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51. Jesus and Apologetics: Mark 12:18-27. Examines Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees question in the temple as a paradigm for how to handle those tough apologetics questions: usually a false assumption has been made that can be corrected on the way to answering the question. Addresses a number of more contemporary apologetics questions to be addressed in a similar way.
52. Five Thresholds of Conversion: John 4:5-40. Doug Schaupp’s postmodern evangelism model proves a helpful assessment tool for diagnosing where your friends are at in their process of entry into the kingdom. The woman at the well has a time-lapse process-in a few minutes she crosses each threshold on her way to Jesus’ announcement that he, in fact, is the messiah she’s been waiting for!
53. Ready to Proclaim the Good News: Acts 8:26-40. Philip was ready and willing to be wisked into odd situations and then out again for the sake of sharing the gospel with those who have been prepared to receive it. Former IV Staff Mack Stiles’ simple grid helps people assess their readiness to be a witness, and helps us discover some appropriate next steps based on that assessment.
54. Bridging the Gap: Acts 17:16-34. Paul’s speech in Athens generates only a few converts, but perhaps his was more of a “soul-awakening” event. This study helps people think about Paul’s model for campus events targeted not for seekers, but for people who might be a step or two further away from the kingdom, and yet in whom God may still indeed be at work.
55. Strands of Conversion: Acts 8:29-38; 10:39-31, 44-47; 26:11-18. Gordon Smith, in his book Beginning Well, describes conversion as a series of events that God uses to equip a person for a lifetime of transformation and mission. Smith suggests seven strands that a person must engage with or embrace for a “good conversion” to occur. This study looks at multiple strands, in several conversion stories from Acts, and asks us to look at our own stories and those of our friends with a similar insightful lens.
56. Creative Evangelism, Its Opponents and Enthusiasts. Acts 14:1-20. Paul and Barnabas visit Iconium and present the gospel to Gentiles. It goes smoothly until he heals a lame man, then chaos erupts as the people misunderstand what happened and try to make Paul and Barnabas out to be Greek gods! What can we learn about seeker-targeted evangelism from Paul?
57. Plan B Ministry Vision. Acts 15:35-16:15. Paul and Barnabas split up. God repeatedly says “No” to Paul’s plans. Paul improvises, innovates and concedes in order to get the word out. As Plan A repeatedly is blocked, it seems it is Plan B all the time!
58. Chaos, Discernment and Plan B Ministry. Acts 16:16-34. Paul’s successes in Philippi don’t come when he is doing what he had planned, but when he responds to the needs of the moment with boldness and with compassion. Paul knew how to get people’s attention, but he also knew how to win their trust, and at least it made a difference in the life of his jailer and his household.
59. Paul’s Mission Statement. Acts 26:1-32. Paul tells the story of his conversion, of his being dumbstruck by the answer to the question, “Who are you, Lord?” He never expected that Jesus, whose followers he persecuted, was the Lord and had a mission for him. Jesus showed great compassion to Paul that day, and called him to a big vision, to open people’s eyes, to bring them to faith and to receive forgiveness of their sins, and to receive a place among those being sanctified by faith in Jesus. As he did so he taught Paul something fundamental about the body of Christ.
60. Leadership without Authority. Acts 27:21-28:10. Paul is a prisoner on a ship being taken to Rome. He has no authority, in fact no autonomy, but he acts to serve and to lead, to preserve life and to heal. An example of how to lead when you have no authority, in new situations or in crises.
61. Delegation and Empowerment. Exodus 18:13-26, Acts 6:1-7. A look at two key times where a new community experiences a leadership crisis, and the solution is the creation of a new leadership team with proper delegation. A look at delegation with authority and vision, and what ministry growth and leadership development is possible when delegation is done well.
62. Apostolic Incarnation. 1 Cor 9:19-27, 2 Timothy 2:1-9. A look at Paul’s understanding of his apostolic ministry, and the metaphors of discipline (soldier, athlete, farmer) of both passages. Paul walks a fine line between accommodation (being too much at ease in the non-believing culture) and alienation (remaining at a distance from the non-believing culture). Every cross-cultural missionary experiences this tension, which causes suffering and requires discipline.
63. Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed. 2 Samuel 1:5-16; 16:5-14; Psalm 105:7-15. This titular phrase is seen in the Psalm and often attributed to David, but it is commonly misunderstood, both the original context of the warning and even David’s own deference to the Lord’s anointed. In context, we find a different warning for leaders.
64. Acceptable Confession. 2 Samuel 2:1-15; Psalm 51: 1-6, 10-12. A look at the aftermath of David’s sin with Bathsheba, as he is confronted by the prophet Nathan. This looks at what David gets right and also what he gets wrong about his confession, and how God’s acceptance of David’s imperfect confession is very good news for similarly imperfect people today.
65.David and Absalom: An Impatient Young Leader. 2 Samuel 14:25, 15:1-12, 18:9-15. David’s young son Absalom was no David! It is easy to blame Absalom and honor David in the rebellion of Absalom, but Absalom may have had a fair critique of his father, and David shares the blame for the crisis, in this fair-minded look at the conflict. What can today’s younger leaders learn from Absalom’s mistakes, and what can senior leaders learn from David’s oversights?
66. David and Absalom: Leader in Crisis. 2 Samuel 15:13-31, 18:33. Part Two of the story of David and Absalom, and part 4 of a contiguous series in the life of David. A look at the remarkable way David doesn’t hold on to power but totally trusts in God to restore him to the throne, if it is God’s will. David desires God’s will above retaining the throne, and so acts in a way to give God room to speak clearly.
67. The Plumbline and the Chaplain. Amos 7:1-17. Amaziah the priest in the employ of the king of Israel tries to silence Amos the (volunteer) prophet who has words of judgment for the king and nation and a call to repentance. It is dangerous to try to silence God’s prophet.
68. Toil, Honest Work and Fruitful Labor. Genesis 1:1-5, 26-28; 2:17; 3:17-19; Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 1:21-24; Ephesians 4:28. A study of the nature of work (before the fall) and toil (after the fall), and the redemption of work turning it into fruitful labor. How to pray for a job so that God will hear and answer.
69. The Lifelong Journey. Mark 1:17-19, 35-38; 8:29-38; 14:26-31; John 13:3-8, 21:17-22. Jesus invites Peter to follow him, and he decides to follow Jesus, over and over again, even at the very end of his earthly ministry. A look at what Peter learned, and what assumptions he had to set aside, each time Jesus asked him to follow.
70. Cross-Cultural Entry Posture. Acts 10:1-36, 44-47. The story of the conversion of Cornelius is really a story of the conversion of Peter, who needed extra help from the Holy Spirit to get him to be willing to visit Cornelius and share with him the gospel. A study in how our posture as we enter a cross cultural setting can make all the difference.
71. The Lost Boys and the Searching Father. Luke 15:1-2, 11-32. This is the first in a series on the major parables in the book of Luke. (The remaining parables in the series are in chronological order, but the paradigmatic “Prodigal Son” parable leads the series.) A look at the parable in context, a story about two lost sons and the surprising efforts their father makes to restore both relationships.
72. The Two Debtors. Luke 7:36-50. Jesus compares his wealthy host Simon the Pharisee to a “sinful woman” who sits at his feet weeping in gratitude for the forgiveness he offers her. He is surprisingly gentle with both characters in the story he tells, inviting Simon to experience the same offer of forgiveness that the woman has already received.
73. The Sower and the Soils. Luke 8:4-18. The Secrets of the Kingdom: being good soil, and being a good sower of the seed. What can we learn from these seemingly clueless disciples? Pay attention to what you hear!
74. The Lawyer and the Good Samaritan. Luke 10:25-37. Jesus gives one of his best loved parables to a lawyer who seems to be there just to test Jesus. It turns out he’s the one put to the test. He knows the correct answer, but the real test is, “Will he do what he knows to do?” Builds the contrast between obligation (“Who is my neighbor, exactly?”) and opportunity (“who proved to be a neighbor?”).
75. Teach us To Pray. Luke 11:1-13. Jesus teaches the disciples not only how to pray, but why to pray, and promises them that the one who answers prayer and sends his Holy Spirit is not anything at all like a grumbling neighbor roused out of bed in the middle of a night. A humorous look at a serious subject: the importance of prayer.
76. The Cheated Brother and the Rich Fool. Luke 12:13-21. A young man rudely interrupts Jesus’ teaching to ask him to intervene in his family inheritance squabble. Jesus declines to intervene, but gives the man something to think about, and us as we read along! The (poor) cheated brother and the rich fool may not seem to be alike, but they share a common problem, and Jesus points them and us the way to a solution: become rich toward God!
77. The Master Who Serves. Luke 12:22-38. This beguiling passage is filled with short parables and metaphors to help us understand the surprising nature of the Kingdom and its King, who expects servants to be ready for service and when he finds them thus, he sits them down and he serves them! Amazing!
78. Parties and Priorities. Luke 14:1, 7-24. A look at hosting and guesting from an upside-down kingdom perspective. While reciprocity and seeking places of honor is normal banquet behavior, Jesus recommends radical generosity and seeking place of service, in order to reap even greater rewards.
79. Count the Cost. Luke 9:51-57, 14:25-33. A look at practical guidance about counting the cost of discipleship. Jesus met up with many who liked the idea of being a disciple, but hadn’t considered the suffering, the conflict with loved ones, the hardships that might follow. Jesus ultimately wants disciples to follow him, but with eyes wide open, so they can keep the commitments they make, for their own sakes.
80. The Shrewd Manager. Luke 16:1-9. This confusing parable seems to have Jesus commending dishonesty and telling us to be more like the manager in this story who pilfers his masters resources. But the twist comes when we see that the manager knows something we often forget!
81. The Rich Man and Lazarus. Luke 16:19-31. This story is an negative example of the previous parable: the rich man did not use his wealth to make friends for himself, and it turned out to be a costly error indeed. What can we learn that the rich man failed to learn, and will we learn it in time?
82. How to Pray So that God Hears You. Luke 18:1-14. The widow prays, and in her persistence, is given justice from an unjust judge. The Pharisee “prays” but makes no request, only brags before God and others about all he has done to impress one and all. The tax collector is not very impressive, and beats his breast in shame. But his prayer gets the job done!
83. The King’s Business. Luke 19:11-27. The parable of the minas, where each servant is given the same amount, but because of their faithfulness and ingenuity, they come back with different amounts. One servant resists and resents the King, and some people try to revolt against the King. Who is right? What kind of man is he?
84. Distraction and Focus. Luke 10:38-42. Martha and her sister Mary welcome Jesus into their home, but the evening does not go smoothly. How does a woman who so clearly loves and desires to honor Jesus end up being rude to her Lord in frustration at her sister?
90. Preparation for the Kingdom. Mark 1:1-20. The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. With these words Mark begins his gospel, and he sets out to write the beginning of the greatest story ever told, one that is still being written in the lives of his disciples today. What will be written today?
91. The Healing Touch of God. Mark 1:40-2:17. Mark shows us three stories of people who have been touched by Jesus, and each is healed and changed in ways that impact how they relate to other people. The interplay between healing and relationships is explored in this study.
92. New Wineskins for Fresh Wine. Mark 2:18-3:6. The conflict between the Old and the New heats up as Jesus is scrutinized for healing on the sabbath and his disciples are accused of not fasting like other religious people. Jesus says that the New Wine of the Holy Spirit needs to be put into fresh skins. This is a look at the tendency of fresh newness to become old and crusty, leading to a need for periodic renewal.
93. Concentric Circles of Intimacy. Mark 3:7-19. Jesus called people to join his ministry, he appointed 12 as apostles, and he renamed his closest 3 with fitting and intimate nicknames. We too have circles of intimacy and can learn from Jesus’ model as we think about how we invest time in the relationships in our own lives.
94. The Secret of the Kingdom. Mark 4:1-34. Jesus speaks in parables about why he speaks in parables. It is a mystery for those who don’t have the Secret! But for his disciples (then and now), who understand the importance of Jesus’ words, the secret is meant to be revealed. Ask good questions, act on what you do understand, pay attention, and bear good fruit!
95. Fear and Faith: The Two Storms. Mark 4:35-5:20. Jesus calms the storm on the lake, and he calms a storm in the man with a legion of demons. The first of two lessons in fear and faith.
96. Fear and Faith: The Two Daughters. Mark 5:21-43. Jesus heals a private woman publicly, and a public man’s daughter he heals privately. Emotional ups and downs for everyone concerned, but at the end, joy and peace and lessons about the value of listening to the whole story. The second of two lessons in fear and faith.
97. Ministry and Rest. Mark 6:30-52. The disciples were promised rest, but instead of being flexible, they fixated, resisted and resented the day that came instead. Follow the disciples path to hard hearts, and learn from their mistakes instead of repeating them!
98. Second Chance Ministry. Mark 6:35-44, 8:1-10. Jesus invites the disciples into ministry—the feeding of the 5000—and they fail because of their poor attitude. He gives them a second chance a month or two later and they seemed to have learned their lesson. Hope for all of us who have early ministry failures and need grace to be given a second chance.
99. Listen to Him! Mark 8:21-9:8. Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ, but gets a little snippy when Jesus starts to tell the disciples that being the Christ involves suffering, rejection, death and resurrection. Then Peter probably wishes he had said nothing, because Jesus calls him Satan, and finally their Heavenly Father God speaks from the sky saying, “This is my son, Listen to Him!”
100.Only By Prayer. Mark 9:9-29. Jesus teaches his disciples a lesson in dependence on him through the power of prayer. They’ve healed before, but this time they are unable to do so. Why? They Ask. Because, it turns out, they didn’t pray.
101. Have Salt in Yourselves. Mark 9:30-10:16. This obscure admonition by Jesus is actually at the heart of being at peace with your colleagues, your family, your spouse! How to avoid divorce and other rancor through seeing yourself and others properly.
102. Wealth and the Kingdom of God. Mark 10:17-31. A tender look at a tense interaction, as the disciples watch Jesus make every evangelistic mistake you can make, sending a sincere seeker away sad, and one who might very well have been able to fund our ministry! But Jesus has tender words for his disciples, who he calls children, even when they are stunned by his seemingly harsh words for the sincere young man. What happens to him? Is there any hope for him, or for any of us who also have been blessed by circumstances and upbringing with multiple options and abundant resources?
103 . The Servant’s Question. Mark 10:32-55. Jesus asks the Servant’s Question to James and John, and later to Bartimaeus, the blind beggar. Their very different requests, and Jesus different responses, says it all!
104. The Fig Tree and the Temple. Mark 11:7-25. Apparently, Jesus is really angry with that fig tree! Or perhaps he’s trying to teach something fundamental to his disciples about prayer and the temple. First, assume Jesus knows what he’s doing. He’s actually pretty brilliant.
105. Render to Caesar, Render to God. Mark 11:27-12:17. Jesus marches into the temple and acts like its his home. This causes problems for the religious leaders, who feel he’s taking their turf. He runs circles around them while extending his point that they have failed to properly render the fruit of the vineyard to the owner of the vineyard. Jesus challenges leadership abuse.
106 . Acceptable Offerings. Mark 12:38-44, 14:3-11. Two offerings by unnamed women, one rich, one poor, one trifling, one extravagant. Others around them scoff or neglect their devotion, but Jesus observes true worship, and a beautiful sacrifice. Look through Jesus’ eyes and see what he sees in these women.
107. Birthpangs and Death Throes. Mark 13:1-37. A look at the “Little Apocalypse,” Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple, and his discussion about the signs, the suffering, and the cataclysm. He also briefly touches on the end of the world, which has no signs, just a warning to stay alert.
108. The Two Trials. Mark 14:53-72. Peter earlier made a bold boast that while other disciples would abandon Jesus, Peter never would. Mark shows us the stark contrast between Jesus’ truth and Peter’s false witness as Peter faces and fails his trial while innocent Jesus is being condemned. The ironies abound!
109 . The Ransom and the Model. Mark 15:1-39. On the day of Jesus’ death, two men who had never met Jesus had their lives transformed by chance encounters that day. One carried Jesus cross, while the other one was supposed to have been killed on that cross. Jesus took his place. Two men, two different destinies. Both are human parables of the central role of the cross in the life of a believer.
110. The Faithful Women. John 20:1-18, Mark 16:1-8. The gospels all tell us that Jesus’ first appearance, after his resurrection, was to women, who were at the time viewed as unreliable witnesses. Why did Jesus appear to Mary, when Peter and John, two of Jesus’ most illustrious disciples had been there at the tomb moments prior? Mary was one of several faithful women who did not desert him as he went through his suffering and death.
111 . Power to Become Children. John 1:1-23. John’s prologue to his gospel and his introduction to the ministry of John the Baptist. We see the centrality of the person of Jesus, and are invited to join John the Baptist in being a signpost to the light, one who points people to the truth and glory of the one and only Son of the Father.
112 . Come and See. John 1:35-51. Jesus invites these early disciples to “Come and see” but they are the ones who are seen, really seen, by Jesus. They learn of his power and authority, but also of his goodness, in these first few days. Their experience has them hoping for more, and Jesus says, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”
113 . The Hospitality of God. John 2:1-11. Jesus’ first miracle, in the gospel of John, is performed at a wedding, turning water into wine. In John, the miracles are like parables, in that they carry multiple meanings. We explore the meaning of this dramatic parable, understanding the importance Jesus places on human relationships.
114 . Life and Death. John 11:1-7, 17-44. Jesus’ friend Lazarus dies, and because he loves Lazarus and his sisters, he stays two more days before going to visit. How is his delay and subsequent visit an act of love? Why does he weep with Mary when they will all be rejoicing a few minutes later? A powerful story about God’s care in the midst of grief and disappointment.
115. Crisis, Anxiety and Faith. John 13:31-14:21. “Don’t be anxious, believe in God, believe in me.” Jesus calls the disciples to active faith ahead of their greatest crisis of faith. It will be painful, he says, but eventually, their sorrow will turn to joy. So don’t lose heart.
116. Bear Lasting Fruit. John 15:1-17. Jesus’ beloved parable of the Vine and the Branches is a call to be a fruitful disciple. What is the fruit of a life of discipleship? Love, joy, obedience, answered prayer, abundance! What is required? Abide in Jesus!
117. Glorify the Son. John 17:1-26. Jesus prays his prayer publicly so that his disciples know what his priorities are for them. Wow: he shares his glory with them? What does that mean? Its pretty great and its implications are even better!
119. The Happy Disciples. Matthew 5:1-16. How can people so needy be described as happy? And actually, be told they should rejoice and be glad as they suffer persecution? Jesus’ poetic and enigmatic Sermon opens with the command to “let your light shine!” Part 1 of a 5 Part Sermon on the Mount Series.
120. Be Perfect. Matthew 5:17-48. How did Jesus relate to the Old Testament Law? Jesus said he came to fulfil it, not to abolish it. Is he laying down an even stricter legalism than that of the Pharisees? That is what is sounds like, but of course with Jesus things are not usually what they seem. Part 2 of a 5 Part Sermon on the Mount Series.
121. Virtue Signaling and Prayer Closets. Matthew 6:1-18. Can you believe people in Jesus’ day performed spiritual rituals and acts just to be seen by others? I know, it is hard to imagine. Actually, the hypocrisy with which we are familiar in our day was commonplace in Jesus’ time also. Part 3 of a 5 Part Sermon on the Mount Series.
122. God’s Job and Our Job. Matthew 6:19-34. Don’t worry, don’t be anxious. Can this seemingly superficial advice point us to a deeper trust in God to provide for our daily needs? Part 4 of a 5 Part Sermon on the Mount Series.
123. Do Unto Others. Matthew 7:1-29. Fulfilling the Golden Rule is a steep hill to climb, unless you are praying for God to work in the lives of your friends. And a reminder of just how hard it is to follow Jesus’ words, but how very important it is to do so. Part 5 of a 5 Part Sermon on the Mount Series.
124 . Hidden Kingdom. Matthew 13:31-35, 44-53. The pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in the field, the little bit of leaven, the tiniest of all seeds, the mustard seed. These images and the others in this passage describe a kingdom reality that is often subtle or unseen, and must be waited upon with patience.
125 . Impossible Debts and Heroic Forgiveness. Matthew 18:19-35. Peter thinks he’s being heroic by offering to forgive his brother seven times, but Jesus’ standard is much higher: 77 times! He tells a story that can only be understood as slapstick comedy—the numbers are astronomical and the characters non-sensical! But in the end, it all makes sense of the nature of forgiveness, if only we learn what the poor servant never did.
126 . The Last Will Be First. Matthew 19-27-30, 20:1-16. The parable of the workers in the vineyard shows people who are paid the same wage but have a very different experience of the generosity and mercy of the landowner. Peter thinks of himself as first, but Jesus warns that the first will be last, and the last first. The question for Peter and for us: Are you first, or last?
127. The Missionary Task. Matthew 28:16-20, Acts 1:1-9. The two passages where Jesus talks about what the disciples are to do to complete the missionary task. What is the missionary task and how will it be completed?
128. The Glory of the Children of God. Romans 8:18-39. Paul reflects on the meaning of the cross for our own lives, helping us understand our own suffering in light of the cross and in light of future glory. We know God works all things for good because he showed us how he does it with the story of the cross of Christ. Things look terrible now, but God will use those to create something beautiful, even glorious, according to Paul.
131. Creed in Crisis. Psalm 73. The psalmist’s simple faith is challenged as he sees the wicked and arrogant prosper. He envies their easy success and rich lives, while he struggles. He almost loses all faith until he steps into the sanctuary and lifts his eyes toward heaven. Then, the fog clears and he sees more clearly. His self-pity and envy is driven away, and he again is able to rejoice in God.
132 . Realms and Rulers. Genesis 1:1-2:3. God deals with the starting problem of formless emptiness by first creating the forms, the structures, and then by filling those empty structures. He creates realms (day and night, sky and sea, land) and provides those realms with rulers (the sun and moon, humanity). How do we humans, created in his image, continue his creative work today?
133 . The Groundling and His Lifesaver. Genesis 2:4-25. A second story of the creation depicts a very different image of God, not the master architect but the iterative tinkerer. God gets his hands dirty in his creative work of the adam, the groundling, and then goes about helping the adam find a suitable partner.
134 . The Fall and its Consequences. Genesis 3:1-24. With the fall comes toil and broken relationships, but also grace and mercy.
135 . Cain and the Lord’s Regard. Genesis 4:1-16. Cain’s story is iconic: envy leads to deceit and murder. Unrepented sin leads to separation from God.
136 . The Flood and the Promise. Genesis 6:5-22, 7:1; 8:18-22; 9:1-17. It would have been terrible to live at the time of the flood but it is great to live in light of the promise. Remarkable faith and memorable mercy.
137 . Towers and Altars. Genesis 11:1-9, 31-32; 12:1-9. The people of Babel sought to build a name for themselves, while Abram was given a call by God that included a promise that God would make his name great. So the Babel folks built a tower that God thwarted, while Abram built altars that proclaimed the worthiness of the Lord. Asks the question about which are we more similar to, tower builders or altar builders?
138. Judgment and Mercy. Genesis 3:8-13; 4:8-10; 6:11-13; 8:20-22; 11:1-9. The four iconic incidents of sin, judgment and mercy are examined side-by-side in this simple summary of these critical incidents from the opening chapters of Genesis.
139. Babel and Pentecost
140. How Long O Lord? Habakkuk 1:1-2:1. Habakkuk the prophet looks around his 7th Century Judah society and complains that God does not see, hear or act against injustice. God responds and says, “Look and be amazed! I’m doing work you wouldn’t believe if I told you.” And God was right, Habakkuk can’t believe it!
141. Mocking Riddles and Worshipful Silence. Habakkuk 2:1-20. God responds to Habakkuk’s two charges: If God is powerful, then he is not good. If God is good, then he is not powerful. God has a surprising answer, which comes in the form of “mocking riddles” taunting the powerful arrogant leaders, who will meet their doom in their time.
142. In Wrath Remember Mercy. Habakkuk 3:1-19. Habakkuk is drawn into worship as he reflects on God’s saving work in history, and he expresses his faith that God will judge and will save, and be merciful in his righteous dealings with human life. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.
143. A Capable Team Leader Who Can Find? Proverbs 31:10-31. This inspiring poem to the capability of an entrepreneurial wife is a great lesson for ministry leaders (of either gender) who would benefit from her leadership model.
144. God’s Glory and Eagle’s Wings. Isaiah 40:5-14, 18-31. Isaiah paints a powerful picture of the glory and majesty of God in his poetic prophecy about God’s merciful and compassionate action to gather his scattered people and restore their fortunes in Judah. Those who see his glory are transformed by it, but we can easily miss his glory and turn aside to idolatry, fear, self-pity and impatience. We need to lift up our gaze to God’s glory once again!
145. Do Not Fear. Isaiah 41:8-16, 43:1-7. Nothing erodes our confidence and faith in God more quickly than fear, which is really just faith placed in all the dangers and threats in our life, that they are more powerful than God. These passages offer the people of Israel 25 centuries ago and believers of today powerful pictures of God’s care and capability, his power and love. We are in good hands and have nothing to fear.
146. Clear Thinking About Idolatry. Isaiah 40:18-20; 41:5-7, 19-23; 44:9-20. The problem with idolatry is that, when someone is caught up in it, it is hard to think straight about it. Isaiah mocks the idol-making enterprise and displays the silliness of belief that creations of our hands can save us. Timeless reflection on idolatry.
149. The Training of a Prophet. 1 Kings 17:1-24. Elijah steps on the scene in this chapter but learns along the way how to speak for God and to cry out to God, with powerful results.
150. How to Mock an Idol. 1 Kings 18:17-40. Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel before King Ahab and the people of Israel. He proceeds to give a master class in epic idol mockery. He puts on a great show!
151. Power and Desire. 1 Kings 21:1-29, 1 Kings 19:1-18, Mark 6:14-29, Mark 9:11-13. A look at Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel and their improper use of power to satisfy their desires. What is power for, after all?
152. Desire and Power. 2 Kings 2:1-22. Elisha has only one request of Elijah on his final day before being taken up to heaven: “Give me a double dose of your spirit.” Is it OK to desire God’s power in this way? What makes it OK?
153. One Warrior, Two King, Three Servants, and Elisha. 2 Kings 5:1-19. One proud man’s unlikely healing journey. Elisha is quite different than what Naaman expects, but repeatedly God uses the lowly to humble and care for the mighty, and to direct him on his path to healing. A lesson for disciples in need of healing today.
154. Calamities Large and Small. 2 Kings 6:1-23. Elisha performs two miracles in this passage, one to recover a lost item, and one to preserve the peace in Israel against a mighty threatening army. The role of prayer in opening and closing eyes, and seeing the hidden but mighty power of God.
155. Leading When You Don’t Know What to Do. 2 Chronicles 20:1-30. King Jehoshaphat, facing the prospect of an overwhelming invading army, gathers the people of Judah together and declares before them all, in prayer to God, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” When you don’t know what to do, Jehoshaphat is a good model of what to do and how to do it.
156. Geopolitics and Idolatry (Hezekiah 1). Isaiah 7:1-9, 2 Kings 16:1-9, 2 Chronicles 28:22-25. King Ahaz keeps learning the wrong lessons as he rejects faith in Yahweh in favor of the local idols of the surrounding nations.
157. The Great Restoration (Hezekiah 2). 2 Chronicles 29: 1-30, 36. King Hezekiah of Judah, son of wicked King Ahaz, reflects on his father’s poor choices and decides to do better. He works from the inside out and he focuses on first things first. Principles of National or Organizational Renewal.
158. The Great Passover (Hezekiah 3). 2 Chronicles 30:1-27. King Hezekiah of Judah enlarges the circle of inclusion to welcome people from the Northern Kingdom, the former state of Israel and one-time enemy of Judah in the time of his father, King Ahaz. An extraordinary step toward healing the brokenness of the past.
159. God’s Commitment to his Name (Hezekiah 4). 2 Kings 18:36-19:20, 32-37; Psalm 50:14-15. Highlights from the description of Hezekiah’s leadership and prayer during the crisis with Sennacherib at the gates of Jerusalem. He called out for God in a day of trouble, and God came through.
160. The Legacy of Success (Hezekiah 5). 2 Kings 20:1-21:2. Hezekiah’s reign was largely good, and he exhibited both great leadership and great faith. Why does it seem like he didn’t end that well? A question of the leader’s legacy as seen in the organization left behind.
161. Recruitment and Resentment. Nehemiah 2:8-3:11. Nehemiah is a leader with a plan to bless the people of Jerusalem, but this plan involves their all signing up and pitching in. How does he win them to the plan? He overcomes a number of obstacles in the hearts and minds of the people, in a winsome way.
162. Opposition to Change. Nehemiah 4:1-23. After the work on the wall begins, external opposition and internal resistance to the effort mounts. How does Nehemiah address the opposition? He acts quickly to address real issues, while pointing people to trust in God. And he builds trust as a servant leader.
163. Leaders Share and Lift Burdens. Nehemiah 5:1-19, 6:15-16. When external opposition recedes, the rifts between the population working on the wall rise up, threatening the unity of the people and the progress on the wall. Nehemiah takes steps to address the injustice and to bind people to one another and the common mission, and soon the wall is completed in record time. A study in servant leadership.
164. The Humility of Moses. Exodus 32:7-14, Number 12:1-16. When Aaron and Miriam are jealous about and challenge Moses’ leadership, God speaks up for him. Scripture tells us Moses was the most humble man on the planet at the time. Really? He certainly seemed bold enough to challenge God when God was ready to wipe out Israel. How was he bold and challenging to God but also humble?