Luke 18:1-8 “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Our parable this week ends with this question. The first part is a guarantee: Jesus will return. The second, “will he find faith on earth,” is not a guarantee. This is intended to make Jesus’ first hearers, and us today, Luke’s readers, feel a bit unsettled. This Sunday we will follow Jesus in the telling of a usual story of a widow and a judge, through the unexpected twist and turns between the two, ultimately being left with the unsettling question: “will he find faith on earth.” What is potentially more unsettling? Jesus is wondering if he will find those whose faith is characterized by persistent prayer. Be praying now that the Lord will give you eyes to see and ears to hear how the Lord wants to draw you nearer to him in your faith as one who prays!
Mark 4:26-34 As we continue in our summer studies in the parables, Jesus gives two more parables setting forth the mysterious ways the kingdom of God grows in “good soil.” Both set forth God’s extravagant grace. The first speaks of a harvest that requires “sleep,” rather than human toil or understanding to achieve it. The second stretches our imagination beyond the limits and “warns us against underestimating the significance of the proclamation of the kingdom of God, however unimpressive its initial impact may seem.” (R. T. France) It will be nothing less than a New Creation.
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 If Jesus has brought the Kingdom of God, why is evil still happening? This Sunday we explore the parable of the wheat and weeds which helps us with that question. In the parable, the wheat and weeds are not to be separated until the final harvest, the final judgment. Ultimately, we are reminded again that God will bring justice and will reward the “righteous,” promising that they will shine like the sun forever and ever!This is our extravagant hope.
Matthew 13:24-30 This week we will look at the parable of the sower from Matthew’s Gospel. The key to this parable is the word “understand.” A way to understand the word understand is to think “stand under.” If we “stand under” the Word sown in our hearts, we will be transformed (from seed to tree) and naturally bear fruit which is Jesus’ primary calling of this parable. Come this Sunday to explore this famous parable.
Matthew 20 “It’s not fair!” the child whines… This seems to be an instinctive response when a child is asked to share a toy, or to eat vegetables, or to do anything he doesn’t want to do… “It’s so not fair!” This tendency to exclaim “It’s not fair!” extends to adults, too, though we may hide it better or may be more eloquent in expressing our dissatisfaction. We tend to assess what we have or deserve, compare ourselves to others, and when the balance is not in our favor, we exclaim, “It’s not fair!” Sometimes we even blame God for allowing a perceived inequity in our lives. Jesus addresses this tendency in his parable “The Workers in the Vineyard.” He compels us to confront our own attitude in view of God’s generosity and teaches us an uncomfortable lesson. This Sunday we will study this parable in Matthew 20 as the first parable in our summer series Overflowing Extravagance: Studies in the Parables of Jesus.
Mark 4:1-20 After spending 8 weeks in the book of Acts, we now begin our summer series, Overflowing Extravagance, Studies in the Parables of Jesus. Jesus taught mainly in parables, story-analogies. In fact, they are ordinary stories of ordinary people in ordinary places doing ordinary things. And, yet, they are intended to engage, cause reflection and compel action. Come Sunday as we begin to explore Jesus’ compelling parables.
Acts 18:1-22 Just as Dr. Luke has faithfully documented the Apostle Paul’s sufferings and triumphs, so we also are blessed this week to have Dr. Ron Jimenez with us to share his life’s travails and successes entitled, “A Poetic Testimony: The Road Less Traveled.”
Acts 18:1-22 Have you ever felt like you were doing what God had called you to do, but could not understand why it was so hard? When Paul arrived in Corinth, he tells the Corinthians, “I was with you in weakness and fear, and much trembling” (1 Cor 2:3). Though he was directed by a vision to minister in Macedonia, it was more difficult than expected. He was severely beaten in Philippi and forced to flee Thessalonica and Berea before raging mobs. Though he achieved a hearing before the Areopagus in Athens, he was politely dismissed with contempt. Now he arrives in Corinth, dejected and alone in a city whose pride and immorality were doubly intimidating. What happens next is a miracle greater than Corinth’s patron god, Poseidon.
Acts 17:16-34 Athens was not originally part of Paul’s agenda for mission, but God had other plans and placed Paul right in the cultural and philosophical center of the world. As N. T. Wright observes, “This demands a different game plan, a different strategy… Athens is a major showdown between the new young faith and the old, established, tried and tested philosophies of the Western world, which still, in various modern guises, dominate people’s thinking.” Paul’s remarkable speech to the Athenians is an example of how we need to think creatively to engage our intellectual world with the gospel.
Acts 17:1-15 After Paul and Silas are forced to leave Philippi after the shock of public beating and imprisonment, they arrive in Thessalonica only to have their troubles follow them with even more intensity, resulting in an official ban from ever returning to the city. How surpising it must have been that out of these afflictions, the strongest bonds of unaffected love and support were formed by people they had only just met. Is this what Paul meant when he later wrote, “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ?”
Acts 16:25-40 The Gates of Hell Will Not Prevail Last week we examined the question, How do we make inroads with the gospel living in a foreign culture? We began to see how Paul and Silas made Jesus known by submitting to unjust suffering. In our text this week we will see how God vindicates his servants through prayer and praise. As Peter later wrote, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10-11). God never abandons his servants!
Acts 16:16-25 After a surprisingly great beginning for the gospel in a predominantly pagan city with the conversion of Lydia and her household, evil strikes back with force. Paul and his friends are confronted first by strange spiritual forces, then attacked by businessmen enraged by greed, and finally religious and political prejudices add fuel to the fire, creating a riot that lands Paul and Silas in prison. What do we do when evil is allowed to play every card in its hand with impunity? Is God still in control?