August 13-19, 2017

Seek God—Prayer

God of mysterious ways, you take our fears and turn them into triumphs. You remind us that you are always with us and that we do not need to fear the wind and waves of life. Encourage us to step out of the boat; to come across these difficulties to your redeeming and transforming love. Give us courage and strength, joy and peace for all the times ahead. Amen.

Prayer Focus For This Week: Pray for your Church Family.

Lose Yourself—Daily Scriptures

Sunday, August 13 – Galatians 6:7-10
Monday, August 14 – Luke 23:32-43
Tuesday, August 15 – Isaiah 2:1-4
Wednesday, August 16 – 1 John 18-28
Thursday, August 17 – Matthew 7:13-29
Friday, August 18 – Psalm 30
Saturday, August 19 – Ephesians 2

Find Life—Personal Reflection

As you worship today and as you read these Scriptures this week, consider what God is trying to say to you today. How does God want your life or actions to be different because of what you heard?

We look forward to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting – promises from God about how we have a future with hope in Him.  Pastor and author James Howell says that “this God draws us into the circle and bequeaths upon us an inheritance beyond all imagining.  All gift.  All wonder.  All good.  Whoever frailty we have suffered will be healed.  Whatever unbearable agony  we have endured will be more than made right.  Tears wiped away, no more sorrow.  Unfathomable beauty.”  How does the promise of God addressing the suffering, loss and inequity of the here and now give you hope about your future with God?

August 13, 2017

We are beginning a new year at Bluff Park UMC in prayer and mission! On Sunday morning, we will bless the backpacks of the children of our church and community as they get ready to go back to school. We will also have a time of prayer for the students, teachers, and staff! Our children will be introduced to their brand new educational space on the first floor on Sunday morning! I know they are all very excited to see what has been done!

In terms of mission and outreach, our children’s ministry staff worked with area churches to provide a meal and prayer to the staff and teachers at Bluff Park Elementary. We are also in the middle of a school supply drive for the Room 35226 project for local schools and for Little Imaginations Preschool. In addition to this, our church has already picked up close to 200 shoeboxes for Christmas gifts to children. We have many more boxes so come by on Sunday to pick them up from the Narthex!

Finally, we are finishing the summer sermon series on the Apostles’ Creed this weekend. I hope it has been a blessing to all of you as I know it has been to me. I have been so amazed at how the Creed tells the story of our faith and how it helps us to put into a few words the grand and wonderful way in which God has shown love and poured out grace upon us all. Over and over again, I see the connection between who God is and how God has worked in the world and in our lives to give us life. When we meet on Sunday morning, we will hear about the resurrection of our bodies and the life everlasting (eternal life). This is a hope and promise that we lean towards; however, it is also a gift for the here and now. It is true life connecting to the Source of Life — being in a deep and meaningful relationship with God, a caring and uplifting relationship with others, and a pathway of finding our own way to live out our calling in ways that make a difference in the world.

May you enjoy the fullness of life that God offers to each and every one of us!

~Mike

Week Nineteen – July 31-Aug 6, 2016

Amos – Pointless Worship

Think

  • Have you ever gotten away with something that you shouldn’t have but were happy because everything still worked out for the best?
  • Have you ever been given more change than you were owed at a store but kept it anyway?
  • Imagine trying to talk a friend out of a bad decision or a risky behavior. Yet they ignore you and things even continue to g great for them. Do you think they’d listen to your advice in the future or keep doing what they’re doing?
  • When things are going great for you, how hard is to change up what you’re doing?

Listen

Amos was living a comfortable life in the southern kingdom of Judah. He owned a herd of sheep and a fig farm. Yet he found himself called by God to travel north and prophesy to the people of Israel. This was a difficult assignment because at that time Israel was doing great. It was winning victories over it’s enemies, expanding it’s borders and gaining riches. So why would they listen to this strange man from Judah telling them they were in the wrong?

The ruling class of Israel was unduly benefiting under the current conditions. They were cheating the poor out of their fair share – paying them less than their fair share, bribing judges in disputes, moving boundary markers and mistreating those who were weak. Yet the rulers continued to go through the motions of following God’s commands – keeping the religious calendar and very seriously worshiping God in public. Through Amos, God chastised and warned that their religious routines in no way made up for the economic injustice in the kingdom….

I hate, I despise your festivals,

And I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.

Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings,

I will not accept them;

And the offerings of well-being of

Your fatted animals

I will not look upon.

Take away from me the noise of

Your songs.

I will not listen to the melody of your harps.

But let justice roll down like waters,

And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

(Amos 5:21-24 NRSV)

According to Tom Duley (our church’s Minister of Missions), justice means that all people are treated fairly and equally no matter who they are. So when people are using their positions of power to unfairly treat others, God finds no value in their worship according to Amos. And so even though he had been living a pretty good life in another country, he couldn’t sit by and watch it happening without speaking the truth – that what they were doing was wrong.

  • During the Civil Rights Era, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted the Book of Amos in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Why do you think particular prophet was significant to him?
  • Can you think of an unjust situation in our world right now?
  • Why does justice matter to God?
  • What can we do about injustice? What cost is there to pay for speaking up or trying to affect change? What is the cost that we might pay for not doing something to bring about justice?

Remember

Attempting to worship God while injustice reigns around you is pointless. Being the “right” religion or nationality won’t cut it. God cares for everyone. Because of this, people who claim to love God must love what God loves. And God loves justice.

Pray

Ask God to give you strength to stand strong when things are unjust, to be on the side of those being treated unfairly. Ask God for forgiveness for those times you perpetrated injustice.

More

The late 1960’s and early 1970’s were a period of great cultural upheaval and violence. Many people were trying to speak out against injustice but were not being listened to by those who had access to power. In 1971, country singer Johnny Cash wrote and performed a song about how he would use his influence to bring attention to the nation’s problems. Click HERE for his prophetic performance.

Week Eighteen – July 24-30, 2016

Hosea – Runaway Brides

Think

  • Do you ever notice the people on the side of the highway holding signs for local businesses?
  • Has that ever convinced you to turn in and shop there?
  • Do you think that this method is effective at getting potential customers’ attention?
  • What is the greatest publicity stunt or marketing campaign that you’ve experienced lately?
  • Was it effective?

Listen

After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam faced difficulties in getting everyone to accept him as the new king. Those who remained loyal to the House of David’s heir (Rehoboam) were mostly from the tribe of Judah, so that became the name of a new kingdom with their capitol still in Jerusalem. The other tribes kept the name Israel but declared themselves a new kingdom in the North. An uneasy peace developed with periods of open warfare between the two kingdoms. In Israel especially, the worship of false gods crept back into daily life as the kings and their households abused their power and served themselves above all else.

God was furious with the people of Israel for separating themselves from him and from Judah. But they didn’t seem to care too much about what God wanted. So almost as soon as they declared their independence, God called a prophet (someone who speak truth to power) to stand up for what is right and just in the face of the sin around them.

The man he called to do this was named Hosea and God had a scandalous plan for him to get Israel’s attention. He was instructed to marry an adulteress named Gomer. He bought her hand in marriage and told her that she had to be faithful to him from that point forward. But she didn’t want to marry him. She still wanted to be with her former lover! So she kept running away and going back to her old boyfriend. Each time she did, Hosea went to find her and bring her back to his home.

And here is part of what Hosea was supposed to tell other people about his wife:

She shall pursue her lovers,

But not overtake them;

And she shall seek them,

But shall not find them.

Then she shall say, “I will go

And return to my first husband,

For it was better with me then than now.

(Hosea 2:7 NRSV)

Once this scandalous marriage had gotten the attention of people around them, Hosea explained that his wife had treated him the way that everyone else had been treating God. God was like a husband who always rescued and forgave his runaway bride, waiting for the day she would eventually realize how well she was treated by him.

God promised through Hosea, that once the rebellious people of Israel came to their senses, they would be welcomed back and loved:

And I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD.

(Hosea 2:19-20 NRSV)

  • What do your parents do to get your attention when it’s time to pitch in around the house?
  • What is something your teacher does to get you to pay attention in class?
  • Do you ever roll your eyes when they do these things?
  • Parents and teachers (or other adults in positive roles) are almost always trying to get our attention because they ultimately care for us. So why is that we often don’t want to listen or do what they say?

Remember

God is crazy about you. And God will go to extraordinary lengths to win back your love. Even when we are unfaithful and show ourselves to only be interested in ourselves and in things that are ungodly, God never forgets us or stops desiring a relationship with us. And when we do come back, even though we may have great shame and regrets, God’s grace means we that relationship is repaired and made new again. You might find the marriage of Hosea and Gomer scandalous. But we need to be grateful that God loves each of us in such a scandalous way.

Pray

Remembering that God loves you too much to ever give up on you, thank God for that kind of grace as you pray. He already knows your sins and your rebellions against his rule of your heart. Ask God to help you be faithful to him.

More.

25 of the Greatest Publicity Stunts. What would you do to get someone’s attention?

Week Seventeen – July 17-23, 2016

Ecclesiastes – Living with Purpose

Think.

  • What would you do if you suddenly came into having one-hundred million dollars (after taxes)?
  • How would your life change?
  • How do you think your relationships change?
  • Knowing that you never had to work a day in your life with that kind of money, what would you do with your time?
  • Do you think it would make your life better or worse to suddenly come into that kind of money?

Listen.

On the night that Solomon was to become king, God offered him any gift he wanted to help him during his reign. Instead of asking for wealth, power, honor, the life of his enemies or long life for himself, he asked God to grant him wisdom and knowledge so that he might be a better ruler for the people of Israel. (see 2 Chronicles 1:7-12)

God was extremely impressed by Solomon’s request and due to that wisdom, his reign ended up including a great amount of wealth along with the absence of a lot of the wars and internal strife that David had endured. But because Solomon was also a deep thinker, he sometimes struggled to make sense of the world he observed. He especially struggled with understanding the meaning of life, not just for him, but for all human beings.

In Ecclesiastes, he wrote….

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to throw away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 (NRSV)

As well, Solomon wrote very deeply about his own struggle with finding happiness and purpose in life. Given his wealth and power, he had access to all the best that the ancient world could offer. Yet he kept asking, is this all there is? The happiness brought by those things never lasted.

Ultimately, he decided to take life as it comes, and to strive for wisdom while admitting somethings will never make sense. He advised others to do good work, enjoy the good times in life so there are no regrets later on and not worry about the things outside of their control.

Finally, he noted in Ecclesiastes….

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. – Ecclesiastes 12:13

  • What are the experiences that you’ve had that will stay with you forever as moments that have shaped your life?
  • What’s something that you see people do that seems like a waste of time?
  • Is there something that it seems like people can get away with constantly that you wished would stop?
  • What’s something that might seem like work to someone else but that you truly enjoy?
  • What’s something that you are very proud of that you’ve accomplished?

Remember.

Living life only for its earthly pleasures will ultimately leave one empty. Only living for God will sustain a person over a lifetime.

Don’t worry so much about what other people are doing or what they think you should do. That’s God’s job. Keep your eyes on the main thing. Work hard no matter what you do. Enjoy yourself but don’t waste it on things that won’t bring your life meaning. Follow the rules. A lot of things won’t make sense along the way. It’ll seem like some people are getting away with something. But God’s paying attention. Let God handle it.

Pray.

Ask God to help you see your day to day life (school, chores, etc.) as a form of worship. Ask God to keep you mindful of Him when you are doing things that don’t seem to make a difference in the grand scheme of life.

More.

Scientific research on whether or not money can buy happiness.

https://youtu.be/JSIkdWxotKw

Week Sixteen – July 10-16, 2016

Song of Solomon – Loving with Purpose

 

Think.

  • How would you define the word secular?
  • How about the word sacred?
  • Can they ever describe the same thing?
  • What is the purpose of romantic love?
  • What is the purpose of marriage?

Listen.

Weddings were a big deal in ancient Hebrew society and we see that continue on through the life and times of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. A wedding feast could last for days. There was food, wine, singing and dancing. Although there are questions as to when it became part of Jewish tradition, by Jesus’ time the Song of Songs was often sung at those feasts and was attributed to King Solomon (often called Song of Solomon). Some Jewish teachers or rabbis thought it was too racy for young listeners and would only let those who were older read it or hear it. Then there were other rabbis who said that those who thought it was too scandalous to be a holy text were totally missing the point. They believed that, even if the subject matter was romantic love, infatuation, courtship, a wedding and sex, that it was acceptable because it showed God’s desires for how those things should be handled in a holy and pure manner.

Flip through chapters 4, 5 & 6 of the Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs in some Bibles) and pick out some of the really weird ways the young man and woman describe their love and each other’s attributes.

Now read the following passages that really get to the heart of what we can learn about the role that God wants romantic/physical love to play in our human lives.

Scarcely had I passed them,

    when I found him whom my soul loves.

I held him, and would not let him go

    until I brought him into my mother’s house,

    and into the chamber of her that conceived me.

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,

    by the gazelles or the wild does:

do not stir up or awaken love

    until it is ready! – Song of Solomon 3:4-5

And then…..

Set me as a seal upon your heart,

    as a seal upon your arm;

for love is strong as death,

    passion fierce as the grave.

Its flashes are flashes of fire,

    a raging flame.

Many waters cannot quench love,

    neither can floods drown it.

If one offered for love

    all the wealth of one’s house,

    it would be utterly scorned. – Song of Solomon 8:6-7

Say. 

Romantic love, marriage and sex are powerful expressions of the human experience. In many ways, these echo the type of relationship that God wants to have with humanity. He is crazy for us. When we are away, it’s all he can think about. And when we are together, its overwhelming how much we feel his love.

Ask.

  • What are differences in the way that romantic/physical love is described in pop culture versus what we’ve read in Song of Solomon?
  • Is there any topic or part of life that you think God doesn’t care about or want you to go to him about in prayer?

Remember.

God designed love, marriage and sex. He wouldn’t have given it to humans if those were bad things. It’s when we abuse those gifts that things go sideways.

Pray.

Think about the parts of your life that you are embarrassed or ashamed about. Now remind yourself that God is already there with you in the midst of those things. Now pray to God knowing that God already loves you. Ask God to guide you through everything.

More.

Check out these cheesy Christian pickup lines for some laughs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0a4pJukiak

Week Fifteen – July 3-July 9, 2016

Proverbs – Human Wisdom

 

Think.

  • What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? Who gave it to you? Do you follow it?
  • What is a piece of advice that you hear a lot from your parent? Do you follow it? Why do you think it is important for them to tell you this?
  • If you could give a piece of advice to someone a 2-4 years younger than you, what would you tell them? Why should they listen to you?

Listen.

King Solomon had been a child of wealth and privilege, while his father David had been a shepherd’s son. He was raised in the royal courts, never having to do his own work, while his father had been sent out as a child to protect the flock from predators. Other men fought on behalf of Solomon. David had often fought his own battles. And then then when David told Solomon that he’d be responsible for building God’s temple, he also undercut his son by telling everyone else around how young and inexperienced his son was and how much help he would need. When we look at the Book of Proverbs, we need to know that Solomon most likely did not create these sayings, although there are some attributed to him. It is most likely that these came from a wide range of fathers, religious leaders and other parental figures for the young people they felt responsible for.

My child, do not forget my teaching,

    but let your heart keep my commandments;

for length of days and years of life

    and abundant welfare they will give you.

Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you;

    bind them around your neck,

    write them on the tablet of your heart.

So you will find favor and good repute

    in the sight of God and of people.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

    and do not rely on your own insight.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

    and he will make straight your paths.

– Proverbs 3:1-6

 

Flip through Proverbs and pick a saying that stands out to you.

 

Now take a look at these two verses…

Do not answer fools according to their folly,

or you will be a fool yourself.

Answer fools according to their folly,

or they will be wise in their own eyes.

– Proverbs 26:4-5

Ask.

  • Do these two verses seem to contradict themselves? Why or why not?
  • If you were a young person in the time of Solomon or after, learning these wise sayings, what would you think of all of them put together?
  • How would you know what was God’s wisdom versus human wisdom? Who should you listen to?

Say.

Living a life that pleases God has to include practical applications that anyone can use in lots of everyday situations. Some of it comes from God in a perfect sense. And some of it comes from godly people who may not even agree with each other and who definitely aren’t perfect or all-knowing but who do care about you.

Ask.

  • Can you think of anything that a young Solomon and you have in common?
  • Have you’ve been blessed or privileged with a lot of advantages, support and encouragement that others did not start with or that you did not earn?
  • If someone has ever said that you didn’t deserve an award or that you only got to where you are because you were a teacher’s pet or coach’s favorite, etc….then how can you show your true worth?
Remember:

A lot of us adults care about you. Parents, coaches, teachers, youth volunteers, older family members, etc. We care about you! We may not have all the answers and yes, we can even be wrong. But try to listen to us. We’ve been there and have learned a lot the hard way that we hope you will not have to experience on your own. So reach out for biblical wisdom that comes from God and from human wisdom from those who care about you too.

Close with prayer.

Thank God for the people who have sacrificed to provide you with a better life. Ask God to guide you to stay humble. Thank God for the people who care about you and try to give you good advice. Ask God for discernment in knowing what advice to follow.

More.

 0-100 | Best Advice You’ve Received.

Rainn Wilson, the actor who played Dwight on “The Office” has an inspirational web series called Soul Pancake. He brought in people ages 0-100 (actually all the way up to 105) to answer some of life’s big questions. They were asked the question, “what’s the best advice you’ve ever received?”

Week Fourteen – June 26-July 2, 2016

1 Chronicles – The Temple – A Sacred Place for a Sacred People

  • What building in Hoover best represents our city? In Alabama, for our state? In the U.S., for our nation?
  • What’s the most impressive building you’ve ever seen or been in? What stood out about it?
  • What do these buildings symbolize or represent for people?
  • Why are big buildings, monuments, museums, cemeteries or statues important to people?

Listen.

When David first took the throne as king, he realized that he was now living in a fine cedar-walled palace while the place to worship God was still in a tent – as it had been going all the way back to Moses’ years of wandering in the wilderness. God told him that one of his achievements would be to build a permanent place of worship, a temple in Jerusalem. But then David screwed everything up by the terrible decisions he made and there was so much bloodshed involved in regaining and then keeping the throne, that as much as God loved David, he would not let a man with that much blood on his hands be responsible for creating such a sacred space. God’s instrument for this building project would become David’s son Solomon.

David said to Solomon, “My son, I had planned to build a house to the name of the Lord my God. But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood in my sight on the earth. See, a son shall be born to you; he shall be a man of peace. I will give him peace from all his enemies on every side; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for my name. He shall be a son to me, and I will be a father to him, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.’ Now, my son, the Lord be with you, so that you may succeed in building the house of the Lord your God, as he has spoken concerning you. Only, may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, so that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God. Then you will prosper if you are careful to observe the statutes and the ordinances that the Lord commanded Moses for Israel. Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid or dismayed.  – 1 Chronicles 22: 7-13

So many times it seems like violence was what God wanted to pursue in the Old Testament. What we see here is that violence or war was actually not what God had intended for his people to get what they wanted. In fact, as much as David wanted to pursue God and build him a temple, the fact that he was such a violent man excluded him from being able to build the temple that he had always dreamed of worshiping in. That project would be Solomon’s charge to complete. And God again tries to explain to Solomon through David that Israel will not be protected through armies or even God’s Temple or the Ark of the Covenant being stored there. Israel’s true protection will be through following God’s commands.

  • If every church in our community was razed to the ground and no one was allowed to build a new one, where would you go to connect with God?
  • How would you connect with other Christians?
  • What parts of our Christian community would be the hardest to replicate without a building?
  • What parts would be the easiest?

Remember

Violence cannot achieve the will of God. Neither can buildings.

There is a lot of violence in the Old Testament. But our God is not a God of violence. God of is a God of peace. Violence, anytime it happens, is a result of something counter to the will of God. Many Christians see a connection to Jesus here. For centuries after the construction of the Temple, different Jewish military leaders tried to take it back by force from invaders and reestablish a Jewish kingdom. But Jesus told his followers that their very bodies would now serve as God’s Temple and that the Kingdom of God would never be achieved by violence and for that very reason it could never be defeated by threats like the Roman empire.

Pray

Pray for people around the world who are not able to worship God in the open because of persecution and violence. Pray for people who have had their churches destroyed and their lives threatened because of their faith. Pray for their safety and pray for God to change the hearts of their persecutors.

More

Check out this Minecraft recreation of the Temple in the time of Solomon.

Week Twelve – June 12-18, 2016

2 Samuel

Ask.

  • Have you ever experienced a relationship change where someone who was once a friend began to treat you poorly?
  • Have you ever tried to confront someone who was mad at you who wouldn’t explain what had happened to change things between the two of you?
  • Have you ever been anxious or sad about something when everyone else told you you should be happy or excited?

Listen.

Once he realized that Saul could not continue on as King of the Israelites, Samuel secretly anointed a boy named David. This meant that as far as God was concerned, David would be the next true king of Israel. At first, David was welcomed in Saul’s court. He was a gifted poet and musician, a war hero after killing Goliath and he even became best friends with Jonathan (Saul’s son). But jealousy soon crept into Saul’s heart. When David returned from a military operation that had seemed impossible to survive, the women sang, “Saul has slain his thousands but David has slain his tens of thousands.” Saul finally realized the threat posed by David’s popularity with the common people and began plotting to have him killed. It broke David’s hear to lose the King’s friendship. He left court with many loyal warriors and became an outlaw. A civil war broke out with each side gaining the upper hand at different points until finally Saul was killed in a battle against the Philistines. David was saddened at the loss of the men who were once his mentor (Saul) and his best friend (Jonathan). But the people rallied around him as he took the throne.

Through the prophet Nathan, God talked to David about what would happen next…

Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

– 2 Samuel 7:8-13 (NRSV)

When David heard all that God planned to accomplish through his reign, he was overwhelmed. In so many ways, he was still the farm boy, the son of a shepherd who had gotten caught up in events bigger than him. Yet here he was now sitting on the throne of a kingdom, instantly wealthy beyond his dreams, beloved by the people and the favored champion of his God.

Think.

  • How hard to do you think it would be to stay humble with all that suddenly thrust upon David? Would you be able to handle it?
  • How hard would it be to be King Saul and see how everyone stopped celebrating you and began celebrating David? How would you try to handle it in his shoes?
  • Who are some public figures in our culture today (celebrities, athletes, etc.) that people like to point out have been negatively “changed” by fame or success? Do you think that’s fair?
  • When David got hold of the warrior who had killed Saul, he had him executed. Then he mourned the loss of his king, even as he took his throne. How would you react to the downfall of a “frenemy” in your own life?

Remember.

Worrying about what other people are doing or saying can backfire.
Saul was not necessarily a bad king. Yes, there were some things he got wrong. But overwhelmingly he made sure in his personal life and in the life of his nation that God’s laws were obeyed. What ultimately led to his downfall was his jealousy of David – another person who was doing his best to live for God. While Saul was so fixated on stopping David, it was a battle against the Philistines that led to his death.

Pray.

Consider someone who you feel has made your life more difficult despite your feeling that they are not justified in how they feel about you. Pray for that person. Pray that God will bless them and that they will change their mind about you. Ask God to guide your words and actions toward that person to reflect your best, not your worst, thoughts about them.

More.

Youtuber Kaitlin discusses her “frenemy” from when she was in high school. Watch the video and think about what she advises. Does she get it right? What do you think? https://youtu.be/W3bI-Jmlp4Q

 

 

Week Eleven: June 5-11, 2016

1 Samuel – Power’s Problem

Ask.

  • Have you ever asked your parents for something that you felt like you just couldn’t live without?
  • Did they try to convince you that you really wouldn’t enjoy it once you had it?
  • Have you ever tried to persuade your friends not to do something because you thought it wasn’t a good idea but ultimately they decided to do it anyway?

Listen.

The twelve tribes of Israel continued to live in the Promised Land under the law of Moses with guidance from the judges. Yet time and again, they turned away from the holy rules for living that they had vowed to keep which led to renewed attacks by the enemies on their borders – like the Philistines who had landed on the coast and settled there. And each time, God raised up new judges to beat back their enemies and to remind them of their vows. This pattern repeated itself for around a hundred years.

But as the Israelites looked at the strength of their neighbors, they noticed something that each of them had but that they did not: a king. So they petitioned to God to give them an earthly king that they could be proud of and rally to in times of danger. Speaking through the last of the great judges, a man named Samuel, God warned the people of Israel that any king, no matter how faithful at first, would always be tempted to stray from God’s law and would eventually abuse their power for their own gain. But the people were adamant. They demanded a king. Samuel was furious that the people were so stuck on having a king like their neighbors. They even seemed to care less about his character than whether or not he looked the part of a king. God comforted him and helped him select a boy named Saul, who was handsome, strong and faithful. This would be their new king. Samuel spoke to the people from the high ground of a battle site where God had led them to a recent victory over the Philistines.

Samuel summoned the people to the LORD at Mizpah and said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses; and you have said, ‘No! but set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and by your clans.”
– 1 Samuel 10:18-19 (NRSV)

When Saul was presented to the people, they immediately said he looked the part of a king – they didn’t even care about his character! They were pleased and eventually all the Israelites pledged their loyalty to him. Samuel was sick about how shallow they were being and wrote out everything he could think of to guide Saul on how to rule wisely and to keep the young king from abusing his power or disobeying God. And then he did his best to serve him as a loyal advisor. But over the years of his reign, even Saul began to care less about Samuel’s instructions for how to follow God’s desires. So finally in secret, Samuel sought out and anointed the son of a shepherd (he poured sacred oil on his head, marking him as special) so that one day this boy would rise up to take the throne from Saul.

Think.

Have you ever seen people rally to someone hoping that they think could fix all the country’s problems if only they were president? Or have you ever noticed how a coach who has won countless games suddenly has fans booing them and questioning their coaching when their team gets behind? What does this say about politicians or coaches or other people in leadership positions? What does this say about people who follow or support them and who later change their minds? Why do we project our shortcomings or hopes and fears on other people?

Remember.

Only God can be trusted with absolute power. And only God is perfect.
We often expect, even demand, things that in the end are not in our best interests. We get offended when someone tells us that we don’t know what is best for us. We are surprised and hurt when someone that we trust acts selfishly and not in our interests. We enjoy reading gossip about the failures of politicians and celebrities. It’s been said that power corrupts; and that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Pray.

Pray for our leaders. Pray that as they make decisions they consider, not just their own interests, but what glorifies God and what helps the weak and those without access to power and influence.

More.

In the Marshmallow Experiment, children at Watermark Community Church wrestle with waiting to eat a marshmallow in hopes of a bigger prize. This experiment is based on many previous and similar scientific tests. https://youtu.be/QX_oy9614HQ