Genie in a Bottle

20170730 - 1HBS - LampSo give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?
(1 Kings 3:9)

Today’s passages:
Psalm 119:121-136
1 Kings 3:5-12
Romans 8:26-34
Matthew 13:31-49

You are walking along the beach and stumble across an antique lamp. As you rub it to try to dust off the sand, suddenly a genie appears and grants you a wish. It’s the kind of thing dreams … and jokes are made of.

Like the one where three ladies are stranded on a deserted island and find a bottle with a genie. Each is told they can have one wish, so the first wishes to go back home to her husband and family, whom they have not seen during the years they have been stranded. The second wishes for the same. The third woman, however, starts crying. “What is it?” asks the genie. “I just wish I had my friends back” she replies.

How do you think you would answer the question: If you could have anything in the world, what would you ask for?

Now, I’m not trying to imply that God is a genie—far from it—but when we read in 1 Kings 3 that God appears to Solomon and tells him he can ask for anything he desires, you get the sense that the sky’s the limit on what can be asked.

The fact that Solomon asks for wisdom (the NIV calls it a “discerning heart”) says something about him, doesn’t it. Again, I do not want to assume anything about what you might ask for, but I am fairly confident wisdom would not be on the top of my list.

If you read the passage carefully, you see that Solomon knows three things.

First, he recognizes how he got to the position he was in. There is no sense of how hard he worked to accomplish so many great things. He knows that it was “God’s kindness to my father David” that Solomon sits on the throne.

Not only does Solomon recognize his position, he also understands his standing in comparison to God and the task set before him. Whereas another man might have been tempted to assume that he was placed in his position because of the skills, talents, and abilities he possesses, Solomon knows that he is “just a child” faced with the task of performing duties far beyond his abilities.

Finally, Solomon knows the importance of his role because of the importance of the people he leads. Too many leaders turn that perspective upside-down and assume that the organization or nation or even church exists because of the greatness of the leader and those below him or her should be grateful for the leader’s benevolence.

“Who is able to govern this great people of yours?” Solomon asks. It indeed takes wisdom to understand the importance of God’s people and the need to ask for his guidance in those things that we do.

So I ask our original question again, altered for this context: If you had a chance to ask for one thing that you knew God would give you, what would you ask?

Questions:

•The Psalmist asks God to deal with him “according to your love” and then he goes on to say: “teach me your decrees.” How do you see the connection of the love of God and our understanding his decrees? In what ways would the love of God help us understand Scripture better?

•In what ways would a “discerning heart” help Solomon lead God’s people? In what ways would such a heart help you as you live a life of faith today? While God may not have come to you in a vision to ask you to request whatever you want, how often do you pray for discernment and wisdom?

•If God is for us, who can be against us?

•If you were going to describe the kingdom of heaven to your neighbor or perhaps someone at work, what words and images would you use to do so? How does your description compare to those of the passage we read in Matthew 13? What do you learn about the kingdom of heaven from these descriptions?

Week of July 30 — Text List

The 1 Home Bible Study texts for the week of July 30 are as follows:

Psalm 119:121-136
1 Kings 3:5-12
Romans 8:26-34
Matthew 13:31-49

Daily Bible Reading Texts are:

July 31 – Psalm 56, 57, 58; 2 Samuel 2:1-11; Acts 15:36-16:5; Mark 6:14-29

August 1 – Psalm 68; 2 Samuel 3:6-21; Acts 16:6-15; Mark 6:30-46

August 2 – Psalm 119:73-96; 2 Samuel 3:22-39; Acts 16:16-24; Mark 6:47-56

August 3 – Psalm 70; 2 Samuel 4:1-12; Acts 16:25-40; Mark 7:1-23

August 4 – Psalm 73; 2 Samuel 5:1-12; Acts 17:1-15; Mark 7:24-37

August 5 – Psalm 75, 76; 2 Samuel 5:22-6:11; Acts 17:16-34; Mark 8:1-10

 

Just How Bad Could It Hurt?

20170604 - 1HBSJust as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles or slaves or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
(1 Corinthians 12:12-13)

Today’s passages:
Psalm 33:12-22
Ezekiel 11:17-20
1 Corinthians 12:4-13
John 20:19-23

I do not know where I heard it or even if there is someone who can be identified as the author, but I heard someone once say: “Anyone who thinks there are inconsequential parts of the body has never stubbed their little toe.”

Think about it, is there anything that hurts worse, especially given the size of the offending object? You are walking through the house after everyone has gone to bed and you discover that the dresser sticks out from the wall more than you thought it did. Since it is late at night, you do not want to wake anyone up, yet between the noise of slamming your foot into the dresser and your muffled screams as you fall to the floor in agony (and perhaps your spouses laughing at the dramatics), everyone within three city blocks are probably awake at this point.

The next morning it still hurts and you try to walk without a noticeable limp, because it is your little toe, after all, but that little toe hurts beyond belief. NFL players sit out of professional football games due to “turf toe,” so the pain must be bad, right?

It is easy for us to forget the importance of the little things in our life. We spend so much time and energy trying to make a (big) name for ourselves and accomplish (great) things, the small joys we can find in simple things escape us.

This is true in church, too. We come to worship or Bible class and resign ourselves to sitting quietly in the pew because we know we are “not as important” as the preacher or the teacher. If we were asked to speak, we would just stumble around and be too embarrassed to say anything important or say it in a way that made a difference to someone else. We do not have the right gifts, or at least it seems at times certain gifts are important for a body of believers and other gifts, well, they are of the little toe variety.

Read carefully the words Paul pens to the Corinth church. Even if you have already read them, go ahead and read them again, start to finish. Now, in just a couple of words summarize what Paul stresses as important.

I don’t know what your words were, but as I read through this passage, I keep zeroing in on the idea of oneness or sameness. How many times does Paul use the word “same?” The emphasis Paul seems to be making here is even more than the little things (or gifts in this context) are important. All of our unique gifts and abilities—“big” or “small”—all come together in the sameness of God’s Spirit. It is the Spirit of God that takes the differences we all inevitably have and melds them together for the common good of one another. Your gift, my gift, his gift, her gift, all of them.

Next time you gather with your church family, look around the room. Look for who looks different, talks different, acts different, and maybe even believes some different things than you do. As you take inventory of everyone else, say a prayer of praise that God has called them—and you—together as his family, as his body.

 

Questions:

•“No king is saved by the size of his army.” How well do you think the people you know receive this passage from Psalms? What about the people who are our governing authorities? What is the point the psalmist is trying to make to us in this psalm? How can we better understand the power of God in comparison to our own power and might?

•In what ways do you feel you have an undivided heart? What are the things that divide you? Søren Kierkekgaard famously stated: “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” Similar to the undivided heart of Ezekiel 11, how do we will one thing? How does God help us be pure of heart?

•When you read through Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians, what role does the Spirit play within the body of Christ? Specifically, what does Paul say about the sameness of the Spirit in connection to the uniqueness each one of us have? How can you live today more in the understanding of the unifying actions of the Spirit?

•Jesus tells his disciples in John 20 that he is sending them out in the same way he was sent out. On what way was Jesus sent and how does this impact how you live a life of faith today? What did you do today that was the result of you being sent? What can you do as a result of that “sentness?”

Week of June 4 — Text List

The 1 Home Bible Study texts for the week of June 4 are as follows:

Psalm 33:12-22
Ezekiel 11:17-20
1 Corinthians 12:4-13
John 20:19-23

Daily Bible Reading Texts are:

June 5 – Psalm 44; Deuteronomy 11:13-19; 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2; Luke 17:1-10

June 6 – Psalm 48; Deuteronomy 12:1-12; 2 Corinthians 6:3-7:1; Luke 17:11-19

June 7 – Psalm 53; Deuteronomy 13:1-11; 2 Corinthians 7:2-16; Luke 17:20-37

June 8 – Psalm 8, 84; Deuteronomy 16:18-20, 17:14-20; 2 Cor. 8:1-16; Luke 18:1-8

June 9 – Psalm 54; Deuteronomy 26:1-11; 2 Corinthians 8:16-24; Luke 18:9-14

June 10 – Psalm 55; Deuteronomy 29:2-15; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15; Luke 18:15-30

 

Be Compassionate and Humble

20170521 - 1HBSWho is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?
(1 Peter 3.13)

Today’s passages:
Psalm 148
Isaiah 41.17-20
1 Peter 3.8-18
John 15.1-8

If you live long enough, you will probably make someone mad at you. (I know, for some of us, it didn’t take that long, did it?) You don’t mean to, it’s just that the tosses and turns of life at times rub people the wrong way and you end up on the wrong end of their ire.

My grandfather lived well beyond his 90th year and to my knowledge, he never had anyone who disliked him. (Obviously I am both biased and somewhat sheltered from all of the negatives, but when we rehearse family stories, a conflict with someone else is never a part of those stories.) You couldn’t. He was calm, kind, gentle, and always sought the best in others. He was so busy doing good, he really didn’t have time to rile people up and if he did, he was so busy doing good you wouldn’t have wanted to stop what he was doing.

I am sure I get more joy of thinking about my grandfather than you do, since you did not know him, so let me make this a little more personal for you. When you read Peter’s words: “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble,” who comes to mind?

And as you continue to read, who is a person who would never repay evil with evil?

Let me make this even more personal still: Are you a person of whom someone would say they always repay evil with a blessing, never an insult? That is easy to long for, yet I find it incredibly hard to do. We seem to be conditioned at an early age to hit back as soon as someone hits you first. (Ever hung out in an elementary or middle school cafeteria and listened to the banter?) If someone talks bad about you – true or not – we seem to understand it as a license to return the favor.

We could discuss all day long why we do this. It may be an act of protection, avoiding getting our feelings completely destroyed by someone else. It may be an act of aggression, trying to one up someone else so that every knows who’s “boss.” It may be that we are just mean.

Whatever the case, Peter says it’s wrong. Rather than try to fight back, we should be eager to do good. Who’s going to come after you if you are spending your time doing good for others? (Want to bring a “cut-down” session to a screeching halt? Agree with the insult and then say something nice. It’s not nearly as fun to argue with someone who agrees with you!)

Peter goes on to say: don’t be wishy washy or back down from answering people about why you have hope in the Lord, but when you answer them, do so with gentleness and respect. It is a rare but valuable commodity to be able to disagree with someone but do it in such a way that they feel loved and cared for in spite of their dissenting view. If we could figure out how to do this more, the world would be a better place.

 

Questions:

•When the psalmist calls on us to praise the Lord, he does so because we understand the Lord as the one who made us. Why does knowing that the world came from God change our perspective about how we view him? If God made the world and everything in it, why would we not want to praise (i.e.: give him the honor he deserves) him?

•In what ways has God given you water and caused rivers to flow when you need it most, when you were “on barren heights?”

•Most of us try to avoid suffering at all costs because we assume if we are suffering, we must be doing something wrong. Peter argues that if we suffer, we are simply following in the example that Jesus gave us. How do you feel about suffering and how it relates to living a life a faith in Jesus Christ?

•What does it mean to “remain in Jesus” and allow yourself to continue to be connected to the vine? What are some specific ways you can be connected to him today, tomorrow, and this week?

Week of May 21 — Text List

The 1 Home Bible Study texts for the week of April 9 are as follows:

Psalm 148
Isaiah 41:17-20
1 Peter 3:8-18
John 15:1-8

Daily Bible Reading Texts are:

May 22 – Psalm 80; Deuteronomy 8:1-10; James 1:1-15; Luke 9:18-27

May 23 – Psalm 78:1-39; Deuteronomy 8:11-20; James 1:16-27; Luke 11:1-13

May 24 – Psalm 119.97-120; James 5:13-18; Luke 12:22-31

May 25 – Psalm 24, 96; Ezekiel 1:1-28; Hebrews 2:5-18; Matthew 28:16-20

May 26 – Psalm 85, 86; Ezekiel 1:28-3:3; Hebrews 4:14-5:6; Luke 9:28-36

May 27 – Psalm 87, 90; Ezekiel 3:4-17; Hebrews 5:7-14; Luke 9:37-50

You Alone are the Lord

20170507 - 1HBS1You alone are the Lord.
(Nehemiah 9.6)

Today’s passages:
Psalm 23
Nehemiah 9.6-15
1 Peter 2.19-25
John 10.1-10

This week’s study is going to be a lesson in doing.

Sometimes we spend time in a lesson like this trying to squeeze out the truths of the passage, hoping for something we can readily use to help of live for God better. Other times we discover a passage like Nehemiah 9, which we almost have to ignore it to NOT see the ways this passage calls us to action.

Nehemiah 9.6-15 is interesting, because it is a praise of God right in the middle of a chapter containing a confession of sins to God. That seems almost contradictory. I think of times when I had to confess a wrong to my parents. I can never remember a single time I came into their presence shouting their praises. No, I spent more of my time timidly approaching them not saying anything for fear of some sort of wrath.

We learn some valuable insight about God in this passage. Whatever confession of our own wrongdoing we need to make is overshadowed by the greatness of God. (This is actually true whether we have a confession to make or not.)

So the Israelites confession goes something like this: God, you are great and you have done incredible things all throughout our life with you and God, we are sorry, but we forgot those things and thought we were great. We did our own thing, thinking it was somehow more important than what you called us to be or at the very least, we thought it would work out better for us. It didn’t and we repent.

So what if we reversed this pattern. What if, instead of forgetting about the greatness of God until after we had done our own thing, we spent all of our time reciting the great things God has done so that there would be no need to try to come up with a plan on our own? God’s plan and his goodness would be so ingrained in our daily lives that we had no room for anything else but him.

What if we spent a week trying to do that?

 

Exercises:

•Spend time everyday reading through Psalm 23. Remind yourself often that the Lord is your shepherd.

•Make a praise list for this week. Keep this list with you at all times and write down the things you see God doing in your life and in the lives of people you love. At the end of each day, spend time in prayer thanking him for what he has done that day.

•We often assume that because we follow God, everything in our life will be wonderful and if we find ourselves suffering, we must be doing something wrong. 1 Peter reminds us this is not the case. If you find yourself suffering this week, thank God for the opportunity to follow Christ’s example.

•As you go through these exercises, you may discover you are in conflict with how you want to live your life. Remember that Jesus is the good shepherd that his sheep follow him because they know his voice. Who’s voice are you listening to?