Martin Luther and the Reformation

Recently, I ran into a pickle when I was replacing a board on our new wood floors. I’m a handy person and didn’t think this project would be much of an issue. BUT here is where I went very wrong…the board was in the middle of our kitchen and my theory of getting it out failed epically. Removing one more board lead to another and to another and then another. A 30-minute fixed turned into a good chunk of my date redoing the floors that I had just done a month or so before. This ended out working for the best because I was able to fix a few other boards that had some damage too, but at the time this was deeply frustrating as this project should have only taken half an hour, not the whole morning and part of the afternoon.

Martin Luther, was a Catholic monk who saw an issue with the Catholic church, and spoke out against it. This lead to much more than he could have imagined. Luther did not set out to create a new denomination or create such upheaval. As Luther was studying in the monastery and reading scripture he came across Ephesians 2:8-10:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

This was weighing on him, and then the selling of indulgences pushed him to send a letter to the Pope. Indulgences were pieces of paper people could buy to get loved ones into heaven from purgatory. Purgatory was like a waiting room where you think about your sins and seek forgiveness. People were buying these in droves, while the Catholic church was building a new church.

As Luther was speaking out against the church, he lost many friends and faced much judgment from peers in the church. Ultimately leading to him being kicked out of the church. During this time there were also many other reformers speaking out against the church and gaining followers which lead to the creation of many of the denominations we have today.

Luther was a normal person, he had doubts and depression. He faced judgment form many for the good work that he was doing.

This is a very brief overview of the life of Luther the Reformation, but it helps us to see a little of where we came from and also helps us to see how God used Martin Luther despite his humanness.

Discussion Questions:

  • What is something that seems easy to fix? How would you fix it?
  •  What do you think about what Luther did?
  •  How does what Luther did shape how you view what we believe?
  • What do you see in our society you want to speak out about?

What is C.R.E.W. all about?

Welcome to C.R.E.W. 2017-2018! I’m super excited for this year of C.R.E.W. and welcoming the new 6th and 7th graders into C.R.E.W. this year!

You will get weekly emails from me to recap what we talked so you can continue the faith development journey at home. This week I will be recapping what we talked about last night so that you have this as a reference as well. We believe that when we partner with families to help students to grow in faith, that is when the faith of students really sticks.

We strive to make C.R.E.W. (confirmation) a fun and faith growing experience. To accomplish this we FLOW which means Fellowship, Learning, Outreach, and Worship. These are all elements that are worked into some weeks but will be prevalent throughout this entire year.

Schedule:

5:15-6:00: Dinner (optional)

6:00-6:15: Snacks/Games (optional)

6:15-7:00: Large Group

7:00-7:30: Small Group

Confirmation Retreat:

October 14-15 at Riverside Bible Camp in Story City, IA.

We will meet at St. Mark on Saturday the 14 at 8:30a and will return to St. Mark at 11:00a on Sunday.

Our theme for this retreat is community.

Mission Trip:

For the first time at St. Mark, we are offering a 6-8 grade mission trip! We will be going to Minneapolis, MN July 22-27. Please sign up soon, as we only have 10 open spots. If you sign up later, you will be placed on a waiting list, though I will do my best to get you a spot. Paying a deposit of $150 holds your spot and we will fundraise the rest.

Revelation

When you hear about Revelation what do you think of? How does it make you feel?

There are so many depictions out in our current culture of what the end of the world/end times could look like. None of them paint a very happy picture, in fact many are quite scary.

I had a friend who is scared of being “left behind” when Jesus comes back because that would mean that her faith isn’t that strong. This is all based on the books and now movie based on one view of the end times.  I want to assure you that what Left Behind and other apocalyptic depictions of scripture are from flawed interpretation of scripture. Revelation is also a book that we cannot take literally.

When Revelation was written it was during the time when the Roman government was persecuting Christians and early Christians had it very rough. This is why much of Revelation is written with symbols and codes that early Christians of the time would understand. So taking it literally can get quite confusing.

Think about the 💩 emoji. What does this mean? Some say it is chocolate frozen yogurt, or poo. These are two VERY different things! In the context we understand what it means, but think in the years to come people may not understand what it actually means or the nuances of using such an emoji or other emojis.  

Rev. 1-3

Read Rev. 1:9-11

 

Revelation starts off as a letter with John of Patmos writing to his fellow first century Christians who are being persecuted by the Roman government. This was a really rough time for these Christians, and John shared the vision that he’d been given by God with the seven churches.

This explains why much of Revelation is written in code or with references back to the Old Testament that first century Christians would understand.

Read Rev. 2:1-7

Have you ever felt like you were trying really hard to do something right, only to have your efforts ignored, or worse yet, declared not good enough?

How would it feel to be part of the church of Ephesus and hear the words in v. 1-3?

What do verses 4-6 tell us about  some of the new churches in Asia at the time?

What do you make of the tree in v. 7? Does it seem familiar or similar to another biblical story? What might the author be indicating by making this connection?

Revelation 4-5

In these two chapters John is sharing his vision of the throne room. There is a person (God) sitting on a golden throne with his heavenly court surrounding Him. He is hold a scroll in his right hand that has seven seals (pieces of wax). He was saying that there is only one person who can open the seals on the scroll. This person was a slain lamb representing Jesus.

Jesus came and he is making God’s word true and is with us. The scroll also contains a word of God’s justice and comfort for those who are persecuted. Justice will be brought to those who are against God.

Revelation 6-16

In this part of Revelation, the seals are broken and God’s judgment/justice is reigning. People aren’t repenting though God is pouring out his justice through: the 7 seals, 7 trumpets, and 7 bowls/cups.

Each of these 7 seals, trumpets, and bowls were opportunities for the people to repent, which they did not do. Sounds familiar right? This is a nod back the 7 plagues in Exodus.  

 

Revelation 17-18

All of God’s judgement is poured out on Babylon and it falls. This is reassuring for the early Christians because Babylon was code for Rome, and John was saying that Rome will be destroyed.

Revelation 19-20

Here is the scene of an epic final battle between Jesus and all the evil of the world. Guess who wins? Jesus! Jesus conquerors all evil, and the story still continues!

 

Revelation 21-22

Read Rev. 21:1-8

What part of the text stands out to you? Why?

For first century Christians, life was bleak. How might this have made them feel?

How does reading this challenge what you’ve maybe heard about this book and the end times?

What can we take away from revelation?

This is a story of Hope, God will make all right again, and always provides for us.

End point: Jesus Wins! Love Wins!

God is here with us even when we don’t feel like He is.

Dear Galatians,

Paul is writing a letter to the people of Galatia reminding them of the true message of the Gospel (Jesus’ story), and not adding to it. Galatians can be broken down into three big themes. These are all things that I think we do from time to time without even realizing it.

Jesus+: What do we add to the Gospel? [ Galatians 1:6-10]

We add: Be a good person, do the right thing, do good for others, respect, actions that bring us closer to God, etc… We’re all adding to the gospel kind of like the Galatians did at times.  The law that the Galatians used did its job, but they missed so much of the bigger picture.

Questions:

  • What are situations where there are so many rules that it is hard to follow?
  • Do you feel like you ever add rules to the Gospel? Do others?

the checklist: Why do we do what we do? [Galatians 2:16]

Why do you come to CREW or to church? To grow closer to God? Because it is something we should or ought to do? There are times for sure where CREW may seem like another item on the checklist, but I hope that your main reason of coming is to grow in faith. The main point of this though is looking at our intentions, and not letting our intentions of faith growth be cluttered by a long to do list of faith moments.

The Galatians had this same problem. The Galatians as we all know were making faith so complicated and added so many steps/rules to knowing God that they lost sight of who God really was. Paul was speaking against the law a lot in Galatians because the Galatians were spinning their wheels trying to get the law right to get to God.  God was speaking through Paul saying forget about the law…Look to me.

With Love: [Matthew 22:36-40 & Galatians 5:6]

Paul’s main point was Love.  Love is the greatest command, look at Matthew 22:36-40. How do you love your neighbor?

The law was miss understood, it wasn’t a benchmark to grade how good a Christian is it is to show how we always fall short of the glory of God. Just like earlier Paul summed up the entire law: For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Through Christ coming for us the old law isn’t going to be necessary, but something just as important is our relationship with others and our relationship with God.  Through faith and love we get to our end goal, but at the same time we are strengthening the entire community of believers and affirming them in their faith.

Growing in faith is our new goal and love is how we get there

Action Steps:

Take 15 minutes at some point over the next week to just sit without distractions to spend time with God. Ask him to help you focus on him and loving others.

Take the masks off: Take your Wed/Sun mask off and be the same person everywhere you are. We can get in habit of just putting on our church mask and then have the school mask.

I don’t think that we intentionally make our faith life harder, but sometimes we make it harder for ourselves. We are made right with God through faith (trusting in Him). We don’t have to work to earn His love, or take all these extra steps. We are called to love one another that is the greatest command. Though freeing, it can seem too simple, and we need to add more to it. I urge you to not do this and just focus on the true message of the Gospels.

Acts

Read Acts 1:6-11 Ascension of Jesus

  • Does it seem like that Jesus’ disciples understand him yet?
    • The disciples were always trying to figure out who Jesus was and what he was going to do. Jesus said and did many things that the disciples would not have expected the Messiah to do. This is why the disciples sometimes failed to grasp what Jesus was saying and doing. Jesus surprised them in many ways and most recently his resurrection.
  • What do you think they expect Jesus to do now?
    • They were expecting him to do what they thought the Messiah should be doing, but he was always surprising them with how he acted. They were expecting him to overtake the Roman Empire and be king of Israel. BUT He then leaves them and promises to send a spirit of power, so that they can bring the kingdom.
  • Does it seem surprising that Jesus trusts his disciples to carry out his message?
    • Jesus is leaving them/us with a big command to do his work.
    • The Spirit is with us to equip and guide us through this, which is so comforting!
    • We are will humans though, that can and do mess stuff up, but even in that we know that the Spirit can work.
  • What do you think it means when Jesus says being his witness to the ends of the earth?
    • What does it look like to witness?

Read Acts 10:44-48

  • How do you react to the Holy Spirit Moving?
    • I know that I’m usually surprised because the spirit moves at unexpected times and places.
  • Who was the Holy Spirit Surprising?
  • Where would you be surprised to see the Holy Spirit moving today? Do you think the Holy Spirit still surprise us today?
  • What do you expect from the church?
    • We all have so many expectations of the church and usually they are set to a VERY high standard. I like to think of the church in the way that I think of Mission trips. There is a three-day rule on mission trips called the fish rule…after three days’ fish starts to smell. Also on mission trips after a lot of time together everyone starts to stink, not just for real, but we start to notice what we don’t like about those around us.  With the church and each other after much together time we need to check our attitudes. There can be so many things we like, but sometimes there’s the one thing that we really don’t like out of a huge list of what we love. This can be the work of the devil trying to divide us, but the Spirit can and does unite us.
  • What should the church look like?
    • What should churches have?
    • Read Acts 2:43-48
      • How does this church look? What looks appealing?

 

John

The writer(s) of John is pushing us to see past what we know, see, and experience to see God’s presence in and around us. This is why John focuses on different stories and Jesus’ miraculous powers. John helps us to see who Jesus really is.

John is purposely different from the other 3 gospels and has different stories.

John (the author(s)) is/are writing to the gentile community to show them that God is at

work in the world.

John was writing to a people who more immersed in scripture than many of us are today. These readers/hearers were ones who were smelling what Jesus was stepping in and knowing the Old Testament references. I’m not that good! I may seem that way, well it’s because I use my resources, like google, Pastor Mike or Dick, and my library of books. As we read through some of these texts I may be asking you to think back to texts that sound familiar. Don’t feel dumb if you don’t know, that’s why we are all learning together. Why does this matter?!  I think/know that this will help us to better understand scripture as whole and it can reveal God’s love even more for us. It also gives us a better understanding. There will be times in your life when you will think about this, and God’s word/ the Holy Spirit will help us through. 

John 14:6-11

  • What is Jesus trying to explain to his disciples?
    • That he is God
  • What does he say if they don’t believe him?
    • Look at what I’ve done!
      • What signs/miracles/acts has Jesus done to prove he is the Son of God?
        • Water to Wine
        • Healing official’s Son
        • Healing at Bethesda
        • Feeding of 5,000 Jn 6:9 sack lunch
        • Walking on Water
        • Healing man born blind
        • Raising Lazarus from the death
  • Do Miracles still happen today?

Doubting Thomas: Jn 20:19-29

  • How would you react to some random person showing up in the locked room you and your friends are sitting in to avoid being taken? This was also during the traditional mourning time, so they wouldn’t be out and about anyway.
    • How did they know it was Jesus?
      • Couldn’t it have been another person who was crucified?
    • What do you think of Thomas’ reaction?
      • Can you relate?
      • What do you think of Jesus remark to Thomas? V.29

I know for me there are definitely times where I don’t feel God’s presence with me, and even when He is there, I still doubt or question. Questioning is part of faith, and it leads to stronger faith. I know God is with us all the time, but man there are times where it doesn’t feel like it. It depends on the time, but I usually try to catch myself and ask God to help me see Him, other times, I just wait a bit.

So if you relate to Thomas, and have doubts that is ok. I think it is beneficial to share your doubts with someone though whether it be a parent, small group leader, or me. If you talk with me about this, I promise that I won’t try to convert you. I will listen and be a resource for you.

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?

 

New Testament

This week we finished our two weeks of giving some context to what we will be reading and learning from the New Testament. It is so important for us to take some time to understand  what is happening in the New Testament and when it was written. This will aid us in understanding what we read in the New Testament better.

Let’s highlight a few of the big differences in the Testaments:

  1. Jesus! Jesus, is here on earth and sharing God’s message with us on earth. In John we read where Jesus saying that he is saying what the Father (God) has commanded. We will spend a lot of time talking about Jesus and the good news he brought.
  2. Time it was written over. The New Testament was written over a hundred years and the Old was written over thousands of years. This help us to understand the history and the context of what is in the New Testament.
  3. Good News and Letters. The New Testament is made of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) The rest is pretty much letters written by Paul or other writers. We will talk about these differences and the books of New Testament as we go through the rest of this year.
  4. The New Testament puts an end to all the laws and sacrifices that were in the Old Testament. God’s love shines through with Jesus being the ultimate sacrifice and the new law of Love.

I’m excited for the rest of this year as we go through the New Testament and learn so much about God’s love for us!

Questions to Ponder:

  • Do you have a favorite section of the Bible? Why?
  • How would your understanding of the Bible be different if we didn’t make a distinction between to two sections?
  • How do you think the Old and New Testament are different? Where have you noticed similarities.

Why do Maps Matter?

In the age of GPS and the ability to quickly find out where things are, we have lost some touch with where things are and the distances between them. I know this is the case for me. Then we look even farther back to Biblical times and to the Middle East our sense of location and cultures of areas is even more skewed.

We are starting our New Testament Unit now and kicked it off talking about Maps. I know this sounds like a riveting topic, but it gives us even more context into what we are reading. Let’s take a look at part of Paul’s journey in Acts 14:24-28:

Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had completed. When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. And they stayed there with the disciples for some time.”

Do these destinations mean anything to you? For me, I just breeze over them sometimes, but when we do that we miss a big part of the story. Paul traveled a lot for his ministry, and utilized the network of road the Roman Empire had created. In this journey Paul traveled about 7,000 miles!

As we continue to move through the New Testament we will continue to look at the maps and other parts of the stories. When we skip some of the details we miss out on the story. Think about when we share stories of travels with our friends. When we talk about a new place do we just name the place and not share any details about it? Of course not! If the person we are speaking with isn’t familiar with the location we give them context so they understand what we are talking about.

Our reading of scripture is no different. When Jesus or the disciples were speaking of locations the people they were speaking to understood those locations or at least had an idea of what those places were like. When we don’t look into the cities then we miss out the story and the meaning of it.

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?