Worship and Rest for March 29th

Psalm 47

Come, everyone! Clap your hands!
Shout to God with joyful praise!
For the Lord Most High is awesome.
He is the great King of all the earth.
He subdues the nations before us,
putting our enemies beneath our feet.
He chose the Promised Land as our inheritance,
the proud possession of Jacob’s descendants, whom he loves.
Interlude
God has ascended with a mighty shout.
The Lord has ascended with trumpets blaring.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King over all the earth.
Praise him with a psalm.
God reigns above the nations,
sitting on his holy throne.
The rulers of the world have gathered together
with the people of the God of Abraham.
For all the kings of the earth belong to God.
He is highly honored everywhere. 

Leader Questions for Week 4

Questions for Luke 15 – 19

Feel free to add your own questions to your Connect Group conversations! 

Luke 15: 
Do you need Jesus? Moreover, do you need him the way these sinners needed him? 
How do you feel when you repent? What emotions are going through your mind when you humble yourself and ask forgiveness from God? 
Do you ever celebrate the spiritual victories over sin of others? If so, how? 
Have you ever found yourself ‘comparing testimonies’? What does scripture say about how we are uniquely gifted to serve Him?  
Luke 16: 
Do you plan ahead in your desires to serve the Lord? In what ways? Are you strategic like the manager? 
Do you have a plan for your generosity? 
What are some ways that you can be generous that are outside of the norm? A simple example could be buying someone a cup of coffee and offering a word of encouragement. 
Are you faithful in the little things? If you are, praise God! What greater thing could you be praying about that you could ask God to fulfill?  
Luke 17: 
Have you ever gone to battle with scripture? How do you respond when what the Bible says challenges you deeply?
How do you handle temptation? Have any ‘go-to’ tips and tricks to help you manage the temptation? Have any scriptures that you personally use to help? 
Why is faith so important to forgiveness? 
Think about other scriptures you have read up to this point, what have people been able to accomplish through their faith? 
Luke 18: 
If all of the distractions were removed, what would you spend all your time praying about? Your family, your friends, forgiveness, salvation? 
Do you cry out to God? What does that look like to you? Do you have a prayer closet, do you go for a walk, sit in your car? 
What do you think of the Tax Collector in verse 13? What about the Pharisee? 
What are some practical ways that we can make sure we’re not comparing sins?  
Luke 19:
What do you think Zacchaeus was hoping for when he climbed into that tree to see Jesus? 
If Jesus called to you, would you come running? Or would you be distracted by work, family, phone, etc.? 
If you could host Jesus for dinner, what would you like to talk with him about? 
Do you have anyone in your life that you need to make things right? 

Reading for March 30th – Luke 20

Shane L. Bishop

Jesus’ encounters with the religious establishment can take but two paths; Jesus topples their power base or they topple Jesus.

The parable of the vineyard has meaning for Christians the original audience would have missed. Remember Jesus told these things before his crucifixion and resurrection.

Clearly Jesus has power as long as the crowds support him…but crowds are fickle.

What appear to be exercises in semantics to us were life and death battles between Jesus and the religious establishment.

In the Caesar segment, Jesus does not prove to be a revolutionary. Caesar will always get his due; giving God what is God’s is our imperative.

In the second segment, Jesus affirms the afterlife and clears up some misconception concerning it.

A recurring theme is that Jesus answers theological trick questions really well and even beats his detractors at their own game.

A final rebuke of the hypocrisy of those questioning him closes the readings. In it we are reminded that no act of piety can make up for acting unjustly toward others. And religious leaders, who do such things, will receive even greater punishment from God.

Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek but he was never afraid to scrap with those leading others astray.

The Power of Silence

Jesus is a master at knowing what to say and when to say it. Jesus is also a master of knowing what not to say. Like Jesus, we need to be discerning with our witness. Is a person asking faith and theological questions out of genuine interest, or are they asking questions simply for the sake of arguing? If a person solely wants to debate, politely excuse yourself from the conversation, no one gets argued into heaven. If, however, they have a true desire to learn, then spend as much time as necessary to help them.

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke

Reading for March 31st – Luke 21

Shane L. Bishop

Jesus is clearly apocalyptic in this reading. Moderns often want a “softer” Jesus but his own teachings reveal another side. Love is the message but there is a game clock that will eventually signal the end of Time and Space as we know it. That clock is ticking…

The 70 AD fall of Jerusalem is predicted here but remember such a war was all but inevitable during Jesus’ life. No prophet required. The double ring that points to the Second Coming offers testimony to events that (according to where you live) have occurred over and over in history. Especially with the Jews.

When will Jesus return? We don’t know but we are to live ready.

What three things would you do right now if you knew Jesus was returning tomorrow?

How is Jesus’ message of love and justice connected? 

The final guarantee that “this generation will not pass away,” makes one think Jesus’ teachings must have been referring to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. But the Bible often has a double ring…

The Cost

Have you lost anything by becoming a follower of Jesus Christ? Have you lost relationships, friendships, a job, a promotion, or opportunities? Jesus is clear that his followers will lose relationships because of him. No matter how much it hurts though, we have a greater relationship in front of us with Jesus Christ. What’s more? That relationship is eternal. We can be thankful that Christ made his great sacrifice first, and for us. If you’re being rejected and pushed away for your faith, take that as confirmation of your acceptance by the Lord.

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke

Prayer for April 1st

Heavenly Father, we thank you for creating us. Thank you for the opportunities to create relationships that are founded in faith. Thank you for our church and the family that has been created there. We pray that you would overwhelm us with gratitude and help us to see the many blessings that you've poured on us. 
We pray for those who are hurting right now. We pray for those who feel alone and need your presence. Draw near to these people, and make your glory felt, powerfully. Don't let them distance themselves from you, but give them a desire to hold you closely. 
We pray this all in the powerful blood of a risen Christ. Amen. 
 

Reading for April 2nd – Luke 22

Shane L. Bishop

Right away in chapter 22, we see the religious establishment again trying to get rid of Jesus. Judas becomes their answer. The idea that “Satan entered Judas” is unique to Luke.

What questions does this idea raise for you?

The task for Judas is to catch Jesus when he is isolated and the crowds can’t protect him. Since Jerusalem was packed for Passover made this no early task. Luke’s comments about Jesus’ “commuting” from Bethany is the key. Catch him in transit.

Note the word “remembrance” in the liturgy.

Note how much material the first three Gospel’s share. Juxtaposing them to discover minor differences offers much insight.

This is our third Gospel in which we walk with Jesus to the cross. They are each essentially the same but offer some differences.

It is of interest that in Luke, Jesus mentions swords before the betrayal. The disciples had to be thinking revolution. It is equally of interest that he restores the ear cut off by the sword.

That Satan “asked” for Peter implies dialogue between Satan and Jesus. See the Job story in the Old Testament. Jesus prayed for Peter but Peter’s outcome was in his own hands. Note v. 32: Peter DID fail Jesus and then returned and led the disciples.

The juxtaposition between when the disciples were sent out with nothing and the present, suggests things will get a lot worse before they get better. “Sweat like drops of blood” reinforce this shift from ministry toward the cross.

Prayers against temptation are always in good order. We often think of temptation in small ways; the greatest temptation is to walk away from Christ and the life he came to give us. Why? Because it is too hard.

Luke’s description of Jesus looking at Peter after the denial is most gripping. When their eyes part, Peter goes out of the courtyard weeping bitterly. Jesus’ eyes must have been filled with hurt and disappointment.

Have you ever felt the hurt and disappointed eyes of Jesus looking at you?

Overcoming Failures

Many of us relate to Peter. He was not afraid to ask the simple questions and the hard questions alike. Because of this, Peter was no stranger to failure. However, Peter also had an incredible gift to not allow those failures to weaken him. Instead, his failures seemed to provide him motivation to pursue Christ even more! When we fail, we need to have an attitude like Peter. We need to be encouraged and strengthened to pursue the Lord even more fervently than before!

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke

Reading for April 3rd – Luke 23

Shane L. Bishop

The only true accusation against Jesus is found in verse 5. Jesus did indeed stir people up all over Israel!

The Herod described here was one of Herod the Great’s three sons who succeeded him. He ruled Galilee. He is clearly so disappointed that Jesus fails to “perform” for him that he turns on Jesus.

Both Pilate and Herod would have almost certainly been staying at the Jerusalem palace of Herod the Great. The relationship between the Roman governor, Jewish King and High Priest was always tenuous.

The Jewish establishment could not pronounce a death sentence. They were expected to police themselves up to that point. Since the leaders wanted Jesus dead, the Romans were involved….reluctantly.

Any non-citizen under the dominion of the Roman Empire could be impressed into short service by a simple tap of a sword on a civilian shoulder. Jesus was nearly whipped to death and Simon of Cyrene (modern Libya) was called into service to carry the cross. It was a really bad and bloody gig to be called upon in such a way. Simon will never be forgotten because of it.

Jesus is followed to the cross by “multitudes.”

Jesus’ prayer of forgiveness for the people from the cross is most compelling and an example of a truly Christian prayer. Jesus is modeling what he taught in the Lord’s Prayer.

After a Jewish person died, their body was laid in a tomb to control odor as the body slowly decomposed inside its wrapping. Stones at the entrance kept dogs and other animals out that might make a mess of things. Jesus would have been wrapped in strips of cloth (swaddling clothes) as a baby; and in his death. Once decomposed, the skull and bones were placed in a box and the tomb was reused. Jews were not allowed to be around a dead body on the Sabbath. That is why the women waited until Sunday morning.

This model of Herod’s Palace is found at the Jerusalem museum.

Fortitude

Pontius Pilate is a man stuck between a rock and eternity. He recognized that Jesus of Nazareth had done nothing wrong. He certainly recognized that what Jesus was being accused of didn’t deserve the cross. However, Pilate didn’t have the fortitude to stand against the crowds. He didn’t have the fortitude to stand for one innocent man against a mob of angry people. When tough decisions come, will you stand for what’s right? For God, for Christ, and for the Bible?

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke

Reading for April 4th – Luke 24

Shane L. Bishop

“Why do you look for the living among the dead” is compelling. The resurrection testimony of the women was not believed. It seemed too good to be true…that being said, Peter ran to the tomb to see for himself…and is left marveling.

The Emmaus story is a good example of the way resurrection news spread…slowly. Note Jesus simply walks with them before engaging.

A risen Jesus encounters two disciples heading the wrong direction. They thought things were over.

Their “eyes were opened” and Jesus vanished! Back in Jerusalem Jesus goes to some measure to prove he is not a ghost. Finally he eats in front of them. Apparently it was common knowledge that ghosts don’t eat.

Now their eyes are opened and what they had been taught suddenly comes alive.

The final instruction to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit sets up Luke’s sequel; Acts.

The book ends with the Ascension, joyful worship and obedience.

You have finished the book of Luke! Congratulations! If this the first time you have finished reading one of the Gospels, let me know!

Not Our Plan

The disciples and followers of Jesus Christ could not prepare themselves for the crucifixion. They believed that Jesus had come to deliver them from tyranny, from pain, and from the many difficulties of this world. Jesus did all of those things, just not in the way that they believed he would. Throughout scripture we see many references of God’s plans differ from our own. Just when we (or the Biblical characters) believe that the sand has emptied from the hourglass, God does something more amazing than we could have ever guessed. The disciples didn’t think Jesus would raise from the dead, and yet, there he was. Just when you think time has run out, and there’s no chance for a miracle, that’s the perfect time to be looking for God. He’s just getting started.

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke

Leader Questions for Week 5

Questions for Luke 20 – 24

Feel free to add your own questions to your Connect Group conversations! 

Luke 20: 
When you read the parable of the vineyard owner, why do you think the owner sent his son, even after his servants were killed? 
The religious leaders were trying to get Jesus to justify not paying taxes, do people still attempt to stretch the truths of scripture to justify not obeying the government? 
Do you see the hypocrisy that Jesus points out to the religious leaders today?
What does it mean to you to turn the other cheek?
 
Luke 21: 
Do you struggle when Jesus talks about the end times? 
Do you struggle with Jesus proclaiming persecution and betrayal because of following Him? 
How is Jesus’ message of love and justice connected? 
 
Luke 22: 
What questions does this idea raise for you that Satan ‘entered’ Judas. 
Similarly, Satan asked to ‘sift Peter like wheat,’ what do you think of this possibility? That Satan can ask and Jesus could permit Satan to test Peter. 
Why do you think Jesus sweat like drops of blood? 
 
Luke 23: 
Why do you think Jesus refused to answer Herod? 
What do you think was Pilate’s goal in trying to release Jesus multiple times? 
What do you think about the criminal who asked for Jesus to remember him? 

Luke 24:
How would you react, fully expecting to see a body, instead finding an empty tomb? 
How would you react when others don’t believe you? 
What would it be like to see a risen Jesus? 

April 5th – Holy Week Palm Sunday

Kevin Siddle

Palm Sunday, also known as the Triumphant Entry, sees Jesus fulfilling the prophecies set out in the Old Testament. When Jesus mounted an unbroken colt, a donkey that had not yet been ridden, he was fulfilling what was written in Numbers 19:2, Deut 21:3, and 1 Samuel 6:7. This was also a sign to the people that Jesus was affirming his messianic royalty. He came as a king of peace riding on a colt, not as a warring king riding on a horse or in a chariot. 
As the people saw this, they understood what Jesus was doing. He was pronouncing a new kingdom, just not the kingdom that they had hoped. The crowds expected Jesus to be their new leader and to bring Jerusalem to its former glory. This would not happen, and when it became obvious that Jesus was not going to fulfill their hopes, many would turn against him. 
Luke 19:41-42 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes.” 
Imagine the scene. People cheering, singing, waving palm branches in celebration of Jesus entering into Jerusalem. People seem to finally understand that Jesus is the Messiah! Unfortunately, they don’t understand, and Jesus knows it. In contrast to the joy of the crowd, Jesus wept as he approached the city. Jesus knew that he would be rejected. Not only rejected by the city, but by its people, and even his disciples. 
Where there is great joy at the arrival of Jesus, there is also great pain of what is to come. 
The painting pictured is by Pietro lorenzetti titled entry into Jerusalem.  

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke