From Lost to One

1 Peter 2:4-10

With Thanksgiving officially come-and-gone, the “holiday season” has begun!  (Okay, if you’re in retail it began some time in October…maybe even September!)

So it got me thinking about why this season so often involves spending time with family (for better or worse!)  Maybe it’s because family is our first experience of being “a people.”  Today’s passage was meant to be read by a number of different people-groups who had no earthly reason to see themselves as unified.  But because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, God reaches out to lost and disparate peoples, transforming them “from lost to one.”

But why?

It today’s passage, Peter proclaims that God is building a whole new kind of people, characterized not by merit or birth, but by mercy and re-birth.  And God is creating this people to embody a “spiritual home” (v.5) for the world, to declare all that is praiseworthy (v.9) about God.

For reflection:

  1. Who are “your people?”  Family?  Friends?  Countrymen?  How do you draw those lines?
  2. How does the gospel of Jesus blur the lines of peoplehood, as we typically understand it?
  3. If God is building you into a “spiritual home,” (v.5) how at-home do you think people feel when they’re with you?
  4. If our purpose is to declare God’s excellence (v.9), how could we do that day-to-day that would bless people?  In words?  In deeds?
  5. Finally, how can our “good words and deeds” be clearly understood by others as motivated by the fact that “once we had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy?”  (v.10)

Many blessings,

Mike

 

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The Impact of Generosity

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

When we let God’s grace into our lives, we live and grow as a community of grace.  But to let God give, there are things we have to give away.

It turns out there is no magical formula for being able to tithe (give 10% of one’s income to the ministry as an acknowledgement that it, and everyone we have, belongs to God.)  Craig and Jill discussed their frank conversations and decision-making as a married couple, and the freedom they’ve found in giving to God first rather than last.

We all know that if we put God last, there’s often nothing left to give, and even if we do give it is often out of compulsion, guilt, and it can cause real anxiety.  The whole thing unravels.  But when we put God first, and let our saving, taxes, and bills come next, our lifestyle more easily adapts to these wiser priorities.

Pastor Aaron fielded questions from the congregation that they texted live, during the service.  Here are a few fun questions for you to reflect on during this season of giving:

  1. If you suddenly came into a million dollars, what would you do with it?
  2. Is there anything in your lifestyle (a.k.a. expenses) that you could actually live without?  What could you not live without?
  3. If God doesn’t need money, why does he command us to give?

Many blessings!

What the Lord Requires of Us

Thousands of years ago, God set up a system by which he would bless the world through people: “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3).  During the second temple period, the system was the same as it had been since God gave Moses the Law: everyone bring a tenth of their best wealth to the temple, so the storehouse would be full.  So that…who would be blessed?

Those in the most need.*

But when the chosen people of God aren’t faithful in this calling, the community suffers.  This faithlessness of God’s people and its repercussions are at the heart of Malachi 3.  Of course God could solve all the world’s problems.  But scripture is clear from end to end: God plans to bless the world through you, me, and all whom he calls.

The good news in this passage is that God intends to abundantly bless the community who are faithful stewards of what God has given.  Note: to bless the community.  There’s no individual “prosperity gospel” here.  This is not a call to manipulate God into fulfilling our wish lists.  This is a call to join God in blessing others, so that we, like the faithful before us, can have our names written in the scroll of remembrance as those who honored God.

For reflection:

  1. What is the biggest challenge you face when it comes to giving a portion of your income to ministry efforts?
  2. God’s law has always been to give the first 10% of our income.  Does this challenge you?  Why or why not?
  3. Can you think of a time when you gave from your personal income or wealth and experienced God’s provision afterward?
  4. Do you think our city would change if every Jesus follower gave the first 10% of their income to ministry efforts?  If so, how?

 

Many blessings,

Mike

 

 

*See Deut. 14:28-29.

The Message in the Mess

Colossians 3:12-17

Do remember the first time you had to dress nicely for a special event?

First, our parents or guardians sort of, well, force us to do it.  But later, maybe during adolescence, we might take more ownership of how we dress.  And of course, many of us have memories of our first formal school dance–the ultimate dress-up occasion!

What we wear does matter.  Our clothes can help us feel like we belong or make us feel appealing.  Clothes often have to be functional, like work boots or glasses.  And our clothing can even express our identity or beliefs!  In any case, our clothing communicates a message.

That’s why it’s such a good analogy for Paul to use in his letter to the Colossians.  Theirs was a deeply troubled church, torn by teaching that contradicted the gospel of grace which they had accepted.  It was as though they had taken off the “garment” of grace and replaced with one of their own making.

So Paul urges them to clothe themselves with a way of living that reflects the new life they’ve been given in Christ.  God uses our messy real-life challenges not only to help us grow and mature, but in doing so our lives become a message of grace, hope, and love.

For reflection:

  1. Do you feel that you’re experiencing the new life of Jesus?  If so, describe how that feels.  If not, what could you do to have a daily experience of Christ’s life?
  2. Paul gives a list of about 14 different ways of interacting with people.  Which ones would be the most challenging for you?
  3. Which of the behaviors Paul lists could become the most significant “message” of the gospel in your community?