August 23, 2015 Searching for the Truth More Than a Rabbi? Scripture: Matthew 16:13-16 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he

August 23, 2015 Searching for the Truth More Than a Rabbi? Scripture: Matthew 16:13-16 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, Who do people say that the Son
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August 23, 2015 Searching for the Truth More Than a Rabbi? Scripture: Matthew 16:13-16 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, Who do people say that the Son of Man is? And they said, Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. He said to them, But who do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered, You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. I believe in Jesus Christ, [God s] only son MONDAY Romans 1:1-4, Mark 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-20 Christian faith said Jesus was the Christ (a title, not a name the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Messiah). Son was a human analogy word they used to say that Jesus was as much God as the Father it did not suggest that Jesus came into being later than God. It s a matter of straightforward history that it was not centuries before Christians began speaking of Jesus as God. Scholar Larry Hurtado wrote, In historical terms we may refer to a veritable big bang, an explosively rapid and impressively substantial christological development in the earliest stage of the Christian movement. Colossians 1:15-20 most likely quoted an early Christian hymn. Scholar William Barclay wrote of verse 19, The object of [Jesus'] coming was to bridge the chasm between God and man. The initiative in reconciliation was with God. God s attitude to men was love, and it was never anything else. Have you ever thought that Jesus had to convince an angry God to save you? How does realizing that God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:19) change your view of what salvation required? Romans, Mark and Colossians are all clearly first-century documents, not some later formulation by a church council. None of these verses tried to explain the mystery that Jesus was fully divine and fully human. They just stated it as the reality the early believers said was transforming their lives. In what ways has knowing Jesus changed your life for the better? Prayer: Lord Jesus, Peter declared, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I want to join Peter in believing and proclaiming that astounding, life-changing truth. Amen. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary TUESDAY Matthew 1:18-21, Luke 1:26-37 Christians proclaimed that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. Matthew and Luke both told the story of Jesus conception and birth, but each one from a different parent s point of view. Nevertheless, the two gospels emphasized certain key points in common. Both reported that the prospective parents at first reacted to the news of what God was doing with shock, and struggled to believe it. In both accounts, the baby was given a name that pointed to his saving mission. This was no ordinary child this was a Savior sent by God. Imagine God gave you the task of choosing the Messiah s parents. Would you be likely, in your human wisdom, to choose an unmarried teen-aged girl and an obscure carpenter who lived in a tiny backwater town? (Writers who think early Christians made up the story face the same question: would anyone be likely to invent this backdrop for their hero?) Does the very improbability of the stories of Jesus birth detract from their credibility for you, or add to it? Our faith s central claim is that Jesus fully embodied his name, which meant God saves. How does this claim shape your faith and your life? How can you honor the Bible s claim that Jesus is the bringer of salvation in ways that follow his example, showing love and grace to people with different views than yours (even about Jesus), rather than condemning or mocking them? Prayer: Lord God, from darkness to light, from illness (physical or spiritual) to health, from death to life you are always the God for whom nothing is impossible. I praise you for opening a life of hope and possibilities before me. Amen. Suffered under Pontius Pilate WEDNESDAY Luke 3:1-3, Matthew 27:1-2, Pontius Pilate would be completely forgotten today if he hadn t condemned Jesus. The Apostles Creed mentioned this man we might call a political hack because he helped locate Jesus story firmly in history. This really occurred, at a certain time and place. More than that, Pilate is a warning. He was somebody Rome s highest official in Jerusalem. Desperately trying to remain a somebody, Pilate carried out a gross injustice, saying, I find no legal basis for action against this man (Luke 23:4) yet sending him to the cross. What a scene: on one side Pontius Pilate, Roman procurator, seeing Jesus innocence clearly yet lacking the moral courage to do justice. On the other, religious leaders, afraid of Jesus challenge to their status and system, shouting, Crucify him! Jesus in their midst. Scholar N. T. Wright asked, What would it look like for us to fully side with Jesus silent in the middle, continuing to reflect the love of God into his muddled and tragic world as opposed to the political maneuverings of those like Pilate and the chief priests in our world? Jesus answered Pilate s questions unlike anyone Pilate had ever questioned: My kingdom doesn t originate from this world. I came into the world for this reason: to testify to the truth (John 18:36, 37). C.S. Lewis wrote that a man who made such claims falsely would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg or else he would be the Devil of Hell. Pilate ignored Jesus answer; the religious leaders called him a blasphemer. How does your heart respond to Jesus claims: lunatic, liar, or Lord and God? Prayer: Lord Jesus, I wasn t part of that awful kangaroo trial. But prejudice or fear can blind me, too. Forgive me, cleanse me and show me more clearly how I can choose to heal rather than harm. Amen. Was crucified, dead and buried THURSDAY Mark 15:22-39, John 19:38-42, 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 We still sometimes see the claim that Jesus just fainted on the cross. But Roman soldiers knew their business. If they ever by mistake let a convict live, they paid with their own lives. No, Jesus really died and Christians said Jesus died for all of us. Paul summed up for the church in Corinth the message he believed with all his heart. One died for the sake of all. He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised. Scholar Craig Evans wrote, The Roman centurion confesses of Jesus what he should only confess of the Roman emperor. In calling Jesus the Son of God, the centurion has switched his allegiance from Caesar, the official son of God, to Jesus, the real Son of God. What kind of a king what kind of God reigns from a cross? What has to happen in your heart to allow you to serve that kind of divine king? The result of Jesus dying for all, Paul said, is that If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! In what ways has genuinely trusting in God s forgiveness opened a new world for you? In what parts of your life are you still struggling with guilt, and seeking a new start? Are you open to getting any help you need in order to move beyond destructive guilt and self-hatred? Prayer: Lord Jesus, you really died on the cross. Yet your divine creativity took the worst we could do, and brought from it the best gift I could ever receive. You release me from fear and guilt, and empower me to live a truly human life. Thank you. Amen. The third day he rose from the dead FRIDAY Corinthians 15:3-8, 16-20, Luke 24: Corinthians 15 is the first written witness to Jesus resurrection. To some in Corinth who denied the Christian faith in resurrection, Paul spoke of meeting the living Jesus, and of over 500 other eyewitnesses (verses 6-7). Jesus defeated evil and death! Paul said if that weren t true, Christian faith was worthless. Scholar C. H. Dodd wrote, The Resurrection of Jesus is not a belief that grew up within the church; it is the belief around which the church itself grew up, and the given upon which its faith was based. Jewish or Roman authorities could have easily put a stop to early Christian preaching like Paul s: just produce Jesus dead body. They had all the police and military power to find the body. But they didn t, because they couldn t the tomb was empty. How can Paul s confident appeal to hundreds of still-living eyewitnesses deepen your faith in the reality of Jesus resurrection? What difference does it make to you that Jesus is alive today? Author Phillip Yancey wrote, There are two ways to look at human history. One way is to focus on the wars and violence, the squalor, the pain and tragedy and death. If I take Easter as the starting point, the one incontrovertible fact about how God treats those whom he loves, then human history becomes the contradiction and Easter a preview of ultimate reality. Hope then flows like lava beneath the crust of daily life. On what will you focus as ultimately real: violence, squalor and pain, or the hope that flows from Jesus resurrection? Prayer: Lord Jesus, the writers of Scripture didn t write for profit or fame. They wrote so that I could find in you the same life and power they found. Give me perception and faith as I read my Bible. Amen. We worship Jesus Christ, our Lord SATURDAY John 1:1-5, Hebrews 1:1-3, Philippians 2:5-11 John 1 brought together Greek and Hebrew thought. Many Greek philosophers identified the Word as the great Idea behind the universe. The Hebrew Bible began (like John) with in the beginning, and said God spoke all that is into being. The writer of Hebrews said that while God spoke in many times and many ways, God s final word was not a book, but a person: Jesus. And Philippians quoted a Christian hymn from the year 40 A.D. or so which showed that Christians boldly called Jesus Lord. That wasn t just empty church talk, because Roman emperors wore the title Lord, and clung to it with ruthless violence. But to Christians, Jesus was the true Lord, a Lord of love and grace. With Rome s military might pitted against Jesus seemingly naïve witnesses, the contest looked ridiculously uneven. It was but 2,000 years of history show that Caesar, not Jesus, was overmatched. Jesus disciples told him people saw him as many great, respected names from history (Matthew 16:13-16). But they saw even more than that in Jesus. Peter said Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. Many Jewish political and religious leaders claimed to be the Messiah and challenged Rome (one historian counted 138). The Romans crucified most of them. In EVERY other case, when the leader died, the movement died. Yet Jesus followers were bolder and more confident than ever after his death. They wrote letters and books saying their leader was alive and guiding them, that he had defeated death. To what extent can you join in Peter s confession of faith? What factors shape what you believe about Jesus? Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are my Lord and my God. You are my Creator and my Redeemer. Because you live, I too will live forever. I thank you and I praise you today. Amen. Family Activity: The Bible teaches us about who Jesus was and all he did to help others. Create a stack of Jesus Scriptures for your home. Gather and distribute colorful index cards and pens or pencils along with a Bible to each family member. Ask each person to choose 3-4 favorite Bible verses or stories about Jesus and write one reference on each card. (If you have very young family members, invite them to draw pictures describing the verses or to help other family member with their stacks.) Collect the cards and keep them on the dining table. Before each meal, select a card, read the passage and pray to become more like Jesus. Also, thank God for Jesus. Place that card on the bottom of the stack and repeat each day. Add to your stack during the weeks ahead. Prayer Requests Prayers for those receiving long-term medical care: Prayers for Health and Healing: Carolyn Lesjack, Judy Sylte Prayers of Thanksgiving: Sawyer Mackay, age 5, 6 months seizure free Prayers for Peace & Comfort for: Chris Craemer and family following the death of his mother, Carol Ewert, 8/16 Josh Whalen and family following the death of his mother Kirsten Marsh, 8/11 Hardy Montague and family following the death of his wife, Barbara Benson Montague, 8/10 Lacie Griffin and family following the death of her grandmother, Mattie Belle Steele, 8/9 Eric Fladung and family following the death of his father, Jerome F. Fladung, 8/12 Allyson robinson and family following the death of her brother Curt Riggs, 8/13 Courtney Durando Warner and family following the death of her father, Jim Durando, 8/10. Shannon Dyer and family following the death of her mother Janet Dyer, 8/10 Carol Richardson and family following the death of her father Arthur Cain, 8/4 Stephanie Clifton and family following the death of her husband Craig Clifton, 8/17
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