...let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.



Bethel UMC


Week of July 7–13, 2014 – "Walk in the Light" by Jeffry Wells
Genesis 25:19–34; Psalm 25; Romans 8:1–11; Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23
Scripture Overview: Genesis 25 marks the beginning of the narrative of Jacob’s life. The theme that stands out in starkest relief is the election of Jacob to be the heir to the promise—Jacob, who has no claim to be the heir except that which the grace of God bestows. Psalm 25 reflects a general sense of alienation. Yet the psalmist expresses confidence in following God’s paths and truths. Paul sets out two polarities in Romans 8: those who “live according to the flesh” and those who “live according to the Spirit,” a cosmic duality related to the rule of sin and the rule of God. The parable of the sower and the seeds in Matthew 13 is an object lesson in the mysterious grace of God.
Selected Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
Read
Romans 8:1–11. “If Christ is in you,...the Spirit is life.” Do you more often follow the Spirit or the flesh? What distinction do you draw between the two ways of living?
Read Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23. How bountiful a harvest do you produce for God?

Week of July 14–20, 2014 – "Our Father" by Danny Wright
Genesis 28:10–19a; Romans 8:12–25; Psalm 139:1–12, 23–24; Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43
Scripture Overview: This week’s texts depict a broad span of settings of God’s activity, from Jacob’s encounter in solitude to the broader context of Creation itself in Romans. The texts also tell of God’s commission of human agents, weak and inadequate, to carry out divine tasks. Jacob may not be totally aware of God’s plans for him, but the reader knows. Paul declares that the people in whom the Spirit of God dwells are very much in tune with the pain of creation. They also long for God’s final deliverance. Just at the point of the reluctance of God’s agents to carry out the tasks, the parable from Matthew about the wheat and weeds gives hope. God will take care of the weeds in God’s own time. Psalm 139 is a moving statement on the ubiquitous nature of God’s presence.
Selected Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
Read Genesis 28:10–19a. What “certain place” or places has God used to reveal the divine plan for your life?
Read Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43. When have you tried to do what you thought needed to be done instead of asking for God’s guidance in the matter?

Week of July 21–27, 2014 – "Love Prevails" by Peter Velander
Genesis 29:15–28; Psalm 105:1–11, 45b; Romans 8:26–39; Matthew 13:31–33, 44–52
Scripture Overview: In the Genesis text, Jacob the trickster is tricked. Yet through a combination of patience and perseverance he ultimately wins Rachel, which sets the stage for all that follows in the story of Abraham’s family. Psalm 105 addresses a forgetful community that has lost touch with the God of the Exodus. Remembering becomes a powerful experience when it focuses on both God’s actions and God’s judgments. Romans 8 also serves as a reminder of God’s way, of God’s movements from knowledge to action, from saving grace to promised glory. The scribe of Matthew’s short parable brings out of the storehouse both what is new and what is old. There is no true future without a remembrance of the past.
Selected Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
Read Psalm 105:1–11, 45b. The psalmist acknowledges God’s presence and reliability over time. If you had written this psalm, what occasions of God’s faithfulness would you mention?
Read Romans 8:26–39. Paul speaks in sweeping generalities about the circumstances that might make us feel insecure about God’s love for us. What circumstances in your life have caused you to feel this way?

Week of July 28–August 3, 2014 – “Thy Name Is Love...” by E. Byron Anderson
Genesis 32:22–31; Psalm 17:1–7, 15; Romans 9:1–5; Matthew 14:13–21
Scripture Overview: The heavyhearted psalmist gives voice to the feelings of many when he states, “Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry.” In the Genesis text Jacob wrestles with a “man.” At one level, this story is about human struggle with God, but at another level the story tells of a human being’s struggle with himself or herself. Yet even in the midst of our struggles, the enduring word is one of God’s grace. Romans 9 also deals with suffering: Paul’s personal anguish over Israel’s failure to receive God’s messiah, the Christ. Matthew 14 reminds us that God’s mercy is real. Obedient disciples become agents through whom God’s provisions are served to hungry people.
Selected Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
Read Genesis 32:22–31. Consider where and when you have wrestled with God. What marks do you bear from that wrestling? How do those marks inform who you are today?
Read Romans 9:1–5. Paul expresses concern about the division between Israel and the growing Gentile Christian community, a division that increasingly becomes “us” against “them.” Who are “they” in your life, and what will you do to overcome your separation from “them”?

 




Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

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