Mark 2.1-12 – October 20, 2020

Mark 2.1–12

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”  
(Mark 2:1–12, NIV)

What kind of friends do you have? The kind that have enough faith to do whatever they need to to get you to Jesus?

Thought Questions:

What do you think the friends of the paralyzed man thought about him? He obviously could not do everything they could, but do you think they thought less of him because of it?

Why would the religious elite think so poorly of Jesus’ actions which healed a man? Wouldn’t you think they would rejoice that healing came to someone who needed it?

How important is the faith of your friends to you? How does that faith impact your own?

Ruth 4.1-22 – October 19, 2020

Ruth 4.1–22

This, then, is the family line of Perez:
Perez was the father of Hezron,
19 Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab,
20 Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
21 Salmon the father of Boaz,
Boaz the father of Obed,
22 Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of David.

(Ruth 4.18–22, NIV)

In a book that seems slightly off topic, we discover that it is through the lineage of Ruth comes Jesus.

Thought Questions:

So which character in the book of Ruth was most faithful? Might one argue that Boaz was just as faithful as anyone?

How might of the story of Jesus been different if Boaz had not been a part of Ruth’s story?

In what ways has God moved in unusual and surprising ways in your life and the end result was unexpected blessings?

Numbers 13.1-33 – October 15, 2020

Numbers 13:1–33

The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” 

26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
  (Numbers 13:1–33, NIV)

What would you have done, when faced with following God’s commands in the face of seemingly giant odds stacked against you?

Thought Questions:

Why do you think God would have the people of Israel scout out a land he had already promised to give them?

Why is it easier to listen to the people who are negative than it is to listen to those who are calling you to be faithful?

If you were the people of Israel, how would you move forward at this point, based on what you have read?

Esther 4.14 – October 1, 2020

Esther 4.14

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”  (Esther 4.14, NIV)

“Esther truly saved the Jewish nation because of her courage.”

Thought Questions:

Why is it easier for us to remain silent, rather than speak up in the face of adversity?

What can we do to give ourselves more strength to speak up?

Describe a time when you felt as if you were at just the right place at just the right time to help someone in the name of the Lord? In what ways did you feel God at work in that moment?

Mark 9.42-50 – September 24, 2020

Mark 9:42–50

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. [44] 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. [46] 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where 

“‘the worms that eat them do not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’  

49 Everyone will be salted with fire. 

50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”  (Mark 9.42-50, NIV)

How does your life influence others in positive ways? And are you watching out that you do not cause harm to others?

Thought Questions:

What situation can you think of that might be an example of causing “little ones” to stumble or sin?

In what was does it seem harsh that Jesus would advocate cutting off a hand or plucking out an eye that causes you to sin? In what ways does it seem a perfectly normal reaction to sin?

How can we influence others to peace?

Colossians 2.6-7 – September 19, 2020

Colossians 2:6–7

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness  (Colossians 2:6–7, NIV)

Thought Questions:

What does it mean to receive Christ as Lord? How has taking on Christ as Lord affected how you view not only him, but also the life you live among others?

What are some ways you work to be rooted and built up in Christ? Does that happen naturally for you or do you have to put forth a conscious effort?

What are you thankful for today and how have you let that overflow into everything you do today?

Psalm 107.1-43 – September 18, 2020

Psalm 107

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.

(Psalm 107:1–3, NIV)

What’s your story?

Thought Questions:

In what ways have you experienced the never-ending forever-enduring love of God?

As one who has been redeemed by God, what story do you have to tell others about God’s love for you?

Go tell someone that story today.

Daniel 1.1-21 – September 17, 2020

Daniel 1:1–21

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.
 (Daniel 1:1–21, NIV)

“It is hard to pick one, but I’m currently reading Daniel. That’s not necessarily why I chose it, but I love and am inspired by the faith and complete confidence Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had in God.”

Thought Questions:

How do you think you would have reacted if you had found yourself in the position of Daniel?

Daniel and friends had plenty of reasons to be bitter about being in exile or upset that he was being asked to go against what he believed. What gave Daniel the power to persevere in faith in spite of his circumstances?

How can you foster a dependence on God that proves faithful regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in?

2 Kings 6.16 – September 16, 2020

2 Kings 6:16

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  (2 Kings 6:16, NIV)

Just when you think you are completely outnumbered…

Thought Questions:

Describe a time when you felt completely outnumbered by your enemies. How did it feel and what sort of solution needed to happen in order to get out of the situation?

Describe a time when God proved his power and might in spite of what looked like long odds against you? How did he help you overcome the situation you were in ?

In what ways are we often blind to the power of God in our life? How can we see him better?

Genesis 37.12–36 – September 15, 2020

Genesis 37:12–36

Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 13 and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.”
“Very well,” he replied.
14 So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.
When Joseph arrived at Shechem, 15 a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”
16 He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?”
17 “They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’ ” 

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.
19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”
21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.
23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing—24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.
25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.
28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.
29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?”
31 Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.”
33 He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.”
34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.
36 Meanwhile, the Midianites  sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.
 (Genesis 37:12–36, NIV)

The first of many moments the life of Jospeh that seems to be a road block to his success. But will it really be such a hinderance for him?

Thought Questions:

If you were the brothers of Joseph, how do you think you would have treated him. (You have to be honest, he was sort of a brat, no?)

If you were hearing the story of Jospeh for the first time, how do you think you would have reacted to hearing that he was sold into slavery by his brothers? What odds would you give Jospeh for a long and prosperous life?

We know the rest of the story, but how do you think Jospeh felt toward his brothers at this point in this life? Do you think he had any idea of what was to come? Why do you think this is the case?