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Bible Reflections For Gatherings

EXTENDING GOD’S GRACE

Scripture Readings

Titus 3:3-8 Colossians 3:12-17 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

When we think of God’s grace, sometimes (for me anyway) it’s hard to understand how we come by it and how plentiful it is as well, how we receive it and how do we go about getting it. We have such a loving, merciful God that it’s difficult to fathom His unconditional love for us and what He wants for us in this life.

With that being said, if God can tolerate my mistakes, can’t I tolerate the mistakes of others? If God can overlook my errors, can’t I overlook the errors of others? If God allows me with my faults and failures to call him Father, shouldn’t I extend the same grace to others?

All around us are people in need, and sometimes we have to set aside our own feelings and agendas to help them. One way we can do that is to remember how God has comforted us in our trials and troubles “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. How easy it is to be engrossed in our own concerns and forget that someone right next to us might need a prayer, a word of comfort, a hug, or gift of mercy in Jesus’ name.

Reflections

  1. Describe a person in your life who has shown you the grace of God in a practical way.
  2. In what ways is our salvation an act of generosity on God’s part?
  3. Having received God’s love and mercy, why is it still difficult at times to show love and mercy to the people around us?
  4. What three words best describe God’s love for you?
  5. Why is if often easier to show judgment than grace?
  6. Describe a world where everyone gives someone else the break they hope to receive.

THE FRUIT OF HUMILITY AND GOD’S MERCY

Scripture Readings

Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 Luke 18:9-14

The image of Jesus at prayer is a powerful dimension of Luke’s gospel. Fully human, fully divine, Jesus prayed always.

While the scriptures make a special point of portraying Jesus at prayer at key moments of his life: his baptism, the selection of apostles, the transfiguration, preparing to die, there was always intimate prayer – Jesus alone with the Father. If Jesus, the perfect man, prayed, how much more do we in our imperfection need to pray?

We are born with a longing in our hearts for God, for the timeless. Humility of heart easily gives rise to a desire for forgiveness, for God’s mercy. The tax collector in the back of the temple who prays, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” is such an example of humility.

Humble awareness of sin is the key to God’s mercy. It is also the beginning of an honest prayer relationship which comes to its highest point in the Spirit of the Son crying out in us, “Abba Father!”

Jesus lived in submission to the will of his Father, the Pharisee, despising the tax collector, was a law unto himself. His prayer was self-righteous. Speaking his prayer “to himself”, says the text, he thanked God for not being like the rest of humanity. To be holy, however, is to be set apart for God, not from the rest of humanity.

Living from humility ourselves we need to remember that who we are in God is what makes us acceptable to the Lord, not what we are in ourselves. The rightness of our prayer depends, not on us, but on the righteousness of our life in Christ, the gift of the mercy of God.

REFLECTIONS

  1. When have you noticed the Pharisee-spirit infecting you? What did you do about it?
  2. Recall an experience of feeling genuine humility. What gave rise to that experience?
  3. How has prayer kept you honest before God?
  4. How has the fact that God knows no favorites comfort or discomfort you?
  5. How can you surrender your heart more fully to God?

BEING A FOLLOWER OF JESUS CHRIST

Scripture Readings
2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Luke 9:18-24

REFLECTIONS

  1. Who do you say Jesus is?

  2. If Jesus is Lord and Messiah, how can I follow Him? What must I do? In what ways can I deny myself and take up my cross?

  3. In what ways do I save my life and not be a follower of Jesus?

  4. In what ways do I lose my life for Jesus’ sake and save it?

  5. Think of a time when you were so weak that you asked God for help. Please share.

DISCIPLESHIP

Scripture Readings 

Wisdom 9:13-18b Philemon 9-10, 12-17 Luke 14:25-33

The Gospel reading is one that really gives you a jolt. Jesus is telling the crowds that to be his disciple they must hate their families and give away all their possessions. He is saying to all of us that there are consequences to discipleship and we are to own our choice. It sounds so harsh, and this from the Jesus from whom we learn that God is love. What do we make of it?

No one knows the path one’s life’s journey will take. We make so many plans. We plan for our schooling. We choose our work, our partners. We make plans for family. We plan for retirement. We act like we are in charge of it all. Then life takes over. And life can be so unpredictable.

We are taught a sense of God as children. As we get older, we are challenged to make faith our own. Sometimes we behave like we can bargain with God. When God does not answer prayers as we wish, we may distance ourselves from God.

It is Jesus who sets the terms of discipleship in this gospel. We are not in charge. There is a cost to discipleship. That cost is our acknowledgement of his ultimate claim on us. We are not our own. We are his. Jesus is inviting the disciples and all of us to a new relationship with God. He calls us beyond a childlike relationship. We are called to carry our cross. That means dying and rising into the ultimacy of God’s love in and through whatever we think our plans may be. Our God is a jealous God who calls us to be rooted in his love as our life’s ultimate concern.

All of the events on life’s journey, however unpredictable, are invitations to the acceptance of discipleship, especially when they call upon us to carry our cross.

Reflections

  1. When has discipleship called you to distance yourself from the expectations of family/friends?

  2. What do you understand as the cost of discipleship for you?

  3. When has being a disciple meant carrying a cross for you?

  4. What does being a disciple call you to renounce (give up)?

FAITH

Scripture Readings

Wisdom 18:6-9 Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 Luke 12:32-48

In the second reading, faith is defined as “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” Another way of expressing faith would be to say, “When we walk to the edge of the light we have, and step into the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen: there will be something solid for us to stand on, or we will be taught to fly.”

When we speak of faith, we touch on the unseen, the unknown. We are caught up with hope and fear and change. This is the stuff of living. Faithful servants act in accord with the master’s will. To keep faith vital, we need faith friends who can tell stories of faith being lived. We reaffirm our own faith when we can look back at our lives and recount the times that we know God was present. Affirmed by God’s faithfulness in the past, we trust that God will be faithful in the future. A wise person once said, “Hope is fear that said its prayers.” A faithful servant lives from prayerful hope and is sustained by the promise that God is Love and we are God’s beloved.

Reflections

  1. How do you speak about your faith?

  2. How has someone else’s faith strengthened yours?

  3. How faithful and prudent a steward are you of the gifts God has entrusted to you?

  4. Share about your first awareness that God was with you?

ANGER

Scripture Readings

Proverbs offer us a lot of advice on anger.

These are a couple of them; 12-16, 14-29, 29-22, 16-32, 22: 24-25

Ephesians 4:26-32  James 4:6-10

 

At one point or another, we have likely had moments where we feel that flash of anger come on. We lose control in these moments, saying and doing things that we later regret. Anger doesn’t have to manifest itself only in moments of passion however; it can also come in the form of a latent bitterness and not forgiving others over past wrongs that fester for many years. Anger can be explosive, or it can also be silently passive- aggressive. 

But despite the power of angry emotions, we are not helpless against them. The saints and masters of the spiritual life have left us a wealth of advice on conquering our passions, including temper, and they demonstrate by their lives that even the most intense feelings of anger can and must be overcome. 

If our relationship with our neighbor is damaged, our relationship with God is also damaged. Jesus explains this in the Lord’s Pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Our Lord makes it clear that if we do not forgive others, we shouldn’t expect forgiveness ourselves: “If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15). 

It is often said that admitting you have a problem is the first step to resolving it. If we are humble enough to admit we struggle with anger, we can certainly overcome it by God’s grace. Like any growth in the spiritual life, extinguishing the fires of anger will take time and determination, but the struggle will be worth it. 

What is righteous and unrighteous anger? 

The key to understanding righteous anger is by knowing the motivation. Righteous anger is based on loving God and loving our neighbor. Unrighteous anger is based on the selfish lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and pride.
Some believe that all anger is wrong and fail to take this into account. In doing so they fail to acknowledge that God expects that there will be times we may get angry, but He wants us to quickly deal with our anger before if leads to us doing wrong (Ephesians 4:26; Ephesians 4:31). 

The Bible has numerous examples that show us that God can be angry (1 Kings 11:9; Psalms 7:11; Psalms 80:4). However, God’s anger is directed against sin (Judges 2:12; 2 Samuel 6:7; 1 Kings 15:30) and unrighteousness (Romans 1:18; Ephesians 5:6). Likewise, God’s wrath is controlled and purely based on righteousness motivations.

Jesus demonstrated righteous anger in Mark 3:1-6, when met a man on the Sabbath in the synagogue who had a withered hand. The religious leaders watched to see if Jesus would heal the man on the Sabbath, which they considered to be wrong. Jesus asked the leaders if it was lawful to do good or evil on the Sabbath. When they did not respond, he looked around at all of them with anger (Mark 3:5).
The motivation for His anger was because He could see that their hearts were hardened and they cared more about their religious customs and authority than the poor man’s healing. Jesus healed the man anyhow. The religious leaders got angry and left so they could make plans on how to kill Jesus

Jesus’ anger was based on a love for the man, their anger was based on selfish pride. Jesus’ anger was righteous and the religious leader’s anger was unrighteous. As we learned in James 1:19, man’s wrath, like the religious leader’s plan to kill Jesus, does not produce behaviors that reflect God’s righteousness. 

Reflections on Anger 

1. Anger shows itself in an endless variety of forms. With which form are you prone to struggle?

A. Irritation? 
B. Yelling or screaming?
C. Explosions?
D. Acts of self-injury—cutting yourself, misusing food, sex, alcohol, drugs, exercise, something else? E. Dwelling on all the dark things that others have done?
F. Destroying someone’s reputation? 

2. Where do I see a battle raging between what I desire and what God desires? Share an example. What are some of those little moments of daily life where my anger shows up? 

3. How do you typically react when you do not get your way? (Silence, withdrawal, angry words, violence?) What were the consequences of these reactions? 

4. Can you give an example of a time when you expressed righteous anger? 

5. God doesn’t just tell us to stop being angry but gives us many examples and words of advice on how to deal with anger. What has He provided that makes change possible? 

6. “You can’t change your environment into a perfect one, but you can participate in radical changes inside of yourself.” What is God revealing to you that he wants you to do, because He loves you and wants to change you, so that you can experience the freedom and joy of Him in your heart? 

 

BODYBUILDING

Scripture Readings:

1Corinthians 12:18-26 Psalms 139:1-4 and 13-16 Matthew 7:24-27

 

Did you know that God is interested in bodybuilding? He is…although His idea of bodybuilding is of a different nature. God wants to build every muscle in His church. He doesn’t want there to be any superior or inferior body parts. He wants everyone and everything to be symmetrical. There can be no undeveloped or lagging parts. God expects every part of the body to grow and do its work.

 

The term “body” is introduced in 1 Corinthians12:12 and then repeatedly employed by Paul 18 times throughout the remainder of the chapter.

 

The word “one” occurs five times in 1 Corinthians 2:12-13.

 

Hence, the emphasis is on unity and oneness. Our body of many members is unified in one body. Paul is so intent on driving home this point of our oneness in the church that he refers to Christ as the church.

 

The phrase “I am not a part of the body” occurs in both 1 Corinthians 12:15 and 12:16. This is an indication of a feeling of insignificance: “No one thinks that I am important or significant. I have little to contribute to this ministry. I don’t really matter to this church.” The foot is jealous of the hand because he is covetous of the hand’s prominence. The hand is in the public and in the limelight, but the foot is in confinement inside a shoe.

 

Yet, the body would be in bad shape without a foot. Did you know that you use more than 200 different muscles to walk?

 

If your feet and their muscles are not working well you aren’t going very far.

Paul argues that every member of the body is necessary. There are no exceptions.

Those body parts that are deemed weaker, less honorable, or less presentable are all critically important.

 

Reflections:

  1. What various abilities do you have and things you can accomplish?
  2. Identify the different roles that various people have in the church and how can you support them?
  3. What things have made you jealous and caused you to miss God’s plan for you?
  4. Do you take time each day to listen to Jesus, if so, how?
  5. What blinds you? What keeps you away from God?

 

JOY

Scripture Reading

Luke 2:8-14
John 15:11, 17-13 Acts 13:52 Romans14:17
1 Thessalonians 1:6 James 4:10

MEDITATION

God put us on earth to enjoy His gifts. It is when we elevate those gifts above God that we get into trouble. There is within us the seeds of war. We are part of this world and seek our happiness in the things the world has to offer; food, money, alcohol, drugs, sex, and power. When we don’t derive happiness from these things, or we fail to achieve these things at all, we look around for someone to blame, usually our loved ones. We are seeking joy in things that can only give us fleeting happiness, but when we feel empty, we become angry. We feel cheated. True joy is a spiritual state of profound thanksgiving received from the Creator in our own life. We will find that true joy only in God, submitting to His will and allowing Him to work miracles within us.

Lord, help us to find humility in submitting our will to Yours so we may spend our lives doing that for which you created us, thereby discovering that joy which you promised us.

REFLECTIONS

  1. What common mistakes do we all make in looking for joy?

  2. What part does humility play in our search for joy?

  3. What are ways in which we can draw near to God and repel Satan?

 

BIRDS

Scripture Readings

Exodus 19:1-5 Psalm 102:1-8

Matthew 6: 25-34 Matthew 23:37-39

There are 300 times that birds are mentioned in the bible. Birds of all types are used to teach us in scriptures. Some of the most common birds used are the dove, the eagle, the chicken and the sparrow. The Hebrew word for sparrow simply means “a very small bird.” The sparrow of Jesus’ time is also represents a lonely bird, a wise bird who build their nests in God’s sanctuary and finally so important to God that he knows when they fall to the ground.

Eagles with their powerful wings, talons and beaks were often used to show God’s covenant with his people.

In the ancient world the eagle or vulture often was associated with deity. The prophets chose this bird to play a figurative or symbolic role in their writings (Ezekiel 1:10; Ezekiel 10:14; Daniel 7:4; Revelation 4:7; Revelation 8:13 ).

In Exodus 19:4 and Deuteronomy 32:11 the eagle is used figuratively of God’s protection and care. In these passages God is pictured as a loving parent who redeems and protects His people even as the parent eagle cares for its young. The dove and the eagle are two of the most frequently mentioned birds of the Scriptures. They symbolize two basic aspects of the Bible’s message. The dove symbolizes God’s activity in the world through His Spirit, while the eagle represents God’s care for His people

Roosters are known for their crowing, which was said to have been so punctual that the Roman troops used it to signal the change of the guard. Jesus Christ used the well-known sound of the cock crowing to predict that Peter would temporarily deny even knowing Him on The Fateful Night: “Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny Me three times.

Owls are swift and silent night-time hunters of rodents and small animals. The eerie sound of the owl’s “hoot” was used as a metaphor for loneliness: “I am like a vulture of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places; I lie awake, I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.” (Psalm 102:6-7 RSV)

Truly, there is much that we can learn from these winged creatures. As you observe their behavior, try to recall the Scriptural metaphors that speak of them. May the swallow help you to appreciate Jehovah’s house of worship. May you look to God for hope that can enable you to soar like an eagle. May you come to Jesus for spiritual truth that safeguards you the way a mother hen does her chicks. And may the dove remind us of the Holy Spirit that is sent to help us in so many different ways

Reflections:

  1. Have you ever been lonely? Notice what I say: Have you ever been lonely—not alone, but lonely?
  2. Like a hen protects its chicks, God offers us his protection. When have you felt God’s protection?
  3. What are some of the things that make you anxious?
  4. How do you deal with worry?
  5. In Psalms, David says he can think of nothing better than making a home in the altar of God’s sanctuary. What does this mean to you?

 

Holy Spirit

Meditation

Who is the Holy Spirit? He is the Third Person of the Trinity. He was there at the beginning of creation (Genesis 1:26) “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…’

He comes to us in Baptism (Acts 1:4-5).” While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,” but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak”; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”. He comes to us in Confirmation (Acts 2:3-4) “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”

The Holy Spirit gives us gifts. They are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. In addition he gives us the fruits of eternal salvation, charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. He dwells within our hearts and gives us a foretaste of what we experience in heaven. He guides our church on earth (John 14:15-20) “If you love me you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.”

The Holy Spirit is God. He proceeds from the Father and the Son. He is in us. He loves us. Come Holy Spirit, set our hearts on fire!

Isaiah 63: 8-10 Matt. 3:11, 16-17 John 16: 7, 12-14 Acts 2: 32-33 2Cor. 13: 12-13

1 Thess. 1:6

Reflection

1. If the Holy Spirit is in us, how do we access him?
2. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Why do we need Him?
3. Can we really experience joy in our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit? In what way?

CHAINS

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link

Meditation

Chains are often thought as something that binds us negatively but chains can have many different purposes. For example chains can be used to hold us back from doing something perhaps the chains have saved your life. Another example is when chains are used to display our faith when we wear religious jewelry. Perhaps you made a paper chain to count down the days to Christmas. Also chains can be used to protect us as in the case when they are used to keep us out of danger or finally chains can be used to bind people together in a positive way.

Scripture readings

Acts 16: 25-28 Exodus 28:12-14 Psalm 107:10-16 Psalm 116:16-19

Reflections:

  1. What are the chains that bind you? How do you try to break free from the bonds?

  2. Chains can link people together, how are you linked to others for support in your journey with Jesus?

  3. Chains can help us display our faith, what are the ways that you outwardly share your faith with others?

  4. Chains can hold us back, how do chains hold you back from living the best life possible?

  5. Chains can protect us, what chains protect you from dangers in your life?

 

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Prison Christian Growth Group
3109 Whistler Rd
Stoystown, PA 15563

"...Then the king will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world...For when I was in prison...you came to visit me."
- Matthew 25:34-36