Psychologist Neil Clark Warren used to say when he did therapy with married couples, his primary goal was simply to see a 10% improvement in their relationships. He found it made a tremendous difference because, even a 10% improvement, gave the couples hope.

Warren believed in hope.

He found that if people had hope, they had a tremendous reservoir of energy. Hope kept them moving when they would have otherwise given up. He wrote, “Hope is the single most indispensable, non-negotiable, irreplaceable resource required for big challenges and noble battles.”¹

A Vision for A Better Day

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, wrote,

“We boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.”

-Romans 5:1-5

Paul was talking about hope being a vision for better days that changes us in the present. For Paul, hope was not just an exercise in wishful thinking (“I hope it doesn’t rain.”). Hope was not just another word for disappointment. (“We had hoped that he would recover.”) Neither was hope the absence of hardship nor the denial of reality. For Paul, hope reached its greatest potential in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.

Because hope is a vision for better days that changes us in the present, we can face the future with hope.

Facing the Future with Hope

As the church, we are located at the intersection of people’s desperate need and God’s amazing offer. Because of what we have experienced in and through Jesus, we have a God-given hope which cannot be defeated and does not disappoint.

Because of Jesus Christ, you and I hold in our hands “the single most indispensable, non-negotiable, irreplaceable resource required for big challenges and noble battles.” With that in mind, your congregation is a beacon of hope. Can you imagine what you and the local church could do with a vision for better days that changes it in the present?

There is nothing that your community needs more than hope.

There is Hope

When someone wanders into your space, broken by the realities of life, having given up on trying to make it on their own, and looking for someone to save them, will you be there to whisper, “In the name of Jesus, there is hope.”

When someone who is lost in the depths of depression and drowning in a deep darkness, will you be there to let them know, “No matter how bad it feels now, there is hope in Jesus.” Or when someone is trapped in addiction and unable to escape on their own, will you come alongside him or her and whisper, “You are not alone. There is hope.”

When someone is a prisoner to bad choices and incarcerated behind the bars of our justice system, will you be around to send caring witnesses inside the walls of the prison to whisper, “In the name of Jesus, there is hope.”

When disaster strikes somewhere in our country or world, and you feel helpless to fix everything or to save everyone, will you be ready to gather people together to be hands, feet, and face of hope?

In the midst of the chaos and uncertainty of our church and our aimless wondering through structural changes, are you able to focus upon our mission and to face the future with hope?

At the Intersection of Desperate Need and God’s Amazing Offer

What do you think? Are you able to move your heart, mind, and money out to the intersection of people’s desperate need and God’s amazing offer? Faced with an uncertain future, a changing community, and shrinking resources, we can either choose fear and hunker down or we can face the future with a radical hope.

Because of Jesus, we have in our hearts and hold in our hands a hope that cannot be defeated and does not disappoint. We have a vision for better days that changes us in the present. You and I have a relationship with the author of hope. We hold “the single most indispensable, non-negotiable, irreplaceable resource required for big challenges and noble battles.” We have access to hope. In the midst of the chaos and confusion of the moment, what more do we need to face the future?

 

Notes

  1. You might know the name Neil Clark Warren as the founder of eHarmony.com.

This week we’ll be reading, reflecting, and responding to the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector found in Luke 18:9-14.

 

May 13

  • Read Luke 18:9-14
  • This Reflection on Reality challenges our assumptions of pride and humility and offers a way of living as a Christ follower in active devotion to God.

 

May 14

  • Read Luke 18:9
  • In today’s world, who would be those who trust in themselves that they are righteous and who regard others with contempt?

 

May 15

  • Read Luke 18:10
  • With whom do you identify in this scripture: the Pharisee or the tax collector?

 

May 16

  • Read Luke 18:11-12
  • How do you show your obedience to God? Through your daily prayer and scripture reading? Through your giving? Through your service? What does it mean to say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I?”

 

May 17

  • Read Luke 18:13
  • How do you show your reverence to God? Through your daily prayer and scripture reading? Through your giving? Through your humility? What does it mean to say, “God, be merciful to me a sinner?”

Note: “God, be merciful to me a sinner” is the prayer of the person who knows he/she is not righteous. But it was also a standard element of the synagogue prayer prayed regularly by Pharisees and all who worshiped at the synagogue. The Pharisee would pray the prayer because he was righteous.

 

May 18

  • Read Luke 18:14
  • What does it mean to be justified? Are you justified?
  • God’s grace is always amazing grace. When it is calculated, even as “grace to the humble,” it is no longer grace. Who goes home justified?

 

May 19

  • Read Luke 10:36-37
  • Have you ever prayed, “Thank God I’m not like that Pharisee?” Have you ever thanked God you are not like the people you named on Monday?

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Here is a plan to read, reflect, and respond to the Parable of the Lost Son found in Luke 15:11-32.

Missed Part 1? No Problem!

Return to Part 1: Luke 15:11-23

 

 

Day 1     
Focus on Luke 15:24-32.  The entire parable begins at verse 11. If you missed part 1, start here.

This Reflection on Reality challenges our assumption of being good and earning our salvation. It offers us an alternative understanding of what it means to be a Christ-follower.

prodigal son transforming mission

Day 2

  • Read Luke 15:25-27
  • Reflect and respond: How do you react when you feel like you are not important to the people around you?

 

Day 3

  • Read Luke 15:28-30
  • Reflect and respond: When have you been angry because someone gets something (especially if you have determined they don’t deserve it) that you feel like you have earned or deserve?

 

Day 4

  • Read Luke 15:31
  • Reflect and respond: Can you think of a time you were the center of your own goodness? You never strayed from what you were supposed to do, you never broke the rules, and you deserved to get a little more or better than those around you?

 

Day 5

  • Read Luke 15:32
  • Reflect and respond: Who is included in God’s grace? Is there anyone not included?

 

Day 6

  • Read Luke 15:25-32
  • Reflect and respond: After reading the story of the older son again, how do you respond to God’s compassion?

 

Day 7

  • Read Luke 15:11-32
  • Reflect and respond: Both sons are welcomed home; one who went off to the “far country” and the other who has always been with his father. As the older son, would you go to the party for your younger brother?

 

What Parable is Next?

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector – Luke 18:9-14

This week we’ll be reading, reflecting, and responding to the Parable of the Lost Son found in Luke 15:11-31. Part 1 focuses on Luke 15:11-24.

Day 1         
The parable of the Lost Son – Luke 15:11-31 – Part One. Focus on Luke 15:11-24.

This Reflection on Reality challenges our assumption of who is good and who is bad, who is in and who is out, in relationship to God’s acceptance and offers an invitation to all people. It also challenges our understanding of what it means to be and do good and offers an alternative understanding of what it means to be good and on the inside.

 

Day 2

  • Read Luke 15:11-12
  • Reflect and respond: Have you ever demanded something that you decided was yours? Have you ever wished ill upon someone so you could get what you wanted?

 

Day 3

  • Read Luke 15:13-16.
  • Reflect and respond: Think of the far country in this way: a time/place when you were disillusioned with who you had become. Is there a time where you were disappointed with the world and said, “Is this all there is?”

 

Day 4

  • Read Luke 15:17-19
  • Reflect and respond: Today’s passage leads to change. The transformation he experiences moves him from “give me my inheritance” to “make me like one of your hired servants”. Repentance and returning are movements that bring us closer to Jesus and one another. To what or whom do you need to return?

 

Day 5

  • Read Luke 15:20
  • Reflect and respond: When have you experienced God’s compassion and/or forgiveness?

 

Day 6

  • Read Luke 15:21
  • Reflect and respond: How do you respond to God’s compassion?

 

Day 7

  • Read Luke 15:22-24
  • Reflect and respond: How do you feel when you know you are important to the people around you? What does it feel like to be celebrated?

Take Note:

Our conversations are moving from our Facebook Page to a Facebook Group for discussion. Click here to join. We’ll approve you within 24 hours.

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What Parable is Next?

We haven’t finished the Parable of the Lost Son. Continue to Part 2 as we focus on Luke 15:25-32

This week we’ll be reading, reflecting, and responding to the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin found in Luke 15:1-10

 

April 22

These Reflections on Reality reveal the extravagance of God’s amazing grace. Jesus not only does not reject sinners; he does more than merely tolerate or condescendingly accept them. They are guests at his table.

 

April 23       

  • Read 15:1-2
  • Reflect and Respond: With whom do you identify? Tax collectors and sinners? Pharisees and scribes?

 

April 24          

  • Read Luke 15:3-6
  • Reflect and respond: When have you risked your reputation and security to care for someone who cost you both time and money?

 

April 25  

  • Read Luke 15:7
  • Reflect and Respond: When have you celebrated when someone has experienced God’s amazing and extravagant grace? Have you ever been offended by God’s amazing and extravagant grace?

 

April 26 

  • Read: Luke 15:8
  • Reflect and respond: How much time and effort do you put into caring for people who are considered outsiders

 

April 27   

  • Read: Luke 15:9
  • Reflect and respond: What are you rejoicing about today?

 

April 28     

  • Read: Luke 15:10
  • Reflect and respond: Can you imagine the joy over one person whose life is transformed by the grace of God?

Take Note:

Our conversations are moving from our Facebook Page to a Facebook Group for discussion. Click here to join. We’ll approve you within 24 hours.

If you’re new to Facebook Groups, this is a closed group. What does that mean? Anyone can see the group and who is in the group. Only Members of Closed Groups can see the conversation.

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What Parable is Next?

Week of…

April 29: Parable of the Lost Son – 15:11-31 – Part One (Focus upon 15:11-24)

May 6: Parable of the Lost Son – 15:11-32 – Part Two (Focus upon 15:25-32)

May 13: Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector – Luke 18:9-14

This week we’ll be reading, reflecting, and responding to the Parable of the Great Banquet found in Luke 14:15-24.

 

April 15

Introduction of Luke 14:15-24

This Reflection on Reality challenges our understanding of entitlement and inclusion. It offers a picture of including the poor and marginalized as well as including the Gentiles.

To accept the invitation beforehand and then to refuse it when the day came was a serious insult. We are all occupied with legitimate concerns, but to give those concerns priority over God and God’s way of living is called into question.

 

April 16

  • Read: Luke 14:15-16.
  • Reflect and respond: What would it be like to be invited to God’s party?

 

April 17

  • Read: Luke 14:17
  • Reflect and respond: What an experience of grace! How do you respond to the following scenario? You’re an invited guest and you’re not expected to offer anything.

 

April 18

  • Read Luke 14:18-20
  • Reflect and respond: What excuses have you made for not participating in God’s way of living?

 

April 19

  • Read: Luke 14:21
  • Reflect and respond: Who do you think will be invited to God’s party?

 

April 20

  • Read: Luke 14:22-23
  • Reflect and respond: Who would be at your table if the invitation was open to all?

 

April 21

  • Read Luke 14:24
  • Reflect and respond: How have you answered the invitation?

Take Note:

Our conversations are moving from our Facebook Page to a Facebook Group for discussion. Click here to join. We’ll approve you within 24 hours.

If you’re new to Facebook Groups, this is a closed group. What does that mean? Anyone can see the group and who is in the group. Only Members of Closed Groups can see the conversation.

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What Parable is Next?

Week of…

April 22: Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin – 15:1-10

April 29: Parable of the Lost Son – 15:11-31 – Part One (Focus upon 15:11-24)

May 6: Parable of the Lost Son – 15:11-32 – Part Two (Focus upon 15:25-32)

May 13: Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector – Luke 18:9-14

This week we’ll be reading, reflecting, and responding to the Parable of the Rich Fool. Read Luke 12:13-21

April 8 – Luke 12:13-21 – Introduction

This Reflection on Reality challenges our assumptions that life consists in what we have or what we own. It offers a way of living as a Christian disciple in relationship to affluence and responsibility. The way of God is the way of living responsibly with things. Your identity is not in how much you have. You are a fool to be consumed by your possession. Your identity is in the God who has provided what you have. Wealth or lack of wealth is not the issue. Your identity in God is the issue. You might be “rich” in wealth but not rich toward God and God’s work.

 

April 9     

  • Read Luke 12:13
  • Reflect & Respond:
    • Assumption – Life consists in how much I have i.e., our possessions.
    • How did you live responsibly with what you own today?

Be reminded: Today, attempt to give more than you take. Then, let us know how you do.

 

April 10    

 

April 11   

  • Read Luke 12:15
  • Reflect & Respond: 1) Where did you witness greed today? 2) Do you consider yourself a person who has a little, enough, or a lot?

Be reminded, life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.

 

April 12     

  • Read Luke 12:16-19
  • Reflect and Respond:
    • How much is enough?
    • What do you do when you have more than enough?

April 13

  • Read Luke 12:20
  • Reflect and respond:
    • True or False?: I tend to think of others more than myself.
    • What did you experience today that reminded you that your identity comes from Christ, not from your possessions?

Be reminded, affluence brings responsibility.

 

April 14  

  • Read Luke 12:21
  • Reflect and respond: Is your barn filled with self or filled with God? Be reminded: God has already been generous to you. What does “being rich toward God” look like?

 

Take Note:

Our conversations are moving from our Facebook Page to a Facebook Group for discussion. Click here to join. We’ll approve you within 24 hours.

If you’re new to Facebook Groups, this is a closed group. What does that mean? Anyone can see the group and who is in the group. Only Members of Closed Groups can see the conversation.

Not on Facebook? No problem! Use the comment section below.

 

What Parable is Next?

Week of…

April 15: Parable of the Great Banquet – 14:15-24

April 22: Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin – 15:1-10

April 29: Parable of the Lost Son – 15:11-31 – Part One (Focus upon 15:11-24)

May 6: Parable of the Lost Son – 15:11-32 – Part Two (Focus upon 15:25-32)

May 13: Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector – Luke 18:9-14

Luke 10:25-37

This week we’ll be reading, reflecting, and responding to the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Read Luke 10:25-37.

 

Sunday, April 1. Happy Easter!

Read: Luke 10:25-37

Introduction: This parable challenges our understanding of mercy and compassion. It offers a way of living as a Christian disciple in relation to people in need. The way of God is the way of compassion and active help for those in need, even at personal risk, even against cultural expectations of what is proper.

There are no questions to respond to on Sundays.

Throughout the week, we will focus on the following reflections of reality…

 

Monday, April 2

Read: Luke 10:25

Reflect & Respond: What must you do to inherit eternal life?

 

Tuesday, April 3

Read: Luke 10:26-28

Reflect & Respond: Where did you love God and your neighbor today?

 

Wednesday, April 4

Read: Luke 10:29

Reflect & Respond: How do you answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

 

Thursday, April 5

Read: Luke 10:30-32

Reflect & Respond: Do you do more often do what is right or follow the rules? Why?

 

Friday, April 6

Read: Luke 10:33-35

Reflect & Respond: How will you be a blessing through an act of mercy today?

 

Saturday, April 7

Read: Luke 10:36-37

Reflect & Respond: Where will you “go and do likewise”?

Take Note:

Our conversations are moving from our Facebook Page to a Facebook Group for discussion. Click here to join. We’ll approve you within 24 hours.

If you’re new to Facebook Groups, this is a closed group. What does that mean? Anyone can see the group and who is in the group. Only Members of Closed Groups can see the conversation.

Not on Facebook? No problem! Use the comment section below.

 

What Parable is Next?

Week of…

April 8: Parable of the Rich Fool – 12:13-21

April 15: Parable of the Great Banquet – 14:15-24

April 22: Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin – 15:1-10

April 29: Parable of the Lost Son – 15:11-31 – Part One (Focus upon 15:11-24)

May 6: Parable of the Lost Son – 15:11-32 – Part Two (Focus upon 15:25-32)

May 13: Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector – Luke 18:9-14