Categories
Every Day Bible

Kingdom Reversals

Jesus often says things that are exactly the opposite of “normal” thinking.

He says that the greatest will be the servant (Matthew 23:11). He says that unless we become like children, we miss out on what matters most (Matthew 18:3). He says that his followers don’t cling to power and violence and all the “normal” means and methods of doing business.

Perhaps no place is that more apparent than in the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:2-12.

Often the beatitudes are preached as a to-do list—and certainly, Jesus is not discouraging these behaviors—but this passage is not prescriptive. It is simply describing the reality of life in the kingdom of God.

From a totally natural standpoint—I don’t particularly want to be poor, mournful, meek, hungry, merciful, pure, a peacemaker, or persecuted. Most of the time, we are drawn to the opposite of these ideals. But Jesus reverses our thoughts and says that those people are exactly the ones that are receiving God’s blessing.

We tend to think that the rich and happy are blessed. When something good goes my way, I’m inclined to say, “I feel so blessed!” But in the great kingdom reversal, Jesus suggests another way of looking at things: even when everything around me has totally gone wrong, maybe especially then, I am blessed by God.

Categories
Every Day Bible

What the World Needs Now (Part 4 of 4)

This our final installment of our small group series, “What the World Needs Now.” Thanks for joining us for this study! Be on the lookout for what’s next…

Discussion 1: How do you define hope? (Don’t use the dictionary–use your brain and your experiences!)

Discussion 2: How does a Bible Dictionary define hope? Is there a difference between your definitions? (You can find several dictionaries at biblestudytools.com)

Discussion 3: Use a concordance or search tool to find some “hope” passages. Read several. Read them with the Bible dictionary’s definition in mind. Does that change their meaning?

Discussion 4: How are you living today in light of the hope that you have?

Categories
Every Day Bible

Halfway

It’s July! That means that 2020 is halfway finished. (Surely the rest of the year will be boring, right?!)

Halfway is a good time for a checkup. During halftime, many a coach has helped turn the game around by analyzing where things stand and what needs to change.

Maybe in January you made some resolutions. Nobody’s year has gone according to plan, but don’t use that as an excuse not to work on the things that are most important.

Are you making progress in your journey to be more like Christ?

How are your relationships with those closest to you?

Where have you planted seeds of the gospel? Who is closer to Jesus because of your influence?

Are those sins that you battle gaining ground or losing ground?

Is your attitude better or worse than it was a year ago?

What do you need to be doing so that you can look back on 2020 as a great year for the kingdom of God?

Categories
Every Day Bible

What the World Needs Now (Part 3 of 4)

We continue our small-group study of 4 things that the world desperately needs from the church. In this week’s study, we look at the power of truth in a time of competing opinions.

Discussion 1: What are some controversial truth claims that are being argued about right now? How many of those can your group list in 60 seconds?

Discussion 2: The Gossip Verses. What do you hear?

Discussion 3: Logical Fallacies and Cognitive Biases. Take a look at the most common logical fallacies and most common cognitive biases. Read through the lists. Which ones do you encounter most frequently? Which are most common at church? In politics? Do you recognize any that you have fallen into this week?

Categories
Every Day Bible

Empathy

When we think of Mister Rogers, most of us go straight to the set of his show. We see his cardigans and his puppets and hear his songs.

Did you know that Mister Rogers was asked to author a chapter in a medical book called Duane’s Opthamology?

The book is a technical workbook for all things “eye.” It’s one of the standard references in the field.

What in the world does the minister-turned-television-guru have to say that could help an eye surgeon?

His chapter was entitled, “Physical and Psychological Preparation of Children for Anesthesia and Surgery.”

You might expect it to begin with a thorough review of psychiatric literature about children’s stressors and coping skills. It could immediately launch with specific strategies and conversations to use.

Mister Rogers does something better than that. To help the medical team prepare children for eye surgery, he begins is chapter with six words:

“You were a child once, too.”

Fred Rogers

That’s all it takes, isn’t it? Mister Rogers invited these surgeons to stop thinking like surgeons and start thinking like children. He invited them to empathy.

Imagine how much better off the world would be if we began the day with a simple reminder: “We’ve been in their shoes, too.” You have been stressed. You have made bad decisions. You have been lost. You have been afraid. And if we can remember what it was like for us, maybe it will make it a little easier to follow the words of Jesus: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” (Matthew 7:12)

(Inspired by Becoming Better Grownups: Rediscovering What Matters and Remembering How to Fly by Brad Montague)

Categories
Every Day Bible

Laughter

Don’t you hate that awkward moment when you wave to someone who is waving at you—until you realize that they were waving at someone behind you?

I’m not sure what exactly it is about this harmless social misstep that makes you want to crawl under a rock and hide.

Robert Benchley made a bigger blunder when he asked a man in a uniform outside a restaurant to get a cab for him. He was informed that he wasn’t speaking to a bellboy, but an admiral in the U.S. Navy.

Where I’d just want to die, Benchley rolled with it. Without missing a beat, he said, “I’m sorry. Can I get a battleship instead?”

The wise woman of Proverbs 31 is praised for her industriousness, character, and relationships, but my favorite line comes from verse 25: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.”

Certainly the principle can be abused, but don’t let the misuse keep you from the rightful use. There is something incredibly powerful about the ability to laugh in the face adversity, and even more so not to take ourselves too seriously.

Want to know another term for “not taking ourselves too seriously”? We call that humility. And laughter can actually be a path towards it.

Categories
Every Day Bible

What the World Needs Now (Part 2 of 4)

Discussion 1: How did your strive to “love better” go last week? What success or failures did you have? What did you learn?

Discussion 2: What is your talk-to-listen ratio? Compare notes in your group. Is your vision of it accurate?

Discussion 3: What does scripture say about listening?

  • Proverbs 19:20
  • Proverbs 18:13
  • Proverbs 12:15
  • Proverbs 2:2
  • Proverbs 19:27
  • Proverbs 18:2

Discussion 4: Why are we so bad at listening?

Discussion 5: How will I practice listening this week?

Categories
Every Day Bible

What the World Needs Now (Part 1 of 4)

If you went to a theater to watch a movie, and its plot-line played out like the year 2020 has so far, you’d probably rate it a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes because it is unrealistic!

Wildfires. Viruses. Recessions. Racial Tensions. Police Corruption. Toilet paper shortages. MURDER HORNETS.

You just can’t make this stuff up!

I get frustrated because there are so many problems, and I feel so powerless to do anything about them.

During this 4-week study, we’ll look at 4 simple things that we can do. We might not be able to fix it. But we can do better.

Invite a friend, clear out an hour in your schedule, and work on brightening the corner where you are!

Part 1: The World Needs Love

         Love never gives up.

                 Love cares more for others than for self.

                 Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

                 Love doesn’t strut,

                 Doesn’t have a swelled head,

                 Doesn’t force itself on others,

                 Isn’t always “me first,”

                 Doesn’t fly off the handle,

                 Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

                 Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

                 Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

                 Puts up with anything,

                 Trusts God always,

                 Always looks for the best,

                 Never looks back,

                 But keeps going to the end.

                  Love never dies.

Four questions for your consideration:

  1. Which part of the “love definition” is the hardest for you?
  2. Which part of the “love definition” does our society miss the most?
  3. Which part of the “love definition” are you the best at?
  4. How, specifically, will you work to love better this week?
Categories
Every Day Bible

Random

In our Wednesday study of the Bible in a Year last week, we read the strange story of the death of King Ahab in 1 Kings 22:34:

“A certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate.”

Did you know that this is the only story in the Bible that uses the word “random”? (It’s told again in 2 Chronicles 18:33 with the exact same word.)

Random is a strange word.

It means “happening without method or conscious decision.” It is impossible to reliably predict a random number.

It is a chaotic word.

The Hebrew word in this story shows up 23 times in the Bible, but only here is it translated random. The word is usually translated integrity, blameless, innocence, full, or upright. Seem strange?

According to the NET Bible, the phrase here literally translated would be “now a man drew a bow in his innocence” (i.e., with no specific target in mind, or at least without realizing his target was the king of Israel).

That’s a little different, don’t you think?

You see, from the archer’s perspective, this was a random occurrence.

A shot went up and came down. He was innocent, in a sense. But it wasn’t random to Ahab. That one-in-a-million shot against the high-value target felt more like divine judgment. And it certainly wasn’t random to God who sees all and knows all.

I’m not sure exactly how God runs this world. I know that Ecclesiastes says that “time and chance” happen to all (Ecclesiastes 9:11). But from God’s perspective, I’m not sure that there is such a thing as random.

I can’t make sense of all the chaos in the universe, but maybe it is comforting to know that it isn’t my job to do that. I trust that God knows what he’s doing. I don’t have to!

Categories
Every Day Bible

How God Used Paul (Philemon Part 3 of 3)

This is the third and final part of our at-home study of “Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Applied Christianity in Philemon.” Thanks for joining us!

Discussion 1: When did someone correct you–and you were able to hear it? When did someone correct you–and you weren’t able to hear it? What made the difference?

Discussion 2: Why didn’t Paul command Philemon to do the right thing? Why did he nudge?

Discussion 3: Who has played the part of Paul in your life? Who is in your council of advisors?

Discussion 4: When should we get involved in others’ lives? When shouldn’t we? How do we get more deeply connected?