Galatians 5.1 – August 13, 2020

Galatians 5:1

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  (Galatians 5:1 , NIV)

In what seems like a redundant statement, our freedom–freedom for the bondage of sin–is what Christ died for in order for us to be free.

Thought Questions:

If you were asked to define to word “freedom,” what would you say? In what ways do you see this as similar or different to the way Paul is using that word here?

How does sin create a yoke of slavery in our lives?

You hear about people who have been “freed” from certain struggles or addiction, yet go right back to them. Why do you think people do this? Why would someone want to give up the freedom they have found in this way?

Romans 8.28 – August 12, 2020

Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28 , NIV)

“Romans 8:28 is my all time all circumstances all everything verse of choice in good and challenging seasons. I memorized it when I was about 10 years old and I’m 63 years old now. God knows what I’m going through when I’m happy and when I’m sad. He IS going to make things work out for good. I love him and he’s going to work it out. I will never be collateral damage in the war of good and evil, light and dark, earthly and heavenly. I’ll experience loss, which is Satan’s realm. I’ll experience death, which is Satan’s realm. I’ll experience pain, disappointment and heartache, which are Satan’s tools, BUT my God is stronger. My God will comfort me and those around me who suffer Satan’s attacks. Satan and his darkness cannot have me because I have been called according to God’s infinite Grace, and all things will work out for good in me.”

Thought Questions:

What situations in your life have most caused you to ask whether God cares about the struggles you are going through?

How can you continue to focus on God even in the midst of those times of struggle or hardship?

In what ways have some of those situations turned into positive moments in which you were (later) able to talk about God’s goodness and faithfulness to you, even though it may not have seemed that way at the time?

Hebrews 11.1-40 – August 11, 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.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”  For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

(Hebrews 11:1–12 , NIV)

“I like all of the examples of faith.”

Thought Questions:

As you read through the list of individuals of faith in Hebrews 11, which individual stands out the most to you and why?

If someone were to list you on their “List of Great Men and Women of Faith,” what sort of things would you be commended for?

In what ways is being a great man or woman of faith less about what you do than it is about trusting in God? How can you trust him more?

John 14.1-31 – August 10, 2020

John 14:1–31

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” 

28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. 

“Come now; let us leave.”  (John 14.1-4, 28-31 , NIV)

“Comfort during many seasons of life. The promise that He fulfilled in us. His words, Our comfort.”

Thought Questions:

When you think about the troubles of this world, how does Jesus’ promise to prepare a place for us in heaven bring you peace?

What reasons do we have to be glad to Jesus returned to the Father before coming to bring us to him?

How does Jesus’ obedience to do what God has commanded him spur you to also do good and obey God?

Luke 6.36 – August 6, 2020

Luke 6:36

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  (Luke 6:36 , NIV)

“Because it shows that you should be kind even if someone is mean.”

Thought Questions:

How has God shown mercy to you and others you know?

Why is showing mercy to someone such a challenge, at times? Why do you think the world advocates more a system of getting back at one another than one that seeks mercy?

What are ways you can show mercy to others today?

John 11.25-26 – August 5, 2020

John 11:25–26

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  (John 11:25–26 , NIV)

Death may be the thing most of us fear most, yet in Jesus, those who believe do not die.

Thought Questions:

What does it mean for Jesus to be the resurrection and the life?

How does focusing our minds on the fact that Jesus is the resurrection (versus the resurrection being just some theological truth) change our perspective, or perhaps make our own resurrection more real?

What better news is there than those who believe will never die? How might really understanding this change our priorities as we live in this world?

Psalm 42.1-11 – August 4, 2020

Psalm 42:1–11

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng. 

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. 

My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me. 

By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life. 

I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?” 

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

(Psalm 42:1–11 , NIV)

Psalm 42 is a great Psalm for these times when so many find their souls downcast and disturbed, when the world around us seems to have gone off the tracks.

Thought Questions:

Would you say that your “soul pants for God?” Why would you say this is or is not the case? How can you make it more the case?

One reason we might have to not long for God (or anyone, for that matter) are struggles or troubles in our life. How do you typically respond to troubles when they come your way? Is increased trust in God one of your “go to” reactions?

In what ways do you put your hope in God, both today and everyday?

Matthew 7.7-12 – August 3, 2020

Matthew 7:7–12

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
 (Matthew 7:7–12 , NIV)

Ask.

Seek.

Knock.

Thought Questions:

In what ways do we hear these instructions and think: surely it is not as easy as that? In what ways is it NOT as easy as that?

Think of the best gift you have ever received. Now, knowing those good gifts, how well do you understand that God gives even better gifts to his children? Why do we at times assume God is not a giver of good gifts, but someone who wants us to fail?

How do you want to be treated by others? How can you treat others in the same ways today?

1 John 3.18 – August 2, 2020

1 John 3:18

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.  (1 John 3:18 , NIV)

The singing group DC Talk once proclaimed love is a verb. Sounds like John would agree.

Thought Questions:

Why does loving with words or speech fall short of the goal of love?

Describe a time when you knew you were loved not because of what someone said, but because of what they did.

What are some specific actions you can undertake today that will show your love for others?

Mark 1.16-20 – August 1, 2020

Mark 1:16–20

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 

19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.  (Mark 1:16–20 , NIV)

 

How would you start the process of gathering people who would help spread your good news to the entire world? And how crazy would your request for them to follow you sound?

Thought Questions:

What sort of things would you need to hear in order to give up everything to follow someone, including Jesus?

Notice that the new followers of Jesus left everything “at once,” and “without delay.” Is this surprising to you? Why or why not? How do you think would you would have responded?

What questions were left unanswered (or even unasked) by Jesus when these disciples began to follow him? What should we understand by this lack of questions and answers?