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.

Letters

We’ve talked about the letters these last couple of weeks, and we around to talk about 4 other letters tonight. The letters may seem like they don’t apply to us, but these were written to early Christians as guidance and empowerment to them in their early faith. I think these letters can still pertain to us when we look at them big picture wise, because especially in confirmation we are young in our faith as we continue to grow it.

1 Timothy 1:3-7

What would love from an impure heart, a bad conscience, or insincere faith look like?

  • Poor intentions. May be a misguided or manipulation love. Could be out of guilt or desperation to gain love or acceptance by God.

What does love from a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith look like? Can you think of a time when you saw someone offer or act out of this kind of love?

  • Authentic service or love. Not looking for anything in return

We see love is greater than the law again. Why is this such a big deal?

  • Love neighbor as self or as Christ loved you.

There are things about the Bible that have been said so much, that we start to believe it though it isn’t true. Can you think of other examples?

  • This too, shall pass (Persian poetry) | cleanliness is next to godliness (the Talmud, oral Jewish law) | little drummer boy | God won’t give you more than you can handle (1 Cor. 1:13 Refers to temptation not burdens) | God help’s those who help themselves ( ancient Greek lit)

1 Timothy 4:12-15

What is Paul’s message to Timothy? (early 20’s)

  • Be an example and don’t let people down on you because you are young..

What gifts does Timothy have?

Have you ever felt this way?

  • You may not realize this but…I look young for my age. Being 27 there are many times where people think that I’m way younger than I am, but context is everything too. When people see my wedding ring or me with Henry they believe that I am older. This has been problematic in some roles that I’ve had because of how people look at me when I teach or lead classes. It’s like I’m playing dress up or a token…

Hebrews 10:19-25

What is our Christian walk supposed to look like?

  • The Christian life isn’t one that is meant to be lived alone. This even ties back into us as just humans. We all have a desire to be in a community and be accepted and safe.
  • Acts 2:40-43

James 2:14-17

Faith Changes us and transforms us. There is no way around that. What are some ways that faith has changed you? Works are a fruit of faith.

 

Many of the New Testament letters were written to encourage churches and individuals. If you were to write a letter of encouragement, to whom would you write it and what would you say?

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.

Luke

Luke 2:41-52

This is the only story of Jesus childhood in the 4 gospels. Jesus is sitting and learning from the Rabbis. Jesus is asking questions, answering questions, and growing in his faith. It may be easy to read this and think Jesus is having an attitude with his parents, but this is far from it. Jesus was obedient to his parents when they said it was time to go. I’m sure this was quite the conversation Jesus parents lost him for 3 DAYS! 3 Days! That would be horrifying!

How would you feel if you were Jesus Parents?

What does this tell us about Jesus?

A disobedient pre-teen?

Humble Son of God?

Jesus even says “don’t you think I’d be doing my father’s business…”

What does this mean? Wasn’t his father a carpenter?

If you dad was God, the creator of the universe how would you feel? Would you have an ego?

How did Jesus use this power?

Psalm 131

What is humility?

Humility is knowing our relationship with God and where we stand.

What do you need to be humbled in?

What does it feel like to be known or understood by someone? What if they don’t understand seem to understand something that you’ve done or needed?

When I was applying for ministry jobs when I first got married, I applied a church that I did some work with when I was in high school for a youth ministry job. I had changed a lot and really come of out my shell between high school and when I was 24. That was a 6-8-year difference and time to change, grow, and mature. As I was interviewing they asked what part of ministry I was interested in; the logistical desk work or upfront interactions with students and leaders. I said that I love direct interaction with people. The interviewer was shocked…”you mean you really want to work with people, aren’t you quiet and shy.” I was more shy in high school, but when I came out of my shell and was secure in my identity this was opposite from who I was. It felt disheartening and like something I wasn’t called to since who I was, was not heard or understood. Thankfully God lead in a different direction.

Parables

Luke 8:9-10 What is a parable?

Parables are stories to illustrate and explain points, not to obscure them.

As we read parables, we can look for who the God, Jesus, and human characters are in these. This gives us a glimpse of God’s plan and love for us.

Parables can be broken down into some themes:

Kingdom of Haven

Luke 13:18-19 Mustard Seed

Mustard seed is the smallest seed, yet it grows into something that is huge. And it provides shelter. What does this mean for us? God’s kingdom keeps growing to make room for all of us!

Redemption

Luke 15:8-10 Lost Coin

Pharisees would not value a woman’s morals, though would care for the poor. They come from an educated class that would have much more than 10 coins. A coin was about 10 days wages.

The angels in heaven took great interest in God’s work, so they would be rejoicing for someone coming to faith or back to God. Searching for what was missing and then celebrating what was found with a feast by inviting neighbors. It’s so reassuring to know that God will seek us out and rejoice when we turn to Him, not matter what we’ve done.

Love and Forgiveness

Luke 10:30-37 Good Samaritan

Samaria was not a good place to be, people would not look fondly at having to travel through.

Two who were very well to do passed an injured person in an area where they would most need help.

The lowest of the lows (a Samaritan) stops and helps this person and sacrifices for their care.

Prayer

Luke 18:1-8 Unjust Judge

Widow is ultimate example of the oppressed

If the unjust judge who cared not for widows can give justice, how much more can a just judge of all the earth give?

Look what prayer can do and how God provides.

Even if the unjust judge is slow to listen God is quicker

Eschatological: what happens when we die, the final judgment of humanity

Luke 13:6-9 Barren Fig Tree

Jewish leaders believed that God would judge Israel every year to decide when he would be coming back for the final judgement.

Fig trees did not usually need manure, so with the vineyard worker doing all he could to save the tree they wondered if Israel repented in its ways if God would come back sooner

Owner of vineyard is God, the worker is Jesus

One last chance for hearers to express repentance and receive grace

Other

Luke 8:16-18 Lamp Under a Jar/Bushel

We have the light of Christ and we should not hide it. We need to share that light with others.

 

 

 

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?