Jeremiah 1.1-10 – June 11, 2020

Jeremiah 1.1-10

The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile. 

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew  you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” 

“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” 

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. 

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1.1-10, NIV)

How incredible would it be to have a call from God so clear that there was no way to misinterpret what you were to do?

Thought Questions:

While this call was specifically for Jeremiah, we see other places in scripture where we are told that God knew us be we came into being. How does it make you feel that you were known before you could even prove yourself, you were chosen by God before you had to show your worth?

How do you think you would have responded to God and his asking you to speak for him? In what ways would your reaction match Jeremiah’s? In what ways do you think you would have had the confidence to speak for God?

God wants us to speak for him, even if we do not have the same experience that Jeremiah did. In what ways do you speak for God in your daily life?

Romans 8.38-39 – June 10, 2020

Romans 8:38–39

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39, NIV)

This passage was a favorite of many at South Plains.

Thought Questions:

When you think about your life, what are those things you fear, the things that can totally sidetrack the plans you have and are living out? In what ways are these things out of our control, in spite of our attempts to manage them?

How afraid are you that you may be separated from God, that his love is not enough to take care of you? Why do you think this is a common fear, even among people who are believers?

How do you live your life differently knowing that nothing can separate you from God’s love?

Psalm 91 – June 9, 2020

Psalm 91:1–16

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.” 

Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked. 

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

(Psalm 91:1–16, NIV)

“I always pray this over our sons. It comforts me that God is watching over them keeping them safe.”

Thought Questions:

Think of times in your life when you have needed a refuge and a fortress. What created those moments when refuge was needed and in what ways did God prove to be that refuge and fortress for you?

How comforting is it to know that God is watching out and protecting you?

How do you call out to the Lord?

Ephesians 4.1-6 – June 8, 2020

Ephesians 4:1–6

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1–6, NIV)

You have been called by God. Are you living up to that calling?

Thought Questions:

What does it mean to be a prisoner for the Lord? Do you see this as a good thing or something to be avoided? Why?

Why does our culture shun the very things Paul lists here as qualities of a worthy life? How can we exemplify these even as they are dismissed as “weak” or “irrelevant?”

What have you done to bring about peace today?

Matthew 12.9-14 – June 5, 2020

Matthew 12:9–14

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.
 (Matthew 12:9–14, NIV)

After a while you begin to see a pattern: Jesus breaks the “rules” set up to maintain holiness (i.e., the Sabbath laws), to act towards others in. … holiness.

Thought Questions:

How do you think the man with the shriveled hand felt being a pawn for the Pharisees’ trap? How do the Pharisee’s actions serve to further humiliate this man who was already seen as “not worthy of the Lord’s honor?” [Individuals who suffered from some disability would have been considered inferior not just in day-to-day life, but also accursed by God or at the very least, outside of God’s favor.]

Why is it too often so easy for people to value stuff and rules above human lives?

What good things can you do for someone in need or who has been rejected regardless of the perception or expectations of others?

John 6.16-24 – June 4, 2020

John 6:16–24

When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
 (John 6:16–24, NIV)

So just how afraid would you be if you saw someone approaching your boat out on the lake in the midst of a storm?

Thought Questions:

Why do you think Jesus did not initially join his disciples for their trip across the lake to Capernaum?

Does just telling someone not to be afraid prevent them from being afraid? Why or why not? What needs to be a component of that person’s statement to really prevent fear in others?

Why do you think John includes this statement about the crowds going to search for Jesus? In what ways does it change our perspective of him?

John 5.1-15 – June 3, 2020

John 5:1–15

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [4] One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”
11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”
12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”
13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well. 
(John 5:1–15, NIV)

“Do you want to get well?” It seems like such an obvious question, but I wonder if at times, the answer we have gets too caught up in the way we assume that answer HAS to come into being. What would it be like to trust Jesus at his word?

Thought Questions:

Why do you think Jesus asked this man if he wanted to get well? And how do you see this man’s answer illuminating the reason for Jesus’ question?

Jesus, as he is prone to do, breaks the rules of the Jewish leaders and heals on the Sabbath. Why do you think Jesus did this, even though he himself was an obedient Jew? In what ways do we have our own rules about following God that prevent us from actually following Him?

Do you think this man stopped sinning, as he was instructed? Why or why not? Have you stopped sinning?

2 Corinthians 9.6 – June 2, 2020

2 Corinthians 9:6

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. (2 Corinthians 9:6, NIV)

Thought Questions:

In what ways have you found this verse to be true? What examples might you give to demonstrate this?

In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul commends the people he is writing, saying their gives cause people to give thanksgiving to God. Think of a time when you have experienced this thanksgiving to God, either in giving or receiving. How would you describe the connection of God and giving?

What are ways you can give more generously?

Genesis 32.33-32 – June 1, 2020

Genesis 32:22–32

That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,  because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,  and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.
 (Genesis 32:22–32, NIV)

Why DID Jacob want to know the name of this man with whom he wrestled?

Thought Questions:

How do you think Jacob felt, knowing he had seen “God face to face”?

Why does knowing someone’s name strengthen the familiarity and bond you have with that person? Why do people value their name so much and like to be called by their name?

How does a name give a blessing to the one who has that name?

Why Us? – June 30, 2019

2 Kings 17.1-18.12; Acts 20.1-38; Psalm 148.1-14; Proverbs 18.6-7

When you read through the Old Testament, you hear the people of God ask a repeated question: Why is all of this happening to us, Lord? Why are we being conquered and taken off into exile? Why do we not get to continue as a great nation, like we were when David was king? You also discover an answer, which we find in our reading today: “This disaster came upon the people of Israel because they worshiped other gods.” Why do you think the people of Israel had such a hard time making a connection between the cause and the effect?

Questions:

Why do you think the lions ate the foreign settlers who did not worship God?

Paul’s work of sharing faith with others included encouraging them, going back through places he had been a following up with those who had believed his message. Why is this encouragement such an important part of a growing relationship with God?

How do all of the things mentioned in Psalm 148 praise God, including those things that do not have a voice? What does this tell us about what it means to praise God?

Do you think fools are really asking for a beating? In what ways is this true?