Overcoming Evil With Good?

In Mark’s account of the Good News we find this statement about Jesus:

9He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; 10for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him.

One of the participants in our Bible study yesterday told a story about a friend who’d taken some homeless people into his home, and then been robbed by the people he’d helped.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people returned kindness for kindness? If the people we helped didn’t respond with indifference, or hostility, or even theft and violence? But the world doesn’t work that way. And it didn’t work that way for Jesus.

We’d like think that people Jesus healed would repay him with gratitude and kindness, but instead we find — long before his crucifixion — their selfish desire for more blessing made them indifferent to the danger of crushing the very one saving them.

I see two lessons in this passage. First, we should ask whether we are sometimes like the crowd. Do we focus on the ways Jesus can bless us so much that it gets in the way of, and even endangers, what Jesus is trying to do for people around us? That’s something we should think about.

Second, when we do good deeds, we should be aware, as Jesus was, of the dangers that might accompany them. Note that Jesus doesn’t simply allow the crowd to crush him: he instructs his disciples to be ready to help him escape. But notice also that he doesn’t stop healing people. We don’t have to be peoples’ meal tickets or punching bags, but their ingratitude or hostility doesn’t mean we should stop trying to help.

Women’s Bible Study – God is Closer Than You Think

The Women’s Bible Study is beginning a study based on John Ortberg’s book God Is Closer Than You Think.

The Bible promises true fellowship with God — a closeness you can feel, a goodness you can taste, a reality you can experience for yourself. God is closer than you think, and connecting with him isn’t for monks and ascetics. It’s for business people, high school students, busy moms, single men, single women … and most important, it’s for you. In this study, John Ortberg shows how God is stretching his hand out to you, and suggests ways you can reach out to take it — to your joy and to God’s.

A video introduction to the study is available online. (The introduction is about 2 minutes long, but if you’re still curious, keep watching, because the video also includes the entire first segment of the series.)

The study will begin October 22 and run for 6 weeks.
The Women’s Bible Study group meets every Tuesday at 9:30 for fellowship and prayer, followed by the study at 10:00 sharp.

“Sandwich” Rhetorical Device

Several people commented on the “sandwich” rhetorical device I mentioned in today’s message. I’ve found it to be an incredibly useful tool in understanding some passages of the Bible. It doesn’t always work, because that particular piece of Scripture has a different structure.

If you’d like to know more about this device, its technical name is the chiasmus and you can read more about it here.

Luke 9 study questions

Pastor Luke kicks off his new “Margins” sermon series this Sunday, with a message from Luke 9. You may find these questions helpful if you’d like to study that passage in greater depth.

1. Could you explain how to set the margins in a computer word processing application? —on a typewriter? How would you explain the idea of “margin” in someone’s life?

2. Why did Jesus feed the people? Consider the actions that Jesus takes in verse 11: what do those things mean to you? Did they mean the same thing in Jesus’ culture? (Consider the implications of Luke 9: 1–6.)

3. In Mark’s account of this event (Mark 6: 30-44), Jesus explains why he fed the crowd (Mark 6: 34). What does he say?

4. Think of some other miracles that Jesus performed. Why do you suppose the feeding of the multitude is Jesus’ only miracle—apart from his resurrection—recorded in all four gospel accounts?

5. Did Jesus need the disciples to provide the five loaves and two fishes? Couldn’t Jesus have simply fed the people by himself? Why didn’t he?

6. What is a single small change you could make to carve out more margin in one area where you would like more?

No Room in the What?

If you were with us on Christmas Eve, you might have noticed in our service of lessons and carols this line of scripture:

She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.

That translation of Luke 2:7 (from the Common English Bible) might have sound a little “off” to a lot of us, especially those who grew up hearing the Charlie Brown Christmas special, and are used to hearing something like the language of the Revised Standard Version:

And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Which should it be: “guestroom” or “inn?”

You can read the details in this article, which argues (correctly, I think) that “guestroom” is a better translation than “inn.”

Isaiah 56 Study Questions

Do you have a small god? Are there things about your god that are small? Maybe your god doesn’t have much power: there’s things your god would like to do if he could, but he can’t? Or maybe your god doesn’t have much love: your god could help, but won’t, because it’s not his problem? How big is your god? The prophet Isaiah spoke a message from God that illustrates how big God is. Pastor Luke’s message for Sunday, November 4, comes from that letter. If you’d like to study Isaiah’s prophecy in more depth, these questions may be helpful. (They’re also available in printable format.) Continue reading →

1 Peter 1-2 study questions

The Apostle Peter was one of the most important leaders of the early church. He wrote a letter about what happens to people after they become Christians. Pastor Luke’s message for Sunday, October 28, comes from that letter. If you’d like to study Peter’s teaching in more depth, these questions may be helpful. (They’re also available in printable format.) Continue reading →