Importance of Purity – August 17, 2019

Nehemiah 12.27-13.31; 1 Corinthians 11.1-16; Psalm 35.1-16; Proverbs 21.17-18

It is interesting to me that after Jerusalem is rebuilt and after Nehemiah has gone back home, he gets word that the people not following the laws God had outlined for the people. So what does he do? Back to Jerusalem he goes to straighten up the people, helping them do what God asked them to do. Why was following these commands, as God had called for, so important, not only to Nehemiah, but more importantly, for the people of Israel?

Questions:

Why is it important for men, women, and children to be able to to celebrate and praise God for the restoration he provides?

How comfortable are you in asking others to imitate your life of faith? Why is this the case? How can you become more confident to do this?

How does the Lord fight against those who fight against you?

Why does the love of pleasure lead to poverty?

Be Concerned About Others – August 16, 2019

Nehemiah 11.1-12.26; 1 Corinthians 10.14-33; Psalm 34.11-22; Proverbs 21.14-16

What would happen if you committed today, and then again tomorrow, to live your entire day seeking to do good for others, not being primarily concerned about your own good?

Questions:

How do you think the people of Israel felt coming back to Jerusalem after having been in exile for so long?

What things did you do today? How did you do them for the glory of God?

How can we keep our tongue from speaking evil?

Why does justice terrify those who do evil?

Be Careful Not To Fall – August 15, 2019

Nehemiah 9.22-10.39; 1 Corinthians 9.19-10.13; Psalm 34.1-10; Proverbs 21.13

I think if Paul had written 1 Corinthians today, when he got to today’s passage, he would have written: Do you remember that sports team, the one that was undefeated? And do you remember that time they played the team that had not won a game all season? And do remember what happened? They lost! The train wreck that everyone assumed would happen didn’t. Oh, and by the way, if you think you stand firm … be careful. Don’t be like THAT team.

Questions:

Rehearse the things God has done for you in your life that have brought you to the point you are at today.

Who has served as a warning to you about what happens when you do not pay attention to remembering God?

How can we constantly speak the praises of God as go throughout our day?

How do we shut our ears to the cries of the poor? What can we do to hear them better?

Celebrate! – August 14, 2019

Nehemiah 7.73b-9.21; 1 Corinthians 9.1-18; Psalm 33.12-22; Proverbs 21.11-12

When we are faced with our sins, with the reality that we have fallen short of the manner in which we wish to live, we have a couple of options in response. The first is to beat ourselves up, to cry, to lament, to mourn how poorly we behaved. At times this is a good response, but for those who live in the grace of God, perhaps the response Nehemiah proposes is a better one: Celebrate. Rejoice because the joy of the Lord is your strength! How do you typically respond when you fall short of the lifestyle you desire?

Questions:

Why is the people standing for the reading of God’s laws significant? How does this impact our own reaction towards God’s word?

What reasons do you have to share the good news of Jesus Christ?

What do you count on in your life for “victory?”

According to the proverb writer, what is the benefit of instruction?

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?”

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?

Famous One

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Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
(Habakkuk 3.2)

If you could be famous, what would be the talent or ability you had that would make you famous? (OK, I realize I am assuming you are NOT famous, but just go with me for a second.) What would you like to be able to do that caused people all around you to know who you were and recognize you in a crowded room?

You may have dreamed of one day being famous, having people surrounding you, hanging on every word and watching your every move. One the one hand, there is quite an appeal that causes us to desire fame.

But then again, how fun would it be to know that every moment of your life was broadcast to a world anxious to see what you had for breakfast, or what you chose to wear on your night out? The world would help turn every dull moment in your life into a viral sensation, seen everywhere and discussed in all the gossip columns.

So perhaps fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe instead of longing to be known by everyone, we think: “What an awful way to live life!” While we are in some ways entranced by the glamour of the celebrity life, we are also repelled by it, too.

Having fame means you are known and most often that widespread knowledge comes from having done something great or outstanding. People begin to talk about your accomplishments. Even without the help of social media, people share those accomplishments with others and your fame, as it were, begins to spread.

Habakkuk wants the fame of God—his accomplishments—to be spread and talked about. Habakkuk, however, wants that fame to be known during some trying circumstances. Read carefully chapter 3 and you discover that God’s wrath is being poured out on the earth, that is, the punishment of God is coming on those who are punishing or oppressing God’s people. If you look at the entire book of Habakkuk, you see that God has used the Babylonians (think: really bad people) to punish God’s people for their sin. While Habakkuk is not thrilled to see someone as bad as the Babylonians be used for God’s punishment (especially on God’s people), he also recognizes that the “Lord is in his holy temple” or stated in another way: God really is in charge.

So in the midst of this turmoil, Habakkuk cries out for God’s fame to be known again, to be discussed in our time. (Funny thing about fame. One moment you are on top of the world, the next no one knows you, right?) More importantly, Habakkuk asks God to show his mercy, that for which he is most famous, in the midst of a world that would appear to be falling apart.

Chris Tomlin has a song titled “Famous One.” I love Chris Tomlin’s songs, but I remember the first time I heard that song. I thought: “That’s an odd way to talk about God.” Given the negativity and images of unneeded excess we sometimes apply to celebrities, being famous does not seem to strike us as God’s way of doing things. But if being famous means that people are talking about you and the great things you have done, being famous is not such a bad description for God, is it? And if Habakkuk can plead with God to show his mercy in a troubled world, shouldn’t we desire God’s fame to be known today?

 

Questions:

•In what ways do you seek to “dwell in the house of the Lord” all of the days of your life? How does trouble in your life get in the way of you seeking God? What things can you do to continue to focus fully on God even in the midst of the struggles going on in your life?

•While listening to Chris Tomlin’s song “Famous One,” you and a friend hear the lyrics: “You are the Lord, the famous one, the famous one.” Your friend asks you: “What’s so famous about God?” How would you answer them?

•Recall the troubles Paul experienced in his life, yet he is able to write: “These happened so we would not rely on ourselves, but on God.” How have you been able to use troubles in your life to seek God more, rather than have them push you away from God? In what ways have you been able to—or might you be able to—use your troubles to comfort others who face similar circumstances?

•How have you been a light to the world, sharing the good deeds and glory of God? How can you do a better job of being a light?

•In what ways can we encourage one another in the midst of troubles, so that God can better strengthen us, even in the midst of these troubles?