What is this in my Right Hand?
10 Commandments – Week 3
This week, we move on to the 2nd commandment, and discuss the dangerous practice of creating things that are not God in His image. We also will further take a look at God’s “jealous” nature, something that may be difficult to explain to those looking to disparage our assertion that we worship a good God.
Deuteronomy 5: 8-10
1.Like we discussed last week, God again describes himself as jealous in this passage of Deuteronomy. Using this passage, what else can we learn about God’s meaning?
2.Why would God punish the descendants of those who create idols in His place? What if they did not follow in their parents’ footsteps?
3.What does the inclusion of the phrase “claiming to be wise” teach us about the situation the people Paul is talking about in Romans got themselves in to?
1.The previous commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” What distinction would you make between this and the 2nd commandment? What is the between “having no others gods” and “not making an image in the form of anything?”
2.What are some things we tend to make in the image of God?
3.The idea of an “image” is first mentioned in Genesis 1, when God creates man in His own image. How does that passage shed light on the 2nd commandment?
As you go about your week, start to recognize the things in your life that you may be in danger of creating in the image of God. When you recognize that which may be an idol in your life, consider wither giving it up entirely, or beginning a fast from that thing, to remind yourself of the importance of God’s sovereignty over you.
Kindergarten – 5th grade Suggested donation of $5
Kids will discover the untamable nature of God as they visit Discovery Sites throughout Wildwood Forest. God’s character goes beyond our imaginations as He reveals himself in exciting, unexpected ways.
To Volunteer for VBS
There are so many things to do: help with decorations before VBS week, helping with crafts or snacks, teaching, and all kinds of other ways (big and small) to make an impact on our youngest learners. Childcare provided for volunteer’s kids ages 0-5 years.
There will be a MANDATORY volunteer training meeting Sunday July 1, 2018 from 12:30pm-2:30pm.
Week 2: No Other Gods!
Pastor Mike Halstead
This week we are diving into the 10 commandments proper, with number one: “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Let’s discuss this, the first rule in God’s far-reaching Law, and see if we might be able to apply it to our lives today.
1.Why do you think God says verse 2? Why would he need to say that to the Israelites?
2.Why would this be the first law God gives his people? Why would this be placed above the “behavioral laws” (do not murder, covet, etc.)?
3.In Deuteronomy, God describes himself as jealous. How do we explain this to someone who may see this as a negative personality trait?
4.While Moses was on Mt. Sinai, learning of God’s law, the Israelites were literally building a new god to worship in the form of a golden calf. How do you think they would have reacted when learning of the first commandment?
1.In our society, literal gods aren’t usually what people put before God. What are some of the “gods that we tend to worship instead of our Creator?
2.We all have things we run to when doubt takes hold of us, or when we face difficult times and seek out temporary relief, rather than the eternal comfort of God. How do we stop this habit? What are ways we put God before anything else?
The first step in solving any problem is admitting that the problem exists. Make a list of the thing you tend to put before the one true God. Don’t just think about this these, actually write them down. Keep these things in mind, and when they come up in your life, remember to recognize them for what they might be: a pale replacement of the Almighty.
Pastor Mike Halstead
The ten commandments are a topic everyone knows about- even those who’ve never stepped inside a church building. Unfortunately, familiarity can often lead to an assumption that we know all about the topic – and we may not be right! Starting this week, we are going to take a deep look at the tablets given to Moses on Mt. Sinai that displayed the first ten laws God gave to the Israelites. Before we jump into the laws themselves, however, let’s look at the situation the Israelites were in, immediately before God began dictating the ten commandments (and the rest of His law) to Israel.
1.In this chapter, God has led Israel to the wilderness of Sinai, where they encamp themselves before Mount Sinai. While the whole nation is in one place, God only communicates His law to one person – Moses – who acts as a go-between. Why not simply address the whole nation at once?
2.Why does God say what he does in verses 3-6?
3.Why would the Israelites all need to be consecrated if the only going near the presence of the Lord was Moses?
1.The pronouncement of the Law was clearly a very important time for Israel. What are some things that we treat with the same reverence in the church today? Is there anything you feel like isn’t given the gravity that it should?
2.We learn later, in Exodus 32, that the people became impatient and literally created and began worshiping another God while Moses was on the mountain, because he was gone longer than they expected. Does modern church culture act this way?
3.What would it have been like to be an Israelite during the days of the physical presence of the Lord on Mt. Sinai?
Pray for the coming weeks as we learn more about the ten commandments. Ask God for guidance in understanding the significance of his laws and why these were things important enough to command his people to live under. Each week, before the Sunday sermon, read through Exodus 20 and contemplate the commandment(s) that are being discussed.
Fresh Water Week 6: A Forest Ablaze
As we come back to our series about the power of our speech, let’s take a close look a few verses from James 3, and the vibrant imagery the author uses to describe the danger that our tongues can cause. James compares the tongue to three different objects: a horse’s bit, a ship’s rudder, and a small spark in a great forest.
1.Which of these three metaphors strikes a chord with you? Why?
2.How do the three metaphors differentiate from each other in their implication for how our speech can be dangerous?
3.What are some other Biblical instances that demonstrate the power of our speech? If possible, categorize them under one of these three metaphors.
1.When was a time when you produced a “small spark”, intentionally or not, that caused a “great forest” to be “set on fire?”
2.What was a moment when you had the opportunity to “steer a great ship” (This is, make an important decision or influence another person) with your speech? How did you use that opportunity?
3.What other imagery can you come up with to describe how your language can be used or misused? For example “The tongue is like a 2-year-old, it will inevitably cause trouble if not looked after.”
Pray this week that you will be able to recognize the times when your speech may cause a great fire, and for the ability to put out the spark before it starts the blaze. Ask for wisdom in the times when your tongue is capable of steering the ship of your life.
Fresh Water: The Art of Listening
For the last four weeks, we have been examining James 3, a passage dedicated to the dangers of unrestrained speech and the importance of using your tongue for good, rather than sin. This week, let’s take a look at the reverse side of the coin: listening.
In our conversations, the time we spend listening may be just as important as the time we spend speaking. Who and what we decide to listen to can have a profound impact on our life, and will likely change how we decide to speak to others. Therefore, learning what the Bible teaches us about the art of listening is certainly worthy of our time.
1.Why is someone who “uses words with restraint” someone who has knowledge?
2.Why would sin be more present when words are many?
3.Proverbs 10:20 compares the value of two different things: the tongue of the righteous and the heart of the wicked. How are the tongue and the heart connected?
1.While this passage is specifically about dealing with food that may be considered “unclean” to eat, the larger context points to the idea that we should not be concerned with condemning others for taking part in something of we which we disapprove. Is this something with which you struggle?
2.How does the idea of listening, rather than speaking, connect with this passage?
1.If we are to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,” what should our speech look like?
2.How do we use our tongues and our ears to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds?”
1.Are you someone who tends to talk too much?
2.When was a time when you spoke when remaining silent would have been a better choice? Why?
3.What are ways we can train ourselves to speak less and listen well?
4.How can becoming better listeners be useful in our evangelism?
Pray this week for the patience to slow down when you speak, and to be more discerning with how and when you use your words. Ask for guidance when responding to people and for the ability to listen intently and seek to truly understand others before you respond to them. Thank Jesus for his example of someone who took time to listen to those who came to Him, and seek to emulate His ability to respond in love and kindness, even in times when he was being treated poorly.
Fresh Water: The Surface of Faith
Pastor Mike Halstead
This week, let’s take some time to talk about how our faith translates into action. We have been looking at a passage in James 3 for a month now, unpacking the potential our tongues have. Potential to build up or destroy; to encourage or hurt. Oftentimes, however, the potential for good that we have is stymied by our failure to turn our good intentions of our faith into real life action. First, let’s read another passage from James to get a picture of what we are talking about.
1.What is the difference between “faith” and “deeds?”
2.James creates a hypothetical argument between two people, one defending the supremacy of their faith, the other championing the value of good works. If you were to be a part of this debate, on which side do you believe you would find yourself?
3.Verse 19 seems to bring up an entirely new topic, that “demons” believe there is one God.
1.How can the potential for the good we can do with our tongue be lessened by our inaction?
2.How can hypocrisy find its way into our faith through our speech?
3.If faith without actions is dead, but actions without faith cannot bring us salvation, which of these two things to our Christian faith should be given priority?
4.How does the passage from James 3 that we have been studying during this series apply to this passage?
Pray for the courage to turn your words into action this week. If you truly desire a stronger community, then look for a small group to join. If you desire the homeless to be fed, then make a contribution to a local food pantry. Ask for opportunities to take your thoughts and feelings toward others and turn them into actions.
Fresh Water: Good Vibrations and Positive Motivations
Last week, Mike discussed the danger of how we can use our words selfishly, motivating others for personal gain or through methods that don’t reflect the gentleness of Christ. This week, let’s look at how motivation of positive speech habits can be a boon to our lives.
1.What is it like to be around someone who tends to be more positive than negative in the speech? How could it affect our evangelism if we attempt to be more uplifting in how we speak?
2.What does it mean to be “filled by the fruit of a person’s mouth?”
3.Does the passage in James 5 mean that we should no longer make promises?
4.What is more difficult, letting your “yes” be “yes” or your “no be “no?”.
1.For three weeks, we have been discussing how we use our speech and the positive and negative consequences our tongue may lead to. How have you tried to alter your words to become less negative?
2.If we should no longer swear, but rather let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no,” how will that affect our interactions with others? For example, how would work be affected if you became more straightforward and reliable in how you speak?
Praise God for his blessings, and all of the reasons we have to worship Him. Ask Him to remind you this week that your speech is important, and that the words and tone you use are being judged as part of your witness to Christ.
Ash Wednesday is perhaps my favorite holiday on the Christian calendar aside from Advent and Christmas. I grew up Catholic, and Ash Wednesday was the first mass my step-dad shared with me. One night, I asked him to take me to church and he responded, “Get your shoes on”. I remember my acute confusion because it was Wednesday and with all the authority of a 10-year old, I declared church was for Sundays. He said “let’s go – get in the car”. We went to church. On a Wednesday. Ash Wednesday. It was a solemn service launching the 40 days of Lent. The priest smudged ashes in the shape of a cross on my forehead and said the words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.
Harvest Christian Church doesn’t ‘celebrate’ Ash Wednesday per se, but I’ll personally still go to the nearest Catholic church for Ash Wednesday service. Last year, I came into the office and Mike said “Did you forget to wash your face today?!” hahaha! It gave me a chance to explain why I had ashes on my forehead.
Why ashes? Wikipedia explains it best: “Ashes were used in ancient times to express grief…. The gesture was also used to express sorrow for sins and faults. Examples of the practice among Jews are found in several other books of the Bible, including Numbers 19:9, 19:17, Jonah 3:6, Book of Esther 4:1, and Hebrews 9:13. Jesus is quoted as speaking of the practice in Matthew 11:21 and Luke 10:13: “If the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago (sitting) in sackcloth and ashes.” Interesting side-note: in the Catholic Church, the ashes are from the previous year’s palms given out each Palm Sunday, collected and stored, then burned down to ash. A symbol that we must not only rejoice of Jesus’ coming but also regret the fact that our sins made it necessary for him to die for us.
Growing up and attending a Catholic high school, I learned that the purpose of the 40 days of Lent is to prepare the believer through prayer, repentance of sins, almsgiving and self-denial for deeper understanding and awe of Resurrection Sunday. The 40 days represents the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and being tempted in the desert as described in the Gospels before beginning his public ministry. Today, as a Christian spending a lifetime in the desert of our present culture, I still find great value in this practice.
Traditionally, many people will give something up (example: chocolate/sweets or red meat) for these 40 days as a fast – remembering each time they have the urge to break their fast to deny the self and remember the sacrifice of Jesus in that moment and stop to pray. Many others will add something to their daily routine that they do not normally do such as giving food to those in need or adding a daily devotion for 40 days.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the preparing process. Preparation to draw closer to God and experience Resurrection Sunday with eyes wide open. In awe. In breathlessness. In fear and trembling. In renewal.
You do not need to run out and go get ashes – that is not the point. However, I would encourage you to start a fast or add a family devotional time or jump into a small group or bring in a food pantry donation item for the next 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday.
Remember Repent and Prepare. Start today on Ash Wednesday. Start here.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
A whole lot of fun was had at our recent Women’s Sock-ing Stuffer Swap. Say that 3 times real fast! This was the first time we have had this event and the consensus was …it was a sock-cess!
We had 29 ladies swap stuffed socks, fellowship, eat lots of goodies while sipping some hot chocolate, apple cider around the roaring fire and Christmas Tree . There were Star War Socks, Rudolph Socks, Present Socks, Hot Pink Socks, a wide array of fun Christmas theme socks to swap. We might have even “stolen” a few socks away from others a time or two (or more). Of course it was all in good fun! We will be adding this to our list of annual events so if you didn’t get a chance to come this year, make sure you come next year and get your socks on!
The Care Ministry would like to thank Harvest Members for your compassion and generosity for donating all the presents from the tags on The Giving Tree. We provided gifts to 9 local families that were nominated by our church body. Each family member received one “need” present and two “wants”. Jackets, socks, slippers, blankets, legos, arts and craft supplies, baby dolls, etc for the kids…. grocery gift cards, gas cards, etc for the parents. We delivered all the gifts to the families this past Sunday. All of the families were very appreciative and grateful for all the love and support.
And finally, our next big event is the Annual All Church Chili Cook Off! This is always one of the biggest events of the year. Keep an eye out for more details in the coming weeks. And get your favorite recipe ready!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Jennifer Bailey, Care Ministry