more good people had conceal carry permits, then we can end those Muslims.” He stuck his hand in his back pocket indicating that he had a gun, and, referring to the people killed this week in San Bernardino, said, “If the people in that community center had had what I got in my back pocket right now…” A video of the event shows the student body responding with applause.

It gets worse. Falwell invited Liberty students to attend a free course offered on campus to acquire open carry permits and concluded by saying, “Let’s teach [Muslims] a lesson before they show up here.”

I am an evangelical Christian. In fact, I have spoken at Liberty University, to this same student body. I have been hopeful that Liberty is moving beyond the culture wars of the 1980s, and my hunch is that many of the students and faculty are doing just that – reclaiming a Christianity that looks more like Jesus again.

As I listened to the words of Mr. Falwell, I could not help asking, “Are we worshipping the same Jesus?”

The Jesus I worship did not carry a gun. He carried a cross. Jesus did not tell us to kill our enemies. He told us to love them.

Jesus blessed peacemakers and the merciful. He encouraged responding to evil, not with more evil, but with love. And he modeled that enemy-love on the cross as he prayed, “Father, forgive them,” crying out in mercy even for the terrorists who nailed him to the cross. I see in Jesus a God of scandalous grace, who loves evil-doers so much he dies for them–and for us.

In fact, it is Jesus who scolds his own disciple, Peter, for standing his ground when the soldiers come to arrest Jesus. Peter defensively picked up a sword to protect Jesus, cutting off the ear of one of the persecutors. As he stood up for Jesus, he had the ultimate case for self-defense. And how does Jesus respond? He scolds Peter, telling him to but his sword away. Then he heals the wounded persecutor and reattaches his ear…only to be arrested and led to his execution.

Early Christians understood that act as the final deathblow to weapons believing Jesus’ words to Peter were meant to disarm every Christian. No longer could any Christian legitimately justify violence toward anyone–even enemies. There is not a single Christian in the first 300 hundred years of the faith who justifies violence or makes a case for self-defense. Instead, history records the opposite. Early Christians insisted that for Christ we can die, but we cannot kill. We can die on behalf of others, but we cannot kill for them. Why? Because Christ has abolished the sword once and for all.

So what can a Christian do? We can lay down our lives. We can put our bodies in the way of violence. It was Jesus who said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” We can die in the name of Christ, but we dare not kill in the name of Christ.

It’s hard to imagine Jesus enrolling for the concealed weapons class at Liberty University. And it is even harder imagining Jesus approving of the words of Mr. Falwell as he openly threatens Muslims.

The venue where Falwell spoke these comments makes them more troubling. Liberty isn’t just a struggling little fundamentalist Bible college. With over 100,000 online and residential students, Liberty is the largest Christian university in the United States. Liberty has over 100,000 students. The next largest Christian university has one-third that many. Falwell Jr’s dad, the late Jerry Falwell Sr., founded the school in 1971 and was known for saying some outrageous things. He once even held gay and lesbians partially responsible for the attacks on September 11th. (The senior Falwell later apologized).

While Falwell Jr’s latest comments fit within Liberty’s heritage, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. Who hasn’t said something and later regretted it? I hope he too will apologize.

Regardless, Jerry Falwell Jr. publicly represents Christianity–or at least one expression of it–to many. I am troubled by his version of Christianity, just as I grieve for Muslims around the world as they have their faith distorted by ISIS and by a deranged pseudo-religious couple in San Bernadino. Because I am a Christian, I cannot be silent. I cannot sit idly by when a fellow Christian makes open threats to Muslims–especially when he does so in the name of the Prince of Peace.

January 17, 2016 – Light of the World

This week we will discuss what it means to be the Light of the World. Please take a look at the passage below from Matthew and the following questions.

Matthew 5:14-16 New Living Translation (NLT)

14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

1. It strikes me that the brightness of a light is defined by two factors, 1) the brightness of the source and 2) the darkness of the place into which it is shining.
a. How do we increase the brightness of our lights? To what extent is brightness determined by the extent to which we act differently than our society?
b. What are examples of dark places into which we should shine our light?
i. During the past two weeks, have you intentionally gone to dark places to shine your light? Did you have to go outside of your comfort zone? What happened?

2. How bright is our church’s light? When is it on and when is it off?

3. The second key element of being light is how frequently it is “on”. Think back over the past two weeks. How frequently was your light on? How can we increase the frequency that our lights are on?

4. Francis of Assisi reportedly uttered the phrase “Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.” Do you know anyone whose light is such that they fulfill this quote? What does their light look like? What do they do and how do they do it? What don’t they do?

5. Think back over the past month. Can you think of any situations where your light was probably noticed by non-Christians? What are some examples? Do you think they knew where the light came from or do you think they thought it was just a good deed? Does it matter that they know of the source of the light?

 

January 10, 2016 – No Sunday School This a.m.  –  Please join us for a Combined Worship Service @ 10:00 a.m. when we will have our new Deacons installation.

January 3, 2016 – Salt and Light – Matthew 5:13-16

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

 Question 1:  Why do you think Jesus said we are the salt of the earth?  What qualities of salt in Jesus’ day and today make it an appropriate metaphor?  See the excerpt from Tim Suttle’s article below.

 Question 2:  Is saltiness the same as being righteous, as that word is used in the 8th Beatitude?

Question 3: Three weeks ago I posed the question as to whether any one of the 20+people in our class had been persecuted or whether any of our friends had been persecuted for righteousness (see the 8th Beatitude).  The answer was basically “no”.  Does this mean that we have “lost our saltiness”?  If so, what are the consequences?

 Question 4:  Why do you think Jesus said “YOU are the salt of the earth” rather than “I am or God is the salt of the world”?  Consider whom he was telling this! As Pastor Gregory Pope said in one of his sermons:

“What’s happening here is nothing short of mind-blowing.  Jesus announces that the kingdom belongs to the nobodies – the poor and weak, the outcasts and the misfits – these are the blessed one who will bless the world.  “You are the salt.  You are the light.  You are my plan.  There ain’t no Plan B.”

These people in the crowd have to be thinking, “Jesus, you don’t actually think you can change the world with ordinary sinful people.”  And Jesus says, “It’s all I’ve got.”

Notice Jesus doesn’t say that you “should be” the salt of the earth and the light of the world, but you “are” salt, you “are” light.”  This is not about guilt.  It’s not about having to be more educated and more sophisticated.  This is the empowering declaration of identity that we “are” salt and light.  It is the identity we are given as God’s beloved.”

Question 5:  Do you feel up to the task of being the “salt of the world”?  If not, how can we as a body help each other fulfill our assignment?

 By Tim Suttle

 This week I got sucked into this book Salt: A World History… Have you heard of this book? Mark Kurlansky tells the entire known history of salt. It’s a fascinating read.

 Kurlansky says, “Salt is so common, so easy to obtain, and so inexpensive that we have forgotten that from the beginning of civilization until about 100 years ago, salt was one of the most sought after commodities in human history.” For thousands of years salt represented wealth. Is that wild?

 In the ancient world, evil spirits were thought to be warded off by salt & it was among the first commodities ever traded. Sometime around 10 thousand years ago the 1st dogs were domesticated and they accomplished this by using salt. They would leave salt out for the dogs to lick, then began to leave food. Soon they’d be the only food source, and they’d begin to approach the dogs, closer and closer until they were eating out of their hands. Then they’d steal a puppy, or a puppy would just follow them home. They’d get used to the people. The pups that were more naturally docile stayed with the people, were bread, and over time were domesticated. All of our domesticated animals like cows, goats, and other livestock were domesticated with this process and it all starts with salt.

 Salt was a major political factor: The city of Rome was founded where it is because of its close proximity to the salt works of the day. The first great Roman road was the Via Salaria the way of salt or the “Salt Road.” Roman soldiers were sometimes paid in salt. And a commander might ask if a solder was “worth his salt.” Our word salary – comes from the Latin sal for salt. Romans were known to salt their greens (where we get the word salad). Romans developed engineering technologies that are still being used to mine or process salt.

Humans cannot live w/out salt. Just like water & food, its deficiency causes headaches & weakness, light-headedness & nausea, eventually death. But with food we get hungry. With water we get thirsty. With salt there is no associated craving, even though salt is a vital nutrient. Salt is in our blood, lymph fluid, all extracellular fluids and is necessary for most metabolic processes. It helps our body regulate fluids & is essential for cardiovascular function & digestion. Without enough salt we will die… not to mention that French fries taste horrible w/out it.

In the ancient world salt was a symbol of fertility… fish lived in salt water & had many more offspring than did land animals. They thought it was to do with the salt in the water. Later European brides and grooms would carry salt on their person to ward off infertility. Romans called a man in love salax – in a “salted state.” (Which is actually the origin of our English word salacious.)

Salt has been a part of the religious customs of nearly every religion known to the world. It was an acceptable offering for the Greek gods. It was part of the ancient Egyptian burial rites (mummies). To the Hebrew people salt is the symbol of the covenant with God – a covenant that will never spoil. Numbers 18: “It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord to you and your descendants.” Newborn Hebrew babies were rubbed in salt as sign of covenant – which just sounds itchy doesn’t it? In Islam, salt seals a bargain. In Christianity salt used in Roman Catholic Holy Water, and it is associated wisdom and truth and witness.

December 27, 2015 – No Sunday School

December 20, 2015 – This Sunday there will not be an adult class because the Sunday School students are putting on a special Las Posadas coffee hour and tour of their Sunday school rooms.  Please be sure to attend the coffee hour and tour.  It would really mean a lot to the kids!

December 13, 2015 Class Perspectives on the Sermon on the Mount and The Beatitudes

PRE-WORK: Just one thing to do: re-read Matthew 5:1-12 and consider how those words should affect you and your church.

THE OBJECTIVE: Wrap up our thinking about the Beatitudes. You may have to suffer through some introductory remarks, but the suffering should be bearable.

THE CHALLENGE TO CONSIDER:
Where is Christianity today? Is the Church (big “C”) fulfilling its calling? Can we do more? Where does the teaching of Jesus come into play for believers? What more can the local church do to impact the calling? What is the individual responsibility as part of this?

THINGS TO DISCUSS:

1. In 1960, a renowned pastor/preacher/author/theologian (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones) described the condition of the Christian Church with the word “superficiality.” Does that describe it today? Is it better or worse? And Why?

2. Dr. Lloyd-Jones … (he was an M.D.) also said, “the world has come into the church and made it worldly.” Is that so? Is that good or bad? Is it true in our church? How then should the church react in its current condition? Do the Beatitudes have anything to do with it? If so what?

3. Another giant of our generation(s), John R.W. Stott, said that with the Beatitudes, Jesus was initiating a Christian counter-culture; but that what we have today is not a counter-culture but conformism. Is that your observation? Is it a problem? How then should we react as we internalize the Beatitudes?

4. We have been looking at the introductory proclamations of the Sermon on the Mount for these past weeks … what do they mean? … how do they affect our own lives? … any examples? … any commitments for the future? How should the beatitudes affect our behavior/character/activities?

5. What’s the essential difference between a Christian and a non-Christian according to the Beatitudes / Sermon on the Mount? Was this Jesus’ purpose in talking to His disciples on this occasion? (Consult Matthew 6:8a … which some consider to be a key verse for the Sermon on the Mount. The same principle is found in Leviticus 18:3. And if you think about it, therein lies the whole tragedy of the Jewish peoples of the Old Testament.)

Matthew 5:1-12 New International Version (NIV)
Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount
5 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.
The Beatitudes
He said:
3
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 6:8 New International Version (NIV)
8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Leviticus 18:3New International Version (NIV)
3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.

December 6, 2015 Class – Blessed are those who are Persecuted

Matthew 5:10-12

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.   12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Question 1: In the last class we generally agreed that being righteous meant being “right” with God by acting in a way consistent with how Jesus acted (sorry if I misstated this!). Jesus was clear that we are to love our enemies and not just our “own people” or those who love us. At the end of class, we agreed to take a loving action toward someone that we find “unlovable” and keep a record of what happens. Take as many of these actions as possible during the week and we will discuss what we saw in class. Please try to do this at least once during this week.

Question 2: Think back over the past year.
• Can you recall a time when you or someone you know was persecuted because of your/their righteousness? If not, do you think this could be an indicator that Christians have largely conformed their values to society’s values? Is this due to a fear of the persecution that might arise by challenging society’s values or some other reason?
• If you or a friend did experience persecution for advocating for righteousness, what was the persecution and what action triggered it?

Question 3: How should we reconcile this 8th Beatitude with the 7th Beatitude that says blessed are peacemakers?

• Have you ever felt righteous about being aggressive over a religious principle, when in fact there was a better way to resolve the issue?
• Do you know others that have acted aggressively righteous about their religion? In those cases, how should we reconcile Beatitudes 7 and 8?
• What do you think about the following quote from David Brooks’ book “The Road to Character”?

“The United States ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, perceptively observes that some people put themselves “at stake” when they get involved in a cause. That is to say, they feel that their own reputation and their own destiny are at stake when decisions are made. They are active in the cause in part because of what it says about them, and they want their emotions and their identity and their pride to be validated along the way.”

Question 4: Please read the quote below from “The Road to Character”. How does a person trying to act righteously avoid the pitfalls identified in the quote? Do you agree with Hawthorne that “Benevolence is the twin of pride’?

“Addams, like many of her contemporaries, dedicated her life to serving the needy, while being deeply suspicious of compassion. She was suspicious of its shapelessness, the way compassionate people tended to ooze out sentiment on the poor to no practical effect. She also rejected the self-regarding taint of the emotion, which allowed the rich to feel good about themselves because they were doing community service. “Benevolence is the twin of pride,” Nathanial Hawthorne had written. Addams had no tolerance for any pose that might put the server above those being served.”

November 29, 2015 Class – Blessed are those who are Persecuted

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Question 1: How would you define righteousness?

Question 2: Please read the excerpt below from theologian Marcus Borg’s book called “Speaking Christian.” In it he quotes two prophets, Amos and Isaiah, who seem to use righteousness and justice as synonyms.

What do you think of Borg’s suggestion that righteousness and justice are synonymous?

a) Does the meaning of this 8th Beatitude or the 4th Beatitude (thirst and hunger for righteousness) change for you?

b) Does the use of the word justice seem consistent with Jesus’ ministry?

Righteousness and justice are so closely related in the Bible that they are often synonyms. Consider a passage from the prophet Amos in the 700s BCE, two centuries after the establishment of a monarchy and aristocracy in Israel…. The rich and powerful had created a social system that benefited themselves, and the result was a huge gulf between rich and poor, powerful and powerless. …

Speaking in the name of God and addressing the rich and powerful, Amos contrasts their worship of God with what God really wants:

I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (5:21-24)

Note the last two lines. What God wants, what God is passionate about, is justice and righteousness. These lines illustrate a frequent feature of biblical language known as synonymous parallelism, in which a second line repeats in slightly different language what the first line says. “Let justice roll down like waters” and “righteousness like an every flowing stream” are synonymous phrases. … Justice is righteousness and righteousness is justice.

Another example is in the fifth chapter of Isaiah, …. in which Isaiah invites his hearers to make a judgment about an unfruitful vineyard whose owner has lavished it with great care. It concludes:

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting;
God expected justice
but saw bloodshed;
righteousness
but heard a cry! (5:7)

Question 3: Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel used to tell the story that when God, the Holy One, gets up in the morning, God gathers the angels of heaven around and asks this simple question: “Where does my creation need mending today?” And then Rabbi Heschel would continue, “Theology consists of worrying about what God worries about when God gets up in the morning.” Is this a good way to think about how a righteous person should act on behalf of God?

Question 4: Think back over the past year. Can you recall a time when you or someone you know were persecuted because of your advocacy for righteousness (is it fair to say for trying to help God mend his creation)? If not, do you think this could be an indicator that Christians have largely conformed their values to society’s values due to a fear of the persecution that might arise by challenging society’s values?
If you or a friend did experience persecution for advocating for righteousness, what was the persecution and what action triggered it?

Question 5: How should we reconcile this 8th Beatitude with the 7th Beatitude that says blessed are peacemakers? Have you ever felt righteous about being aggressive over a religious principle, when in fact there was a better way to resolve the issue? Do you know others that have acted aggressively righteous about their religion? In those cases, how should we reconcile Beatitudes 7 and 8?

November 22, 2015 Class – Blessed are the Peacemakers

Last week we talked about the blessings of pure hearts – they allow us to see God. Near the end of the class the conversation turned to whether Christians’ hearts and actions looked any different than the hearts and actions of non-Christians.

Several years ago, the Barna group, a well respected firm specializing in faith and community research, conducted surveys regarding young non-Christians. They found that 84% of young non-Christians say they know a Christian personally, yet only 15% say the lifestyles of those believers are noticeably different in a good way.

Several years later, Barna conducted another study to explore how well Christians emulate the actions and attitudes of Jesus in their interactions with others. In this study they asked Christians about themselves and found that only 14% of self-identified Christians seem to represent the actions and attitudes Barna researchers found to be consistent with those of Jesus. A summary of the study, entitled “Christians: More Like Jesus or Pharisees?” can be found here – https://www.barna.org/faith-spirituality/619-are-christians-more-like-jesus-or-more-like-the-pharisees#.VknyloSLrE5

All of this information is background for today’s discussion of the 7th Beatitude from Matthew 5: 9, which reads:

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.”

Given the traumatic events in Paris last week and the lively discussion it has spawned in this country, this is a great time to ask what does it mean to be a peacemaker and how might we become one in today’s world?

Question 1 – What is a peacemaker? Consider this quote from James 3:16-18:

“For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil work will be there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Question 2 –The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in its report, Different Faiths, Different Messages said, “Solid majorities of white evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and Catholics favored the U.S. taking military action to end Saddam Hussein’s rule. Support was strongest among Evangelicals, 77 percent of whom supported war, compared with 62 percent of Catholics and mainline Protestants. But only 36 percent of African-American Protestants supported military action, and seculars — respondents who said they were atheists or had no religious affiliation — divided evenly on the question (44 percent in favor, 44 percent opposed). Given today’s Beatitude, and the importance of the Sermon on the Mount to Christian theology, why do you think so many Christians wanted to go to war?

Question 3 – Do you think ISIS is interested in peacemaking? What reaction on our part would further their mission? What reaction would damage their mission?

Question 4 – On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof shot 9 people at Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. He was quoted as saying that he hoped the shooting would ignite a race war. How is this similar to ISIS’ goals? How did family members and church members react? What was the effect of their response on Roof’s goal of a race war?

Question 5 – Many politicians and Christians have said that they would not accept Syrian refugees because we have to take care of our own first (references to taking care of our own homeless are common) or because we are afraid that terrorists will sneak through the vetting process. How would Jesus respond to these two fears? What should we do? Please reread the quote from James in the first question.

Question 6 – What can we do to become better peacemakers within our communities and our church?

November 15, 2015 Class – Blessed are the Pure in Heart

The Beatitudes
He said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Question 1 What is a working definition of “pure”? What is a working definition of “heart”? In light of human imperfection, when does someone’s “heart become pure”? Is it a process, or a state of being in relationship with God? Do you think Jesus’ comments to this pre-Passion audience is more about an “imputed purity,” or an “enacted purity”?

Question 2 What do you think Jesus means when he says the pure in heart “will see God”? Is this a only an eschatological reference, or can it be applied to the Christian’s life today?

Jesus says in Matthew 15,
17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

Question 3 Especially in light of Matthew 15, the purity of heart appears to be an inward-to-outward condition rather than outward-to-inward, which seems to reflect much of Jesus’ comments in The Sermon on the Mount. What does this have to do with the content of Charles’ sermon last week regarding the efficacy and power of the Gospel? How does purity of heart fit with the concepts behind the Negativity Fast? Is faith about the condition of the heart, while religion concerns itself more with actions? Do you think some people need

November 8, 2015 Class – Blessed are the Merciful

Some have noted that the first four beatitudes are “internal be-attitudes,” while the second half describe the ways in which the internally-affected can potentially interact with those whom he/she lives among. Looking at things this way, the fifth beatitude is the first of these “social contract” descriptions.

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.

Question 1. Parents (and others in authority) all know there is delicate balance between consequence and mercy. How does the Christian balance the role we have as culture-changers with the characteristic of mercy. How do “mercy” and “justice” co-exist? In particular, note what Jesus says a little later in verse 13. 13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Question 2. What is an example from your life that demonstrates James’ claim that “mercy overcomes judgment” James 2 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.

Question 3. At least in my mind, the concept of mercy is more fully describes by Jesus later in Matthew. In chapter 18, he tells the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. I would recommend reading this parable if you are not familiar with the content. Is there someone in your life with whom you have not practiced mercy? Do you see a manner in which you might demonstrate “mercy over judgment” in your relationship with this person? Would those who know you best describe you as merciful? Are there ways that you can aggressively show mercy to others whom you live among? Remember that in Micah 6:6, God declares mercy to be at the top of our “religious duties.”   

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Question 4.  How does a 40 day negativity fast fit in with the concept of mercy?  Would you consider doing your own negativity fast for the next 40 days?

What a Negativity Fast is Not:

It is not denying that problems exist

It is not “stuffing things” that are wrong

It is not critical of others who may be struggling

It is not irresponsible concerning things that need to be done

What a Negativity Fast Is:

It is determining to focus more on God’s promises than on problems

It is learning to speak with hope about even the toughest of issues

It is becoming “solution focused” rather than “problem focused”

It is refraining from reacting and giving voice to pessimism, criticism of others, self-criticism and other forms of unbelief.

It is speaking about problems to the right people in the right way

It is replacing negative words and thoughts with positive words and thoughts based on the promises of God

November 1, 2015 Class

Matthew 5:6
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
      For they will be filled*

*Isaiah 55: 1-2
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost.
Why spend on what is not bread,
And your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
And your soul will delight in the richest fare.

Question 1: What is this righteousness for which we are to hunger and thirst?

Question 2: “Hunger and Thirst” are very active verbs. What kind of commitment is being asked for? Can you hunger and thirst if you are meek, in mourning, poor in spirit, sick or old?

Question 3: What does it mean to be “filled”? If I am filled, will I stop hungering and thirsting for righteousness?

Question 4: Do you think there is any relationship between hungering and thirsting in Matthew and the symbols and words Jesus gave us at the Last Supper?

Question 5: Please read the quote below from Dallas Willard. Do you think Jesus was talking about hungering and thirsting for righteousness in how we act or how the world acts? Does it matter that we achieve righteousness or just that we hunger and thirst for it?

In the “The Divine Conspiracy. Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God” by Dallas Willard is a subchapter entitled “The Beatitudes as Kingdom Proclamation”

What then does Jesus say to us with his Beatitudes? How are we to live in response to them? . . . . They serve to clarify Jesus’ fundamental message: the free availability of God’s rule and righteousness to all of humanity through reliance upon Jesus himself, the person now loose in the world among us. They do this simply by taking those who, from the human point of view, are regarded as most hopeless, most beyond all possibility of God’s blessing or even interest and exhibiting them as enjoying god’s touch and abundant provision from the heavens.

This fact of God’s care and provision proves to all that no human condition excludes blessedness that God may come to any person with his care and deliverance. God does sometimes help those who cannot, or perhaps just do not, help themselves. (So much for another well-known generalization!) The religious system of his day left the multitudes out, but Jesus welcomed them all into his kingdom. Anyone could come as well as any other. They still can. That is the gospel of the Beatitudes…

….Next are those who burn with desire for things to be made right. (“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they will be filled.”) It may be that the wrong is in themselves. Perhaps they have failed so badly that night and day they cringe before their own sin and inwardly scream to be made pure. Or it may be that they have been severely wronged, suffered some terrible injustice, and they are consumed with longing to see the injury set right—like parents who learn that the murderer of their child has been quickly released from prison and is laughing at them. Yet the kingdom of the heavens has a chemistry that can transform even the past and make the terrible, irretrievable losses that human beings experience seem insignificant in the greatness of God. He restores our soul and fills us with goodness of rightness.

October 25, 2015 Class

Matthew 5:5
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit earth.*

*Psalm 37: 8-11
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath:
Do not fret—it leads only to evil
For evil men will be cut off,
But those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.
A little while, and the wicked will be no more,
Though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land
And enjoy great peace.

——————————————-

In my research I have found two interesting views of the Beatitudes. One, put forth by Dallas Willard in his book “The Devine Commentaries”, suggests that Jesus spoke the Beatitudes to a fairly downtrodden crowd – people who were poor, crippled and destitute. In their society it was assumed that if someone was in this condition it was because of something bad they or a relative did. Likewise the upper class, priests, etc. were assumed to have done a better job of following the rules of the Torah.

In Willard’s view, one of the major impacts of the Beatitudes was Jesus turning the world upside down and telling the people that because of their positions in life they were blessed – that God cared and reached out to them and that they were special.

Compare Willard’s perspective to that of the NIV Study Bible, which includes a study note table of Key lessons from the Sermon on the Mount that concludes with:

In his longest recorded sermon, Jesus began by describing the traits he was looking for in his followers. He said that God blesses those who live out those traits. Each beatitude is an almost direct contradiction of society’s typical way of life, in the last beatitude, Jesus even points out that a serious effort to develop these traits is bound to create opposition. The best example of each trait is found in Jesus himself. If our goal is to become like him, applying the beatitudes will challenge the way we live each day.

Question 1: What does it mean to be meek? Does God bless you because you are meek or in spite of being meek.

Question 2: Why does Jesus seek meekness as a desirable trait in a Christian or does he? Do you think Jesus was meek?

Question 3: Why is a just reward or blessing for the ‘meek’ inheritance of the earth? Does the little voice of doubt in the mind of the meek ask “What about going to heaven?

Question 4: Jesus exhorts us to go forth and tell everyone at Dunkin Donuts, or with whom we are friends or meet, that his is the obvious and logical way to a better life now and forever. Jesus provides us with a specific directive and walking papers. How in this world is a “meek” person supposed to successfully accomplish that? Why is meekness a desirable trait in this mission? Or is it?

October 18, 2015 Class

Beatitudes:  Those who Morn

Matthew  5: 1-13 10-18-2015
Our next examination of the Beatitudes will focus on the second of eight such statements made by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May He open our minds and hearts, guide our understanding and make us receptive to His truth as He leads us.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”.

TOW Bible Commentary on the Second Beatitude:
The second beatitude builds on our mental recognition of our poverty of spirit by adding an emotional response of sorrow. When we face the evil in our own lives, it saddens us; when we face the evil in the world—which includes possible evil in our workplace—that, too, touches our emotions with grief. The evil may come from ourselves, from others, or from sources unknown. In any case, when we honestly mourn evil words, evil deeds, evil policies on the job, God sees our sorrow and comforts us with the knowledge that it will not always be this way.

Those blessed with mourning about their own failings can receive comfort at work by admitting their errors. If we make a mistake with a colleague, student, customer, employee, or other person, we admit it and ask their pardon. This takes courage! Without the emotional blessing of sadness over our actions, we would probably never muster the guts to admit our mistakes. But if we do, we may be surprised how often people are ready to forgive us. And if, on occasion, others take advantage of our admission of fault, we can fall back on the blessing of non-arrogance that flows from the first beatitudes.

Some businesses have found expressing sorrow to be an effective way to operate. Toro, the manufacturer of tractors and lawn equipment, adopted a practice of showing concern to people injured while using their products. As soon as the company learns of an injury, it contacts the injured person to express sorrow and offer help. It also asks for suggestions to improve the product. Surprising as it may sound, this approach has reduced the number of customer lawsuits over a period of many years. Virginia Mason Hospital found similar results from acknowledging their role in patient deaths.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus reminds His disciples that they cannot seek happiness the way the world does. True joy is not found in selfish ambition, excuses, or self-justification. An enviable state of blessedness comes to those who mourn over their own sin. “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word” (Isaiah 66:2). When we agree with God about how bad our sin is, repent of it, and seek His power to walk away from it, Jesus promises comfort from the Holy Spirit. The kind of “mourning” that leads to repentance is truly blessed (2 Corinthians 7:10). Repentance results in forgiveness and cleansing from God (Psalm 30:5). When we have trusted in Jesus as our personal substitute for sin, we no longer stand condemned (Romans 8:1). Rather than wallow in guilt and shame, we realize that we stand justified before God (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:24). Those who learn to mourn over their own sin find the heart of God. And intimate fellowship with God is the very foundation of true happiness.

From the mouths of babes Carey Kinsolving recorded the following blunt and unadulterated responses from children to the question, “Why Does God Comfort Those Who Mourn?”

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

“If you cry, it will get better” is the meaning of this second Beatitude, says Brittany, age 6. Brittany, if you cry for the right reasons, you will indeed get better because God will comfort you.

“This verse means to pray for those who are sad,” says Todd, 9. “Try to help them take their mind off it. Invite them over to spend the night or to a water park.”

Todd may be onto something. I’ve never seen anyone mourning while slipping, sliding and screaming down a water park slide.

“I mourned when my puppy ran away,” says Taylor, 11. “I cried for hours, wanting him back, but he never came back. We got a new dog, but I still cry sometimes.”

All of us experience losses, but our hearts don’t want to accept them. We’re left feeling hurt and powerless.
“‘Blessed are those who mourn’ means that God blesses those who have a tender heart,” says Sean, 10. No pun intended, but now, we’re getting to the heart of the matter.

Of all the paradoxes in the Beatitudes, this is the most dramatic. “It’s an astonishing thing to speak of the joy of sorrow, of the gladness of grief, and of the bliss of the brokenhearted,” writes Bible scholar William Barclay.
Jesus was called a “man of sorrows” because he understood the destructive nature of sin and evil. Yet it was the joy that was set before him that gave him the strength to endure the cross. Jesus knew that his suffering would both purchase our salvation and please his Father. This gave him great joy and purpose.

If we believe that God’s grace and sovereignty are greater than any loss or disappointment, we, too, can experience joy in the midst of sorrow.

We may not understand why God allow tragedy to strike, but we can rest in his infinite wisdom and tender mercies. One look at Jesus’ suffering on the cross, and we know he understands our pain.

“This means that those who feel sorry and awful for what they did wrong will be comforted by God,” says Avery, 11. Jesus began his ministry reading from the Isaiah scroll in the synagogue. The Lord had anointed him to preach the gospel to the poor and to heal the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18).

King David wrote that a “broken spirit” and a “contrite heart” are offerings that most please God (Psalm 51:17). When faced with the consequences of our sin and the suffering of living in a fallen world, we can harden our hearts and become cynical or open them by crying out to God for help and comfort.

“It means blessed are those who are lonely, they will be comforted by God,” says Marshall, 9. The pain of our loneliness can be so intense that even our closest friends and relatives can’t understand, but God does. He knows we need fellowship with him and others. The isolation created by self-pity is never the answer.

Author Gene Davenport writes: “Genuine comfort … the strength to endure the ravages of the Darkness without bitterness or despair … is solely a gift. It is the expression of God’s own presence, the assertion of God’s own sovereignty over the Darkness.”

QUESTIONS:
1. What does ‘blessed are those who mourn…’ mean to you?”
2. Does the Lord Jesus mean that anyone who mourns will be comforted, regardless of what kind of mourning?
3. And when you mourn, you mourn for what?
4. And what is this comforting that is being spoken of here?

October 11, 2015 Class

Beatitudes:  The Poor in Spirit

The Sermon on the Mount

Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and when He sat down, his disciples came to him.

The Beatitudes

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

r“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Salt and Light

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

 “Blessed are the poor in Spirit” (Matthew 5:1-13)

Questions:

What exactly does it mean to be poor in spirit, and why does being poor in result in the kingdom of heaven?

Why is “poor in the spirit” something God wants us to be?

Why would God want us to be “poor” at anything?

Why and how does being poor in spirit result in the kingdom of heaven?

Kent Hughes, in his excellent commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, says this is the greatest sermon ever preached:

The Sermon on the Mount is the compacted, congealed theology of Christ and as such is perhaps the most profound section of the entire New Testament and the whole Bible. Every phrase can bare exhaustive exposition and yet never be completely plumbed… . It shows us exactly where we stand in relation to the kingdom and eternal life. As we expose ourselves to the X-rays of Christ’s words, we see whether we truly are believers; and if believers, the degree of the authenticity of our lives. No other section of Scripture makes us face ourselves like the Sermon on the Mount. 

Let’s just make a couple of introductory comments about the Sermon on the Mount as a whole, and we will deal with some of these issues as time goes on. You remember the occasion for the Sermon on the Mount comes after the commencement of our Lord Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. He had departed, withdrawn from Judea, at the news of the arrest of John the Baptist. In His time in Galilee, He had been healing all kinds of diseases and gathering a large following of people—not just from within Galilee, but from without—from Decapolis, from outside, from Judea, from Jerusalem, and from Syria. So you had a very large following, and it says at the end of Matthew 4 that during this time Jesus had been teaching and preaching in the synagogue.

So these people had definitely heard something about Jesus, and they had heard something from Jesus. But it seems to me that when you come to the Sermon on the Mount, you get the whole thing in a summary fashion: “Here’s what Jesus’ message is about.” So the Sermon on the Mount is recorded by Matthew, and there is a similar sermon in Luke 6 that seems to sum up the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ in many, many ways. I think it proves to be the basis for our Lord’s future teaching and ministry as He goes about. Those who were there include the disciples and a large crowd that is listening as well; it seems to me you have to say He is speaking to both. Jesus later will say, “Let him, who has ears to hear, hear what I am saying.” There were those amongst the crowd who did have ears to hear, and there were those who did not, but He was speaking to His disciples and to the crowds as well.

D.A. Carson asserts that:

To be poor in spirit is to recognize your utter spiritual bankruptcy before God. It is understanding that you have absolutely nothing of worth to offer God. Being poor in spirit is admitting that, because of your sin, you are completely destitute spiritually and can do nothing to deliver yourself from your dire situation. Jesus is saying that, no matter your status in life, you must recognize your spiritual poverty before you can come to God in faith to receive the salvation He offers.

While the phrase can be broad in meaning, “kingdom of heaven” essentially refers to salvation. The kingdom of heaven is both eternity in heaven with God after death (Romans 6:23) and the eternal quality of life with God before death (John 10:10). God offers us salvation as a gift, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, the full payment for sin’s penalty. Before we can receive this gift, we must understand that we cannot make ourselves worthy of it. Salvation is by grace through faith, not of works (Ephesians 2:8-9). We must recognize our sinfulness before we can understand our need for a Savior. We must admit our spiritual poverty before we can receive the spiritual riches God offers (Ephesians 1:3). We must, in short, be “poor in spirit.”

In other words, when we come to God, we must realize our own sin and our spiritual emptiness and poverty. We must not be self-satisfied or proud in our hearts, thinking we don’t really need God. If we are, God cannot bless us. The Bible says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

Pride can take all kinds of forms, but the worst is spiritual pride. Often the richer we are in things, the poorer we are in our hearts. Have you faced your own need of Christ? Do you realize that you are a sinner and need God’s forgiveness? Don’t let pride or anything else get in the way, but turn to Christ in humility and faith—and He will bless you and save you.

Questions:

Do you agree with the comments expressed above?

If so why, and if not, why not?

October 4, 2015 – No Sunday School Class

Adult Class – Coffee with Seekers

Please join the Coffee with Seekers Class as they explore how to serve God and live as our Creator intended.

September 27, 2015 Class

In the weeks ahead we will be discussing “blessings” as described by Jesus in Matthew (5:3-12) and Luke (6:17-23) (commonly referred to as the Matthew and Luke Beatitudes) and perhaps a few “woes” (Luke 6:24-26).

This week we will take a look at these passages (which are copied below) from the 10,000 foot level and try to provide some context. In future weeks we will delve more deeply into each Beatitude. Please read the passages below and consider the following questions for this week’s discussion.

Questions:
1. Please read the passages below from Luke and Matthew and list what is different about the two. Think about the participants, the phrasing and context of each.
a. Which of the rewards are spiritual and which are physical?
b. Which rewards occur now and which in an after life?
2. What is similar about the readings from Luke and Matthew?
3. Some have used the list of Beatitudes in Matthew as a type of checklist for “good” Christians. In other words, we should mourn, be meek, poor in spirit, etc. What are your thoughts?

Matthew 5:1-12 New International Version (NIV)

Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount

5 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.

The Beatitudes
He said:
3
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Luke 6:12-26 New International Version (NIV)

The Twelve Apostles
12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Blessings and Woes
17 He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
20 Looking at his disciples, he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22
Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
24
“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

September 20, 2015 Class

We are looking forward to another great year of discussions and insight. We hope you will join us in the downstairs classroom at 10:10 as we kick off the new year.

The format this year will be the same as last year. We will send you thought provoking readings and questions that we will then discuss when we get together. Please don’t feel that you need a certain level of knowledge about the Bible or Christianity to participate. The readings will help the process and we will all be trying to determine what the Bible passages mean!

This fall the Sunday School class and the church as a whole will be examining blessings we have received and blessings we can share. This will all lead up to a church-wide spiritual gifts inventory that we will be conducting later in the year.

In future weeks, we would like to examine in detail the “Blessings” that Jesus spelled out in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 1-12) and how they might relate to us. I’m excited to get beyond a surface interpretation of the Beatitudes to get to the heart of what Jesus was saying. Was he really implying that “being poor in spirit” or “being meek” is a blessing!? Should be fun.

Given the upcoming discussions of blessings, I thought you would find the attached article interesting. Please consider the questions below as you read the article. This is what we will be discussing in class this Sunday.

Questions:

1. Do you use the word “blessing” when describing good things that happen to you?
2. Do you agree with the author’s conclusion that Christians should not use the word “blessing” to refer to material gains or comforts that we have? Why or why not?
3. What do you think of verses 12 a, b and c that are proposed by the author?
4. Near the end of the article the author says:

Still, if I take advantage of the opportunities set before me, a comfortable life may come my way. It’s not guaranteed. But if it does happen, I don’t believe Jesus will call me blessed.

He will call me “burdened.”

Why does the author believe Jesus would call someone with a comfortable life “burdened?” If you won the lottery or received a raise, would you feel blessed or burdened?

Women gather each Sunday at 10:10 for a time of fellowship and a designated book study. Join the women in their on-going discussion of the book Your Beautiful Purpose, Discovering and Enjoying What God Can Do Through You by Susie Larson.

Tuesday Morning Ladies Book Group

Tuesdays 9:15 am-10:45 am

If God knows everything, what is the point of prayer? Why does God sometimes seem close and sometimes far away?

If you’ve found yourself wondering about these questions, or are struggling to get your prayer life going, please join our ladies book group as we read and discuss Philip Yancey’s book Prayer: Does it make any difference?

Any women who like to explore their faith, talk, laugh, and . . . pray

Please call Priscilla Thompson at 927-4018 if you’re interested or just show up!

 Wednesday Morning Bible Study

Wednesday morning Bible Study meets each Wednesday morning at 10:00.  Our first priority at Bible study is to expect what we read to transform us.  Our goal is to not only become more familiar with what the Bible says, but to consider how these timeless texts apply to the church and our lives today.  For more information please contact the church office at 526-6511.