Resurrection Living

Sermon: “Resurrection Living”
Scripture: Colossians 3:1-4
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Easter Joy
By Joanna Fuchs

Jesus came to earth,
To show us how to live,
How to put others first,
How to love and how to give.

Then He set about His work,
That God sent Him to do;
He took our punishment on Himself;
He made us clean and new.

He could have saved Himself,
Calling angels from above,
But He chose to pay our price for sin;
He paid it out of love.

Our Lord died on Good Friday,
But the cross did not destroy
His resurrection on Easter morn
That fills our hearts with joy.

Now we know our earthly death,
Like His, is just a rest.
We'll be forever with Him
In heaven, where life is best.

So we live our lives for Jesus,
Think of Him in all we do.
Thank you Savior. Thank you Lord.
Help us love like you!

By Joanna Fuchs

Heart’s Desire

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Series: Not a Fan
Sermon: “Heart’s Desire”
Scripture: John 6:25-26
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

1. As we come to the conclusion of our Lenten Sermon Series…Not A Fan...have you been challenged to make any changes in your life to become a completely, committed follower of Jesus? If so, what do those changes look like?

2. Read Hebrews 9:27. What are your thoughts on this passage and how does it affect your life directly?

3. Read John 6:1-26. During this passage we see that Jesus has not only fed the multitudes, but He has walked on water…the crowds have now become quite an entourage in following Jesus wherever He goes. Why are they following Him? Is it because of what He feeds them? Is it because He can help them? If the food and help cease…will they still want to hang around Him? Is Jesus enough for them? Is this a means of separating the fans from the followers?

4. Read Matthew 7:21. This verse reminds us how easy it is to convince ourselves that we are followers of Jesus. What is the will of the Father? How well do you know Jesus?

5. Here are three questions that you are encouraged to answer in regard to your relationship with Jesus…answer them with sincere honesty, prayer and discernment: What are you hungry for and what do you truly thirst for? Is Jesus really enough for you? As you reflect on your answers to these first two questions…are you a fan or a follower?

Prayer for the Week:

Lord, please forgive us for the many times we’ve lived our lives as fans rather than living for you as completely committed followers. Please guide us and lead us through this journey of life and help us to acknowledge how desperately in need of you we are. Thank you, Jesus, for your unconditional love, mercy and grace. You are our heart’s desire and we long to worship you. Amen.

The Rule of Grace

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Series: Not a Fan
Sermon: “The Rule of Grace”
Scripture: John 8:1-11
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

Read John 8:1-11.

1. In this week’s passage, the Pharisees try to use the Law as a weapon, not only against the woman caught in adultery, but also against Jesus. When have you been guilty of using Scripture as a weapon against those who sin differently than you?

2. Why do you think it is so easy to put religious rules ahead of relationship with Jesus?

3. Jesus says, “If any of you are without sin, let him be the first one to throw a stone at her.” What is Jesus telling us through this phrase?

4. When there are no accusers left, Jesus tells the woman, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” What does this say to us about our need for grace and repentance?

5. In the video clip, Kyle Idleman talks about being inoculated with Jesus. That is, we get just enough Jesus in us to make us immune to how He calls us to live. How have you seen this play out in your own life or in the lives of others around you?

6. Also in the video, Idleman tells the story of a father who says of his daughter, “We raised her in the church, but we didn’t raise her in Christ.” What do you think he means by this? Is this a danger we all face? What could/should we do differently?

Prayer for the Week:

Jesus, I love you so much and I invite you to be the Lord of my life. Grant me the wisdom to discern your will for my life and the courage to follow your leading. I surrender my life to you anew this day, and I willingly take up my cross to follow you. These are easy words to speak in the safety of this place, but much harder to do out in the world. Help me to be your good and faithful servant. Help me to be a completely committed follower of Jesus, going out into the world to make new followers and transform the world. I pray this in your most precious name, Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and to the glory of God Almighty. Amen.

The Comfortable Cross

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Series: Not a Fan
Sermon: “The Comfortable Cross”
Scripture: Luke 9: 57-62
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

1. Read Luke 9:57-62. There are three different scenarios taking place in this passage. Discuss the following scenarios and your initial responses: What did Jesus mean when He said, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head”? What do you think the man’s request to go bury his father really means? What does Jesus mean when He said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God”?

2. Describe how looking back at or stepping back into your old life without Christ can be detrimental to how God wants to use you in the kingdom right here and right now.

3. What are some things in life that distract us from serving or following Christ? When we give into our distractions, what are we saying about following Jesus? What are examples in your life when you’ve told God, “first let me go do this”?

4. In what ways have you sacrificed personal convenience or even physical comforts to be Jesus’ disciple? What might God be calling you to sacrifice this week to prioritize living for His kingdom?

5. How have or would you answer Jesus if He said, “Follow Me”?

Prayer for the Week:

Lord Jesus, forgive me when I've put my own priorities in front of yours. I've treated you more like a servant or an equal than my Lord and Savior. Forgive me for that and have mercy upon me. Please help me to answer when you call upon me, making no excuses. Help me to hear you when you call my name, help me to obedient to your requests and please give me the courage and strength to be the disciple you called me to be and a disciple you can count on. I’m giving you all the praise and glory, Lord. It is in your name I pray.

Amen.

What Must I Do?

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Series: Not a Fan
Sermon: “What Must I Do?”
Scripture: Matthew 19: 16-24
Speaker: Pastor Diane Mendelson

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

Read Matthew 19:16-26.

1. In today’s passage, the rich young man asks Jesus, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” How does this question show us that the rich young man simply did not understand Jesus’ teachings? How was his question indicative of a “works righteousness” theology?

2. Jesus gave the rich young man instructions on what he needed to do: “sell all your possessions, give to the poor and follow me.” Do you think Jesus was concerned about the rich young man’s money, or his commitment to follow? What does this mean for you?

3. Jesus tells his disciples, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” What does Jesus mean by this? Is money the only thing that can hold us back? What else might hold us back?

4. Hearing this about camels and needles, the disciples ask, “Who then can be saved?” How does Jesus answer them? What does this mean for us?

5. In the case of the rich young man, the problem was not so much that he had money, but that his money had him. What has you? What is Jesus asking you to let go of in order to follow him more completely?

6. What does it mean for the kingdom of God to be both a present and a future reality? How can you experience the kingdom of God here and now?

Prayer for the Week:

Jesus, I love you so much and I invite you to be the Lord of my life. Grant me the wisdom to discern your will for my life and the courage to follow your leading. I surrender my life to you anew this day, and I willingly take up my cross to follow you. These are easy words to speak in the safety of this place, but much harder to do out in the world. Help me to be your good and faithful servant. Help me to be a completely committed follower of Jesus, going out into the world to make new followers and transform the world. I pray this in your most precious name Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and to the glory of God Almighty. Amen.

“The Open Invitation”

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Series: Not a Fan
Sermon: “The Open Invitation”
Scripture: Luke 9: 23-25
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

1. This morning we’re continuing our church-wide sermon series “Not A Fan.” Last week you were challenged to “define your relationship” with Jesus; how did that go? What have you learned about your relationship with Jesus? What changes are you in the process of making in order to become a “Follower of Christ”?

2. Read Luke 9:23-25. What is Jesus telling the disciples? What is Jesus saying to you? How do you feel when you read this passage? Do you feel Jesus is speaking directly to you?

3. When Jesus makes His invitation, he welcomes anyone who would come after Him. But He also makes it clear that when you choose to follow Him, you are giving up everything. So, it’s anyone, but it’s everything. What do you think this means? Are you ready for what it may cost you? Are you willing to follow Jesus? Are you willing to be a committed follower of Jesus?

4. The cross was an instrument of violent and painful execution. To “take the cross” meant that you were to carry the horizontal beam of the cross to the site where the crucifixion was to take place. In our text from Luke, Jesus describes what all true disciples must be ready for if they are to follow Him. What does it mean to “take his cross daily”? How is that practically done? What are some things you might have to face by “taking up the cross”?

5. To follow Christ in obedience may require hard choices. When we choose to follow Jesus, we choose sacrifice over selfishness, the cross over comfort. What is the most difficult decision you have ever made? Why was it so hard? What is the best and worst outcome you have experienced from a tough decision?

6. Jesus says, the invitation to follow Him is always open...to anyone. Are you ready to accept Jesus’ invitation? Are you ready to extend His invitation to others? To everyone?

Prayer for the Week:

Dear Jesus, I love you so much and I invite you to be the Lord of my life. Help me to live my life according to your will. Give me wisdom and the courage to follow you. I surrender my life to you and I am willing to take up my cross to follow you. I want to be a committed follower of you Jesus; please help me to stay focused on You. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

"DTR"

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Series: Not a Fan
Sermon: “D.T.R.”
Scripture: Matthew 7: 21-23
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

This morning we are beginning our 6-week church-wide sermon series on Not A Fan. Not a Fan is a serious study that powerfully communicates a challenging message of the Gospel. Whether Jesus was speaking to large crowds or small groups, He made sure everyone was clear on what it meant to follow Him. As believers...we’re called to do the same. Jesus is NOT looking for fans...He’s looking for followers.

1. Read Matthew 7:21-23. What does this Scripture text mean to you? In this passage, Jesus says, “I never knew you; depart from Me,” to those who apparently worked for Him or did work in His name. How is this shocking conclusion of “depart from Me” possible? Does this text mean that believers can lose their salvation?

2. Jesus gives us many examples throughout Scripture of what His follower looks like...as you read through the following Scripture texts...are you truly living out your life the way Jesus instructs? Are you making an attempt?

Read Luke 14:33. 2 Timothy 2:2-3. Matthew 28:19-20. John 21:17.

Matthew 16:24.

3. What is your relationship with Jesus? Do you want all the benefits without all the commitment? Do you only call on Jesus when you’re in need? To what lengths will you go to show your love and commitment for Jesus?

4. In the sermon we discussed these questions: Why Are You Here? Are You All In? Have You Made it Your Own? What are your responses to these questions?

5. Are you a fan? Are you a follower? What is proof that you are one or the other? Do you need to make any changes in your life in order to be a “committed” follower of Jesus?

Prayer for the Week:

Gracious and Almighty God, thank you for this day and thank you for loving me even when I’ve gone astray. I confess that I am not always a committed follower of you, Jesus...but, I pray that you will give me the strength, the courage, and yes, the boldness to be the Christian, to be the believer you have called me to be. I love you, Lord and I am “All In”...I am a committed follower of you, Jesus! Amen.

"The True Vine"

Sermon: “The True Vine”
Scripture: John 15: 1-11
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

So far, in our “Who is Jesus” series we have looked at the following “I Am” statements: I Am the Good Shepherd, I Am the Light of the World, I Am the Bread of Life, I Am the Gate, I Am the Resurrection and the Life, I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life, and this morning we have... “I Am the Vine.”

Read John 15:1-11.

1. In today’s passage, who does Jesus say are the Gardener, the Vine and the branches?

2. How do the branches relate to each other and to the vine?

3. What does Jesus say the Gardener does to every branch that does not bear fruit?

4. What do you think it means to “bear fruit”?

5. Jesus says the Gardener also prunes branches that bear fruit so they can bear even more fruit. What does He mean by this? How might this work?

6. How have you been pruned by God in the past? What areas of your life still need a little pruning?

7. What does Jesus says happens to our fruit bearing ability when we remain connected to Him? What about when we are not connected to Him?

8. In what way does our connectedness (as branches) to the vine impact our joy?

Prayer for the Week:

O God, in mystery and silence you are present in our lives, bringing new life out of destruction, hope out of despair, growth out of difficulty. We thank you that you do not leave us alone, but instead you labor continuously to make us whole, pruning us so that we can bear more and more fruit. Help us to be willing participants in our own transformations. Help us to connect with you, and remain connected, submitting to your will and committing to advancing your kingdom. Send your Holy Spirit to be present among us as we lift up your name in praise and give you glory. Transform us more into the image of Jesus, that we might reveal you and your amazing love to others. Guide us in both our words and our actions, that we might be your good and faithful servants. We love you so much, and we offer this prayer in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

“I Am the Way”

Sermon: “I Am the Way”
Scripture: John 14: 1-7
Speaker: Pastor Diane Mendelson

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

This morning we’re continuing our sermon series on “Who is Jesus” and the “I Am” statements of Jesus. Over the past month we’ve had the opportunity to hear Jesus say, “I Am the Good Shepherd, I Am the Light, I Am the Bread, I Am the Gate, and I Am the Resurrection and the Life.” This morning Jesus will tell us: “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

Read John 14:1-7.

1. Why are the disciples troubled? What has Jesus been telling them that might give them reason to be troubled? (Read John 13:21, 33, 36-38.)

How does Jesus comfort them?

2. What does Jesus mean by “my Father’s house”? What does He promise the disciples? How does this promise affect you?

3. What comes to mind when you think of heaven? What will heaven be like? Does the thought of heaven, and what waits for you there, help you to weather the storms of life? What storms have you encountered that, by having the hope of heaven, helps or have helped you weather these storms in your life?

4. Which disciple speaks up and confesses that he does not know where Jesus is going? Is this a legitimate question? Why didn’t he know where Jesus was going? How does Jesus answer the question about knowing the way?

5. What does Jesus mean that He is the way, the truth and the life? What does Jesus reveal in this statement about being the “I Am”? How many ways are there to get to the Father?

6. Challenge for the week! This week, make a commitment to share the hope that Jesus provides in this passage, with one person who you know needs an anchor in the midst of his or her storm.

Prayer for the Week:

Gracious Lord, it is with a grateful heart that I come to you, giving you all the praise and glory for all things. You are such a loving Lord who continues to guide me, even when I go astray. You are my anchor in the midst of the storms in my life. Thank you for laying your life down for me, forgiving me of my sins and preparing an eternal home in heaven for me. You truly are the only way to the Father. I love you and thank you. Amen.

"The Resurrection and the Life"

Sermon: “The Resurrection and the Life”
Scripture: John 11: 17-27
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

So far, in our “Who is Jesus” series we have looked at the following “I Am” statements: I Am the Good Shepherd, I Am the Light of the World, I Am the Bread of Life, I Am the Gate and this morning we have... “I Am the Resurrection and the Life.”

Read John 11:17-27.

1. In today’s passage, Mary and Martha have already gone to Jesus to ask him to heal their dying brother, Lazarus. But Jesus does not go right away. What might this say to us regarding times we’ve prayed to Jesus, seemingly without any answers?

2. When Jesus arrives at Lazarus’ home, Lazarus has already been dead and in the tomb for four days. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Do you think Martha was upset with Jesus? When have you felt like Martha in your own life?

3. Martha goes on to say, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” What do you think she was asking Jesus to do at this point?

4. When Jesus tells Martha, “Your brother will rise again,” do you think Martha understood what Jesus meant? (hint: see verse 24)

5. What does Jesus say we have to do to “live even though we die” and to “live and never die”? How is this Good News?

6. In what way are all Christians “in the business of raising the dead”?

Prayer for the Week:

Gracious and Heavenly Lord, forgive me for the times when I demand things be done in my time rather than your time. Forgive me for the times when my faith is weak and I fail to believe that nothing is impossible for you. Help me to believe whole-heartedly that you are who you say you are. Convict my heart of the truth that you are the resurrection and the life. And by your grace, and through my faith, grant me the gifts of abundant and eternal life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“The Gate”

Sermon: “The Gate”
Scripture: John 10: 1-10
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

So far, in our “Who is Jesus” series we have looked at the following “I Am” statements: I Am the Shepherd, I Am the Light of the World, I Am the Bread of Life and this morning we have... “I Am the Gate.”

Read John 10:1-10.

1. In these verses, Jesus refers to some individuals as robbers and thieves. What do you think Jesus meant by this? Who or what do you think Jesus had in mind when he used the terms robbers and thieves? Who or what are the robbers and thieves in our times?

2. If Jesus is the gate, then there must be fence. Fences can be used to keep things in, keep things out, or a combination of both. When might each be good?

3. Pastor Mick shared with us the Pharisees’ tradition of “putting a fence around the Torah.” What does this mean? (hint: remember 613 Jewish laws) Why did the Pharisees do this? Do you think this was a method of fencing in or fencing out?

4. What does it mean for Jesus to be the Gate? To what is He the gate?

5. How might the temple curtain being torn from top to bottom, when Jesus was crucified, help us better understand what it means for Jesus to be the gate?

Prayer for the Week:

Gracious and Heavenly Lord, I praise you and thank you for being the keeper of my life. When I stray from you and I get lost in the midst of the world, I know that you are always at the gate to shepherd me back into your loving arms. I give you all the glory, Lord, and I thank you for being my Savior. Amen.

“Bread of Life”

Sermon: “Bread of Life”
Scripture: John 6: 24-35
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

This morning we’re continuing our sermon series “Who Is Jesus” by looking at the “I Am” statements as spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of John. What we notice with each of these “I Am” statements is that they represent a unique spiritual relationship that Jesus desires to have with each of us. The first “I Am” statement, and the one we’ll be looking at this morning as recorded in John, is: “I Am the Bread of Life” which is found in Chapter 6:25-35. Earlier in Chapter 6, Jesus had just fed five thousand people with two fish and five loaves of bread. Later that evening He walked on water to join the disciples. Keep this in mind as you read our Scripture text for this morning.

1. Read John 6:25-35. What are your thoughts on how Jesus replied to the people seeking Him? (Vs. 25-26) What do you think of His response? How does that pertain to how you feel about Jesus and what would He say to you if you asked the same questions?

2. How does experiencing Jesus as “the Bread of Life” help us to know God more fully?

3. What things of this world are filling you up, leaving no room for the true Bread of heaven?

4. What does it mean that Jesus says, “I Am the Bread of Life”? How is it that Jesus can be this source of satisfaction for us?

5. In what ways are you still hungry for more? Is your relationship with Jesus undernourished? What kinds of things do you want or need that can’t be met by bread...but, instead, require the Bread of Life? How can you feed your relationship with Jesus?

6. Do you know someone who is desperately seeking manna and doesn’t realize that what they are really starving for is the Bread of Life? Is God nudging you to offer them the true Bread of Christ?

Prayer for the Week:

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your Word. I pray that you would open my eyes and ears to see and hear you, Lord. Let me have a heart that is ready to receive your love and to acknowledge the satisfying life only you can offer me...you are my Bread of Life. All glory to you, Lord Jesus. Amen.

“The Good Shepherd”

Sermon: “The Good Shepherd”
Scripture: John 10: 11-18
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

Read John 10:11-18.

1. What does it mean for Jesus to be the Good Shepherd? What is the role of a shepherd?

2. If Jesus is the Good Shepherd, then we are his sheep. What does it mean to be his sheep?

3. What did Jesus mean when he said, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.”?

4. What do you think Jesus is talking about when he says, “They will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”?

5. Jesus says, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father...” What does this say about the relationship Jesus desires to have with us and how important that relationship is?

6. Pastor Mick said we need to “admit, submit and commit.” In other words, we need to admit we are Jesus’ sheep, submit to Jesus’ authority as the Good Shepherd, and commit to living and loving like Jesus. Do you agree with this? What might a life like this look like? How are you doing in living like this?

7. In John 15:12 Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”? What does loving one another as Jesus loved you look like in practice?

Prayer for the Week:

Lord, you are the Good Shepherd and we are your sheep. Forgive us for the times that we have denied our own “sheepness.” Forgive us for the times we have denied the sheep in other pens. Forgive us the times we have failed to admit who you truly are to us, submit to your authority, and commit to following you whole-heartedly. Help us to do better. Transform us more into your image, through the power of the Holy Spirit, so that we can truly love one another as you have loved us. We thank you. We love you. We glorify you. And we pray all of this in your strong and holy name, Lord Jesus. Amen.

"I Am... the Light of the World"

Sermon: “I Am...the Light of the World”
Scripture: John 8: 12
Speaker: Pastor Diane Mendelson

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

This morning we begin a seven-week sermon series on “Who is Jesus.” During this series we will have the opportunity to study the seven “I Am” statements of Jesus, as shared in the Gospel of John in which He tells us beyond a shadow of a doubt, who He is and why we need Him. Today’s passage contains the second of seven “I Am” statements in the Gospel of John. Today, we read in John 8:12 that Jesus is “the light of the world.”

1. What is the brightest light you have ever seen? How did you feel in the presence of that bright light? What is the darkest dark that you have ever experienced? How did you feel when you were surrounded by darkness? Which do you prefer? How important is light in the world today?

2. Read John 8:12. Where is Jesus when he says these words from verse 12? What festival of the Jews is taking place, that as some theologians will share, served as a backdrop for the words He spoke? (Read John 7:2 and 7:14) What does this feast commemorate? (Leviticus 23:42-43) How did God lead the children of Israel when they wandered in the wilderness after leaving Egypt? (Exodus 13:21-22)

3. When Jesus says, “I am the light of the world,” how is He claiming the name of God for himself?

4. How might we more effectively reflect Jesus’ identity as the light of the world and our role as the light of the world in our lives and faith community?

5. How have you shared the light of Jesus with those who are possibly walking in darkness? Do you remember what your biggest challenge in sharing the light of Jesus was?

Prayer for the Week:

Most gracious God in Heaven, I come before you this day, praising you and thanking you for being the “light in my life.” This world is full of darkness and it is certainly frightening at times. It is in those scary, dark times that I remember and embrace your “light and love.” Lord, thank you for being the light in this broken world and for offering me...hope. Help me to be a beacon of light to all those living in darkness. It is in your name, I pray. Amen.

“Selling the Sizzle”

Sermon: “Selling the Sizzle”
Scripture: Matthew 3: 1-6, 13-17
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

Read Matthew 3:1-6, 13-17.

1. How is John the Baptist the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy? (hint: see verse 3) What Old Testament Scripture is verse 3 quoting?

2. Why might John the Baptist’s appearance be significant? How does his appearance and style compare to that of the religious leaders of the day?

3. Pastor Mick talked about “selling the sizzle.” Were the Pharisees “selling the right sizzle” in their day? Why or why not?

4. Why do you think Pastor Mick described baptism as a gift from God? What does baptism mean to you?

5. Pastor Mick discussed a vertical and horizontal aspect to the baptismal covenant. What did he mean by that? Do you agree?

How is this related to The Greatest Commandments?

6. Do you agree with Pastor Mick that sometimes we tend to create Jesus in our own image to make him more comfortable? Why or why not?

7. What does it mean to fulfill your baptism? How are you doing with that?

Prayer for the Week: (from UMH #253)

Father in heaven, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan you proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. Grant that all who are baptized into his name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, One God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

“Three Wise Wesleyans”

Sermon: “Three Wise Wesleyans”
Scripture: Matthew 2: 1-12
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

Read Matthew 2:1-12.

1. How is the term “Epiphany” used differently in the church compared to its usage outside the church?

2. How is the Magi story an illustration of God’s grace, specifically from the Wesleyan understanding of grace (prevenient, justifying, sanctifying)?

3. When have you experienced God’s prevenient grace (God wooing you) in your own life? Do you still experience it sometimes?

4. Can you recall when you experienced God’s justifying grace (sometimes called being saved)? Did anything change in your life as a result?

5. How do you experience God’s sanctifying grace in your life (transforming you more into the image of Jesus)? Is this sanctifying process always enjoyable, or is it sometimes difficult?

6. Do you believe that “God who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it”? (Philippians 1:6 paraphrase) How have you experienced God’s faithfulness in this work in your life?

7. What can we learn about our own tithing and offerings from the Magi’s offering of gifts to the Christ child? Why do we give and to whom/what do we give?

Prayer for the Week:

Creator God, you make all things new in heaven and on earth. We come to you in a new year with new desires and old fears, new decisions and old controversies, new dreams and old weaknesses. Because you are a God of hope, we know that you create better possibilities for the future. Because you are a God of love, we know that you forgive all the mistakes of the past. Because you are the God of our faith, we enter your gates with thanksgiving and praise. We come into your presence with gladness and joy, as we strive to serve and bless you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

“Incredible Love”

Sermon: “Incredible Love”
Scripture: Luke 1: 39-45
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

1. The grown up’s message this week is titled Incredible Love. The children’s message is about God’s love for everyone and how everyone matters to Him, even the lowliest of people. Their word for the day is Invisible…sometimes we feel invisible and unloved… not worthy of God’s Incredible Love. Have you ever felt invisible and unloved? If so, what steps did you take to overcome those feelings?

2. When you think of Incredible Love…what words come to mind that describe Incredible Love? List them and discuss their meanings. Do these words describe the love you feel from God? Why or why not?

3. Read Luke 1:39-45. As you read this text…what are some of the ways you see God’s Incredible Love in action? How do they relate to the way God loves you?

4. Super-heroes fly around in flashy costumes and they have superhuman saving power…they get noticed and certainly they’re worthy of Incredible Love. What about those who are invisible or feel invisible…not so flashy? Do they get overlooked? If we look at the Christmas Story…in what ways do you see Mary as “Invisible”? How do you see the shepherds as “Invisible”? Are there others that appear “Invisible”? How do you see God showing them Incredible Love?

5. What changes do we need to make in our lives so that we have “eyes like Jesus”…to see those that are invisible to humankind, or are hurting, and crying out for help? God has an Incredible Love for each and every one of us…How might we show that same Incredible Love to everyone we meet?

Prayer for the Week:

Dear Jesus, you remind us that when we accepted you into our lives, our old life was dead and we have the opportunity to celebrate a new life. My new life has been changed forever by your Incredible Love and sacrifice. Today I will praise You, I will honor You, and I will share your Incredible Love to everyone I meet. May we give You all the praise and glory during this Advent season, Lord. It’s in your name I pray. Amen.

“Incredible Hope”

Sermon: “Incredible Hope”
Scripture: Luke 1: 26-38
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

Read Luke 1:26-38.

1. Why do we call this season Advent and why is it such a celebration in the church every year? (Hint: Advent means “coming”)

2. How does The Annunciation (Gabriel’s announcement to Mary) give hope to the whole world?

3. The grown up’s message this week is titled Incredible Hope. The children’s message is titled Incredible Trust. How are hope and trust related? How do we see this relationship between hope and trust in Mary?

4. Mary trusted God, and that was enough for God to do something incredible in and through her. Do you think God wants to do incredible things in and through you too?

5. Super-heroes are all the rage in American pop culture these days. They are regular people with incredible gifts that give them incredible power to change lives, and even change the world. What gifts has God given you that might make you a hero to someone else? How are you using your gifts?

6. Do you believe that God can and will do incredible things in and through everyone who trusts in Him?

7. Have you asked God lately to show you what the next incredible thing is that he wants to do in and through you? If not, why? If so, what message did you receive?

Prayer for the Week:

O God our Father, you have brought us again to the glad season of Advent, when we anticipate and celebrate the birth of your Son Jesus Christ and his coming into our lives as our Lord. Grant that his spirit may be born anew in our hearts this day, that we may be filled with hope as we joyfully welcome him to reign in our lives. Open our ears that we may hear the angelic chorus of old. Open our lips that we, too, may sing his praises. Open our hearts that we may fully trust in Christ for our salvation, and then share this hope with others. Glory to God in the highest; and on earth, peace and goodwill toward all. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“The Right to Remain Silent”

Sermon: “The Right to Remain Silent”
Scripture: James 3:3-8
Speaker: Pastor Mick Whistler

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

This morning we wrap up the 7 Deadly Sins plus 1. The plus 1 sin could possibly be the most dangerous of them all. Not only can it be a “church killer”…it can pretty much be an “everything killer.” What are we talking about? GOSSIP!

1. How would you define “gossip”? What about “slander”?

2. How has gossip affected you personally? What were the immediate and long-term effects from the gossip? How did you respond?

3. Billy Graham suggested that we ask ourselves three things before we speak: Is it true? Is it kind? Does it glorify God? How might asking these questions help us as we sort out whether we should or should not listen to someone who wants to share something with us? How might these questions help keep us from spreading gossip?

4. The Bible has quite a bit to say about gossip/slander. Read Psalm 15:1-3, Proverbs 10:18, 1 Timothy 5:13 and Proverbs 16:28. What are some of the consequences of spreading gossip/slander?

5. What changes do you need to make to remove the sin of “gossip” and “slander” from your life?

Prayer of the Week:

Gracious Lord and Savior, you have warned me that I will be judged by the words I speak. Please keep me mindful that I have influence on many people. Help me to speak in a way that glorifies and honors You, Lord. Give me the courage I need to either distance myself or rebuke the gossiper when I find myself in a precocious situation. It’s in the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

“Give Me More...of Jesus”

Sermon: “Give Me More...of Jesus”
Speaker: Pastor Diane Mendelson

Scripture and questions for study and reflection:

What is Gluttony?
The English word comes from the Latin and means “to gulp.” Gluttony idolizes food to feed our own self-love. Merriam-Webster defines gluttony as "habitual greed or excess in eating...greedy or excessive indulgence."

When you think of the word gluttony, what is your understanding of it? How might or how does gluttony affect you?

Read the following Scripture texts: Luke 12:22-23, Proverbs 23:19-21, and John 6:35…what do each of these texts reveal to you about “gluttony”? Do these texts reveal anything new that might relate to you?

Read Titus 2:11-14. This text talks about “self-control.” When you think about “self-control” do you think about it with joy and freedom or with a sense of loss and sadness? What things have shaped your thinking of “self-control” and how can God help you to value the positive impact of “self-control” in your life?

Read Matthew 6:25-34. Do you believe that you have what you have because of God’s care? Of the things you have…what comes because of your hard work and careful planning? Does God get credit for having any part in your ability to work hard? Jesus talks about worry in this text…In what ways have you sensed that your commitment to Jesus has reduced the “worry factor” in your life? Are there burdens or worries that you would like to ask Jesus to help you lay aside?

Prayer of the Week:

Gracious God in Heaven, please fill me with an appetite that reflects a goodness for you. You told us Lord, that we do not live by bread alone…I ask that you forgive me when I let my appetite for life take your place at the center of my being. Help me to have eyes to see when I am not being honest about my own self-indulgence. Help me to remember you, Lord and to desire your love and to remember your promise to set me free from anything that does not come from you. Help me to always seek you and your kingdom of righteousness. Amen.