Matthew

For the next four weeks we will be going through the four Gospels. This may seem like we are going to be talking about the same story/good news for four meetings. Yes, the Gospels all talk about Jesus, but they also have their own flavor.  The difference is where things get interesting, which what we will be talking about.

Mark was the first Gospel written, and Matthew is based very closely to Mark. Yet, Matthew is twice as long as Mark. We will talk about this a little later.

To open our night together we talked about context through telling jokes (clean). Just think if we only heard the punchline to a joke without the lead up. Things may be confusing right? Of course! Or at the very least it wouldn’t be as funny or meaningful. How does this tie into Matthew?

Matthew was written to Jewish Christians, or people who have heard about Jesus, but never met Him or knew as much about Him as others. This time for the Jewish Christians was very difficult and confusing. They no longer had control of the temple due to it being destroyed. This rattled them to the core of their beliefs. Matthew was writing to reassure the Jewish people who God was still with them and Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy.

Think About:

What if suddenly there was no church building, no central place to gather, worship, and learn about God? What would you do if this was your reality?

When Matthew wrote the Gospel, this was the reality of the people he was writing to.  Why does this matter?! Context matters to help give us a fuller understanding of what we are reading in the Bible.

Let’s look at some fulfillment of prophecy that Matthew is sharing with the Jewish people, who are waiting for their savior to come. Matthew 1:22-23 talks about a virgin giving birth to the savior. This was the fulfillment of prophecy from Isaiah 7:14.

Questions:

What does “God with us” mean to you today?

Why is it important for Matthew to relate to the Jewish people?

Now, lets look at Matthew 5:1-12. This is a section called the Beatitudes is an introduction to the Sermon on the Mount.

Questions:

Which Beatitude would you choose to live out?

There is so much more to Matthew and the life of Jesus that you can read. Each of the Gospels will take a different look at the life of Jesus, and have different perspectives. My hope is that as we go through the Gospels we will develop a fuller view of Jesus and learn more about what we believe as Christians.

Jesus

Last night we talked about Jesus. This seems like a “duh, it’s confirmation” but as we have gone through this year we have looked at some of the prophesies about Jesus, but never looked at his nature and who Jesus was.

Jesus was 100% human and yet 100% God/divine. Let’s not get hung up on the math of this though, but look at the nature of Jesus.

Philippians 2:5-8 talks about God humbling himself to become a human. Think about all the qualities of God and the power that he holds, God loves us so much that he came to earth through Jesus. Jesus was human, so he had human emotions and feelings, but Jesus never sinned. Jesus started as a baby like all of us, he learned to walk, talk, how to be a carpenter, interacted with his parents, got mad, was sad, you name it Jesus lived the human life. Yet, he was sinless, hence the fully God nature of him too. Jesus also performed many miracles. There is so much comfort in knowing that God knows who we are and understands us, even more than we understand ourselves. God was here with us on earth through Jesus.

When we pray to God, God understands and hears us. As we continue through this season of expectant waiting we call Advent we are preparing ourselves for the coming of our savior. Emmanuel, God with us; Jesus was with us and is with us. Throughout this Advent and into Christmas season I would encourage you to think about ways that we can share Jesus with others, and the qualities that Jesus had with others.

Questions to wonder about:

  • Since Jesus is fully human and fully God, how would you views change if he wasn’t 100% of each?
  • What qualities do you see in humans that we share with God?
  • What qualities do you wish we had more of that God has?

 

Job

Job is an interesting book of the Bible where many aren’t sure that it is fact, but it is more of a myth. BUT the message of this story is still there and still very important to learn from. Throughout this story Job and his friends are trying to unpack what is happening to him. All the while God is dropping some knowledge on Job. Let’s look at the first part of Job starting at vs. 6 about how Job got into this.

One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Does it seem odd that God is “playing a game” with Job?

In God’s sovereign wisdom, He knows things we don’t know. He can see events unfold in the future that we could have never even imagined. Also, God rarely does things for one singular reason. Often times, God will achieve many things with just one event, and He may have 1,000 purposes that He accomplishes with it.

God probably didn’t care so much what Satan thought, but in His wisdom, God knew Job would remain faithful and that his story would inspire millions of faithful Christians to persevere in their trials throughout the ages.

Job 1:31-21

Job was a rich man who was very well off, with many kids. One day he lost everything, possessions, family, and health. Imagine losing all of these things in a short amount of time, like the time it takes for an Angel to speak to you. I think of some material items that I have, that I would be upset if I lost them, but then to think of even more than that being gone is tough to think about. Job lost his farm, his possessions, his family, and his health! I think that I could relate to Job on wanting to start all over, but it’s crazy to think that he fell and worshiped God!

After mourning for 7 days, Job finally spoke to his friends. They didn’t really offer any good advice to him. In tough times it’s hard to know what to say to those who are struggling.

What has helped you in hard times?

Job’s circumstances were so large to him. Think about things like breakups or fights with your child’s friends. These can feel really detrimental too. Our job as adults is to not minimize those struggles but to help youth through them.

Questions to discuss with your child?

– When have you experienced something that didn’t make sense in your faith?

– How do you recover when life seems stacked against you?

– Can you relate to Job?

9th & 10th Commandments: Unholy Desires

“You shall not Covet”

What does this mean?

“We are to fear and love God, so that we do not try to trick our neighbors to get their things for ourselves. Instead we should be of help and service to them in keeping what is theirs and urge them fulfill their responsibilities.”

-Martin Luther, Small Catechism


The 9th and 10th commandments are very similar. They both have the same first four words: You shall not covet. Last Sunday, Pastor Mike said that to covet meant to have a jealous desire of something or someone else. Jealousy is when we want something or someone so badly that it can lead to us resenting anyone else who has what we want. The desire part of coveting comes in when we want something so badly for ourselves that we will try to get it no matter the cost.

Coveting happens when we begin to feel that life is a zero sum game. That is, in order for one person to get ahead, someone else has to fall behind. When coveting shows up in our own lives it usually feels like, “my life is hurt when your life goes well.” When we covet other people’s things and lives, it begins to minimize our own blessings and maximize other people’s blessings. Social Media can create a space where we compare our blooper reel to other people’s highlight reels.

What effect can it have on us to compare the messy parts of our own lives to the best parts of other people’s lives? Continue reading

8th Commandment: Truth Telling

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

What does this mean?

“We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.”

-Martin Luther, The Small Catechism


The eigth commandment is traditionally applied in the court of law. It stands for justice and fairness in the eyes of God. As with the other commandments, this seems like a basic rule, why should it have to be reiterated? As people, many things can get in the way of justice such as prejudice, wanting to fit in, or self-interest.

The eighth commandment isn’t just about the abstract idea of a court of law, or even limited to parents or teachers trying to figure out what happened in a specific situation. Times when we are tempted to break the 8th commandment rear their ugly heads throughout our everyday life. This is especially evident when it comes to name calling and rumors. To better understand what I’m talking about, I’d like to tell you a story about my own time in middle school. Continue reading

7th Commandment – Property Rights

“You shall not steal.”

What is this or what does this mean?

“We are to fear and love God, so that we neither take our neighbors’ money or property nor acquire them by using shoddy merchandise or crooked deals, but instead help them to improve and protect their property and income.”

-Martin Luther, The Small Catechism


Throughout the world and across cultural and political boundaries almost every single group of humans has some sort of rule about stealing. If this is so standard throughout the world, why would God need to go out of the way to remind us of this simple rule?

Continue reading

Youth help out with Trunk-or-Treat!

Each year St. Mark reaches out to the community around us to provide a safe and fun trick-or-treating experience. This year both the Middle School and High School youth helped out by creating their own trunk-or-treating experience. Check out the pictures below to see what they did!

Eikon (High School)

Last Sunday the High School youth built a Spooky Maze in the church basement. During Trunk-or-Treat, the youth helped kids have a safe and not too scary haunted house experience!

CREW (Middle School)

Over the past couple of weeks each of the 6 small groups worked together to plan a fun trunk. Then they met up early on Wednesday evening to put together their trunks and hand out candy to the Trunk-or-Treaters.


  
  

5th Commandment: The Sanctity of Life

“You shall not murder.”

What does this mean?

We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all of life’s needs.

-Martin Luther, The Small Catechism


On it’s face this commandment seems fairly easy to follow. Most people don’t think they would ever be able to kill someone else. But when we explore what this commandment really means, we reveal a more nuanced idea. The 5th commandment means that all of life is sacred, including Human life. This means that animals are also covered by this commandment. A better understanding of this commandment might be, “Do no harm to another.” We are called to help life flourish around us.

We violate the 5th commandment when we refuse to help someone in need. To understand this better we looked at The Parable of The Good Samaritan (found in Luke 10:30-35) and examined which characters in the story may have broken the 5th commandment.

   

 We also had a special guest join us from the Blank Park Zoo. We took a trip around the world with the help of our zoo guide and some animal friends. We learned about animals, plants and conservation issues from different habitats in this challenging, inquiry-based program.

Walk 4 Water Concert and LOCK-IN!!!

This week instead of our normal Sunday night meeting, we actually met on Saturday Night for a Lock-in. We kicked off the night at 6pm at Faith Lutheran Church where we met up with several other churches from throughout central Iowa for an event featuring the Walk-4-Water campaign, Agape, Rachel Kurtz, and Joe Davis.

The event started with a .1 mile journey through the basement carrying 5 gal water jugs (weighing 40 lbs!) to simulate the 3.7 miles that the average woman in sub-Saharan Africa must walk to retrieve water for her family. On the journey we had to walk through simulated flood waters, stand in the heat, learn about water born illnesses, and follow the perilous journey of an individual who doesn’t have enough water. After sweating our way through the Walk-4-Water track, we moved into the sanctuary where we witnessed an awesome concert!


  
  


Then we headed back to the church for a night full of Gargon, Hypotherables, and The Magic School Bus (seriously, that’s the netfilx movie the youth picked out). It was a great night and it all culminated in us attending the 10am Contemporary worship together.

4th Commandment: Honoring Parents

“Honor your mother and father.”

What does this mean?

We are to fear and love God, so that we niether despise nor anger our parents and others in authority, but instead honor, serve, obey, love, and respect them.

-Martin Luther, The Small Catechism


This is the first commandment that deals with interpersonal relationships. It is many mom and dad’s favorite commandment, and it seems like it gets used just to keep kids in-line. But this isn’t the only place in all the Bible where there are references to the relationships between parents and children. In fact these sorts of passages exist all over both the old and new testaments.

So why do you think the Bible puts so much emphasis on how we interact with our parents? Continue reading