Reactions to the Resurrection

Week of May 6

Reactions to the Resurrection

Senioritis

Day 1: Senioritis - getting a glimpse of the next season but stuck in a current reality. How many days left before graduation? Of course, you know. But senioritis isn’t just for those graduating. We all still experience a senioritis feeling at times. Consider car shopping. Sitting behind the wheel in the showroom, you instantly notice that new car smell. Everything is clean, shiny and fancy. The seat heater is awesome! When it is time to return your old car all of the sudden it smells worse and you notice you don’t even have floormats anymore. Whether it is school, a new car, a different job or whatever, there is a real force pulling us to the next season. But right now we are stuck in the waiting period. Is it more or less difficult to wait when you know the season ahead? Read Acts 1:4-9. Did you catch the senioritis there? Jesus told His disciples to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit who will help them during the next season. The disciples’ response - they were looking for something different. They thought they knew the future. Do you feel stuck in a current reality seeing the next season on your horizon? Give some words to it. Do you have fear and anxiety about the future? Do you find yourself complaining about the present? Have you given yourself permission to slack off? How is being stuck affecting your heart or attitude today?  

Day 2: Sometimes we can find ourselves in circumstances beyond our control leaving us perturbed. Maybe we’ve even thrown in the towel and are just going through the motions. Being in that state of mind makes it easy to long for something else. For you, maybe it is looking for the next thing or holding on to what you once had. Either way, it’s easy to recognize not being mentally or emotionally present in a current situation. Not being present plays out in many ways. We spend most of our time, effort, thoughts or energy on what we think will happen. Yet doing so, we are in danger of missing God. More often God uses our pain and struggle to show us more of Him and of who He wants us to become. If you are stuck today, what are some ways God could use this current situation? How open areyou to hearing and following Him at this time? Write out some possible learning He desires for you. During this season is joy, contentment, kindness, forgiveness, and love present? Do you think Jesus is more concerned about your heart or your future?  

Day 3: Read Jonah 4. Expectations: the act or state of expecting or being in anticipation. When our expectations are not met, when things don’t turn out the way we thought they were supposed to, we often wonder why. There is nothing wrong with asking the tough questions. But when you get the tough questions answered and you don’t like the answer, what do you do with that? Do we close the book on the subject? This is why community is so important. Some of us are wired to trust our own thoughts more and not seek a second opinion. When doing so, we become more certain of ourselves. Being in community with others challenges us. Do you have all of the answers about why you are stuck today? What are they? Have you discussed them with others you trust? Do you look for agreement or are you open to their opinion without judgment? 

Day 4: Waiting. It can be easy to coast when we near the end of a semester, a job, or a task. Have you said, “I’ll get serious when the next season arrives” or “Life is going to be so much better when ____” . But is that what God wants for you? Or does He want to give you something more? In the book, The Principle of the Path, Andy Stanley states, "Direction NOT intention determines destination." People don’t decide their future. They decide their habits and their habits decide their future. What current habits are deciding your future? Share your thoughts with a friend.  

Day 5: Read Psalms 37:23-24; Psalms 147:10-11. Get out a pad of paper to help you answer some of these questions. Ask God - What do you want to do in me or through me in this season? Am I putting more hope in my next season over God? How can I better prepare for the next season? Does God want to prune something in me? Where am I comparing my season with another and how does that hurt me? What does comparison do to my heart? Is that the kind of person I want to be? Pray for a change within your own heart instead of a change in your situation and find comfort in these verses in the Psalms.  

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Week of April 29

Reactions to the Resurrection

Our Reaction to the Resurrection

Introduction. This week, we will be doing a lot of reading, so bookmark your Bible in Matthew chapters 5-7. As we have learned over the last few weeks, Jesus followers had different responses to His resurrection. Some doubted, as Thomas did. Some pursued Him, as Mary did. Some were broken by their own failures. Judas took His own life as a result, while Peter’s repentance started a movement that began the Church. We may know many facts about Jesus, yet how well do we know His heart? Each day this week, we will look at a portion of what is known as the Sermon on the Mount and simply ask a few questions.  

Day 1. Jesus begins this sermon by describing those who are a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. As you read Matthew 5:1-12, pay attention to the attitudes that Jesus calls blessed. What are the results of having each of these characteristics? Where do you see strengths and weaknesses in your own life? Jot down or memorize one of the verses. Pray that God would reveal opportunities to demonstrate this verse over the next few days. Ask for His help. In doing so, you will be building an experience with Him.  

Day 2. As followers of Jesus, we are called to live differently – called to be salt and light. Read Matthew 5:13-16. What does Jesus mean when He says, “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world”? Reflect on the last week(s) in your own life. In what ways have you been salt? How have you given light to those around you (shown mercy, kindness, comfort, etc)? In verse 16, Jesus specifies that as we do these things we bring honor to God - to worship Him by reflecting His goodness and mercy to those around us. Look for opportunities in the week ahead to shine His light.  

Day 3. Read Matthew 5:17-48. The disciples were familiar with the rules that Jesus taught about here. While the religious leaders and Phariseessought to uphold the letter of the Law of Moses, they didn’t really grasp it’s true meaning. Chasing the rules will only lead to failure. Pursuing a relationship with Jesus, however, leads to greater trust in a relationship with Jesus. Read these verses again. Instead of reading them as rules to follow, see how someone with a soft heart towards God could respond in right and good ways.  

Day 4. Read Matthew 6:19-34. If you worry about money, you are not alone. Most of us at one time or another are concerned about it – either we don’t make enough, or we haven’t saved enough for retirement, or we won’t have enough to pay for our kids’ education, etc. While our reality seems to necessitate having significant financial resources, Jesus simply invites us to trust. In vs 27, He says “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” What does Jesus say that we should be concerned with in vs 33? And what will God provide? Are you more concerned with money than with the characteristics of the Kingdom of Heaven that we looked at in Day 1? If so, confess to God and ask Him to give you the faith to trust Him for your provision. Do you have a friend you can share with? He/she can be a support to you. At the same time, you may be able to be a support to them.  

Day 5. Read Matthew 7:24-29. How does one build his house on the rock? Who encourages, reminds and challenges you to follow Jesus? Consider the people in your life. How often are you giving and receiving spiritual and emotional support? If you are in a small group, what is one step you can take to reinforce the foundation? If you’re not in a small group, what is a step you could take over the next couple of weeks towards joining or forming one? One next step may be to join a “Followers Made” group. Contact Patrick at patrick.hukriede@lscckc.org for more info. 

Summary.  If you have time, look at the rest of the Sermon on the Mount specifically in Matthew 6:1-18 and Matthew 7:1-23. How has your perspective changed by reading through Jesus’ teaching this week? What are the specific steps that God is calling you to practice as you relate to Him and to the people in your life? Spend some time in prayer today thanking Him for His invitation for us to follow. Ask Him to grow and change you. We all know that reading and even talking about this teaching doesn’t make us more like Jesus, rather it is as we knowing and following Him.

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Week of April 22

Reactions to the Resurrection

Brokenness

Day 1: We’ve all blown it before; it’s a universal experience. Peter blew it, so did Judas, and to some extent their story is our story. If you just thought, “I would never…,” remember that’s how Peter’s failure began! Judas had hoped for a different kind of Messiah and King, but he was disappointed. Peter was afraid. In pivotal circumstances, neither one of them could get past their fear or disappointment. They left their Shepherd. What has led you astray this week? What emotion, attitude, or desire when combined with a difficult circumstance has taken you where you didn’t want to go? Disappointment? Fear? Anger? Frustration? Pride? Anxiety? Instead of hoping or praying not to have those emotions, attitudes, and beliefs, what would it be like to ask God to help you with them and to discover where they come from?  

 Day 2: If you have blown it, now what? How you respond may be as important as the sin committed. Judas stepped away from community and isolated himself. He responded in hopelessness; he ended his life. In the same way, Peter was distraught. We don’t know the guilt he may have been hiding or the prayers he may have prayed. Despite guilt, anguish, embarrassment and shame, Peter chose to stay in community. With that choice and humility, Peter put himself in a place to be reconciled to Jesus. Read Luke 15:11-32. As you read, put Peter in the place of the younger son. Then put yourself in the younger son’s shoes. In this parable Jesus is saying, “This is our Father!” In the same way, that is how Jesus was with Peter and how He is with us. This sacrificial love and forgiveness is available to us thru Jesus. Is there an old sin or failure that has created one of the emotions, attitudes, or beliefs you identified in Day 1? Can you take a step and voice your sorrow or guilt to the Father? Do you need to voice it to someone you have community with, or risk an apology to someone who was hurt by your failure?  

Day 3: “Come as you are” is Jesus’ invitation to us. Not come as you want to be or think you should be but as you are right now. “As I am.” That is powerful to take in. We don’t like being weak, broken, poor, or vulnerable. Culture and our selfishness whisper for us to go and hide. Read Matt. 5:3-10 and 2 Cor. 12:8-10. Jesus says there is beauty in our weakness, poverty, meekness. He says that those who embrace these qualities will receive his Kingdom. Peter ran (or swam) toward Jesus just as the younger son ran to the Father in yesterday’s reading. He has seen Jesus forgive others, heard the parables, and built enough trust in Jesus to run to him. What would running to Jesus look like for us now? Imagine a child approaching a parent in sorrow, does the parent need to hear much before they bend down, hug and forgive the child? How much more so with our Heavenly Father. Reflect on this picture with your Heavenly Father.  

Day 4: Read Rev. 3:20.You may have heard this verse used evangelistically, but in this verse Jesus is talking to his followers who have lost their way, inviting them back. He is with you, no matter how guilty and hopeless you feel, Jesus is there, actively offering forgiveness and ongoing relationship. Read John 21: 15-17.Jesus meets Peter where he is. With three stinging denials burned into his head and heart, Jesus provides him a way to confront each denial with an affirmation of following and love. Forgiving Peter, or forgiving us, is not some legal transaction, or an eraser from a sin ledger. Forgiveness is always a desired act of sacrificial love on Jesus’ part. Forgiveness is about relationship. How do you picture or understand Jesus’ forgiveness towards you? Disgruntled, forced, put out or bothered by? Is there something in Peter’s story of forgiveness that needs to become a part of your story?  

Day 5: A living, resurrected Jesus forgave Peter and changed his life. He offered Peter another chance. Jesus didn’t just forgive him, he called him back into life. A life of purpose, meaning, significance, and following. How are you living out forgiveness? Have you experienced forgiveness from God lately? Consider the last time, mustering courage, you turned toward God and admitted a sinful attitude in your heart? If something comes to mind, how did forgiveness affect your heart, your relationship with the Father? But what if you don’t recall the last time you asked for forgiveness? Why do you think that is the case? Luke 7:47 “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

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Week of April 15

Reactions to the Resurrection

Pursuit

Day 1: From the time Mary encountered Jesus for the first time, we see in scripture her seeking Him out. Mary pursued Jesus, she sought out his company and His presence. Who do you enjoy being with? Why do you enjoy being with them? Think about at least one person you genuinely enjoy spending time with. Is it the conversation that you enjoy? Is it laughter? Is it the ability to fully be yourself when you are with them? Is it just easy to be with them, doesn’t matter what you are doing, just being together is life giving? Is it all these things? Think back to the person you enjoy being with most. Write out 3-5 reasons you enjoy being with this person. Do you think any of these reasons might have been Mary’s reasons for wanting to be with Jesus? Why or why not? Can you translate any of the reasons you wrote down to your relationship with Jesus?

Day 2: Imagine you are going to meet friends for coffee and conversation. You enter the crowded restaurant and begin to look around for your friends who have already arrived. In a corner, you see one of your friends trying to get your attention. You make eye contact and you see his eyes light up as he excitedly motions for you to join them at the table. Your friends are excited you are there and you feel immediately welcomed. Conversation is flowing between the three of them, and they are eager for you to join in. This is a safe place. Now imagine these friends are God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Spirit. Does this change the scene? If so, in what way? In the Magnificent Storyby James Bryan Smith, he writes, “Members of the Trinity are intermingling, known and fully known. Each of us is designed for and invited to participate in the greatest, truest, most real, most intimate relationship that exists: that of the Father and the Son. The Spirit reveals this to us and invites us to join.”We are welcome. We are wanted. We are invited in. How might understanding the relationship in this way change how, and maybe even why, you pray? How might it change the way you interact with God? Imagine the scene described above for a time of prayer today. Consider writing about what you experienced in your journal.  

**This weekend Cory mentioned a Next Step Challenge: To spend a total of 60 minutes pursuing a deeper relationship with Jesus. For the remainder of the week we have provided four different ideas to help you focus on being in His presence. 

 #1: What words come to mind to describe God? What words come to mind when you think about Jesus? Are they the same? Read John 14:9. “If what you imagine God to be like is anything other than Jesus, then you have the wrong image of God.” -Keasler. Our image of God profoundly impacts our relationship with him and Jesus. We can’t have one without the other. Spend 15 minutes reading and meditating on John 1:1-5, John 14:9 and Hebrews 1:3. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to learn more about Jesus and yourself.  

#2: Beauty is meant to draw us to the ultimate beauty, which is God himself. Take 15 minutes to listen to something beautiful. Before you begin, take a moment to pray and remember that Jesus is present with you. Listen to whatever music you find beautiful, whatever speaks to you. Find a place where you won’t be interrupted or distracted. Notice the sound and nothing else. You might think about what you like about it. Or you may want to think of nothing and just enjoy the sounds. As the music ends, think about how God has given us our senses, not just for useful things, but also to take in beauty. How does the beauty you’ve just heard reveals attributes of God?   

#3: Set aside 15 minutes for a “prayer walk”. The idea is to spend time in conversation with God while you engage in your surroundings. If a walk isn’t feasible, consider taking a drive or sitting on the back deck. Notice the trees, or the birds, maybe people walking by, or children playing. Imagine walking with a good friend and enjoying not only one another’s company, but the beauty surrounding you. What do you see? What is on your mind? Are there things that are worrying you? Things you are excited about? Talk to God as you would a close friend. As in all good conversations, both speaking, and listening are involved. What is God saying to you? What do you learn from the surrounding nature?  

 #4: Through serving, attending to the needs of someone else, we are following the example set by Jesus. As we love, live, and serve as He did, we deepen our relationship with Him. Think about how you can help someone today. Maybe it is someone at work overwhelmed and could use some help. Maybe it is a mom with her hands full with kids and groceries. Maybe it is someone standing on the corner in need of a meal. Ask God to open your eyes to see someone you can serve. What do you learn about God through serving another?  

One more step: Think back through the different ways you encountered the presence of Jesus this week. Was there anything that surprised you? What did you discover? Consider talking about these practices with a friend or your small group.  

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Week of April 8

Reaction to the Resurrection

John 20: 24-29

Day 1: Read John 20. Jesus’ first followers did not merely believe in the resurrection; they saw it firsthand. In fact, they were so convinced of the resurrection that many of them were willing to give up their lives for their belief. In many ways it’s easy to be envious of those first disciples. How much easier would it be to believe if you could see and touch this man who died and came back to life? Instead, we are asked to believe the impossible about a man we’ve never met in person. Did Jesus truly rise from the dead? Is He alive today? And if so, what are the implications for our lives? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Blind faith can often be a weak and immature faith, whereas a faith that is tested and thought-through will be a stronger faith. Write down doubts you have about God or the issues you have about having a faith in Him. Put it on paper.   

 Day 2: What happens when we die? I mean, how do we really know? What if we have created the idea of God so that we don’t feel scared and alone? What if Jesus died but never actually came back to life? 1 Corinthians 15 speaks to this. Death is our enemy. No matter how rich or happy we are, no matter how good or loved we are, we are all going to die. Yet, the resurrection of Jesus declares to everyone for all time that there is hope! Do you have a safe community that you can be real and discuss faith and doubt with? Is there someone in your life who you admire? They live a life of character and faith. How do you think they would respond to your list from yesterday? Do you know how they’d answer? Could you ask them?  

 Day 3: Read John 20:24-31. When Thomas was told that Jesus was alive, he responded by saying, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Can you relate to Thomas? Where is the proof? Are there areas of your faith that you say to God, “Unless I can see for myself, I won’t believe?” When Thomas finally saw Jesus alive in person, Jesus didn’t reject, shun, or push Thomas away because of his doubt. Rather, Jesus invited him to come and see, to touch, and to place his hands here. Then Jesus toldThomas, “Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” If there is an area of your faith in which you struggle with doubt, know that Jesus won’t reject you. Instead, He says, “Come see for yourself.” Take some time to pray that Jesus would reveal Himself to you today. Full disclaimer - He may answer your prayer and show up in ways you least expect.  

Day 4: Where do our doubts come from? What feeds them? Are they driven by fears or past circumstances? Add to your list from Monday. Where did these doubts originate? The more we understand our doubts, the better we will be able to make peace with them. Is it possible to believe in God yet struggle with disbelief? Go back to what you do know about God: His power, His love, and His goodness. How does your picture of God and His character affect your doubts? Read Mark 9:14-27.Consider praying back to God the words of the man from Mark 9:24, “Lord, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Jesus wants to work in your life, but He is looking for you to have faith in Him. Notice, He wanted the father to express belief before he healed the boy.

Day 5: Once Thomas had the evidence to settle his doubt, he was able to respond in faith, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). In one pivotal moment Thomas went from doubting that Jesus was alive to believing that He is the living God. Read Romans 6:5-14.Once we move from doubt to belief in the resurrection, our lives are able to radically change. Just as Jesus is raised from the dead, so we too are given new life, and not just new life some day in heaven, but new resurrection life here and now. Everlasting life doesn’t start someday when we die; it starts when we believe. That doesn’t mean that you will never struggle with doubt again. It doesn’t mean you won’t struggle with sin anymore either. However, it does mean that you have completely changed and will never be the same. What is next for you? Do you have enough evidence to answer your doubt? Or do you need to remain in the doubt for a time? Maybe this week you see that Jesus is asking you to believe? If so, what would that mean for your day today? 

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