19 October 2019

Jeremiah 5:1–3, Mark 11:12–14, Mark 13:28

Bearing false witness is a known problem. Isn’t it? Maybe not.

In Jeremiah, those that bore false witness refused discipline (no matter how loving and grace-filled). In fact, the implication is that they took their behavior and made it a way of life, rather than an incident in life.

What does that have to do with a fig tree?

The fig tree was bearing false witness. The implication is that the fig tree had developed leaves indicating that there would be early summer figs. Yet, that couldn’t be, for the season was too early.

All too often, people try to show off their improvements before they should be. A person learning a sport shouldn’t be showing off their skills for they haven’t gotten the depth of understanding, yet. It is also the same in math and so many other realms of learning.

In spiritual matters, this is, even more, the case. Human pride, human behavior, plus the Enemy will do their collective best to tear down the gradual improvements of a maturing Christian (no matter where/when they are on the journey). Instead of trying to put out leaves and fruit before we are ready, we need to wait, be patient, and the Holy Spirit will cause the leaves and fruit to come. We just to maintain our connection to the source of life…Jesus.

1) Have you ever tried to rush things? What? What was the result?

2) When you watch others try to rush things, what is your response? Why?

18 October 2019

Genesis 19:15–26, Deuteronomy 17:14–20, Proverbs 26:11, Mark 13:14–20

Looking back to see how far you’ve come is a good practice. One of the gifts of doing so is seeing where God had been moving when you were unaware. It is also good to see what decisions you made that you will be able to make a difference for the future.

As someone once said, looking in the rear-view mirror only shows where you’ve been, not where you are going.
Lot’s wife looked back to her life of old (and possibly one of wealth and comfort) during the escape from Sodom. Instead of looking to where she (and her family) were going, she looked back…and died.

As we get to Deuteronomy, looking back has taken another turn. Israel was not to “turn back” Egypt. Yet, Israel did it again and again, including their leaders. While in Deuteronomy there was still some (wrong) nostalgia for Egypt, this should have been long gone after a few generations in the Promised Land. Egypt remained such a part of the Israel story that even Jesus was taken there by his parents to escape a deadly situation. God used it as a fulfillment of prophecy. The only reason that this was so significant was that Egypt continued to be a place Israel looked back to.

We all look back. Think of the many memes of the internet that look back to some ideal time in the past, as if there weren’t things going wrong “back then”. The world of church and American Christianity has a strong tendency toward this. A lot of effort is spent looking back at the ideal age that past (whatever age that is). This means that the church is spending a lot of energy looking in the rear-view mirror and not ahead. This is why one of the struggles of the church is following culture, rather than leading it.

While it might seem crass to talk about vomit, the reality is that dogs return to vomit for some strange reason. While people don’t return to their vomit, per se, they still return to what they know, even if it is bad for them. This is one of the struggles that many people have as they try to change for the better. The old way is comfortable, even if it sometimes disgusting.

Looking back—thinking of what is lost—is a huge problem for any of us. All too often that can lead to a repeat performance of what we left behind. As Jesus warns of Jerusalem’s (and the temple’s) fall, it isn’t so much wail about what was lost, but escape to what lies before.

1) Do you ever find yourself mourning or dwelling upon what was left behind or what could have been? Why? What emotions do you feel before and after thinking about it? Does that give you any further insights?

2) What is one thing of the past you see that your employer, social association, church, etcetera is stuck on? Why do you think that is? How can you move things forward?

3) The fear of the unknown/uncertain often keeps us from moving forward. While we may understand that what occurred in the past wasn’t healthy, why do we go back to it? What is it about the future that we are often missing?

17 October 2019

2 Chronicles 8:14–16, Mark 13:32–37

Have you ever been to a fancy hotel or apartment building, and seen (or interacted with) the doorman? In a way, they act as a guard, granted a more passive one, yet their presence often acts as a mental barrier to entry.

In the times of the temple, the gate-keepers protected the offerings and the offering storerooms next to the entrances (the gates). By their presence, they also maintained a sense of order (crowd control).

As time progressed, the wealthy would have doorkeepers. They only let the “right” people into the house. The concept evolved to the doorman, which may be more familiar now.

There is also a different type of doorkeeper, and that was the herald who would announce the guests at noble functions during the middle ages (even up to today). This function permits even new nobility to gain some traction, as a little of the awkward greeting time is gone. Also, with the announcement is the titles that go along with names. Especially in the nobility, titles were often more important than names, as there were certain nobility one was not to approach without the proper invitation.

Jesus warns that the doorkeeper must remain awake. None of us can be perpetually awake, no matter how much caffeine. Eventually, our minds and bodies shut down. What if, however, the doorkeeper that guards is also the doorkeeper that welcomes. What if, the doorkeeper that welcomes, also announces.

Over that last few years, Generations Community Church has been working on that exact concept through the Welcome Team. Why are we talking about the Welcome Team? They are the doorkeepers. Their presence can be intimidating (despite the warm smiles, warm words, and, hopefully, warm hands) to a guest. That’s true for many people. What if we had the Greeters announce (loudly) the names (and titles) of our guests? That would (after the awkward yell) break some ice. We’d already know their names (granted, we’d have to be paying attention to those outside our little circles). It would be easier to greet them.

The reality is that gatekeepers, doorkeepers, doormen, and greeters are people at the transition. Where they stand is the transition from outside to inside.

1) How do you welcome people into your home?

2) A common practice today in our homes is to “come on in. The door’s open.” What are the positives of that? What are the negatives (minus security)?

3) At church, it may seem to be someone else’s responsibility to welcome people. If you’ve been a guest at someone’s house, how does it feel to only have 1 person greet/acknowledge you, while the others ignore you?