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Thoughts: Jesus tells the crowds following him that they must hate their fathers, their mothers, their wives, their children, their brothers, their sisters, and even their own lives. Deliberately, Jesus names the people who are traditionally dearest to us, concluding with our own lives.
One commentary explains Jesus’ use of the word “hate” as “vigorous, vivid hyperbole.” Literally, “hyperbole” means “to throw beyond.” Did Jesus intend to throw his words beyond what his followers could understand or accept?
Without pausing, Jesus goes on to give two examples of people who need to plan ahead. The man who wants to build a tower needs to know he has enough money to finish it. If he can build only the foundation, people will ridicule him. Likewise, a king with a small army would be foolish to make war against a king with a bigger army. The weaker king should see terms of peace from the stronger king.
Is there a connecting thread among these three brief scenes? Lack of dedication in a potential follower of Jesus – lack of money to finish a tower – lack of troops to engage in war?
Discussion: Is it more hyperbole when Jesus says his disciples must give up all of their possessions?
Activity: Think of a material possession which you love. How precious is it? Is it invaluable? Irreplaceable? Would you be willing to give it up...not just temporarily but for good. Your favorite blanket? Your TV? Your phone?
Many of us know this story. The son receives his inheritance, leaves home, lives a lavish life for a few minutes and then loses it all and ends up working with pigs to earn enough to survive. However, that is in no way the part of the story that matters most. The best part, the part God really wants us to hear is how he is greeted upon his return.
He is greeted with the biggest celebration. He draped a robe over his shoulders, a ring on his finger, and threw a grand feast with the finest wine & beef. There was no passive aggressive comments for weeks or months to come, no hostility, no cold shoulder and certainly no disowning. Truly all of those things above, he probably deserved. He more or less wished his father dead. It really doesn't get much worse than that. And still, the moment his father had him in his sights, the celebration begin. Why? Because all that mattered was his son was home. Our Father is inviting us into this same kind of response and celebration today. He is always happy when he come home to Him. Wherever for the first time or the fifteenth time, no matter what we have done, the heavens roar in celebration of another son or daughter of commits their life to Jesus.
And, just as our Father is being generous with His forgiveness and resources to us today, He calls us to be an extension of His hand and be a blessing to others too. These things are not ours, and His forgiveness is not only for the deserved and perfect. May we take note of the free love and generosity this father lavishes on his prodigal son and practice being this kind of a giver in our own lives today.
Thoughts: Salt and Light. Two things we are commanded to be. While we have a clear understanding of what light is, what does it really mean to be the SALT of this earth? We sprinkle salt on our meat and potatoes and stir a pinch into our cake batter and bread dough. But if we go without, our meal tastes a bit bland and our baked goods flavorless. That’s because salt brings out the flavor and adds strength to the dough. A lot isn’t needed, but you can definitely tell the difference without it.
In the same way, God’s people are sprinkled into many different places in this world—different work spaces, different families, different economic statuses, and different hometowns. And we’ve also been stirred into different mixtures with different ingredients—one person may have a heart for the homeless, be struggling through a divorce, and heavily involved in their child’s sports team; while you are passionate about animals, have experience in retail, and are facing an overwhelming amount of debt.
There may not be a lot of other Christians in your office, neighborhood, friend group, or family. But just like with the amount of salt on our steak and in our pancake mix, a lot isn’t needed; God’s grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weakness, limitations, and minority. But every single believer is called to show up, shine God’s light, and sprinkle salt into this world, because if we don’t—and instead, lose our saltiness—the rest of His body will be able to tell the difference, even if we don’t think what we do is THAT important.
Together, as a church and the light of the world, may we let our good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise our heavenly Father and experience His grace.
Discussion: How are you the salt of the earth in your world—to your particular neighborhood, your unique friends and family, and your exact workplace? How can you improve on what you are already doing? Which of the fruits of the spirit are you gift? How can you share that specifically?
Activities: Set a small goal each day this week of how you can be the salt for the people you come into contact with that don’t know the love of Jesus.
Thoughts: Benediction is a familiar word to church-goers. It signals the end of the service. The Latin roots of benediction remind us that the word means “to say good.”
We treasure compliments, when other people say good things about us. What a perfect way to end our church services – with a benediction!
Today’s scripture ends with an exquisite benediction.
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
Discussion: What is your understanding of “according to the power that worketh in us”?
Activity: Memorize this benediction.
“Oh, better than the minting of a gold-crowned king is the safe-kept memory of a lovely thing!” - Teasdale
Thoughts: The Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes, individual gems. There are sermons in each one.
The Beatitudes would seem to be a tough act to follow, but the next verses have gems of their own.
“Ye are the light of the world.”
“Let your light so shine before men . . .”
“. . . one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law . . . “
Discussion: What part of your life do you want not to be changed even by a jot or tittle?
Activity: Show a family member that your love for him or her has not diminished by a jot or a tittle.
Thoughts: Job has suffered almost every possible loss – his children, his health, and his property.
Four “friends” have come to “comfort” him. Their idea of comforting consisted of sharp questioning and accusations of wrong-doing, until Job exclaimed, “Miserable comforters are ye all!”
Now in chapter 38, God speaks directly to Job.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”
And Job replies humbly, “I have uttered that I understood not, things too wonderful for me which I knew not.”
Discussion: What do we discuss that we know not?
Activity: Dazzle people by knowing the names of Job’s three daughters, who were the fairest in the land. John Wesley’s youngest sister was named for one of them.
Thoughts: Infirmity – reproach – necessity – persecution – distress. Are these words similar in meaning?
Persecution sounds dire. Infirmity is likewise threatening. Distress and reproach are far from desirable. Necessity is neutral.
Paul writes that he takes pleasure in all of them. This is hard to believe. But the Lord has assured Paul that “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
We have so much to learn – and so much to understand.
Discussion: What five words would you choose to follow “I take pleasure in ________, _______, ________, ________, and ________?
Activity: This week, take pleasure in writing a note of thanks or sympathy.”
Thoughts: Andrea del Sarto was a successful painter – successful, but not exciting. As he admitted, “All is silver gray - placid and perfect with my art: the worse!”
He is married to a beautiful, much younger woman, who often goes out to meet her “cousin.”
Andrea admires his wife’s physical perfections, concluding sadly, “But had you . . . with these the same, but brought a mind!”
Paul reminds the Corinthians that first, they need willing minds.
Discussion: What does your mind shrink from learning?
Activity: Learn one new word each day. You might start with “byzantine.”
Thoughts: A short, declarative sentence: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.”
So our Bible begins. And so, with no doubts, no attempted explanations, but with complete faith, let us accept this statement.
“Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars; I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.” - Carl Boberg
Discussion: What other explanations have you heard for the creation of the world?
Activity: Every day this week, thank God for one particular beauty of the month of June.
Thoughts: One of Jesse’s sons is God’s choice for the second king of Israel. The prophet Samuel is directed to go to Jesse’s home in Bethlehem to anoint the new king. Samuel is not told which son God has chosen.
The Bible gives us the names of the first three sons – Eliab, Abindab, and Shammah – and the youngest son – David. We have invented names for the four unnamed sons and have endowed the first seven sons with distinctive characteristics.
The oldest son Eliab is tall and handsome.
Samuel: Surely this fine-looking first born is the son you have chosen to be king.
God: Do not look upon his appearance or the height of his stature, because…I do not see as mortals see; they look upon the outward appearance, but I look upon the heart.
The second son Abinadab is the father of twelve children.
Samuel: Abinadab is a kind and patient father – the very qualities a good king should have.
God: Samuel, never confuse the ability to sire children with the ability to govern a kingdom.
The third son Shammah is a dedicated scholar of the Jewish scriptures.
Samuel: this son must be the one you have chosen to be king – a man who knows the scriptures.
God: A good memory does not qualify a man to be king, Samuel. Move on.
The fourth son Lamech is an ardent politician – but his wife Adah wants equal power. Lamech and Adah scream at each other and rush off stage.
Samuel: I take it he’s not the one.
God: We have not seen the future king of Israel yet, Samuel.
The fifth son Zelophehad is a professional basketball player for the Bethlehem Bobcats.
Samuel: Everyone admires an athlete. This young man is energetic – popular –
God: A king needs to do more than bring the ball down the floor and set picks, Samuel.
The sixth son Nahum is a reporter for the Bethlehem Banner.
Samuel: How about Nahum, God? He concentrates – he has great command of the language – he could communicate well with the people.
God: We’re not looking for by-lines, Samuel. See the next son.
The seventh son Hadrach is an officer in Israel’s navy.
Samuel: A military man is organized, efficient, accustomed to giving orders – an excellent background for a king.
God: But Hadrach is not my choice.
So the youngest son David is called in from the field where he has been watching his father’s sheep.
God: Samuel, I have chosen David to be the next king of Israel. Rise and anoint him.
Discussion: What were Samuel’s thoughts when God told him to anoint David as the next king?
Activity: Reconsider your first opinion of a young person. Could he/she be chosen by God?
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