Monthly Archives: February 2014

2.23.14 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

Freely and Joyously

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY

Genesis 12:1-3, Deuteronomy 26:1-10

Abram had no son when God called him, yet God said that his descendants would bless “all the families of earth.” When Israel was a settled nation, they structured their giving to help them remember that God was the ultimate source of all they had. They brought the first part of each crop to God, and recited words that acknowledged their humble human ancestry, and God as the creator and deliverer who had made their well-being possible.

 

TUESDAY

Exodus 36:1-7

In the passage just before today’s reading, Moses introduced Bezalel and Oholiab to Israel as the gifted, skilled leaders who would execute (and teach others how to execute) the plans for the Tabernacle (cf. Exodus 35:30-35). But the workers met an unexpected problem. They came to Moses, reporting, “The people are contributing way too much material for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.” What an amazing outpouring of generosity!

 

WEDNESDAY

1 Chronicles 29:3-12

The Chronicler recorded that God told King David he couldn’t build the Temple (cf. 1 Chronicles 28:1-3). But David didn’t sulk about that. He enthusiastically set out to gather the material Solomon would need to build the Temple, starting with a large chunk of his personal fortune. The people rejoiced, and David blessed the Lord for the chance to be part of this great project.

 

THURSDAY

Luke 16:10-15

Jesus began Luke 16 with a challenging parable about the use of money. Then he told his disciples, and the listening Pharisees, that those who are faithful with a little are also faithful with much. The human heart, he said, can only have one ultimate master. Jesus’ message wasn’t popular with the Pharisees, who were “money-lovers,” and they “sneered” at his teaching.

 

FRIDAY

2 Corinthians 8:10-15

Hebrew Christians in Jerusalem faced persecution and hardship almost from the beginning. Paul was concerned for them, and asked his relatively well-off Gentile Christian converts to give for a fund to help those in Jerusalem. They responded gladly, and he urged them to finish the collection with as much generous enthusiasm as they showed at the start.

 

SATURDAY

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

We are tempted to think our time, talents, energy and money are parts of a closed system, so that if we give any to someone else, we will have less. Paul told his Corinthian converts that that kind of thinking makes one big mistake: it leaves God out of the equation. “God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace,” he exclaimed in verse 8. And out of his own experience (even though he had, as far as we know, no earthly wealth) he promised the Corinthians, “You will be made rich in every way” (verse 11).

 

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

 

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Lord God, soften our hearts, and to help us be cheerful givers with our words, with our talents, and yes, with our money. Help us to sow generous seeds and reap a generous crop in your name. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

Do you know or know of some people in your community who are extraordinary “givers”? Do you admire their generosity? Do the most giving people you admire give out of their abundance? When the word “giving” is used, is money the only thing you think of?

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.

 Read Genesis 12:1-3, Deuteronomy 26:1-10. The people were told to give to God from the first fruits of their harvest. In other words, don’t pay everything else, and then give if there is any left over. Do most of us follow this principle today? Do you view this as burdensome or unfair in any way? How did you react inwardly when you read that line about “My father was a starving Aramean”? Were you brought up to be proud of your distinguished family lineage, or was your ancestry more humble or anonymous? Why would Israel (and us) be better off glorifying God, rather than human ancestors?

 Read Exodus 36:1-7. Not only did the people give freely for the building of the Tabernacle, they gave more than enough. Why did this happen? What motivates us to give so freely to God? Does God carry away gifts made to him? Where do gifts to God go—what are these gifts used for? Must we have confidence in the proper use of our gifts? Can our time, freely given, also be a gift to God? Does our gift of our time free us from our responsibility to give monetarily to God? How do people feel after giving freely to God? How do we feel if we don’t give our share to God?

 Read 1 Chronicles 29:3-12. King David, although forbidden by God to build the Temple himself, gave freely and very generously to the project, serving as an example to the people. Can the same kind of leadership serve God and at the same time serve as examples to people today? Can the modest gifts from people of little or no means serve God as well? What’s more important, the size of our gift or our attitude in giving? Can anyone, even God, force you to do anything willingly and wholeheartedly? When it comes to giving, what helps you to do it in a willing, wholehearted way?

 Read Luke 16:10-15. In your own words, how would you interpret the meaning of verse 11? Thinking in a broader sense, how might it apply beyond our financial wealth? How does our giving of our many kinds of gifts require trust in God? Must we also trust our local church? Is our trust in our church tied to our trust in God? How do we build our trust in God? Must all our gifts to God be given to our local church? Can a gift to an individual be given as a gift to God? Is God opposed to wealth? What are the dangers of wealth? Do you ever find yourself trying to justify your attachment to material goods?

 Read 2 Corinthians 8:10-15. Is giving one of the most personal things we can do? Can we fairly judge ourselves by the level of our willingness to give to God and to others? What forms can our giving take? What motivates us to give? What prevents us from giving? What role do our own wants and needs play in our decisions to give? How do we feel about having to “sacrifice” something before giving?

 Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15. If we give our time, talents, energy and money, will we have less? Why? How is God an often overlooked part of this question? Have you ever volunteered your time or money because you felt pressured into it? How did you feel about that? Now think about a time when you volunteered your time or money because you felt led by God to do it. How did you feel about that? Rhetorical question: Which is the better feeling?

 

From last week: Did you prayerfully reflect on how worship is a gift, not a difficult duty? Did you remember that worship can and should take place during the week as well as on the weekend? Did you find ways in which you can worship God every day, capping the week off by being able to worship freely with your fellow believers? Please share your experiences with the group.

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, February 23, 2014:

We’ve been talking the last two weeks about the building plans we feel God is calling us to pursue to help our congregation do effective ministry for generations into the future. Our dream is that, with the right buildings, twenty years from now 10,000 members of a new generation of young adults will come to faith in Christ here and be raising their families and serving God. We see 10,000 low-income children on a different path because of our continued partnership with six Kansas City area elementary schools. We see 10,000 other churches that were strengthened by our leadership training and resources.

In our scripture today we see King David leading the Israelites to build what would serve as their permanent sanctuary for 400 years. Our aim is to learn from them as we prepare for next weekend when we’ll be asking those of you who consider this your church family to make your pledges in this effort to build our permanent sanctuary, renovate this sanctuary into Vibe worship space and a fellowship hall, kitchen, missions space and a dedicated space for Matthew’s Ministry….

In today’s Scripture, David is nearing his own death. He feels called to ensure that the faith that sustained him is passed on to the next generation. The Israelites had been worshiping in a tent for two hundred years (perhaps 400 depending upon when you date the Exodus). David felt it important to build a permanent sanctuary, one that was beautiful, sacred, holy, that reflected God’s presence, majesty and glory. The man who wrote, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and who wanted to “dwell in the house of the LORD forever,” believed it was critical that those who came after him know God and call upon him as their shepherd.

I think David believed that the Temple would be an important part of passing on the faith to generations after him. In that building people would sing, pray, offer their sacrifices, find forgiveness for sins, and every time they walked past it, they would remember their God. It would be a visible reminder of the God who created all things, who loved them and gave them hope and blessings.

David also knew that he would not live to see the temple built. God had already told him that it was his son, Solomon, who would build the temple. But though he would never worship in the building, he felt it was important that he give to make this temple a reality. So he gave gold, silver, bronze and more. Then he cast the vision to the leaders of Israel, and he asked them to do their part. 1 Chronicles tells us what happened next: “Then the leaders of ancestral houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of the thousands and of the hundreds, and the officers over the king’s work.”

We’ve been going through this same process. In the last twelve months I invited our leaders to come together, to pray and invite God to guide them so that they might make their commitments in advance. I shared with them what LaVon and I were doing in this campaign, had others share, and then invited them to make commitments in preparation for this day, so that their leadership and commitment in this campaign would inspire you. Some of these were lead donors, some were staff and committed lay leaders of ministries. As of today 383 households have committed $43,004,506 towards our goal in this campaign of $60 million. These persons who have turned their commitments in early did so to say, “I believe this matters, and we can do this together!”

Notice what happened when the Israelites heard what their leaders had done: “The people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with single mind they had offered freely to the LORD.” The people were unified around this vision and inspired by the generosity of their leaders, and they gave what they had. David, seeing how the people were moved to generosity, began to pray saying: “Blessed are you, O LORD…I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you.” I love this line: that they offered freely and joyously. That is what I hope for you, as we prepare for our commitment weekend next week—that you might give willingly, and with singleness of mind, that you would give freely, sacrificially, and in this you might find great joy….

Let’s talk about how people give in a building campaign. Pledges can be paid over a period of three years. The pledge cannot be shifting money from your regular offerings to the building campaign. That robs Peter to pay Paul and leads to us having a building while laying off staff and shutting down programs. In a capital campaign people give over and above their regular giving—a special offering to a special cause. This is what the Israelites did. They still gave their tithes, but this was a special free-will offering.

We also don’t all give the same amount. By now some of you accountants have done the math. You’ve realized that we are $16,995,494 away from our goal of raising $60 million. If we expect 3,500 households to commit, and 383 have already done so, we hope another 3,117 will commit. When you divide that number into $16,995,494 you get an average commitment of $5,452.52 over a three-year period. That’s just $35 per week for the next 3 years. But that’s not how it works. When a single mom bringing home $2,000 per month after taxes and insurance makes a commitment for $140 per month, it is far more of a sacrifice than someone who makes $10,000 per month. This is why Jesus said: “To whom much is given, much more is expected.”

This reminds me of the moment in Luke’s gospel when Jesus was teaching in the temple courts. He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.” Interestingly, the offering she was giving was likely for the building and maintaining of the temple….

David says something in his prayer in 1 Chronicles I think is important for us to note. It captures several important truths about our giving and the spirit with which we give. Listen: “[Lord,] who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to make this freewill offering? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.…O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. I know, my God, that you search the heart, and take pleasure in uprightness.”

Biblical stewardship knows that all we have belongs to God, our capacity to generate wealth comes from God, and our lives are a gift from God. It happens when we recognize that our giving is a reflection of, and a means to, a heart God takes pleasure in.

 

For more detailed information about Resurrection’s 10,000 Reasons campaign, please visit future.cor.org. To view Pastor Hamilton’s sermon in its entirety, including much detailed information we do not have space for here, visit http://www.cor.org/sermons.

 

What is “generosity”?

For our purposes, we use the word generosity to refer to the virtue of giving good things to others freely and abundantly.

Generosity thus conceived is a learned character trait that involves both attitude and action—entailing as a virtue both an inclination or predilection to give liberally and an actual practice of giving liberally.

Generosity is therefore not a random idea or haphazard behavior but rather, in its mature form, a basic, personal, moral orientation to life. Furthermore, in a world of moral contrasts, generosity entails not only the moral good expressed but also many vices rejected (selfishness, greed, fear, meanness).

Generosity also involves giving to others not simply anything in abundance but rather giving those things that are good for others. Generosity always intends to enhance the true wellbeing of those to whom it gives.

What exactly generosity gives can be various things: money, possessions, time, attention, aid, encouragement, emotional availability, and more.

Generosity, to be clear, is not identical to pure altruism, since people can be authentically generous in part for reasons that serve their own interests as well as those of others. Indeed, insofar as generosity is a virtue, to practice it for the good of others also necessarily means that doing so achieves one’s own true, long–term good as well.

And so generosity, like all of the virtues, is in people’s genuine enlightened self-interest to learn and practice.

Source: http://generosityresearch.nd.edu/more-about-the-initiative/what-is-generosity/ (University of Notre Dame)

 

The wisdom of generosity

Generosity is freely sharing what you have with others. It is being willing to offer money, help or time when it is needed. To be generous means giving something that is valuable to you without expectation of reward or return. Many traditions measure generosity not by the size of the gift, but by what it cost the giver.

Sometimes generosity requires pushing past a feeling of reluctance because we all instinctively want to keep good things for ourselves. Even so, we can structure our lives in ways that make generosity more spontaneous and fun. When we intentionally “live below our means” and avoid over commitment, we cultivate a sense of bounty or surplus that makes us want to share. When we give, we reap the pleasure of knowing we have made someone else’s life a little happier.

Source: http://www.wisdomcommons.org/virtues/57-generosity

 

Final application:

This week prayerfully reflect on the idea of true generosity. During the week, strive to be as cheerfully generous as you can with everything at your disposal, in everything you do, for everyone you are with. Next week, share your experiences with the group.

 

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2.16.14 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

The Tabernacle, the Sanctuary, and the Tent of Meeting

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY

Exodus 25:1-9

The Bible makes it clear that God’s mission for God’s people is about human beings, not about building buildings. That said, God also knows that buildings shape and affect the ways in which we human beings perceive and interact with God. Even in the desolate setting of the Sinai desert, God had Israel build the Tabernacle, a lovely symbol that God was with them.

 

TUESDAY

1 Kings 8:1-13

King Solomon built a glorious Temple in God’s honor in Jerusalem. When the building was completed, the king led a solemn dedication, and commissioned the priests to bring into the Temple all of the sacred objects from the Tabernacle. God honored the newly built Temple by filling it with his glory.

 

WEDNESDAY

Ezra 1:5-7, Haggai 1:1-8, Ezra 6:13-18

After almost 70 years of exile, the Persian king Cyrus allowed Israel to return to Jerusalem. With a firm “nudge” from God through the prophet Haggai, the once-complacent Israelites set out to rebuild God’s house in Jerusalem. It took nearly 20 years, through many challenges and opposition. But rebuilding God’s temple mattered to the Israelites, who persevered through the hardships to complete the work God called them to.

 

THURSDAY

Luke 2:43-49

Jesus’ parents, understandably, experienced profound alarm when their 12-year-old son was missing. But when they found him, he didn’t seem alarmed, but seemed to be feeling quite at home in the Temple. Though he continued to respect and honor his earthly parents, he called the Temple “my Father’s house,” and said it was “necessary” for him to be there.

 

FRIDAY

John 2:13-21

The adult Jesus was angered to see the Temple reduced to a device for moneymaking. (Note: Matthew, Mark and Luke all place this incident in the final week of Jesus’ life. John put it at the start of his story, probably because he saw in it a keynote of Jesus’ mission to restore true worship.) Jesus’ passion for a proper use of the Temple reminded his disciples of Psalm 69:9, a poem about passion for God’s house.

 

SATURDAY

Acts 5:12-14, 1 Peter 2:1-10

The very first Christian community in Jerusalem, perhaps surprisingly, used the Temple as a worship and prayer center. Despite the tragedy of Jesus’ rejection and crucifixion, they still found it a good place to meet with God and one another. God worked through that building, and many others in history, as tools to transform human lives into the kind of spiritual temple Peter described.

 

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

 

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Dear God, mold us into faithful followers. Guide us as we seek to live lives of mercy, grace and forgiveness. Renew our passion for you, with open hands and grateful and generous hearts toward others. Prepare us to offer our very best—for your sake. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

Have you ever visited other churches and compared their various approaches to design and decoration? What seems fairly common and what seems somewhat unusual in their physical appearances? What aspects appeal most to you?

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.

 Read Exodus 25:1-9. God created all things in heaven and Earth, so why did he ask the people to donate things for the tabernacle, rather than providing them himself? Have you ever felt God asking you to do something similar? Was the tabernacle to be built for God or for the people? Can a “tabernacle” change the way the people relate to and interact with God? Do people tend to need physical symbols that God is with them, protecting them and providing for them?

 Read 1 Kings 8:1-13. When the great Temple was completed, the sacred objects were transferred from the portable Tabernacle and the new Temple was dedicated. What does it mean to dedicate any building? What does it mean to dedicate a place of worship? God filled the Temple with his presence. Was this the only place in which God existed? Was God pleased with the Temple? Why? The Temple was ornate and expensive to build. Is that “proper” given all the needs in the world? Is that always required for a place of worship?

 Read Ezra 1:5-7, Haggai 1:1-8, Ezra 6:13-18. The Babylonians invaded the Promised Land, destroyed the Temple and exiled the Israelites for decades. When that time ended, God called for the Temple to be rebuilt. Why did the rebuilding matter to the Israelites? Was this massive project the work of a single construction crew and a handful of rich donors, or did many others need to be involved? How did people get involved in the project? How can you build or rebuild a “temple” in which you spend time with God?

 Read Luke 2:43-49. The young Jesus was quite at home in his Father’s house. Do you feel at home in your local church? Do you feel God’s presence there? Can you feel at home in other churches? What can you do to make your church feel even more “special”? Does it seem more special when you are there worshipping with others? What is it that seems to make our fellowship and worship together so powerful?

 Read John 2:13-21. Jesus felt passionately about the holiness of his Father’s house and chastised those who had abused it by allowing money-making to interfere with worship. Should worship be the primary purpose of your church? Must “pure worship” be the only allowable use of our sacred buildings? How can some other activities like youth activities and fellowship dinners enhance our faith experience? In what ways can you emulate Jesus’ passion for keeping God’s worship primary in all of your church’s activities?

 Read Acts 5:12-14, 1 Peter 2:1-10. As a believer in the salvation offered by Jesus Christ, do you feel like a holy, chosen people, a “royal priesthood”? Does being in “God’s House” make you feel a bit more like that? Does fellowship with other believers make you feel more like that? In what ways might God be making you and all of us into a “living Temple”? Does God live in that Temple?

 

From last week: Did you reflect prayerfully on how you can discern and embrace God’s vision for your life and your church community? Did you do something to live out God’s plan (e.g. serving others, praying for those in need, telling others what Christ means to you, offering a special donation to God’s work, being especially thoughtful and kind, etc.)? Please share your experiences with the group.

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, February 16, 2014:

I’d like to begin with a little history lesson. In the time of Jesus there were two distinct places Jews gathered to worship and grow in their faith: The Temple in Jerusalem and the synagogue in their local community. The temple was called BEIT YAHWEH, the House of the Lord. The synagogue was called, in Hebrew, BEIT KNESSETT—the house of the assembly.

Jews met weekly, and often daily, in their synagogue to pray, to study and discuss scripture, to fellowship with, and care for, one another. This was the house of the congregation and could be used for all kinds of events. But they would also regularly make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and there they would enter the temple courts with thanksgiving and praise, and they would make their sacrifices to God, seek his pardon, seek God’s will, and honor God. This was the House of God.

Christian churches serve both roles; they are the House of the Lord and the House of the Congregation. We have fellowship halls, classrooms, foyers, and even to some degrees our worship spaces are about serving as the house of the congregation, providing for the functions of the synagogue. But we also build sanctuaries that serve the function of the Lord’s House.

Our future Vibe worship space will serve double duty as a fellowship hall—it will be the best of what a synagogue was in the time of Jesus—worship and gathering space. Our new sanctuary will also serve both purposes, but with a stronger emphasis on worship. Yet the fellowship and community building dimension is not lost. This is why in our new sanctuary we are bringing everyone as close together as possible, and creating smaller sections aimed at fostering a deeper sense of community….

Most churches today build functional spaces that serve as fine houses for the church. What is often forgotten is the idea that the church is also meant to be the House of the LORD. They build the synagogue but forget the sanctuary. Let’s look at what the Bible teaches about the sanctuary, the house of the LORD, and how that should shape our thinking about our permanent sanctuary.

In our scripture text God has just delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. They are now camped out at Mt. Sinai in the desert. God has just given Moses the Ten Commandments and many other laws to govern the people. It is here, before the Israelites begin their journey towards the Promised Land that God gives this command: “The Lord said to Moses: ‘Tell the Israelites to take for me an offering; from all whose hearts prompt them to give you shall receive the offering for me…And have them make me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them. In accordance with all that I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.’”

There are two words used here to describe this building God was commanding Moses to build. God said: “Have them make me a SANCTUARY.” Then God called this same building a TABERNACLE. This story is very important, as are these words. God commands the Israelites to build a building, a place, for worship. These words describe, in part, the purpose of this place.

Let’s consider the meaning of these two words. The word “sanctuary” is, in Hebrew, mikdash which means a sacred or holy place. The Jews considered this sanctuary, and later the temple, to be a thin space where heaven and earth meet. Its materials and design were meant to evoke mystery, reverence and awe. Later, when the temple was built as Israel’s first permanent sanctuary, it too was designed to inspire awe and wonder as the Israelites approached it, and all around it were symbols and signs of God’s glory.

Through the centuries churches building sanctuaries sought to capture this by the use of light, and vaulted ceilings, and arches, and candles and stained glass and sometimes nature that were meant to usher people into the presence of God. The longest continuously used church in the world, The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, was first built in 327, and today’s structure was built in 565, being used continuously for the last 1,450 years. It has natural light, a high vaulted ceiling, and the building tells the story of the birth of Christ. There is something about it that leads to silence, and to mystery and awe. A sanctuary is a thin space, a holy place, a sacred place.

Let’s consider the second term used in this passage to describe the place God instructed Moses to build: it was called the Tabernacle. The Hebrew word for Tabernacle (mishkawn) means dwelling place or house. Listen once more to God’s command to Moses in Exodus: “Make me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them.” God, whose glory fills the cosmos, had a house on earth built for him. Did God need this? Of course not—God doesn’t need a house. So why did God ask Moses to build him a house? Because his house, the tabernacle, would be a visible reminder that God was with his people, in their midst….

In the same way our new sanctuary will serve as a tabernacle, a house of God, a visible reminder that God is in our midst, in this community, so that as you drive by, by day or by night, and you see this building it is meant to be for you a reminder, and for your friends a visible witness that God is, and that God may be found here in his house.

There was one last name given to the portable sanctuary that God instructed Moses to build. It was called the Tent of Meeting. In Hebrew the word for meeting (Mo-ed) carried with it the idea of a designated place that God had set apart for his people to come to meet with him, to offer their praise, make their petitions, ask for his forgiveness and enquire of his will.

Sacrifices, offerings, prayers, songs of praise all happened there. And people encountered God as they came to his tent. In the same way our new sanctuary is meant to be our “tent of meeting” where we will come to offer praise, sacrifices, to receive healing and forgiveness and direction for our lives.

 

For more detailed information about Resurrection’s 10,000 Reasons campaign, please visit future.cor.org. To view Pastor Hamilton’s sermon in its entirety, including much detailed information we do not have space for here, visit http://www.cor.org/sermons.

 

Solomon’s Temple – Interesting Facts

Note: Facts concerning Solomon’s Temple are reportedly difficult to verify historically due to the timeframe and the ravages of the recurring occupation of the area by the armies of Babylon, Persia, Rome, etc.

Solomon’s Temple may not have actually been the first temple which housed the Ark of the Covenant, since there was a house of Yahweh, also called a temple, at Shiloh (northern kingdom).

David wanted to build the Temple but was forbidden by God.

David gave Solomon the architectural design for the temple.

David accumulated many of the treasures and building materials for the building of the temple.

Solomon began construction of the Temple 490 years after Israel came out of Egypt.

The Temple site was located on Mount Moriah where Abraham had offered Isaac.

The temple was built of great stones, cedar beams and boards overlaid with gold.

The construction took 7 years, completed about 1,000 BCE.

At the dedication, Solomon offered; 220,000 oxen, 120,000 sheep, a 14 day feast was held.

The temple was built by: 30,000 Israelites, 150,000 Canaanites, Phoenician artists and Craftsmen from Tyre.

Furniture: Golden Altar of Incense, 10 Large golden candlesticks, 10 Tables, Bronze altar, 30 feet by 15 feet, and

The Brazen Laver (called a “sea”), 15 feet in diameter, 8 feet deep, and sat on 12 bronze oxen.

Included: Several tons of gold, silver, bronze and precious stones.

Cost in today’s dollars is virtually incalculable, but are estimated at in excess of $174 billion.

Duration: Lasted nearly 400 years until its destruction by the invading Babylonians in about 586 BCE.

It was replaced in about 515 BCE, and enlarged by Herod, so that the Temple in Jesus’ day was about the same size.

Herod’s Temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.

The Islamic Dome of the Rock mosque is located on the temple mount.

According to some Islamic scholars, though not all, the mosque is on the spot from which Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven accompanied by the angel Gabriel.

Source: Various, including Holman Bible Dictionary

 

Final application:

This week prayerfully reflect on how worship is a gift, not a difficult duty. Remember that worship can and should take place during the week as well as on the weekend. Consider ways in which you can worship God every day, capping the week off by being able to worship freely with your fellow believers. Next week, share your experiences with the group.

 

2.9.14 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

Come Dream With Us

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY

Joel 2:23-28

Israel had faced a ruinous locust plague. The prophet Joel saw that as God’s judgment on a nation that had lost its moral compass (cf. Joel 2:1-2). But, like most of the Old Testament prophets, he did not believe that judgment was God’s final word. He promised that God would restore the land with good crops. Even more important, he said God would energize and renew them with an outpouring of spiritual vision on old and young alike.

 

TUESDAY

Genesis 28:10-21

Fleeing his angry brother Esau (cf. Genesis 27:41), Jacob stopped at what the text just calls “a certain place” to sleep. Alone in the wild, with only a stone for a pillow, he had a dream that gave him an awed sense of God’s life-changing presence. When he awoke, he worshipped, and then named the place Beth El (Hebrew “God’s house”).

 

WEDNESDAY

Acts 16:6-15

Today’s reading reports an incident that took place during the Apostle Paul’s second missionary journey. On his first journey, he had planted churches in Asia Minor, and now planned to visit them. But God had a different idea. Paul’s vision of a man calling “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” changed his direction and expanded the early church’s reach by sending him into Greece to preach the gospel in Europe.

 

THURSDAY

Acts 26:9-20

As an apostle and church planter, Paul committed himself to spreading the message of Christ no matter the costs (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 for a list of the hardships Paul faced). As a prisoner, Paul showed the same resolve and commitment. He told King Agrippa and the Roman governor Festus about meeting Jesus on the Damascus road. He had not been (and would not be) disobedient to that vision, he declared, regardless of the cost.

 

FRIDAY

Ezekiel 40:1-4, 43:1-7, 47:6-12, 48:35

The prophet Ezekiel lived in exile in Babylon along with many other Israelites. In that time, which must have felt hopeless, he had a series of visions of hope. In Ezekiel 37, he recorded the famous vision of God bringing a valley of dry bones back to life. Today’s reading gives portions of a lengthy vision, which showed God restoring Israel’s temple and people. The key to restoration came at the very end: “The name of the city is ‘The Lord Is There.’”

 

SATURDAY

Revelation 21:1-6, 22:1-5

Placed at the end of the Bible’s sweeping story, the book of Revelation combined disturbing images of the wickedness of the Roman Empire with glorious pictures of the wholeness and beauty God plans for humans. In the book’s concluding chapters, Christians find our ultimate vision and life destination: “God’s dwelling is here with humankind.”

 

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

 

SUGGESTED PRAYER

God of all creation, make us useful in your redemptive work in this world and use us to help your will be done, so that your Kingdom might come soon. Give us charity toward others and the grace to be merciful. Fill us with the insight, faith and courage to see and obey your vision for our lives and our world, so that we might become treads in your stairway to heaven. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

Do you know or know of visionaries who seem to have achieved things others would never have dreamed possible? Can even small achievements be described as visionary? What are the characteristics of visionaries?

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.

 Read Joel 2:23-28. The prophet Joel viewed the plague of locusts that hit Israel as a punishment God sent because of Israel’s unfaithfulness. How would you go about deciding if a bad thing that happened to you is a punishment, or just one of the bad things that happen in a broken world? From your personal experience, which seems more prevalent, God’s punishments or blessings? Do you believe that, for you personally, God provides more blessings or more punishments? In what ways does the vision and teachings of your church home affect your vision of how God is involved in your life?

 Read Genesis 28:10-21. Jacob felt God’s presence and named the place Beth El (Hebrew “God’s house”). Did he mean that the rocks and sand at that place were different from other rocky, sandy areas? What makes a place holy? What makes us sense God’s presence in that place? Has God provided a holy place for you, a place where you worship and feel God’s presence? What role, if any, does the appearance of the place play in our feeling of oneness with God? What kinds of settings draw you closer to God? Does worshiping with others heighten your sense of a place’s holiness?

 Read Acts 16:6-15. Paul felt called by God to go to certain places. Have you ever had an experience like that? Have you ever felt called by God to attend church services when you might have wanted to do something else? Do you think your local church is standing on ground God intended it to be on, or is its location merely chance? What kinds of ripple effects can a church’s location have on the rest of the community? Lydia offered her own home for ministry. What can you offer, large or small, for furthering God’s work in your community?

 Read Acts 26:9-20. Clearly Paul experienced a major change in his life. What changes has God brought about in your life? Do you think that it was easy for Paul to change directions? Is it easy for you to make and adjust to Godly changes in your life? God presented Paul with a vision, and Paul was absolutely committed to it. Do you feel God has given you a sense of his vision for your life? Do you feel committed to God’s vision? Why? Can you think of any reasons why some of us might want to avoid seeing God’s vision for our life? What can you do to invite God to clarify his vision for you?

 Read Ezekiel 40:1-4, 43:1-7, 47:6-12, 48:35. The Hebrew people felt despair, living in exile in Babylon, their temple in Jerusalem destroyed. Ezekiel then received a vision from God offering hope, promising a new temple and a restored way of life. When have you faced feelings of hopelessness, regret or despair? What helped you to move beyond those feelings and find renewed hope and courage? The vision of the river was a symbolic picture of God’s life-giving power. What has fed your vision of what God’s power can do in and through your life?

 Read Revelation 21:1-6, 22:1-5. The Bible ends with a vision of God’s complete restoration of everything we have come to know. Have you ever been involved in restoring or reviving something—a piece of furniture, a building, a plant or animal? What was that experience like? What images come to your mind when you think of restoration and wholeness? Have you ever offered the “water of life” or been the “presence of God” to ease pain, bring healing or make things right? What was that like?

From last week: Did you prayerfully consider how you could live your life more like Jesus? Did you search for Bible verses that describe his nature, his attitudes and his words? Did you do your best to think and act more like him? Please share with the group whatever you experienced and whether anyone seemed to notice this change in you, without you having said anything about it.

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, February 9, 2014:

I’d like us to think together about the power and importance of having and following visions and dreams. I’ve titled this sermon, “Come Dream With Us!” This was our invitation for the first thirteen years as a church. This theme was not just a marketing slogan. It represents what we believe happens when the Holy Spirit begins working in our lives, and it was an invitation for us to dream together about how we might be the church.

Our scripture today takes place seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection. The disciples are in Jerusalem celebrating the Jewish feast of Pentecost or, as it is called in Hebrew, Shavuot (shah-voo-oat)—the celebration of the giving of the Law and the spring harvest. There were 120 followers of Jesus praying together in the Upper Room where Jesus had, just 8 weeks earlier, shared the Last Supper. While they were praying there was a sound of a violent wind, and then what appeared to be flames of fire around the room. Soon these 120 were all filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in languages they had not hitherto known. They were filled with power, courage and boldness. They began spilling out into the streets preaching and “declaring the wonders of God.”

Soon a crowd gathered, and Peter began to preach. For his scripture text he read Joel 2:28, a prophetic word he said was fulfilled that very day: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” Peter noted that this was precisely what was happening on that day. The Spirit was poured out, and men and women were moved by the Spirit to declare the wonders of God, and to have dreams and visions. The words, dreams and visions, in the scripture had to do with God-revealed plans and purposes.

I want us to ponder for a moment this idea of visions and dreams from God. Some people are by nature visionaries and dreamers. They can see in their mind’s eye things that don’t yet exist, things others can’t see. They are energized by dreaming about the future, finding ways to solve problems and meet needs. Others don’t have those gifts. A friend told me recently, “I don’t feel like I often have dreams or visions, but when I hear someone else sharing a dream or vision of what God wants to do I find myself excited and energized as I give myself to accomplish it.” This is how it works for most of us at times. Someone else might see God’s vision or dream God’s dreams, but they share that with you and you find yourself excited.

I believe churches should be places where, as on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is giving visions and dreams. I like the idea of the church as a “dream factory,” a place that encourages dreams and visions, where the Spirit is at work in people’s hearts, and that rallies people around God-sized visions and dreams. I believe that happens here all the time….

This place is a dream factory. It is a place where we meet Christ, where the center of our lives changes. Where the Holy Spirit is speaking each week and sparking dreams, and when people have dreams others say, “Yes! I want to do that!” I want to ask you, are you paying attention? This is a place where the Holy Spirit is at work, where God gives visions and dreams! Our souls need vision, like we need air to breathe. Visions give us something to live for, hope and meaning, purpose and joy….

Twenty-three years ago next month 90 people became charter members of the Church of the Resurrection. We were meeting in a funeral home chapel with no buildings, one pastor and a part time music leader. We had nothing but dreams and visions. Our vision was that God would use us to reach people other churches were not reaching, to help them become followers of Jesus Christ and to call, equip and inspire these people—you—to take their faith to the streets, to serve the poor, to life a life of mercy and compassion. And, as ridiculous as it seemed back in 1991 when we had only 90 members, we believed God was going to use us to work for the renewal of the United Methodist Church….

In 1993, when we broke ground on the building that is today the Wesley Chapel, we had 250 households. In the twenty years since, we grew to 7,100 households—20,000 adults and children, 13,000 of whom were not actively involved in church before coming here. Twenty years ago, no one had heard of Church of the Resurrection. In the twenty years since you became the largest church in our denomination and you’ve been named the most influential mainline church in America, with thousands of churches using your ideas and resources. In 1993 you gave $49,000 to missions. Last year alone you gave away $4.7 million to missions and ministries outside the walls of the church, and you are the largest source of blood, canned goods, school supplies and volunteers in mission in the Kansas City area. What role did having the right buildings play in that?

Here’s where we are today: We have a campus that is not complete….

This building project is not about building a nice building for us, but about having the right tools for generations to come, tools that will help us change lives, transform communities and renew churches….These new and renovated buildings will be our Upper Room. It is where we, and future generations, will meet together to pray and seek God, and where the Spirit works so powerfully in classrooms, nurseries, narthex, missions spaces and worship spaces, so that our young men and women prophecy, our young people have visions and our older adults have dreams.

For more detailed information about Resurrection’s 10,000 Reasons campaign, please visit future.cor.org. To view Pastor Hamilton’s sermon in its entirety, including much detailed information we do not have space for here, visit http://www.cor.org/sermons.

 

What does “a revelation of God” really mean?

1. A surprising and previously unknown fact, esp. one that is made known in a dramatic way.

2. The divine or supernatural disclosure to humans of something relating to human existence or the world.

The content and process of God’s making Himself known to people. All knowledge of God comes by way of revelation. Human knowledge of God is revealed knowledge since God, and he alone, gives it. He bridges the gap between himself and his creatures, disclosing himself and his will to them. By God alone can God be known.

Modern thought often questions the possibility and/or reality of revelation. Biblical faith affirms revelation is real because the personal Creator God has chosen to let his human creatures know him. The question remains, “How can a person know God?” The Bible appears to distinguish two ways of knowing God, general and special revelation.

Biblical emphasis points to Jesus Christ as God’s final revelation. God has provided ongoing generations of believers a source of knowledge about himself and his Son. That source is the Bible.

The word revelation means an uncovering, a removal of the veil, a disclosure of what was previously unknown. Revelation of God is God’s manifestation of himself to humankind in such a way that men and women can know and fellowship with him.

General Revelation: Ever since God created the world, his invisible qualities both his eternal power and his divine nature, have been clearly seen; they are perceived in the things that God has made. We can rephrase these observations to say that all that can be known about God in a natural sense has been revealed in nature. This is what we call natural or general revelation. General revelation is universal in the sense that it is God’s self-disclosure of Himself in a general way to all people at all times in all places. General revelation occurs through (1) nature, (2) in our experience and in our conscience, and (3) in history.

Special Revelation: In contrast to God’s general revelation which is available to all people, God’s special revelation is available to specific people at specific times in specific places. He chooses to whom and through whom He will make Himself known. God manifests himself in a particular manner to his people so they will be a channel of blessing to all others. Through calling people, miracles, the Exodus, covenant making, and ultimately through Jesus Christ, God has revealed Himself in history.

Much more at the source: http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T5333 (Holman Bible Dictionary)

 

Final application:

This week reflect prayerfully on how you can discern and embrace God’s vision for your life and your church community. Do something to live out God’s plan (e.g. serving others, praying for those in need, telling others what Christ means to you, offering a special donation to God’s work, being especially thoughtful and kind, etc.) Next week, share your experiences with the group.

2.2.14 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

Who Do You Say That I Am?

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY

Matthew 28:1-15

Having set down Jesus’ prediction that he would rise after three days (cf. Matthew 16:21), we might expect Matthew to write words like, “On the third day the disciples gathered to greet the risen Lord.” Not even close! He wrote, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the tomb,” when no one in Matthew’s day would invent women as reliable witnesses. These very real women he wrote about felt “great fear and excitement,” a natural reaction to an unexpected encounter with the supernatural.

 

TUESDAY

John 20:19-29

The disciples, crippled with shock and grief, were in hiding after Jesus’ death. They feared the Roman authorities would come for them next, and they thought Jesus’ mission had died with him on the cross. Then the resurrected Jesus appeared to them, and commissioned them to continue his work. Jesus encouraged all of his followers to believe in him even when they can’t physically see him.

 

WEDNESDAY

Philippians 2:5-11

It did not take centuries for Christians to begin speaking of Jesus as God. Philippians used a Christian hymn from the year 40 A.D. or so that called Jesus “Lord.” Surprisingly, that hymn quoted words from Isaiah 45:23-25 (where they were about Israel’s God). Scholar Larry Hurtado wrote, “In historical terms we may refer to a veritable ‘big bang,’ an explosively rapid and impressively substantial Christological development in the earliest stage of the Christian movement.”

 

THURSDAY

Colossians 1:15-22

The letter to the Colossians incorporated another early Christian hymn in praise of Jesus. Again, this is clearly a first-century document, not some later formulation by a church council. Like other first-century Christian writing, these verses did not seek to explain the mystery that Jesus was divine. They just stated it as the reality Paul and the early believers said was transforming their lives.

 

FRIDAY

2 Peter 1:12-18

In Peter’s day, as in ours, skeptics said the stories about Jesus were made up. Peter directly refuted that idea, vowing that no one dreamed up the story of Jesus. Instead, he’d seen it! Scholar C. H. Dodd wrote, “The Resurrection of Jesus is not a belief that grew up within the church; it is the belief around which the church itself grew up, and the ‘given’ upon which its faith was based.”

 

SATURDAY

Matthew 16:13-17

When Jesus walked on earth, there were many opinions about him. The disciples’ answer to his question (“Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets”) was actually softened. They knew that some hated Jesus and bitterly opposed his message. Though holding it would be costly, Peter stated his conviction: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” We’ve read what first-century witnesses said. The question is now addressed to us in the twenty-first century.

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

 

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Lord Jesus, as we live in a world of skepticism and materialism, help us grow in our capacity to believe you, obey you and tell others about you. Help us to immerse ourselves in the living water of your word. Fill us with your grace and power so that we might fully believe and trust your living presence in our lives. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

Do you believe in the supernatural? Why or why not? Do you believe that supernatural events have and do happen in our lives?

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.

• Read Matthew 28:1-15. Do you believe Jesus rose from the dead? Why or why not? If you had been there, would you, like the women, have been afraid? Would you have been excited? What could God do today that might make you afraid or excited? What role does the empty tomb play in this story? What role does it play in your faith? Why would the chief priests have paid the guards to lie rather than simply accepting the reality of a risen Messiah? What role does our ego play in our own misdeeds?

• Read John 20:19-29. In what way are the disciples our representatives in this story? Has the story of Thomas’ doubts helped you in any way with any struggles in your own faith? How does the story of Thomas help new believers today? Do you sense and believe that God is actively working in your life even though you can’t prove it? Thomas referred to Jesus as “My Lord and my God!” To you, is there any difference between these two words, or do you “lump them together”?

• Read Philippians 2:5-11. The Common English Version translates verse 6 by saying about Jesus, “Though he was in the form of God…” What does this mean to you? Jesus elected to give up his divine rights and powers. In your own words, what would you say God did for us in Jesus? Last week Pastor Hamilton reviewed views of the cross the stress Jesus as our substitute, taking our place; as our example, showing us how to live and love; and as the victor over the forces of evil and death. There are other images in Scripture, too (e.g. adoption into God’s family, ransoming us from what holds us captive). Which of those means the most to you as you think about what Jesus did for you on the cross? In these verses, do you sense any rivalry between the Father and the Son? What can this teach us and our world?

• Read Colossians 1:15-22. What actions and qualities of Jesus does this hymn name? Which of them mean the most to your spiritual journey? Which of them would you like to understand better? This passage said, “Once you were alienated from God and you were enemies with him in your minds, which was shown by your evil actions. But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death.” Can you relate to and accept that you were willfully alienated from God as a result of your thoughts and deeds? In what ways has Jesus changed you, and drawn you closer to God?

• Read 2 Peter 1:12-18. These verses clearly suggest that skeptics were claiming the stories about Jesus were made up. Peter denied this saying that he and other disciples witnessed these supernatural things first hand. Are God and his supernatural ways too incredible for you to believe? What has shaped your view of the possibility of God acting in supernatural ways in our world? Is your mind open to all the miraculous events of Christ’s life? Why did Peter say, “I’m eager for you always to remember these things after my death”?

• Read Matthew 16:13-17. What do you make of Jesus referring to himself as “the Son of Man“(some recent translations use the term “the Human One”)? (After answering, you may want to read the material in the Additional Insights section, below.) Who do you say Jesus is? What makes you believe so?

From last week: Did you prayerfully consider how you could help others receive the peace of Christ’s saving grace? Did you do something like praying for them, or doing a kind deed for them? Were you careful not to be intrusive or off-putting? Please share any experiences you had.

 

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, February 2, 2014:

Last week we studied Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus died on what we now call Good Friday….That should have been the end of the story of Jesus of Nazareth. The Romans crucified tens of thousands of Jews. In the 100 years surrounding the birth of Jesus there were more than a dozen would-be Messiah’s the Romans put to death. All of them stayed very dead. But in Jesus’ case, the gospels report that when Sunday morning came, several women went to the tomb and found the stone had been rolled away….

When someone tells me they struggle to believe the resurrection I remind them that they are in good company. The women did not believe until they saw Christ. The disciples did not believe the women when they said he was alive. Thomas didn’t believe the disciples when they told him this. Paul the apostle did not believe at first and went so far as to persecute and even sanction the death of Christians until one day when he had an encounter with the risen Jesus.

Let’s take just a moment to talk about the “case” for the resurrection of Christ:

1. The Empty Tomb. When the women and disciples came to the tomb on Sunday, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty. Something happened—Jesus’ body was missing. Either the disciples stole his body, someone came to desecrate his body, or he was raised. If he had not been raised, the easiest way to demonstrate that was for his opponents to produce his body.

2. The “Sightings” of Jesus. The disciples claimed to have seen Jesus alive, raised from the dead. They claimed to have seen him, touched him, eaten with him, spoken to him. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15, between the year 55 and 65, about the sightings of Jesus, saying, in effect, “Listen, there are hundreds of these folks who saw him—they live in Judea. I’ve spoken to them!”

3. The Impact On the Disciples. The fact that each of the disciples went on to preach that Christ was raised, even though this meant imprisonment, torture and in most cases death, is seen as evidence of their personal belief that Jesus was in fact raised. The birth of the church—the fact that within weeks of Jesus resurrection, the disciples were proclaiming Christ’s resurrection, and that Jesus was unlike any other messianic figure, and that there were even priests in Jerusalem who came to believe their testimony—is witness to the resurrection of Christ. Paul, the man who was arresting and persecuting Christians, became one himself after a vision in which he heard the voice of Jesus. He became a vocal proponent of Christ, convinced he had met the risen Lord. He would be persecuted, imprisoned, beaten, and finally beheaded for this faith.

4. The inherent logic of the resurrection. I came to believe in the resurrection by reading the gospels. I read Matthew, but when I came to the resurrection I did not believe it. I read Mark, and when I came to the empty tomb I thought, “I wish the story ended that way, but I don’t believe it.” Then I read Luke, and now I thought, “If God sent Jesus, and he came to proclaim God’s kingdom and to show the human race who God is and what God’s will is for us, how could this story end any other way?” If Christ had been tortured and killed and left in the tomb, it seemed to me, then evil, hate, sin and death had the final word. They won. The resurrection seemed to me to be God’s response—Christ is risen, victor over evil, hate, sin and even death.

This week I sat with a member of our congregation who is dying. What I loved was her hope, her smile, her ability to laugh. She did not want to die, but knowing she was going to die she said, “I can’t wait to see what is on the other side.” She not only believes in the resurrection, she’s counting on it—which is far different from someone in her same circumstances who lives without hope.

It is impossible to prove the resurrection. I can show reasons to believe in this unbelievable event, but we each must decide whether we trust it or not. If you struggle to accept the resurrection literally, perhaps you can see it as others who struggled finally accepted it—a vision of the risen Christ, an awareness that his life, his message, his kingdom, did not end with his death, but continues. As for me, I believe the tomb was empty, and Jesus was literally raised. I not only believe it, I’m counting on it.

This leads me to another question often asked about Jesus: Was he divine? That is, was he God come in human flesh, what does that mean and why does it matter? The official orthodox Christian position is that Jesus was, according to the Nicene Creed of AD 325, “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.”…

The New Testament was written 225 to 275 years before the Council of Nicea, just decades after the death of Jesus. Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians sometime between 52 and 62, and said: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.”…In Colossians, Paul, or a later follower of Paul, wrote: “In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” This picks up the same idea–that Jesus embodied the fullness of God, the essence, the character, the heart and will of God. Throughout the gospels and letters we find phrases used in the Old Testament concerning God applied to Jesus. The Gospel of John begins with these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” (John 1:1, 14).

I value the creeds, but sometimes wonder if our quest for precise formulations has led us to say more than we humans can know about the mystery of the incarnation. The older I get the more convinced I am that God does not give us certainty, but asks us to trust in mystery. Here’s what I know and believe: That Jesus’ mission was to draw people to God, to heal and redeem this world and to call people to the good news of the Kingdom of God. He embodied and put flesh on God’s heart, compassion, will, character and love. He is the clearest picture of who God is and what God is like. He is Emmanuel, God with us….

I love this man Jesus. I don’t fully understand him. But I believe in him and seek to follow him. The best part of my life has come as a result of my decision to trust and follow him. I speak to him each day. I read his story and his teachings and try to live them. I trust that his mercy on the cross was to save me from my sin and from myself. I count on the hope of the resurrection. His story is my defining story. We started this church 24 years ago to invite others to become his followers. Today, I invite you to become his follower. It is very simple. Christ invites you, “Will you be my disciple? Will you trust me as your Savior? Will you follow me as your Lord?” The decision to become a Christian is covered in one three letter word, “Yes.” I wonder if you might say yes to him today?

 

“What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of Man?”

Jesus is referred to as the “Son of Man” 88 times in the New Testament. A first meaning of the phrase “Son of Man” is as a reference to the prophecy of Daniel 7:13-14, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” The description “Son of Man” was a Messianic title. Jesus is the One who was given dominion and glory and a kingdom. When Jesus used this phrase, He was assigning the Son of Man prophecy to Himself. The Jews of that era would have been intimately familiar with the phrase and to whom it referred. Jesus was proclaiming Himself as the Messiah.

A second meaning of the phrase “Son of Man” is that Jesus was truly a human being. God called the prophet Ezekiel “son of man” 93 times. God was simply calling Ezekiel a human being. A son of a man is a man. Jesus was fully God (John 1:1), but He was also a human being (John 1:14). First John 4:2 tells us, “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” Yes, Jesus was the Son of God—He was in His essence God. Yes, Jesus was also the Son of Man—He was in His essence a human being. In summary, the phrase “Son of Man” indicates that Jesus is the Messiah and that He is truly a human being.

Source: http://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-Son-of-Man.html

Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-Son-of-Man.html#ixzz2s6HIMDyh

To read about why the Common English Bible translated the Greek title “Son of Man” as “the Human One,” (hint: it was NOT to deny Jesus’ divinity!), go to:

http://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2011/08/son-of-man-or-human-one-tough-translation-questions-raised-by-the-common-english-bible/

 

Final application:

This week prayerfully consider how you can live your life more like Jesus. Search for Bible verses that describe his nature, his attitudes and his words. Do your best to think and act more like him. Next week, share with the group whatever you experienced and whether anyone seemed to notice without your saying anything.