February 29, 2012

Matthew 6:25-34

February 28, 2012

Matthew 6:19-21, 24

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (NIV)

Think about the connection of "treasure" and "your heart" for a moment. I wonder if the two can ever be disconnected or if they always go together. I find myself leaning toward the always go together idea. Even if you flip the statement around, "for where your heart is, there your treasure will be," it still makes sense to me. Your heart will be with your treasure, and of course vice versa. Think about it. Agree or disagree? Either way the question we must ask ourselves daily: What is it we treasure?

What do you find meaningful, confusing, or challenging in this passage? 

February 27, 2012

Matthew 6:5-15

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
   9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
   “‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
   on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
   as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
   but deliver us from the evil one.

   14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (NIV)

I have to admit, I'm not always very good at praying. I don't feel as though it's the quality of my prayers but rather the quantity of them. I don't think I pray enough. I'm going to establish a goal to pray at least 3x a day for the remainder of Lent and see what happens. What about you, what kinds of things come to mind when you think about prayer?

What do you find meaningful, confusing, or challenging in this passage? 

February 25, 2012

Matthew 5:43-48

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NIV)

Talk about a tough teaching. Not only are we told to love our enemies but pray for them as well? Then Jesus goes on to say that loving the people that are easy to love (or just like us) is not something we should pat ourselves on the back for. Instead he is challenging us to love the ones we might find most unlovable. Then he caps it all off with the one line zinger about "being perfect." I can't help but think about Wesley's idea of "going on to perfection." What does that look like to you?

What do you find meaningful, confusing, or challenging in this passage?

February 24, 2012

Matthew 5:38-42

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (NIV)

At one point there was a teaching that said it was fine to determine your own justice, to do unto others as they have done unto you. Jesus shows up and says, "not so much" (my paraphrase). Turning the other cheek is rarely ever an easy thing to do. What sort of experiences have you had when turning the other cheek? What do you think it means when Jesus tells us to go the second mile?

What do you find meaningful, confusing, or challenging in this passage?

February 23, 2012

Matthew 5:14-16

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (NIV)

 The Christian faith was never intended to be a solely private thing. We must live our theology publicly, not simply to model what it means to be a disciple but as a way to engage people in the story of the Gospel. What is significant about this story is that it is not about how great or perfect we are but rather quite the opposite and yet God extends Himself to us through His Son. Our "good deeds" are not the result of us being good people but God's grace working in us and through us. So, the question becomes, how are you lighting the lives of those around you?

What do you find meaningful, confusing, or challenging in this passage?

February 22, 2012

Matthew 5:1-11

1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.

The Beatitudes
    He said:    3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
   for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
   for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
   for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
   for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
   for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
   for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

   11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (NIV)

The beginning of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount brings us the Beatitudes. I've always found the Beatitudes to be really interesting and sometimes confusing. The meek and the poor in spirit were two that made me wonder how they would inherit the earth and the kingdom of heaven but the more time I spent with this passage, the more I began to see the messages of hope, perseverance, and purpose. To be shown mercy, see God, and claim the kingdom of heaven? Not a bad deal.

What do you find meaningful, confusing, or challenging in this passage? 

February 21, 2012

Lenten Bible Journey

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday which signifies the beginning of Lent. Most people give something up for Lent as a way of remembering the 40 days of fasting that Jesus experienced in the wilderness prior to starting his public ministry. I am going to "pick something up" for Lent right here on my blog and post daily thoughts on various Bible verses throughout the 40 days of this journey. My hope is that you will not only join me in reading Scripture daily but join me here to engage in meaningful conversation. You can see the reading schedule below:

Feb. 22 Matthew 5:1-11              March 16 Matthew 18:1-5
Feb. 23 Matthew 5:14-16            March 17 Matthew 18:21-22
Feb. 24 Matthew 5:38-42            March 19 Matthew 19:16-22
Feb. 25 Matthew 5:43-48            March 20 Matthew 20:1-16
Feb. 27 Matthew 6:5-15              March 21 John 3:16-21
Feb. 28 Matthew 6:19-21, 24      March 22 John 8:1-11
Feb. 29 Matthew 6:25-34            March 23 John 14:1-7, 18-19
March 1 Matthew 7:1-5, 12         March 24 John 14:25-31
March 2 Matthew 7:24-27           March 26 John 15:1-12
March 3 Matthew 9:1-8               March 27 Romans 12:1-8
March 5 Matthew 9:10-13           March 28 Romans 12:9-13
March 6 Matthew 12:1-14           March 29 Romans 12:14-21
March 7 Matthew 12:33-37         March 30 1 Corinthians 13
March 8 Matthew 13:18-23         March 31 1 John 4:7-12, 18-21
March 9 Matthew 13:44-46         April 2 Matthew 26:17-30
March 10 Matthew 14:13-21       April 3 Matthew 26:36-46
March 12 Matthew 14:22-33       April 4 Matthew 26:57-68
March 13 Matthew 16:5-12         April 5 Matthew 27:32-46
March 14 Matthew 16:13-23       April 6 Matthew 27:50-61
March 15 Matthew 16:24-28       April 7 Matthew 27:62-66

February 18, 2012

A Chance for Change? :: Part IV

This is part 4 (read part 1 here, part 2 here and part 3 here) of a blog series talking about the chance for change within The United Methodist Church. In this post I will be focusing on change at the local church level. I understand each local church is different but I believe there are a number that share a few similarities as I speak from a United Methodist perspective and continue to hope for change.

There is a pervasive inward attitude within many of our local churches that is determining the way in which we engage ministry (or don't). So often we become driven by our own comforts and traditions that we fail to see the culture around us has and is changing. It's not so much that comfort is the issue but rather, whose. If we fail to change our focus from keeping those on the inside comfortable to how we make those on the outside more comfortable, we will continue to struggle to actually be the Church.

Our resistance to change will continue to domesticate Christianity and make it seem completely irrelevant to a culture that is constantly moving and searching for meaning. By allowing this to happen we have made our message contrary to the Gospel Message; trading transformation, hope, and grace for conformity, comfort, and control. If we do not change our ways many of the mainline Protestant denominations will continue to go the way of the artifact.

What changes do you want to see at your local church? How are you going to be a part of bringing that change about?

February 2, 2012

A Chance for Change? :: Part III

This is part 3 (read part 1 here and part 2 here) of a blog series talking about the chance for change within The United Methodist Church. In this post I will be focusing on change at the Annual Conference level. I happen to be serving in the Indiana Annual Conference which is the decision making body for all of the UMC churches in the state of Indiana. We meet each year during the summer to discuss, plan, and vote on issues facing UMC churches in Indiana. This year we are meeting in Indianapolis, IN June 7-9.

Similar to my hopes for General Conference, I believe much of the hope for meaningful change at the Annual Conference level comes from risk-taking, full-of-potential appointments; a streamlined ordination process; identify and use clergy (regardless of “status”) skillsets effectively; seriously commit resources to programs and ministries that reach those 40yrs and younger; facilitate clergy health through spiritual, physical, social, and emotional balance.

I truly believe meaningful, effective change has a chance at the Annual Conference level and is one of the places real change must take root in order to turn this ship around. What kind of change would you be interested in seeing at the Annual Conference level?