Welcome to the Cast Notes blog study! Our prayer is that this on-line resource will help you live a little longer in the material Pastor Joe preached in worship. There will be a blog post each week, a video vignette, and additional ideas for you to pursue to get the most out of our current sermon series. All of this material can be taken and used in a link group format (small group) or for personal study.

As you spend this season in the word of the living God, be reminded that “the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all of creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable” (Hebrews 4:12-13, NLT).

We’re excited that you are taking a step to draw closer to God through his word. You’re life… like the lives of the people we’ll be journeying with in the Bible… might not be the same!

-       Pastor Tim



Week Twelve ~ “Finished”

(if you have some time read Revelation 21:1-7)

Finishing things is a top priority for us task driven personalities. It grates on me every time I see those unfinished to-dos on my Outlook. I like things wrapped up with a bow and put away once and for all. Given the need to complete things, I tend to like to be in control. If I can tackle it my way then I know it’ll be done in the time I want it done.

But then there’s grace.

Grace is as much a thorn as it is a rose for task oriented personalities. Why? Well, it means someone else is doing something for me… and… further… that someone else is doing something for me that I can’t do for myself. A deeply humbling reality to say the least. You see, grace undoes our focus on the to-dos. Grace says we are not central and crucial to what will be… but recipients of a gift.

This is what’s happening all over the final book of the Bible. The book of the Revelation is an account of God at work and you and I seeing and hearing what He’s doing. It’s a creative and explosive depiction of realities we can’t fully fathom and a God that’s beyond our ability to fully grasp. That’s why so many of the books on this book are far off the main thrust of what John saw and heard. Authors want to capture, understand… gain control of a grace we can only receive. And so we try to make sense of this book and make a to-do list out of it. We attempt to categorize, calendar, and try to reign in what will be.

We can learn a lot from John. John could only stand, look, listen, and receive. John was simply called to obediently write down all that he saw and heard. In so doing, John teaches us task folks an important lesson. Grace unsettles us and demands we refrain from making God’s will happen according to our understanding and calendars. Grace means that oftentimes we are called to stand still, looking and listening… and… like children… stretching out our hands and receiving what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do.

Personal and/or small group questions:

  • Do you agree that God’s grace can be unsettling? Why?
  • Name a recent experience where you focused on what God was doing as opposed to what you were doing?
  • Why can it be so difficult to receive?
  • Take some time and define grace. What are the Biblical nuances and truths surrounding this essence of the God we worship?


Scripture Memory Verse:
To all who are thirsty I will give the springs of the water of life without charge!” (Revelation 21:6b, NLT).

 

Week Eleven ~ “Suffering?”
Link to Video Blog

 

(if you have some time read Acts chapter 9)

“It’s someone else’s responsibility.”

“I’m sure they’ll get to know Jesus somehow or other.”

“I’ll just pray that they hear the Good News of Jesus from someone.”

Do these statements sound familiar? I think they resonate for all of us. I mean, just think of it… 95% of Christians never have and never will share their faith with another person. Isn’t that staggering?

I sometimes wonder why? If Jesus is that precious pearl of great price… if Jesus is that treasure out in the field… if Jesus is that lost coin… if Jesus is… well… the One and Only Savior… then why don’t we tell others?

Bottom-line. It’s uncomfortable. Our comfort level in America is so part and parcel to our daily experience that anything smacking of discomfort sticks out like a sore thumb. So that palpitating heart… those sweaty palms… that lump in the throat are all red flag indicators that squelch even the thought of sharing the Good News of Jesus with others. “What will he think?” “What will she say to others about me?” “How will I be looked upon?”

What’s funny is that I believe Christians are more leery of talking about Jesus than non-Christians are. Although the world around us may not believe as we do or understand our faith-stance… they are more often than not open to discussing and dialoguing in the context of relationship. So certainly the days of door to door evangelism may not be what they once were… but… the days of sharing the hope, the forgiveness, the joy of the Gospel in the context of relationship is very real and very possible. We just have to be willing to get uncomfortable.

Personal and/or small group questions:

  • Do you agree that we all have a responsibility to share our faith in Jesus?
  • What’s it take to be willing to tell another person about Jesus?
  • Why is the truth of Jesus as the distinct and only way to the Father so critical to us moving out to evangelize?
  • What are the challenges to sharing Jesus today? Further, what do our reactions to these challenges say about what we believe about God and our own faith?


Scripture Memory Verse:
"Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone" (Mark 16:15, NLT).

 

Week Ten ~ “Far from Christ”
Link to Video Blog

 

(if you have some time look up Judas Iscariot in your concordance and read the Gospel passages related to him)

Judas was an important disciple of Jesus. He held the role of treasurer and that was not a small thing. He took care of the money Jesus and his disciples used to purchase food, lodging, etc… It was, in its own way, a grave responsibility.

Now you’ve heard it said that Satan tends to attack us at our weakest points. There’s truth to this adage. Where we are weak we can expect to experience temptation and the lure of sin. But isn’t it interesting that this is the very place Judas was asked to live out of by Jesus? Judas was asked to keep the money purse and Jesus knew he had a problem with money. In fact, the Gospels recount how Judas often took money out of the common purse to use on himself. He stole from Jesus. He took from his companions. You see, before Judas became the betrayer bar none… he had been betraying in small and secretive ways all along.

I believe Jesus knew that Judas was a thief and intentionally put him in charge of the money. Wanna know why? Well, instead of stealing Judas had ample opportunity to take ownership of his weakness and get help from the Lord on it. But he didn’t. He made up daily excuses as to why he needed the cash. He covered his sin by treating it lightly. He must have thought to himself, “This small amount of money is no big deal… plus, if I’m traveling this rough road for Jesus I can certainly catch a siesta every now and again. You know, at the end of the day I deserve it!”

The point I’m making is that Judas didn’t become Jesus’ betrayer over night. The small acts of financial betrayal over the course of 3 years was affecting Judas and changing his heart. Like a cancer, Judas’ weakness and sin began to overgrow everything good. So when the time came to make a huge sum of money… even if it cost Jesus His life… Judas didn’t bat an eye.

What’s your weakness? Are you indulging that area of sin in your life? If so, take a moment to stop and consider that the little sin you commit on an ongoing basis may very well lead you into utter ruin, guilt, and despair. So stop! Admit your weakness. Own it. Give it to Jesus and let Him help you become the person He intends for you to be.

Personal and/or small group questions:

  • Have you ever known a Judas in your own life (someone who gave into sin on an ongoing basis and it eventually did them in)?
  • Why do the little things we do or fail to do matter in our life with God and one another?
  • Think on the Apostle Paul’s statement, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10, NLT). What’s this mean for us?
  • How have you learned to give your weaknesses to the Lord? What’s come of the surrender for you and your life?


Scripture Memory Verse:
“My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT).

 

Week Nine ~ “Our Expectations or God’s Glory?”
Link to Video Blog

 

(if you have some time read: John 11:1-45)

The main thing to understand as you live into this passage of scripture is the deep love and friendship Jesus had with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Without this insight the passage ceases to work the formation of our hearts that God desires. So take a moment to ponder the deepest and closest friendship ties you’ve ever experienced. Think about the importance and significance of that other person in your life. Take time to consider what your life would be like without that friendship and loving relationship… Now… take all of that and apply it with great force to the kind of love Jesus felt for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (and how they felt about Jesus for that matter).

The passage tells us that Lazarus is gravely sick. It was a deep blow to Mary and Martha. The best analogy would be when someone you love dearly learns they have a terminal illness. “You’d best go home and make yourself as comfortable as possible…” “You’ll want to get your things in order…” “I suggest you think about how you want to say your goodbyes…” It was a terrible shock and an unforeseen grief. So Mary and Martha send word to Jesus and in the process knowingly tug at the Lord’s heartstrings (cf. John 11:3). After sending word to Jesus they rest for the first time in who knows how long… they are convinced the Great Physician will take care of things.

You know, it’s hard when your expectations are dashed. It’s a dark road to journey on when how you thought you’re friend should act doesn’t come to pass. There aren’t words to describe the let down and the sheer weight of resentment. Yet that’s what happened to Mary and Martha. They waited… and waited… and waited… And Lazarus? Well… he grew more and more deathly ill… Eventually he breathed his last and still Jesus was not anywhere to be seen.

It’s in accounts like these where we learn our Savior is not tame (as C.S. Lewis once quipped). Jesus is not swayed by our expectations. This is a difficult truth and we shouldn’t take about it glibly. It’s hard to wrap our heads around and it can cause more pain than we’d like. In fact, it can lead us to dislike our Savior (notice I’m not saying anything about our love and affection… you can love a parent and at the same time dislike him/her).

Why all the pain? Why the crestfallen countenance? Why the crushed expectations? One word: life is not about Jesus meeting our expectations. Life is about bringing our Heavenly Father glory and praise.

So 3 days pass. And with those 3 days goes Lazarus’ spirit too (it was believed the spirit of a person lingered with the corpse for 3 days… after that time a person was truly dead). Lazarus is dead. No denying it. No arguing with it. No escapism or lingering hope. And here’s the interesting thing… It’s not until all expectations are gone that Jesus arrives and Lazarus is raised from the dead. This miraculous event does one thing and one thing only: it brings glory to God, so that the Son of God may be glorified (cf. John 11:4).

Personal and/or small group questions:

  • Why are our expectations an impediment at times to God being glorified?
  • What happens to our expectations when we turn from them to a focus on bring God glory?
  • What does this passage say to you about God?
  • What does this passage say to you about people?
  • What are some expectations God is asking you to hand over to Him?


Scripture Memory Verse:
“…if you believe, you will see the glory of God.” (John 11:40b, NLT).

 

Week Eight ~ “A Chain of Events”
Link to Video Blog

 

(if you have some time read: John 1:19-51)

God works in amazing ways! I never get over both God’s patience and humility… just imagine for a moment… God could have insisted that we love Him. God could have taken the task of leading us into His love by His own strength. But God didn’t. God chooses to patiently and humbly work through our relationships with one another (ponder that truth for a moment or two… let it sink in).

Simon (best known as Peter) didn’t come to Jesus by a linear path between simple points A & B. Simon came to Jesus through a rather meandering path via his relationships. John 1 states that Simon’s brother, Andrew, was a disciple of John the Baptist. We aren’t told how long he followed the Baptist, but we do know that in one way or another Andrew was in the wilderness following John, more than likely baptized by John, and a student of John’s. In terms of ministry success John had it going on. He was successful. Throngs of people flocked to this strange and fiery man who looked more the part of a grizzly prophet than a well pressed and clean priestly leader. But what set John apart from the majority of the religious elite was not his appearance but his deep humility. So Jesus enters the scene (cf. John 1:36) and John is in no way shy to point to Jesus and (get this) to willingly lose his followers (i.e. Andrew and another disciple leave John and follow Jesus).

How many are willing and happy to see their success dwindle on account of Jesus? How many are more about Jesus being at the center of the stage than themselves? Well… John was…

So Andrew follows Jesus. Andrew gets to know Jesus relationally… and he’s so excited and so exuberant about this lamb of God that he can’t wait to get to his brother Simon and share the good news.

Simon hears Andrew’s story of having found the Messiah and he can’t allude the invitation. Andrew’s passion for Jesus cannot be discounted or passed over. Andrew’s percolating joy is contagious and Simon takes the time to see firsthand what’s gotten his brother’s undivided attention.

The rest is literal history.

Do you see the progression? The Baptist… willing to lose his grandeur (if he ever had any) for Jesus’ sake. Andrew… willing to intentionally share his experience with his brother… Simon… taking note of his brother’s passion and checking it out for himself…

-Humility
-Passion and invitation
-Taking interest in what another has taken interest in…

This is the long form for evangelism.

Personal and/or small group questions:

  • Consider the Baptist’s actions. Would you agree they are not common-sense for most?
  • Why is humility critical to the Church’s ultimate success?
  • What’s behind the statement: “Look! There is the Lamb of God!”
  • Why is relationship so vital to sharing the good news about Jesus? Is it more important today than in previous generations?
  • What gets in the way of our passion for Jesus in these current days/times?
  • How would you describe Andrew’s evangelistic style? What are take-aways for you and for me?


Scripture Memory Verse:
“I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.” (John 1:27, NLT).

 
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