August 1: Focused Thinking
1. What does it mean to you to focus your thoughts on God? Name some specific practices that help you to do this. 2. The writer of today’s meditation says, “Studying God’s word shapes our minds and changes the way we think.” Do you agree or disagree? Give an example from your own life to support your answer. 3. Do you think memorizing scripture is important? Why or why not? What value might there be in memorizing scripture? 4. How often do you read and study the Bible? Have you ever read the Bible in its entirety from cover to cover? What was this experience like for you? Did you learn anything that you might not have learned otherwise? Is it important that Christians read the entire Bible? Do you think it is possible to know everything about the Bible? 5. When have you read something in scripture that was surprising or startling? What about frustrating? How did this change the way you read and understand scripture? How did it change your understanding of God?
August 8: New Hope
1. Talk about a time when you felt overwhelmed by the “what-ifs.” Where and to whom did you turn for strength and encouragement? What words of hope would you offer to someone overwhelmed by the “what-ifs” today? 2. When were you last so consumed by negative thoughts that you could not see all that was positive around you? What helps you focus more on the positive? 3. Today’s meditation says, “Sometimes anxiety is inevitable.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why? 4. Why is it sometimes so easy to let fear and worry overtake us? Name some things that help you deal with fear and worry in your life. Is it ever possible to eliminate fear and worry from our lives? 5. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on [God] because he cares for you” (NIV). What does it mean to cast our anxiety on God? Name some spiritual practices that can help us do this. What is to be gained by giving our worries to God?
August 15: God Is Listening
1. How important is prayer to you? How often do you think God wants us to pray? How is praying to God a privilege? 2. Do you think God has any expectations about how we pray and what we say? If so, what are they? Support your answer with scripture. In addition to prayer, in what other ways can we spend time with God? 3. How has your prayer life changed over time? What has caused it to change? How do you think it will continue to change? 4. The writer of today’s meditation asks two questions: “What are the right times to pray?” and “What is the right way to pray?” How would you answer these questions? 5. What concerns in your Christian community will you pray about in the week ahead? What will you ask God for in your prayers this week? For what will you give God thanks?
August 22: A Modern-Day Parable
1. Have you ever witnessed a “modern-day parable” such as the one described in today’s meditation? Describe the experience. 2. What is your favorite parable? Why is it your favorite? What is most significant to you about it? In what ways has it influenced you as a Christian? When has one of Jesus’ parables guided the way you responded to a situation? 3. Which of Jesus’ parables challenges you the most? How does it challenge you? What do you not understand about it? What do you admire about it? 4. Why do you think Jesus so often spoke in parables? What value is there in telling a parable over conveying information in other ways? If you could ask Jesus one question about any one of his parables, what would it be? 5. When was the last time you helped someone in need? Can you recall a time when you were reluctant to help someone? Why were you reluctant? Is there ever a time when we should not help someone?
August 29: Spiritual Fruit
1. Who has inspired and encouraged you as a Christian? In what ways did this person inspire and encourage you? For whom in your life would you like to do the same? 2. The Thought for the Day asks, “What ‘fruit’ do I want others to see in me today?” How would you answer this question? 3. Were you to choose one scripture verse to live out in your life each day, what would the verse be and why? What about this would challenge you? What would make it rewarding? 4. The writer’s colleague gave him some simple and practical ways to get through the situation. What are some simple and practical ways that help you to deal with similar situations? What difference does being a Christian make in how we approach scenarios that frustrate us and make us angry? 5. Galatians 5:22-23 refers to the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (NIV). Is one of these more important than the others? Why or why not? Which of these would you like to more fully practice in your life?
Our resolve must be different. My prayer is that we have finally reached a tipping point. My hope is that when the protests fade and the marches slow that our will as a church to truly eradicate the scourge of racism won’t dissipate but grows even stronger.”
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