It was late in the season when Paul was put on a ship to stand trial before the Emperor. He knew it could get bad. Sometimes, we can see storms looming, and can't do anything to stop it. Yet even when all hope seems lost, God promises us that we will be safe.
Blue skies, sunny, 80 degrees. There’s a good chance that the morning forecast in heaven is perfect. Here on earth, though, we get freezing rain and all sorts of calamities. Storms in life are inevitable. The first response may be to cry out in fear. But if we have ears, we may discover a surprising peace, a deeper wisdom, and a more binding love.
Our experience with others is dictated by “social maps” with relatively clearly defined roles and expectations, rewards, and punishments. Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Tax-Collector frustrates the social map of Jesus’ own day and suggests that we should examine the way we see our world as well.
SCRIPTURE: Luke 18:9–14
In our world that is shaped by competition and earning, Jesus’ parables of grace seem to be upside down, bizarre, and other-worldly. While the grace of God may be celebrated by those who are vulnerable without it, the grace of God frustrates those who suggest that they can make it all on their own.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 20:1–16
“Lost” is a reality that confuses men, confounds women, and can strike fear into the hearts of the bold if they realize they are lost. “Lost” is also a condition that Jesus used to describe people who were estranged from God. The curious thing about being lost is that more often than not, it takes someone else to find you. Someone like God, maybe.
SCRIPTURE: Luke 15:1–32
In preparation for his masterpiece, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey researched the success literature of the United States. What he found was that for the first 150 years, the material was based on character—who you were. The next 50 years, it was based on personality—how you acted. There is a significant difference between genuine faith—the kind the Apostle Paul describes in Romans—and the faith that we try to act out.
SCRIPTURE: Romans 12:9–18
In the parables, Jesus often speaks of the Kingdom of heaven, giving examples from daily life. In many cases, we can see the Kingdom growing in our world. In other cases it is harder to detect, seemingly hidden by noise and strife. On this World Communion Sunday, we will join with believers around the world to celebrate the Kingdom in our midst.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 13:31–34
Life is filled with weeds that choke and tangle our lives and with weedy people trying to entrap us and keep us from living into the fullness of God’s plan for our lives. Jesus teaches how we should respond to these weeds, and how we can ultimately use them for the betterment of his Kingdom.
Jesus tells a story in which he depicts God as a farmer who throws seeds. The seeds fall among the rocks, in the weeds, and on the hard-packed paths. Their location determines if they grow and flourish, or wither and fade. Has your seed fallen on the rock, with no way of taking root? Has it fallen among the weeds, only to be entangled by the toils of the world? Or has your seed fallen on the good soil, where it can flourish and bear fruit?
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 13:1-32
Jesus is part Savior and part ophthalmologist. He wants us to see things as they really are, not the version that is distorted by sin and blurred by the world which come to us naturally. Through parables, Jesus opens our eyes to the true story of our lives, and offers a new perspective into his Kingdom.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 13:10-17
At first, Jesus doesn’t stop the storm. The disciples are out of their minds, thinking they might die, and want Jesus to rescue them. Instead, Jesus asks about their faith. Some things can only be learned in a storm. Discipleship is mostly on-the-job training. What storms are blowing in your life?
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 8:23-27
One of Jesus' most famous stories concerns the optimist who opts for beachfront property and the pessimist who picks the rock-filled lot. It's been said that things don't always work out the way you plan them. The truth is that they never do. In life, there's a 100% chance of rain. How are you planning for the storms to come?
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 7:24-27
The story of Elijah tells us how kings and kingdoms chase after temporary security and pleasure. Living in such a world can be discouraging. But God is more powerful, and wants more for us than just our comfort and wellbeing. After revealing His presence in the storm, God recommissions Elijah to minister to the world in which he lived.
SCRIPTURE: 1 Kings 19:11-13
Sometimes life can feel stormy. The account of Jonah is one of the Bible’s most interesting storm stories, when the rebellious prophet is thrown overboard during a storm and swallowed by a great fish in whose belly he lives for three days. When storms break around us there’s a lot to learn.
SCRIPTURE: Jonah 1
As his life and ministry builds to the boiling point, Jesus feels enormous pressure and stress. So how does he respond? He goes to the garden and prays. Meanwhile, his disciples watch and wait with him. In the most heated moments of life, prayer is the practice Jesus most wants to teach us as his followers.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 26:26–46
Interesting things can happen at supper; engagements to marriage, business deals, professions of love, and even life-shattering betrayals. At supper one night, even in the face of betrayal, Jesus was glorified.
SCRIPTURE: John 13:21-31
Sometimes, when the night seems the darkest, all you can do is sing. Silly songs, serious songs, songs that give hope. And sometimes, in the midst of those songs, something amazing breaks through, and in the midst of it is God!
SCRIPTURE: Acts 16:25-34
In the morning, we're ready to take on the world. But it's at night, in our fatigue, that we take heed of our doubts and fears. Believing seems to take more than we have to give. It's at night when Gideon tests God's faithfulness, even as he pleads for mercy. Is God really present or are we getting fleeced?
SCRIPTURE: Judges 6:36-46