Matt 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.
Matt 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?
Acts 16:6-15 In our text this Sunday, Paul, Silas and Timothy launch out into new territory to advance the gospel, but with no real sense of direction. Whichever way they turn the road is blocked for more than 200 miles. Given that Paul had a clear and proven strategy plus an exceptional team, it seems strange that the only divine direction they get is negative. They seem caught in a liminal space, the space in-between the “tried and true” and a new beginning. It is an uncomfortable place to be with no clear direction, but from a Biblical perspective these times are essential for our spiritual formation. If we embrace them, they deepen and matures us in ways our that our fervent activities cannot and lead us to new thresholds of opportunity.
Acts 15:36-16:5 In Psalm 133 the psalmist joyously proclaims, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together as one!” This was Jesus’ overriding prayer for his disciples – “that they may be one even as we are one… so that the world may know that you sent me” (John 17:21-23). When the Holy Spirit was unleashed on the day of Pentecost the dream came true – the disciples shared all of life “together” with one mind and heart. Then suddenly a rupture occurs at the highest level of leadership. Emotions get heated, tempers rise and a fissure erupts with leaders parting ways. What drives leaders to disagree? How should it be handled? What does God do when things are not resolved amicably.
Col 2:6-7 Like Walking Trees Once a person comes to faith, how does one continue to live and grow in faith? This Sunday we have a guest speaker who will share on this key idea for the spiritual life from the book of Colossians. Bruce Hindmarsh is the professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, BC, and his main area of research is Evangelical Spirituality. Bruce and his wife, Carolyn, have been with the staff for a retreat this week. We have been so blessed by his time with us and are thrilled he will be speaking this Sunday.