BLOG – Anything is Possible

The following is from the February 2019 Acorn.

Dear Oakland,

My December was overwhelmed with a single thought and a single life changing encounter. You’ve heard it before, but do you really believe them?

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE WITH GOD.

THE LOCAL CHURCH IS THE HOPE OF THE WORLD.

The Monday after we canceled church for snow, I ran into Joe David, Joy, and Brittany at Ugly Mug Coffee Shop. Joy and Brittany are both educators, so our conversation turned to difficult children in school.

As a special needs teacher, Brittany explained how she’s learned to love difficult children even when they hurt her, push her away, and curse her. She’s seen that if she can love them more than they fight her, love will change them, soften them, and transform them. Love will overcome their fear, anger, and poor coping mechanisms.

Love that loves even when I fight back. Love that keeps loving even when it is rejected. Love that keeps coming even if it involves being rejected, despised, and injured. Love that risks rejection for the sake of redemption. THAT SOUNDS LIKE JESUS DOESN’T IT?!

In the church, we call that kind of undeserved, unconditional love, “GRACE, AMAZING GRACE,” and we are given grace upon grace in Jesus who chases us down while we kick, bite, scream, pout, and crucify to get our own way.

Brittany has learned to replicate Jesus’ grace even though she’s only been following Jesus in church for a little over a year. It’s so cool, how the Holy Spirit has been teaching her GRACE and using her to give GRACE for years. Grace before I know what Grace is, is called “Prevenient Grace” by theologians.

Brittany told me about this specific boy who cusses her and attacks her and other kids when he doesn’t get his way. Still, her relentless GRACE is changing him. Then she said, “It just makes me so sad, cause you know he’s learned that behavior from somewhere. Gotta be from mom and dad cause he’s not learning it at school.”

And my heart broke. It broke because you’ve taught me to empathize like Jesus rather than judge like the old me always did.

I almost cried as I said, “Brittany, I’m so thankful God put you in that little boy’s life to GRACE him as he learns a different way to communicate and a different way to get his needs met. But what about his mom and dad. Where do they learn this stuff? That boy can go to school and be changed by GRACE, but what about his mom and dad, where can they go to learn how to communicate, to love, to forgive, to be moms and dads, to be husbands, and to adult? Where they can go even where they’ll be GRACED and LOVED even while they still cuss and fight back and resent? Where can they go? Where will they learn how to love and be loved?”

Joe and Joy and Brittany all looked at each other trying to think about where in this world grown people can go to learn honesty, integrity, spirituality, forgiveness, gentleness, love, joy, peace, self-control. Where can they go to be liberated from harmful habits and unhelpful coping mechanisms? Where can their character defects be removed and lives redeemed?

There are only 2 places I can think of, and the second grew out of the first. The Second is Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Step Groups like it.

The first is the Church. A place for difficult people to be loved over and over again. Even when they try to push us away, we keep loving them. Even when they curse us, we bless. Even when they sin, we forgive. A place where train wrecks are welcome and loved even as they are transformed. A place where the only requirement is a desire to know God and let God change you. A desire not a dress code or decorum or diploma or accomplishment is the only requirement. A mustard seed of faith in God and hope for healing.
The Church is the only such place. The Church is the only hope for such families and such people. They didn’t learn it from their parents, they didn’t learn it in the Army, or on the job. They won’t learn grace and be transformed by grace by watching TV or going to counseling, but by following Jesus with other sinners. The church is the only place where the transformative power of grace can reach them FOR FREE. The only place so wonderfully, gracefully stubborn enough to put up with difficult, needy people until God’s love transforms them.

It is the only hope for them because it is the only hope for me.

It is the only hope for them because it is the only hope for me. I am one of those unlovely people who came into a church with a pile of regret and a suitcase of resentments. I owned suits and spoke refined English, but I was full of deceit, cowardice, people-pleasing, selfishness, and fear not to mention covetousness, lust, and anger. Where am I going to learn to trust Jesus not just with my eternal salvation, but my daily life and my inner character. Where am I going to learn gentleness, forgiveness, honesty, empathy, and grace? Friends, the only hope for my marriage, for my parenting, for my character defects, for my past sins, for my future failures is a real connection with Jesus and Jesus’ people because I cannot figure out how to follow Jesus without you. You are the ones teaching me how to listen to my wife, to settle disagreements civility, to subjugate my wants to others’ needs, and so much more.

the only hope for my marriage, for my parenting, for my character defects, for my past sins, for my future failures is a real connection with Jesus and Jesus’ people because I cannot figure out how to follow Jesus without you.

Church is where the prideful learn humility, where the vindictive learn forgiveness, where the greedy learn generosity. This is where the person with no friends learns to make friends, the person who has never been loved learns to be loved, the person who’s always right learns to be a sinner, the person who’s never been good enough learns to belong, the person with cancer learns to persevere, the person with an unplanned child learns to parent, where emotionally absent dads learn to be present, where the spoiled learn to serve, where the shy learn to talk to strangers, and where the blabbermouths learn to shut up.

The encounter reinvigorated my whole ministry. It reminded me and convinced me practically.

Anything is possible at Oakland, because anything is possible with God.

Oakland is the hope of the world.

In God’s Church, in Oakland, transformation is always possible. No one is too far gone to repent, too unlovely to be loved, too broken to be mended, too rebellious to be the prodigal, too drunk to get sober, too sick to get healed, too lost to be found, too addicted to be liberated, too deceived to get honest, too cynical to meet Jesus, because OAKLAND is a place to meet Jesus and learn to follow him, because Oakland is a place where the grace of God must be as tangible and visible as the wind in the trees and the sun on our skin. If we always point to Jesus and love one another like Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

We are the hope of the world. Not government, not PBS, not better education, not better rules. ONLY JESUS AND HIS CHURCH. Only the church. Only the church can teach people not to blame, hide, lie, or practice self-righteousness, but to surrender their wills and lives to the care of God, who has proved his love by sending Jesus to save us.

BLOG: Why Americans Overwork

The greatest threats [to my relationship with Jesus] are the constant BUSYNESS AND FRANTIC HURRY THAT DEMAND MY ALLEGIANCE. - Fil Anderson.

On Sunday I read you several quotes, but this one could not be more important to us:

"If you live in North America, you are a prime candidate for slow death by overstimulation. Your environment is busy depleting you with noise, distractions, and the compulsion to always be in a hurry. If I had set out to destroy my identity as a beloved child of God, I couldn’t have done better than living in America at the start of the 21st century. The greatest threats I’ve encountered are not the arguments of skeptics or the lure of drinks, drugs, or sex. The greatest threats are the constant BUSYNESS AND FRANTIC HURRY THAT DEMAND MY ALLEGIANCE…We rarely are grounded in the present moment (where God is to be encountered) because we’re always rushing out beyond it or replaying in our minds our disappointing past. Shame and sadness over our dark past drive us to strive for a brighter future, which generally winds up being busier rather than better." - Fil Anderson in Running On Empty. 

In her book, The Overworked American, Juliet Schor points out that the United States now leads Japan as the longest-working nation in the industrialized world and is the most vacation-starved country in the world.  Americans in general work longer hours with less vacation for more years than any other industrialized culture.

BUT WHY?

According to Tim Keller, in his sermon "Work and Rest", there are 4 things that coordinate to create this dynamic:

a.) Work security is very low. Whole departments can be shut down if they’re not profitable. There are hostile takeovers on the regular. New technology is making jobs and skills obsolete overnight, making thousands of jobs unnecessary. The pressure to be profitable is stronger than loyalty to employees, and so companies will fire anyone. So we’re staying at our jobs shorter time and we’re not guaranteed to keep our job. Knowing we live precariously, we work harder and harder to prove our value to our employers to increase our job security. Taking time off lets my boss see if she can live without me. Missing deadlines line me up for a dead end. This is exacerbated among the 10,000s start-ups, which operate with a skeleton staff and the risk of failure. 

B.) Income Distribution – Those at the top of companies used to make 20-30 times what the lowest employees made, but now that number is 200-500 times. This means that the people at the top are making such astronomical sums of money, they are expected to put in ridiculous hours. If they don’t put in the hours, there is a long line of people waiting to take their job in order to avail themselves of the huge paychecks. At the bottom, people are making less than a living wage, and so they have to take multiple jobs to make ends meet, meaning they are putting in more hours. To justify their paychecks, the people at the top work all the time. To make their bills, the people at the bottom work all the time. 

C.) Technology – We can now work anywhere, so we work everywhere. We set up our laptops on vacation. We even carry our cell phones into the bathroom. Do you remember the first time you heard of someone installing a telephone in their bathroom? I learned to fish with a real estate agent at the beach, and I remember the first time we fished together, he was taking calls and answering emails out in the middle of the salt marsh, while wrestling flounders. I thought he was insane, until this summer, I found myself coordinating volunteers and speakers for the ARISE retreat, from a boat in the salt marsh, while wrestling a flounder.

D.) Identity Crisis – More than any civilization in the history of the world, we have dissociated ourselves with that traditional sources of identity. In traditional cultures, your identity comes from your relationship in a family or the community – You are so and so’s son. You are a dad or a mom. You aren't just a blacksmith, but you are THE blacksmith in Clayton or the Barber in Smithfield, forcing you into community and accountability. Now, we are the first civilization in the history of humanity to say, you need to look deep inside you and find your true identity and then your success, your worth, your approval is based on your ability to accomplish that. If you feel like you should be a singer, but you can’t cut it on Broadway or the Billboard charts, then you are a failure and you have no secondary source of worth to fall back on. You have no foundation of self-value to lean into. If you are good at your job, then your worthy, but if not, then you have no value and no secure worth. So we look more and more to our work and our professional success to prove our worth. This is true even of those of you who do not work professionally. Stay at home parenting has turned into a competitive sport in the United States thanks to social media and Pinterest. Retirement competition is a growing fight.

But what is the cure?

The cure is to rest in Jesus. To rest in Jesus is to be completely satisfied with his finished work on the cross. Trust his work, rather than trying to impress him with yours. Get your identity from Jesus not from work. When you do that, you will rest as an act of trust and an act of liberty.

Listen to the whole Oakland Sermon - "Are You Too Tired to Rest?" here. 

 

BLOG – Sound Upgrades – People have to hear it to believe it

people have to hear the gospel to believe it.

SOUND UPGRADES IN THE SANCTUARY

Not long ago, I was approached by several people concerned because hearing loss jeopardized their ability to hear most of Sunday Morning’s Worship Service. All the beautiful music was muddled and the sermon was mumbling. One can imagine the frustration of 75 minutes of indistinct noise in the place of heart-stirring worship.

Not long after that, separate individuals approached me with a similar complaint about the choir loft. Members of the choir considered quitting the choir, because insufficient speaker coverage prevented them not only from hearing the musical instruments and track music, but also the sermons and prayers. Unable to hear in choir loft, they debated rejoining the rest of the congregation in the pews. One can imagine the frustration of using your musical gifts to bless others, and at the same time being robbed of spiritual instruction by bad technology. At a basic level, people have to hear the gospel to believe it.

Something had to be done, and now it has. Oakland now has state-of-art listening-assistance devices for those with hearing impediments. These 4 new devices are actually capable of feeding Sunday’s Service directly into a person’s existing hearing aids, creating a comfortable and clear solution. If one prefers, they can also be used with available headphones. Either way they broadcast the whole service into your ears with the noise-damping benefits of hearing aids or headphones. Special thanks to Keeley Tarkington for researching and recommending the particular technology we’re utilizing.

That was the easy part. The choir monitors required significantly more research and labor, but God provided. The process started while Pastor Matt Fry (C3 Church) down the road and I meet regularly for coffee, prayer, and encouragement; and after touring our sanctuary together, Pastor Matt sincerely offered, “If there is ever anything C3 can do to help your ministry, seriously let us know.” A few days later, Pastor Matt introduced me to Troy Payne Technology and Production specialist over there. Troy brought two other sound technicians and we sketched out the broad strokes of a speaker system for the Choir. From there, I spent countless hours trying to identify speakers, amplifiers, wires, and chords that matched our needs. Every week, I’d send Troy at C3 an email clarifying our needs and my research. When we finally identified all the materials needed, Troy introduced us to a supplier who discounted all of it 50%. The initial total for 3 speakers, 1 amplifier, 1 digital sound processor, and 500 feet of speaker wire was $2,600. Money to purchase the speakers came from a special Music Ministry Endowment (to which you can give money).

We decided to install the speakers ourselves to save thousands of dollars, and so more than 100 hours later, there are 3 new speakers hanging in the Sanctuary. One faces the communion table, allowing Keeley and musicians to hear the service. Two face the choir loft. While installing this system, we replaced old technology connected to our congregation speakers, which uses a computer to eliminate feedback during worship.

The result is dramatic for the choir. The first week we used the speakers, one Choir member enthusiastically stated, “For the first time since you started preaching here, I could actually hear every word you said.” That matters. People have to hear the gospel to believe it.

Special thanks to Keeley Tarkington, C3 Church, and Jeff Thompson for their dozens of hours of work. Jeff Thompson spent nearly 25 hours helping me run speaker wire in a hot attic and hanging speakers.

 

BLOG – Easter Art Explained – The Many-Splendored Wisdom of God

On Easter Sunday, we party.

Why? Because Easter is the greatest day in history. All of history, its purpose and its climax are reveled in Jesus’ Resurrection. Death does not win. History is going somewhere. Pain and brokenness are not final. Sin is forgiven. Jesus is Lord.           

             Every Easter we do an art project together as a church to learn with our hands what Andrew is trying to preach with his words – that God makes beauty from ashes, artwork from shattered hearts, glory from dust. So, the art must use RECLAIMED and REDEEMED materials that we transform into something extraordinarily beautiful. As we do this, we find that often the very brokenness of the thing makes it more beautiful and/or perfectly fit for art work. This reminds us that our brokenness will not just be healed back to original, it will be the very things that make us useful in God’s hands. Rather than brokenness or imperfection inhibiting God’s ability to use us, they actually augment our usefulness. That’s why the Apostle Paul can write, “Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever” (1 Tim 1:15-16). Nearly 1900 years later another man whose life had been transformed by the teachings of Jesus wrote it this way, “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them” (9th Step Promises of AA).

           This year we used hundreds and hundreds of broken crayons to make extraordinary art. They were perfect for something colorful or “multi-splendored” as the Bible likes to say. In all our diversity, we’re a lot like these different colors. Moreover, each of us is broken in some way, some of us discarded, but Jesus does not throw us away, destroy us, or give up on us, instead he starts to transform us. In a creativity and artistry beyond all human aesthetic dreams, God crafts something that is more glorious than it could have been if it was never broken. That is why Ephesians 3:10 describes the church as God’s public, colorful art exposition. Paul says, “God’s intent was that now, through the church, the manifold, many-splendored, multi-faceted wisdom of God should be displayed.”

            It may not feel like it now, but God is in the process of taking all your hurts and flaws, and using them to make you into a masterpiece. God is preparing the shards of your broken heart for resurrection of love and purpose. Nothing in your past will be wasted, even the worst parts will yield their usefulness in God’s masterful hands.

            “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Tim 1:17)

BLOG – Martin Luther King Jr.’s Last Sermon at Ebenezer

While preparing for my sermon on Matthew 20:17-28, I learned that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached his last sermon in his home church Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA on the same text. His title was, "The Drum Major Instinct." It is a fascinating sermon. He goes in a different direction than I did, but with great effect.

In his sermon he addresses the evils of segregation and class warfare. He speaks about war and education. His sermons are still ripe with challenges that must be heard still in 2016. He challenges many of our assumptions and many of the political narratives of the last 50 years, and that is why we must listen to him. Challenges help us figure out what we actually believe far more than unquestioned assumptions. 

And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. (Amen) That's a new definition of greatness.

And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, (Everybody) because everybody can serve. (Amen) You don't have to have a college degree to serve. (All right) You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. (Amen) You only need a heart full of grace, (Yes, sir, Amen) a soul generated by love. (Yes) And you can be that servant.

Read "THE DRUM MAJOR INSTINCT"

and see the original transcript here. 

The Book of Job and Suffering Christians

Why-PicWe live in a broken world. Bad things happen, and sometimes they happen in clusters. Cancer, death, accidents, and illnesses happen all the time. This year as a Church we’ve been confronted with dozens of tragedies, and every time the same question comes up, “Why?”

It takes many forms like “Why do bad things happen to good people?” “Why did God let this happen?” “Why me?” but they all go back to that one word, “Why” which we desperately use to grasp for meaning and purpose and hope.

In one such moment, 6 months ago, I was trying to reassure a friend that God can work through all situations, that as the Heidelberg Catechism says, “[Jesus] also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.” In that moment, I pointed to Job, the archetypical innocent sufferer for proof that God use a situation even when he does explain it.

4 months later, my friend text me: “I finished reading Job. What’s the hardest book in the Bible to understand?” Haha. I guess I should have warned my friend or been a good pastor and read it with him. Either way, maybe this diagram will help some of you understand the book of Job, and Job will help you trust God in your situation.

A Bit More about A Beautiful Mess (Part 2) – When the Church Sweats the Small Stuff

Here are a few more thoughts that didn’t make the sermon, and a few resources to help you understand this “Varsity” Christian topic, which I struggled to articulate well. Hopefully these 3 resources will help you understand what we're talking about when we talk about adiophora, Christian Liberty, and Christian Responsibility. 

FIRST RESOURCES:

  1. 4 Principles for the Exercise of Christian Liberty by Ligonier Ministries

    This is a short article to give a "How to Decide" guidance. 

  2. What is Christian Liberty? by John MacArthur

    This is a longer sermon outline based on Galatians 5. It is really thorough and helpful. 

  3. On Christian Liberty by Martin Luther

    This is a classic book. It is very short and anybody can read it. I have read it multiple times. 

Now for some more of Andrew's Thoughts...

christian-liberty-is-freedom-from-sin-not-freedom-to-sin-quote-1Last week, July 10, 2016, I preached on Matthew 17, and we learned from Jesus’ response to the 2-Drachma Temple Tax. We learned that just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should do something. We learned that Jesus sets us free to do all kinds of things that at one time were sins, like eating pork, shrimp, rare meat, working on the Sabbath, eating with Gentiles, etc. 

We are freed from these things, because all of them were shadows, types, and pre-figurations of Jesus the Messiah. We don’t have to sacrifice animals because Jesus is our sacrifice. We don’t have to pay atonement money because Jesus has paid our ransom. We don’t have to sit at home on the Sabbath, because Jesus gives us the rest from works and good deeds that the Sabbath previewed. We don’t have to perform our ceremonial washings because Jesus has cleansed us. We don’t have to bow to priests because Jesus has made us all priests.

AND YET, just because I don’t HAVE TO do any of those things, or conversely, just because some things are not expressly forbidden by the scriptures, that DOES NOT mean we SHOULD DO any of those things. The Scripture doesn't specifically address things like alcohol, dancing, eating meat or blood sausage, go to the bar, do yoga, wear yoga pants or speedos, visit non-christian religious sites, etc. and so there are faithful men and women who believe some or all of those things are sin and some believe they are all fair game based on principles such as modesty, moderation, simplicity, idolatry, or the Old Testament.  We are free do do those things because of Jesus, but still, Jesus says we have a responsibility to our fellow believers. So that if something I do that is not in and of itself a sin (like dancing) causing a fellow believer to disbelieve the gospel or to actually sin (living promiscuously) then I SHOULD NOT do that thing out of love for my neighbor.

So we learned that were the Bible is specifically silent (and the Bible is clear many, many places) there will be differing views on what things are and are not sins within a Church. Moreover, we learned that there are times, when we should not make a fuss about something that is negotiable or debatable, just as Jesus paid the tax, though he did not have to. We also learned that there would be times when the Church would fight over petty, non-Scriptural issues, and where we will hurt one another by refusing to submit our opinion to another person’s need.

This is really good news! Sure differing opinions, preferences, and debates makes church messy. Quite frankly, petty arguments are notorious for destroying churches or at least splitting it over and over again. BUT IT IS A BEAUTIFUL MESS. AN AWESOME THING GOD USES TO TEACH US HOLINESS. WE COULD NOT  LEARN OR GROW APART FROM THIS BEAUTIFUL MESS. Here are two ways a church full of differences of opinion and unnecessary arguments are beneficial to our spiritual growth:

  • We need other people to help us figure out how to exercise our Christian Liberty with Freedom. Since this is not a list of do's and don'ts, we have to learn the hard work of case by case decisions. We have to learn to apply principles rather than obey rules. Derek Webb talks about that a lot in his song, "A NEW LAW". You frankly cannot learn to responsibility exercise your Christian freedom without the help of other believers. Without others to help you, you will use your Christian freedom to "indulge the flesh" (Gal 5:13), happily sinning while believing your innocent. 
  • Where else do we learn to work together, to submit our preferences and opinions to other people’s needs and hurts when the investment and stakes are high. 

It hit me this week as I listened to someone lament, “I’m never buying property with friends again.” I realized that this is common counsel, “Don’t go into business with friends. Don’t buy property with friends. Unless you’re ready to loss those friends.” Other than husbands and wives people rarely have to make big investment decisions, decorating decisions, style decisions, and usage decisions together. As any newlyweds will tell you it's hard enough to get used to doing this with one other person with the guarantee of forever, it seems impossible to do so with voluntary friends. 

In general, our society believes that it is not possible to work these things out because too much is at stake, AND YET, in church we do something more complex TOGETHER. Think about it. If we think of the church in secular terms, then as a church: We own property together. We run an organization (technically a corporation). We lead a worldwide evangelism campaign. We run a social welfare organization (Mission and Outreach Committee). We craft a movement. We run a school and a one day a week nursery. Plus we put on a "performance" every week. ALL WITH 200 equal partners, we call brothers and sisters; with people we must love.

If two families or even two siblings can’t successfully own one beach house, can you imagine the complexity, humility, other-serving-sacrifice required to BE CHURCH with 200 other people with their own investment, buy-in, opinions, hopes, ideas, and backgrounds?

WhatAreTheEssentialsIt’s going to be tough at times from the normal property disputes about paint and carpet to the larger worship-style conflicts to the mission focuses to protests over church “power” structures. The Scriptures leave us free to faithfully choose different answers to all those questions, and yet only in church must we learn to think for the youngest believers and the outsiders. Only in church do I sacrifice my long held opinions and preferences to the needs of those who don’t yet know the truth or understand it’s full implications. So every decision about adiaphora stuff from interior decor to guitars versus organs to the food pantry versus the tutoring program is an opportunity for me to ask, "Is this a non-negotiable or are these 2 faithful ways to serve God? AND will a public dispute attract people to Jesus or push them away? Which of these two options will help people believe Jesus is the Christ?" 

So sure, Church is a mess, but a in a world where friends are told not to buy property together or start enterprises together it is a counter-cultural BEAUTIFUL MESS! In a world were people cannot make cooperations work on a small scale, or governments on a big scale, the Church is place we learn a different way. Thank God for this Beautiful Mess. 

A Beautiful Mess Series Slide

Weekly Bible Reading Plan – Nov 15 – 22

Greater Than - 11.15-11.22 - Weekly Reading Plan Slide

Questions to Guide Your Study:

  • This week Matthew wants us to see Jesus is greater than King the Temple and the Sabbath, which were the two main channels of God’s presence.
  • According to Matthew, what is “legal” on the Sabbath? The point of the Sabbath was not sacrifice, but to cultivate what? What practices do you use to cultivate mercy?
  • In Gen 1, God rests on the last day. What does this tell us about the goal of Sabbath? Is it rest to prepare work, or rest to enjoy work done?
  • Why do you think God commands a day of rest and sets an example himself, even though he does not get tired and need rest?
  • Exodus 16 is the first practical example of God giving provision for the Sabbath. How does God make it happen? What does it teach the Israelites? What can it teach us, when we feel like we “have to get things done”?
  • Luke 15 is a famous story. How does it connect to Matthew? In the theology of Jesus’ day, it was only legal to save someone’s life on the Sabbath, not to improve it, but what does Jesus say?
  • Col 2:16-17 talks about our freedom from the Law, we are free from legalistic observance, but what should we focus on?
  • How is faith in Christ instead of good works, like Sabbath?

If you are new to reading the Bible and would benefit from a brief orientation, download this How To Use This Book. If you want dig a deeper into the Bible, download this Guide to Inductive Bible Study.