Grumblers and Complainers?

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Come let us sign for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
(Psalm 95.1-2)

Psalm 95 is what is considered a Sovereign Psalm. It is focused on the fact that God has created the world (us included) and as such, is worthy of the praise we (should) give him. It also recognizes that he is the creator and we are the created, or as this psalmist has written: the people of his pasture.

Knowing that God is the one whom we need to worship would be enough to be considered a complete psalm. (We could use more admonition to worship, truthfully.) Unfortunately, we tend to live our lives in such a way that celebrates our accomplishments more than they give glory to God for the ways he is working in those lives. We forget the significance of God as an important part of why our lives are “blessed” in the first place.

But the psalmist goes on and says, in essence, BECAUSE God created you and is your shepherd and BECAUSE you are the flock under his care, you now have a choice. You may choose between recognizing God as you creator, or you can harden your hearts and ignore him.

The psalmist did not just make up the idea of “hardening your heart.” It was an example previously lived out by the people of Israel. In Exodus 17, we are told that the people of Israel are camped at Rephidim, but find themselves without water. Up to this point in their story, God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt, shown himself strong in the process by bringing plagues upon the Pharaoh, and God had provided the people’s needs every step along the way. Yet at this point, the people grumble and complain against God, asking: “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Think about this moment in Israelite history for just a second. God had done what you and I would probably consider more than enough to provide for his people. There was never a time in their journey through the desert—and yes, I can imagine a journey through the desert might not be considered plush accommodations—when God did not take care of his people. They were indeed the “flock under his care.” In spite of all of this, they quarreled and grumbled, testing their God.

So fast-forward past the time of the Psalmist’s writings to now. How do you live? First do you recognize all of the things God has done for you? And if you do, do you still grumble and complain, asking: “Is the Lord among us or not?”

 

Questions:

•In what ways have you seen God provide for you, taking care of all your needs? In what ways have you failed to recognize his provision and perhaps even grumbled about what you thought he was not providing you? How can you do a better job of recognizing God as your Sovereign Lord?

•How do you think you would have reacted to the lack of water that the Israelite’s faced? How does your reaction compare to theirs? Why is it so easy for us to forget the sovereignty of God and grumble about what we do not have?

•What is the greatest sacrifice someone has ever made for you? How would you say that compares to the sacrifice Jesus made for those who were ungodly (that includes you, by the way)? How does Jesus’ sacrifice for you change the way you feel about making sacrifices for others?

•How does Jesus’ treatment of the Samaritan woman at the well help you understand God’s mission to find those who are lost in the world? Who would be a person you know that might be considered “the woman at the well” today? How can you encourage her to know and understand the truth of God?

 

Week of March 19 — Text List

The 1 Home Bible Study texts for the week of March 19 are as follows:

Psalm 95
Exodus 17:1-7
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

Daily Bible Reading Texts are:

Mar. 20 – Psalm 77, 79; Jeremiah 7:1-15; Romans 4:1-12; John 7:14-36
Mar. 21 – Psalm 78:40-72; Jeremiah 7:21-34; Romans 4:13-25; John 7:37-52
Mar. 22 – Psalm 81, 82; Jeremiah 8:18-9:6; Romans 5:1-11; John 8:12-20
Mar. 23 – Psalm 83; Jeremiah 10:11-24; Romans 5:12-21; John 8:21-32
Mar. 24 – Psalm 92; Jeremiah 11:1-20; Romans 6:1-11; John 8:33-47
Mar. 25 – Psalm 85, 87; Isaiah 52:7-12; Hebrews 2:5-10; John 1:9-14

Making Countries Great

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Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people he chose for his inheritance.

No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
(Psalm 33.12, 16)

What does it take to make a country great? No, not to make a country great, again. To make a country a nation that is held in high esteem and seen as one who is run with wisdom and Godly guidance. What does it take for us to be a part of the people of God?

You often hear people calling for our country to return to its “Christian roots,” that is, to be a Christian nation as our forefathers intended it to be. One could argue the validity of the latter point, but I do not think anyone would question that our sense of morality has waned over the years. It’s not even on the fringes where we find people’s action running counter to the things that just a few years ago most people would consider “wrong.” So how do we return to being a nation centered on Godly living?

If you take the four passages we find in our reading for this week, you discover four things that I want to list here.

First, our military power does not make a great nation, just like brute force is never the answer for Godly living for each of us individually. The psalmist says that you may have strong horses (perhaps today the psalmist would write: you may have powerful weapons), but their strength cannot save the ruler. I think what is most ironic is that we lament the fact that America is no longer a Christian nation, yet most of what America espouses as greatness centers on those things that are completely self-reliant. It is no wonder that our strength does not save us. We were created to be dependent on God, not ourselves.

Second, from the Genesis story, we discover that strategic planning does not make us a great nation. Again, this seems counter intuitive. Were you to seek a loan for a new business, you would be asked to provide the lender with a “business plan,” which would include the strategies you would use to go about creating this wonderful—and for the bank’s sake, profitable—business. Abraham wasn’t given a plan. His plan was just to pack and walk until God told him to stop. God, however, used Abraham’s willingness to go (even if Abraham did at times question God’s promise) to create through him a great nation.

Third, when we fast forward to the time of the Apostle Paul, we discover he wrote celebrating Abraham’s faith. Trust in God, rather than our associations with the right people or a glorious upbringing, is essential for God to be able to use us to make a great nation. Paul’s argument in Roman’s 4 is essentially that the people who were that great nation of Abraham (this would be the people of Israel) could not claim that their privileged status was the result of following the rules and regulations applied to God’s people from the time of Abraham. Abraham was not a good person and the nation he was promised was not built because of the way he followed all of God’s rules, but because Abraham believed that God said he could do what he promised. Whether you think you have your life under control or not, your trust in God versus your status or privilege indicates your willingness to allow him to work in you.

Last, being a member of God’s kingdom happens as the result of belief in Jesus, who was lifted up as a sacrifice for our sins. It is not a physical thing, like the rebirth Nicodemus was confused about in John 3, nor is it something we are able to do (Nicodemus, you were right. An adult cannot start the birth process over again). No, our inclusion into that great nation that is the kingdom of God happens through the Spirit of God. That Spirit comes only through a belief in Jesus to give eternal life.

I hope you recognize that this idea of “great nation” really has very little to do with a physical, tangible kingdom, like America, or Canada, or Mexico. It instead has everything to do with being a part of the people God calls to himself through his Son. The real question is: Will you believe in the power of God to bring you into his kingdom with him? That is what makes you a part of a great nation.

 

Questions:

•What sort of things do people use to show their power and worth? Why are these things considered valuable in the world we live in? How are they viewed in light of God and his kingdom?

•How willing would you have been to pack up all your stuff and head out to an unknown place like Abraham did? What do you think would have been Abraham’s biggest challenges in doing this? What things did he have to help him trust in God’s instructions?

•How well do you have faith in the promises of God? What events in your life have proven those promises to you?

•John tells us that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it. How well do you think that message has been proclaimed to the people around you? In what ways do you think the opposite message has been communicated? What can you do to ensure the proper message about Jesus is told to others?

•How can you live a life that demonstrates your faith in God as the ruler of your kingdom, even if that means living a life counter to the values of the world around you?

Week of March 12 — Text List

The 1 Home Bible Study texts for the week of March 12 are as follows:

Psalm 33:12-22
Genesis 12:1-8
Romans 4:1-17
John 3:1-17

Daily Bible Reading Texts are:

Mar. 13 – Psalm 64, 65; Jeremiah 1:11-19; Romans 1:1-15; John 4:27-42
Mar. 14 – Psalm 61, 62; Jeremiah 2:1-13; Romans 1:16-25; John 4:43-54
Mar. 15 – Psalm 119:73-96; Jeremiah 3:6-18; Romans 1:28-2:11; John 5:1-18
Mar. 16 – Psalm 74; Jeremiah 4:9-28; Romans 2:12-24; John 5:19-29
Mar. 17 – Psalm 73; Jeremiah 5:1-9; Romans 2:25-3:18; John 5:30-47
Mar. 18 – Psalm 27; Jeremiah 5:20-31; Romans 3:19-31; John 7:1-13

You’re An All-Star

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I want to know Christ, yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3.10-11)

What is the most valuable thing you own?

You can measure value is several different ways. You might answer that the thing you value the most is the relationship you have with your spouse or perhaps your children. You might think of something that has sentimental value to you: something owned by a parent or grandparent. One could also think purely monetarily and identify the thing that would cost the most money to replace. Whatever the case, we all have something we would say is “valuable.”

How valuable is your relationship with Jesus?

Most of us would probably say very valuable, but at times, that dedication can be tested, can it not? We live in a culture that encourages the very things that are contrary to a life of faith. What your friends and co-workers define as valuable often runs head-on into the attitudes and behaviors Jesus instructs his followers to have.

Paul understands that tension. In the verses just prior to the section we are reading today, he lists the things the people around him would find as valuable (Philippians 3.4-6). Think of it as a Who’s Who list of being a good Jew. By all accounts and standards, Paul should be an All-Star.

Notice his reaction to these things, however. He considers them garbage. Everything the world, society, the people around him thinks is valuable … Paul rejects in no uncertain terms. Speaking of uncertain terms, the word Paul uses that the NIV translates “garbage,” is describing the sewer that is thrown outside the city gates. Paul is not holding back here.

Paul instead claims the righteousness that he has and that Jesus demonstrates, is the thing he finds most valuable. What is most valuable to Paul? It is knowing Christ and being like him, even if it means suffering.

It is a process. It does not come naturally—how can it when the world is screaming for you to value just the opposite—nor does it happen instantly. But we consistently move forward, seeking that which Christ gave us.

What is the thing you consider most valuable?

 

Questions:

•If we are people who exalt God and worship him, we need to also be people who value justice. In what ways can you demonstrate God’s justice to others around you this week?

•What do you think it would have been like to go up on the mountain to receive God’s law? How do you think you would have felt coming into the presence of God’s glory and how do you think that would have changed how you lived your life from that point forward?

•What things do you have in your life that make it difficult for you to value Christ above everything else? How can you find ways to steadily move forward to Christ, instead of being caught up in the apparent value of these things?

•If you had been Peter on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured, how do you think you would have reacted to what was happening around you? In what ways are we casual or flippant about the glory of God?

•How can our lives better demonstrate God’s glory and our desire to place him above all other things?

Week of Feb 26 — Text List

The 1 Home Bible Study texts for the week of February 26 are as follows:

Psalm 99
Exodus 24:12-18
Philippians 3:7-14
Matthew 17:1-9

Daily Bible Reading Texts are:

Feb. 27 – Psalm 9, 15; Deuteronomy 6:1-15; Hebrews 1:1-14; John 1:1-18
Feb. 28 – Psalm 36, 39; Deuteronomy 6:16-25; Hebrews 2:1-10; John 1:19-28
Mar. 1 – Psalm 32; Jonah 3:1-4:11; Hebrews 12:1-14; Luke 18:9-14
Mar. 2 – Psalm 37; Deuteronomy 7:6-11; Titus 1:1-16; John 1:29-34
Mar. 3 – Psalm 35; Deuteronomy 7:12-16; Titus 2:1-15; John 1:35-42
Mar. 4 – Psalm 30, 32; Deuteronomy 7:17-26; Titus 3:1-15; John 1:43-51

Blessed is the one…

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Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the Lord.
Blessed are those who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart.
(Psalm 119.1-2)

You need a new saw. So, you go down to the nearest box hardware store and buy you a new saw. A good one, but not too expensive. Sort of middle of the line type saw. And, truthfully, one very similar to the one you had before.

You get your saw home, open the box and, because it says everywhere “Read Instructions before Use!” you go ahead and read the instructions. Once.

Think about it. For most of the products you purchase, do you ever read the instruction manual more than once? I have a whole file drawer full of manuals and except to perhaps find a part number when I need to re-order the air filter on the mower or the vacuum cleaner belt, I never look at them again.

It is not fair to call the Bible an “Instruction Manual,” but it is also not wrong to do so. Much of what scripture tells us is the story of God and how following him gives us what is often called a “blessed” life. But what if we treated God’s word in the same way we treat our Weed Eater manual. A quick glance through it, then off to the files you go.

We cannot live life to its fullest with an occasional reading of God’s word. That is one of the reasons we are encouraging everyone to read along at least weekly, if not daily in this 1 Home Bible Study series. The more time spent in the word, the better you understand what it means to follow God.

So how about it? This week will you delight in God’s decrees and not neglect his word?

 

Questions:

•We at times want the “blessed” life the Psalmist writes about to mean our life has no troubles or turmoil, yet we recognize this is not always the case. Describe a time when God’s word helped focus you on your blessed life even in the midst of turmoil and storms.

•In what ways have you seen church members act in divisive ways like you hear Paul describe in 1 Corinthians 3? How can we work to avoid these kinds of divisions?

•“You have heard it said…” Jesus takes laws his listeners would have known (and followed) and moves the focus away from just doing the law to the heart that drives the actions related to those laws. As you face the challenge of knowing it is easier to act in the right way versus have a heart that desires the motivation be right, how do you strengthen your heart so that you do have the proper motivation to follow God?

•In what ways does God’s word help you address the issue of divisiveness and motivation?