17 August 2019

Ruth 1:2–18, 2 Samuel 15:19–37, Matthew 19:16–30

Something more. Something greater than ourselves. That kind of thing calls to us very deeply. In this modern world, we have a greater amount of freedom to find that “something”. There is an argument that the only reason that we have that “freedom” is that we have so much more free time and wealth. The sad truth is that as a whole people work far longer hours with less vacation than other places in the world (even many “non-free” countries).

A recent comparison came out, showing that Americans work far more and fill their lives with far more than serfs did centuries ago. Serfs weren’t known to live easy lives, have much wealth, or much freedom, but they did have time.

What did they do with that time? Many of them belonged to (not just lived in) their community. They had places of connection and relationship. There were definitely downsides, but that people that were barely above indentured servitude had more time than we do says a lot about our technology and “labor-saving” devices.

We are often called to something greater than ourselves, but we seem almost afraid of it. The increase of loneliness, anxiety, and depression are all psychologically, emotionally and spiritually connected to the lack of the “something”.

Ruth, Ittai of Gath, Jesus’ disciples all made a decision to give up what they knew and had, even at great cost. All were facing the unknown. They chose to follow and surrender anyways.

1) The rich young ruler/man was given a choice and made a different one than our other examples. How often are we the rich young ruler, rather that one of the others?

2) What can you do to help others connect to something greater than themselves? What can we do as framily to help others connect to something greater than themselves?

3) Because we belong to “the church” we often think that we belong to something greater than ourselves (we do). However, we often still behave as if we don’t belong to that “something” and that it is at best inconvenient to be reminded that we do. Why do you think that is?

16 August 2019

2 Kings 4:18–37, 2 Kings 5:1–14, Mark 10:46–52, James 5:13–18

We are embodied creatures. In other words, our bodies are part of our being, well-being, and attitudes. When it isn’t well, it is harder for our perspectives to be positive or good. We have to work harder, pray harder, trust more to be joy-filled when our bodies aren’t functioning.

The Scriptures are filled with miraculous healings. The Shunammite woman’s son (who was a miracle as it was) being raised to life. Naaman’s healing of leprosy by washing in the river. The blind man being able to see. There was so much healing going on.

Today, however, there does not seem to be as much. There are the charlatans who “heal” in Jesus name while emptying wallets. The verifiable healings are minimal (there are some). In the developing world, there are verifiable miraculous healings. Now, yes, there are miraculous healings even in the developed world. You may have experienced one yourself. However, they just are not that common.

One could argue that faith (or lack thereof) is the reason, and there is probably truth in it. Science and medicine, however, have taken the place of miracles. This is not to say that miracles do not occur. It is that because of our faith in medicine, God works through that primarily.

1) Why do you think God works through modern medicine, instead of miracles, in the developed world?

2) When James wrote his directive regarding seeking healing many of the ailments easily dealt with today were life-threatening. What does this tell you about seeking healing?

3) When we credit God for our healing through modern medicine, we still need to be thankful for and grateful to those who are in charge of care, especially for their faithful work, even if they don’t see it that way. How can you do this with those charged for your care?

15 August 2019

Genesis 15:1–6, Romans 5:1–11, 1 John 1:5–2:2

One of the ongoing struggles that people have is earning their salvation. They think they can, or that they must. This is what is often called “works” in Christian circles. Theologians have discussed what “works” is from a more philosophical perspective. Some have argued that Abraham completed a “work” when he believed. Others argue that belief is not a work as it is not an action (especially an action to receive something in return).

Paul follows Abraham when he states that we (Christians) have been declared righteous because of our faith. Because of that, we have peace between us and God. However, it’s what follows this that starts to cause problems for many. People will wear the costume of endurance, character, and hope, often treating the costume as a way (still) to earn salvation, as if faith is not enough. The other “costume” problem is that we often think of ourselves as never having enough endurance, character or hope. We then conclude we don’t have faith. This is a significant trap. If we have no improvement in the simple things, how could we hope to improve in the harder areas…like sin.

There is great freedom, if we accept in, in John’s words. There is a statement of fact: we have sinned. However, the forgiveness of our sins doesn’t rely on our effort (our works). It relies on Jesus’ sacrifice. We are to trust (i.e., have faith) that it is enough. “Works” as discipline help us train our minds and hearts away from wrong behavior. “Works” cannot save us.

1) What good are works (yes, there is good)? What is bad with works?

2) Why do you think it is bad to try to “earn” one’s salvation?

3) Why do you think Paul echoed Abraham’s story? Do you think his audience connected the stories?