While we are not able to meet for youth group on Sunday mornings, we want to continue to provide opportunities for faith engagement and growth. Here you will find weekly videos and reflection questions.
April 27, 2021
A classic story of good versus evil, the Book of Esther is a unique account in the Bible. It gives us a glimpse of the Jews who remained outside their homeland after the Exile, particularly the Jews living in the Persian Empire.
Here we see that the author chose a fascinating literary choice – never once is God mentioned in the entire Book. This behind-the-scenes take of God at work is brilliantly displayed throughout Esther’s chapters through “coincidences” and “happen chances” that help to save the Jews from Haman’s wicked plot to destroy them.
Even today Jewish people celebrate Purim each year by reading Esther, enjoying fun traditions, and giving gifts as described in Esther Chapter 9:20-32. Christians, too, can benefit from reading Esther as it reminds us that even though it appears God is absent, He is still at work in our lives and will not abandon His promises while we are living in a murky and ambiguous world.
1. What did you think of the behind-the-scenes aspect of the book? Where did you see God working?
2. How does the book of Esther show “ironic-reversal.”
3. What does God’s perceived absence in the book show?
April 20, 2021
Note how the people received revelation and responded after they listened to the Word of God that was being taught to them. This response is remarkably similar to Jesus’ teachings about God’s Kingdom centuries later, and His often-repeated phrase, “He who has an ear, let him hear…” The takeaway? Whether it’s ancient Israel or our worship today, we all must receive a new heart from God and listen to Him.
1. What was the importance of the temple, within these two books? How was it different than previously?
2. The bible project shows a common theme of anti-climactic moments? How does the video show Jerselames expectations not met?
3. How does it show the tension of hope and disappointment?
4. What does it mean for our hearts to be completely transformed by God?
March 30, 2021
The book of 2 Samuel continues to show us the virtue of humility, the destructiveness of pride, and the faithfulness of God’s promise. We see David succeed and fail, and we see God’s promise for a future king at the beginning and end of the story.
After the death of Saul, David unifies the twelve tribes as their king. In his new capital of Jerusalem, David desires to build God a house. Instead, God promises to build David an eternal house through a king from his lineage. This is a key moment in the book of 2 Samuel and in the Hebrew Scriptures that point us toward a messianic king who will come to fulfill the promise given to David and Abraham to bless all nations.
However, we soon discover that David is not that king. After failing spectacularly, the kingdom slowly unravels. The final chapters of 2 Samuel highlight moments of David’s weakness, showing us his own failure as similar to Saul’s, while promising another king who will come to fulfill God’s good purposes.
1. What did you think about the video? What key concepts stood out to you?
2. What is the significance of 2 Samuel chapter 7.
3. How is 2 Samuel connected to 1 Samuel, how is this seen shown toward the end of the book?
4. What does David’s rise and fall show us about God’s faithfulness and Covenant?
5. How does this book point to the hope of a Messiah (Jesus)?
March 23, 2021
The book of 1 Samuel is an exciting book split into two parts due to its large size. The first part is a contrasting character study of Saul and David, showing the importance of humility in God’s people.
The book of 1 Samuel focuses on three characters: Samuel, Saul, and David. A poem near the start of the book reveals the book’skey themes: God’s opposition to the proud, exultation of the humble, faithfulness in spite ofevil, and the promise of a messianic king.
These themes are played out through the rest of the book as we see Saul rise to power, only to have his character flaws exposed as he disobeys God’s command. In contrast, God raises up David, a humble shepherd who trusts God. As the story progresses, we see these two characters in increasingly stark contrast. Saul slips into madness as David resolutely trusts inGod’s timing and purposes.
1. What do the differences between King Saul and David tell us about how God views leaders?
2. How does the book of Samuel demonstrate Israel’s
3. Why is the book’s inclusion of King David’s rises to power and his weaknesses (failures) important?
4. How does this book relate to the other books we have studied so far…? What is similar or new?
March 9, 2021
After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel begin a downward spiral. Israel begins to adopt the corrupt practices of the Canaanites they failed to drive out of the land. This leads to a repeated cycle of sin, oppression, repentance, deliverance, and peace, which only eventually leads back into sin.
The book of Judges highlights six judges during this time and shows their increasing corruption. These judges start off fairly well (Othniel, Ehud, Deborah) but become increasingly worse (Gideon, Jephthah, Samson). The book ends with two very disturbing stories that show how incredibly lawless the people have become. The central verse that summarizes this says, “In those days Israel had no king, and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”
1. What stood out to you in the video?
2. How does the book point to the need for a leader?
3. How do we make sense of the hard stories that demonstrate Israel’s turning away from God?
4. What does this book tell us about the character of God?
March 2, 2021
At the start of the book of Joshua, Joshua is appointed as Israel’s new leader, a new Moses. He commands obedience to the covenant, sends spies into the land, and brings the people of Israel through the waters of the Jordan River. There Joshua runs into a heavenly commander who makes it clear that the battles that will unfold in this book are not about Israel versus other nations but about God fulfilling his promise to the family of Abraham.
In the battles that follow, Israel learns the hard way to walk in covenant faithfulness. As they do, some of the Canaanites surrender, while most try to extinguish the Israelites. The justice that God brings on human evil finds unique expression in Joshua as God drives out the Canaanites. Having defeated their enemies, the people of Israel divide the land by tribe and receive final words of challenge from Joshua to remain faithful to the covenant.
- What stood out to you in the video?
- How does the Book of Joshua fit into the previous books within the Torah?
- What does this video show about the relationship between God and Israel?
February 23, 2021
What image stood out to you in the video and why?
Read: Deuteronomy 4:5-9
God gave his commands to Israel, so he could share his wisdom with all the nations. As Israel followed his commands, they would become wise with understanding. Then all the nations would see God’s wisdom displayed through them.
As followers of Jesus today, we too are called to represent God’s wisdom to the world. But this does not happen simply by saying what we believe or by having an ethical list of rules. The world sees God’s goodness by our actions and decision to follow his teachings. Our lifestyle tells the truth about what we really value. So this week, let’s meditate on the valuable wisdom in God’s ancient commands to Israel. And as we do, we can be empowered by God’s Spirit to respond in active ways that display his goodness to those around us.
Question 1: Wisdom is gained when we live out the knowledge we have received (Deuteronomy 4:6a). Think of someone you know who is wise. How do they apply what they have learned? How have they shared God’s wisdom with the people around them?
Question 2: Receiving and responding to God’s wisdom requires intentionality. Review verse 9 and consider the importance of diligently taking care of one’s own spiritual and emotional health. According to this verse, what can happen when people neglect this command?
Question 3: What are some specific things people do to remember who God is and what God has taught them? What usually distracts people from regularly practicing these specific things?
Question 4: What is one practice you’d like to establish in order to remember and respond to what God has taught you? How often would you like to embrace this practice? When will you begin?
February 16, 2021
What image stood out to you in the video and why?
God delivered Israel out of slavery and promised to settle them in their own land. But when it was finally time to receive the promise, Israel refused. They doubted God’s intentions and forgot about the ways he protected and provided for them in the past. They failed to measure the strength of the character of God and measured the strength of their giants instead. But God did not give up on Israel. He brought a future generation into the promised land through Joshua. And centuries later, Jesus came to lead all who would trust in him to experience God’s promises.
Feel free to reflect on all the questions or simply a few right now. You can also reflect throughout the week by focusing on one question per day.
Question 1: What did the spies believe would happen if they went into the land God promised (see 13:28-29 and 32-33)? What did Joshua and Caleb believe (see 13:30 and 14:6-9)?
Question 2: How did the Israelites misjudge God’s character and intentions (see 14:3)? What decisions did they make because of this (see 14:2-4 and 10)?
Question 3: Now consider Moses’ understanding of God’s character (see 14:17-19). What did he know to be true about God? And what decision did God make in response to Moses’ trust in him (see 14:20-24)?
Question 4: What specific fears or doubts have held you back from trusting and following God? Instead of replaying your past or current fears, shift your focus to God. What comes to mind as you remember God’s trustworthy character toward you in your specific circumstances?
February 9, 2021
1. What image stood out to you in the video and why?
2. What do you think it means to be unclean or clean? Why is this important to the Israelites?
3. How do the different categories of laws in Leviticus shape our understanding of who God is?
The ancient practices of Sabbath and Jubilee remind us that we are dependent on God for everything. All that we do and everything that we have is a gift from God. When we forget this, our relationships and our environments suffer. God calls his people to rest and remember that his provision is more than enough.
Feel free to reflect on all the questions or simply a few right now. You can also reflect throughout the week by focusing on one question per day.
Question 1: Review verses 20-21. What did God promise to provide for Israel? What does God’s purpose and provision reveal about his attitude and intentions toward his people?
Question 2: The promised land belongs to God (see vs. 23). How do you think these Sabbath laws would have helped the people understand that they were stewards of the land and not owners?
Question 3: How might intentional rhythms of rest help you understand your role as a steward instead of an owner? What practices do you want to add, change, or continue in order to remember your reliance on God?
February 2, 2021
For the Israelites, animal sacrifice was both a symbol to demonstrate the cost of sin and a way to show how God could cleanse and remove their sin. Animal sacrifices pointed ahead to Jesus, the “lamb of God,” who would come to take away sin once and for all. When we remember Jesus’ death on the cross, we recognize the devastating effects of our sin and see his power to forgive. And in Jesus’ resurrection, we can experience God’s power to remove the deadly effects of our sin. His sacrifice brings life to all who trust in him.
- What were your thoughts on the video?
- How did Jesus complete his work on our behalf (see vv. 9-10)? How is he still completing his work in and through us (see vv. 15-25)?
- 1 John 1:9 says that when we admit our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us. What comes to mind when you think about how you’ve sinned against God and others? Why is it hard to be honest about our failings? What is needed for a community to be a safe place where people can be honest with one another? What step can you take this week to build this kind of community?
- When God removes our sin, he makes us pure and commits to help us live in his love. Who in your life needs encouragement today? What can you sacrifice to show them the love of Jesus?
January 24, 2021
What image stood out to you in the video and why?
God rescued Israel from slavery for a specific purpose. He wanted to transform them into a kingdom of priests who would represent his presence and character to all nations around them. God rescues us for the same purpose. As we rely on Jesus and live by his Spirit of wisdom, justice, and love, we become reflections of who he is to the world around us.
God rescued Israel for a purpose. Study Exodus 19:4-6 and take note of the specific ways God describes the identity he wants his people to receive. According to this passage, what does God want his people to be? How are they to receive this identity?
What did you think about Moses conversation with God on Mt. Sinai? How does this remind us of God’s covenant with his people and his faithfulness.
When God’s people trust and obey God’s wise, just, and loving commands, how do they impact the communities around them? What happens to these communities when God’s people neglect to trust and obey him? Consider specific examples from the Bible as well as your own experiences.
Let’s invite God’s Spirit of wisdom to empower us to trust, obey, and reflect his character. Ask God how he wants to show his wisdom, justice, and love through you today. Listen for what he may bring to your mind.
Turn your reflections into a prayer. Admire God for his rescuing love and agree with his plan to show his love to many through you. Ask for his help to trust and obey him, admit where you have doubted and disobeyed, and thank him for a fresh start today.
January 17, 2021
What image stood out to you in the video and why?
The Exodus story reminds us that God is faithful to act on behalf of the hurting and the oppressed. He grieves when we suffer and can be trusted to respond with compassion. Feel free to reflect on all the questions or just a few right now. You can also reflect throughout the week by focusing on one question per day.
Question 1: As you review today’s passage, pay attention to the details. Notice repeated words and how each sentence connects to the next. What do you observe?
Question 2: Horeb is later called Mount Sinai. Compare Moses’ experience with Yahweh at Horeb while the Israelites were in captivity (Exodus 3:1-8) with Moses’ experience with Yahweh at Sinai after the Israelites were set free (Exodus 19:16-25). Consider how Yahweh seeks to save and protect his people in both instances. What do you notice?
Question 3: How has God met you in the midst of your past suffering? Where do you currently sense a need for his rescue in your life?
Question 4: How does God want to work through you to support his people this week? What are your hesitations, and how do you think God would address those today?
January 10, 2021
God blesses Jacob from birth (Genesis 25:19-34), but Jacob lives as if God’s blessing depends on his own scheming and skills. And he’s willing to sabotage anyone to get what he wants. In spite of this, God does not abandon Jacob. Instead, God commits himself even more to Jacob by visiting him in person to wrestle it all out. God wounds Jacob in the struggle, and it’s precisely this wound that helps Jacob finally receive God’s blessing as a gift. It’s a gift he could never acquire by himself, no matter how hard he tries.
1. What image stood out to you in the video and why?
2. Notice the faithful character of God. He’s committed to fulfilling the promise he’s made to his stubborn people, no matter what. And he continually pours out his mercy on them so that they can still receive his blessing. What other examples in Scripture show this aspect of God’s character?
3. Notice Jacob’s character flaws. He chases after his own security by stealing the blessings and security of the people around him. What else do you notice about Jacob in the Genesis story?
4. How has God intervened in your life to help you receive his promises and blessing? What did you learn through that experience?
January 3, 2021
Genesis 1:26-28, 2:16-18, 3:1-15 Read here
God created humanity in his image and called them to partner with him in expanding his creation. But partnership requires trust, so God gave humanity the freedom to make their own choices. Sadly, the first humans made the choice to trust their own wisdom over God’s. This began a downward spiral of selfishness, violence, and pain for humanity. But God intervened with a plan to restore humans to their place of true partnership.
What image stood out to you in the video and why?
- Knowing good and evil seems like a good thing, but in this story we see humans choose their own definition of good and evil over God’s. How does the story help us understand what is not good about eating from the tree of knowing good and evil?
- Consider the irony and deception in the snake’s words when he says, “When you eat from the tree, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Review Genesis 1:26-31 and 2:15-17. How are the humans already made like God? And what do they already know about what is good and bad?
- Review Genesis 3:7-8 and identify what kinds of things are lost after the first humans reject God’s warning. How have similar consequences followed your own regrettable choices?
- How can these reflections turn into a prayer? Take time now to thank God for Jesus, who fulfilled God’s promise and made a way for us to live in fellowship with God again.
December 6 and 13, 2020
As we continue in this Advent season, we invite you to reflect on the biblical meaning of peace and discover how this virtue arrived in the world through Jesus. Listen to the recording, watch the video, open your Bible, and interact with the discussion questions below.
1. Shalom, or peace, is not only the absence of conflict but the presence of connection and completion. What do we all need in order to experience shalom?
2. In the season of advent why is shalom important?
3. What does it mean to be “people of peace?”
Imagine being there with the shepherds that night. How would you have felt? How would you have responded?
Notice the words “highest” and “earth” in the angel’s worshipful announcement. What came from the heights of heaven down to earth when Jesus was born? How is this good news? Turn your reflections into a prayer to express your thoughts, amazement, gratitude, and questions to God.
November 29, 2020
- What problem was David up against, and how did he respond? What problems are you facing today? How will you respond?
- Notice how David repeated the word “only.” What do you think the significance of that is? What other things do people tend to put their hope in besides God (see 62:9-10)?
- Review verse 11-12. What do you think would change in your life if you believed this without any doubts? How do the truths in verses 11-12 help you put your hope in God?
- Review verse 8. Take some time now to pour out your heart before God. Tell him everything that’s weighing you down and trust him with every detail. He hears you.
November 22, 2020
Listening to the Bible read out loud in community can be a life-changing experience. In this week’s Bible Study, we are exploring how vital this ancient practice is for shaping our perspectives and beliefs. Listen to the message, watch the video, and interact with the ideas and discussion questions below to learn more about the public reading of Scripture.
Question 1: Share one idea that taught, challenged, or encouraged you as you watched the video.
Question 2: There are many benefits to reading the Bible aloud with your community. When we read a whole section of Scripture at once, we can better understand the overarching message. Another benefit is that hearing engages our thoughts, memory, and attention in a different way than reading does. So this week, we hope you will enjoy the benefits of reading the Bible aloud with others. Let’s practice with this exercise today.
Read these scriptures below out loud.
Here are some ideas for how you can read in community today.
- Schedule a virtual or in-person gathering with a few people and read aloud together.
- Record a voice memo of yourself reading the passage aloud and listen back to it, or send it to a friend and ask if they can do the same for you.
- Listen to a free audio Bible online. Invite a family member, neighbor, or friend to join you.
Feel free to simply listen to the reading of the Scripture. But if it helps, here are some ideas for how you can focus your attention as you listen.
- Pray before you listen. Ask for God’s Spirit to help you understand and respond.
- Listen for repeated words and patterns to help you discover the main idea.
- Doodle images that symbolize the message you hear.
- Listen to the same passage more than once in the same sitting.
- Close your eyes and visualize the message as if it were a movie.
- Follow along in your Bible to underline or highlight passages that especially capture your attention.
Debrief your experience.
- What idea did you choose to help you focus your attention?
- What was enjoyable? What was difficult? What surprised you?
- What did you learn or notice as you listened to the passage?
- What’s another way you can practice reading aloud in community this week?
November 15, 2020
To be an exile is to experience the devastating reality of being driven out of a secure place of belonging. In this week’s Bible Study, we are reflecting on the biblical theme of exile to understand how God’s people are to rely on him in the midst of isolation and uncertainty. We invite you to listen to the recording below and interact with the following discussion questions, so that you can have a thorough understanding of this important biblical theme.
Video Question: Share one idea that taught, challenged, or encouraged you as you watched the video.
Psalm 34 Read here
Psalm 34 reminds us that God is our refuge—our place of security in the midst of chaos and distress. This psalm teaches us to maintain hope in God rather than seek security elsewhere. When the future feels uncertain, we should focus on doing good, seek peace in our lives and our communities, and trust that God consistently meets his people in their experiences of exile.
- What verse most captures your attention and why?
- This psalm is set in a time of exile for David, as he experienced the painful loss of belonging. Share how you’ve experienced feelings of exile in your own life.
- Slowly reread verses 5-8 about taking refuge in God with your own experiences of exile in mind. What thoughts or feelings come up as you read?
- To take refuge in God means to look to him for comfort and security in the midst of chaos. What other sources (positive or negative) do you tend to look to for comfort and security during times of trouble? What happens when you put your hope in these sources instead of in God?
- In this passage, David offers wise counsel for when we lack security, belonging, or certainty in the future. “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies; turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (vv. 13-14). How specifically does this connect with your life right now?
- Let your reflection prompt a prayer to God. Thank him, be honest about how you struggle to hope in him alone, and ask him for what you need today.
November 8, 2020
God’s holiness is rooted in his unique identity as the creator of the cosmos and the powerful source of all life and beauty and goodness. However, the power of God’s holiness is also dangerous to us as mortal creatures. But, in God’s desire to partner with humanity, he made a way for us to access his holy presence safely through Jesus. Jesus applies the dangerous heat of God’s holiness to the things that separate us from God. As we read the Bible, we see that wherever Jesus goes, sickness is healed, brokenness is made whole, and death gives into life. This tells us something significant about what it means to participate with Jesus’ ongoing work in the world. Those who follow Jesus are called to be agents of God’s transforming holiness. Listen to the recording below to understand more about this calling, and as you listen, reflect on concrete ways that you can live as an agent of God’s holiness to those around you.
Video Question 1:
How did your understanding of God’s holiness develop as you watched the video? What do you think it means to be holy?
Read: Isaiah 6:1-7
The prophet Isaiah has a wild and beautiful vision where he witnesses Yahweh on the throne and heavenly creatures calling out “holy, holy, holy.” Isaiah is unraveled by the sight and aware that he might be destroyed because of his impurity. But then a creature, the “seraphim,” touches Isaiah’s lips with a hot coal from God’s altar and tells him, “your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for.” Instead of being destroyed by this burning coal, it somehow makes Isaiah pure. Normally in the Bible, if something pure touches someone impure, the impurity transfers and defiles the purity. But Isaiah’s vision presents a new idea. Now we see a purified object transferring its purity onto someone impure. Isaiah is not ruined like he feared. He is transformed in the presence of God’s holiness.
Take note that the coal in Isaiah’s vision is taken from the altar, the place where sacrifice is made. Reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for you in order to say, “your guilt is taken away.” What comes to mind?
Isaiah says, “I am a man of unclean lips and come from a people of unclean lips.” Isaiah’s aware that unholy words defile a person. Jesus repeats this idea in Matthew 15:11. If all your words and the words of your people were tape recorded this past week, which words would you want Jesus to purify? Take time to pray to receive God’s forgiveness now.
Where are signs of spiritual, moral, or relational decay present in your city? Where are people hurting and excluded? Write down the spaces that come to mind and circle the one that you sense is most neglected and in need.
Take note of the list you made. Why do you think many people try to avoid these spaces of decay, hurt, and isolation? Why do you think Jesus intentionally goes into these places? What do you notice about Jesus’ approach?
November 1, 2020
The God of the Bible is committed to working out his good plans through covenant human partners. Humans continually mess up their end of the covenant, but God remains devoted to his decision to partner with humanity. In this week’s Bible study, we are reflecting on God’s surprising plan to make up for humanity’s role in the covenant and how we can now live as renewed partners with him. To participate, listen to the recording, watch the video, and follow the Bible readings and discussion questions below.
Video Question: How would you describe the biblical meaning of a covenant? How did your understanding of covenants expand or change?
Read: Luke 22:14-23
God is able to do his work in the world independent of humans, but he doesn’t. He is committed to working out his divine will through human covenant partnership, even when humans continually fail to uphold their end of the agreement. In Jesus, God becomes human to create a new humanity who is empowered to live in Jesus’ new covenant as partners with God.
Reflect on the passages above. How does God describe his new covenant plan? Why and how will he make this new covenant? How is it different from the old covenant?
Consider God’s relentless commitment to partner with humanity despite its violent and foolish history. What do you think this tells us about God’s character?
Read: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
In Jesus’ death and resurrection, we see that true covenant faithfulness looks like self-giving love. When we receive, trust, and imitate the love of Jesus, we begin to live as the humans God created us to be. We can once again glimpse the beauty God had in mind when he first created and partnered with humanity.
Review 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. According to this passage, what does it look like to partner with God in his new humanity?
How can you partner with God to forgive, love, and honor others this week?
Identify a challenge in your family, neighborhood, or workplace where self-giving love could make all the difference. Take a moment and ask God to give you wisdom about how you can be a faithful covenant partner with him in that scenario this week.
October 25, 2020
The word “gospel” has become commonplace in many Christian traditions, and for many of us, the word has lost its potency and power. So in this week’s Bible Study, we are looking at how the Bible uses this word and the nuance that can get lost in translation. The word comes from the Greek word euangelion, and it simply means “good announcement” or “good news.” But it’s not just any kind of news. Euangelion most often refers to a royal announcement about a new king. So when Jesus’ followers proclaim the Gospel, they are announcing that Jesus is King. Listen to the message below to learn more about this good news and why Jesus wasn’t the king the people expected. This revolutionary gospel is no less relevant today, and this week we invite you to reflect on what it means for Jesus to be King.
Before watching this video, how did you understand the word “gospel?” How did this video change or add to your understanding?
Read: Matthew 5:1-11
Jesus invites all to respond with allegiance to his role as King. Allegiance to King Jesus means turning toward him with trust in our minds, emotions, and actions. It means, joining with him and his way of life, aligning our lives with his character, and asking the Holy Spirit to empower, fill, and inspire us to live it all out. This new way of being is laid out so beautifully in the Sermon on the Mount. There we see that life under King Jesus involves forgiveness, generosity, humility, and seeking peace for all. It’s a life defined by love for God and for others.
In many kingdoms, those at the top are rich and don’t think they need anything. But in Jesus’ Kingdom, the favored are those who understand their great need. They receive everything from him (vs. 3). What are your spiritual, emotional, and/or physical needs today?
Question 3:In many kingdoms, temporary comforts are pursued to avoid pain. But in Jesus’ Kingdom, those who weep with Jesus over the pain of this world will receive his eternal comfort (vs. 4). Share a story of a time when you, or someone you know, mourned with those who were suffering.
Question 4:In many kingdoms, power hungry bullies are often rewarded with more possessions and property. But in Jesus’ Kingdom, the gentle will receive the earth (vs. 5). Gentleness requires tremendous restraint and patience. Who is someone you would describe as gentle?
October 11 and 18, 2020
In the book of Genesis, the garden of Eden is portrayed as a high place where heaven and earth are one and human relationships reflect this unity. But Eden is lost when humans rebel against God, so the unity between heaven, earth, and all humanity is fractured. God’s work throughout the rest of the Bible is all about recovering this lost unity. Israel’s tabernacle and temple served as symbolic Edens as they allowed for human and divine space to overlap. Because of Jesus, this place is no longer limited to one location, and the unity of Eden can be experienced wherever God’s people gather together in his love.
This is beautiful, but it also kind of sounds like a fantasy, especially when we acknowledge the Church’s brokenness and failures. For this week’s Bible study, we’re inviting you to reflect on what it really means to be a unified temple of God. When followers of Jesus bridge the dividing lines of race, class, and nationality, when they honor each other as equal members in God’s family, they become a place where heaven and earth are one. Listen in to the recording below to understand more about the rich symbolism of the temple and God’s Eden ideal for humanity.
Question 1:What part of the video stirred up curiosity, a new thought, or a sense of awe?
Read: Ephesians 2:13-22
All the nations, also known as Gentiles, were once separated from Israel’s temple. Literal walls kept them from accessing God’s presence on earth. But it was always God’s plan for Israel to be a light to all the nations, so that everyone could have access to his life and love. Though Israel failed to faithfully shine this light, Jesus carried Israel’s story forward by tearing down the walls of division and rebuilding the temple. But instead of building with bricks, this time he built a whole new temple made of both Jews and Gentiles. Now God’s presence can live inside of a unified multiethnic group of people.
Question 1: What is hindering unity in the relationships within your family, church, and city? How has Jesus addressed those barriers with his death, resurrection, and ascension?
Question 2: Ask God to bring one person he wants to reach to your mind this week. Who is he/she? How will you reach out? Is there anything you need to repair in the relationship? Consider asking him/her to show you where God’s power and presence is at work in their life. Listen and seek a connection.
October 4, 2020
For this week’s study, we’re exploring the word witness — what it means and how it is used in the Bible. A witness is someone who sees something important or amazing and shares their experience with others. Yahweh called the nation of Israel to be his own witnesses, so that all other nations could see Yahweh as the one true God. Israel had some powerful encounters with Yahweh, so they were in a great position to do this. But they failed miserably, doing injustice and worshiping other gods just like the surrounding nations. Jesus proved to be the faithful witness Israel could not be, and through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, he made a way for his followers to be faithful witnesses too. As followers of Jesus learn to bear witness to the loving character and powerful acts of God, the surrounding world can know and experience him too.
The disciples are told to go to a mountain after witnessing Jesus’ life, death, and powerful resurrection. When they see Jesus alive on the mount, this amazing encounter leads many to worship Jesus, but some of the disciples still doubt what they’ve seen. Jesus comes closer and tells his disciples to go to all the nations with the authority of his name, the testimony of his message, and the assurance of his constant presence.
- How can you bear witness to what you have seen, heard, and learned about Jesus?
- Why do you think some disciples doubted when they witnessed Jesus alive from the dead? What do you need to believe in order to move away from doubt into worshipful amazement?
- Review verse 19. What are disciples of Jesus commissioned to do exactly? What happens to our Christian witness when we neglect an aspect of this call.
September 27, 2020
Read Romans 12
In the letter to the Romans, Paul writes about Jesus’ sacrificial mercies towards us and invites us to put our hope in these mercies. In light of what Jesus sacrificed, Paul calls us to offer ourselves as “living sacrifices” in response. This means relying on what Jesus has already accomplished through the cross and joining in his sacrificial lifestyle—becoming like him. This is a totally different way to live because the world teaches us to pursue goodness, pleasure, and perfection apart from Jesus. When we become living sacrifices, we are transformed by the good, pleasing, and perfect will of Yahweh, leading to a life of sacrificial love and humility that serves others and overcomes evil with good.
- What happens to our communities when we rely on Jesus’ sacrifice but neglect to join him in a sacrificial lifestyle? Why is belief and action so important?
- Paul gives some practical guidance for what it means to be a living sacrifice. A transformed lifestyle includes a humble mindset (3-5), that serves in community (6-13), and overcomes wrongdoing with good (14-21). How did Jesus model and empower this lifestyle? How is this lifestyle different from what you’ve seen in the world, and how does it display Yahweh’s good, pleasing, and perfect will?
- What is one area where you relate more to the world’s lifestyle than to Jesus’ humble, serving, and overcoming lifestyle? Pray for a renewed mindset.
- Jesus’ humble sacrifice made us one in him. Reflect on the connection between sacrifice, humility, and unity in verses 1-5. What happens to unity when all members are not honored as equally valuable? What is one sacrificial act of humility you can do this week to build unity in your church or family?
September 20, 2020
Lamentations is a collection of Hebrew poems that focuses on the grief, pain, and suffering that came out of living in Jerusalem when it was besieged by the armies of Babylon and eventually captured, plundered, and destroyed. The poet acknowledges that Jerusalem’s fall was an act of Yahweh’s justice, but he still laments, and even protests, the suffering that took place. He draws attention to how terrible the situation was and then calls for God to hear the suffering of his people and respond.
These laments give a sacred dignity to the emotion we feel when we see injustice and suffering. Through studying Lamentations, we can learn to see lament as an important spiritual exercise that brings our anger, pain, and confusion to God, trusting that he cares about it too. In this week’s study, we will practice lamentation as we focus on the poem at the book’s center, Lamentations chapter 3.
How did your understanding of Lamentations expand as you watched the video?
Lamentations 3 Read here
Learning to lament is an uncomfortable yet important part of our spiritual growth, and since there’s so much worth lamenting in the world right now, this is an appropriate time to practice. May God give us hearts big enough to take up the pain of the world and bring it to him in prayer.
- What is one broken reality that comes to mind as you allow Lamentations 3 to shift your mood?
- What about this broken reality would be wrong in God’s eyes? How does this circumstance go against God’s plan for his world? Take time to protest, process your emotion, and voice any confusion in a heartfelt prayer.
- Consider Jesus’ cross and empty tomb as you lament this broken reality. How did Jesus enter into the sufferings of the world? How does Jesus’ resurrection change your perspective on the state of the world?
- Notice how the poet does not place his hope in improved circumstances; rather, he places his hope in Yahweh (vs. 24). What do you think it looks like to place our hope in Yahweh instead of in our desired outcomes?
- How do the truths in verses 21-26 help us hope in Yahweh while we grieve?
September 6 and 13, 2020
How did the video expand your understanding of the word me’od?
Matthew 6:19-34 Read here
What do we have much of? Our “muchness,” or how much we have, can easily become what we love. But God calls us instead to use all that we are and have to love him and others. When we use our muchness in this way, it receives the joy and security of God’s own muchness and becomes even more valuable.
- What did you observe as you read the passage? What beliefs and responses do you think this passage is inviting you to?
- Think of all the experiences, challenges, talents, relationships, possessions, time, and health that you have. This is what you can think of as your muchness. List three to five specific examples of your muchness.
- Sometimes we think our muchness is not very much, so we anxiously hoard it. Next to each of the things you listed in the above question, write one way you might be prone to worry.
- How do these worries hinder you from using your muchness to love God and others?
- Take some time now to admit your worries to God in prayer.
- Jesus’ teachings remind us of our value and also of God’s generous provision to help us in times of distress or worry.
- Next to each item on your list, write one way God has expressed his care and provision towards you.
- Take time now to thank God in prayer.
- Consider your list again. What would it practically look like to use your muchness to love God and others? What is one step you can take today? Remember that God is with you, strengthening you to carry it out.
August 30, 2020
What stood out to you most in the video and why?
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he speaks to Jews and non-Jews, two groups that were divided by so many factors it would have taken an act of God to unite them. In the first three chapters, Paul teaches about the great measures God took in order to make these two groups into one new humanity in Jesus. Then in the last three chapters, Paul shows them how Jesus’ unifying work should impact every relationship and aspect of their lives.
- Reread Ephesians 1:9-10 and 2:11-22 and note all the words that communicate unity (both, all, together, etc…).
- What are two groups in your community that disagree with one another about a current issue?
- Growth in Jesus requires speaking the truth in love (see Ephesians 4:15). Think about the two groups that came to mind in the question above. What happens in these groups when truth is not spoken in love or when love is spoken without truth?
- Consider the needs of the person or group that has opposite views from you. What truthful and loving words do you think would most benefit them today? Think about Ephesians 4:29.
- Take note of the dangers of dealing with anger inappropriately (see Ephesians 4:25-31). How do you think fractured communication can make us vulnerable to the devil’s work and grieve the Holy Spirit?
- Reflect on Jesus’ example of sacrificial love (see Ephesians 4:32-5:1-2). Who needs your forgiveness today? Take time to pray for them.
August 16 and 23, 2020
What’s one thing you were most surprised by in this video?
John 17:20-24 Read here
God’s very essence is love. He has eternally existed within a community, or triunity, of love. Jesus’ prayer, recorded in John’s Gospel, gives us a glimpse into the love and unity Jesus has always shared with his Father. It also shows us how committed he is to helping us participate in this divine community of love and oneness.
- What questions or thoughts surface for you as you reflect on the passage?
- Jesus prayed that his disciples would be one just as he’s one with God the Father (see vs. 21). How do you practice oneness in your relationships right now? Where is more practice needed? Take some time to echo Jesus’ prayer for oneness.
- Consider vs 23. What happens when followers of Jesus live in oneness with God and with one another? What if onlookers can’t find a unified expression of love on earth? How might this affect how they view God?
- Describe the way the Father loves Jesus. Reflect on the reality that God the Father loves his disciples “even as” the Father loves Jesus (see vs. 23). What comes to mind as you reflect on this?
Ephesians 4:1-6 Read here
Paul urges his listeners to live a life that matches God’s call to unity. He understands that without humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearing love, unity cannot exist. So he calls people to make every effort to keep the habits of unity that exist in the Spirit of God. God is one, and we too are called to be one.
- Notice the repeated words in this passage. What do you think Paul was trying to communicate by repeating these words?
- Where have you noticed expressions of humility, gentleness, patience, or love most recently?
- Think about a time when you were experiencing brokenness in a relationship. If you could travel back to that time, with this passage in mind, what would you do differently? What can you do today to build or rebuild a bond of peace?
August 9, 2020
How does the meaning of the word koinonia help you better understand Paul’s letter to Philemon?
Philemon 1 Read here
In the letter to Philemon, Paul inserts himself into the middle of the conflict between Philemon and Onesimus. Paul modeled the good news, believing that it held the power to unite against incredible odds.
- How is Paul’s example like Jesus?
- Name a conflicting situation or relationship that feels difficult to unite. What is one way you can humbly step into the middle of this conflict to promote love, equality, and healing mercy?
Colossians 3:1-14 Read here
In this passage, Paul is describing the characteristics of a life that’s fitting to all followers of Jesus and a life that is not. Jesus followers are called to throw out the greedy, lustful, angry markings of the old life and instead adopt the loving, patient, and humble traits of Jesus’ new resurrected life. The old way of life separates people from God and from one another. The new way of life in Jesus unites people to God and to one another.
- Consider how you have recently interacted with the political, racial, and socio-economic dynamics of your culture. In your interactions, what old instincts are especially difficult for you and/or others to overcome (see verses 5-9)? What relationships might have been avoided or damaged? What is one step you can take towards repair?
- Read verses 10-11 again. In the new creation family of Jesus, all identities are made equal and unified into one redeemed identity. What might the list in verse 11 sound like if Paul rewrote it for your culture and time?
- Consider the qualities of your new identity in Jesus: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love (vs 12-14). Reflect on how Jesus inserted himself into humanity’s conflict while perfectly expressing these qualities. Pray for God’s help to do the same while living from these qualities this week. Pray the same for your family, church, and city.
August 2, 2020
Shalom, or peace, is not only the absence of conflict but also the presence of connection and completion. Who and what do we need in order to experience connection and a sense of completion?
Luke 8:40-48 Read here
In this passage, we see how a woman found shalom in the midst of a chaotic crowd. As soon as she touched Jesus, she was made physically whole. Jesus recognized her faith in him and said, “go in peace,” or in other words, “continue to live in this whole and healed state.” In this story, the woman needed physical restoration and wholeness. But wholeness, or lack of wholeness, can affect other parts of our being as well. Where there is fragmentation in any part of our being, there is a wound of some kind, and it is a place where we need shalom to be restored.
- Where do you need shalom to be restored in your body, mind, or spirit? Consider how Jesus responded to the woman in need. Reach out to him in prayer. Ask for his shalom to meet you where you are.
- Consider your community for a moment. Where does shalom need to be restored? Jot down a list of your answers as a petition to God, and then circle one thing on the list. Prayerfully consider what practical steps you or your community can take to bring connection and completion to that one fragmented place.
Ephesians 2:11-18 Read here
In Ephesians, Paul is addressing the division between two different communities of people, namely Jews and Gentiles. His point is that through Jesus, these groups have been brought together into one family. The hostility that once made it impossible for these groups to get along was put to death on the cross. In Jesus’ family, we have access to peace with God and with one another. Take time to meditate on this fact.
- Read verses 11-13 again. What is it like to be far away from God? Jesus provided a way to bring us close to God. Consider your personal story. How did Jesus bring you to God? What is it like to have peace with him?
- We often use the figure of speech “a wall between us” to describe interpersonal conflict. Consider one relationship in your life that needs peace. Read verses 14 and 15 again, and then take a moment to imagine Jesus taking down the wall between you. What does the scene look like after Jesus destroys the wall of hostility?
July 26, 2020
The video talked about Yahweh’s love being both a feeling and an action. How do you feel when you think about the fact that God feels love towards you? Name a few specific ways God has acted out his love for you.
Deuteronomy 4:32-40 Read here
Here Moses asks the Israelites what other deity has done something like what Yahweh did for Israel. Yahweh rescued them out of slavery in Egypt and then gave them his own divine wisdom and justice in the laws of the Torah. Why did he do it? The passage makes it clear that it is because Yahweh loved Israel’s ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
- No other power can rescue like Yahweh, but we can sometimes forget this. We can then try to remedy painful feelings or hard situations apart from Yahweh. Do you find yourself doing this? What are some practical ways you can commit to rely on Yahweh instead?
- God loves us because it’s central to who he is. But we can struggle to really believe this. Why do you think that is? What would it look like to receive and respond to his love instead? Take a moment to remember that God loves you and the people around you. Pray for new strength to receive and respond to his love.
Deuteronomy 10:12-22 Read here
Moses agrees that Israel exists because of Yahweh’s love for Israel’s ancestors. But this time he concludes that because Israel’s rescue from Egypt was an act of Yahweh’s love, the most consistent way to return love for Yahweh would be to turn one’s affection to the orphans, widows, and immigrants in the community. Do you see the mirror effect? Yahweh’s love is Exodus-shaped in Deuteronomy. In other words, it is an active love expressed toward the oppressed and hurting. So Israel’s love for God and neighbor is also meant to reflect that same pattern.
- Orphans, widows, and immigrants have a couple things in common. They are loved by God but are usually unloved by their neighbors. Do you know someone specific in your community who might be overlooked or unloved by those around them? Take a moment to think about how much God loves them. What is a practical way you can step outside of your comfort zone to reflect God’s love to them this week?
July 19, 2020
How did this video explanation expand your view of heaven?
Matthew 19:28-30 Read here
The new heavens and earth is not some strange world we can’t begin to understand. When Jesus talks about the new creation, he mentions things we are familiar with like family, homes, and places of work (fields). But things will also be different than the world we know now. The future earth will be so permeated with God’s own life and love that death will be no more and power structures will be turned upside-down. What happened to Jesus on Easter morning is what God has in store for the whole universe. Everything will be renewed.
- Consider one scenario in your life that is hurting and broken. What do you think that situation will look like when it is fully renewed?
- Jesus’ sacrifice created a clean space where heaven and earth continue to overlap. Consider again that scenario in your life that needs renewal. How can you imitate Jesus in that situation? What can you sacrifice that would allow others to see a little pocket of heaven on earth?
- Who usually gets to enjoy the first, best, and most powerful scenarios on earth? Who usually has to endure the last, worst, and most vulnerable situations on earth? Read Matthew 19:30 again. What will it be like when Jesus renews all things?
Romans 8:18-22 Read here
While we wait for the new creation, we have to deal with evil, death, and chaos. But when Paul reflects on the future hope of the world, he says the earth will be “liberated from its bondage to decay.” Paul says that creation is groaning like a woman in childbirth. The new creation is taking form, being knit together in our midst, even when we can’t see it. But we see hints of it. Every now and then we see movement on the surface, and one day soon it will be pushed forth into fullness of life.
- Consider the childbirth metaphor in verse 22. How is the world as we know it like a woman in labor? How is the new heavens and earth like a newborn?
- Jesus taught us to pray, “Father, your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Take some time now to ask God to turn our hearts, homes, neighborhoods, and cities into pockets of heaven on earth.
July 12, 2020
What stood out to you about what the word “listen” means in the Hebrew Bible? How is this different from or similar to how you usually use the word?
Deuteronomy 6:1-9 Read here
The Shema is one of the most important prayers in the Bible. The Shema became something that Jewish people prayed every morning and evening for thousands of years, and it is still relevant to us today. It gets at the heart of all the commands given to the people of Israel. The Shema is a call to listen and respond to the truth that Yahweh is the one true God, and the appropriate response is to love Yahweh with all of our being. Knowing and loving God is how we can experience the fullness of life. And when we align our hearts with God’s, we will naturally care about the things he cares about and fulfill our roles as his partners in bringing about human flourishing on the earth.
- How would you describe Yahweh’s character? What do you believe Yahweh cares about? Take a moment now to admire him for who he is and all he loves.
- It’s easy to forget about who Yahweh is and what he cares about as we go about daily life. Read Deuteronomy 6:7-9 again. What are some ways you can remind yourself of who Yahweh is on a daily basis?
- How do you think Yahweh feels about current events? How do our Black brothers and sisters feel about current events? How can you listen to their stories this week?
James 1:19-27 Read here
One of the most famous passages in the book of James is about being not just a hearer of the word but a doer. The author compares these “hearers” to those who see themselves in the mirror and then immediately forget what they look like. The point is that hearing and doing cannot be separated. We don’t truly see the mirror if we forget the image in it, and we don’t truly listen if the message doesn’t change us. We were made to reflect the image of God, but we forget who we were made to be when we do not let God’s character shape our thought patterns, attitudes, affections, and actions. We are not truly listening to God’s life-changing words if our lives are not changed.
- What stood out to you as you read this passage?
- According to this passage, what does a pure reflection of God’s character look like? What gets in the way of that pure reflection?
- Where in your life have you heard what God said but forgot to put it into action? Ask him for help and commit to practice what you learn this week.
June 28, 2020
- From the video, how would you define the biblical word transgression?
- Let’s take a moment to reflect on our own experience of being betrayed or having someone break our trust. Is there a particular moment or situation that comes to mind? What is the feeling associated with this experience?
- What are some instances when you have been been guilty of transgression?
- In the last several weeks, has your understanding or awareness of racial injustice in our world changed? Why or why not?
- In what ways have you been complicit in the betrayal of others? As we repent of these transgressions, how will you commit to growth, healing, and justice?
June 14, 2020
Genesis 4:3-24 Read here
This is the first time the word “sin” appears in the Bible. Notice that sin is depicted as a powerful, animal-like entity that is luring Cain to let his jealous anger turn into violence against his brother. It’s not just that Cain committed a sin, though that’s true. It’s that he gives himself over to the power of another story about human dignity––one that does not value the life of his brother. In Cain’s story, sin is a power that leads to a distorted view of ourselves and others. This distortion spreads to his family and community, illustrated in the story of his violent descendant Lamech. This is a profound portrait of sin that has immense potential to help us understand the power of sin in our own lives, families, and communities.
- Re-read verse 10. What is it that God supposedly hears in this story, and what does that say about him?
- Reflect on the idea that sin is a power that leads to a distorted view of ourselves and others. What kind of distorted views of self and others do you find yourself or others around you struggling with the most?
1 John 1:5-2:2 Read here
Here John invites people who live in the darkness of moral compromise to step into the divine light of God’s truth and love. He encourages honesty so that we will stop trying to hide our failures (remember, that’s what “sin” means) and instead bring them into the open. That’s what it means to walk in the light! And we are open about our sin not because we think we can do better but because we trust that God’s love has already moved towards us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It’s by focusing on the eternal love of God that we find the motivation for true confession and hope.
- Re-read verse 9. What does God promise he will do if we bring our sins into the light? What emotions or thoughts does this bring up for you?
- It can be difficult to be honest with ourselves and others about our failures. Take a moment to reflect on anything you need to bring out into the light, whether it’s something you have done, struggle with, or have felt ashamed about. Then think of a person you trust who you can share this with this week. You can trust that God will be faithful to forgive and cleanse you.
June 7, 2020
May 31, 2020
God’s Breath of Life: Genesis 2:5-9
In Genesis 2:5 we are introduced to a barren landscape of dirt and rock that is devoid of life. But God breathes into the lifeless dirt to create life. This is a fundamental image in the Bible, that God’s personal life-giving presence is what sustains all living creatures. Apart from God’s own life-presence, there is only disorder and death. But when God’s Spirit is in the mix, the impossible suddenly becomes possible and life can come from non-life.
- God’s life-giving Spirit is the one who provides and sustains life in the world. Where do you see life emerging and flourishing around you?
- The Spirit is in the business of breathing life where there is hopelessness. Where do you sense a need for new life in or around you? Prayerfully ask God through his Spirit to bring life.
God’s Breath of Wisdom: Isaiah 10:33-11:10
In this poem God is depicted as a lumberjack, cutting down Israel’s leaders who have arrogantly elevated themselves. And in their place, God will cause a new branch to sprout from the lineage of Jesse (David’s father!). He will be empowered by God’s Spirit to be the most wise, kind, and generous leader anyone could imagine.
- What do you notice about what the Spirit does in and through this leader?
- Where do you need wisdom in your own life? Set aside some time to ask God’s Spirit to give you wisdom and reflect on how to move forward.
God’s Breath of Love: John 13:34-35 and John 14:16-26
The night before Jesus was arrested and executed, he washed the feet of his closest followers as a rich symbol of his love for them. This was a foretaste of his ultimate act of love on the cross. And this love was supposed to multiply as his followers shared that same self-giving love with each other. When Jesus later promises to send “the Spirit of truth,” he makes it clear that his own presence, comfort, and love will come to take up residence “inside you.” And if the life and love of the servant-king is truly in you, it will lead to further acts of self-giving love, or in Jesus’ words, “the one who has my commandments and keeps them, this is the one who loves me.” The logic is fairly simple. When our lives are characterized by others-centered love, that’s when we know that the Spirit is working through us.
- Read John 13:34-35 again and take a moment to prayerfully ask God, by his Spirit, to fill you with the others-centered love that characterized the life of Jesus.
- How has God uniquely made you to extend love to others? Where do the needs of others and your Spirit-empowered characteristics and gifts align?
May 24, 2020
– Have you ever had one of those moments in your life that is so beautiful you just want to freeze it? If you could freeze a moment, what moment would that be?
– What are some of the storms in your life? Is it raining now?
– Have you ever felt like God failed to come through for you? Looking back, do you still feel that way?
– “There’s a false, twisted idea among religious people that somehow you’ve got to have it all together to have a relationship with God.” Do you ever act like everything is okay even when it isn’t? Why do we do this?
– Do you have anyone in your life who you would do anything for? Do you think that’s how God feels about you?
– What do you think God is whispering to you right now?
May 17, 2020
Read Lamentations 3:14-33
Sometimes our distress and anxiety is caused by tragic circumstances that bring loss or humiliation. It is hard not to blame God, or at least get frustrated at him. The poet here grieves over the fact that God has allowed such pain to enter his life, yet he doesn’t abandon hope. Rather, he chooses to wait patiently in anticipation for God to answer with loyal love. He trusts that God’s apparent absence is not permanent but temporary.
– What are some different ways people define or understand hope? What do you think it means to hope?
– Reflect on what it means to wait patiently even without evidence that things will get better. What would that look like practically?
Read Romans 8:18-25
Paul invites followers of Jesus to see their own suffering and hardship as one expression of the groaning of all creation over death and decay. But for Paul, the resurrection of Jesus as king of the new creation means that all creation will one day be freed and restored. It is only by patient waiting and endurance that this hope becomes life-giving as we wait for the redemption of all creation.
– What stands out to you in this passage?
– God’s past faithfulness motivates hope for the future. What has God done in the world or in your own life that helps you trust and hope in him now?
– In what ways does the resurrection of Jesus provide hope for us?
May 10, 2020
Read Daniel 1:1-21
Daniel and his friends are exiled to Babylon and made to serve in Babylon’s royal court. They’ve lost everything they know and love and are forced into an unfamiliar world. Notice the balance they strike between resistance and cooperation, demonstrated by their adherence to the Israelite food-laws. Daniel is willing to serve Babylon, but not when it requires compromise in serving his God.
– In what ways do you resonate with the Israelite’s experience of losing what they knew and loved? It’s okay to be sad and grieve this loss. Take a moment to reflect on how you might honor the loss you’ve experienced during this time.
– Consider the combination of loyalty and subversion displayed by Daniel. Do you see any ways this can be a model for your own life in this time of change?
Read Jeremiah 29:1-14
Jeremiah writes a letter to a community of Israelites who were recently exiled to Babylon. He encourages them to settle in and build communities that seek the well-being of their captors. They are to seek peace and harmony not because they’ve given up, but because of their bold hope that God will rescue them and restore them to the promised land one day.
– What resonated most with you in this passage?
– Take a moment to reflect on what it means to “settle in” to this time, while still maintaining hope in the future.
– What could it look like to extend love to our leaders and the broader culture in this time?
May 3, 2020
Read Isaiah 58:1-14
In this passage, we find that God’s people are neglecting the vulnerable in their communities, while continuing in their rhythms of worship (the Sabbath, prayer, and fasting). But what God cares about most is that his people do justice and care for the oppressed in their community.
– Did anything in this passage surprise you?
– In what ways do we sometimes focus on external practices rather than what matters most to God?
– What injustice grieves you the most right now? What do you think God thinks and feels about this?
Read James 1:26-2:5
James describes genuine devotion to God as being aware of the needs of vulnerable people in our communities and doing something about it. He talks about how we are easily blind to inequality and sometimes even play a part in it. James actually sees the poor as having a privileged position because they can more easily see their need for God’s provision and grace.
– Who around you might need support in this crisis?
– Where do you find hope when there’s injustice in and around us?
April 26, 2020
Read Genesis 1:26-30
God appoints humans as his representatives to rule the world on his behalf. The image of God consists of male and female together ruling in unity over all of creation. This is a bold vision of human identity and responsibility.
– Who is created in God’s image? What does that mean for how you view yourself and others? What does that mean for how you live?
– What do you think it says about God that he invites humans to rule with him?
Read Colossians 1:13-20 and Colossians 3:8-13
In these passages, Paul identifies Jesus as “the image of the invisible God,” who is the real king of creation that humbled himself to die on our behalf (1:13-20). Paul also writes that Jesus’ followers are being “renewed…in the image of the creator” (3:8-13), which results in compassion, kindness, humility, and other godly qualities.
– What do you resonate with most when you read these passages?
– Both of these passages emphasize God’s desire to bring unity through Jesus. Take a moment to reflect on what it might look like to actively participate in bringing unity in your life or community.
April 19, 2020
Jeremiah accuses the Israelites of trusting in false gods and false sources of life, depicted as broken cisterns that don’t hold water well (and ultimately can’t give them what they need).
– Take a moment to reflect on how all of life is dependent on God’s power and generosity. Does this understanding change how you view those self-made sources of stability? What would it look like for you to choose to trust God’s generosity, rather than your own “broken cisterns”?
In the past, God delivered his people by the Exodus through the sea and then provided water in the wilderness. The “new thing” God will do to deliver his people is to provide a better water in the wilderness—his own Spirit—which will allow people to truly flourish.
– Is your current connection with God satisfying to you? Set aside some time to share your feelings about your current circumstances with God or trusted others.
April 12, 2020
For Jesus’ family and friends, the empty tomb and the risen Jesus himself were a shocking surprise. Despite Jesus preparing them for his death and resurrection, they simply couldn’t imagine how Jesus’ death fit into God’s purpose. Luke’s resurrection account shows how the only way to embrace the risen Jesus is to let go of our normal ways of viewing the world. Only then can we open ourselves to the surprising power of God’s love for our world.
– What do you think people expected Jesus to do or be like? How did he surprise them?
– What are some of the assumptions you hold about life, God, or your future, that could be keeping you from seeing what Jesus might be up to in your life?
April 5, 2020
As we enter Holy Week amidst the heartache caused by the coronavirus pandemic, we will look at the good news of God’s upside down kingdom.
Please join us Monday at 4pm for an online video discussion about the lesson! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to join.
Read Luke 19:28-48
The people expected Jesus to bring peace and rule as king in a way that they could understand. Jesus grieved over this because he knew they would suffer, and because he longed for them to see him as the true King through the suffering. Like Jesus, it’s okay to grieve over shattered expectations and suffering.
– Take a moment and express any grief you’re feeling over suffering or shattered expectations.
– Jesus is the King, despite the way the world looks right now. What questions does that bring up for you? What truths can you rely on at this time?
Read Isaiah 52:7-53:12
This passage proclaims that God himself is coming to rescue his people—and this is good news—but it will happen in a surprising way: God’s appointed one, the Messiah, will enter into the suffering and death of our world. There’s a lot of suffering and pain going on in our world right now. God enters into our suffering. He experiences it personally and is present with us and all those who suffer.
– Write down or speak out loud where you see suffering and pain in the world and your community right now.
– Now pray or speak out loud these same instances again, taking in the truth that God is present in those situations and suffers with us.
March 29, 2020
This week we will examine the theme of generosity and the importance of living out of God’s abundance, especially during this time where there are so many fears about scarcity.
Please join us Monday 3/30 at 4pm for an online video discussion about the lesson! Email email@example.com to join.
Read Luke 12:22-34
– Creation is an expression of God’s generous love. Where do you see the generosity of God in the world, your life, or the story of the Bible? What are you most grateful for?
– What are you anxious about in your present situation? Reflect on God’s love and care and how it might help alleviate your anxiety.
Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19
– In times of crisis, a “scarcity mindset”—focusing on what you don’t have—can easily cause us to cling to worldly goods. Do you experience this? What would you and others around you gain by trusting God’s generous love instead?
– This passage includes a special command to the rich to be generous. While we might not be rich in wealth, we have all been given gifts that we can share with others, whether our time, care, prayer, resources, etc. Reflect on what specifically you can share and with whom.
March 22, 2020
During this unprecedented time where we are forced to take a break from normal activities, we will start our online series with a look at the biblical theme of Sabbath. After watching the video, respond to the questions in your journal or discuss with family!
- In the video, they say that we often find ourselves working endlessly, fighting back chaos with no real rest. In what way do you relate to that?
- God wants us to experience rest. What part of your soul needs restored during these weeks off?
- While they are still in the chaotic wilderness, God invites the Israelites to start living as if they are in the promised land by resting and enjoying God’s good world. Despite the chaotic wilderness that we are in, what good things can you enjoy right now?
- Because of the resurrection, we have hope in God’s promise for future rest. How does reflecting on the resurrection bring you hope?
- Jesus asks the weary and burdened to come to him for rest. What are you burdened with that you need to give over to Jesus so that you can rest?