Sunday, December 11, 2011

¡Viva La Revolución!

(Youth Study for the 3rd week of advent.)

From Wikipedia: Gaudete Sunday  is the third Sunday of Advent in the liturgical calendar...
The day takes its common name from the Latin word Gaudete ("Rejoice"), the first word of the introit of this day's Mass:
Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum. Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob.
This may be translated as "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob." (Philippians 4:4–6; Psalm 85:1).

(We talked about the command to praise. Introduced the idea that these readings are talking about a revolution. We've also been talking about reading dramatically, so that is clearly a good thing to practice on these.)

Isaiah 61 The Lord Will Anoint His Servant With His Spirit
The Spirit of the Almighty Lord is with me
because the Lord has anointed me
to deliver good news to humble people.
He has sent me
to heal those who are brokenhearted,
to announce that captives will be set free
and prisoners will be released.
2 He has sent me
to announce the year of the Lord’s good will
and the day of our God’s vengeance,
to comfort all those who grieve.
3 He has sent me
to provide for all those who grieve in Zion,
to give them crowns instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of tears of grief,
and clothes of praise instead of a spirit of weakness.

They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,
the Plantings of the Lord,
so that he might display his glory.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins.
They will restore the places destroyed long ago.
They will renew the ruined cities, the places destroyed generations ago.
5 Foreigners will come forward and become shepherds for your flocks,
and children of foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
6 You will be called the priests of the Lord.
You will be called the servants of our God.
You will consume the wealth of the nations.
You will boast in their splendor.
7 You will receive a double measure of wealth instead of your shame.
You will sing about your wealth instead of being disgraced.
That is why you will have a double measure of wealth in your land.
You will have everlasting joy.
8 I, the Lord, love justice.
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
I will faithfully reward my people’s work.
I will make an everlasting promise[a] to them.
9 Then their offspring will be known among the nations
and their descendants among the people.
Everyone who sees them will recognize
that they are the descendants whom the Lord has blessed.

10 I will find joy in the Lord.
I will delight in my God.
He has dressed me in the clothes of salvation.
He has wrapped me in the robe of righteousness
like a bridegroom with a priest’s turban,
like a bride with her jewels.
11 Like the ground that brings forth its crops
and like a garden that makes the seed in it grow,
so the Almighty Lord will make righteousness and praise
spring up in front of all nations.

Luke 1 Mary Praises God
46 Mary said, “My soul praises the Lord’s greatness!
47 My spirit finds its joy in God, my Savior,
48 because he has looked favorably on me, his humble servant. 
“From now on, all people will call me blessed
49 because the Almighty has done great things to me.

His name is holy.
50 For those who fear him,
his mercy lasts throughout every generation.
51“He displayed his mighty power.
He scattered the crowd.
52 He pulled strong rulers from their thrones.
He honored humble people.
53 He fed hungry people with good food.
He sent rich people away with nothing.

54 “He remembered to help his servant Israel forever.
55 This is the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his descendants.”

 (We used the table below to then sort out the two poems into descriptions of God, God's actions, and our actions. Students have been responding well to being more active, rather than just thinking about questions.)

(Once we had the table, we followed the command, Gaudete! We went around the circle twice, saying "I praise God for..." and then filling in the blank with an action or description. They had the idea of all of us shuting Gaudete after someone had a praise - and that worked great.)

(Before moving on to the game, a student was singing "Rejoice in the Lord always..." which we had tried in rounds before with NO success. She wanted to substitute Gaudete for rejoice! So we gave it a go with our best rounds result ever. Great end to the lesson.)


Saturday, December 10, 2011

The In Betweeners

The In Betweeners… that’s us!
Advent is a great time for considering what it means to be waiting for Christ.

BCers:  Isaiah
Isaiah 40:1-11
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep. 

1) This is the beginning of the 2nd part of Isaiah, where Israel is in exile. How is this comforting to them?

2) Are we in need of comfort now? In what way are people still in exile? How might this comfort them today?

John the Baptizer: Read Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
"See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
`Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'"
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." 

3) Crazy corner preachers are so rarely successful. But John was. Why do you think?

The following is probably too long a quote from Nadia Bolz-Weber's sermon on this. Please go read the whole thing.
“Repentance – which in Greek means something closer to “thinking differently afterwards” than it means change your cheating ways. Of course repentance CAN look like a prostitute becoming a librarian but repentance can also look like a whore saying ok I’m a sex worker and I have no idea how to get out but I can come here and receive bread and wine and maybe if only for a moment I can hold onto the love of God without being deemed worthy of it by anyone but God. Repentance is a con artist being a real person for the first time ever without knowing who that person is anymore but knowing he sees it in the eyes of those serving him communion naming him a Child of God. Repentance is realizing there is more life to be had in being proved wrong than in continuing to think you’re right. Repentance is the adult child of an fundamentalist saying I give up on waiting for my mom to love me for who I am so I’m gonna rely on God to help me love her for who she is because I know she’s not going to be around forever. Repentance is unexpected beauty after a failed suicide attempt. Repentance is a couple weeks ago when the clerk at the Adult bookstore on Colfax teared up and said “your church brought me thanksgiving lunch?” Repentance is what happened to me when at the age of 28 my first community college teacher told me I was smart and despite all my past experience of myself I believed her. See, repentance is what happens to us when the Good News, the truth of who we are and who God is, enters our lives and scatters the darkness of competing ideas.”

4) Nadia Bolz-Weber (The Sarcastic Lutheran) had that amazing take on repentance. What do you think? Can that fit with your image of repentance? What area of your life needs repentance?

Fellow In Betweener: Peter
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

5) How would you sum up Peter’s take on waiting? Is it still relevant for us today or was it more for those expecting Jesus any day?

6) What does “regard the patience of our Lord as salvation” mean?

The End of Waiting: Read Mark 13:24-37
 Jesus said to his disciples, "In those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see `the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
"But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake-- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake." 

7) For the Jews in exile, awaiting the messiah was clearly positive. It would mean the fulfillment of astounding promises. Is that what Jesus’ return is for us, or is it something different?

8) Keep awake. Be wise. Trim our wicks… how do we do that? How is living with a resurrected Savior than different from living with a resurrected Savior who’s coming back.

Bonus poetry: a friend was marveling over the wonder of the incarnation, and I stumbled on this bit of poetry that captured some of the wonder for me:
We who must die demand a miracle.
How could the Eternal do a temporal act,
The Infinite become a finite fact?
Nothing can save us that is possible:
We who must die demand a miracle. 
(short excerpt from For the Time Being – WH Auden. Link to a longer excerpt)

9) How can we prepare for Christmas like it is good news, surprising and noteworthy, instead of a story that we’ve heard a large number of times?

Double bonus: Auden's For the Time Being is a 50 page poem,  subtitled "a Christmas Oratorio."  The chorus is also amazing...
He is the Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.

He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.

He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.
Recalls Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, doesn't it?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

10 Big Ideas in the Nativity Story

We've been off for church activities and Thanksgiving. But now back and adventing.

This activity comes from by Andy Blanks.You can also use that as an answer key!

Which three ideas are the most important to you?

Which one idea would you want other teens to know about?  Can you think of another part of scripture that also teaches that?

Can you sketch an image of that idea or a cartoon of your biggest point?

Image credits: Stephen Downes @ Flickr, Bil Keane, RIP. (Permission was not granted to me but to JoyfulNoiseletter.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gifted & Talented

A student we know objected to the "gifted and talented" label for a class. "It makes it sound like everybody doesn't have a gift."

The word talent in the parable in Matthew 25:14-30 is an unfortunate coincidence. It takes us naturally to what might be a good place to consider - our talents as a gift from God - but away from Jesus' intent while telling the story.  Karen noticed a couple neat points at on this parable at the Hardest Question this week that really got me thinking.

1) How much was a talent? It is a year's salary! The servant that got 'a talent' isn't getting a pittance, he's getting a treasure. I can imagine hiding $10 so I don't lose it. Hiding $100,000 feels more like a crime.

2) Treasure = Torah. This is about the Word that we all receive. Are we going to fence it in, or share and thus multiply it? This parable comes right after the wise and foolish bridesmaids, and this helps it connect.

So this week for the youth study, we'll try another dramatic reading. When we did that before, with the parable of the unforgiving servant, it was a big hit, and seemed to make a big difference in the students' understanding of the scripture.

We'll start by talking about 'if you won the lottery...' and then shift to 'if investor's gave you the start up money for a business...'

After the first readthrough of the text: Matthew 25:14-30 (God's Word)
The kingdom of heaven is like a man going on a trip. He called his servants and entrusted some money to them. He gave one man ten thousand dollars, another four thousand dollars, and another two thousand dollars. Each was given money based on his ability. Then the man went on his trip. The one who received ten thousand dollars invested the money at once and doubled his money.  The one who had four thousand dollars did the same and also doubled his money.  But the one who received two thousand dollars went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.  The one who received ten thousand dollars brought the additional ten thousand. He said, ‘Sir, you gave me ten thousand dollars. I’ve doubled the amount.’ His master replied, ‘Good job! You’re a good and faithful servant! You proved that you could be trusted with a small amount. I will put you in charge of a large amount. Come and share your master’s happiness.’

The one who received four thousand dollars came and said, ‘Sir, you gave me four thousand dollars. I’ve doubled the amount.’ His master replied, ‘Good job! You’re a good and faithful servant! You proved that you could be trusted with a small amount. I will put you in charge of a large amount. Come and share your master’s happiness.’
Then the one who received two thousand dollars came and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you are a hard person to please. You harvest where you haven’t planted and gather where you haven’t scattered any seeds. I was afraid. So I hid your two thousand dollars in the ground. Here’s your money!’ His master responded, ‘You evil and lazy servant! If you knew that I harvest where I haven’t planted and gather where I haven’t scattered, then you should have invested my money with the bankers. When I returned, I would have received my money back with interest.  Take the two thousand dollars away from him! Give it to the one who has the ten thousand!  To all who have, more will be given, and they will have more than enough. But everything will be taken away from those who don’t have much. Throw this useless servant outside into the darkness. People will cry and be in extreme pain there.’
We'll consider these kind of issues:
  • what should the money amounts be for our day and age?
  • what did the master sound like giving the talents?
  • what would they have felt like being entrusted with this? After the return?
  • why is the master so mad at the third servant?
Image credit: Lawrence OP @ Flickr

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Aristotle in Thessalonica
Acts 17:1-10
Paul and Silas traveled through the cities of Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to the city of Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue. As usual, Paul went into the synagogue. On three consecutive days of worship, he had discussions about Scripture with the synagogue members. He explained and showed them that the Messiah had to suffer, die, and come back to life, and that Jesus, the person he talked about, was this Messiah.  Some of the Jews were persuaded to join Paul and Silas, especially a large group of Greeks who had converted to Judaism and the wives of many prominent men.
Then the Jews became jealous. They took some low-class characters who hung around the public square, formed a mob, and started a riot in the city. They attacked Jason’s home and searched it for Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. When they didn’t find Paul and Silas, they dragged Jason and some other believers in front of the city officials. They shouted, “Those men who have made trouble all over the world are now here in Thessalonica, and Jason has welcomed them as his guests. All of them oppose the emperor’s decrees by saying that there is another king, whose name is Jesus.”  The crowd and the officials were upset when they heard this. But after they had made Jason and the others post bond, they let them go. Immediately when night came, the believers sent Paul and Silas to the city of Berea.

1)    What do you notice about this story?

Two books of the New Testament are Paul’s letters to these believers, called 1st and 2nd Thessalonians.  Paul often wrote and spoke of how soon the Lord was returning, and the Thessalonians thought he meant before anybody died. So when people died … they were worried. Paul reassures them of their faith, and then comforts them about the last day.

1 Thessalonians 1:6-8
In spite of a lot of suffering, you welcomed God’s word with the kind of joy that the Holy Spirit gives. This way, you became a model for all the believers in the province of Macedonia and Greece. From you the Lord’s word has spread out not only through the province of Macedonia and Greece but also to people everywhere who have heard about your faith in God. We don’t need to say a thing about it.

2)    Why would they be doubting their faith? Would this be reassuring to people doubting their faith?

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Brothers and sisters, we don’t want you to be ignorant about those who have died. We don’t want you to grieve like other people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and came back to life. We also believe that, through Jesus, God will bring back those who have died. They will come back with Jesus.  We are telling you what the Lord taught. We who are still alive when the Lord comes will not go into his kingdom ahead of those who have already died. The Lord will come from heaven with a command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the dead who believed in Christ will come back to life. Then, together with them, we who are still alive will be taken in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. In this way we will always be with the Lord.  So then, comfort each other with these words!

3)    Whoa! That’s a pretty direct description of the end. What do you think?

1 Thessalonians 5:1…6
Brothers and sisters, you don’t need anyone to write to you about times and dates. You know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. … That day won’t take you by surprise as a thief would. You belong to the day and the light not to the night and the dark. Therefore, we must not fall asleep like other people, but we must stay awake and be sober.

4)    This fits what Jesus says about the day of the Lord, also.  Some people think about this as talking about how no one knows the length of their own life, and some people think it’s about the end of history. Either way, why does it matter that it’s a surprise?

1 Thessalonians 5:14-15
We encourage you, brothers and sisters, to instruct those who are not living right, cheer up those who are discouraged, help the weak, and be patient with everyone. Make sure that no one ever pays back one wrong with another wrong. Instead, always try to do what is good for each other and everyone else.

5)    That’s pretty direct advice. Have you done any of those things? Can you think of any opportunities you’ve had to do them?

2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, 8
Brothers and sisters, we have this request to make of you about our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming and our gathering to meet him. Don’t get upset right away or alarmed when someone claims that we said through some spirit, conversation, or letter that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you about this in any way. That day cannot come unless a revolt takes place first, and the man of sin, the man of destruction, is revealed. … Then the man of sin will be revealed and the Lord Jesus will destroy him by what he says. When the Lord Jesus comes, his appearance will put an end to this man.

6)    Double whoa! That’s a description of what some people refer to as the Antichrist.  Does it seem possible that some person could deceive that many people?  Does Paul think we need to worry about it?

2 Thessalonians 3:8-13
We lived a disciplined life among you. We didn’t eat anyone’s food without paying for it. Instead, we worked hard and struggled night and day in order not to be a burden to any of you. It’s not as though we didn’t have a right to receive support. Rather, we wanted to set an example for you to follow. While we were with you, we gave you the order: “Whoever doesn’t want to work shouldn’t be allowed to eat.”

We hear that some of you are not living disciplined lives. You’re not working, so you go around interfering in other people’s lives. We order and encourage such people by the Lord Jesus Christ to pay attention to their own work so they can support themselves. Brothers and sisters, we can’t allow ourselves to get tired of doing what is right.
7)    What does working hard have to do with your spiritual life?

The morning of the study this question occurred to me, and it was fruitful with the students.

8) What are the things that might make Christians discouraged in their faith nowadays? What might Paul write to them?

The what-Paul-might-write was our jot down reflection of the week.

Then we tried inventing a card game to go with the gospel story of the wise and foolish bridesmaids - but that's clearly another post for another day.

Image credits: Classical languages, Share the Word @ Flickr

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dem Bones

Youth are doing this study which is an adaptation of a study from our family for Halloween a couple years ago.

Skull and Bones
Prophet for 20 plus years in the 6th century BC, Ezekiel came after Isaiah (8th-740 BC) and Jeremiah (7th-625 BC).  His name means “God strengthens.”  He prophesied to the people of Judah living in Babylon.  They were confused and disheartened.  Since they worshipped in the Temple, they didn’t know if they could reach God anymore.  Ezekiel preached that they were in exile because of disobedience, and could return to Judah once they repented and returned to God.  Because of the way he wrote and historical records, they are some very accurate estimates of when he made the prophesies recorded. Ezekiel refers to the Torah quite often (e.g., Ezek. 27; 28:13; 31:8; 36:11, 34; 47:13, etc.) is familiar with the writings of Hosea (Ezek. 37:22), Isaiah (Ezek. 8:12; 29:6), and especially Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 24:7, 9; 48:37).”

dimitrij @ Flickr
Read Ezekiel 37:1-14

1)    Is that a vision or did it happen?  Why do you think so?

2)    Why is the creation of the bodies and the instilling of spirit in two separate stages?  What other details do you wonder about here?

3)    What is the message here for the Jews?  Why is this message important to them?


 Read John 5: 16-30

4)    What do we learn about Jesus’ relationship with his Father in this passage?  What does it have to do with the ‘work on the Sabbath issue’?

5)    What does Jesus reveal about resurrection here?  Why the connection with hearing him?

6)    What does his relationship with the Father have to do with resurrection?

Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-26

7)    Why would people have been telling the Corinthians there was no resurrection?  Is there a parallel in our time?

8)    What is Paul’s argument that there is a resurrection?

9)    What does this passage have to say about when and how the resurrection of the body takes place?

10)    Does the resurrection of the body matter to you?  How does it affect your faith or your living of it?

Bonus Scripture
11)    What connections do you see between these other passages and our texts for the study?

(Ps 104: 29-32)   When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth. May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works- he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke.

(2 Kings 13: 21)  Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

zoomar @ Flickr
(Isaiah 26:19)  But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.

(1 Thes 4:16-17)  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

(Rev 20:4-6)  I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.  (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

Double Bonus
I love Nadia Bolz-Weber's sermon on this. Please go read it in its entirety. Here's a snippet to get you motivated:

Sarcastic Lutheran – Sermon Excerpt; Texts:  Ezekiel 47:1-14

Just when this Lenten desert seems too much to bear, today we walk through a graveyard.  And what awaits us but a little Easter.  A foretaste of the feast to come  surrounded by corpses and a boneyard.  Here amidst the dusty remnant of a wasted humanity we see God’s spirit breath life into a valley of dry bones and raise the dead.  Ezekiel had prophesied to Israel for some time, but still the temple lay in ruin like bones bleached white in the unmerciful brightness of humiliation, conquest and exile. At the beginning of the book Ezekiel is told by God to eat the scroll and after eating it he was THEN told to go speak God’s word to them because God’s word does what it says.  We too get to delve so deeply into this word that we practically are EATING it.  God’s word made flesh.  God’s word proclaimed.  God’s word in holy text.  The word of God that raises the dead.  Maybe it looks like tasteless paper, simple wafers and wine, a boring preachers but , as Ezekiel tells us in chapter 2,  the Word is as sweet as honey.

God did not insist that Ezekiel agree with God’s word or that he even understand God’s word.  He was simply told to eat the word, then proclaim the word.  DO not pass go do not collect.  Just eat it and preach it.  And when he did, death was made to become valley dancing life.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's a Trap

So the leaders of Israel are mad and worried. They get it – this Jesus is serious trouble. Time to get rid of him. They think, “good thing he’s a dumb hick from Galilee and we are soooo clever.”

Matthew 22: 15-22 A Question About Taxes—Mark 12:13–17; Luke 20:20–26
Then the Pharisees went away and planned to trap Jesus into saying the wrong thing. They sent their disciples to him along with Herod’s followers. They said to him, “Teacher, we know that you tell the truth and that you teach the truth about the way of God. You don’t favor individuals because of who they are. So tell us what you think. Is it right to pay taxes to the emperor or not?” 

STOP! What’s the trap here?

What would you do?

 Jesus recognized their evil plan, so he asked, “Why do you test me, you hypocrites? Show me a coin used to pay taxes.” They brought him a coin. He said to them, “Whose face and name is this?” They replied, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Very well, give the emperor what belongs to the emperor, and give God what belongs to God.” They were surprised to hear this. Then they left him alone and went away. 

GO! How does Jesus get out of it?

Is he just getting out or making his own point?

What does belong to God?

There’s another power group in Israel – they’ve been losing ground to the Pharisees, but they see their chance. Saducees, enter stage left.

Matthew 22:23-32 The Dead Come Back to Life—Mark 12:18–27; Luke 20:27–40
On that day some Sadducees, who say that people will never come back to life, came to Jesus. They asked him, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies childless, his brother should marry his widow and have children for his brother.’ There were seven brothers among us. The first married and died. Since he had no children, he left his widow to his brother. The second brother also died, as well as the third, and the rest of the seven brothers. At last the woman died. Now, when the dead come back to life, whose wife will she be? All seven brothers had been married to her.” 

STOP! What’s the trap here?

What would you do?

Jesus answered, “You’re mistaken because you don’t know the Scriptures or God’s power. When people come back to life, they don’t marry. Rather, they are like the angels in heaven. Haven’t you read what God told you about the dead coming back to life? He said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ He’s not the God of the dead but of the living.” 

GO! How does Jesus get out of it?

Is he just getting out or making his own point?

What does he mean the God of the living?

What traps do Christians face today?
While Jesus at least was arguing with people who thought they believed in God, while today we could face traps by people completely opposed to the idea of God.

  • I’ve seen those Christians on TV and they are ignorant/stupid/judgmental/hypocrites… 

  • If God is infallible and the bible is the Word of God, how do you explain evolution/Noah/demons & angels… 
  • How does God go from wiping out whole nations in the Old Testament to being all lovey dovey in the New Testament? 
  • How can a good God allow famine/war/disease/natural disasters… 

Photo credit: Justin Good @ Flickr

Saturday, October 8, 2011


a lesson from Matthew 23 using Nooma 04

Matthew 23:1-12
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees teach with Moses’ authority. So be careful to do everything they tell you. But don’t follow their example, because they don’t practice what they preach. They make loads that are hard to carry and lay them on the shoulders of the people. However, they are not willing to lift a finger to move them. They do everything to attract people’s attention. They make their headbands large and the tassels on their shawls long. They love the place of honor at dinners and the front seats in synagogues. They love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have people call them Rabbi. But don’t make others call you Rabbi, because you have only one teacher, and you are all followers. And don’t call anyone on earth your father, because you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Don’t make others call you a leader, because you have only one leader, the Messiah. The person who is greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever honors himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be honored.” 

1) What do you think is Jesus’ big point here?

2) What do you suppose the Pharisees and scribes thought about it?

We’re going to watch Nooma 04: Sunday. (Trailer below.) It’s based on that passage above and Mark 7:1-22. Try to keep track of what you notice. If there’s a place you want to stop and talk, or rewind and rewatch, just say so.

3) What questions do you have?

4) What’s the big idea? How does it connect to what we read in Phillipians 3:7-9?
These things that I once considered valuable, I now consider worthless for Christ. It’s far more than that! I consider everything else worthless because I’m much better off knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It’s because of him that I think of everything as worthless. I threw it all away in order to gain Christ and to have a relationship with him.

5) Jot down one thing you want to remember from this. Here's the trailer for Nooma 04. I'm sure you can find the whole video online, but I also urge you to support the ministry. They're doing downloads of individual Noomas for only $1.99 each now, or watch online for $1.00. 

Rob Bell makes reference to the Shema Israel here, and I agree that it goes well with what Jesus is saying. It's even how Jesus answers the scribes who ask him what the greatest commandment is. This presentation of the Shema is from Judaism 101, where you can see and hear the Hebrew, also:

Sh'ma Yis'ra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

Barukh sheim k'vod malkhuto l'olam va'ed.
Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.

V'ahav'ta eit Adonai Elohekha b'khol l'vav'kha uv'khol naf'sh'kha uv'khol m'odekha.
 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

V'hayu had'varim ha'eileh asher anokhi m'tzav'kha hayom al l'vavekha.
And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart.

V'shinan'tam l'vanekha v'dibar'ta bam
And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall speak of them

b'shiv't'kha b'veitekha uv'lekh't'kha vaderekh uv'shakh'b'kha uv'kumekha
when you sit at home, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.

Uk'shar'tam l'ot al yadekha v'hayu l'totafot bein einekha.
And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.

Ukh'tav'tam al m'zuzot beitekha uvish'arekha.
And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The Shema almost always brings this song to mind:

Photo credit: Marion Doss @ Flickr. My Aunt Gert (Gertrude Golden) taught in a place like this.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dear Philippians

Dear Philippians: Don't Worry, Be Joyful. Love, Paul.

Adapted from Steve Brown’s Through the Eyes of Grace – the Prison Epistles.
Philippi by wallygrom @ Flickr

Philippi was the leading city of Macedonia, situated on the Egnatian Way between Rome and Asia. Philippi took its name from Philip II of Macedonia who captured the cityand was the father of Alexander the Great. It was the most important city of the province, but not the capital. It became a full Roman city—a rare and great privilege. A financial center with natural attractions, too.

Acts 16 tells how Philippi was the first church established in Europe. Paul was led to Macedonia because of a vision and shortly thereafter met 3 people who founded the church: Lydia, an Asian professional woman, a girl possessed of a spirit who had been making a lot of money for her owners until Paul healed her, and Paul’s jailer who received Christ and whose household was baptized. Paul visited this church three times.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians was written around A.D. 62 from the city of Rome where Paul was in prison. But one of the major themes of Philippians is joy. Paul was joyful, not because of circumstances, but because of Jesus. When the church heard he was in jail, they sent a man to help, and Paul sent him back home with this letter.

Phil 1:15-18 
Some people tell the message about Christ because of their jealousy and envy. Others tell the message about him because of their good will. Those who tell the message about Christ out of love know that God has put me here to defend the Good News. But the others are insincere. They tell the message about Christ out of selfish ambition in order to stir up trouble for me while I’m in prison. But what does it matter? Nothing matters except that, in one way or another, people are told the message about Christ, whether with honest or dishonest motives, and I’m happy about that. 

1) Why would someone tell about Jesus for not good reasons? Why doesn’t that bother Paul? What’s most important to Paul?

Phil 1:21-23
Christ means everything to me in this life, and when I die I’ll have even more. If I continue to live in this life, my work will produce more results. I don’t know which I would prefer. I find it hard to choose between the two. I would like to leave this life and be with Christ. That’s by far the better choice. 

2) Is it possible Paul really didn’t care whether he lived or died? How would you explain that to someone?

Phil 2:14-18
Do everything without complaining or arguing. Then you will be blameless and innocent. You will be God’s children without any faults among people who are crooked and corrupt. You will shine like stars among them in the world as you hold firmly to the word of life. Then I can brag on the day of Christ that my effort was not wasted and that my work produced results. My life is being poured out as a part of the sacrifice and service I offer to God for your faith. Yet, I am filled with joy, and I share that joy with all of you. For this same reason you also should be filled with joy and share that joy with me. 

3) What do you like to complain about most? How does complaining keep you away from joy?

In chapter 3, Paul warns the Philippians to beware those who impose extra rules on them. (Like circumcision.) He explains how he was a better rule keeper than anyone. But…
Phil 3:6-16 
When it comes to being enthusiastic, I was a persecutor of the church. When it comes to winning God’s approval by keeping Jewish laws, I was perfect. These things that I once considered valuable, I now consider worthless for Christ. It’s far more than that! I consider everything else worthless because I’m much better off knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It’s because of him that I think of everything as worthless. I threw it all away in order to gain Christ and to have a relationship with him. This means that I didn’t receive God’s approval by obeying his laws. The opposite is true! I have God’s approval through faith in Christ. This is the approval that comes from God and is based on faith that knows Christ. Faith knows the power that his coming back to life gives and what it means to share his suffering.
In this way I’m becoming like him in his death, with the confidence that I’ll come back to life from the dead. It’s not that I’ve already reached the goal or have already completed the course. But I run to win that which Jesus Christ has already won for me. Brothers and sisters, I can’t consider myself a winner yet. This is what I do: I don’t look back, I lengthen my stride, and I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus.
Whoever has a mature faith should think this way. And if you think differently, God will show you how to think. However, we should be guided by what we have learned so far. 

4) Does Paul think we have to try to be good to get right with God?

5) Does Paul think we should try to be good to please God?

6) Key sentence: “But I run to win that which Jesus Christ has already won for me.” How can you put that in your own words?

7) What does the end mean there?

Phil 4:4-9 
Always be joyful in the Lord! I’ll say it again: Be joyful! Let everyone know how considerate you are. The Lord is near. Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. Then God’s peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus. 
Finally, brothers and sisters, keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable. Practice what you’ve learned and received from me, what you heard and saw me do. Then the God who gives this peace will be with you. 

8) What is worthy of praise in your life? For what should we praise God?

 This image by Alice Popkorn on Flickr came with the quote:
"Joy is what happens 
when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are."
- Marianne Williamson

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Do What You Do

by anyjazz65 @ Flickr
Do What You Do

There was a family with three kids. Their mother asked them to clean their rooms, because they were having company tomorrow. The first kid said ‘OK’ and went and cleaned her room. The second kid said ‘That’s not fair!’ and stormed off. But when he cooled down, he cleaned his room. The third kid said ‘no problem, mom,’ and went back to her room and listened to mp3s.

1) Who did what the mother wanted?

2) What does this story have to do with church?

Matthew 21:23-32 Jesus’ Authority Challenged (See also Mark 11:27–33; Luke 20:1–8)
Then Jesus went into the temple courtyard and began to teach. The chief priests and the leaders of the people came to him. They asked, “What gives you the right to do these things? Who told you that you could do this?” Jesus answered them, “I, too, have a question for you. If you answer it for me, I’ll tell you why I have the right to do these things. Did John’s right to baptize come from heaven or from humans?” They discussed this among themselves. They said, “If we say, ‘from heaven,’ he will ask us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘from humans,’ we’re afraid of what the crowd might do. All those people think of John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Jesus told them, “Then I won’t tell you why I have the right to do these things.

A Story About Two Sons
“What do you think about this? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go to work in the vineyard today.’ His son replied, ‘I don’t want to!’ But later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the other son and told him the same thing. He replied, ‘I will, sir,’ but he didn’t go. “Which of the two sons did what the father wanted?” “The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “I can guarantee this truth: Tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. John came to you and showed you the way that God wants you to live, but you didn’t believe him. The tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. But even after you had seen that, you didn’t change your minds and believe him. 

3) What does the two sons story have to do with the leaders’ question: “what gives you the right to do this stuff?”

4) Do you have authority to act?

Philippians 2:6-13 Have the Same Attitude as Christ
Although he was in the form of God and equal with God,
he did not take advantage of this equality. 
Instead, he emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant,
by becoming like other humans, by having a human appearance. 
He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
death on a cross. 
This is why God has given him an exceptional honor
– the name honored above all other names –
so that at the name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, and in the world below
will kneel and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. 

My dear friends, you have always obeyed, not only when I was with you but even more now that I’m absent. In the same way continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. It is God who produces in you the desires and actions that please him. 

5) How does this connect to the gospel for today?

(The last Sunday of the month we leave more time for fellowship and games, so this is meant to be pretty quick.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

As we forgive

soot+chalk at Flickr
As We Forgive
The heart of our relationship with Jesus is accepting the forgiveness he offers. But in the Gospels he spoke much more about us forgiving others. Why? What does it mean? Is it a requirement for grace?

0) What do you think about when we pray in the Our Father “Forgive us our trespasses/debts as we forgive those who trespass against us”?

Matthew 18:15-35
Dealing With Believers When They Do Wrong (15-20) “If a believer does something wrong, go, confront him when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have won back that believer. But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you so that every accusation may be verified by two or three witnesses. If he ignores these witnesses, tell it to the community of believers. If he also ignores the community, deal with him as you would a heathen or a tax collector. I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you imprison, God will imprison. And whatever you set free, God will set free. “I can guarantee again that if two of you agree on anything here on earth, my Father in heaven will accept it. Where two or three have come together in my name, I am there among them.” 

1) So what are the different stages? Why break it up into those stages?

2) What does it mean when Jesus says to deal with them as you would a tax collector? How did Jesus treat tax collectors?

3) What on earth could the guaranteed truth mean here? We have the power to imprison? All we have to do is agree?

4) What does it mean to come together in Jesus’ name? 

Personally Forgiving Others (21-35) Then Peter came to Jesus and asked him, “Lord, how often do I have to forgive a believer who wrongs me? Seven times?”
Jesus answered him, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy times seven. That is why the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to do this, a servant who owed him millions of dollars was brought to him. Because he could not pay off the debt, the master ordered him, his wife, his children, and all that he had to be sold to pay off the account. Then the servant fell at his master’s feet and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay everything!’ The master felt sorry for his servant, freed him, and canceled his debt. But when that servant went away, he found a servant who owed him hundreds of dollars. He grabbed the servant he found and began to choke him. ‘Pay what you owe!’ he said. Then that other servant fell at his feet and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay you.’ But he refused. Instead, he turned away and had that servant put into prison until he would repay what he owed. The other servants who worked with him saw what had happened and felt very sad. They told their master the whole story. Then his master sent for him and said to him, ‘You evil servant! I canceled your entire debt, because you begged me.  Shouldn’t you have treated the other servant as mercifully as I treated you?’ His master was so angry that he handed him over to the torturers until he would repay everything that he owed. That is what my Father in heaven will do to you if each of you does not sincerely forgive other believers.” 

5) What questions do you have about this parable? Some questions that maybe you did or did not ask.

6) Is a gift given if it is not received? Meaning, if I give you something, and you refuse to open it, did I give you a gift? Have you ever gotten a gift that you did not receive?

7) Why does the servant treat his debtor so harshly? What would that be like for us or in today’s culture?

8) Why does it make the king so angry when he hears about the servant’s actions?

9) Does it mean that the king did not really forgive the servant if he takes it back? Or is the servant being punished for the new problem and not the old debt?

10) Here’s an interpretation: the servant does not really understand or accept what the king did. He thinks it’s easy for the king, or inconsequential, and so it makes no difference in his life. Real understanding of what the king did for him would make it impossible to treat the lower servant so. The king is angry, confronted with proof that his generosity was not accepted for what it was.

Does this make sense with the parable?

Yukata Tsutako, 3/20/2001

September 11th.
 11) Have you forgiven Al Qaeda for the attack of 9/11/01? What does it mean for us to forgive them?

12) What would the political reaction be if a leader called on America to forgive Al Qaeda?

13) What would it mean for a jihadist group to accept our forgiveness?

I usually don't share my answers to these studies, but I think I have to for #13.  I had 2 new or renewed insights studying this scripture. One is that what Jesus told us to do is always for our own good. He told us to forgive others not to assign a burden, but so that we will understand what he has done for us. If we don't understand it, we can't really accept it. The harder it is for us to forgive someone, the more deeply we'll understand just what we did. The second has to do with #13. That, paradoxically, God's forgiveness serves his justice. To us it feels like forgiving someone is letting them off the hook. But if they accept the forgiveness, truly, then it is the best way for them to understand their wrong.  Persecuting them for the wrong helps them justify and ignore it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Don't Try Harder

Read Romans 7:14-25
I know that God’s standards are spiritual, but I have a corrupt nature, sold as a slave to sin. I don’t realize what I’m doing. I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do what I hate. I don’t do what I want to do, but I agree that God’s standards are good. So I am no longer the one who is doing the things I hate, but sin that lives in me is doing them. I know that nothing good lives in me; that is, nothing good lives in my corrupt nature. Although I have the desire to do what is right, I don’t do it. I don’t do the good I want to do. Instead, I do the evil that I don’t want to do. Now, when I do what I don’t want to do, I am no longer the one who is doing it. Sin that lives in me is doing it. So I’ve discovered this truth: Evil is present with me even when I want to do what God’s standards say is good. I take pleasure in God’s standards in my inner being. However, I see a different standard at work throughout my body. It is at war with the standards my mind sets and tries to take me captive to sin’s standards which still exist throughout my body. What a miserable person I am! Who will rescue me from my dying body? I thank God that our Lord Jesus Christ rescues me! So I am obedient to God’s standards with my mind, but I am obedient to sin’s standards with my corrupt nature.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholic’s Anonymous have been described as America’s main spritiual contribution to the world. Let’s look for connections among the steps. I have changed alcohol to sin here – since that’s our common problem.

1. We admitted we were powerless over sin — that our lives had become unmanageable.
Is this true? Do we truly believe that we are unable to be righteous by our own power?

What connections do you see with Rom 7?

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
• “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)
• “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

What does grace mean to you?

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
• “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then [in heaven] we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12)
• “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17)
• “... If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

What does this mean for a Christian in general? For you?

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
• “Your sins are the roadblock between you and your God. That's why he doesn't answer your prayers or let you see his face.” (Isaiah 59:2)
• “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:40)
• “Search me, 0 God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”. (Ps. 139:23-24)

How do you do a moral inventory?

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
• “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord - and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Ps. 32:3-5)
• “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)
• “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Cor. 7:10)

Is this necessary? Why is it a step? Does it correspond with scripture?

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
• “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land.” (Isaiah 1:19)
• I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:11-13)

What sin do we not want to give up? To not have God remove? It’s been said that an idol is anything you cannot imagine giving up.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
• “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)
• “But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (Matthew 8:8)

Do we feel that we must stop sinning before coming to God for forgiveness for the sin? Do we have to get it right, first?

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
• “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
• “Give and it shall be given you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)
• “Say to the Israelites: When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord, that person is guilty and must confess the sin he has committed. He must make full restitution for his wrong, add one fifth to it and give it all to the person he has wronged.” (Num. 5:5-7)

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
• “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:26-27)
• “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!” (1 Cor. 10:12)
• “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith GOD has given you.” (Romans 12:3)

These steps seem to say that it’s not enough to say you’re sorry. What does scripture say about that? What might amends for sin look like? We know it’s not necessary for forgiveness, so why make amends?

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
• “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
• “Search me, 0 God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24)
• “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.” (Luke 11:8-10)
• “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39)
What does this have to do with our sin problem? How does it help?

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to sinners, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
• “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (Eph. 5:14)
• “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16)
• “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2)
• “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19)
How do you practice this in everyday life? What does it mean as a part of an ongoing program?

Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.

Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.

Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.


Commonly heard slogans (wisdom in shorthand)

• First Things First
• This Too Shall Pass
• One Day At A Time
• Easy Does It
• H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired)
• Keep It Simple
• Live And Let Live
• The Serenity Prayer
• Today I will do one thing
• Keep Coming Back

References: The Gospel and the Twelve Steps by Martin M. Davis, The Big Book by Alcoholics Anonymous, and, of course, the Bible.  Reminded of this study by a Nadia Bolz-Weber sermon (at

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Armor of God

zpeckler @ Flickr
Came up with a kid's rhyme to help remember the armor of God.

The Ephesians got a letter from St Paul
It said how God would protect them all

Belt of Truth goes around your waist
Boots to take the good news every place
Chestplate of righteousness guards your heart
Shield of faith stops the devil’s darts
Helmet of salvation saves your mind inside
Sword is God’s Word by the Spirit supplied

(Actual scripture)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Joshua, the Story

For our VBS, we're covering the story of Joshua.  This is more or less the story as I'm telling it, plus a few teaching notes and discussion questions.  This telling grew out of the previous bible study.

Start with the timeline: Creation, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Jesus, something historical (knights, pilgrims, etc.), Today.

In particular, ask about Moses, and get or share at least the Exodus story. When the Lord frees them, they are supposed to go to Mount Sinai to worship and praise God, and then to the land of Canaan, that God has promised them. It was like an entire big city trying to get up and walk someplace new. The Israelites were divided up into 12 tribes, based on Jacob/Israel’s 12 sons, which included Joseph.

The Story of Joshua

Day 1
So almost as soon as the Israelites left Egypt, before they even got to the mountain to worship and praise God, they had a battle. The people – called the Amorites (possible aside about people named after their ancestors) – did not want this humongous crowd of people coming through their land. The Israelites were confused, tired, and anxious about what their future would hold. And now they have a battle on their hands!

This is the first we hear about Joshua. Moses calls him forward to be the general of the people: Joshua, son of Nun, and Joshua goes forth into battle. Moses goes above the battle with the staff the Lord gave him. When he raises the staff, the Israelites start winning the battle. When his arms lower, they start losing. So his brother Aaron and a man named Hur make him sit down, and they help him hold his arms up. So Israel wins the battle! Then the Lord tells Moses, “Write this reminder on a scroll, and make sure that Joshua hears it, too.” (Exodus 17)

After this, Joshua, son of Nun, becomes Moses’ assistant. When the Israelites finally get to the mountain, Moses is supposed to go up on the mountain to talk with the Lord. A cloud came down on the mountain to show God’s presence. Moses leaves the Israelites to worship at the base, and Aaron and Hur to watch over them. Moses enters the cloud for 40 days and 40 nights. Was Joshua in the cloud, too? We don’t know! This is when God gave Moses the 10 commandments. But Joshua stayed up with Moses the whole time, because when they came down, he said, ‘It’s so loud – sounds like a battle!’ And that’s when the Israelites had made a golden calf, and were worshipping that, instead of worshipping God. Moses was so angry he broke the tablets of the law, and he and Joshua went back up on the mountain. God forgave them and gave Moses new stone tablets with the Law. (Ex 24)

God gave very specific instructions for making an Ark – a container like a big box – to hold the tablets. And a tent where they could put the ark and that would be where the Lord dwelled. Moses would go in this tent to talk with God. “The Lord would speak to Moses personally, as a man speaks to his friend.” Moses would take Joshua, son of Nun, with him to this tent of meeting, and the pillar of smoke would come to the front of the tent while they were in. When Moses went out to share with the people what God said, Joshua stayed in the tent. (Ex 33) Why do you think he did that?

Finally, about a year after Mount Sinai, they reached Canaan, the promised land. They received manna in the morning and quail at night to eat. Manna appeared like frost on the ground, and quails are like a small chicken. Sometimes we think of manna like a kind of bread. Moses, at God’s command, sent one person from each tribe to scout out the new land. It had been more than 400 years since Jacob had left to take his sons to join Joseph in Egypt. Joshua represented the tribe of Ephraim, and a man name Caleb represented the tribe of Judah. These 12 men went into the land looking for all the details Moses had asked about. What might they have been looking for? (Food, people, cities, armies.) They crossed the big river Jordan, and went into Canaan for 40 days.

They found an amazing land! More food than they could have imagined. Moses asked them to bring back fruit, and they brought a bunch of grapes so big it had to be carried on a pole between 2 men. They described a fertile land with many people and cities and kings. They said “It really is flowing with milk and honey.” But… they also said the people were big. Ten of the scouts were afraid of trying to go in, even though the Lord had promised to clear their way. Caleb told the people to be quiet and listen to Moses. Caleb said, “Let’s go now and take possession of the land. We should be more than able to conquer it.” But the men who had gone with him said, “We can’t attack those people! They’re too strong for us!” So they started spreading lies among the people. The land devours the people who live there! The people who live there are giants! We’ll all die if we try to go there! Only Joshua and Caleb told the truth and supported Moses. So what do you think the people said?

God was very angry. The 10 lying spies were struck dead by a plague. Moses begged for forgiveness for the people. Again. And God spared them, but he did give a curse. None of the grownups who rejected the Promised Land would be able to go in, and the whole tribe of Israel would have to wait 40 years. One year for each day. So they went back into the wilderness. Only Caleb and Joshua would return. (Numbers 13)

What did you learn about Joshua? Tomorrow we’ll find out what happens next. Even Joshua didn’t know what God was preparing him for.

Day 2
Timeline review, plus discuss ‘What happened yesterday?’

At one point in the wilderness, even Moses disobeyed God. So he was not going to enter into the Promised Land either. But God led him up onto a mountain to show him the land. He also had Moses tell Joshua that Joshua was going to be the leader of the people now, and was going to lead them into the Canaan. Moses blessed him, laying on his hands. God spoke to Joshua directly, telling him ‘Be strong and courageous! Don’t tremble or be terrified, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’ In fact, God told him twice: “Be Strong and Courageous” How do you think he was feeling? (Num 27, Deuteronomy 31) From then on, Joshua was full of the Spirit. (Joshua 1)

Right away, Joshua tells the people it’s time to go in. He gave them three days to pack. He sent two spies into the big city that guarded the river, Jericho. They stayed with a woman named Rahab, who almost everyone in Jericho disapproved of. But somehow the king’s men found out they were spies and went to Rahab’s to find them. She tells the spies that everyone in Jericho knows what the Lord has done for Israel, and that they are all scared.  She hid and protected the spies, but made them promise to spare her and her father’s family. They agreed, and later were able to escape back to the city. (Josh 2)

But how to cross the Jordan? A few spies can get across, but a whole nation of people with all their stuff? God gives Joshua the plan. Send the priests carrying the ark of the covenant, which holds the tablets of the law, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s sprouting staff, into the river, which was at flood stage. The river will stop, and the people can cross. Like a whole big city’s worth of people. The priests went out, and the river stopped. Like there was dam, the water built up in a wall. The people crossed on dry land. Joshua told the leader of each tribe to grab a stone from the river to be a reminder of what God was doing. All the people crossed safely, and they made camp. They had a meal from the food that grew in Canaan - in fact their Passover meal. (What did the Passover meal help them remember?) And that was the end of the manna; God let them know that the story of their time in Egypt was over and their story in the Promised Land had begun. (Josh 3)

Now that they were across the river, Joshua was faced with the problem of Jericho. A big, powerful city with massive walls to protect it.  Joshua went out to pray about this problem, and almost immediately bumped into a stranger wearing a sword. ‘Are you one of us or one of our enemies?’ Joshua asked him. ‘Neither,’ he said, ‘I am the commander of the Lord’s Army. The Lord is going to hand over Jericho to you. Have the priests march around the city, carrying the Ark of the Covenant, once a day for six days. On the seventh day, march around 7 times. After that, blow the shofar and shout with all your might.’ Joshua told the priests the instructions, and then he told the soldiers to go in front of them. For six days in a row, the marched around the city. Their instructions for the 7th day included completely destroying the city, taking nothing for themselves, bringing any treasure for the Lord’s house, and sparing Rahab. He charged the spies with finding her and getting her and her family out safely. On the 7th day, they marched all 7 times. Then Joshua gave the command: Priests blow your horns! Then he told the people to all shout with all their might. And the Lord crumbled the mighty walls of Jericho. The soldiers went in and completely conquered the city. One soldier disobeyed the Lord’s command, took some treasure for himself, and brought ruin on himself and his family. Rahab really became a part of the Israelites, and in fact is the great-great-great-grandmother of David and one of Jesus’ ancestors. (Josh 6)

The Israelites were finally safely in the Promised Land. Unfortunately there were 30 kings who wanted them out! But that’s the story for tomorrow night.

Day 3
Timeline review. What happened yesterday? What’s their big problem now?

The first battle after Jericho was with the city of Ai. They won that by splitting into 2 armies. One army ran away, and when the King of Ai and his army gave chase, the other Israelite army came from behind and trapped them. (Josh 8)

The next people they met were the Gibeonites. Even though they were more powerful than the people of Ai, they were terrified of the Israelites and more so, their God. So they put on their oldest clothes and sandals, brought old crumbly bread and wineskins, and went to the Israelites. They told them they had heard of the power of God (true) and came from far away (false) to make a treaty. (What’s a treaty?) ‘How do we know you’re not from Canaan?’ the Israelites asked, ‘we’re supposed to conquer this country completely.’ ‘Look at our clothes, sandal, wineskins and bread!’ the people from Gibeon said. The Israelites were convinced, and make a promise in God’s name. Without asking God. Soon they found out they had been tricked! The Israelites wanted to kill the Gibeonites. But Joshua says no, they made a promise in God’s name and now they had to keep it. He made them the servants for the Tabernacle, and they became a part of the Israelite nation. (Josh 9)

When the King of Jerusalem heard about this, he got together four more kings and attacked Gibeon. The Gibeonites sent word to Joshua and asked for help, so Joshua marched all night with the army to surprise the five kings. The Lord sent them into disorder, and finished the battle with large hailstones. During this battle, Joshua asked the Lord to stop the sun in the sky, so there would be no night for the enemies to escape. And He did, making the sun stand still for an entire day. (Josh 10)

The Israelites then defeated the kings of the south. So most of the remaining kings gathered together to make a massive army. The Lord told Joshua not to worry. The Israelites only had to make it so they couldn’t use their chariots, and then the Lord would hand over the army. And that’s just how it happened. Israel defeated king after king with the Lord’s help, and yet none of those cities asked for mercy; instead they chose to fight. In this way, Joshua conquered the whole land, as God had promised Moses, not leaving out even one part. (Josh 11)

Are we called to crush our enemies like the Israelites? No! Now we have Jesus’ command to love our enemies. (Matthew 5:44).

The Lord told Joshua it was time to start dividing up the land among the tribes. Some decisions were made on the spot, some by promises that Moses had made. Joshua listened to the people, and changed decisions to be fair if that was needed. One of the people who came to Joshua was Caleb. He reminded Joshua of how Moses had promised him the land he had explored 40 years ago. Even though there were the giant people there, Caleb told Joshua, “so now look at me today. I’m 85 years old. I’m still as fit to go to war now as I was when Moses sent me out. Now give me this mountain region which the Lord spoke of that day. You heard that the people of Anak are still there and that they have large, fortified cities. If the Lord is with me, I can force them out, as he promised.” So Joshua did as Moses had promised. (Josh 14) The Israelites gave Joshua the city he had wanted, and he rebuilt it and lived there. (Zoomable map.)

When all the land had been divided, Joshua called together the people. He told them to respect the Lord, and get rid of the gods of Egypt and the gods of the Canaanites they had conquered. If even after all he has done for you, you don’t want to serve the Lord, decide that now. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

The people dedicated themselves to the Lord. Joshua asked them if they were sure, and they said yes! Joshua warned them that if they went back to other gods that they would deserve disaster because God is perfect.

And they had many problems, but the Lord showed them great mercy, even to the point of sending his own son. Jesus, instead of calling us to conquer a country for ourselves sends us out to let people know about God’s mercy. (Matthew 28:19) But we can learn a lot about how to do it from following Joshua’s example. What made him a great leader?

Photo credits: Flickr -, Jamie Lynn Ross

Joshua, the Bible Study

In preparation for our VBS, I did a bible study on Joshua with several groups.  It's too long for a single session, so pick and choose!

Exodus 17: 8 The Amalekites fought Israel at Rephidim. 9Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men. Then fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill. I will hold in my hand the staff God told me to take along.” 10Joshua did as Moses told him and fought the Amalekites, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11As long as Moses held up his hands, Israel would win, but as soon as he put his hands down, the Amalekites would start to win. 12Eventually, Moses’ hands felt heavy. So Aaron and Hur took a rock, put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron held up one hand, and Hur held up the other. His hands remained steady until sunset. 13So Joshua defeated the Amalekite army in battle. 14The Lord said to Moses, “Write this reminder on a scroll, and make sure that Joshua hears it, too: I will completely erase any memory of the Amalekites from the earth.”

1) What do we learn about Joshua from this? Why make sure that Joshua hears it, too?

Exodus 24: 12 The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain. Stay there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the teachings and the commandments I have written for the people’s instruction.” 13Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. 14He said to the leaders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are here with you. … 18Moses entered the cloud as he went up the mountain. He stayed on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights.

Exodus 33:7 Now, Moses used to take a tent and set it up far outside the camp. He called it the tent of meeting. Anyone who was seeking the Lord’s will used to go outside the camp to the tent of meeting. 8Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise and stand at the entrances to their tents and watch Moses until he went in. 9As soon as Moses went into the tent, the column of smoke would come down and stay at the entrance to the tent while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10When all the people saw the column of smoke standing at the entrance to the tent, they would all bow with their faces touching the ground at the entrance to their own tents. 11The Lord would speak to Moses personally, as a man speaks to his friend. Then Moses would come back to the camp, but his assistant, Joshua, son of Nun, stayed inside the tent.

2) What do we learn about Joshua here? Do you think he was up with Moses the whole 40 days? Why would he stay inside the tent?

Numbers 13: 1 The Lord said to Moses, 2“Send men to explore Canaan, which I’m giving to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of their ancestors’ tribes.” 3So at the Lord’s command, Moses sent these men from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites. … 4These are their names: … 6Caleb, son of Jephunneh, from the tribe of Judah; … 8Hoshea, son of Nun, from the tribe of Ephraim; …But Moses gave Hoshea, son of Nun, the name Joshua. … [Moses gave many things to look for]… 25Forty days later, they came back from exploring the land. 26They came back to Moses, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. They gave their report and showed them the fruit from the land.

27This is what they reported to Moses: “We went to the land where you sent us. It really is a land flowing with milk and honey. Here’s some of its fruit. 28But the people who live there are strong, and the cities have walls and are very large. …[They described the many peoples living there.] 30Caleb told the people to be quiet and listen to Moses. Caleb said, “Let’s go now and take possession of the land. We should be more than able to conquer it.” 31But the men who had gone with him said, “We can’t attack those people! They’re too strong for us!” 32So they began to spread lies among the Israelites about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored is one that devours those who live there. All the people we saw there are very tall. 33We saw Nephilim there. (The descendants of Anak are Nephilim.) We felt as small as grasshoppers, and that’s how we must have looked to them.”
[This betrayal and lack of faith angers God. He strikes the lying scouts dead of a plague, and curses the Israelites to wander in the desert 1 year for each day the scouts were gone, and guarantees that none of them will enter the land.] 14:38 Of all the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua (son of Nun) and Caleb (son of Jephunneh) survived.

3) What would that have been like for Joshua and Caleb? What do you think Joshua learned from this? What enabled him to be faithful in this?

Numbers 27: 12  The Lord said to Moses, “Go up into the Abarim Mountains, and take a look at the land I will give the Israelites. 13After you see it, you, too, will join your ancestors in death, as your brother Aaron did. …18So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua, son of Nun, a man who has the Spirit, and place your hand on him. 19Make him stand in front of the priest Eleazar and the whole community, and give him his instructions in their presence. 20Give him some of your authority so that the whole community of Israel will obey him. 21He will stand in front of the priest Eleazar, who will use the Urim to make decisions in the Lord’s presence. At his command Joshua and the whole community of Israel will go into battle. And at his command they will return.” … 23Moses placed his hands on Joshua and gave him his instructions as the Lord had told him.

Deuteronomy 31:14 The Lord said to Moses, “The time of your death is coming soon. Call for Joshua. Both of you come to the tent of meeting, and I will give him his instructions.” Moses and Joshua came to the tent of meeting. 15Then the Lord appeared in a column of smoke at the entrance to the tent. [God foretells the Israelites future betrayals, and gives the amazing Song of Moses]… 23The Lord gave this command to Joshua, son of Nun: “Be strong and courageous, because you will bring the Israelites into the land that I swore to give them, and I will be with you.”

Deuteronomy 34: 9 Joshua, son of Nun, was filled with the Spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him. The Israelites obeyed him and did what the Lord had commanded through Moses.

Joshua 1: 1 After the death of the Lord’s servant Moses, the Lord said to Moses’ assistant Joshua, son of Nun, 2“My servant Moses is dead. Now you and all these people must cross the Jordan River into the land that I am going to give the people of Israel. … 7Only be strong and very courageous, faithfully doing everything in the teachings that my servant Moses commanded you. Don’t turn away from them. Then you will succeed wherever you go. 8Never stop reciting these teachings. You must think about them night and day so that you will faithfully do everything written in them. Only then will you prosper and succeed. 9I have commanded you, ‘Be strong and courageous! Don’t tremble or be terrified, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’ ”

4) What would it be like to receive this blessing from God via Moses? What has Joshua learned that will make it possible? Have you ever followed someone who was hard to live up to?

Finally Entering the Promised Land
Joshua gave the people 3 days to pack. He sent spies into Jericho, the strong city that bordered the Jordan and barred their way into Canaan. But they were almost caught by the king’s men. A woman named Rahab saved them. And then had this exchange:
Joshua 2: 9 “I know the Lord will give you this land. Your presence terrifies us. All the people in this country are deathly afraid of you. 10We’ve heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea in front of you when you left Egypt. We’ve also heard what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites, who ruled east of the Jordan River. We’ve heard how you destroyed them for the Lord. 11When we heard about it, we lost heart. There was no courage left in any of us because of you. The Lord your God is the God of heaven and earth. 12Please swear by the Lord that you’ll be as kind to my father’s family as I’ve been to you. Also give me some proof 13that you’ll protect my father, mother, brothers, sisters, and their households, and that you’ll save us from death.” 14The men promised her, “We pledge our lives for your lives. If you don’t tell anyone what we’re doing here, we’ll treat you kindly and honestly when the Lord gives us this land.”

5) What do you think about what Rahab did? Betraying her people, protecting her family, finding God…? Rahab is the mother of Boaz and the great-great-grandmother of King David.

Joshua 3: 9 So Joshua said to the people of Israel, “Come here, and listen to the words of the Lord your God.” 10Joshua continued, “This is how you will know that the living God is among you… 11Watch the ark of the promise of the Lord of the whole earth as it goes ahead of you into the Jordan River. … 13The priests who carry the ark of the Lord, the Lord of the whole earth, will stand in the water of the Jordan. Then the water flowing from upstream will stop and stand up like a dam.” 14So they broke camp to cross the Jordan River. The priests who carried the ark of the promise went ahead of the people. 15(The Jordan overflows all its banks during the harvest season.) When the priests who were carrying the ark came to the edge of the Jordan River and set foot in 16the water, the water stopped flowing from upstream. The water rose up like a dam … 17The priests who carried the ark of the Lord’s promise stood firmly on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan until the whole nation of Israel had crossed the Jordan River on dry ground.

Joshua 4: 1 The whole nation finished crossing the Jordan River. The Lord had told Joshua, 2“Choose one man from each of the 12 tribes. 3Order them to pick up 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan, where the priests’ feet stood firmly. Take the stones along with you, and set them down where you will camp tonight.”

Joshua 5: 9 The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have removed the disgrace of Egypt from you.” So Joshua named the place Gilgal, the name it still has today. 10The people of Israel camped at Gilgal in the Jericho plain. There they celebrated the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month. 11On the day after the Passover, they ate some of the produce of the land, unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12The day after that, the manna stopped. The people of Israel never had manna again. That year they began to eat the crops that grew in Canaan.

6) After 40 years! What could this have been like? Would you have been happy or sad to see the end of the manna?

Joshua 5: 13 When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you one of us or one of our enemies?” 14He answered, “Neither one! I am here as the commander of the Lord’s army.” Immediately, Joshua bowed with his face touching the ground and worshiped. He asked, “Sir, what do you want to tell me?” 15The commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals because this place where you are standing is holy.” So Joshua did as he was told.

Joshua 6: 2 The Lord said to Joshua, “I am about to hand Jericho, its king, and its warriors over to you. 3All the soldiers will march around the city once a day for six days. 4Seven priests will carry rams’ horns ahead of the ark. But on the seventh day you must march around the city seven times while the priests blow their horns. 5When you hear a long blast on the horn, all the troops must shout very loudly. The wall around the city will collapse. Then the troops must charge straight ahead into the city.”

6Joshua, son of Nun, summoned the priests. He said to them, “Pick up the ark of the promise, and have seven priests carry seven rams’ horns ahead of the Lord’s ark.” 7He told the troops, “March around the city. Let the armed men march ahead of the Lord’s ark.” … They did this for six days.
15On the seventh day they got up at dawn. They marched around the city seven times the same way they had done it before. That was the only day they marched around it seven times. 16When they went around the seventh time, the priests blew their rams’ horns. Joshua said to the troops, “Shout, because the Lord has given you the city! 17The city has been claimed by the Lord. Everything in it belongs to the Lord. Only the prostitute Rahab and all who are in the house with her will live because she hid the messengers we sent. 18But stay away from what has been claimed by the Lord for destruction, or you, too, will be destroyed by the Lord. If you take anything that is claimed by the Lord, you will bring destruction and disaster on the camp of Israel. 19All the silver and gold and everything made of bronze and iron are holy and belong to the Lord. They must go into the Lord’s treasury.” 20So the troops shouted very loudly when they heard the blast of the rams’ horns, and the wall collapsed. The troops charged straight ahead and captured the city. 21They claimed everything in it for the Lord. With their swords they killed men and women, young and old, as well as cattle, sheep, and donkeys. 22But Joshua said to the two spies, “Go to the prostitute’s house. Bring the woman out, along with everything she has, as you swore you would do for her.” … 24Then Israel burned the city and everything in it. But they put the silver and gold and everything made of bronze and iron into the Lord’s treasury. 25Joshua spared the prostitute Rahab, her father’s family, and everything she had.

(Joshua 7) Despite Joshua’s serious warnings, Achan takes some treasure from Jericho. The Lord is angered, and the people kill him and his family when they find out.

7) Out of the many amazing stories in the Old Testament, this is one of the most famous. Why do you think? What can it teach us today?

Taking the Land that was Given
(Joshua 8) The Israelites defeat Ai by tricking them out of their city. Again the city is left without a soul.
Joshua 8: 30 At that time Joshua built an altar on Mount Ebal to the Lord God of Israel . 31He built an altar with uncut stones on which no iron chisels had been used. This was as the Lord’s servant Moses had commanded the people of Israel in the book of Moses’ Teachings. … 35Joshua read Moses’ Teachings in front of the whole assembly of Israel, including women, children, and foreigners living among them. He did not leave out one word from everything Moses had commanded.

8) How do you reconcile God’s command to the Israelites to wipe out certain peoples with the God who in Jesus’ person says “love your enemies”?

The Gibeonites who live near Ai are scared at this point. They come to meet the Israelites disguised as foreigners who have traveled far and beg for a treaty with the Israelites because of their mighty God.
Joshua 9:14 The men believed the evidence they were shown, but they did not ask the Lord about it. 15So Joshua made peace with them by making a treaty which allowed them to live. … [Within 2 days of travel, however, they found that the people of Gibeon were among their new neighbors!]… 22Joshua sent for the people of Gibeon and asked, “Why did you deceive us by saying, ‘We live very far away from you,’ when you live here with us? 23You are under a curse now. You will always be servants. You will be woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.” 24They answered Joshua, “We were told that the Lord your God commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and destroy all who live there. We deceived you because we feared for our lives. 25Now we’re at your mercy. Do to us what you think is good and right.” 26So Joshua rescued them and did not let the people of Israel kill them.

9) Why not destroy the Gibeonites? Were the Gibeonites right to deceive the Israelites? What might Joshua have learned from this?

Joshua 10: 12 The day the Lord handed the Amorites over to the people of Israel, Joshua spoke to the Lord while Israel was watching, “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and moon, stand still over the valley of Aijalon!” 13The sun stood still, and the moon stopped until a nation got revenge on its enemies. Isn’t this recorded in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the middle of the sky, and for nearly a day the sun was in no hurry to set. 14Never before or after this day was there anything like it. The Lord did what a man told him to do, because the Lord fought for Israel.

10) How do you reconcile incredible accounts like this with what we know in our modern age?

(Joshua 12) All together they conquered 31 kings. This was not all, but left some peoples for the tribes to take care of in their own territories.

Joshua began dividing up land, but what about the other survivor of the exodus?
Joshua 14: 6 Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal. Caleb, son of Jephunneh and grandson of Kenaz, said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses, the man of God, at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7I was 40 years old when the Lord’s servant Moses sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. I reported to him exactly what I thought. 8But my companions discouraged the people. However, I was completely loyal to the Lord my God. 9On that day Moses swore this oath: ‘The land your feet walked on will be a permanent inheritance for you and your descendants because you were completely loyal to the Lord my God.’ 10So look at me. The Lord has kept me alive as he promised. It’s been 45 years since Israel wandered in the desert when the Lord made this promise to Moses. So now look at me today. I’m 85 years old. 11I’m still as fit to go to war now as I was when Moses sent me out. 12Now give me this mountain region which the Lord spoke of that day. You heard that the people of Anak are still there and that they have large, fortified cities. If the Lord is with me, I can force them out, as he promised.” 13So Joshua blessed Caleb, son of Jephunneh, and gave him Hebron as his inheritance.

11) Caleb’s faith is awesome. Do you know someone like that? What effect does it have on their life?

(Joshua 17) Zelophehad’s daughters receive inheritance. (Joshua 20) Six cities of refuge.

Joshua 24: 1Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem. …[The Lord describes all he did for them from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, with Moses in Egypt, the desert, and with Joshua in taking Canaan.] …13So I gave you a land that you hadn’t farmed, cities to live in that you hadn’t built, vineyards and olive groves that you hadn’t planted. So you ate all you wanted!”
[Joshua says] 14“Fear the Lord, and serve him with integrity and faithfulness. Get rid of the gods your ancestors served on the other side of the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve only the Lord. 15But if you don’t want to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Even if you choose the gods your ancestors served on the other side of the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

16The people responded, “It would be unthinkable for us to abandon the Lord to serve other gods. 17The Lord our God brought us and our ancestors out of slavery in Egypt. He did these spectacular signs right before our eyes. He guarded us wherever we went, especially as we passed through other nations. 18The Lord forced out all the people ahead of us, including the Amorites who lived in this land. We, too, will serve the Lord, because he is our God.”

19But Joshua answered the people, “Since the Lord is a holy God, you can’t possibly serve him. He is a God who does not tolerate rivals. He will not forgive your rebellious acts and sins. 20If you abandon the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you. He will destroy you, although he has been so good to you.”

21The people answered Joshua, “No! We will only serve the Lord!” 22Joshua said to the people, “You have testified that you have chosen to serve the Lord.” They answered, “Yes, we have!” 23“Get rid of the foreign gods that are among you. Turn yourselves entirely over to the Lord God of Israel.” 24The people replied to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”

25That day Joshua made an agreement for the people and set up laws and rules for them at Shechem. 26Joshua wrote these things in the Book of God’s Teachings. Then he took a large stone and set it up under the oak tree at the Lord’s holy place. 27Joshua told all the people, “This stone will stand as a witness for us. It has heard all the words which the Lord spoke to us. It will stand as a witness for you. You cannot deceive your God.” 28Then Joshua sent the people away, each to his own property. 29After these events, the Lord’s servant Joshua, son of Nun, died. He was 110 years old. 30He was buried on his own land at Timnath Serah in the mountains of Ephraim north of Mount Gaash.

12) We know that they went from this decision to falling away. What do you think happened? Why did God stay faithful to him?

13) Looking back over Joshua’s life, how would you describe him? What can we learn from him?