Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Use It or Lose It (Matthew 25:14-30)

This week at our Run for God meeting, we were discussing Matthew 25:14-30.  If your translation has subtitles, it probably says something like "the parable of the talents" or "... of the loaned money."  On Sunday, we, somewhat uncomfortably, discussed this parable.  If it were just some random story (not that I believe the Bible is random), it would have been easier than trying to mesh the seemingly unfair master with the first phrase of the passage:  "For the kingdom of heaven is as a man ..."  The man just seems so unfair ... and to know that this man is God was bothersome to some.  I don't know about the rest of the group, but my mind just hasn't been able to let go of it.  Yesterday, the ideas started to form.  Then today the Holy Spirit brought it together for me, and I couldn't wait to share it with you!

What criteria does the passage say that the man used to appropriate talents (i.e. money) to his servants?  The man gave "to each in proportion to his own personal ability" (Matt 25:15, Amp), and he expected each one to put it to use.  What did the third servant do with his one talent (vs. 18)?  [I'm not answering this one out-right.  You're going to have to answer it for yourself.  :)]

Talents (i.e. money) represent the currency of our world.  But if this parable is about the kingdom (which vs. 14 confirms), then what is the kingdom's currency?  Is it not faith?!  How does Romans 12:3 fit with the Matthew 25 parable?

God gives us faith to use, not to hide!  We want to give the third servant the benefit of the doubt (which is probably why I'm referring to him as "the third servant" instead of "wicked and lazy" as the Bible does).  We'll say, 'He was just protecting his master's money.'  I submit to you that the wicked and lazy servant hid his apportioned talent, not because he wanted to protect the money but, because he wanted to protect himself.  What does Jesus have to say about self-preservation in Luke 9:23-26 (also told in other Gospels), and how do these words shine more light on the parable of the talents?

(I'm moving to a different thought, so you will want to answer this last question before moving on.)

Return on investment (ROI) was also mentioned on Sunday.  Did the man really expect a 100% return on his investment?  We're not told that he expected this specific ROI, but we are shown that those who invested all they had doubled their investments.  Sticking with the Gospel of Luke (although this verse is also paralleled in other Gospels), let's go to Luke 6:38.  What does this verse say about ROI in the kingdom economy?

Now what?  The man was not pleased with the wicked and lazy servant because the servant was not using what he had been given to use.  What about you?  Are you using the measure of faith God has given you?  Do not hide your faith under the guise of protecting it.  Faith is given to be used; do not be afraid.  "With the measure you deal out, it will be measured back to you" (Luke 6:38).

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

WEEK 6 READINGS: February 9th Class

DAY 1    Genesis 45-46; Matthew 20
DAY 2    Genesis 47; Matthew 21
DAY 3    Genesis 48-49; Matthew 22
DAY 4    Genesis 50; Exodus 1; Matthew 23
DAY 5    Exodus 2-3; Matthew 24

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been swayed to the "read all of the Old Testament and then all of the New Testament (or vice versa)" routine, so I'm going to format my notes/questions accordingly.  I'll be the first to admit that I'm still trying to find my posting groove with our new study.  Prayerfully, we'll all be in a rhythm soon.

GENESIS 45 Notes:

GENESIS 46 Notes:

GENESIS 47 Notes:

GENESIS 48 Notes:

GENESIS 49 Notes:

GENESIS 50 Notes:

EXODUS 1 Notes:
  • Ex 1:8  "Now a new king [i.e. Pharaoh] arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph." (Amp)
    • As the generations of people who experienced Egypt's roller coaster of plenty and famine died, so too, did the people's understanding of how bad the famine had been and their depth of appreciation for Joseph's leadership during that time.
    • This reminds me of younger generations of Americans with respect to the Great Depression and World War 2.  The generation of people who lived during that time are all but gone.  How are we seeing our society change as a result?  What are the dangers associated with forgetting this time?
    • A theme we will begin to see woven throughout the Bible is deliberate remembrance.  Why do you think deliberately remembering is/will be important?
  • Ex 1:9-22 "... Behold the Israelites are too many and too might for us ..." (vs. 9)
    • Pharaoh started into a series of schemes to keep the Israelites under control, but we're going to see one after the other backfire.
      • Scripture doesn't seem to indicate that the Israelites had made any waves up to this point.  In fact, having been in Egypt for hundreds of years, the people had probably begun to blend in with the Egyptians.
        • We'll see that Pharaoh's attempts to tighten his grip on the Israelites will actually end in his losing it altogether.
        • Like Pharaoh, have you ever imagined a problem into existence? 
        • Like the Israelites, has God used someone else to make you uncomfortable in your own comfort zone?
      • Plan A    Slavery
        • Pharaoh's first plan was to beat the Israelites down, "but the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more they multiplied ..." (vs. 12).
        • As a result, Pharaoh turned the heat up on their slavery.  The Amplified Bible calls it "severe slavery" in verse 13.
      • Plan B    Kill their sons
        • How would killing the Hebrew baby boys help Pharaoh?
        • Pharaoh's initial Plan B was to have the Egyptian midwives kill the Hebrew boys at birth.
          • What does verse 17 say about the midwives?
            • What do you think caused the midwives to fear God?
          • What explanation did they give to Pharaoh in verse 19?
            • This leads me to believe that Pharaoh wanted the Hebrews to think their sons were stillborn.
        • As with Plan A, Pharaoh escalated Plan B.  When the midwives couldn't get the job done, who did Pharaoh enlist to take care of business?
          • No longer trying to hide behind stillbirth, Pharaoh just wanted those babies gone, and he commissioned every Egyptian to make it happen.
 EXODUS 2 Notes:
  • When did Moses' mother hide him (vs. 2)?
    • Would every mother feel the same, i.e. that her baby was beautiful?  I wonder if mothers giving birth at this time would choose not to look at their babies.  If it was a girl, then she would look.  If a boy, then seeing would be too heartbreaking.
    • Moses' mother "saw him" (vs. 2), and once she did, she couldn't let him go.
      • This thought reminds me of the current push to get ultrasound machines into clinics.  Statistics show that, if a woman (even if she is abortion-minded), sees her baby, then she is much more likely to choose life.
  • When did Pharaoh's daughter take "pity on" Moses (vs. 6)?
  • When did Moses kill the Egyptian (vs. 11-12)?
  • After Moses spent 40 years in Midian, when did God remember His covenant and decide "it time to act" (vs. 25, NLT)?
  • How do you find the things you see to affect your actions?
EXODUS 3 Notes:
  • When did Moses turn away from tending Jethro's flock (vs. 3)?
  • When did God call "out to him" (vs. 4)?
    • Moses made eye contact with the Angel of the Lord, and that was all it took. 
    • What about you?  Are you one who avoids eye contact hoping you won't get called upon?  ;)
  • What was Moses's response to God's direction (vs. 11)?
    • I imagine Moses's playing over and over the words of his Hebrew brother from Exodus 2:14, the desire of Pharaoh in Ex 2:15, the guilt of being spared as a baby (Ex 1:22).
    • God did not try to pad Moses's ego when He responded.  Moses asked, "Who am I?"  God's answer was "I AM."
      • It wasn't about Moses.  It was about God working through him.
      • Take a second to go back and read Genesis 15:13-16.
  • In verses 18-22, God gives Moses some good news and some bad news.
    • What was the good news?
    • What was the bad news?
      • Expect to come back to this bad news later.  (I can hardly wait!)
 MATTHEW 20 Notes:

MATTHEW 21 Notes:

MATTHEW 22 Notes:

MATTHEW 23 Notes:

MATTHEW 24 Notes:

How's it going?

If you're visiting our blog for the first time, I want you to know that it's never too late to join us on our study of the Bible.  If you're interested in joining us, just jump right in where we are.  Don't feel as if you have to catch up ... or that it would be cheating if you didn't.  I can assure you that neither of these thoughts are of God.  He takes you as you are ... where you are.  If God is calling you to join us ... to join Him ... on this journey, don't make excuses.  Just say, Here I am.  Now what?

If you've been with us from the beginning of our study, I hope that you are starting to settle into a rhythm with your reading.  If you're having a hard time focusing while you read, consider a few things:
  1. Have you tried out various reading times, or do you find yourself reading at the same time every day?  A routine is great ... if you're able to focus ... but if you're not, then maybe you need to switch it up.  Reading at different times can help you see when you're the most alert and focused.  It's different for everyone.  For example, I am definitely at my best in the morning before school, but David does better at night.
  2. Have you tried reading in different locations?  My kitchen table is my go-to place for Bible study.  The couch and bed are too comfortable for me; morning, noon, or night, I would be asleep in minutes.  :)
  3. What about breaking the reading up throughout your day?  Most days are 2-3 chapters.  You could even start including a serving of Scripture in your meal/snack times.  After all, "People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matt 4:4, NLT)
  4. Several people in our class have mentioned having a hard time jumping from the Old Testament to the New Testament every day.  Some of these have modified the daily readings to do all of the OT readings during the first half of the week and then all of the NT readings during the second half.  (I have been converted to their side also.)  The only comment I will make about this is to be careful that you don't just get through your OT readings and never make it to the NT.  If you find yourself falling into that cycle, try to switch it up.  One week start with the OT readings, but the next week, start with the NT.
  5. Have you started keeping a reading notebook/journal?  Just the physical action of writing can help keep you more awake and alert even when you're a little sleepy.  How you use your notebook is up to you.  To keep an outline of each chapter, to write down verses that jumped out at you and/or applications to your own life    there is no wrong way to keep your journal.  Just imagine the amazing portfolio you will have when you're finished!!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

WEEK 5 READINGS: February 2nd Class

Day 1:
  • Genesis 37    Joseph's dreams
    • Gen 37:1-17
      • What reasons did Joseph's brothers have for hating him?
        • Were their reasons under or out of Joseph's control?
      • How did the brothers hatred escalate from vs. 4 to 18 to 27?
      • Do you think the plot to kill Joseph could have begun as a joke among brothers?  What do you imagine them saying as they saw Joseph approaching?
    • Gen 37:18-36
      • If Jacob was to love/favor any one of his sons over the others, it should have been his first born. Reuben (the eldest) means "See, a son!" 
        • Leah hoped that Jacob would lover her since she had borne him his first son. 
        • Do you think part of Reuben's motivation for planning to secretly save Joseph could have mirrored the meaning of his name.  In that Reuben could return Joseph to Jacob, saying "See, a son!  ... Now my [father] will love me." (Gen 29:32, Amp)
      • How did Reuben and Jacob show their grief at the loss of Joseph?
        • Note:  This is the first time we've seen this specific reaction to grief in the Bible, but it will become the norm as we continue our study.
  • Genesis 38    Judah & Tamar
    • Gen 38:1-23
      • In verse 1, we learn that Judah "went to lodge with a certain Adullamite named Hirah." 
        • Why do you think Judah left his family?
        • Seeing the Adullamite pop up throughout the story of Judah and Tamar, what impression do you get about the kind of influence he was on Judah?
    • Gen 38:24-26
      • How does Judah's initial reaction go with Matthew 7:1-6?
      • Are you surprised by Judah's secondary reaction (i.e. after Tamar's revelation)?
  • Matthew 15    Jesus speaks about inner purity.  He heals many people and miraculously feeds 4000.
    • Matt 15:6-9
      • What was Jesus' complaint against Pharisees?
        • Do you see that in your own life?
        • Let's be brave enough to ask God to show us the areas of our spiritual life that are more about tradition than about Jesus.
    • Matt 15:21-28
      • This passage can make us uncomfortable.  It doesn't have that kind, welcoming tone that we associate with Jesus, but let's look a little deeper.
        • Like the girl's mother, are you willing to be called a sinner ... if acknowledging that would bring God's blessing?
Day 2:
  • Genesis 39-40    
  • Matthew 16    
Day 3:
  • Genesis 41    
  • Psalm 40    
  • Matthew 17    

Day 4:
  • Genesis 42    
  • Matthew 18    
Day 5:
  • Genesis 43-44    
  • Matthew 19    

WEEK 4 READINGS: Jan 26th Class

Day 1:
  • Genesis 31    Jacob and family leave Laban and return to Canaan
  • Matthew 10    Jesus sends out the Twelve.

Day 2:
  • Genesis 32-33    Jacob wrestles with God before meeting Esau.
  • Matthew 11    Jesus speaks about John the Baptist, the judgment of the unrepentant, and reveals the Father
  • Psalm 131    A song of the humble
Day 3:
  • Genesis 34    Jacob's daughter Dinah is defiled.  Her brothers seek revenge.
  • Matthew 12    Pharisees and Jesus
  • Psalm 164    Appeal for aid against enemies

Day 4:
  • Genesis 35    Jacob returns to Bethel.  Isaac (Jacob's father) and Rachel (Jacob's wife) both die.
  • Matthew 13    Parables and explanations (4 soils, wheat and the tares, mustard seed, leaven, treasure).  Jesus rejected at Nazareth.
Day 5:
  • Genesis 36    Esau's descendants, Kings of Edom
  • Matthew 14    John the Baptist is killed, and Herod thinks that Jesus is John the Baptist (raised from the dead).

WEEK 3 READINGS: Jan 19th Class

Day 1:
  • Genesis 24    Isaac & Rebekah
  • Matthew 5    Sermon on the Mount (The Beatitudes, Salt and Light, Higher Righteousness)

Day 2:
  • Genesis 25    Abraham dies, Jacob & Esau are born
  • Matthew 6    Sermon on the Mount (Teachings about giving, prayer, fasting, possessions, money, worry)
  • Psalm 127    Vanity of work without God
Day 3:
  • Genesis 26-27    Isaac and Abimelech (like father like son), Jacob steals Esau's blessing
  • Matthew 7    Sermon on the Mount (Teachings about judging, hypocrisy, prayer, wide/narrow gates, false prophets, wise/foolish builders)

Day 4:
  • Genesis 28-29    Jacob flees Esau and starts his own family
  • Matthew 8    Jesus performs miracles (i.e. healings, stills storm, casts out devils)
Day 5:
  • Genesis 30    Jacob's family grows.
  • Matthew 9    Jesus continues teaching and healing

Monday, January 6, 2014

WEEK 2 READINGS: January 12th Class

Watch for edits to this post throughout the week.  I plan to post questions/thoughts (from my own reading) for you to consider as well.

With Week 1 under our belts, we're ready for Week 2.  Speaking of belts, I think that the apostle Paul will have something to say about our belts as we finish Ephesians with our Day 1 reading.  I feel the need to remind you (and myself) that the point of our schedule is not to be legalistic; rather it provides a structure to keep us on track in reading through God's Word. 

Day 1:
  • Genesis 11-13    Tower of Babel to the call of Abram
    • Gen 11:1-9     
      • What were the problems with this tower (ziggurat)? 
      • The people wanted to "make a name for" themselves (vs. 4).  What name did they ultimately take on (vs. 9)?
    • Gen 12:1-5    
      • God called Abram to go alone, so why did he take Lot? (see Gen 11:27-32) 
    • Gen 12:10-20    
      • How do Abram and Sarai's actions in Egypt line up with what Paul had to say about husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:21-33? 
      • How can Abram and Sarai's experience in Egypt help us better understand our own marriage relationships?
    • Gen 13:1-18    
      • Abram gave Lot part of the land (vs. 8-12), but was the land Abram's to give? 
      • Have you divided the land God wanted to give you?
  • Ephesians 6    Family/church analogy (children and parents), the whole armor of God
    • Eph 6:10-20    
      • Whose armor is Paul telling us to put on?
      • I know that this reading is still off in our future, but this question has me thinking about David in 1 Sam 17:38-39.  If you have time, read 1 Sam 17:32-50.  David may not have been wearing Saul's armor, but how do these verses show us that he had "put on the whole armor of God" (Eph 6:11)?
Day 2:
  • Genesis 14-15    Melchizedek and God's covenant with Abram
    • Gen 14:20-24
      • Who does Melchizedek credit with Abram's victory?
      • Do you think this declaration had any influence over Abram's response to the king of Sodom?
    • Gen 15:7
      • God reveals that He was the One Who called Abram out of Ur.  Looking back at Gen 11:31-12:1,
        • Where was the place that we first see God speak directly to Abram?
        • Before this time (i.e. Gen 15:7), who did Abram likely credit with bringing him out of Ur?
        • Looking back over your journey, has God used anyone to get you moving in His direction before speaking to you specifically?
    • Gen 15:8-21
      • Abram asked God for something to reassure him that what God said would really happen.  How did God respond to Abram's request?  Did He give Abram a sign that he would see come to pass in his lifetime?
  • Psalm 47    God the King of the earth
  • Matthew 1    The genealogy and birth of Jesus
    • With Abram we have seen God make promises, how in Matthew 1 do we see God keep promises?
Day 3: 
  • Genesis 16-18 - Hagar and Ishmael, circumcision, three visitors
    • Gen 16:1-9
      • How does the exchange between Sarai and Abram compare to that of Adam and Eve back in Gen 3?
      • Based on what God had told Abram about his descendants, why was it reasonable for Abram to think that Sarai's plan had merit?
    • Gen 16:10-16
      • What did the name Ishmael mean?  
        • Why did the Angel say he would bear this name?
        • Who actually gave Ishmael his name (vs. 16)?  Why might he have chosen a name with this meaning?
    • Gen 17:1
      • Up to this point, Abram has referred to God by His by the Strong's Concordance says is God's proper name, i.e. LORD.  Here God reveals more of His identity to Abram.  By what name does God refer to Himself in Gen 17:1?
      • Why did Abram need to know God as El Shaddai (Almighty God)?  How does this name relate to God changing Abram's name to Abraham (vs. 5)?
    • Gen 17:15-21
      • What did Abraham say to himself?
      • What did he said to God?
        • Do you ever ask one question in your heart but another with your mouth?
      • Which of the two questions did God answer    the one that was spoken by Abraham's mouth or in his heart?
    • Gen 18:12-15
      • Why is it ironic that Sarah laughed when she heard the LORD  say that she would have a baby?  (see Gen 17:17)
      • Who gets the last word?
    • Gen 18:23-33
      • Is the LORD  really changing His mind throughout this conversation with Abraham?
      • What does vs. 19 reveal about God's purpose is allowing Abraham the leeway to bargain with Him?
  • Matthew 2    from Bethlehem to Egypt to Nazareth
    • Matt 2:11
      • What three gifts did the wise men bring to Jesus?
        • The gold and frankincense recognized Jesus as King and Priest, respectively.
        • Who else have we read about who was both priest and king (Gen 14)?
          • What comparisons does Heb 6:20-7:3 draw between Jesus to this man?
    • Matt 2:13-23
      • What is the theme repeated in these verses?  (Three times by my count.)
Day 4
  • Psalm 11    The Lord our refuge
  • Genesis 19-20    Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham and Abimelech
  • Matthew 3    John the Baptist baptizes Jesus
Day 5
  • Genesis 21-23    Isaac's childhood, Sarah's death
  • Matthew 4    wilderness temptation, beginning His ministry, calling disciples
Can't wait to see you on Sunday, and see where God leads our discussion!

MY PRAYER FOR YOU: Week 1 Discussion

Our Week 1 readings, left us with a lot of possible directions for discussion in Sunday's Tentmakers time.  Unfortunately with the weather, we weren't able to have our regular class, so we'll just have to do some discussing here.  But what to talk about?  We all know that my typical discussion speed is not 10 chapters in Genesis, 5 in Ephesians, and 3 Psalms.  I am already seeing how God is using this study to challenge me and stretch my study habits.  Instead of my normal up-close seat on the front row of the movie theater, He is asking me to sit in the back, where I will have a broader view of the scene....  If, that is, I can keep my binoculars in my purse.  :)  Knowing that I'm not the only one God is interested in challenging and stretching    as we continue studying together, I really want to hear how God is using this to challenge and stretch you as well.
So the broader themes ... what are they?  My list is by no means exhaustive; rather, it is more of a menu for discussion from what I have seen in reading and studying this past week.  (Again, if there are things that you saw and feel led to contribute for the upbuilding of the group, then please do so    either in class or by commenting on our blog.)
  • Light versus Darkness
    • Gen 1:2-5,15-18
    • Eph 1:18, 4:18, 5:8-14
  • Use the Psalms and Paul's Prayers as springboards for discussion of the Creation and repopulation of the earth (Genesis) as well as God's mysterious plan for redeeming His creation.
    • Ps 148, 12, 8
    • Prayers:  Eph 1:15-23, 3:14-21
    • Mystery:  Eph 1:9-10, 3:2-6,9; 5:21-33
  • God's Covenants (2 of the 8)
    • Adamic (including the Edenic) - Gen 1:26-30, 2:15-19
    • Noahic - Gen 6:18, 9:8-17
  • Walking with God
    • Examples from Scripture
      • Adam and Eve before the Fall: Gen 3:8
      • Enoch: Gen 5:22-24, Heb 11:5-6 Jude 14-15
      • Noah:  Gen 6:9, Heb 11:7, 2 Pet 2:5
      • You and me:  Eph 2:7
    • Why?
      • Eph 2:2, 10
    • Do's and Don'ts
      • Eph 4:1-3, 17-32
      • Eph 5:1-30
        • I tried to cut these last passages down, but I just couldn't.
Before I go, I want to pray one of Paul's prayers for the Ephesians over you.  This is not just something I will pray today; it will be my persistent prayer for our entire study. (Eph 1:17-20, NLT)
I ask "God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.  I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light ..."
Hearts flooded with light ... Later in Eph 5:26 Paul teaches us that Jesus Christ has cleansed the church "by the washing of water with the Word."  Like the Flood back in Noah's day, I pray that our hearts will be so inundated with the Word that any and all corruption in our hearts will be washed away (Gen 6:12) "... so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called..."  The primary goal of our study is not simply the gathering of knowledge, but we are gathering knowledge through the study of God's Word so that we can understand the hope to which God has called us (Eph 1:18, Amp) "   His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance. We are God's rich and glorious inheritance.  How differently would we treat ourselves and others if we thought of each other    treated each other    as God's rich and glorious inheritance?  "I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us who believe Him.  This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms."  I am so excited about us going on this journey together, taking advantage of the opportunity to see God use His power to do some incredible things    as if the Creation and the Flood weren't good enough examples.  But to realize and understand that the same power God used to create the universe, including this planet and mankind, ... the power that He used to raise Jesus Christ from the dead and seat Him in the heavenlies ... is the same power that is in and to and for us who believe.  Do you believe?  I pray that you do!  In Jesus's name, Amen.