Ephesians 4.29 – March 9, 2020

Ephesians 4.29

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29, NIV)

There is always a tension in this verse between what really qualifies as unwholesome if we are willing to compare it to the things that we say that help build people up.

Thought Questions:

What sort of things do you think Paul might be meaning here when he talks about “unwholesome” talk? How broad of a perspective do you think he means?

What sort of talk builds you up? How often do you talk this way to others?

What can you do to help others through the words you say to them?

Ephesians 3.20-21 – February 16, 2020

Ephesians 3.20-21

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3.20-21, NIV)

His power! At work in us! And yes, the glory goes to him!

Thought Questions:

If you could do anything for God with your life, what would you want to do? How does it feel to know that whatever you can think of, God can do even better?

How does it change your perspective to know that the life you live is powered by God? In what ways does this help you to think bigger and better than you might otherwise?

In what ways can you glorify God today?

Household Codes – September 28, 2019

Isaiah 54.1-57.14; Ephesians 6.1-24; Psalm 70.1-5; Proverbs 24.8

The writers of ancient literature would often times categorize people into grouping so as to give instruction to these specific collections of people. To fathers, one set of instructions; to the mothers, another, etc. Here is Ephesians, Paul does the same thing, giving instructions to the various members of the household (hence: household codes). How do you see these instructions applying to you and what “codes” or instructions are needed for your household?

Questions:

How are we just and fair to all, doing what is right and good? Why is this such a rare trait in today’s world?

Why is obeying parents such an often talked about topic in Scripture?

How have you found joy and gladness in your search for God?

How do we identify those who do evil as troublemakers?

Like a Lamb… – September 27, 2019

Isaiah 51.1-53.12; Ephesians 5.1-33; Psalm 69.19-36; Proverbs 24.7

This section of Isaiah (especially chapter 53) contains many references that we have heard before, most often as descriptions of Jesus and his sacrifice for us. As you read through this passage, how is your understanding of Jesus as a sacrifice for us changed or is strengthened, given the full context described by Isaiah?

Questions:

In what ways is the start of Isaiah 51 the Hebrew equivalent of The Lion King’s “Remember who you are”?

“Imitate God.” How is that even possible?

Have you ever felt like no one–no one–would show you pity? What did you do in that circumstance?

Why is wisdom too lofty for fools?

The Power of God – September 26, 2019

Isaiah 48.12-50.11; Ephesians 4.17-32; Psalm 69.1-18; Proverbs 24.5-6

For many of us, there is no question that God is Sovereign. We consider him the Almighty and no one or no thing has power over him. If that is the case, why do we often turn to our own devices or substitutes (the Bible would call these things idols) to provide us the power we think we need in difficult times in our lives? Why would we not just trust in the power of God?

Questions:

“Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced.” Do we think this? How do our actions demonstrate this to be true … or not?

How does the Spirit renew our thoughts or actions?

In what ways do we understand our prayers differently when we realize we are praying to the God of unfailing love?

In what ways are people who are wise mightier than those who are strong?

A Gift – September 23, 2019

Isaiah 41.17-43.13; Ephesians 2.1-22; Psalm 67.1-7; Proverbs 23.29-35

We live in a world that rewards those who work hard. An independent spirit and the desire (and ability) to pull oneself up by one’s own bootstraps are at times idolized or celebrated as the ideal characteristics of good member of society. The problem is that when we begin to approach our faith and following God with this same attitude, we actually prevent ourselves from coming to him. Our salvation is God’s masterpiece. We can’t do enough to gain it, not can we create it for ourselves. We can only accept that God has given it to us. How do you celebrate the gift of God’s grace in your life?

Questions:

How often do you give credit to God for the things he has done, versus just assuming his good things are “life per normal?”

How difficult is it for you to understand you were dead to your sins, especially if your life has never been full of sin?

Today, may God be merciful and bless us. May his face smile with favor on us.

Summarize today’s reading from Proverbs in a sentence. Why do you think this issue was so important to the proverb writer?

The Lord is my Shepherd

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The Lord is my shepherd,
I lack nothing.
(Psalm 23.1)

Along with John 3:16, there may be no better-known part of scripture than Psalm 23. Many of our children, from a very early age in Bible classes, learn this psalm. Many can recite it for memory. Yet even though it is so familiar, we may often overlook the value of this psalm for our lives today.

Part of the failure to fully appreciate the psalm, aside from its familiarity, is that we (and by we, I mean most adults) have been conditioned to believe that our value comes from our ability to work hard and have something to show for our hard work. Ask just about anyone you see in any given church on a Sunday morning: “How’s life?” or “How’s work?” and you will most likely hear the answer: Busy. We take pride in our ability to prove our busy-ness. (Never mind if our being busy benefits us or the world we live in. We just need to be able to say we have more to do than we know how to get accomplished.)

So, contrast this need for accomplishment through our busy—and dare I say, important—occupations with a psalm that basically says: God gives me everything I need. No wonder we assume Psalm 23 is great for children, but has lesser value for us. We need to remind ourselves OFTEN that our busy-ness and our hectic, frantic pace of life is not valuable, nor a blessing from God. What is important is the realization that just like a shepherd does his sheep, God takes care of our needs.

Another failure of ours to appreciate the importance of Psalm 23 can be found in verse 3, where we read that God guides us for “his name’s sake.” The tasks we must do, or at least the tasks we choose to place in important positions on our To-Do lists, should be rooted in the value of giving glory to God. This goes back to my original point. We work hard to have something to show for our work, then of course we want to take the credit for those accomplishments.

What if we stopped and knew that anything we do or accomplish is only possible through the power of God at work in our lives. If we took on this attitude, I think we would find ourselves much more willing to give him the praise. It would be for “his name’s sake” that we celebrate our accomplishments because we know it was him working in us in the first place.

The last misunderstanding I will point out (and you could certainly find more) is this: We do not understand the power of God in the presence of our enemies. You may have heard people lament that America is no longer or at least moving away from being a Christian nation. Oftentimes, this cry is accompanied by a sense of despair that people who do not hold the same values as followers of Jesus will take over and as a result, we will be faced daily with the “presence of our enemies.” They will, the assumption goes, force us into accepting things contrary to God’s will.

I always wonder what the psalmist was thinking of his enemies when he wrote about sitting at a table with them, a table prepared by God. Surprisingly, perhaps, we do not hear the psalmist lament the power of his enemies or all the bad things they have done. Just as surprising may be the fact that we do not hear how they have been destroyed or how God puts them in their place. The enemies of the psalmist are faceless, nameless, and I would add powerless people. There are present, but without any standing, really. They garner but a brief passing mention from the psalmist. Why? Because the Lord is the one who has the power and gives goodness to those who follow him. We do not have to fear the overthrow of God’s rule. It’s not going to happen.

Instead of being fearful, we celebrate in the Lord’s house. Forever.

 

Questions:

•What is your earliest recollection of Psalm 23? How did you learn it and in what ways has it held value for you throughout your life as a follower of Jesus?

•When you read about the anointing of David as (future) king of Israel, what most surprises you about the way this story goes? How important is it to you that God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance? In what ways can we ensure that our heart yearns for God?

•Ephesians 5.1-14 gives us quite a list of things we are to avoid as followers of Jesus. How serious do we take this list? In what ways do we perhaps overlook some of the things Paul mentions in this passage, thinking: Well, you know, God understands? How can we work on making sure we live pure and holy lives for God?

•In what ways do you encounter people you would describe as “spiritually blind?” How can you help others see God clearly, or stated another way, how can you help them not be blind to who God is?