14 August 2019

1 Samuel 5:1–6:12, Jeremiah 42:1–43:7

Asking God what do can be a “dangerous” prayer. It may lead to something that puts you outside of your comfort zone. It can also be the most fulfilling thing you ever do.

Fulfilling God’s plans sometimes means that you don’t know you’re doing it. Let’s take the story of the Ark in the land of the Philistines. The precursor to this story is that the Israelites acted more like the Ark was a lucky rabbit’s foot, rather than a very holy symbol (and place of interaction) with God. The Ark, and by extension relationship with God, was not taken seriously. So, the Israelites didn’t keep it.

The Philistines took it as a war trophy, displaying it before the idol of their god (Dagon). It went downhill from there. The consequence of their behavior was unpleasant. The war trophy became a symbol of a contagion to be avoided. The Philistines no longer wanted the war trophy. The priests of Dagon and the diviners (i.e., established non-friends of God) came up with a guilt offering and a test.

The cows took the Ark back to the Israelites. After all of that, God’s plan and God’s glory was revealed. Yet, the Philistines, with all of that, went back to their old ways. How often are we just like them?

The leaders seeking to escape the coming conquest asked for guidance and provided assurance that they would follow it. They heard it and got angry. They asked for guidance and did what was contrary to it. To add insult to injury, one infers that Jeremiah didn’t exactly go happily with them to Egypt. He went in obedience. What a mess.
The story of the Philistines and the exiles has a similarity…God’s plan and holiness was right in front of them…they chose their own path.

1) Have you ever asked God for guidance/plan? What happened?

2) While it’s easy to judge the Philistines and the Israelites for their decisions, what reasons can you think of for their decisions? Have you used similar though processes for your own decisions?

13 August 2019

Acts 24:14–21, 1 Corinthians 15:29–38, 1 Peter 1:13–25

Resurrection. It’s kind of important to what it means to be a Christian. However, in our scientific age, it’s often hard to convince non-believers of it, and even a lot of church-goers (who do call themselves Christian) struggle with believing it. Why is it? Really, it’s kind of unbelievable from a scientific point of view.

When Luke (Acts), Paul (Corinthians), Peter (Peter) wrote the Resurrection was abnormal, but it wasn’t out of the realm of all religions. In fact, a Jewish group (the Pharisees) did believe in the resurrection of the dead (Paul was one of them). It was a point of argument between Jewish groups. Roman and Greek religion had a form of afterlife (the Elysian fields or Hades, depending on your life). Again, the Resurrection wasn’t that odd.

It is now. The Resurrection of Jesus (and, by extension, us) is a core belief of Christianity. Yet, people try not to talk about it. They avoid it. How can we avoid this? It is human to avoid uncomfortable topics, especially when we struggle believing them.

A better question of the era is if you do believe in the Resurrection, what does that mean for you in the here and now? That, my friends, is quite the question, and it is definitely worth wrestling with. Far too many Christians, for far too many years, believed that once they “surrendered” to Jesus, they got the Resurrection in return. Which is true, to a great extent. It is also sadly mistaken from a complete Christian life sense.

The Resurrection life is not a future life (after we’re dead), it is a life that is to empower us for the now.

1) What do you think the Resurrection Life looks like?

2) Why do you think people skip to the end (the Resurrection Life), rather than the now?

3) Do you believe in the Resurrection? How would you defend it, if it came up in conversation?

12 August 2019

2 Samuel 13:11–39, Ephesians 4:13–19

Parenting is hard. Parents struggle with their own failures personally and with their children. For the deeply afflicted parent (and child), parenting is not just brutal, but it is unending pain. For a normal parent, having children is a blessing and one of the hardest jobs ever (there is a harder one, but that is for another time).

David—the so-called man after God’s own heart—was actually a pretty bad father at times, maybe even a lot of the times. This story is actually heartbreaking. Quite heartbreaking. Disgusting, nauseating, and so on. It is also another example that the Scriptures don’t hide the brutal failure of humanity to live up to its potential.

What was David thinking to just things remain? Why did he do nothing? Doing nothing may have been David’s greatest fault. Maybe. That his children, less Solomon, had gotten to the states they were in says much about the guidance he provided to the next generation. If there had been one “bad apple”, perhaps there wouldn’t such a disastrous family tale. On the other hand, we cannot pin the sins of the sons on the father. They chose their path.

It is hard as a parent to not blame oneself for the resulting lives of one’s children. Parents may try to harden their hearts as their children make life-altering decisions, but the hardened heart is only on the outside as their hearts ache on the inside. It’s not that David’s heart didn’t ache. As we look at his story, how would we have behaved?

Would Paul’s “speaking the truth in love” made a difference here? How about building each other up? Unity? Promoting the growth for building up in love? These are all questions that the church—you—needs to wrestle with. The reality is that the world is full of broken people. Lots of them. In fact, there are probably a few such broken people in our framily. There might be some in your family. You might be broken. It’s not whether you know, meet, interact with people who are broken…it’s how many.

1) Brokenness equals hurt. We are all hurting. Thinking about Paul, what can we do help our fellow broken human beings?

2) We evaluate people and their stories by our story. How can that help us help them? How can it keep us from helping them?

3) Paul’s words about building up are especially true when talking about our hurts and the hurts of others. What do Paul’s words teach about walking with others in the midst of their (and our) brokenness?