Friday, February 25, 2011

Reflections on Psalm 53

(v4) "Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me"

What else do I substitute as my sustainer?

Recently it is busyness. I have been looking forward to having a job for so long now that I have thrown myself headlong into it. This need not be bad, but it becomes so when thinking about Young Life dominates my thoughts. The danger is that I come to find my worth as defined by vocation, not my identity as God's child.

An interesting thought though from John 4:34. The disciples are urging Jesus to eat when He replies, "my food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work." That is, Jesus was sustained by the work He did.

Hmmm. This seems to be much more holistic, however, than "I work for Young Life" as, for Jesus, it represents His being under the Father's authority. To this I also am called in whatever I do - be it YL, being a husband, being a father, whatever...

(v7) "For has has delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes"

Do I live like this is reality? These are strong words! There are three stances we can take.
  1. Defeated: do you ever live expecting to lose? I know I've done this. It's not how it's meant to be.
  2. Unsure: maybe this is where we more practically live.
  3. Victorious: The way God would have us live is not like watching a football game where we don't know the outcome. In Christ we've already won, having defeated the greatest enemy, death.
How would you live differently today if you believed that God had truly delivered you?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How was Jesus as a kid?
Most of the stories in the gospel about Jesus take place when he is around 30 years old...but Jesus was a kid too. Have you ever thought about Jesus as a kid? Do you think He messed around with his siblings, played games, went to school or even got a skinned knee every now and then? Likely He did! We are fortunate that Luke gives us the only look at Jesus as a child in 2:41-52, in fact when he is 12 years old...

While we can't know for sure if Jesus did the things we mentioned earlier, we do know that he ran away from his parents. Have you ever done this? Why did you do it? Where did you go? How long were you gone and what made you go back? How did your parents feel?

When Jesus was 12 he ran away from his parents for three days! And he went to the temple - that would be like us going to church! This probably isn't where you went, huh? Check out what he was doing when they found him in 2:46-47...

* Sitting
* Listening
* Asking
* Understanding

Apply It
What would you like to understand more about? Who would you hope would be "amazed" by it? What would this progression look like for you?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Luke for Students: 2.3

Luke 2:21-38

What's with these people? Why all the fuss?

What's your favorite way to talk with your friends? Online? A cell phone? shouting out your news in the street? Just kidding about the last one but if you didn't have technology you might! That's exactly what two characters in the Bible did...

The "waiters"
Luke 2:21-38 introduces us to two new characters, Simeon and Anna. Now both of these folks were old, but I think we can still relate to them. They were both looking forward to something with all their hearts. I know you've done this at Christmas, a Birthday, maybe a visit from someone or something else. How did you act when you finally got that present, when that person showed up, or when you team won the game?

When Jesus shows up...
In a way, Simeon and Anna were waiting for Christmas...only they were waiting for the first Christmas. Their story takes place 8 days after the first Christmas when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple for a dedication ceremony that Jewish people practiced back then. These ceremonies happened all the time, and Simeon and Anna were at the temple all the time, but when Jesus showed up something changed..

Simeon. This guy shows us two interesting things about just who this Jesus baby is:
  • For all people! Where have we heard this before? Well verses 29-32 show Simeon's response to Jesus showing up. He praises God, surely causing all the people in the temple to look at him. Have you ever been so excited that you didn't care how silly you looked? Anyway, Simeon again sings about Jesus being for ALL people. Seems like we have a theme here...
  • Tension. Check out verses 33-35. They may seem strange but essentially we learn that not everybody is going to accept Jesus as Simeon has. We need to keep reading to find out why people would not be excited about Jesus.

Anna. Anna was an old widow who stayed at the temple all the time. Can you imagine never leaving the church building? Now that's dedication!
  • Thanks! (v38) Have you ever given someone a present and they didn't thank you? How did you feel? Well thanked God for the birth of Jesus. Why should she say "thanks" though? Think back to some of the things we've already read and pay attention for more as we keep reading...
  • Redemption. (v38) This might be a new word, but it's powerful! Essentially it means "to take something broken and worthless and change into something beautiful and valuable." Can you think of any examples of this? Jesus came for broken people with broken redeem them.
  • Share the News! If Simeon and Anna had our technology there is no doubt they would be posting on facebook or using twitter, gchat, or buzz to share their news. Have you shared good news lately?
  • When Jesus shows up. If Jesus showed up and brought a present called "redemption", what would it look like in you life? How would you react?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Luke for Students: 2.2

What is the Good News? Like we said, the book of Luke is known as a Gospel, meaning "Good News." Chapter 2 begins giving us insight into what exactly this good news is:

The Angels (vv10-14). In the broadest terms the angel lays it out there, "Jesus, the Messiah (Christ), is Lord and is born today." If you go to church or know the Christmas story, this is all too familiar that it's easy to lose sight of how crazy this sounds.
  • For all the people. Think about what this means. How often do we think about the story as it pertains to me or my family or my church. The Good News is for all people...for a child on the other side of the world living in poverty, for the child in our city living in poverty, for the weird kid in school, for the popular kid in school, for our friends, and for those who are more like enemies. All people. Who might this make you think of? Pray for someone unlikely to experience the good news.
  • Peace on earth. How often do we hear, "Peace on earth, good will toward men"? Try imagining what peace on earth would really look like. It's so much more than wars ceasing. It's the end of racism, it's the end of injustice, it's a mom and a dad staying together in marriage, it's neighbors being friendly, it's a community bringing wholeness to broken places. What does peace on earth look like in you home or in your school or in your city? What would it look like in another country?
  • God's Favor on men. This is truly incredible as well. The God who created this universe - the stars the galaxies - wonders that we will never even see...has made the time to have favor on little old us. This is truly good news because God has every right to act like an angry parent and cruelly punish his children for the times when we are wrong. Instead, through Jesus we are offered favor - an opportunity to get right with the God who made us. Where would you like God's favor in your life?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Luke for Students: 2.1

Sharing Good News
If you think Zechariah and Mary were afraid when one angel spoke with them, imagine how these shepherds felt when an entire company of them arrived! But the angels weren't there to terrorize some unassuming farmboys - no, they brought "good news of great joy...for all the people" (2:10). Look at vv11-14 to see just what this news was...

Regardless, let's look at the response of these bewildered shepherds:

  • Check it out (v15). Consider two responses the shepherds did not have. On the one hand, they weren't like, "oh, sounds cool y'all. Have a good time with that...peace." On the other hand, they weren't like, "Really, ok we totally believe you - in fact we believe you so much that we'll just chill here. Best news I've ever heard...ever." So they were neither apathetic nor completely trusting. They wanted to see for themselves. What is our response to good news?
  • Hurry (v16). When they did decide to explore what the angels had told them, they wasted no time! If a celebrity showed up at your school would you just sit back or would you run to check it out? If a great friend had been our sick or in the hospital and is back would you take your time or do all you could to see them yourself?
  • Spread the Word (v17). We're good at this. If the shepherds had iphones no doubt they'd be on twitter and facebook from the stable! This is a natural for us these days: when good news comes our way, spread it around.
  • Praise God (v20). This is the final act that is often missed. When we experience good news do we take it for granted or do we give thanks? If you take the time to set up a surprise for a friend you would hope they would be appreciative. If you perform well at a band concert or in sports or in a play, you love getting told you did a great job. In the same way, God is honored when we thank Him for orchestrating the good in our lives. Have you told Him "great job" lately?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Luke for Students 1

Starting a new study through Luke today, looking for big ideas chapter by chapter, especially as the stories of Jesus are relevant to the Middle School and High School Experience...

What is your response to good news?

What's some good news you've gotten recently? How did you react and who did you tell? How did they react when you told them? Or has anyone shared their good news with you lately? How did you react?

Y'all might know, but Gospel means "Good News." The book of Luke, along with Matthew, Mark, and John are know as the Gospels. Here are some great questions to ask while reading Luke:
  1. What exactly is the "good news" as Luke tells it?
  2. How does it effect me?
  3. What is my response to it?
That last question is explored by several characters right in the first chapter:

  1. Zechariah - (vv11-20). The first character we meet is Zechariah. He hears great news that at last he will have a son. But not only this, his son will play a huge roll in leading people to understand God more fully! As an old man though he doubts. So that's one response: doubt.
  2. Mary - (26-38, 46-55). Next the angel visits Mary and tells her that she'll be having a baby. One problem...she wasn't married - in fact she was a virgin! Mary was a teenager - imagine that, the Bible is the first source of media to record a "Teen Mom" story. When Mary hears the news she believes that "all things are possible with God" and praises. Quite a remarkable response for so young a woman, especially compared to Zechariah, an old, experienced, priest of all things!
  3. Elizabeth - (vv39-45). How do you feel when something great happens for a friend? Often we feel great for them but sometimes, if we're honest, we feel jealous of their situation. When Elizabeth heard about Mary's good news she went above and beyond to celebrate with Mary
  4. the Neighbors - (vv57-58). Now it was Elizabeth's turn to share great news. When John was born the town came and "shared in her joy." This is a great example of how to respond to good news - by sharing in the joy with a group of friends.
  5. Zechariah - (vv67-79). When John was born Zechariah got a second opportunity to respond to good news. This time he didn't miss his chance. In fact, Luke writes that he prophesied, that is, he boldly proclaimed, the good news for present to hear.
  6. Theophilus (vv1-4). This man is mentioned first in Luke but last here because his response to "good news" is not recorded. Though you may never have heard of him, we share more in common with him than any of the other characters we've seen. Luke wrote this book to Theophilus in order that he might understand evens from the life of Jesus that he himself has not witnessed. We're in a very similar spot if you think about it. We weren't there for Jesus' stories so we too must read of them. And there is also the unknown outcome - we don't know how Theophilus responded: how will you respond to the good news?
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