Deuteronomy 31.1-8 – January 17, 2020

Deuteronomy 31.1-8

Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: “I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’ The Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the Lord said. And the Lord will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. The Lord will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31.1-8, NIV)

“Moses empowers Joshua as he takes over to help lead the Israelites, and reminds him that God is always with him.”

Thought Questions:

How do you live your life differently knowing that “God goes before you?” What are some specific ways that impacts your decision making and thoughts?

What are you afraid of? How might Moses’ instructions here relieve you of that fear? Why are we afraid if God is with us?

In what ways can you be strong and courageous today as you go about your day?

Jeremiah 29.11 – January 16, 2020

Jeremiah 29.11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29.11, NIV)

“It was my dad’s favorite and he would tell me and my sister this verse a lot. It means a ton to me to this day.”

Thought Questions:

When the future looks uncertain to you, how important is it to know that God knows you and what is to come for you?

Why do you think some people hold a view that God is simply waiting for you to do something wrong so that he can punish you … that he really doesn’t want what’s best for you or even enjoys bringing calamity upon you? How can you show others a better picture of God, that he loves and wants good for us?

How can we be faithful to the future God has for us, even when it may be different from the one we might plan for ourselves?

Deuteronomy 29.12-15 – January 15, 2020

Deuteronomy 29.12-15

You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God, a covenant the Lord is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, 13 to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 14 I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you 15 who are standing here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God but also with those who are not here today.”  (Deuteronomy 29.12-15, NIV)

A covenant is not something that is put into place based on a “contract” in which both party have equal say, but it is made by an entity stronger than the one receiving the covenant, yet it is a promise that the stronger will look out for the weaker’s best interest. God did not make us his people and enter into a covenant with us because of what we had done, but because of who he is and what he not only did … but continues to do.

Thought Questions:

How important is it for us to realize that God makes a covenant with us out of his power, not out of our ability to follow him?

How well do you keep the promises you have made to others, especially those made years ago?

How does knowing you are in a covenant with God affect the ways you live for him?

Proverbs 20.3 – January 14, 2020

Proverbs 20.3

“It is one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” (Proverbs 20.3, NIV)

Society tells us we need to defend everything we believe, no matter what. This verse tells us that only fools like to pick fights, and it is a mark of good character to not quarrel. To me it means, it matches up with: “We can’t chose what people say to us, but we can chose how we react.” To me, Jesus exemplified this verse throughout his whole life. Its hard for me not to feel like I need to fight for my beliefs, but then I remember this verse and how Jesus reacted in times he could have quarreled. He was a great leader and spread love through living out his beliefs, not defending/quarreling about them.

Thought Questions:

In our current culture, how important does it seem for people to try to avoid strife? What examples can you give that support your thinking?

What examples have you seen that demonstrate that those who are quick to quarrel look like fools?

What practical tips would you give to someone seeking to find ways to avoid quarrels and strife? How well do you practice these things?

Acts 4.23-31 – January 13, 2020

Acts 4.23-31

On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.”

Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Romans 12.1-2, NIV)

What would it have been like to pray in such a manner that the entire room in which you were in was shaken?

Thought Questions:

Peter and John actually rejoiced that they had been worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus and asked God to let them speak boldly, not in such a way so as to be effective without causing too much attention. How do you think you would have responded in a similar circumstance? What is the same and what is different about your response?

When have you been required to speak boldly, knowing that there would be some sort of repercussion if you did? How did you handle that situation?

What do you think is required of us to be so in tune with God in our prayers that something miraculous like the building being shaken might be a result? Why do we tend to assume that such an act is beyond possibility today?

Romans 12.1-21 – January 12, 2020

Romans 12.1-21

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to text and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12.1-2, NIV)

What do you consider worship? The things you do on a Sunday morning between 9:00 and 12:00? Or is it everything you do throughout every day?

Thought Questions:

Why is it so easy for us to conform to the pattern of this world? How can we do a better job of NOT conforming?

You are unique and have a special part in the body of Christ! How are you using those gifts and talents that are uniquely yours to build up and bless others?

As you read through Romans 12.9-21, which of those things might you be able to practice better as you work to encourage others?

Luke 19.1-10 – January 11, 2020

Luke 19.1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Jesus said to him, ‘”Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19.1-10, NIV)

Two things stand out to me about this passage. The first is the desire for Zacchaeus to see Jesus. He would do anything … even climb a tree. (Adults do not typically do that sort of thing!) The second is the way he was changed by Jesus, willing to give back even more than he cheated out of people. Jesus has a way of making a difference in our lives, doesn’t he?

Thought Questions:

How hard do you work to learn more about Jesus? Are you willing to do things that might be seen as “out of the ordinary?”

In what ways do people today–even or especially church going folk–ignore or shun those who are “sinners?” How should Jesus’ response to Zacchaeus and those around him affect our desire to reach out those we might consider “sinners?”

How has following Jesus changed your life in amazing ways?

Daniel 9.9 – January 10, 2020

Daniel 9.9

“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him…” (Daniel 9.9, NIV)

It’s one thing to be forgiven for doing something accidentally, but to have the Lord be merciful to us even when we willfully rebelled against him? That’s an amazing statement about who God is and his love for us.

Thought Questions:

You hear people say that God could not forgive them for what they had done. Have you ever felt this way? Why is it so easy for us to assume we are “too far gone” for God’s love?

Describe a time when you felt like you most needed God’s forgiveness and he gave it.

How does God’s mercy and forgiveness affect how you love and love for him?

Hebrews 11.32-35 – January 9, 2020

Matthew 10.42

“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.” (Hebrews 11.32-35, NIV)

The whole chapter is good, but 32-35 reminds me that my faith in him can overcome anything.

Thought Questions:

When you look at the list of things in the passage above, how many of them seem beyond your ability, even impossible to accomplish? What would you say is the difference between the people listed in the passages above and you?

How does our faith in God allow us to do things we think would otherwise be impossible?

What events have happened in your life that you would you have considered impossible, had it not been for God’s help and your faith in him?

What challenges do you face today that, in view of your faith in God, are really know big deal?

Matthew 10.42 – January 8, 2020

Matthew 10.42

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of those little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matthew 10.42, NIV)

I love this passage because it reminds me that our service to God is not always the big, most noticed events. At times, it is simply the small things we do for others that matter the most.

Thought Questions:

At the end of your life what sort of things would like to be able to say you have done for God? How many of these things are big things? How many of them small, yet meaningful ones? Why would you say these things are important to you?

How comforting is it to you to know the things you do, big-to-small, are noticed by God?

How have you given a cup of cold water to someone today?