Thursday, May 14, 2015

ISI 22: Gray Areas

[This Bible study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:  
            If you had three wishes to use for yourself on frivolous stuff, what would you wish for?  What if you had three wishes for serious stuff?  (And not things like world peace, curing world hunger, and salvation for all.  Because of course, we would all choose these.)

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson and Bible Verses:
            Over the years, I’m sure we’ve all run across various issues that are “gray areas” in Scripture.  These are the things that Scripture doesn’t talk about specifically, but that each Christian needs to decide for themselves.  Ideally, we would all make up our minds about these things and not worry about what someone else decides about them.  But the problem is that many times, these issues can cause conflict and divisions between Christians.  And that’s not good.
            But let’s take some time to explore various “gray areas” (or are they really more black-and-white?) and to consider what Scripture says about how to make decisions for how we live.  Not everyone will come to the same conclusions about these, but talk about the ones that interest you and challenge each other to figure out your positions on them.  (But do not let it turn into fights.  Skip any topic that may lead to that, or that might stumble another believer.  But it is my assumption that you are all mature Christians and can handle hearing different points of view on gray areas.) 

ISI 21: The End Times

[This Bible study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question: 
            What are some of your more embarrassing or humorous moments?  (Come on, we’re all friends here.)  Alternative question:  If you knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow, how would you spend your last day on earth?

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
            No study on the “less clear” things of Scripture would be complete without a look into the End Times.  There are many different ideas about how the world will end.  Of course, most Christians believe that it will end when Christ returns and God makes all things new.  But what isn’t clear is the timing of everything.  And the biggest “unclear” thing: Will there be a rapture?  Will it come before, during, or after the tribulation?
            I have studied this really intensely at different times over the years.  Reading every book on the topic that I could find, studying the Bible, checking the original Greek meaning of the words, etc.   To me, it is a huge, complex, wonderfully-frustrating puzzle.  And I could never really understand it . . . until this last time that I studied it.  And I was finally able to settle this issue in my mind once and for all. 
            Yes, I do believe that there is going to be a rapture before the tribulation (trib) starts.  And I am thoroughly convinced of it. 

ISI 20: Atheism and World Religions

[This Bible study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question: 
            How is life different than you thought it would be?  How is it the same?  Has anything surprised you so far, in good ways or not-so-good ways?  

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
            In this lesson, I combined parts of several posts from https://myimpressionisticlife.blogspot.com.  This lesson in not really an academic “study” of atheism and world religions, but it’s a very personal account of why I could never give up my faith in Jesus, why those other options are not for me, and how I would explain salvation and faith in Jesus to a non-believer. 

ISI 19: Modern-Day Pharisee

[This Bible study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
            What are three little things that always make you smile?  What are three things you are a little bit afraid of or phobic about?

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
            “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Matthew 12:7
            “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:20

            There’s an older couple in our area.  They are a nice enough couple, but the wife is the kind of person who likes to comment on everyone else’s business.  On which plants you should get out of your yard, on how you should keep your outside lights on for safety, on which neighbors voted and which didn’t, and on how you shouldn’t be up that high on a ladder. 
            But her favorite past-time is noticing every time someone else’s lawn gets too high.  That’s pretty much what they do all summer . . . mow their lawn every three days and watch everyone else’s grass grow.  Lawn height seems to be one of their biggest concerns. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

ISI 18: Expectations and Contentment (Happiness vs Joy)

[This Bible study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
What is your favorite season, and what do you love so much about it?  And what are your favorite things about each of the other three seasons?  Least favorite things?

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson and Bible Verses:
            Philippians 4:12:  “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” 
            1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:  “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

            Contentment and Joy.  Aren’t these two things that we are always looking for?  Actually, what I should say is that we are usually looking for happiness when we should be looking for joy.  And we are not usually content with the way life is because we have too many expectations about what it should be.  Isn’t this more like it for most of us?
            So what is the difference between joy and happiness? 

ISI 17: Is Depression a Sin?

[This Bible study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
When have you laughed the hardest in your life?  Is there anything that never fails to make you laugh?

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
            Originally, I didn’t have this one in the Bible study.  But over the past few years (and more), I have really struggled with depression.  (If you read the introduction to the Bible study, you can get a sense why, although there are other reasons, too.)  And on-line and in real life, I have found a lot of other people who are struggling with it, too, even Christians. 
            And the sad thing is, not only do they already feel guilty and alone . . . but then other Christians make them feel like “bad Christians” and like they should be ashamed of themselves for having depression or taking medication.  They condemn and judge the hurting person, instead of extending compassion and grace and help.  And that gets me mad!  Freakin’ boiling mad!!!  (Oh, it gets me so mad!)
            And so I decided to combine parts from a couple posts that I recently wrote over at myimpressionisticlife.blogspot.com and add them as part of this Bible study.  I wrote it for the hurting, depressed person who is ashamed of themselves for hurting, who is afraid to speak up about it for fear of being condemned, and who feels alone in their struggles and like there must be something wrong with them. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

ISI 16: Righteous Living and Idolatry/Temptation

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]
 
Icebreaker Question:
Do you have any recurring dreams or nightmares?  What do you normally daydream about?
 
Open With Prayer
 
Read Lesson and Bible Verses:
            Matthew 6:33:  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
 
            We all know that we are supposed to be seeking righteousness and God’s Kingdom.  But are we actually doing it?  And do we really even know what that means? 
            The reason I ask is because our country is getting so lukewarm and relativistic about spiritual things.  Whole denominations are drifting away from biblical Christianity and becoming social clubs where the speakers tickle the ears of the congregation and make them feel warm and cozy and comfortable.  But that is so not what Jesus did and what the Bible is about! 

Monday, May 11, 2015

ISI 15: Supernatural Stuff and the Armor of God


[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]
 

Icebreaker Question:
Is there ever a time that you think you encountered an angel or an angel in disguise, strongly felt the presence of evil or of the Lord, or experienced a miracle?
 
Open With Prayer
 
Read Lesson and Bible Verses:
 
Light as a Feather
            I don’t expect anyone to believe me, but I’m going to share my story.  It’s my story about how I came to fully trust in Jesus’ name and to passionately cling to Him, to never be able to doubt the existence of a spirit would, to place such a high priority on prayer and God’s Word, and to always remember my need for spiritual armor.  And once again, you don’t have to believe me.  (But don’t say I never warned you.  And if you are a skeptic and get nothing from this whole section, just remember this: “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave.”  In case you ever need it.)
            My first real experience with the unseen world was when I was a pre-teen.  I was at my ex-step-dad’s house for the weekend.  My younger half-brother, his step-sister, and I were bored and wanted something to do.  So we decided to play the classic game “Light as a feather, stiff as a board.” 
            Silly stuff . . . right?!? 

ISI 14: Radical Obedience

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
If they made a movie of your life, who should play you (and your spouse, if you are married)?  What kind of movie would it be, what should it be called, and what would be the main themes? 

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson and Bible Verses:
            I would have to say that of all the things a Christian is called to do, this has got to be one of the most important.  (If any one of them can be considered more important than the others.)  And I’m not saying this like God necessarily needs our obedience or else He’ll be at a helpless loss.  But because obedience says the most about our relationship with God.  Obedience tells us if we are able to hear Him, if we trust Him enough and are willing enough to do what He says, if we have humbled ourselves before Him, and if we love Him and have really made Him God of our lives. 
            Let’s take a moment to explore some of what the Bible says about obedience:

ISI 13: Prayer

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]
 
Icebreaker Question:

What are three little indulgences that you like to treat yourself to (doesn’t have to be just food)?  What are three guilty pleasures of yours (things you don't readily admit that you like or that people wouldn’t guess about you)? 


Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
            As Christians, we know that the Bible talks a lot about the importance of prayer.  But I have to ask, as I did about God’s Word, do we live like it’s really important?  Do we live like it matters?
            I am going to guess that if we don’t, it’s because we don’t really understand it.  Because once you come to really understand prayer, you cannot help but cling to it with all you’ve got and accept it as a solemn responsibility.  You cannot help but know that there is power in it and that the way you live has an effect on it.  Prayer matters! 

ISI 12: God's Word

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]
 
Icebreaker Question:
What are some of your favorite songs?  Ones that make you want to turn up the music and dance, sing out loud, or that make you cry?  Any songs you can’t stand? 

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
            Okay, I am assuming here that we have all been Christians for a long time and that we all know the importance of God’s Word.  Now then, raise your hand if you live like the Bible is “extra-credit”?  Or do you live like you really believe that the Bible is crucial to your day, your life, your walk with the Lord?  
            I fear that in our day and age of being too familiar and comfortable with God and His Word (in America), we have lost the sense of awe and fear of Him and His Word.  It’s too familiar, and we are too comfortable.  We have heard the Bible stories again and again.  We pick them apart as objects of study, to be looked at closely under a microscope.  It is educational and academic.  Or we pick them apart so that we can piece them back together again in a way we like better.  We twist them for our own ends.  Or we just shrug our shoulders and yawn and ignore it. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

ISI 11: Be Still

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
When you were young, what were some things that you wanted to be when you grew up?
 
Open With Prayer

Read Lesson and Bible Verses:
            Psalm 46: 10:  “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

            That is one of my favorite verses.  And it’s funny because when I was in high school, I went to a Christian retreat where that was the key verse for the week . . . and all I could think was, How boring!  What a boring verse to pick to inspire, challenge, and “activate” the teens for Christ.  Be still?  Blah!
            But now, this verse has become so dear to me.  It is one of my top five.  So I guess I’ve come full circle.  To me, this verse is all about humility.  A humble person is one who has learned to trust in God’s goodness, love, and faithfulness so much that - despite the storms that rage around - they can “be still” because God is God!  A humble person desperately desires to be near the Lord and to bask in His presence, and so they have learned the importance of being physically and mentally still with the Lord at regular times.  And a humble person also knows that everything is about God’s glory!  He will be exalted!!!
            Oh, I love this verse!!!

ISI 10: Understanding God's Will

[This Bible study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
If you could invite any five people (living or dead) to a dinner party at your house, who would you invite?  Why?

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson: 
            (This is a huge topic to explore.  And if you want to get deep into this topic, I recommend that you read the “Understanding God’s Will” series that I posted on both my blogs – myimpressionisticlife.blogspot.com and sweetlybrokengirl.blogspot.com.  It will take a while, but it will give you a lot to think and talk about.  And then you can get together and discuss those posts and the following questions.  But if you do not want to do that much, I have given a much shorter overview of it here.  FYI: Those posts do included other things that we look at in this Bible study, too.  So some stuff will be familiar.)

            “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  (Romans 12:1-2)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

ISI 9: Predestination vs Free Will

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]


Icebreaker Question:
What are three things most people don’t know about you?  And what are three “quirky” things about you?

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
             (Oh, this is gonna be fun!)  I know that this is a “hot button” topic, and it can get people really worked up.  So let’s not let this issue become divisive.  Scholars and theologians through the centuries have not come to an agreement on this topic, and I do not think that we will be able to figure it all out either.  But let’s at least explore it and try to figure out what we believe, why we believe it, and why it matters. 
            I am going to present to you my view on this issue, but it doesn’t mean that I am necessarily right.  I am giving it to you as a starting point and as food-for-thought, to give you things to consider and talk about and disagree with.  I am not a Bible teacher or scholar, so remember that this is just my opinion.  If you disagree, discuss with others why you disagree and what you think Scripture really says. 

ISI 8: Bringing God Glory

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]


Icebreaker Question:
What are some things that you are passionate about in life, that really spark your enthusiasm?  What are some of your “soapbox” issues, the issues that get you fired up, that you have strong feelings and opinions about?

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson and Verses:
            Psalm 96:4, 8:  “For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise . . . Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name . . .”
            John 14:13:  “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.”
            1 Corinthians 10:31:  “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
     
            God is worthy of praise and glory!  Jesus’s goal was to bring glory to the Father!  We need to do everything for God’s glory! 
            But do we really esteem God’s glory as much as we are supposed to?  As much as God does?  (Or do we just say that we do?)   

Friday, May 8, 2015

ISI 7: Wisdom and Fearing God

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
What are the best pieces of advice you have ever heard or the top mottos you try to live by?  If you could go back and offer your "younger self" some advice, what would it be?

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
            How many of us would like to be wise?  I’m sure all hands just went up.  Yet how many of us really know what it takes to be wise?  Here’s a hint: it’s not going to school longer or getting a better degree or reading more.  All of that is about finding more information, more knowledge. 
            But if we want to find real wisdom, there is a prerequisite, according to the Bible. 
            Psalm 111:10 says that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  If we want wisdom, we need to fear Him.  Yet how easy is it to have more fear of everything else than of Him?  At least it is for me.  I fear losing control, failing, losing our health, missing God’s Will for my life, making mistakes, etc.  I fear everything sometimes . . . except Him!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

ISI 6: Forgiveness

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
Who in your life, in the world, or in history do you most admire?  (Besides Jesus.)  Why?  Who in the Bible (besides Jesus) do you most admire, relate to, or find intriguing?   
 
Open With Prayer
 
Read Lesson and Bible Verses:
            Okay, so we looked at our relationship with the Lord and how our past and our fears affect it.  Now let’s turn our attention outward, to other people.  As humans, we all hurt others and are hurt by others.  And the world’s way to deal with this is to hold grudges or to punish others.  But God has a lot to say about forgiveness – His forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others.  And these have major impacts on our relationship with Him and our standing before Him. 
            Mark 11:25:  “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”  
            Matthew 6:14-15:  “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” 
            Psalm 66:18:  “. . . If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened”

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

ISI 5: A Proper Balance

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]
 
Icebreaker Question:
What three things would you love to do before you leave this planet?

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson:
            1 John 4:15-18: “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  . . . There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
            The truth in this verse never really stood out to me until I took down the walls that were around my heart and let God flood my heart with His love and heal the old wounds.  When the walls were up, I was relating to Him out of fear.  I did love Him and knew in my head that He loved me – because the Bible told me so – but I didn’t live out of His love.  I lived out of fear that I would pray wrong, speak wrong, displease Him, let Him down, fail Him, etc.  I feared His wrath.  I feared being abandoned.  I feared everything because I wasn’t able to really know and rely on His love.  Not until the walls came down. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

ISI 4: Transparency and Tearing Down Walls

[This Bible Study starts at the bottom of the May posts, with the “Iron Sharpens Iron Bible Study Intro” post.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
What movie or show would you love to have been a part of?  And why?  What real event?
 
Open With Prayer (specifically that God opens your eyes to the truth about yourself, that He reveals to you if there are any walls around your heart that are blocking Him.)
 
Read Lesson:
            Matthew 5:8:  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  
 
            Pure.  Being free from impurities.  Impurities are those things that pollute what is true and genuine and good.  And what pollutes our hearts is falsehood, hiding from the truth or hiding the truth.  Deliberately living a lie or unconsciously agreeing with one.  Sin.  These keep us from being able to really experience, see, and know God.  But if we will live authentic, transparent lives before God, we will know Him (and ourselves) in a way we never could before.