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Week 02

Seek First the Kingdom

This past week Alex talked about the anxiety we feel when we’re not sure our future needs will be met. This can show up in a couple of different ways. We can be fearful about the bad outcomes we’ll face if we don’t have enough. Or, we can artificially create needs when what we want is excessive. The word for ‘anxiety’ in Greek is merimnao, which can best be translated as “being divided”. Our hopes and fears divide our minds and make us unstable.
In Matthew 6:33 (The Message) Jesus asks us to focus on the present, telling us we can live a meaningful life and have a peaceful and undivided mind:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Jesus points us in a direction most people would not have thought of. He tells us to take time to observe and to rest. Seeking his kingdom involves, he says, taking time to notice some of the most common and beautiful creations—birds and flowers.
Taking the time to contemplate the everyday miracles in creation can interrupt cycles of worry. Stepping back from a sense of urgency gives perspective. We can plant a seed and water it, but only God can transform such a small hard object into a plant. Opening our eyes to the world God has created, our bodies and minds can relax. We can see more solutions to problems. Observing and meditating can make us more at peace with who we’ve been created to be and the situations in which we find ourselves.
Have there been times when you’ve immersed yourself in God’s work in nature? Were you listening to music, taking a hike, seeing birds find berries and seeds?

A goldfinch feeding on a flower

Remember what has spoken to you in the past and make a point of engaging in that experience again this week. Or try something completely new!

Seek First the Kingdom2023-01-22T23:37:27-07:00

Self Sufficiency & Inadequacy – Recipes for Worry

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Matthew 6:25

During my lifetime, I’ve enjoyed an unprecedented abundance of the two necessities Jesus highlights in the above verse. So relating to this passage is somewhat difficult.

Estimates are that 30% to 40% of our nation’s food supply is discarded, accounting for around 22% of solid waste in our landfills. Many of us regularly clean out closets, donating the contents to charitable outlets with 85% of those donations ending up in landfills. How does this happen?

Part of the answer may be that nutrition experts churn out mountains of theories leading to never ending searches for perfect foods. Also, style influencers create desires for a bevy of fresh purchases that promise to win approval from watchful connoisseurs. It’s calculated that each of us encounters thousands of advertisements per day that encourage these inclinations.

Dig deeper into today’s scripture. A careful re-reading reveals Jesus’ words aren’t really aimed at starving people who lack warm clothing in winter. His message is most pertinent for those living a life of material adequacy, even abundance.

As Jesus’ followers, we’re challenged with simplifying what’s essential, keeping in mind that God cares for us. Then we’re set free to concentrate on issues he considers important. How should we view cultural standards of excellence considering the Kingdom of God doesn’t pivot around right eating or meticulous outward appearances?

Do you struggle with food and drink in such a way that making a wrong choice induces distress in you?* Or are you touting your eating habits to the point you irk others with implications that their choices are inferior? Do you fear that hairstyle, clothing, or decoration blunders will isolate you from true acceptance and friendships? Conversely, are you self-absorbed with your sense of cutting edge fashion?

Take a short inventory. Do you find yourself nervous because, in spite of your self-sufficiency, you might lose it to an unanticipated future event like an illness? Conversely, do you experience inadequacy anxiety because keeping up with the latest trends eludes your grasp?

Today, notice the times you’re tempted to ponder something attractive you don’t want or need but promises you an improvement or security. Analyze one or two commercials that seem to guarantee ridiculously more than the advertised product can deliver. Thank the Lord that he’s given you power to resist a temptation that could consume your peace or has the potential to separate you from the conscious presence of God.

*Note: Certainly it is unwise to ignore food sensitivities that cause either discomfort or medical emergencies.

Self Sufficiency & Inadequacy – Recipes for Worry2023-01-22T23:21:32-07:00

Worst Case Scenario

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 NIV

I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. Luke 12:4 NIV

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
Luke 12:25-26 NIV

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 4: 33-34 NIV

When I was in high school, I spent entirely too much time dreaming, planning, even scheming about my future. I found my present so distasteful and often wished I could go to sleep and wake up 10 years later. Alex Walton said in a previous sermon that, “we fill our imagined future with continual threats of impending doom or with perpetual dreams of unending success.” Rarely does our present situation or our future correspond to how we have imagined them. Can we control our future? Does worrying about it lessen our anxiety about the future at all?

Perhaps – instead of worrying about the future, we could try a little exercise. Think about the worst thing that could possibly happen to you in the future. It could be – losing a job, experiencing divorce, having a child with a disability, losing a spouse or another loved one, having to live miles away from friends or family, or something else? Once you have thought of what your own “worst-case scenario” in the future could be, then ask yourself, “if that thing actually occurred, would I still be alright? Would I be able to be content in that situation, if I was still sure of God’s love, of His presence, of His continued direction and involvement in my life?”

If you are not sure of how to answer that question for yourself, I suggest you look at one or more of these people’s lives, and how they were able to experience God’s presence and provision – even in the midst of their “worst-case scenarios” – Joni Eareckson Tada, Corrie Ten Boom or Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Joni has been a quadriplegic for over 50 years, Corrie Ten Boom survived living in a Nazi concentration camp, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer was persecuted, imprisoned and eventually martyred by the Nazis. All 3 of these Christians knew God’s presence in the midst of their darkest hour – when everything they had hoped and dreamed could have come true – but had been stripped away from them.

Read the above scriptures. Ask yourself, “where is my treasure? What have I placed my hope in? Would I be ok, if all I had was God’s presence, God’s assurance of His love?” If the answer is yes, then worrying about the future can simply fade away; it will no longer consume our thoughts, because we will have an eternal perspective of the future.

Worst Case Scenario2023-01-22T23:15:01-07:00

Embrace the Journey

Our passage this week (Matthew 6:25-34) lands in the middle of Jesus’ famous ‘sermon on the mount’. It is Jesus’ longest public address at around 2000 English words and, assuming no interruptions, would have taken only 12 minutes to deliver, making it somewhat shorter than most modern sermons! It is yet another place where God delivers profound wisdom in a delightfully concise manner. Ten ‘words’ for the Ten Commandments, 57 Greek words for the Lord’s Prayer and a whole way of living in just 2000 words.

Matthew introduces the sermon on the mount with the words of chapter 5:1-2:

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

In amongst Jesus’ listeners on this Judean mountainside are two clear groups. There are ‘the crowds’ and ‘the disciples’. Matthew implies that Jesus’ teaching is primarily for the second group. He is teaching them what it is to walk ‘in the way of Jesus and with the heart of Jesus, a phase that will be familiar to you that call South Fellowship home. We, his modern day followers (or disciples), are striving by his power to live in the way he would have us to live.

The conclusion of the ‘sermon on the mount’ is found in Matthew 7:24: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” The crowds are in awe at his teaching, and as a group, they serve as a reminder to us that the way of Jesus lived out in our daily lives is inspirational to people that see it in action. We are invited to take hold of his words in Matthew 6:25-34 and to live them out. We can only do this with his help.

Which of the two groups do you identify with? The Crowds? Or the Disciples?

Read this week’s passage. Do you read Jesus’ teaching as ‘good advice’ or a ‘way to live’? What is the difference? How do you read Jesus’ words on anxiety? How can we surrender our way of living with anxiety to embrace his way of living by faith?

If you have chosen discipleship with Jesus, how is the Holy Spirit currently asking you to obey his teaching? How are you seeing yourself grow more like Jesus?

If you haven’t chosen discipleship, what holds you back from joining in the ‘Jesus journey’?

Embrace the Journey2023-01-22T22:56:56-07:00

Podcast Episode – Red Couch Theology

With Alex Walton & Aaron Bjorklund

In addition to our daily devotional readings we also produce a weekly podcast in which we discuss the previous Sunday’s sermon topic. Over the next few weeks we will be publishing our podcast episode on Friday’s here in the Daily. We hope it blesses you. You can find the episode either on Youtube OR on your favorite podcast platform

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCWnNSTN-6XA7oYy6TBfS0LAxqxPvxVjH

Apple Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/guys-drinking-tea/id1616539767

Podcast Episode – Red Couch Theology2022-11-27T19:43:16-07:00

Advent Readings from the Revised Common Lectionary

Introduction: For hundreds of years many Christian traditions have read passages of scripture using a tool called a lectionary. This Advent season our devotional team decided to resource you with selections from the Revised Common Lectionary. You will encounter texts from the Psalms, the Prophets, and the New Testament as well as formal prayers. Each text has been selected to build anticipation for the coming of Christ – the Light of the World – amid the dark, cold days of winter. Reflect on the first coming of Christ while yearning for his second coming.

Matthew 3:1-12

3:1 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming,

3:2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

3:3 This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out
in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'”

3:4 Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts
and wild honey.

3:5 Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan,

3:6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

3:7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them,
“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

3:8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance.

3:9 Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you,
God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

3:10 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit
is cut down and thrown into the fire.

3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me;
I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

3:12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat
into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Scripture Prayer

Unexpected God,
your advent alarms us.
Wake us from drowsy worship,
from the sleep that neglects love,
and the sedative of misdirected frenzy.
Awaken us now to your coming,
and bend our angers into your peace. Amen

Source: Year A – Advent : Revised Common Lectionary

Advent Readings from the Revised Common Lectionary2022-11-29T13:25:30-07:00

Advent Readings from the Revised Common Lectionary

Introduction: For hundreds of years many Christian traditions have read passages of scripture using a tool called a lectionary. This Advent season our devotional team decided to resource you with selections from the Revised Common Lectionary. You will encounter texts from the Psalms, the Prophets, and the New Testament as well as formal prayers. Each text has been selected to build anticipation for the coming of Christ – the Light of the World – amid the dark, cold days of winter. Reflect on the first coming of Christ while yearning for his second coming.

Romans 15:4-13

15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.

15:5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus,

15:6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

15:7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

15:8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,

15:9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name”;

15:10 and again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;

15:11 and again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”;

15:12 and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.”

15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture Prayer:

Laboring God,
with axe and winnowing fork
you clear a holy space
where hurt and destruction have no place,
and a little child holds sway.
Clear our lives of hatred and despair,
sow seeds of joy and peace,
that shoots of hope may spring forth
and we may live in harmony
with one another. Amen.

Source: Year A – Advent : Revised Common Lectionary

Advent Readings from the Revised Common Lectionary2022-11-24T12:45:41-07:00

Advent Readings from the Revised Common Lectionary

Introduction: For hundreds of years many Christian traditions have read passages of scripture using a tool called a lectionary. This Advent season our devotional team decided to resource you with selections from the Revised Common Lectionary. You will encounter texts from the Psalms, the Prophets, and the New Testament as well as formal prayers. Each text has been selected to build anticipation for the coming of Christ – the Light of the World – amid the dark, cold days of winter. Reflect on the first coming of Christ while yearning for his second coming.

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

72:1 Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.

72:2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.

72:3 May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.

72:4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

72:5 May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.

72:6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.

72:7 In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

72:18 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.

72:19 Blessed be his glorious name forever; may his glory fill the whole earth. Amen and Amen.

Intercessory Prayer:

God of hope,
you raised up John the baptizer
as a herald who calls us to conversion.
As we joyfully await the glorious coming of Christ,
we pray to you for the needs of the church and the world.

Prayers of the People, concluding with:

Hear our humble prayer
that we may serve you in holiness and faith
and give voice to your presence among us
until the day of the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Source: Year A – Advent : Revised Common Lectionary

Advent Readings from the Revised Common Lectionary2022-11-29T13:33:03-07:00

Advent Readings from the Revised Common Lectionary

Introduction: For hundreds of years many Christian traditions have read passages of scripture using a tool called a lectionary. This Advent season our devotional team decided to resource you with selections from the Revised Common Lectionary. You will encounter texts from the Psalms, the Prophets, and the New Testament as well as formal prayers. Each text has been selected to build anticipation for the coming of Christ – the Light of the World – amid the dark, cold days of winter. Reflect on the first coming of Christ while yearning for his second coming.

Isaiah 11:1-10

11:1 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

11:2 The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

11:3 His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by
what his ears hear;

11:4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

11:5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

11:6 The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion
and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.

11:7 The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw
like the ox.

11:8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand
on the adder’s den.

11:9 They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge
of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

11:10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him,
and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Thematic Prayer:

God of timeless grace,
you fill us with joyful expectation.
Make us ready for the message that prepares the way,
that with uprightness of heart and holy joy
we may eagerly await the kingdom of your Son, Jesus Christ,
who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Source: Year A – Advent : Revised Common Lectionary

Advent Readings from the Revised Common Lectionary2022-11-24T11:58:33-07:00

Podcast Episode

By Alex Walton & Aaron Bjorklund

In addition to our daily devotional readings we also produce a weekly podcast in which we discuss the previous Sunday’s sermon topic. Over the next few weeks we will be publishing our podcast episode on Friday’s here in the Daily. We hope it blesses you. You can find the episode either on Youtube OR on your favorite podcast platform

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCWnNSTN-6XA7oYy6TBfS0LAxqxPvxVjH

Apple Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/guys-drinking-tea/id1616539767

 

Podcast Episode2022-11-11T20:08:06-07:00
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