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Stuck TAG Devotional

Written by Deborah Lutz and the Camp Highland Staff

Stuck: A Challenge to Live with Purpose When We’re Stuck in Uncertainty

In the last few weeks, I’ve been on more zoom meetings, FaceTimes, and phone calls than I can count, but no matter who I talk to, what I hear is the same: “I just feel stuck.” “I’m starting to go stir-crazy.” “I’m trying to trust God, but I don’t understand what he’s doing.” What about you? Are you trying to trust God and move forward, but are being weighed down by uncertainty and the anxiety of those around you? Do you feel stuck in the walls of your home and the crisis you can’t control? The great news for us as Christians walking through the COVID-19 pandemic, is that we have the example of thousands of believers who have walked through crisis before us to learn from! So our goal with this study is to strengthen your faith by giving you a community of  believers who are diving into scripture together for the purpose of studying the lives of early believers and how they lived their faith in seasons of despair and crisis. It is our hope that by studying their lives together, we build a community of believers that is not just waiting for the crisis to pass, but is seeking to be part of what God is doing in the crisis! May we be a people who push each other to grow in boldness so that we learn to truly value God’s kingdom over our comfort! 

This curriculum is very simple in design because the goal is for you to dig into scripture and not be distracted by the curriculum itself. Each day will include the passage to read, application questions, and some additional reading on the same topic for those who want to dive into the topic deeper. Remember, this curriculum is designed to be used in community; so discuss what you’re learning with your family or with friends who are reading along too. Truth always sinks in deeper to our own heart when we share it with others! Let’s dive into scripture:

Week 8:

It’s our eighth and final week of this study, because next week most of us will be studying together at camp! 

Last week, we read 1 John 2:6 that challenged us to “Walk in the same way in which He walked.” So this week, we’re going to dig into some very practical teaching on how to actually walk like Him by diving into Paul’s letters Philippians and Colossians! As we do that, I want to draw your attention  to Philippians 3:8-15 (msg paraphrase)

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.”

Whether you’re preparing your heart for serving at camp this summer or preparing for a completely different mission, we must remember that there is nothing more valuable than knowing Jesus! He himself, not just something He gives us, is the prize!

So I want to challenge you this week to live like this is actually true! Don’t just say you love Jesus, but actually live your life dedicated to knowing him more and loving him more deeply! This may mean that there are some things you need to throw out with the trash! And remember, you’ll need his help with this: humans can’t love God the way he deserves without the Holy Spirit’s help…so ask Him to teach you to love!

Monday May 25th Philippians 1

Tuesday May 26th Philippians 2

Wednesday May 27th Philippians 3

Thursday May 28th Philippians 4

Friday May 29th Colossians 1

Saturday May 30th Colossians 2

Sunday May 31st Colossians 3-4

Week 7:

Can you believe we’re already halfway through May and on Week 7 of our Stuck study! Crazy! 

As we continue figuring out the “new normal,” the thing people have asked me to pray for most often is patience: patience with people we’re still quarantined with, patience with the slow reopening process, patience with how unknown the future still is. Sometimes the hardest place to practice patience is with God; especially when we don’t understand his method or his timing. So as we jump into studying 2 Peter, I want to share with you the passage that has completely changed the way I view patience…

A couple summers ago, I was waiting on a very important decision. Patience was excruciating because the situation was in my face daily, yet I felt like God made it pretty clear that I needed to not make a decision on it for six months. About halfway through that waiting period, I remember telling God that it was so tough to trust him and be patient with his timing. Then I opened to my daily bible reading and encountered this verse:

8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9

I had read 2 Peter many times before this, but that day it hit me in a way it never had before! I realized that what I thought was me being patient with God was actually him demonstrating his patience with me! He didn’t need more time to get his act together, but he loved me too much to allow me to walk into a situation I wasn’t prepared for yet! We often forget that deep healing and growth takes significant amounts of time. We want God to just throw our hearts in a microwave and “fix us” so that we can move on and not deal with the painful process of him reshaping our hearts. We desire comfort more than we desire true healing and intimacy with our Father. 

Reading this completely changed the way I was praying. I went from praying “How long, God” and “Please hurry up,” to thanking God for being willing to move slowly and work at the pace my human heart needed. I’ve realized how thankful I should be that he loves me too much to give me what I want when it’s not his best or the best timing!

Later in this same chapter, Peter challenges the believers:

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him.”    2 Peter 3:14-15

So let’s take this as our challenge for this week: As we wait, be diligent to pursue holiness and intimacy with Jesus, and thank God for his patience and his wise timing that is so much better than ours!

Daily Reading Plan for Week 7 

Monday May 18th: 2 Peter 1

Tuesday May 19th: 2 Peter 2-3

Wednesday May 20th: 1 John 1 and John 1:1-18

Thursday May 21st: 1 John 2

Friday May 22nd: 1 John 3

Saturday May 23rd: 1 John 4

Sunday May 24th: 1 John 5

Resources as you read:

Overview of 2nd Peter:
Overview of 1st John:
Francis Chan on 1 John 2:6 (3 min)

Week 6:

This week, we’re beginning our study in the book of James and then wrapping up with Habakkuk. In my Bible, James chapter 1 is one of the most highlighted, underlined, and wrinkled pages because no matter what season of life I am in, the truth of this chapter always seems to hit home! James 1:2-4 is one of the most famous biblical passages on endurance in suffering …

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 In my Bible, I’ve written a note immediately after verse 4… “No matter how long it takes 11/18” Here’s the backstory on this note… 

During the fall of 2018, I walked through one of the deepest seasons of depression that I’ve ever experienced. Depression was not a new battle, but I’d never walked through a season where my struggle with it had been quite that long or intense. I remember confessing to one of my friends that I was terrified of running out of endurance and that I just didn’t understand why God was allowing the fight to continue for so long without relief! I was doing everything I knew to do to be faithful and dig into scripture like never before, but that didn’t seem to change my circumstances or my mental state.

 A couple days later, my friend came back to me and read me this passage, especially emphasizing the command to “Let steadfastness have its full effect.” He reminded me that God was fully in control of my circumstances and that He knew exactly how long the battle needed to rage for His purpose in me to be accomplished. The timing wasn’t an accident; it was absolutely intentional! There is just no microwave effect on developing endurance, steadfastness, and intimacy with the Lord. My friend challenged me to desire God’s deep work in me more than I desired relief, and to trust Him to know how much I could endure. The conversation was so impactful that I immediately found my Bible and wrote the note to remind myself that knowing Jesus more intimately and allowing Him to work in me is fully worth every bit of long-suffering! I can’t tell you how many times since then I’ve revisited that passage to be encouraged and challenged by it! … (By the way, that season is one I now look back on with so much thankfulness as I see that God taught me so much through it about his character and my identity in him. I’m so thankful that God did not rescue me from it in my timing)!

So as we move into another week of the COVID-19 crisis and face the uncertainty of trying to find a new normal as things reopen, let’s remember this challenge…” “Let steadfastness have it’s full effect!” Stay rooted in scripture and strong community. Keep praying with courage, hope, and surrender. Be patient with God’s timing… and know that you’re not alone in any of it.

As we get closer to summer camp, I’m needing to spend more time on preparation for camp and less time writing curriculum. We considered ending Stuck TAG before staff training to allow our full time team more time for summer prep, but we didn’t want to lose the opportunity to be united as a CH Family by reading the same scripture and discussing it together. Our solution is to still offer a reading plan, but to leave off the detailed discussion questions. We hope you understand the need for this change, and that you’ll stick with us as we keep encouraging each other during this challenging season. 

One final note, I’ve included short clips with Tim Keller on the Habakkuk readings. I think these videos will greatly deepen your understanding of what you’re reading, and challenge you to apply it in this specific season of COVID-19! Please don’t skip them!

I encourage you to get background info before you jump into these books of scripture!

Background on James:
Background on Habakkuk:

Day 36: (Monday May 11th) Read James 1

Day 37: (Tuesday May 12th) Read James 2

Day 38: (Wednesday May 13th) Read James 3 and 4

Day 39: (Thursday May 14th) Read James 5

Day 40: (Friday May 15th) Read Habakkuk 1
And watch

Day 41: (Saturday May 16th) Read Habakkuk 2
And watch

Day 42: (Sunday May 17th) Read Habakkuk 3
And watch

Week 5:

It’s a new month, and with some states beginning the reopening process there’s a bit of new hope! While some things are new, most of us are still stuck in the reality that life will not be “normal” for a long time. 

A few weeks ago, I was reading Psalms 13. It begins with David’s cry to God asking the question we’ve probably all asked: “How long, O Lord?” Three quarters of the Psalm continues in this refrain asking God when he will intervene, but the final verses seem to hold the answer:

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation! I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

When I read this in early April, it struck me in a way it never has before. It was as if God answered David’s question (and mine) of “How long?” by saying “However long this lasts, my steadfast love will outlast it!” And even though it wasn’t the answer I thought I wanted, I realized that it was the answer I needed! So as we walk into this new week together I want to remind you of the promise of Lamentations 3. A promise written in a time of extreme hardship and sorrow: 

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,”therefore I will hope in him.”The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3: 21-26

So let’s remember that God himself is our portion, our inheritance, and knowing him more is completely worth the cost! We can also rest in the knowledge that his steadfast love will outlast every circumstance, emotion, and heartbreak we face! We know that he is good, and that he is working as we are waiting patiently. So keep calling this back to your mind: you have hope because of his steadfast love!

Day 29 (Monday, May 4th) Read  Acts 19 and 1 Peter 3:8-12
(Additional Reading: James 4:13-17, Proverbs 3:5-8, Psalm 146, Romans 12:17-21)

1. The sons of Sceva got into trouble because they tried to use God’s power to get what they wanted without having a relationship with God. Are you trying to use God to accomplish your will, or are you relating to him and learning to do his will? Do you have an active personal relationship with God, or are you still coming to God through the faith of your parents, pastor, or friend? 

2. Acts consistently shows us that God gets glory and grows his church even when people try to abuse his power or persecute his church. Do you trust that he knows what he is doing and can get glory out of your present circumstances, or is your hope based on your circumstances changing? 

3. Demetrius gets angry when Paul exposes that “god’s made of hands” are not actually God. It seems crazy to us to think of people worshipping something they’ve made, but we actually do this frequently: putting confidence in the money we’ve earned, reputation we’ve built, work ethic we’ve developed, or relationships we’ve worked at. Are there things you’ve made or events you’ve orchestrated that you’re putting your trust in?just look at where most of your disappointment has come from in this season. This will likely point to the things that have held most of your hope.

4. I Peter 3 tells us to walk in unity and humility. It tells us to respond with love even when we’re being treated poorly. How can you apply this today, especially with the people you’re quarantined with? 

Day 30 (Tuesday, May 5th) Read Acts 20 and  1 Peter 3:13-22
(Additional Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, 1 Peter 2:9-10, Matthew 28: 18-20)

1. It amazes me that even when Paul’s just been threatened by a mob and is running for his life, he finds time to intentionally encourage other believers! What can you do to intentionally encourage others today? Are there habits you want to put in place so that encouraging others becomes an intentional part of your lifestyle?

2. In Acts 20:20 Paul tells of how he refused to shrink back from sharing the gospel even when it cost him dearly. Then, in verse 24, he says that his life has no value in itself, but only in his mission to spread the good news of God’s grace. Wow! What a perspective on his purpose! What do you believe is your purpose? Is your lifestyle in line with what you were made for? 

3. 1 Peter tells us to always be prepared to explain the hope that is in you, but to do it with gentleness and respect. Does your life display hope that will make people curious? Are you prepared to explain to people where your hope comes from?

Day 31 (Wednesday, May 6th) Read Acts 21-22:29 and 1 Peter 4:1-11
(Additional Reading: Luke 22:39-46, 1 Corinthians 12:12- 13:13)

1. Paul tells his friends that he is ready to be imprisoned or even face death for the name of Jesus, and then the church all prays for God’s will to be done! Wow! Are you willing to pray for God’s will regardless of what his answering that prayer may cost you? Do you trust his heart towards you enough to pray that way and mean it?

2. Paul uses his opportunity to offer a defense for himself to instead preach the gospel. Like Stephen, he doesn’t cheapen the gospel to please people, but shares truth regardless of the cost! How are you representing God and the good news in this season? Are you giving cheap answers and making empty promises of praying for people, or are you digging into people’s suffering with them even if it costs you time, comfort, and your reputation? 

3. 1 Peter 4 tells us that we should use the gifts God has given us to serve each other. How are you doing that today? (How are you using the resources, strengths, knowledge you have to make others better and bring them closer to Jesus?)

4. We are told to serve by God’s strength and not our own so that God gets the glory in everything. Do people look at your life and glorify God, or do they just look at you and get impressed with how great you are? What does your answer to that question tell you about yourself?

Day 32 (Thursday, May 7) Read Acts 22:30- 24 and 1 Peter 4:12-19
(Additional Reading: James 1:22-27, Mark 10:17-27, John 16:31-33)

1. In Acts 24, Paul describes how he strives to keep his conscience clear in how he relates to God and people, and claims that even his fiercest enemies cannot prove anything against his character. Then in 1 Peter 4, we see Peter challenge the church to suffer as Christians but not as wrongdoers so that our suffering causes us no shame and brings God glory! Take a look at your own suffering. What part of your suffering is the consequence of unwise or sinful actions, and what part is actually suffering for Christ? 

2. Felix is a perfect example of someone who flirts with knowledge of God and the gospel, but keeps choosing money and popularity over acting on the truth of the gospel. Are there truths that you know but haven’t acted on yet? Are there areas of your life that you’re aware you haven’t really surrendered to God yet? What’s holding you back from going all in?

3. 1 Peter 4:12 tells us not to be surprised at suffering and that we should actually rejoice in it knowing that it will result in God’s glory! How would your actions change if you expected suffering and even rejoiced in it?

4. 1 Peter 4:19 shows us that the secret of suffering successfully is to continually trust our souls over to our faithful creator as we continue to walk faithfully ourselves. Spend some time now rehearsing how God has already been faithful to you and praise him for it! Then ask him how you can be faithful today!

Day 33 (Friday, May 8th) Read  Acts 25-26 and 1 Peter 5:1-11
(Additional Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:10-31, 2 corinthians 6:18-20)

1. Festus thought that Paul must have literally gone crazy because he believes the good news of the resurrection! Are you willing to hold to the truth of the gospel even if it means people think you are small-minded, ignorant, or intolerant for believing it? 

2. 1 Peter 5:7 is one of the most famous verses used to combat anxiety, but notice the verses that come right before it…casting your anxiety on God can only truly be done if you’re first clothed in humility. Only in submitting to God’s control and surrendering your own can you experience the freedom of walking without anxiety! Have you humbled yourself, or are you still seeking control of circumstances?

3. 1 Peter encourages us to stand firm in our faith knowing that our brothers around the world are also experiencing suffering. Have you prayed for your brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering? One of the ways God strengthens his kingdom through suffering is by unifying the church as we support each other in challenging times.

Day 34 (Saturday, May 9th) Read Acts 27-28 
(Additional Reading: Philippians 1:12-18, Genesis 45:4-15)

1. In Acts 27:25 Paul tells everyone on the ship “I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I’ve been told.” That’s an incredible statement considering that they’d been caught in the storm for two straight weeks and everyone else on board had completely given up hope! Do you have hope in God’s promise even when circumstances look impossible? What promises are you clinging to in this time?
*Make sure that the promises you’re clinging to are scripture you’re reading in context of the passage as a whole and cross-referenced with other scripture. Many people become disillusioned with God when they take a verse out of context and think God is promising ease and success. It’s not God that has failed in this case, but it’s our false understanding of him that’s left us disappointed!

2. Notice that even after enduring imprisonment, a shipwreck, and a venomous snake bite, Paul is still intentional about spreading the gospel to those on the island where he is and caring for their needs. How are you caring for those currently on your island right now? *These might be people actually stuck with you, or those you can contact. Are you allowing your own challenges to make you become self-focused, or are you still focused on your ultimate purpose in this time?

3. We read that Paul worked diligently explaining the gospel from morning until evening. Some believed, but many rejected him, yet that didn’t stop Paul from moving on to share with others who might listen. Are you being faithful to plant truth wherever you are, or are you allowing rejection to stop you?

4. Acts ends by telling us that Paul continued to teach about Jesus with boldness and without hindrance, yet we know that Paul was a prisoner during this time. In Philippians, we learn that because of being imprisoned, Paul was able to share the gospel with the entire imperial guard! Clearly he saw prison as a new setting to share the gospel, but not as a hindrance to it!Do you respond to your current limitations as part of God’s plan in your life, or do you see them as a hindrance to God’s plan?

Day 35: (Sunday, May 10th) Suggested Reading: Psalms 16

Like other Sundays, I want to leave today open for you to go back and meditate on what you’ve already read. Be faithful to pray through it so that you’re a doer of the word and not just someone who hears good things, forgets, and remains unchanged.

 If you don’t have another passage you’re wanting to explore, I do want to encourage you to read through Psalm 16 and meditate on its promises…

Now, I’m praying Romans 15:5-6 over you. Remember you worship the God of endurance and encouragement!

Week 4:

We’re almost to the end of April; can you believe it! I know that I’ve been greatly encouraged by this time of studying scripture together, and I hope that you have been too! 

As we enter a new week, I want to share a passage  from Romans 12 with you. In my bible, this section is labeled as “Marks of a True Christian”

“9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,[a] serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

In light of this, I want to challenge you to fight for consistency in these things, no matter what this week holds…

  1. Think about who you’re becoming in this season and be intentional about what you’re planting in yourself. Fight apathy!
  2. Reach out to those around you and don’t allow yourself to become consumed with your own struggles or search for comfort/purpose.
  3. Practice aggressive thanksgiving! This will fuel your confidence in God and strengthen your relationship with him.
  4. Pray often! Pray with raw honesty and hope in God’s goodness, but also surrender your own understanding of what is good and ask for God’s will to be done!

This week, we’ll continue our study of the early church in the book of Acts, but also couple it with studying Peter’s letter to the early church. This way, we get to study not only the actions of early Christians, but also the beliefs that fueled those heroic actions in the face of intense opposition. I hope you’re both encouraged and challenged by their example!

Day 22: (Monday April 27) Read Acts 12 and 1 Peter 1:1-12
(Additional Reading: Proverbs 15:8, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Hebrews 4:16, James 4:6-10)

In Acts 12, we read that Herod takes both James and Peter into custody intent on killing them to earn favor with the Jewish leaders. Herod did kill James, but God intervened miraculously saving Peter in dramatic fashion! We aren’t told why God chose to get glory through the deaths of James and Stephen, but chose to glorify himself by delivering Peter. What we do know is that God was glorified and the church grew both when Christians were cruelly martyred and miraculously delivered! This is one of those times when we have to trust God’s heart, even though we don’t have the capacity to understand his method! But how can we be confident that his heart is really good, and that he’s not just a cruel puppet master manipulating us for his own enjoyment? To answer that question, look at the cross and see that God personally knows the extreme pain caused by not intervening in suffering for the sake of his greater plan of redemption. Because God allowed his son to suffer, we know that the suffering we do face is temporary! His suffering has purchased us access to a living hope and an inheritance that can’t be taken away!

Application Questions:

1. Do you allow your circumstances to shape your view of God’s character or do you choose to let his proven character shape your view of your circumstances? 

2. In Acts 12: 5, we see that the church responded to persecution by intense prayer. Even though they knew that God was sovereign and would respond according to what he knew was best, they still felt the responsibility to intercede for God’s will . Remember, God delights in hearing our prayers and in allowing his children to be part of the process of his work! Are you being faithful to intercede for our world and the people in your life, or are you neglecting prayer because you figure it won’t change anything anyway?

3. We see that Herod is constantly motivated by trying to impress other people, and he eventually succeeds so much that the people literally praise him as if he were deity! But then we see that his people pleasing tendencies and pride are what lead to his ultimate destruction! Are there ways that you’re allowing your desire for approval and your pride to destroy your identity as God’s child?

Day 23: (Tuesday April 28th) Read Acts 13 and 1 Peter 1:13-25
(Additional Reading: Mark 10:17-31, Esther 4:13-14, Hebrews 10:19-25)

1. In verse 2, The Holy Spirit calls the church to set Barnabas and Saul apart for a new mission. This must have felt like a great loss for the church at Antioch to let go of two of their most instrumental leaders at a time when they were already experiencing so much loss due to persecution. But we read that the church responded with obedience. When God’s will brings change and loss into your life do you respond with obedience and trust, or do you cling to what you have?

2. At the end of Chapter 13, we see that even though the opposition of the Jewish leaders couldn’t stop the spread of the gospel, their jealousy and pride did make them miss out on God’s redemption in their own lives! God is going to work in our world through the pandemic, but are you allowing him to work in you during this season? Are you allowing anything to get in the way of you being part of his work? (apathy, doubt, anxiety, envy)

3. 1 Peter 1:13 tells us to be preparing our minds for action, and to refocus our hope fully on God’s grace through Jesus. How are you using this quiet season to prepare your mind for action and refocus your hope?

Day 24: (Wednesday April 29th) Read Acts 14 and 1 Peter 2:1-9
(Additional Reading: Hebrews 12:1-2 and 14-15, Psalms 63:1, Psalms 42:1-2)

1. In chapter 12, we saw that Herod’s pride destroyed him after he allowed himself to be praised as a God. In chapter 14, we see Paul and Barnabas use the people’s praise as an opportunity to share the gospel. You’ve likely never been worshipped as God, but we all have a following of some kind!  How do you use the platform you have in people’s lives? Do you use your influence to advance the gospel or to advance yourself?

2. In verse 19, we see that Paul’s enemies finally succeed in getting people to stone him. Even more amazing than Paul’s recovery from the attempted murder, is the fact that he immediately gets up and goes to the next town to preach the gospel! Paul would have been completely justified in being angry, but he stayed so fully focused on his mission to spread the gospel that he allowed himself no time to sit in bitterness or plot revenge. Are you spending your time and energy on petty disagreements? Are you allowing your heart to stay stuck in bitterness, or are you allowing the Lord to heal you so that you can move on with your true purpose?

*(I’m not suggesting that we should cover up legitimate issues or fail to address real scars. We need to address them, but there is a difference in taking time to heal and in sitting in despair and unforgiveness so that it becomes a weight that holds you back from living the truth of the gospel)

3. 1 Peter 2:2 tells believers that if they’ve truly accepted the gospel they should be hungry for spiritual growth. Are you hungering to know God more, or are you satisfied to stay where you are? Is hunger for Jesus a primary motivation for how you’re spending your time in this season?

Day 25: (Thursday April 30th) Read Acts 15- 16:5 and 1 Peter 2:9-12
(Additional Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, Ephesians 4:1-16, Romans 15:1-3, 1 Corinthians 8-9)

1. Because they didn’t want to distract from the message of the gospel by emphasizing non-essential issues like circumcision, the Jerusalem Council decided that Gentile believers should not be required to follow Jewish customs in addition to foundational moral guidelines. Are you staying focused on the truth of the Gospel and it’s call to holiness, or are you getting sidetracked with non-essential details? Are you allowing non-essential things to destroy your unity with other believers?  

*Especially in a season where we are stuck with the same people constantly, it’s easy to get sidetracked by disagreements that don’t matter. Let’s be people who care more about relationships being right than in proving ourselves right! 

2. Even though Paul clearly preached that circumcision is not needed for salvation, he encouraged Timothy to be circumcised so that his lack of circumcision did not become a distraction from the gospel to the Jews they were preaching to. Are there things in your life that aren’t inherently sinful, but you know could become a distraction for people around you? Is clinging to your freedom worth risking your testimony for Christ? 

3. 1 Peter 2:12 encourages believers to live a life that is so honorable that when people dig into your secrets to try to expose you they end up having to glorify God instead. What does the way that you live on a daily basis say to people about who you are and who you serve?

Day 26: (Friday May 1st) Read  Acts 16:6-40 and 1 Peter 2:13-17 
(Additional reading: 1 Chronicles 16:23-31, Romans 13:1-7, 1 Timothy 2:1-3)

1. Paul and Silas praised God even after being unfairly accused, beaten, and imprisoned. Their praise shows how much they trusted God’s character and his will even when they couldn’t understand what he was doing in their lives. What are things you can praise God for right now as you work to build your confidence in him?

2. Instead of being discouraged about all the people they couldn’t reach in prison, Paul and Silas focused on ministering to the people they were present with, how can you be an encouragement and help to the people you are with during this crisis? Get specific here. Name the names of those you can serve or contact and ask God how you should encourage them.

3. Peter’s command to submit to the government and those in authority is amazing in light of how government and religious leaders were harassing the early church! How well are you honoring the authority in your life right now? (parents, professors, bosses, government, etc.) Does the way you respond to and pray for those in charge show that you trust God’s sovereignty even if you can’t always trust the people themselves?

Day 27: (Saturday May 2nd) Read Acts 17-18 and 1 Peter 2:18-25
(Additional Reading: Romans 5:1-5, 1 Peter 4:1-2,12-13, Galatians 6:2,9-10)

1. In Acts 17, we’re told that Paul was trying to explain to the Jews why it was necessary for Christ to suffer. Then in 1 Peter we’re told that we are actually called to follow in Christ’s example of suffering, and that we should endure this by constantly entrusting ourselves to God’s justice. Wow, we’re called to suffer! How does that change your view of what feels like unjust suffering and unexpected disappointments in your life?

2. We’re told that the people of Berea were more noble than those in Thessalonica because of how diligently they studied scripture for themselves to determine if what Paul was preaching was truth. Do you diligently study scripture, or do you check off the box of reading and then base your understanding of scripture on other people’s interpretation? *Christian community and discipleship is incredibly valuable, but shouldn’t be a substitute for personal spiritual disciplines

3. Throughout Acts 17-18 many believers are mentioned who assisted Paul and Silas in their efforts to spread the gospel and establish new churches. It seems that the encouragement and service of these fellow believers was one of the primary reasons that Paul and Silas were able to endure extreme persecution and focus on their mission to spread the gospel. Do you have people in your life that offer you this type of genuine encouragement and help? Are you someone that builds up the believers around you?

Week 3:

We’re another week into the challenges of COVID-19, which means most of us are in great need of patience, endurance, and encouragement. When I think of y’all and pray for you, I am reminded of Ephesians 6:10-20; particularly the part that says “And after you have done everything, to stand, stand firm then!” So when you feel like you’ve been doing everything you can to stand firm and you’re exhausted from the fight it takes to trust, keep standing! Now, we all know that’s so much easier said than done; so how do you keep standing when all you want to do is to crumple and go to sleep? The secret is in Hebrews 12: 1-3.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

This verse tells us the secret to Jesus’ endurance in the face of the greatest darkness anyone has ever faced: he fixed his gaze on us, knowing that our redemption was the prize he would gain from the cost of the cross! That’s amazing! We – you and me – were valuable enough that Jesus looked at us and said “They are worth the cross. Having them restored to a relationship with the Father is worth the wrath of God!” WOW! That kind of love changes everything! Now, his love for us becomes our motivation to take up our own cross! We were his prize, and now we look at him and know that he himself is our prize! 

So this week, when you’ve exhausted your resources of patience and endurance, look at the cross and remember what he’s already done! Remember the hope that is secure in heaven for you! (1 Peter 1) Remember that he himself, not just some good thing he gives, is the prize that you’re striving towards. (Philippians 3) He is worth it, even on the days it does not feel like it. So keep running towards him, keep standing your ground against doubt and discontent, and remember that he has already proven his love for you on the cross! 

This week, we’re going to shift from mostly studying the Old Testament, to studying Acts and the response of the early church to persecution! I hope that it challenges and encourages you!

Day 15: (Monday April 20th) Read Acts 3-4
(Additional Reading: Psalms 20:7-8, 1 Peter 1:13, Luke 9:23-27)

Application Questions:

1. In Acts 3:12, Peter’s response to the people shows that he clearly knew that this healing didn’t happen because of his own power or the perfection of his own religious lifestyle. He knew the healing came from God, and he gave credit to him, seeing everything as part of the bigger story of the gospel. How do you respond when God does something in your life or the lives of those around you? Do you take it for granted, or think that God’s goodness is just a deserved response to your own obedience? Does God’s goodness produce praise in you?

2. In Acts 4:12 Peter declares “There is salvation in no one else (other than Jesus), for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” As Christians, we say we believe this, but do you live like you believe Jesus is the only savior or do you constantly look for other things to give you purpose, identity and hope? 

3. In the next verse, we see that the people around them could tell that Peter and John had been with Jesus because of the way they acted and spoke with boldness! What do your actions tell people about how you’ve been investing your time in quarantine? 

4. Look closely at verses 23-31 and see how the believers respond to the threats and persecution. They don’t pray for safety or deliverance, but instead beg god to give them greater boldness and to advance his kingdom more. Wow! What a prayer, especially because the answer came at a very high cost to themselves! What are you praying for in this season? What do your prayers say you value most: your comfort/well-being or the growth of God’s kingdom and his fame?

Day 16: (Tuesday April 21st) Read Acts 5
(Additional Reading: James 4:1-10, Matthew 6:1-18, 1 Peter 4:12- 19)

Application Questions:

1. In Acts 3:12, Peter’s response to the people shows that he clearly knew that this healing didn’t happen because of his own power or the perfection of his own religious lifestyle. He knew the healing came from God, and he gave credit to him, seeing everything as part of the bigger story of the gospel. How do you respond when God does something in your life or the lives of those around you? Do you take it for granted, or think that God’s goodness is just a deserved response to your own obedience? Does God’s goodness produce praise in you?

2. In Acts 4:12 Peter declares “There is salvation in no one else (other than Jesus), for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” As Christians, we say we believe this, but do you live like you believe Jesus is the only savior or do you constantly look for other things to give you purpose, identity and hope? 

3. In the next verse, we see that the people around them could tell that Peter and John had been with Jesus because of the way they acted and spoke with boldness! What do your actions tell people about how you’ve been investing your time in quarantine? 

4. Look closely at verses 23-31 and see how the believers respond to the threats and persecution. They don’t pray for safety or deliverance, but instead beg god to give them greater boldness and to advance his kingdom more. Wow! What a prayer, especially because the answer came at a very high cost to themselves! What are you praying for in this season? What do your prayers say you value most: your comfort/well-being or the growth of God’s kingdom and his fame?

Day 16: (Tuesday April 21st) Read Acts 5
(Additional Reading: James 4:1-10, Matthew 6:1-18, 1 Peter 4:12- 19)

Application Questions:

1. Verse 17 tells us that jealousy made the religious leaders reject the life-giving gospel even when they were surrounded by convincing proof of its truth! Is there truth that God’s shown you in this season that you’re being blinded to or not acting on because of comparison, pride, or your desire for control? 

2. Peter and the apostles realized that often there would be a choice between pleasing God and pleasing people. They knew that they must prioritize pleasing God over man(vs.29). On the other hand, Ananias and Sapphira focused on doing good works for the purpose of impressing people and in the process sacrificed their integrity and relationship with God. Look into your own heart, is your primary motivation to please God or to impress other people with your spirituality?

3. Verse 41 tells us that the apostles not only endured persecution faithfully, but also rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Jesus’ name, wow! How do you look at your own disappointments and suffering in this season? Does it feel like a tragedy that shouldn’t be happening to you because you don’t deserve it? What if you instead saw challenging times as an undeserved opportunity to be on mission with Christ and share in his suffering as he calls our world back to himself?

Day 17: (Wednesday April 22nd) Acts 6-7 
(Additional Reading: Luke 10:38-42, Galatians 1:6-10, Luke 12:22-34)

Application Questions:

1. In Acts 6:8 Stephen is described as “Full of grace and power.” In verse 10 we learn that even his enemies could not deny his wisdom or the presence of God’s spirit on him. This  evidence of God’s spirit and wisdom demonstrates that even though Stephen was extremely faithful in practical ministry, his first priority was an intimate personal relationship with the Lord. Is your “ministry” being fueled by your relationship with the Lord, or are you trying to make your ministry a substitute for the relationship? 

2. When Stephen was brought into court to testify about his crimes, he didn’t back down or invent a compromised version of the gospel that would be less offensive. How do you handle it when the gospel and cultural norms clash? How have you handled it when people ask you difficult questions about God’s will in this season of isolation and suffering? Do you compromise the gospel to fit the culture and your needs, or do you dig into scripture and study God’s character as you seek to understand confusing circumstances?

3. The most amazing part of Stephen’s story is that he spent his final breaths praying for God’s grace for his murderers! Wow! Clearly, Stephen realized that his life was part of God’s larger story and he wanted the gospel to be preached at all costs, even the cost of his life! Do you value others coming to know the gospel enough to sacrifice your desires/comfort for their salvation? 

4. Think about how differently the story of the early church would have been had Stephen been focused on saving his own life instead of glorifying Christ in his death! Many of us become consumed with what God is doing (or not doing) in our lives, instead of seeking to be part of what God is doing in his story of redemption. Are you focused on the part God is playing in your story, or the opportunity you have to be a part of God’s story? 

Day 18: (Thursday April 23rd) Acts 8
(Additional Reading: Hebrews 11:8-16, Genesis 22:1-19, Psalm 37:3-7)

Application Questions:

1. God answered the early Christian’s prayers for boldness and the advancement of the gospel by allowing increased persecution that scattered them from their homes and community. Even as refugees, they were faithful to proclaim the gospel wherever they went. How have you responded to the way that COVID-19 has interrupted and uprooted your normal life? Have you been faithful to prioritize the gospel even in your new setting?

2. Simon tried to literally buy the power of the Holy Spirit. Do you ever find yourself subconsciously expecting God to reward you in exchange for your “good behavior”? Maybe you catch yourself thinking things like, “If I handle being stuck well and learn my lesson God will change circumstances and quarantine will end,” or “If I just work on myself enough and find contentment in my singleness, then surely God will send me someone to spend my life with!” How does this exchange system thinking line up with the gospel?

3. When God spoke to Philip, Philip obeyed even though he didn’t know why God was sending him there. Do you only obey God when his commands make sense to you, or are you willing to move in the direction he asks you to, trusting that he’ll provide clarity as you go?

4. Once he went to where God directed him, Philip was faithful to ask questions to discern how God was already working in the Eunuch’s life and how he could participate in what God was doing. Are you being faithful to ask questions and look for God’s work where he has put you in this season, or are you just waiting to be reassigned when the crisis is over?

Day 19: (Friday April 24th) Acts 9 
(Additional Reading: Proverbs 9:10, Psalms 34:9-11, 2 Corinthians 1:3-11)

Application Questions:

1. I’m sure that Ananias had been praying for safety from Saul and could not have imagined that God would answer his prayer by sending him directly to his enemy who would then become the most powerful missionary for the gospel! How do you respond when God asks you to do something that is outside of your plan? Are you willing to risk your safety/comfort in order to be obedient?

2. Verse 31 tells us that the church had peace and grew rapidly! Most of us think peace means the lack of danger or struggle, but considering that the verses right before this tell the story of persecution and death threats to Christians, it doesn’t seem like this peace came from the lack of danger. Later in verse 31, we’re told that the Christians were walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit; this seems to be the secret to their peace. What do you think it means to walk in the fear of the Lord? What about the comfort of the Holy Spirit? Do your actions show evidence of you walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of his spirit?

3. At the end of the chapter we read the story of Tabitha, a disciple who is described as “Full of good works and acts of love.” It’s obvious that her life had a huge impact on her community and their view of God. Would anyone describe your life as full of good works and acts of love? How are you using what God’s given you to impact those around you?

Day 20: (Saturday April 25th) Read Acts 10-11 
(Additional Reading: Romans 5:1-11, 1 Corinthians 14, James 1:2-3, Philippians 2:3-8, 19-21)

Application Questions:

1. Through his dream, Peter is told “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” Then he later confirms that God shows no partiality and that the good news of the gospel applies to everyone! Are there people in your life that you’re still judging for something they’ve been forgiven of? Do you ever think God can’t use you because of some way that you’ve made yourself impure? This reflects not just your own insecurity, but also your lack of faith in God’s grace to be greater than your weakness and sin!

2. In Acts 11, we again see that the church is growing and the gospel is being preached to new people groups as a result of persecution and the martyrdom of many. From the beginning of Christianity (Jesus) to our present day, God repeatedly performs the miracle of bringing true life from death! Do you believe he can do this with our nation’s current situation? What are some of the ways you’ve already seen God bringing real life out of this season of loss and death? 

3. Chapter 11 ends by telling us that a prophecy warns the church that there will be a great famine over the whole world in addition to the persecution they already face. And notice the church at Antioch’s response: they don’t take the warning as advance notice to start hoarding supplies and protecting themselves. Instead, they immediately begin sending all they can to relieve others who are suffering. How does this compare to your own response to the COVID-19 crisis? Have you turned inward to protect yourself, or are you reaching out to others who are also in need?

Day 21: (Sunday April 26th) 
Just like previous weeks, instead of giving you new material and questions to study, I want to encourage you to take time to reread and reflect on what God has spoken to you this week Sometimes it’s easy to read a passage once, get a great “take away,” feel some conviction, and walk away to forget what you read. Since we want to be people who are not just hearers of the word but are also doers, take today to go back over your reading and journals from this week and ask God how he would have you respond. (James 1:22)

Week 2:

And just like that, we’re wrapping up one of the most unique Easter celebrations in history and launching into another week of quarantine! At this point, many of us are beginning to adjust to our new normal and find some type of routine within the uncertainty. While the shock of the pandemic has gradually lessened for most of us, the battle against complacency and hopelessness has intensified as our time in isolation has been indefinitely extended. This makes the need to dig into truth and fight for real community even greater than past weeks! 

The reality is we all have many questions and still very few answers. Even our best predictions are extremely unreliable. So what should we do with our questions? Well, first, we should ask them to God without fear. He’s certainly not intimidated by our questions, and he knows them already! And second, while we wait patiently for his answer, we should study what he’s already revealed to us about his character. His past faithfulness in our own lives and the lives of those who came before us is a solid foundation for us in this shaky season! So let’s be diligent to study and rehearse his words and actions so that we can grow in our confidence in him!  

This week, we’re going to study two great heroes of the faith who walked with God in very real, raw, and imperfect ways! We’ll begin this week’s study by looking at several turning points in the life of David and the prayers (Psalms) he wrote during that time. It is my hope that by studying the way that David poured out his thoughts and emotions to God, we will better understand how to pray and walk with God in our own challenges. Let’s get started!

Day 8: (Monday April 13th)  Read 1 Samuel 19-21 and Psalm 34

Application Questions:

1. Psalm 34 begins with David’s statement that he will praise God at all times. Knowing everything that was happening in David’s life when he wrote this makes his commitment to praise regardless of circumstances truly amazing! Are you praising God in all circumstances, or is your praise conditional? Take some time to praise him right now!

2. In Psalms 34:8 David commands himself and his readers to “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” Why is it so important that we have a foundational belief in our God’s goodness before we try to understand our circumstances? Do you truly believe that God is good? (To answer this question honestly, take a look at the way you have been thinking and acting recently. Do your actions demonstrate trust in God’s goodness?)

3. Many of us subconsciously associate hardships with a broken relationship with the Lord, and believe that if we’re behaving well overall we deserve a life of ease and happiness. While it is true that some hardships are consequences of sin, Psalm 34 sets the expectation that even those who follow God faithfully will experience trouble, extreme need, and even brokenheartedness. The good news is that the Psalms not only normalize suffering, but also promise God’s presence and sovereignty in these circumstances. (Also see John 16:33). How does this psalm challenge your interpretation of the pandemic as a whole and your circumstances as an individual?

Day 9: (Tuesday April 14th) Read 1 Samuel 30, Psalm 61, and Psalm 18

Application Questions:

1. 1 Samuel 30:6 tells us that David was greatly distressed because of his circumstances, but he strengthened himself in the Lord. What/who are you turning to for strength when you are overwhelmed by your circumstances and fears?

2. When you read the Psalms David wrote during this time, notice that he pours out his whole heart to God, not hiding any of the despair he feels, but also countering the feelings of despair with the truth he knows. This leads David to turn his eyes from his own inadequacy to God’s strength. Are you fully pouring your heart out to God? Are you remaining focused on your own lack of control, or are you turning your eyes to God’s proven character?

3. Notice, before David is ready to make decisions and move forward, he stops and spends time asking God for direction on his next steps. Are you just seeking to find a way forward by your own wisdom, or are you taking time to listen for God’s instructions?

4. Psalm 18:30 says that God’s ways are perfect, and that his words prove true. Meditate on these truths. What does this insight about God’s character mean for your present situation?

Day 10: (Wednesday April 15th) Read 2 Samuel 11-12 and psalms 51 and 32

Application Questions:

1. So far, we’ve primarily studied David’s life when he was in times of extreme hardship. This time, we look at David’s life when he’s sent others off to fight for him while he sits in the comfort of his palace at the climax of his success. It’s from this place of boredom and complacency that he makes the greatest mistakes of his life! Are there ways that you’re dealing with your current boredom and disappointment that could lead to temptation? What are you doing to actively pursue the Lord and pursue godly community so that you don’t drift during this season?

2. David responded to God’s correction and discipline with repentance. Because David repented, instead of ending his relationship with God this terrible season caused him to experience a depth of God’s grace and love that he had never encountered before! There’s a good chance quarantine is exposing idols and false beliefs you never realized you had! How are you responding to God’s discipline and correction in this season? Are you repenting and allowing this discipline to pull you closer to God, or are you trying to fix yourself and experiencing condemnation and separation from him as a result?

3. Even though God ultimately answered David’s prayer for the life of his child very differently than he had hoped for, David responded to God’s answer with worship! This shows that his trust in God’s love and forgiveness was not shaken by the devastating consequences of his sin. How have you responded when God has answered your prayers differently than you have hoped? As events go from postponed to canceled,the death toll continues to climb, and your dreams look more impossible than ever, are you realizing that your hope was actually in a quick fix instead of in God’s goodness? Will you choose to trust him when his plan looks different that what you hoped for?

4. Like David, we’ve been forgiven of much! When is the last time that you’ve taken time to rejoice in the forgiveness and salvation you’ve been given? Let’s not forget that no matter what comes, we’ve been given redemption and an eternal hope that can’t be shaken!

Day 11: (Thursday April 14th) Read 2 Samuel 15 and Psalms 70-71 (To read the full story of Absalom’s betrayal also read 2 Samuel chapters 14,16-18)

Application Questions:

1. In Psalms 71:3 David refers to God as “A rock of refuge to which I can continually come.” Notice the word continually. David is having to repeatedly come to God and cry out for strength and deliverance, yet David does not fear repeatedly coming to God because he knows God does not tire of him. Is there anything you’ve gotten tired of praying for because you feel like you’re repeating the same thing? Do you ever fear being too much of a burden for God with your many request? Remember the truth of his promise of steadfast love!

2. Psalms 71:14 says “But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.” Evaluate what your hope is in today… Is your hope really in God and in his promises, or is there something else you’re putting confidence in? 

3. David builds his faith and hope by reminding himself of God’s past faithfulness. Are you fueling your hope by remembering what God has already done and praising him for it? Take some time right now to remember God’s goodness to you!

Day 12: (Friday April 15th) Read Judges 6

Application Questions:

1. In verse 13, Gideon asks the questions we’ve probably all asked at this point: “If the Lord is with us, why has this happened to us?” This is one of many questions that Gideon asks God (through the angel). Notice that while God didn’t directly answer every one of Gideon’s questions, he did honor Gideon for being honest with his fears and he responded with patience to Gideon’s doubts. Have you been honest with your questions to God, or are you holding back the tough questions out of fear? What are some of the ways you’ve seen God’s patience with your struggle to trust him in this difficult season? 

2. In verse 14, Gideon rehearses to God all of the reasons he’s not qualified to fulfill the assignment God has given him, and God responds with the reminder that God himself will be with Gideon. Where is your focus right now? Are you focusing too much on news reports and speculation that is adding to your anxiety, or are you fixing your gaze on the truth of God’s presence and what that means for your circumstances? 

3. When Gideon is about to be killed for destroying all of the town’s false gods, his father saves him by suggesting that the people let the gods defend themselves and therefore prove whether or not they are real. In a season where most of our usual sources of comfort and identity are being put to the test, what are you realizing have been false sources of identity/hope in your own life? 

Additional Reading: Exodus 4:10-16, Jeremiah 1:4-8

Day 13: (Saturday April 16th) Read Judges 7-8

Application Questions:

1. Twice, God told Gideon that his army was too big, because he wanted to deliver Israel in a way that no man would be able to take the credit. Because God moved this way, the people of Israel were not only set free from a foreign dictator (at an incredibly low casualty rate!), but they also came to know God in a powerful way! What if Gideon had refused to let God shrink his army? What are some of the ways that God has allowed your “army” to shrink in this season? (job loss, loss of community, loss of security). How would it change things if you began to look at this loss as a way for you to grow closer to God and for him to reveal himself to a watching world?

2. Out of God’s compassion for Gideon’s struggle with fear, God strategically sends Gideon to overhear a dream that boosts his confidence in God! What reminders of truth has God given you access to in order to build your faith in this exhausting season? Are you taking advantage of this truth/encouragement he’s given you access to?

3. In chapter 8, we see that in spite of everything that Gideon has seen God do, he still strays from God when he is distracted by fighting his own battles of revenge and promoting his own fame and wealth. What ways are you still seeking control and comfort that could distract you from what God wants to do in and through you?

Additional Reading: Luke 9:23-27, Psalm 20: 6-8, 2 Chronicles 16, 

Day 14: (Sunday April 17th)

Like last Sunday, instead of giving you additional reading, I want to encourage you to spend today going back and rereading the things you know you need to meditate on. That might be something we’ve studied together this week, or it may be a completely different scripture God’s bringing to mind. Don’t take this as a day to opt out, but as a day to dig deeper! “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 

Week 1:

(Optional dates are listed for the purpose of reading along at the same rate as others on staff)

Day 1: (Monday Apr 6th)  Read Genesis 37 and 39    

Application Questions: 

1. When Joseph’s brothers betrayed him and sold him into slavery it looked like all of Joseph’s dreams and God’s plan for his life were being hijacked! What dreams do you feel like have been taken away by the pandemic (or other life circumstances)?

2. We’re told that even in slavery Joseph became a successful man (39:2) and even in prison he found favor and became a leader (39:21). Wow! What made success in slavery and imprisonment possible? Look back at these verses to see what they have in common…
Are you currently living like the Lord is with you? How would your thoughts and actions change if you lived with a greater awareness of his presence with you?

Additional Reading: Psalms 27, Romans 8 (especially verses 31-39)

Day 2: (Tues Apr 7) Read Genesis 40-41 

Application Questions:

1. In Genesis 40:7 (NIV ) Joseph asks some of the other prisoners “Why do you look so sad today?” This shows us that even in his own season of suffering, Joseph was aware of the needs and suffering of those around him and reached out to them. Are you aware of the needs of the people around you in this pandemic? What are you doing to encourage and help them?

2. In Genesis 41:38 Pharaoh says this about Joseph: “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” The way that Joseph related to God and stayed faithful made Pharaoh willing to trust him (a convict) with the economy of the most powerful nation of the world! What do people see when they look at the way you are walking with God in this crisis? Does your faithfulness and closeness to the Father make them willing to trust you in their time of need?

Additional Reading: John 15:12-13, 1 John 3: 16-18, Daniel 6 (esp vs 3-5)

Day 3: (Wed Apr 8th) Read Genesis 42-45

In Genesis 45 we realize that there has been purpose in all of the struggle Joseph’s walked through when he realizes that God sent him to Egypt ahead of his family so that he could save them from famine! Wow, look at God’s sovereignty that he worked through jealous brothers, slave traders, an evil woman, and a pagan ruler to prepare Joseph and give him the power and position he needed to save his family and many nations along with them! 

Application Questions:

1. When you look back at your own life, what other times can you see God working through your circumstances to care for you and advance his kingdom?

2. What are ways you’ve already seen him work through the COVID-19 pandemic?

3. Notice, Joseph did not see the purpose of his suffering until many years into the process. So he had to remain faithful and trust in God’s faithfulness and love for him even when circumstances made God look untrustworthy. What habits are you practicing now so that you will stay faithful and remain grounded even if your circumstances continue to get more challenging?

Additional Reading: James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:3-9, Proverbs 3:3-4

Day 4: (Thurs Apr 9th) Read John 1:19-34, John 3:22-30 and then Matthew 11:2-19

Application Questions:

1. We read in John chapter 1 that John the Baptist was confident in Jesus being the promised Messiah, but even he doubted what he had believed when he was locked in prison for proclaiming truth. So we should be encouraged that even the person Jesus called “The greatest man born from a woman” had doubts about God’s promises when circumstances made life hard. What doubts have you had in the midst of this crisis?

2. Notice that the way that John handled his doubt was to reach out to Jesus and ask for clarity. How are you handling your doubts and worries? Are you allowing them to make you drift away from God or pursue him harder?

3. John’s response when his disciples were worried that people were leaving following John to become followers of Jesus was “He must increase, but I must decrease.” He responded this way, because he knew that his ultimate mission was to promote Jesus’ mission. Many of us have lost the way we do “ministry” because of social distancing, but what if this loss is actually a win for God’s bigger plan of calling our world back to him by making us aware of our need? Are you willing to be like John and lay down your freedom and your ministry for his plan? Be honest with yourself. If there are things that are tough to lay down, be honest about what those are and why they are so difficult to let go. Are you struggling to trust God’s plan because trusting means laying down your plan of how you wanted to do things for God?

Additional Readings: Proverbs 3:5-8, Psalms 37

Day 5: (Friday Apr 10th) Read 1 Kings 18 and James 5:17

Application Questions:

1. 1 Kings 18 clearly demonstrates how powerful prayer can be, and James 5:17 shows us that Elijah was an ordinary guy, so clearly it wasn’t Elijah that made the prayer extraordinary. It was his faith and reliance on a living God who brought the powerful result! So how are you as an “ordinary Christ follower” using your ability to connect to a living God? Is your prayer life changing the experience of those around you? 

2. 1 Kings 18:37 shows us the purpose of Elijah’s prayer–so that people would know who God is and turn their hearts back to him. How does this compare to the goal of your own prayers right now? Is your greatest desire that God would make himself known to the world through these circumstances?

Additional Reading:1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Matthew 6:5-14, Acts 4:23-31

Day 6: (Sat Apr 11th) Read 1 Kings 19

Notice, even Elijah who had just witnessed God work an incredible miracle and defeat hundreds of his enemies, still had doubts and fell into despair and deep depression when circumstances changed and he became a fugative again. Pay attention to how God responds to his depressed prophet…

Application Questions:

1. Even before God addresses the lies Elijah is believing, he responds with great compassion on Elijah’s humanity and tells him to take a nap and gives him a huge snack! What are some of the ways that God has shown compassion on your doubts and struggles in this season? How have you seen him provide you with encouragement?

2. Then, God takes Elijah to a quiet place and begins to address the lies he is believing…Have you taken advantage of this quieter time and allowed God to speak to you about your deep heart issues? If so, what has he shown you? Has he shown you misplaced priorities or misplaced hope? Has he shown you how much greater his love is than you realized? Take some time to listen and respond to God now.

3. One of the main lies Elijah believed was that he was the only one left serving God. Believing this lie led him to self-pity, selfishness, and depression. God opened his eyes to see thousands of other people who loved the Lord and were walking through similar circumstances. In this time of social distancing, many of us are tempted to believe the lie that we are alone as well. What can you do today to act on the truth that you’re not alone in this? How can you help other believers know that they too are not alone in this battle?

Additional Readings: Hebrews 4:14-16, Psalms 103:13-19

Day 7: (Sunday Apr 12th)

Instead of giving you a new reading for today, I want to encourage you to spend today’s time with God looking back through the last week and reflecting on what you’ve read and learned. Take time to sit quietly before God and ask him to highlight the scriptures you should read and meditate on. This may mean that you go explore some of the additional readings you haven’t looked at earlier. You may reread a passage you’ve already studied this week, or God may lead you to take time to study something totally different! Just use this time to dig deeper into his word and water the truth he’s been planting in your heart during this past week. 

I also encourage you to take time today to discuss what you’ve been learning with those around you, whether that means with your family or jumping on the phone with someone else. This way we get to practice Hebrews 10:24 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds!”

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