Week 46: 1 and 2 Peter; Jude

Prepare these questions for Sunday, February 23, 2014.

After Jesus died and rose again, the disciples and other believers set out around the Mediterranean to spread the message of his life and death. Peter, the apostle and "rock upon whom" Jesus would build his church, wound up in Rome where he was eventually killed for his beliefs. Jude was one of Jesus's brothers and although we don't know as much about him, it is clear that he was also an early church leader. These books are letters (two from Peter and one from Jude) to groups of believers encouraging them to resist false teaching, keep their faith, and live out their beliefs in order to show those around them that God's love is real. Jude and 2 Peter share a lot of the same imagery so it is possible that Peter had read Jude's letter before writing his own. It was common at that time for a single letter to be passed from community to community and read by people in many places.

1. Peter's letters encourage the believers to use their relationships with non believers to reveal the love of God. Read 1 Peter 2:1-2 and 3:8-9. How could living your life by these words be an example of God's love to those around you?

2. What does Peter say about how others will treat you for choosing to live a life according to God's word? How does Peter encourage the believers to respond to these people?

3. In 2 Peter, we are given encouragement for how to live lives that glorify God and encourage others. Read 2 Peter 1:3-9. Which of these activities do you need to focus on  to "keep you from being ineffective and unproductive" in your life?

4. If you choose to live a life that follows Christ's teachings, at some point, people will make fun of you. Read 2 Peter 3:3-9. Even though we cannot always see God or His plan that does not mean that there isn't one. What reason does Peter give for God's seeming "slowness" to keep His promises?

5. Peter and Jude both warn of false teachers who will try to use the words of God to get what they want. What traits does Jude say the false teachers will have? (Jude v. 16) Have you ever encountered people who seem like they are using their faith in a way counter to God's commands and intents?

Week 45: Mark and James

Prepare these questions for Sunday, February 16, 2014.

The book of Mark is one of the four books that make up the Gospels (Matthew, Luke, and John are the others) that tell the story of the life and death of Jesus. Although the text does not state an author, it is traditionally thought to be a man named Mark who knew and recorded Peter's eyewitness account of following Jesus. Most of the stories found in Mark can also be found in other Gospels.

1. Most of Mark focuses on the concept of Jesus's identity. Read the text imagining that you were an eyewitness to these events. Who would you say Jesus is?

2. Choose one or two events and compare it to the same event recorded in Matthew. What is similar? What is different? Why might two different people have slightly different language or details when recording the same event?

3. Verses 1:16-18 and 12:29-31 have almost identical counterparts in the book of Matthew. Why would these verses be repeated and what impact does that have on your understanding of the Bible?

The book of James is thought to have been written by James, the brother of Jesus. James, like most of us would be, was uncertain about his brother's message at first, but became a leader in the early church and gave practical advice. These messages are written for those who already follow Christ and are uncertain about how to live out their faith in their daily lives. James says that while good deeds do not make God love you more, it is still your responsibility to offer love and kindness to those around you in honor of the gift of salvation that you have received.

4. What does James say about trials and tribulations in our lives? How can you apply that concept to your own life?

5. What does Chapter 3 say about the tongue (what we say and how we say it)? How is that relevant to our modern world and your life in particular?

Week 44: Hebrews

Prepare these questions for Sunday, February 9, 2014.  We will not meet February 2 due to myLife.

Hebrews is a letter written to people of Jewish descent who were also Christians. It was probably written before the year 70 AD, but enough time after Jesus died and rose again that these people were not witnesses to his life and death. No author is named, but Timothy is mentioned in the end of the book so it must have been someone who knew him.

1. Much of this book references the Old Testament (especially in chapters 3, 7, and 11). What is the purpose of all of these references? How do they influence how you read this book?

2. What is a covenant and what is the "new covenant" that is talked about in chapter 8? How does this covenant affect our lives if we are Christ followers?

3. Read verses 4:12-14. What characteristics about God are revealed in these verses?

4. Hebrews is filled with words of encouragement and exhortation. Read the following verses: 5:12-13, 11:1-3, 12:1-3, and 13:1-8.  Use your own words to summarize each set of verses. What message(s) can be taken from these words when read together? How is this message useful to you today?