Engage discussion questions for Apr. 1

1. What does Romans 1:18 reveal about ungodliness?
2. Read Romans 6:6, 17 and Ephesians 2:1-5. What is a person’s spiritual condition without God? What has God done for every believer?
3. According to Acts 17:24-25 why should we express heartfelt gratitude to God?
4. According to the promises of Romans 8:28-29, 38-39, why should we give thanks by faith even when a situation is disappointing or difficult?
5. What are some blessings God has given you? Why is it important for us to thank Him for these blessings and make such thankfulness a natural part of our lives?

Blog — March 31

“Now Jephthah of Gilead was a great warrior” (Judges 11:1).

That’s a great way to start a story and get your attention! However, the story doesn’t end there. As we continue reading we see that Jephthah was a multi-faceted individual. To begin with, he had a sordid past – “he was the son of a prostitute” – and, much like Joseph, was despised by his brothers and forced out of the family. But soon thereafter, when threatened with war, the brothers go to Jephthah begging him to return and lead them into battle. Jephthah rises to the occasion and accepts their invitation, but not until he sarcastically reminds them of their former rejection of him.  Yet, they agree to make him ruler if he leads them to victory. As ruler and commander of the army, Jepthah shows that he is not only a great warrior, but also a skilled negotiator. He shows great tact, wisdom, and poise while striving to reach a peaceful resolution with the Amonite king. However, when no resolution is acheived, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Jephthah, and he leads the Israelite army into battle.

So far so good, right? We see a great warrior, skilled negotiator, man of action, ruler and commander with the Spirit of the Lord upon him. But then he uttered “the vow.” What compelled him to do this? Was it fear, doubt, or ignorance? We may never know, but one thing we do know is that he would have done better to just keep his mouth shut! Why do we often feel compelled to speak when we would do better to remain silent, pray, and trust God? Oh, the mouth! We make promises we don’t keep, say things we don’t mean, and hurt many around us. Most of all, we dishonor God. We must not forget that “life and death are in the power of the tongue.”

What are you speaking today? Your words will not only affect others; they will also affect you. If you are not at peace with God today, I would encourage you to evaluate your words. What kinds of conversations have you been having lately? Are they encouraging, and uplifting? Are they building up or tearing down? Are they bringing life to yourself and others or death? Jephthah’s story admonishes us to watch what we say and to guard against saying things impulsively that we might regret later. Let’s choose to speak life!

Blog — March 30

“The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you.  If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to Me that they saved themselves by their own strength”(Judges 7:2).

Gideon intended to do what God had challenged him—defeat the Midianites— so he gathered 32,000 soldiers [Judges 6:34-35].  You can imagine Gideon, with human wisdom, probably had a plan of how to attack the Midianites.  But God’s ways are not our ways.  God pulled the rug out from under him and told Gideon he had too many soldiers.  Victory itself wasn’t the goal; God’s victory was!

There will often be times when God strips away the things or the people we lean on and brings us into situations in which we become very aware of our weaknesses.  This makes us more dependent upon Him and provides greater potential to glorify Him.  God often puts us through the valley of testing before allowing us to reach the mountain peak of victory!

It’s our weaknesses that bring God praise.  Gideon told God that he was not qualified; he was the youngest in his family [Judges 6:14-15].  I believe God just smiled and said to Himself, “I have called you Gideon and I will equip you; just let Me lead!  [1 Corinthians 2:26-29].

We have to learn to pray and let God lead.  If God does not take the lead in our lives and win our victories on His own terms, there’s a muddled picture of glory.  Is it His or ours?

God wants us to be used for His purposes even more than we do, but His means are radically different.  For His glory to be demonstrated, human glory has to be minimized.  We can’t earn honor and then give it to God.  We can only submit to Him and let Him display His honor.  In this vision-impaired world, we have to be visibly low for God to be visibly high!

So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God!”(1 Corinthians 10:31).

Blog — March 27

Judges documents the failure of leadership in Israel from the death of Joshua until King Saul. During this time we see a repeating pattern of disobedience and revival:

Israel sins and turns away from God.

God uses their enemies to exact his judgment on them.

Israel cries out to God in despair and repentance.

God raised His judge to deliver them.

A period of peace then follows that lasts a generation or so. … and the cycle begins again.

Israel’s fourth judge was Deborah. We are not given a lot of details about Deborah, however we do know that she was both a prophet and a judge of Israel. God used her to deliver His messages to the people of Israel, and gave her the authority to decide civil matters. Women leaders were not completely unknown at that time, but they were rare. Consider Isaiah 3:12a, “Youths oppress my people, women rule over them.” This was a sign of judgment on Israel for disobedience. Deborah’s job was likely made more difficult because she was a woman.

Although none of the judges of Israel were completely effective, Deborah tends to stand out. Not only because she is a woman, but because she stood for courage in a time of fear and for godly wisdom in a time of human reasoning. Deborah always followed God’s commands and voiced His will and not her own.

Although extremely difficult, Deborah stood for decency and order in a time of sin and chaos. That required exceptional character—character that is as rare today as it was in Deborah’s time. How might we measure up under similar circumstances? Would we be exceptional like Deborah?

Blog — March 26

Today’s reading gives focus to possessing the Promised Land.  I think this is a great place for our blog group to pause and consider our own spiritual journeys.  We have talked much about applying the Word to our daily lives, but I think this is a good place to share our personal salvation experiences. We recognize that our final rest awaits us on the other side of eternity; however, we begin possessing the promises this side of eternity.  It’s called SALVATION! Today, take a few minutes to think about the day of your salvation along with a few key moments in the early days of your faith journey. Share details about your salvation experience with this group. Were you at church or alone when you received Christ’s gift of grace?  Who most influenced you leading up to this moment?  What changed most in the early days of your salvation walk?  Who helped you most after accepting Christ?  How did your friends and family react to the news?

Blog — March 25

I’ll be honest. To my recollection I don’t know that I’ve read Joshua 20:1-9 before. The first thing that stood out to me was the heading: “Avenger of Blood” (ESV). I immediately pictured a dude among the people of Israel whose job title was the Avenger of Blood, playing a hybrid game of Hide-N-Go-Seek and tag with everyone that’s ever accidentally killed anyone. If they make it to one of these cities and state their case, they are allowed in (safe/on base) and the Avenger can’t get them?!?  I have no idea how I ever missed this passage, but I wondered what would happen when they eliminated his department and he was out of job. What would be a second career for a job like that?

But, upon further study, I’ve concluded that the ‘Avenger of Blood’ is simply an angry relative of the person accidentally killed—not as cool, but significant nonetheless. Another thing I thought was interesting was if the ‘fugitive’ made it to a City of Refuge (escaping the avenger), he would plead his case. Then, if the act was deemed an accident, the ‘fugitive’ was allowed inside. He could live there until the high priest of the city died. Once that priest died, then the fugitive could return to where he had originally fled from—no questions asked and life goes back to the way it was before anything happened.

The Cities of Refuge are mentioned by Moses a few times. There are rules about where they had to be and how many there should be. This is the last time it’s mentioned in the Old Testament. These cities were finally named after being mentioned by Moses. The Cities of Refuge acted as a rule of basic justice in the land, further illustrating God’s concern for the preservation of life. Fugitives were safe in the city and there was always a city of refuge within reach.

So why does this matter? I’m glad you asked. Any Christian today constantly has this refuge, provided for by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, not only from intentional sins but also for willful rebellion against God. Just as the people Israel had the security that they would always be close to a city of refuge we always have the same magnitude of refuge and protection available to us through Christ, all we have to do is ask and He already knows our case! And since the highest of all priests died on the cross we are set free. Not free to go back to business as usual but to live for Christ. We all make mistakes, we all slip, we are all — in some respects a disappointment– We are given grace through Christ.

Engage discussion questions for Mar. 25

How has the information shared at the Life Conference impacted your view about brokenness?

What three things stood out to you?

List one thing that needs to change in your heart.

How do we exercise compassion for the lost without compromising God’s Word?

Why is it impossible for a Christian to live in continual rebellion to God’s Word? [Leviticus 20:13; Mark 7:18-19; Romans 2:29]

Blog — March 24

In the reading today, Joshua 11, I can picture this vast army, thousands upon thousands, with not only the latest weapons of the day but also horses and chariots. The great battle tacticians of the entire area stood arrogantly on the higher ground. I think of the movie “Gettysburg” and Brigadier General Buford saying, “We must take the high ground.” The enemy had every advantage humanly possible. There was only one disadvantage: their god was Satan. Joshua’s God was El Elyon (the Most High God), Adonai, (Lord above all lords), the Lord of angelic hosts of heaven. All it took for Joshua was one order from God the day before the battle, “Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow at this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel …” Joshua led his army on foot with primitive weapons in the power of the Living God and annihilated his enemy. God also commanded Joshua to burn all the chariots and destroy all the horses, lest they forget that it is God who saves.

Ask yourself, how does this help me today, in 2015? What does God want to do for me if I completely trust in Him? Let us know your thoughts today.

Mar. 22 sermon recording & handout

Special guest on March 22:  Rev. Linda Seiler, Chi Alpha Director at Purdue University

Click here to listen or download the sermon recording.

Click here to view or print the handout.