MONTHLY ARCHIVES: September 2013

A Generous God

Posted by Karah

In his 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol, writer Charles Dickens created the literary character Ebenezer Scrooge. He was a stingy, greedy, cold-hearted, rich man who hated Christmas and everything that brought others happiness. He had tons of money, but was unwilling to share it or any kindness with anyone else. The character quickly became well-known throughout the world. Today, the term “Scrooge” has even come to mean a complaining, stingy miser.

Many people see God as a lot like Ebenezer Scrooge, in control of so many good things, yet unwilling to share them with humanity, despite our great need. Scripture, however, tells quite a different story.

Read Matthew 7:7-12 in your Bible.

  • What characteristic of God do you see in these verses? Explain your answer.
  • What are believers encouraged to do in this passage?
  • Does this passage mean that if you ask God for something, you’re guaranteed to get what you want? Why or why not?
  • Read verse 12 again carefully. Where have you heard this statement before? What do you think it means? What would it look like to practice that in real life?

The Point

God is generous. That is His very character. He has shown His generosity to us by making a way to save us from our sin and inviting us into eternal life with Him. His generosity is all around us: He guides and directs our steps; He does not turn His back on us; He never stops pursuing us despite our sinfulness.

Take Action

Evaluate your life. How generous are you? With your money? Your time? Your opinions about people? Take some time to think it over. Then, list three ways you’ll allow God be generous to others because God has been generous to you.

Behind the Story

This passage does not imply that we will get whatever we ask God for if we’re persistent about it. The passage assumes that the person asking, seeking, and knocking is seeking God’s will above all else. The word “it” in verse 7 doesn’t refer to a particular item or thing the person requested; instead, it means that God will give you what He deems best.

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Constructive Criticism

Posted by Karah

Consider Tyne Daly’s quote and the definition of criticism below.
“A critic is someone who never actually goes to the battle, yet who afterwards comes out shooting the wounded.”—Tyne Daly, actress

• The expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes

1 Now, read Matthew 7:1-6, focusing on the first two verses. Ask yourself:

  • What do these verses have to do with criticism?
  • What are the key words in this passage?
  • What do you think Jesus meant when He advised His followers not to judge others?
  • Should believers never confront the sin of others? Why or why not?
  • What’s the difference between holding someone accountable and condemning someone? Explain.

The Point

As believers, we are supposed to be the gracious presence of God to those around us, but we aren’t to turn a blind eye to their sin. Jesus isn’t saying we should never confront sin; He is saying we should do so in humility, recognizing our own sinfulness and need for grace. Our words shouldn’t condemn, but rather draw others closer to Christ.

Behind the Story

The word translated “judge” in these verses was a Greek word that can imply to analyze or evaluate, as well as to condemn or avenge. Believers are clearly called to discern (analyze and evaluate); but judgment—in the sense of condemnation or avenging—belongs solely to God.

Going Deeper

So, how do you put this into practice in real life? Consider Jesus’ example. He often had some pretty harsh things to say to the religious leaders of His day—and even to His own disciples. For more, read:

  • Mark 8:33
  • Mark 12:24
  • John 4:1-26
  • John 8:1-11

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Always Together

Posted by Karah

Think about things that should always go together. Now, list as many as you can think of. Don’t worry! We’ve started the list for you.

  • PB&J
  • Baseball and hot dogs
  • Salt and pepper
  • (make your list in the comment below…)

Now, read Luke 2:36-38. 
Pay close attention to verse 37.

If you were describing Anna and her devotion to God, what would you say?
Could the same be said of you? Why or why not?
How would you define fasting? Why?
According to verse 37, what did Anna do while she was worshiping at the temple?
What is the relationship between fasting and prayer? Is fasting just abstaining from something or should you also devote time to prayer when you’re fasting? Explain.

The Point

Fasting isn’t just about not doing something. For Christians, it should be closely tied to prayer and studying God’s Word. The purpose of fasting is to draw near to God, better understand His purposes, and discern His will.

Take Action

Anna was faithfully devoted to God as she waited for Him to fulfill His promise to Israel. What are you waiting for God to fulfill in your life? How can you spend that time focusing on God and serving Him? List a few ideas below.

Week In Review

Take some time today to think over all the things you’ve learned in your time with God this week.

The motivation behind your giving, praying, and fasting matters. Are you doing those things because they’re expected or get a lot of attention?

We have a tendency to want to measure our righteousness by the things we do for God. In what areas of your life have you noticed that kind of attitude?

In light of the Scripture you’ve studied this week, what changes do you think God is calling you to make?

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The Truth About Fasting

Posted by Karah

Read Matthew 6:16-18.

“We tend to think of fasting as going without food. But we can fast from anything. If we love music and decide to miss a concert in order to spend time with God, that is fasting . . . There’s nothing magical about fasting. It’s just one way of telling God that your priority at that moment is to be alone with Him, sorting out whatever is necessary, and you have cancelled the meal, party, concert, or whatever else you had planned to do in order to fulfill that priority.” —J. I. Packer

What things in your life get between you and God?

What things in your life might you need to set aside for awhile in order to focus on God and His will?

Just the Facts

A few notes from today’s Scripture passage:

Like prayer and giving, fasting isn’t to be done as a way to garner attention or show how righteous you are. If it is, that worldly honor is the only reward you will get.

When fasting, followers of Christ shouldn’t make a big show of it. In verse 18, Jesus’ instructed believers not to give any outward indication that they were fasting. They were to go about life as they would normally without making a big deal of their fast.

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