Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dear Corinth

(This is a slightly longer version of the one we're doing in youth study this week.  There's too much in this letter!  It has had me thinking all week about what it would be like to receive a letter like this.)

Corinth today.
Dear Corinth,
1st Letter of Paul to the Corinthians

Two of Paul’s letters that sometimes feel like he could be writing to me are his epistles to Corinth, an ancient city that received what are called 1st and 2nd Corinthians in the Bible. Corinth was located between Athens and Sparta on a narrow strip of land and was very important in ancient Greece and in Rome. It was such a wealthy city, that there was an ancient expression: “Well, not everyone can go to Corinth.” Paul visited there twice, once for 18 months and once for 3 months. He wrote these letters around the year 55 AD.

All passages today are from the book 1st Corinthians, so we just give chapter and verse.
1:17-25 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” [Isaiah 29:14]
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

1) Is God ever foolish? How can God’s foolishness be wiser than our wisdom?

2:10-16 The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” [Isaiah 40:13] But we have the mind of Christ.

2) This is one of the most direct teachings about the Holy Spirit in the whole Bible. What does the Holy Spirit do for us? What does not having the Holy Spirit make hard for other people?

6:12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say-but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”-but I will not be mastered by anything. … 19-20 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

3) This is one of the big tensions in a Christian life. We’re forgiven, completely. So we’re free. Then why can’t we do anything? What does Paul say about that here?

8:9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. … 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

4) Is there anything that you’re free to do that someone else might get in trouble for doing?

Paul makes another analogy for how a Christian should lead their life:
9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

5) Winning? What does winning have to do with living like a Christian? What is Paul trying to say?

The Corinthians were having weird problems with communion. Doing it in different ways, some people eating it as a full meal, etc. So Paul makes it simple:
11:23-29 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.

6) So what is Paul’s bottom line about how we should take communion?

Chapter 12 is worth studying all by itself. It’s amazing in sharing how we all receive different gifts from God.
12:4-6 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
12:8-11 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
12:12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ…15-20 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

7) Paul makes it so clear that we are all supposed to be ourselves, to be different. Why is there so much pressure to all be alike? To be the same?

13:1-4 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. … 11-13 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

8) In other words, it’s not enough to do good things. Why you do them matters. Why would God care about why we do what we do, as long as we’re doing good stuff?

15:3-5 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. …12-14 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. … 19-22 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

15:51-52 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. … 54-57 then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” [Isaiah 25:8] “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” [Hosea 13:14] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

9) Even if everything else is uncertain, this is what it comes down to for Paul. If someone asked you why you are a Christian, what is your bottom line?

 Photos (@Flickr) PureOnsense, WordRidden

Saturday, January 22, 2011


St. Paul,
Paul of Tarsus,
and Paul the Apostle

No Bible writer taught us more, no apostle traveled farther and no person lays it on the line more than Paul.

1) What’s the most important thing you know about Paul?

Saul was born in Tarsus, which was in the country we now call Turkey, about 400 miles from Jerusalem. (Pretty far back then.) Even though he was a Jew, he was also a Roman citizen, which was unusual. He was learned in scriptures and very serious about his religion. So serious that…

Acts 7:56-8:3 (Stephen is on trial for teaching about Jesus)
“Look,” Stephen said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at Stephen, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul approved of their killing him.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

2) Why would Saul be happy that Stephen was killed? Or at least approve of it? Whom would many people approve of killing today?

But then there is an amazing story in Acts 9:
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

3) Why would Jesus choose Saul? How hard was it for Ananias to help him?

Acts 9, continued:
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

4) Have you ever had to admit you were wrong? About something big?

5) How would you describe Paul so far?

Since Jesus was a Jew, and all the first apostles were Jews, at first that was all who heard about Jesus. Which makes sense – they had been waiting for the Messiah for a long time! On Paul’s first travels he started preaching to the non-Jews, called Gentiles. Us!

Acts 13:44-48
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

Then the people who didn’t believe had Paul and Barnabbas chased out of town. Again. This becomes a pattern. Paul goes somewhere, preaches about Jesus, convinces many people, other people get mad and want to arrest him or kill him. He spends years in jail. He had four major missionary journeys, traveling for years preaching the Gospel. He wrote many letters to these people once he had left, and some of these letters became the heart of the Bible after the gospels. He mentored Mark, one of the gospel writers. (Called John Mark in the Acts of the Apostles, Barnabas’ nephew.)

He wrote (in chronological order)
  • 1st and 2nd Thessalonians
  • Galatians
  • 1st and 2nd Corinthians
  • Romans
  • Hebrews
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • Philemon
  • 1st Timothy
  • Titus
  • 2nd Timothy

As he was waiting to be executed in Rome, he wrote his last to Timothy, his greatest friend.
2 Timothy 4:6-8
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

6) Given how Paul had suffered to spread the gospel, and was even then being killed for it, do you think he was glad he had been called or not? How can you tell?

Paul’s writing includes some of the most famous phrases in any language.  Which have you heard of?  Which is powerful to you now?

  • But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18)
  • If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1st Corinthians 13:1-2)
  • “Love is patient, love is kind.” (1 Cor 13:4)
  • When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (1st Corinthians 13: 11-13)
  • While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2nd Corinthians 4:18)
  • For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
  • “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28)
  • If God is for us, who is against us? (Romans 8:31)
  • “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:37-39)
  • For by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)
  • “Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph 6:13)
  • Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)
  • I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
  • Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
  • I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2nd Timothy 4:5)

This study started because we were about to study 1 Corinthians, which is an amazing book in the Bible.  It occurred to me that we hadn't been properly introduced to Paul.  His story is far too massive to fit in one study, but at least it's an introduction.

Scientists' reconstruction of Paul's possible likeness. Clues from the bible, archaeology, genetics and ethnic studies.  Just a guess, but interesting.

A map of Paul's three journeys.  The fourth, his one way trip to Rome, ventured even farther.

Paul's timeline, Part I
Paul's timeline, Part II

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Who is My Strength?

Who is My Strength?

Two poems are in the readings this week. By poets Isaiah and David. And both are thinking about how weak we can be and usually are. BUT we have help waiting.
Isaiah 49:1-6
The LORD called me before I was born, while I was in my mother's womb he named me.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified."
But I said, "I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the LORD, and my reward with my God."

And now the LORD says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the LORD, and my God has become my strength-- he says, "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

1) In the first paragraph, what makes it feel like Isaiah had a great calling?

2) Does the Isaiah feel like he’s doing a good job?

3) What does that “It is too light a thing…” part mean?

4) Do you have a great destiny?

Psalm 40:1-3
I waited patiently upon the LORD; he stooped to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay; he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many shall see, and stand in awe, and put their trust in the LORD.

5) This is by King David (before he was king) who definitely had a great destiny. What does this tell you about his life?

There are MANY places the Bible talks about the lord giving strength. Read these and pick your two favorites. What makes them good to you?

  • Exodus 15:2 The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him a home; my father's God, and I will exalt him.
  • 2 Samuel 22:33 God is my strength and power: and he makes my way perfect.
  • Psalms 18:1-2 I will love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
  • Psalms 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
  • Psalms 22:19 But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, make haste to help me.
  • Psalms 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
  • Psalms 31:4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.
  • Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
  • Psalms 62:7 In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.
  • Psalms 73:26 My flesh and my heart fail: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
  • Psalms 140:7 O GOD the Lord, the strength of my salvation, thou hast covered my head in the day of battle.
  • Psalms 144:1 Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.
  • Isaiah 12:2 Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.
  • Habakkuk 3:19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
  • Ephesians 3:16-17 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
  • Ephesians 6:10-11 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
  • Phillipians 4:12-13 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
  • 2 Timothy 4:16-18 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack…
  • 1 Peter 4:11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.
We will make a poster of our favorites – updated for how we talk. For example, Psalm 18:2 (one of my favorites, makes me think of Narnia) is like this in the Message: “I love you, God- you make me strong. God is bedrock under my feet, the castle in which I live, my rescuing knight.”

Web Bonus:  the theology of this idea, that we are weak, yet God provides our strength, is best and most clearly laid out by Paul in 2nd Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 12:1-10
I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows.  And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.  I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.  Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say,  or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Amen, brother!

Topical Bible Studies, in particular the Lord is My Strength.  Great at gathering related bits of scripture.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I adapted an old men's study for this one, but I'm not teaching it as I had Amanda Sorelle graciously volunteer to sub.

New Beginnings

There’s no time for new starts and resolutions like the new year. But some surveys show that more than 75% have given up on them within a month.

0) Do you have a New Year’s resolution? Do you know about this tradition?

Psychologists recommend:
To be successful with your own resolutions:
• Have a strong initial commitment to make a change.
• Have coping strategies to deal with problems that will come up.
• Keep track of your progress. The more monitoring you do and feedback you get, the better you will do.
Ingredients for setting yourself up for resolution failure include:
• Not thinking about making resolutions until the last minute.
• Making too many resolutions.
• Framing your resolutions as absolutes by saying, “I will never do X again.”
But this isn’t a pop psychology study – it’s a bible study! What does scripture say?

Learn from the past
(Prov 15: 31-33) He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding. The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.

(Hebrews 12:10-11) Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

1) What do these say in your own words?

2) What is something you have learned in the past year about living a good life?

But be free of the past
(Ps 32: 5) Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD “— and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah

(Philippians 3:13-14) No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.

(2 Corinthians 5:17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
3) How could remembering what you’ve screwed up in the past help stop you from doing better?

Making a new start
(Ezekiel 36:25-27) “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command.

(1 Peter 1:3) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

4) ‘New birth’ sounds like a one time thing. Do you think we get one chance to restart or more than one? Why?

God’s plans
(Ps 32:8) I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.

(Jeremiah 29:11) “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

5) Do you believe God has a plan for you? Do you have any examples from your life?

6) How can we find out God’s plan for us?

Keep on keeping on
(Isaiah 40: 28-31) Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

7) How does Isaiah describe God here? Can you put it in your own words?

8) What does it mean to hope in the Lord?

9) Write down one thing you want to do better at this year. You don’t have to share it out loud if you don’t want to.