Hebrews 11.1-40 – July 30, 2020

Hebrews 11:1-40

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;  they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.  (Hebrews 11.1-2, 32-40 , NIV)

“The whole chapter is good, but 32-35 reminds me that my faith in him can overcome anything.”

Thought Questions:

When you read the list of things these individuals did by faith, what is your reaction? How do these things compare to the things you do in your own life?

Do you think faith alone would be enough for you to accomplish some of these things listed? Why or why not?

How does knowing God had something in store for them that only came together with us increase your faith?

Colossians 1.15-20 – July 28, 2020

Colossians 1:15–20

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.  (Colossians 1:15–20 , NIV)

Being a Christian is not just about following a bunch of rules or attending services/classes when they are offered, it is about committing ourselves to Jesus, the head of the church, the supreme one.

Thought Questions:

What does it mean for Jesus to be the head of the body? How does this affect or perhaps even alter the way you look at “church?”

In a world that typically demands their rights and wants everything to be fair, how do we communicate the importance of the supremacy of Christ?

When you see Jesus, you see the fullness of God. In what ways has Jesus helped you understand God and his desire for you to live for him?

John 14.25-27 – July 25, 2020

John 14:25–27

“All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  (John 14:25–27 , NIV)

So what things in the world around you today cause you to think: What a great sense of peace we live in?

Thought Questions:

How does the Holy Spirit help us understand better God’s working in the world, regardless of how troublesome or peaceful that time may be?

In what ways has Christ brought you peace, even peace that flies in the face of what appears by most to be troublesome times?

Do you find it difficult or easy to trust Christ’s words to not be afraid? Why do you think this is the case?

Genesis 45.1-28 – July 24, 2020

Genesis 45:1–28

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.
Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 
“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. 10 You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. 11 I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’
12 “You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. 13 Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.”
14 Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.
16 When the news reached Pharaoh’s palace that Joseph’s brothers had come, Pharaoh and all his officials were pleased. 17 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Tell your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your animals and return to the land of Canaan, 18 and bring your father and your families back to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you can enjoy the fat of the land.’
19 “You are also directed to tell them, ‘Do this: Take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come. 20 Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.’ ”
21 So the sons of Israel did this. Joseph gave them carts, as Pharaoh had commanded, and he also gave them provisions for their journey. 22 To each of them he gave new clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five sets of clothes. 23 And this is what he sent to his father: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and other provisions for his journey. 24 Then he sent his brothers away, and as they were leaving he said to them, “Don’t quarrel on the way!”
25 So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. 26 They told him, “Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.” Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them. 27 But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28 And Israel said, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”  
(Genesis 45:1–28 , NIV)

Wouldn’t you have loved to be a fly on the wall when Joseph’s brothers visited him in Egypt!

Thought Questions:

If you had been Joseph, how do you think you would have treated your brothers when they came to Egypt?

Think about people you know for whom a past event they could not get over, often times dealing with a family member, prevented any sense of well-being or perhaps even harmed them in the years following? How can we get to the point where we allow ourselves to forgive those who have done wrong to us?

In what ways has God used what might have initially appeared a tragedy for good?

Joshua 1.9 – July 23, 2020

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9 , NIV)

Over and over again, Joshua and other great leaders of God’s people are reminded of these simple thoughts: Be strong and courageous.

Thought Questions:

In practical terms, how would being strong and courageous look in your life today? How are these attitudes connected to your faith?

Why does discouragement and fear so easily trip up our lives of faith?

How does the fact that the Lord is with you change your view on strength and courage?

Joshua 24.15-28 – July 22, 2020

Joshua 24:15–28

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! 17 It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. 18 And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.”
19 Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”
21 But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”
22 Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.”
“Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.
23 “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
24 And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”
25 On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he reaffirmed for them decrees and laws. 26 And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord.
27 “See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.”
28 Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to their own inheritance.
 (Joshua 24:15–28 , NIV)

We looked at verse 15 just a couple of days ago, but we did not look at the people’s response. Notice the response and compare this to how the people actually did respond over time.

Thought Questions:

In what ways do you point to the powerful works of God as reason for you to follow him? What specific things would you mention from your own life?

Why do you think Joshua challenges the people, even going so far as to say that the people will not be able to serve the Lord?

What stones exist in your life–either physical or figurative–that remind you of the commitment you made to God?

Deuteronomy 15.1-11 – July 21, 2020

Deuteronomy 15:1–11

At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel any loan they have made to a fellow Israelite. They shall not require payment from anyone among their own people, because the Lord’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your fellow Israelite owes you. However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. For the Lord your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you.
If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.
 (Deuteronomy 15:1–11 , NIV)

So how cool would it be to have your debts taken care of every seven years?

Thought Questions:

When you read this passage, what are your initial thoughts?

Would it be possible to have a time to cancel debts today? Why or why not? What implication could we draw from our answer to this question?

What is your attitude towards those who are poor? What responsibility, if any, do you feel to help address this poverty? Why is this the case?

2 Corinthians 12.1-10 – July 20, 2020

2 Corinthians 12:1–10

I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:1–10 , NIV)

“My power is made perfect in weakness.” How contrary to our normal way of looking at things. We think weakness can only be overcome with power and more of it.

Thought Questions:

In what ways do you see people around you assume power is the only way to find “victory” in this world?

How have your weaknesses actually proven to be a way that God has shown his strength through you?

How can your life and the story of God working through your weaknesses actually serve to help other know him better? Who can you tell your story today?

2 Corinthians 5.20 – July 19, 2020

2 Corinthians 5:20

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20 , NIV)

An ambassador is one who represents another country and in the days before phone, email, and Zoom (There really was a day before all of these!), the ambassador would make decisions on behalf of the leaders of their country when making treaties or pacts with foreign countries. The question for us is: How well do we represent God?

Thought Questions:

What sort of things would you think would be necessary for an ambassador to have to be able to represent her country to some other entity?

How much trust would you have to have in your ambassadors as they go about speaking words on behalf of you, their leader? What does the fact that we are called to represent God tell you about God’s trust in you?

What are ways you can prepare yourself to be a better representative–ambassador, using the words of Paul–to others on behalf of God?

Joshua 24.1-15 – July 18, 2020

Joshua 24:1–15

Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.
Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the Euphrates and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I assigned the hill country of Seir to Esau, but Jacob and his family went down to Egypt.
“ ‘Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I afflicted the Egyptians by what I did there, and I brought you out. When I brought your people out of Egypt, you came to the sea, and the Egyptians pursued them with chariots and horsemen  as far as the Red Sea.  But they cried to the Lord for help, and he put darkness between you and the Egyptians; he brought the sea over them and covered them. You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians. Then you lived in the wilderness for a long time.
“ ‘I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I gave them into your hands. I destroyed them from before you, and you took possession of their land. When Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, prepared to fight against Israel, he sent for Balaam son of Beor to put a curse on you. 10 But I would not listen to Balaam, so he blessed you again and again, and I delivered you out of his hand.
11 “ ‘Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands. 12 I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you—also the two Amorite kings. You did not do it with your own sword and bow. 13 So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.’
14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” 
(Joshua 24:1–15 , NIV)

Many are familiar with Joshua 24.15, in fact, for many it is a favorite verse. It is important for us to remember that our choice to follow God is set within the context of knowing God has taken care of us, it is not just a matter of making a choice, but making the right choice.

Thought Questions:

When Joshua sets up his question for the people of Israel (Choose who you will serve…), he does so by rehearsing what God has done for them. What has God done for you? If Joshua were repeating this chapter today, what events would he point to for you to remember?

Notice that God is compared to the other gods, the gods of the foreigners. How have other “gods” failed you, that is, what have you placed your trust in that has shown to be worthless?

The choice for you is to serve “gods” that have no power, or to serve God who has proven himself faithful over and over. Who are you going to choose?