Weekly Bible Chat

Study the Bible Together

Do I have to?

November 30, 2022

Introduction

When I played sports, "conditioning" was worst part of practice. In wrestling, conditioning meant running around on a mat, running around the school, or weight-lifting. In basketball, conditioning meant moving side to side in defensive position until my legs were burning. These exercises aren't fun; but they are crucial to success.


At home, conditioning looks very different. It means eating healthy food, cleaning your room, vacuuming, doing dishes, laundry, yard work, plumbing, oil changes, and fix-it projects around the house.


Big Idea

God wants us to work hard to keep our property in good condition.


Opening Question

What chore do you find the least enjoyable? Which one do you like the most? Why is it better than others?


Proverbs 27:23-27

(23) Know well the condition of your flock,

and pay attention to your herds,

(24) for wealth is not forever;

not even a crown lasts for all time.

(25) When hay is removed and new growth appears

and the grain from the hills is gathered in,

(26) lambs will provide your clothing,

and goats, the price of a field;

(27) there will be enough goat’s milk for your food—

food for your household and nourishment for your female servants.


Questions

1. A flock of goats or cows would be crucial to the family of a farmer or a shepherd. But your family probably doesn't have a flock or a herd. Discuss and come up with 3 possessions your family has which meet similar needs.


2. Verse 23 says we should "pay attention" to the things our families depend on. What can go wrong with those three possessions you thought of? How do you pay attention to them to make sure they are working well?


3. Verse 24 says that wealth is not forever. Have you ever lost a significant amount of money because you were being careless with it? What happened?


4. Almost everything the Bible tells us to do is a reflection of the character and actions of God himself. What work does Hebrews 1:3 say Jesus is doing right now? According to Jesus in John 5:16-17, who else is working all the time?


5. In verses 25-26, why is it important for hay and grain to be gathered?


6. In this passage, what do sheep provide? What do goats provide? 


7. This passage says we need to work hard, pay close attention to our possessions, and be good stewards of them. Read Proverbs 23:4-5. How are both passages true without contradicting each other?


8. Look closely at verse 27. What's the final reason for caring for your possessions? Who are you caring for by doing this?


9. Read Genesis 30:25-43. How does our passage apply to this story about Jacob?

Neighbors and Strangers

November 16, 2022

Introduction

Throughout Proverbs, we have teaching about our relationship with those those we know and those we don't. Neighbors are the people in our daily lives; strangers are those we have never seen before. God has a plan for both relationships. 


Opening Question

Some years ago, I cleaned my gutters using my Little Giant ladder. Tired afterward, I left my ladder outside. A few days later it was gone. I felt surprised and guilty. Surprised, because I expected those who live near me to respect my property; guilty, because I knew I had been naive to expect that. 


We can approach decision-making in a way that errs on the side of caution or on the side of hope. We can be pessimistic or optimistic. Which do you tend to be? Has your tendency ever resulted in something bad happening unintentionally? If so, what was it?


Read the Word

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth—

a stranger, and not your own lips. (27:2)


Don’t abandon your friend or your father’s friend,

and don’t go to your brother’s house in your time of calamity; 

better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away. (27:10)


Take his garment,

for he has put up security for a stranger;

get collateral if it is for foreigners. (27:13)


If one blesses his neighbor

with a loud voice early in the morning,

it will be counted as a curse to him. (27:14)


Big Idea

Don't treat neighbors like strangers; don't treat strangers as neighbors.


Questions

1. Our first verse (2) tells us we should live in such a way that strangers should praise us. Have you ever been praised by a stranger? Tell when and what happened.


2. What kind of an attitude and lifestyle will lead to strangers praising us? What kind won't?


3. The ultimate purpose of our lives isn't to get praise from strangers. Turn to Matthew 5:16 and read it. What does this verse tell about the ultimate purpose of having a proper attitude and lifestyle?


4. In the second verse (10), it's understandable why God would tell us not to abandon our friends in a time of calamity. But why do you think God tells us to not abandon our father's friend?


5. Have you ever depended on a next-door-neighbor for help? What was the response?


6. The third verse (13) challenges our willingness to give a loan to a stranger. What is collateral and why is it beneficial in these kinds of situations?


7. Why does God expect us to be careful with how we loan money? Won't He just take care of us if we accidentally make a bad deal? Explain why you think what you do. Try to find a Bible verses that support your answer.


8. The final verse (14) tells about the way we bless our neighbor. A blessing can be as simple as "Have a good day" or as serious as "I pray that God will bless you and give you what you need to make it through your situation." Why do you think this verse warns us against blessing our neighbor "with a loud voice early in the morning"?


9. How does our tone of voice and timing of speech have an impact on its effectiveness?

Biblical Friendship

November 9, 2022

Introduction

If you try to find out what friendship is through Google, it recommends this quote, “A friend is one who overlooks your broken fence and admires the flowers in your garden.” This is a clever metaphor for friendship; but the Bible has a very different angle on this topic. 


Big Idea

Today we are going to see that good friends don't ignore your broken fence. They tell you about it so you can have a good fence that keeps you and your garden safe.


Opening Question

Who is someone in your life that makes you want to be a better person? Share how you have changed because of this person's impact.


Read Proverbs 27:5, 6, 17

5 Better is reproof that is revealed than love that is hidden.

6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend,

But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.

17 Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.


Questions

1. Verse 5 refers to a "reproof" which is the act of someone correcting or rebuking something that another has said or done. How is that loving?


2. Verse 5 contrasts a revealed reproof with "hidden love". What do you think "hidden love" is? How is that worse than an open rebuke?


3. Verse 6 seems to be a partner passage with verse 5. If so, how could a stern rebuke "bruise" another person?


4. Have you ever had a time when you had to tell a friend a truth that was painful? What was that like?


Historical Note

Verse 17 compares friendship to iron. How exactly does iron sharpen iron? When Solomon was alive (900s BC), the land of the Bible was in a period known as "Iron Age II". At the time, iron and steel were replacing bronze as the most effective metal for creating tools and weapons. The process of adding carbon to iron, or "carburizing" iron, made it stronger and kept it sharper than bronze. To do this requires four basic steps: 1) heating the iron, 2) submerging it in coals to harden it by gaining carbon, 3) pounding the hot metal with an iron hammer, and 4) quenching the iron in water or oil. Click here to view the same process as it is done today.


5. Knowing what you do about how iron is strengthened and sharpened, how do you think verse 17 can be compared to Christian friends making each other more mature in their faith in Christ?


6. In the background of all these verses is the reality that all people, even the closest of Christian friends, have sin in their lives (Romans 3:23). How has God used your friendships to help you get rid of sin in your life?

Fatal Flattery

November 1, 2022

Introduction

A "white lie" is defined as "a harmless or trivial lie, especially one told to avoid hurting someone's feelings." White lies are permitted in our society because sinful people don't prioritize truth as a core value. Flattery is affirming people by telling them what they want to hear. What makes flattery wrong is that it makes use of white lies, insincere or exaggerated praise, to affirm someone.


Why does the Bible warn us that falsehood and flattery are dangerous weapons in a person's mouth? Today we will examine this question.


Big Idea

We must always speak truthfully for our own sake and the sake of those to whom we speak.


Opening Question

At any time in your life, have you had someone tell you a difficult truth about yourself that no one else was willing to share with you? How did you react at first? How did you think through the way this comment should change your behavior?


Read Proverbs 26:28

A lying tongue hates those it crushes,

And a flattering mouth works ruin.


Discussion Questions

1. When are you most tempted to lie?


2. Notice first that the proverb teaches "A lying tongue hates." Lies result from hatred. This is a difficult concept. How might the lies we tell be produced by hatred in our hearts?


3. Second, the proverb teaches that a lying tongue "crushes". How might even a "white lie" end up crushing another person?


4. The next line of the proverb addresses flattery. The Hebrew word means "a smooth mouth". What are some situations in life when we are tempted to flatter others with smooth speech?


5. What are the effects of flattery? "A flattering mouth works ruin." Just like lying, flattery has a negative effective on the hearer. How could a flattering comment cause ruin for another person?


6. The Bible has a lot more to say about how to build others up in our speech. Find a verse that speaks about how to help others with our speech. Instead of lies and flattery, what good ways does the Bible tell us about how to speak?


7. 1 Thessalonians 3 and 4 refer to encouragement 6 times. Some time this week, take a couple minutes and read these chapters aloud. How do Paul and Timothy use encouragement to help this church? 


8. What do you think is a key difference between flattery and encouragement?

Tomorrow

October 26, 2022

Introduction

Growing up in the church, I heard Christians talk about the future two different ways. Some spoke as if God had personally revealed all their future to them. Others seemed much less confident and would pepper their speech with phrases like "Lord willing" or "At least that's the plan." 


Often, Christians and non-Christians sound the same when talking about the future. But God used King Solomon and, 900 years later, James, the brother of Jesus, to teach us how we should sound different from the world when we talk about our plans.

Read Proverbs 27:1 and James 4:13-17


"Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth."


"Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows to do the right thing and does not do it, to him it is sin."


Big Idea

Christians need to trust in God for the future and speak in a way that shows others they are doing so.


Opening Question

Sometimes our plans get put on hold. Sometimes our schedules are completely different than what we expect. Think of the last time God gave you a day that didn't match your expectations at all. What happened? How well did you respond to it? 


Questions

1. Look up the word "boast" for a dictionary definition. What does it say?


2. Use your answer to number one to make a definition for "boasting about tomorrow".


3. In James 4, God declares that boasting about tomorrow is "evil". Evil things harm people or disrespect God. What is evil about boasting about tomorrow?


4. Imagine a Christian who likes to brag to other people about the certainty of his or her plans for the future. How do you think this attitude might affect their daily Bible-reading and prayer time?


5. In James 4:15, God tells us "Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.'" Practically speaking, how should this verse change the way Christians talk?


6. Christians practice two good kinds of evangelism: passive and active. Active evangelism is when we tell an unbeliever the gospel and the other unbeliever knows we are trying to do so. Passive evangelism is when a Christian intentionally speaks truths in normal speech which identify some or all of the gospel without directly compelling an unbeliever to respond.


Try to come up with a phrase which a) you would actually say to an unbeliever, b) that acknowledges your dependance on God for the future, and c) that would help them to see that God alone controls the future.


7. I would encourage you and your discussion partner to take a moment to pray for God to sanctify our speech and use it to bring people to Christ by letting others know that He is at the center of our plans.

Overcoming hatred

October 19, 2022

Introduction

Most proverbs are single sentences that stand alone as a complete thought. Short proverbs have always been an excellent teaching device because readers can understand them immediately.


But near the end of Proverbs 26, Solomon teaches a concept using 3 verses instead of 1. Why the change? Because it's talking about a very weighty issue: hatred.


Big Idea

God wants us to be prepared to deal carefully with people who hate us.


Read Proverbs 26:24-26

(24) He who hates disguises it with his lips, but he sets up deceit within himself.

(25) When he makes his voice gracious, do not believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart.

(26) Though his hatred covers itself with guile, his evil will be revealed in the assembly.


Questions

1. Have you ever thought that someone hated you? What made you think so? Share your experiences with each other.


2. Many people hide hatred so they don't lose the respect of others. Which human body part does verse 24 say we use to disguise hatred? What kinds of things do people say as they use their lips to disguise hatred?


3. The second part of verse 24 says that those who hate "set up deceit within himself". How could someone fool themselves into thinking they don't really hate someone whom they actually do hate?


4. Verse 25 warns us not to believe someone who speaks graciously to us, but is inwardly fostering hatred of us. What are some signals you might observe to see that someone's gracious speech is fake?


5. "There are seven abominations in his heart" is a way of showing that hate takes over our hearts and leads to other sins. 1 John teaches about two ways hatred leads to other sin in 1 John 3:15 and 1 John 4:20. What are the other sins that hatred causes?


6. What is God saying in verse 26? What do you think it means when it says "His evil will be revealed in the assembly"? If you're struggling to think of an answer, see Ecclesiastes 12:14 and Luke 12:1-3. 


7. Use your Bible to see how Jesus wants Christians to deal with the temptation to hate others. How does Matthew 5:43-45 apply to the hatred a Christian may be tempted to feel? How does Matthew 6:14-15 apply as well?


8. Is there anyone you struggle with hatred for? If so, take the opportunity to pray for that person, pray for their forgiveness and for your love for them to grow so that it conforms to God's love for that person. Through the Holy Spirit moving our hearts to be like Christ, our hatred can be transformed into love.

Sticks and Stones

October 11, 2021

Introduction

Controlled speech is one of the main marks of wisdom. This week's study looks at three wise sayings in Proverbs 26:17-20. All three have to do with using caution with our speech.


Big Idea

When you speak cautiously, you avoid all kinds of problems in relationships with others.


Read the Passage

"A person who is passing by and meddles in a quarrel that’s not his is like one who grabs a dog by the ears.


Like a madman who throws flaming darts and deadly arrows,

so is the person who deceives his neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”


Without wood, fire goes out;

without a gossip, conflict dies down." (26:17-20)


Opening Question

Have you ever blurted out something that you wish you could take back? Several years ago, I mocked the idea of working for a certain company in a conversation with two friends. Unbeknownst to me, one of the people in the room worked for that company. Needless to say, it was uncomfortable after that. 


Try to share a time when you said something without knowing the damage it would cause.


Questions

1. The first proverb compares speech to pulling a dog's ears. Have you ever seen a dog grabbed by the ears? To understand this if you've never had a dog, just watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/InA2ebv4oow


2. Did you notice the dog's initial reaction to its ears being touched? What was it like?


3. Obviously, if the owner had grabbed the dog's ears, it would have been a more intense response. Now look again at Proverbs 26:17. How do you think the dog's reaction is similar to the one you'd get from jumping in on another group's argument? Why would people react this way to such an interjection?


4. Consider the next proverb: 26:18-19. Let's think first about the simile made in verse 18. What might happen if you lit arrows on fire and threw them anywhere you like? What kinds damage could be caused?


5. Now for a little brainstorming. What might be some of the negative effects of "teasing" someone in the way verse 19 talks about? How could that hurt the person or your relationship with them?


6. Last, let's look at verse 20. The Hebrew word used for "a gossip" is nirgan, which normally emphasizes someone who slanders others. Slander is grumbling or speaking negatively about someone else. Is slander something you have been tempted by lately? If so how? If not, why not?


7. This proverb says a slanderer is like wood and conflict is like a fire. Slander leads to conflict. What are some ways we can avoid slandering others if we think something or someone is wrong?


8. What are ways we can put out fires and reduce unnecessary conflict in our relationships?

(Not) Answering the Fool

October 4, 2022

Introduction

In Proverbs, those who ignore God (1:7), His wisdom (8:5), His word (13:13), and His law (28:9) are called "fools". 


How should Christians respond to fools? What should you do if one is bothering you? What if one wants to debate with you?


Proverbs 26:4-5 gives us two puzzling answers: "Don't answer a fool" (4) and "Answer a fool" (5). Though these verses seem paradoxical, they challenge us to think wisely before communicating with fools. 


Big Idea

Wisdom customizes speech to respond to the other person's error.


Opening Question

Think of a time when you disagreed with a non-Christian about a spiritual issue. What was the issue? What were the main points you both made? Did you make any positive progress or did the discussion end in disagreement?


Read Proverbs 26:4-5


Discussion Questions

1. Talking about spiritual things with an unbeliever can be difficult. If you could have a re-do of that discussion, what might you choose to change about what you said or how you said it?


2. Read Proverbs 26:4. What danger does it warn us about when we speak to a fool "according to his foolishness"? How do you think this temptation take hold of us?


3. Now read Proverbs 26:5. What danger does it warn us about when we don't speak to a fool "according to his foolishness"? 


4. In both verses, the word "according to" is used. But that phrase means two different things in these two different verses. What different meanings does it have in these two verses?


5. This video is a discussion between four people: two evangelical pastors and two political activists who are gay: https://youtu.be/tXEXqMzLX1Y. As you watch, try to identify the different approaches these pastors take to the debate.


6. What is similar about what the pastors believe? What is different about how they apply and communicate it? 


7. In your view, which pastor was more effective at communicating the gospel? Why do you think he was more effective?


8. What can you learn from this interaction about how to speak about controversial issues with non-Christians?

Snow for the Soul

September 20, 2022

Introduction

If you want to teach an unfamiliar concept, compare it to a familiar experience. People have been using similes to teach for over 3,000 years (see Genesis 19:28, written in 1406 BC). Proverbs is filled with similes. Each verse we're reading this week is a simile.


Why are similes so effective? One study in 1993 found that metaphors take longer to process (1924 ms) than similes (1782 ms). Another study showed that metaphors and similes use more parts of the brain than literal sentences through "activation of sensorimotor areas of the brain in addition to semantic or linguistic areas". Similes let us understand concepts by using parts of our brain which deal with physical action.


Big Idea

All the similes we'll look at have to do with speech. Solomon's main goal is to help us understand the importance of care with our speech.


Read Proverbs 25:11-14


1. Look carefully at verses 25:11-13. Whom do these "good" types of speech benefit more, the speaker or the hearer?


2. How is verse 14 a "bad" use of speech? How does it affect the hearer? 


3. Based on what you observed about good speech and bad speech from these four verses, try to make a rule about what godly speech must do.


4. Why do you think "clouds and wind without rain" (verse 14) were a bad thing to the original audience of this proverb? How are those things like someone boasting about a gift they fail to give?


5. Why do people boast about things they aren't going to do?


Read Proverbs 25:18-20


This second section sets out three severely sordid similes.


6. Have you ever had someone bear false testimony against you like verse 18 states? How was it like a club, sword, or sharp arrow?


7. Have you ever tried do something hard while you had a bad injury, as verse 19 states? Tell the story to the other person. How was that injury like "an unreliable person in a difficult time"?


8. Have you ever poured vinegar on baking soda? If you haven't, do it and as you watch, imagine how this would be like a person singing to you when you are feeling upset.


9. Based on these profound truths about speech, what is one way you can try to improve the way you talk with others?


Three Royal Rules

September 13, 2022


Introduction

Proverbs 25 begins by stating it is a collection of "proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, transcribed." This means that King Solomon had written Spirit-breathed wisdom that hadn't been publicized for 200 years. When King Hezekiah read it, he had it published for all to read. In verses 2-7, Solomon gave three rules for life in the royal courts that as relevant for our lives as they were for his.


Big Idea

Understanding God's design for human life brings us lasting influence on others.


Opening Question

1. Before we dig into God's rules, share with each other an important rule for leading other people that you have observed. Tell how you learned this rule. What difference will it make in the way people follow a leader? What happens when a leader ignores or doesn't learn this rule?


Read Proverbs 25:1-7


Questions

2. Verses 2-3 indicate that God gains glory by concealing matters from us. But that kings attain glory by searching matters out. Why do you think God wants us to be curious people who investigate things? 


3. Life is full of confusing problems. What is something you are currently searching for answers about? Read Proverbs 2:1-6 for encouragement in your search.


4. Verse 3 is a reminder that we don't always understand the reasons motivating a king's decision. What are some reasons we don't always understand world leaders' choices?


5. Verse 4 uses an object lesson that is applied to our lives in verse 5. What's the similarity between dross in silver and wicked people in the presence of a king?


6. Can one of you name a wicked advisor to a king in the Bible? Can the other person think of a wicked advisor to a world leader in recent history or current events. Now compare the two. What similarities are there?


7. Our advisors help shape our decisions. Who are your three most trusted advisors?


8. Looking at verses 6-7, can you find a passage in the gospels where Jesus said almost the same thing?


9. Having a hard time? Give up? Look in Matthew 23, Mark 9, Luke 14, and Luke 18. 


10. The idea of being self-demoting is so important to God that He repeats it multiple times. Why is it so important to Him?


11. Look at the three royal rules of Solomon's court. Pick the hardest one for you to follow. What's one way you can practice it this week?

Rule 1: Search for God's Wisdom  (25:2-3)

Rule 2: Surround Yourself with God's People (25:4-5)

Rule 3: Stand with the Lowly (25:6-7)

Rescue from the disloyal

Sept 7, 2022

Introduction

Psalm 54 is a Maskil, likely a wisdom-oriented Psalm. 


David gives an introductory note to this Psalm. It says it was written "When the Ziphites came and said to Saul, 'Is not David hiding himself among us?"


Who were the Ziphites? 1 Chronicles 2 teaches that they were a family from one of the twelve tribes of Israel, the tribe of a Judah. Through his daughter-in-law, Tamar, Judah gave birth to a son, Perez. Perez gave birth to Hezron. Hezron fathered Caleb. Caleb was the other courageous spy with Joshua who agreed Israel should take the land from the Canaanites. Ziph was Caleb's grandson.


Now David was also a Judahite who was from Hezron. David came from Hezron's descendants through Ram, a brother of Caleb. This means that David and the people of Ziph were relatives who lived in the same region of southern Israel.


This is very important because when King Saul began to track down and try to kill David, the Bible tells us that David, "remained in the hill country in the wilderness of Ziph" (1 Samuel 23:14). David was staying in a region he knew around people he expected to be loyal. But some Ziphites betrayed David and reported his presence to Saul (1 Samuel 23:15-19).


Big Idea

That betrayal was the basis of this Psalm. It teaches us how to respond to betrayal.


Opening Questions

1. In confidence, share a time with the other person when you perceived that others may be betraying you. 


Parents, if you are speaking with your child, I encourage you to find something important to you that your child can understand. Seeing your honesty will help them.


2. Share what kind of prayers you offer to God in these times. What do you ask Him for? 


Read the Psalm


Questions for Discussion

3. The Psalm begins "Save me, O God, by your name". God's name is His reputation. In what way does it match God's reputation to help us when we are being attacked by others?


4. What is David's description of these betrayers in verse 3? Why is it important that David speak about their character in this way?


5. Note that, in verses 1, 2, and 4, David repeats his dependance on God for help. When people undergo personal attacks, we are often tempted to depend on something, including ourselves, substances like alcohol, medication, video games, or other people to provide relief. What alternatives to God tempt you?


6. What solution does the Psalmist seek for his problem in verse 6?


7. Verses 6-7 have a very different tone than the rest of the psalm. What do you think is going on in these last two verses?


Rescue from the wicked

August 23, 2022


Introduction

Psalm 53 is a shocking Maskil Psalm. It's shocking in how it portrays people. It's shocking in how it portrays God. People will do terrible things to each other and God will bring terrible justice upon them. The Psalm is divided into two parts: the way of the wicked (1-4) and the demise of the wicked (5-6).


Big Idea

As the Psalmist considers the atrocities of the present and the past, he looks to God for rescue in the future.


Read the Psalm


Questions to Discuss

1. In verse 1-4, what behaviors can you find that are connected to the denial of God's existence? Why do you think this might be?


2. Can you think of times throughout history when terrible evils were committed by a person, party, or nation that denied God's existence? If you need help, here's a Wikipedia article about State Atheism.


3. The apostle Paul quotes Psalm 53:1-3 in Romans 3:10-12. In Romans 3:9, to whom does Paul apply Psalm 53?


4. In what way have all humans become "worthless" as the Psalm (and Romans 3) indicate?


5. In verses 5-6, how does the Psalmist describes the end of the wicked on judgment day?


6. Who do the wicked "encamp" against in verse 5?


7. Why do you think rejection of God would cause the wicked to attack those people?


8. The wicked are called those who "do not call upon God" in verse 4. Share some of the most important times in your present and past when you have called on God. Try to remember what you asked for. How did God answer your prayer?


9. Before God returns to rescue Israel, something needs to happen to most Jews. Read Zechariah 12:10. What does God do before He rescues Israel? What does Israel do?

Spiritual Depression

August 17, 2022

Introduction

Psalm 42 is a Maskil Psalm where the author asks, "Why are you in despair, O my soul?" The pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote a book about this condition, called "Spiritual Depression". An earlier writer, John of the Cross, referred to it as "The Dark Night of the Soul". It's a mindset nearly every Christian struggles with at some point. It consists of the loss of the spiritual joy we had in the past. In its place, we experience sadness, despair, and emptiness.


Big Idea

God inspired the Psalmist to write a prayer for this season of life. He wants us to learn how to take even our darkest times to Him.


When we are in a time of spiritual depression, Lloyd-Jones challenges us with this question, "Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?" The temptation of letting our emotions control our thoughts doesn't go away when we become Christians. 


This Psalm teaches us how to respond to inner thoughts that disturb us.


Read the Psalm


Questions to Discuss

1. In verses 1-2, the Psalmist says he longs to "appear before God". This might refer to the Temple, where God was materially present in the form of a cloud. What might be happening that keeps the Psalmist away from worshipping there?


2. Like the Psalmist, sometimes we feel cut off from God. What kind of circumstances make you feel distant from God?


4. Verse 3 indicates something about the people around the Psalmist. What are they saying to him and what's the effect on him? 


5. As the Psalmist looks back on better times, what does he remember in verse 5?


6. Look closely at verses 6-8. The Psalmist is trying to think through, and pray through, his pain. What kinds of things does he remember about God?


7. Again in verses 9-11, the Psalmist talks to God and then himself (just like 6-8). He asks why God has forgotten about him. Now, we know God knows everything. The Psalmist knew that just as much as we do. Why do you think God permits us to ask Him that question?


8. Self-talk is a concept well-known in modern psychology. Self-talk is asking yourself questions and reminding yourself of what's true. But centuries before modern psychology, God was telling us how to do this. Find the following self-talk moments in this Psalm:

  • What questions does the Psalmist ask himself?
  • What truths about God does the Psalmist remind himself of?

9. Each of us struggles with unique pain that only God can fix. What are the main truths about God that your heart needs to remember?


If you'd like to listen to Martyn Lloyd-Jones' sermon series on spiritual depression, click here to listen to it.

Praying in Enemy Territory

August 8, 2022


Introduction

Psalm 56 is a Maskil Psalm that teaches wisdom about life following God. Its historical heading records that it was composed during David's retreat to the Philistine city of Gath (described in 1 Samuel 21:10-14). When Saul was chasing David, he was in such danger that he briefly fled to Goliath's hometown for safety.


Big Idea

Imprecatory psalms call for God's wrath to fall on God's enemies. Because of this, it takes careful consideration to properly apply them for use in the church.


In the Old Testament, God's enemies were groups who opposed Israel such as the Philistines, the Amalekites, and the Jebusites. In the New Testament, Jesus called God's enemies "the world". He taught that the world, deceived and led by Satan, hates Christ's followers because it hates Christ himself (John 15:18-19). This Psalm gives us a model for how to respond to the world's hatred.


Read the Psalm


Questions to Discuss

1. Do you think Christians in America experience persecution? Explain your reasoning.


2. Based on verses 1-2 and 5-7 what do you imagine David's daily experience in Gath was like?


3. Have you ever been oppressed or treated with suspicion because of your faith in Christ? If so, describe what happened.


4. Rather than fight back or flee to another city, how does David's respond to opposition in verses 3-4?


5. In verse 7, David prays, "God, bring down the nations in wrath." Why do you think it was ok for David to pray that way? Jesus teaches us to pray for our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). Is it possible to do this and also pray like David does here?


6. Find the two verses which are repeated in this Psalm. What can we learn from this about enduring oppression?


7. In the final two verses, David says, "You have delivered my soul from death, indeed my feet from stumbling, so that I may walk before God in the light of the living." How can this be true if he is still uncertain about whether he will survive in Gath?


8. What Biblical verses give you assurance when others may dislike, suspect, or attack you?

The joy of Forgiveness

August 3, 2022

Introduction

Psalm 32 is called a "Maskil". There are twelve other Maskil Psalms: 4244—4552—55747888—89, and 142We don't know what a Maskil is, but some suggest it's a "memory passage" or a "wisdom song". 


Let's find some wisdom in this Maskil Psalm.


Big Idea

This Psalm is about the result of confession of sin and forgiveness: joy.


Read the Psalm together.


Opening Question for the Parent

What was a time when you apologized and experienced genuine forgiveness from someone else? Describe your feelings before and after.


For Both

1. Sometimes we don't want to recognize sin and apologize, to God or to others. What kind of thoughts or attitudes keep us from confessing our sin?


2. What reward for dealing with our sin does God promise us in the first two verses?


3. What consequence does God promise us for not dealing with sin in verses 3-4?


4. Verse 6 is interesting "Therefore let everyone who is faithful pray to you immediately. When great floodwaters come, they will not reach him." Do you think this might be alluding to the Flood? If so, how does the story of the Flood teach us to deal with sin "immediately"?


5. Verse 7 is such a contrast with verse 6. In verse 6, people are threatened with judgment for not confessing sin quickly. But when we confess our sin, what does God promise us in verse 7? 


6. Verses 8-9 sound similar to many Proverbs. What wisdom is being taught in verse 9? How does it apply to confessing sin?


7. Verses 10 and 11 contrast the benefits of confessing sin with the dangers of not confessing it. What are they?


8. As I think and write about this Psalm, I have had many sins come to mind. It caused me to end this with very personal question: what kind of sins are hardest for you to recognize and confess? 


Whatever your answer is, if you are willing to deal with that sin quickly and sincerely, God will fill your life with greater joy as you experience his forgiveness and protection. 

PRiorities

July 19, 2022

Introduction

There's just one verse this week:


Complete your outdoor work, and prepare your field; afterward, build your house.


Proverbs 24:27


The first line is one idea stated two ways: outdoor work and preparing your field. It refers to field preparation so that crops can be grown. But the second line is different: building a house.


What does that teach us about this man? He doesn't have a house! So if you don't have a field or a house (but you do have land for both) which should you prepare first?


Big idea

This is about prioritizing first things first. 


Parent

When you had children, your life changed dramatically. Think of the way you used to live before kids; and think of how you lived after. Tell your child any specifics you can think of about how your time management and/or priorities shifted.


Youth

1. Summer break is a great opportunity to do things you want to do. How do you spend your time differently during summer vacation versus your time during the school year?


2. What does a person's field give them? (Hint: this guy is a farmer)


3. What does your house give you?


Both

This proverb had to be written because people don't naturally prioritize correctly. So imagine you have to take a wild field and turn it into a field that you can grow and harvest crops on. 


1. What work do you have to do to get that field ready for growing crops?

Hint: have you ever had a garden? The preparation issues are similar, but for acres rather than square feet.


2. What work do you have to do to build a house?


3. Take a guess on this one: why would someone rather build a house than prepare a field?


Final Question

Try to think of something you put off, procrastinate, or ignore, but you know (either from life experience or God's word) that it is more important than you have made it. How can you prioritize it more effectively?

The Slacker

July 12, 2022

Introduction

Wisdom is learned by experience; it can be ours or someone else's. In this passage, Solomon tells what he learned from someone else's failure:


I went by the field of a slacker

and by the vineyard of one lacking sense. 

Thistles had come up everywhere,

weeds covered the ground,

and the stone wall was ruined.

I saw, and took it to heart;

I looked, and received instruction: 

a little sleep, a little slumber,

a little folding of the arms to rest,

and your poverty will come like a robber,

and your need, like a bandit.


Proverbs 24:30-34


Big Idea

Solomon is warning us about the long-term consequences of a lazy lifestyle.


Both

We all have unique preferences for down-time which can change throughout our lives.

Currently, what's one of your favorite ways to relax?

What's the difference between healthy down-time and sinful laziness?


Parents

1. Try to think of a time when you procrastinated on an important task or over-indulged in recreation. Describe what happened. 


2. Look at the last two lines: what does the Bible say laziness leads to? Have you personally witnessed an example of this for yourself or someone else? Tell the story if you can.


Both

3. Solomon never actually sees the slacker; he sees his work. Look carefully at the passage and find a) what his crop is and b) what is threatening a good harvest.


Youth

4. The fifth line indicates his "wall was ruined". Do an internet search to find out what was the benefit of a stone wall for a vineyard. Any results?


5. Lines 8 and 9 describe classic lazy behaviors. What are they? Which one is your favorite?


6. As you take a break from school, try think of three summer goals you can enjoy:


a) for your mind - what's something you'd like to learn more about this Summer? 

b) for your body - what's a way you want to stay active? 

c) for your heart - what's a way you want to become more mature as a Christian?