These Bible studies for Dec. 23 and 30 are adapted, respectively, from the Explore the Bible and MasterWork curriculum lines published by LifeWay.
Dec. 23, Explore the Bible
Bible Passage: Matthew 2:1-15
Discussion Questions: Whose star are you chasing? What are you pursuing with the hope of finding fulfillment?
Food for Thought (by Dwayne McCrary, the team leader for Explore the Bible who can be followed on Twitter @gdwayne):
This year, watch a young child on Christmas Day. Most will move from one package to another, ripping paper with glee. Some may even stop long enough to play with whatever is in the package. If they do, they will quickly put it down in favor of ripping some more paper. Almost any package will do, even the packages wrapped for someone else. It is about finally getting to do the one thing they were not allowed to do for a month -- touch the gifts under the tree.
We are no different when it comes to our pursuits as well. We chase after some item convinced that if it can be ours, we will be happy. However, just like the young child, we soon lose interest and start pursuing another yet-to-be-opened package. All we really ever do is tear, rip and pursue.
The magi had been searching for the Messiah, waiting for the One they knew would give them fulfillment. They knew what to look for and were willing to risk it all in pursuit. Once they found the Messiah, they presented gifts to the King as would be expected. In return, they received fulfillment through worship. They discovered that true fulfillment only comes at the feet of Jesus. Only His star is worth the pursuit.
Explore the Bible
Explore the Bible is an ongoing Bible study curriculum that helps groups dig into the key truths of each Bible book while keeping on pace to study through the entire Bible in eight years. The eight-year plan and more information can be found at LifeWay.com/ExploreTheBible .
The MasterWork Bible study for Dec. 30 follows.
Dec. 30, MasterWork
Bible Passage: Jonah 3:1-10
Discussion Question: How do you think God's emphasis on going into the world differs from the priorities of the church today?
Food for Thought:
"The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed." -- Hudson Taylor
A fifth-grade Sunday School teacher asked her class, "What is the Book of Jonah about?" "It's about a whale," one boy answered. This response would be typical of many people.
But the Book of Jonah is not a story about a fish. Neither is the book simply a story about a rebellious prophet. No, the central character in the Book of Jonah is God. The book reflects God's love for the lost, the tragic failure of His people to share that love, and the extreme measures God may use to move His people to obedience.
Jonah, of course, plays a key role in the account because he is an example of the way God's people often respond to God. In the end, Jonah did obey God but only because God graciously gave him new opportunities to serve.
The Book of Jonah taught ancient Israel and teaches us today the priority God has always placed on reaching the lost with the opportunity to receive His compassion. This primary theme of Jonah mirrors the heart of God and shines a spotlight all the way to Jesus' time. God gave the Old Testament prophet a command that parallels the New Testament Great Commission. God's heart to reach the unreached has never changed. We see it in the eighth century B.C. in Jonah's book all the way to this present age.
The story of Jonah leads us to consider also the power of God's Word. Jonah's message to the Ninevites was not filled with eloquent prose or stunning illustrative material. It was a short message containing only five Hebrew words, but the result was a harvest of amazing fruit Jonah had probably never seen coming.
If you feel unsure about reaching out to the lost for any reason, join the crowd. However, your insecurities don't absolve you of responsibility. You can rest, knowing that while you may feel powerless, God's Word is power. It carries the weight needed to convict sinners, draw the lost, and call all people to Himself. Depend on it and not on yourself to garner a response from others. Your message doesn't have to be long or profound or wonderfully crafted, just simple and significant and filled with Scripture.
Consider lastly how one act of obedience can have a tremendous effect. Often in Scripture, one regular person followed through on one regular act of obedience, and many experienced a ripple effect. The results of your simple obedience to God will be felt by those around you. Your obedience matters. God can do beyond that which you can imagine as He uses your obedience as a foundation for what He is doing. In what ways is God calling you to be obedient to the Great Commission?
MasterWork is an ongoing Bible study curriculum for adults based on works from a variety of noted authors, relaying pertinent, practical, uplifting messages. The list of authors and their books to be studied in upcoming months can be found at LifeWay.com/MasterWork.
Other ongoing Bible study options for all ages offered by LifeWay can be found at LifeWay.com/SundaySchool.
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