What is this in my Right Hand?
10 Commandments – Week 3
This week, we move on to the 2nd commandment, and discuss the dangerous practice of creating things that are not God in His image. We also will further take a look at God’s “jealous” nature, something that may be difficult to explain to those looking to disparage our assertion that we worship a good God.
Deuteronomy 5: 8-10
1.Like we discussed last week, God again describes himself as jealous in this passage of Deuteronomy. Using this passage, what else can we learn about God’s meaning?
2.Why would God punish the descendants of those who create idols in His place? What if they did not follow in their parents’ footsteps?
3.What does the inclusion of the phrase “claiming to be wise” teach us about the situation the people Paul is talking about in Romans got themselves in to?
1.The previous commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” What distinction would you make between this and the 2nd commandment? What is the between “having no others gods” and “not making an image in the form of anything?”
2.What are some things we tend to make in the image of God?
3.The idea of an “image” is first mentioned in Genesis 1, when God creates man in His own image. How does that passage shed light on the 2nd commandment?
As you go about your week, start to recognize the things in your life that you may be in danger of creating in the image of God. When you recognize that which may be an idol in your life, consider wither giving it up entirely, or beginning a fast from that thing, to remind yourself of the importance of God’s sovereignty over you.
Week 2: No Other Gods!
Pastor Mike Halstead
This week we are diving into the 10 commandments proper, with number one: “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Let’s discuss this, the first rule in God’s far-reaching Law, and see if we might be able to apply it to our lives today.
1.Why do you think God says verse 2? Why would he need to say that to the Israelites?
2.Why would this be the first law God gives his people? Why would this be placed above the “behavioral laws” (do not murder, covet, etc.)?
3.In Deuteronomy, God describes himself as jealous. How do we explain this to someone who may see this as a negative personality trait?
4.While Moses was on Mt. Sinai, learning of God’s law, the Israelites were literally building a new god to worship in the form of a golden calf. How do you think they would have reacted when learning of the first commandment?
1.In our society, literal gods aren’t usually what people put before God. What are some of the “gods that we tend to worship instead of our Creator?
2.We all have things we run to when doubt takes hold of us, or when we face difficult times and seek out temporary relief, rather than the eternal comfort of God. How do we stop this habit? What are ways we put God before anything else?
The first step in solving any problem is admitting that the problem exists. Make a list of the thing you tend to put before the one true God. Don’t just think about this these, actually write them down. Keep these things in mind, and when they come up in your life, remember to recognize them for what they might be: a pale replacement of the Almighty.
Pastor Mike Halstead
The ten commandments are a topic everyone knows about- even those who’ve never stepped inside a church building. Unfortunately, familiarity can often lead to an assumption that we know all about the topic – and we may not be right! Starting this week, we are going to take a deep look at the tablets given to Moses on Mt. Sinai that displayed the first ten laws God gave to the Israelites. Before we jump into the laws themselves, however, let’s look at the situation the Israelites were in, immediately before God began dictating the ten commandments (and the rest of His law) to Israel.
1.In this chapter, God has led Israel to the wilderness of Sinai, where they encamp themselves before Mount Sinai. While the whole nation is in one place, God only communicates His law to one person – Moses – who acts as a go-between. Why not simply address the whole nation at once?
2.Why does God say what he does in verses 3-6?
3.Why would the Israelites all need to be consecrated if the only going near the presence of the Lord was Moses?
1.The pronouncement of the Law was clearly a very important time for Israel. What are some things that we treat with the same reverence in the church today? Is there anything you feel like isn’t given the gravity that it should?
2.We learn later, in Exodus 32, that the people became impatient and literally created and began worshiping another God while Moses was on the mountain, because he was gone longer than they expected. Does modern church culture act this way?
3.What would it have been like to be an Israelite during the days of the physical presence of the Lord on Mt. Sinai?
Pray for the coming weeks as we learn more about the ten commandments. Ask God for guidance in understanding the significance of his laws and why these were things important enough to command his people to live under. Each week, before the Sunday sermon, read through Exodus 20 and contemplate the commandment(s) that are being discussed.
Fresh Water Week 6: A Forest Ablaze
As we come back to our series about the power of our speech, let’s take a close look a few verses from James 3, and the vibrant imagery the author uses to describe the danger that our tongues can cause. James compares the tongue to three different objects: a horse’s bit, a ship’s rudder, and a small spark in a great forest.
1.Which of these three metaphors strikes a chord with you? Why?
2.How do the three metaphors differentiate from each other in their implication for how our speech can be dangerous?
3.What are some other Biblical instances that demonstrate the power of our speech? If possible, categorize them under one of these three metaphors.
1.When was a time when you produced a “small spark”, intentionally or not, that caused a “great forest” to be “set on fire?”
2.What was a moment when you had the opportunity to “steer a great ship” (This is, make an important decision or influence another person) with your speech? How did you use that opportunity?
3.What other imagery can you come up with to describe how your language can be used or misused? For example “The tongue is like a 2-year-old, it will inevitably cause trouble if not looked after.”
Pray this week that you will be able to recognize the times when your speech may cause a great fire, and for the ability to put out the spark before it starts the blaze. Ask for wisdom in the times when your tongue is capable of steering the ship of your life.
Building Together: Our Offering
Pastor Steve Valdez
This week, Harvest’s youth pastor Steve shared a message with us about the important place that every single member of the church has in the effort to “build the tabernacle.” That is, that the task of contributing to the church has been given to all, not simply the rich or ultra-talented.
Let’s take a look at a passage in Exodus and see if we can apply to our modern-day situation.
1.Steve split the list of needs for the tabernacle into three different groups. Let’s figure out modern day equivalents to each one:
Excess wealth – “Gold, silver, and bronze:”
Specific Talents – “blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and…durable leather:”
Time and Energy – “acacia wood; olive oil; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; onyx stones and other gems:”
2.How would the Israelites feel about building this tabernacle, know that this would be the place that God would be physically dwelling among them (vs. 8)?
1.In what way are you contributing to the building up of the church?
2.Would you say that one of the groups mentioned above is more important than the others? Why or why not?
3.Today, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit is within us, not in an ark, such as the Israelites had. How does that change our approach to what it means to “build up the tabernacle?”
Ask God for opportunities to “build up the tabernacle;” ways to contribute the church that seek to spread its influence and give God and His followers further opportunities to help the community. If you aren’t contributing to the construction of God’s Kingdom, ask for help identifying how you can start approaching the church as an opportunity to serve, not just to be served.
Fresh Water: The Art of Listening
For the last four weeks, we have been examining James 3, a passage dedicated to the dangers of unrestrained speech and the importance of using your tongue for good, rather than sin. This week, let’s take a look at the reverse side of the coin: listening.
In our conversations, the time we spend listening may be just as important as the time we spend speaking. Who and what we decide to listen to can have a profound impact on our life, and will likely change how we decide to speak to others. Therefore, learning what the Bible teaches us about the art of listening is certainly worthy of our time.
1.Why is someone who “uses words with restraint” someone who has knowledge?
2.Why would sin be more present when words are many?
3.Proverbs 10:20 compares the value of two different things: the tongue of the righteous and the heart of the wicked. How are the tongue and the heart connected?
1.While this passage is specifically about dealing with food that may be considered “unclean” to eat, the larger context points to the idea that we should not be concerned with condemning others for taking part in something of we which we disapprove. Is this something with which you struggle?
2.How does the idea of listening, rather than speaking, connect with this passage?
1.If we are to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,” what should our speech look like?
2.How do we use our tongues and our ears to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds?”
1.Are you someone who tends to talk too much?
2.When was a time when you spoke when remaining silent would have been a better choice? Why?
3.What are ways we can train ourselves to speak less and listen well?
4.How can becoming better listeners be useful in our evangelism?
Pray this week for the patience to slow down when you speak, and to be more discerning with how and when you use your words. Ask for guidance when responding to people and for the ability to listen intently and seek to truly understand others before you respond to them. Thank Jesus for his example of someone who took time to listen to those who came to Him, and seek to emulate His ability to respond in love and kindness, even in times when he was being treated poorly.
Fresh Water: The Surface of Faith
Pastor Mike Halstead
This week, let’s take some time to talk about how our faith translates into action. We have been looking at a passage in James 3 for a month now, unpacking the potential our tongues have. Potential to build up or destroy; to encourage or hurt. Oftentimes, however, the potential for good that we have is stymied by our failure to turn our good intentions of our faith into real life action. First, let’s read another passage from James to get a picture of what we are talking about.
1.What is the difference between “faith” and “deeds?”
2.James creates a hypothetical argument between two people, one defending the supremacy of their faith, the other championing the value of good works. If you were to be a part of this debate, on which side do you believe you would find yourself?
3.Verse 19 seems to bring up an entirely new topic, that “demons” believe there is one God.
1.How can the potential for the good we can do with our tongue be lessened by our inaction?
2.How can hypocrisy find its way into our faith through our speech?
3.If faith without actions is dead, but actions without faith cannot bring us salvation, which of these two things to our Christian faith should be given priority?
4.How does the passage from James 3 that we have been studying during this series apply to this passage?
Pray for the courage to turn your words into action this week. If you truly desire a stronger community, then look for a small group to join. If you desire the homeless to be fed, then make a contribution to a local food pantry. Ask for opportunities to take your thoughts and feelings toward others and turn them into actions.
Fresh Water: Good Vibrations and Positive Motivations
Last week, Mike discussed the danger of how we can use our words selfishly, motivating others for personal gain or through methods that don’t reflect the gentleness of Christ. This week, let’s look at how motivation of positive speech habits can be a boon to our lives.
1.What is it like to be around someone who tends to be more positive than negative in the speech? How could it affect our evangelism if we attempt to be more uplifting in how we speak?
2.What does it mean to be “filled by the fruit of a person’s mouth?”
3.Does the passage in James 5 mean that we should no longer make promises?
4.What is more difficult, letting your “yes” be “yes” or your “no be “no?”.
1.For three weeks, we have been discussing how we use our speech and the positive and negative consequences our tongue may lead to. How have you tried to alter your words to become less negative?
2.If we should no longer swear, but rather let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no,” how will that affect our interactions with others? For example, how would work be affected if you became more straightforward and reliable in how you speak?
Praise God for his blessings, and all of the reasons we have to worship Him. Ask Him to remind you this week that your speech is important, and that the words and tone you use are being judged as part of your witness to Christ.
Fresh Water: Motivations
Pastor Mike Halstead
This week, we are looking at how we use our speech to motivate ourselves and others, and the detrimental impact we may have when we are not in full control of our tongue. Before reading on, think of a way that you have used words to motivate someone that may have not been the most gentle or positive.
1.What is the difference between a “gentle answer” and a harsh word?
2.How would you define the “obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking” found in Ephesians 4:29?
3.Ephesians 4:29 advises against using language that tears people down. How can we work to create a habit of gentleness and grace in our language?
1.Is anger always a negative emotion? If not, when is anger acceptable?
2.How can the use of course language be a detriment in our interactions with others? Would you say that course language is always sinful, or is it subjective to the situation?
3.Guilt can be a powerful motivator for taking positive action. What is the line between positive and negative guilt?
4.We all struggle with being critical of others from time to time. How can we begin to create a habit of being less critical and more wholesome in our speech?
This week, ask God for opportunities to build up others in the way that you speak to them. Thank Jesus for being an example of someone who uses gentle words, even when he is angry or in the midst of persecution. Additionally, ask close friends for accountability when you use course, unwholesome, or harsh words.
Fresh Water: The Course of your Life
Pastor Mike Halstead
In his epistle, James takes time to pay special attention to the potential dangers of how we use our speech.
1.What kind of situations may be present in James audience that he takes time to discuss the dangers of the tongue in such great detail?
2.Which of the metaphors that James uses sticks out to you?
3.Why does it seem like James is placing such an emphasis on the tongue as a dangerous part of
1.What kind of consequences can an uncontrolled tongue have on a church body?
2.Have you ever had a time when your speech has had a lasting impact on your life? Share that with the group.
3.Read James 1:19. How would this approach have helped the situation from the previous question? If you didn’t have an example, when is it the most difficult for you to be “slow to speak and quick to listen?”
4.Why is it that we often find it so difficult to apologize?
Praise God for giving us the ability to overcome our tendency to use poisonous words with others. Ask for courage to apologize to those with whom you may need to rebuild bridges that have been burned.