During this last day of Lent, let us consider all that this time of reflection is leading up to: the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, our victor over death and destruction. His demise was not final; it gave way to new, redemptive life, the most significant breaking in of God’s kingdom that the world has ever witnessed.
Where were the women going (1)? When (1)? What caused the earthquake (2)? Describe the angel’s appearance (3)? How did the guards react to him (4)? Would your response have been similar? Why or why not? What was the angel’s message to the women (5-7)? What did the women do next (8)? What do you think it means to be “afraid yet filled with joy”? Describe their encounter with the resurrected Jesus (9-10). How would you have reacted to such an encounter?
What are some of the most devastating things you have faced in life? How does their magnitude and permanence compare to Jesus’ resurrection power? When is it a challenge for you to trust in the blessings of His resurrection? What can you do to find greater healing in Jesus from all your wounds? Quietly listen for the Holy Spirit for several minutes. What is different or better about your life today, compared to 40 days ago? What is He speaking to you about how to go forward from this Lenten season?
Revelation 5:9-10 – The Kingdom and the Cross
We are kingdom people. We are people of the presence but we are also people of the cross. You meet God at the cross. You experience God’s Presence at the cross. You enter into his kingdom through the cross.
Jesus died to embody, exemplify and launch an alternative way to do kingdom. We must put kingdom and cross together. The cross is the place where God became king.
Humans are supposed to be God’s image bearers. How does God rule the world? Now God has become King He delegates authority to Jesus, who delegates authority and empowers his followers to build for the kingdom. Jesus rescued humans so that through them he may rule the world as he intended.
In God’s kingdom we at last become rightful heirs, true image bearers into the world. We become what humans are supposed to be.
“Our goal is not to get people to ask Jesus into their heart (a concept foreign to the scriptures), but to carry on Jesus’ exact message! That is, Jesus’ message – the gospel – was about the kingdom of God, and that is supposed to be our message too! We are delegates. This is an important part to understanding our vocation. In Genesis the means by which God chose to would rule the world was through humans, that hasn’t changed. In fact, that is still the same today. When we ask in what way God wants to run the world the answer is “the delegation of God’s authority, of Jesus’ authority, to human beings”. -Tom Wright (How God became King)
We are filled with His Holy Spirit, God’s presence to bring God’s rule and reign into the world. To bring heaven on earth. To bring Jesus way of doing things into dark places. To rescue people, families, communities, town and cities, ecosysytems. To challenge and oppose that which works against God’s kingdom. To root out and destroy acts of injustice. To bring healing to the sick, comfort to the broken, food to the hungry, jobs to the unemployed. Shelter to the homeless. Hope to those in despair. This is what the sovereignty of Jesus looks like. The cross and the kingdom work together.
On this day, known as Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday, Christians from many denominations across the globe remember and re-create one of Jesus’ last acts before his crucifixion: the washing of the disciples’ feet.
What is the setting (1-2)? Describe Jesus’ emotional and mental state (1, 3). What do you think is meant by “he loved them to the end”? What had the devil done to Judas (2)? What did Jesus do at the meal (4-5)? Why did Peter protest His actions (6, 8)? What convinced Peter to allow Jesus to wash his feet (7-8)? How did Peter express his compliance (9)? Explain Jesus’ words and thoughts in verses 10-11. Summarise the significance of the foot washing, as described by Jesus in verses 12-17. How would you define the type of leadership He is asking the disciples to embody? What does this passage reveal to you about the heart of Jesus?
Note than in verse 15 Jesus says, “You should do as I do,” not, “you should do what I do.” With that distinction in mind, what selfless act is the Lord asking of you today? As Lent draws to a close, how can go from contemplation of faith in Christ to living it out? How do you think people would describe your treatment of others? How would they characterise your leadership style? Ask the Lord to show you where your behaviour fails to be Christ-like. Also ask Him to convict you of self-seeking behaviour and motives in the moment, so that you can quickly surrender to the Holy Spirit’s transformative power.
“Now is the hour we should humbly prostrate ourselves before God, willing to be convicted afresh of our sins by the Holy Spirit.” –Watchman Nee
How does Micah describe the crimes Israel’s rulers commit against the people (1-3)? Why do you think he uses such graphic imagery? Why is God unwilling to respond to the people’s cries (4)? Of what two-faced behavior does Micah accuse the prophets (5)? As a result, how will the prophets suffer (6-7)? How is Micah distinct from other prophets (8)? What is his purpose (8)? How do you think the Holy Spirit’s power, justice, and might work together in a ministry such as Micah’s? What other accusations does Micah level against Israel’s leaders (9-11)? What do the leaders take for granted (11)? What will be the repercussions of Israel’s sin (12)? Read Acts 2:37-39. How does it connect to this passage?
Which verse from this text do you find most harrowing? Why? What do you think is God’s unique purpose for filling you with the Spirit of the Lord? What expressions of it have you seen in life so far? What are some ways you could more robustly embody this mantle? In what ways do you give Spirit-filled brothers and sisters in Christ clearance to declare your transgression to you? Do you allow the Holy Spirit to directly convict you of your sin? If you are closed-off to this type of Holy Spirit encounter, pray for God to strip you of pride and insecurity so that you can experience more wholeness in Him.
The apostles spent three years watching Jesus perform miracles. Compared to those men, we may feel we are at a disadvantage, incapable of the faith they had for the miraculous. Yet even today, Jesus’ disciples are continuing the work He began. You can be one of them.
Who did Peter find in Lydda (33)? How was Aeneas healed (34)? Compare this incident to Luke 5:17-26. Note all the similarities. Describe the scene in Joppa (36-37). What did the two men urge Peter to do (38)? Why, since he had never raised anyone from the dead, do you think they sent for him? Summarise the events surrounding Tabitha’s healing (39-41). Compare them to Luke 8:49- 56. Why do you think the details are so similar? In both instances, why do you think mourners were removed from the room (see Matthew 13:58)? Before Peter’s arrival, do you think the believers tried to heal Aeneas and Tabitha by themselves? Why or why not? How did these healings affect area residents (35, 42)?
Read Acts 1:8. In what ways are the gifts of the Spirit like power tools? When have you experienced the Spirit in such a way? How do you make yourself available to Jesus, so that He can perform miracles through you? Ask Him to reveal any roadblocks you put in His path. Repent of these thoughts and habits and pray that the power of the Holy Spirit would fill you and flow through you. Who exercises spiritual gifts in ways that you would like to emulate? Shadow and learn from the person as they engage in the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
“We must begin to believe that God, in the mystery of prayer, has entrusted us with a force that can move the Heavenly world, and can bring its power down to earth.” –Andrew Murray
How does Paul tell us to pray, and under what circumstances (18)? What do you think it means to “pray in the Spirit”? For whom should we pray (18-19)? What are Paul’s prayer requests (19-20)? What clues can we find to his situation (19-20)? What is his primary concern (19)? Why do you think he twice uses the word “fearlessly”? What do you think he means by “ambassador in chains”?
When have someone else’s prayers made a difference in your life? How have those times inspired you to bolster your prayers for others? Describe your prayers for “all the Lord’s people.” What do you pray for your spiritual leaders? How does God want you to enrich these prayers? What changes can you make in your life to increase your prayers for those facing spiritual opposition?
Ask the Lord to reveal a situation for which spiritual alertness is critical. What is the Holy Spirit showing you? How does He specifically want you to “be alert” as you engage the situation? In what ways does this passage boost your willingness to confront trying spiritual circumstances?
1 Corinthians 14:26-33
Since the Holy Spirit loves to move among God’s people, the church is perhaps the best setting for prophetic ministry. When done in an orderly and edifying manner, prophecy builds up the body in indescribable ways.
What happens when the believers gather together (26)? What is the goal of all aspects of a church service (26)? Summarize Paul’s instructions for speaking in tongues (27-28). What are his guidelines for prophecy (29-33)? How ought we initially respond to a prophetic word (29)? Who can be counted among the prophets mentioned in verse 29? Do you think Paul is referring to a specific office? Why or why not? How would you define the word “revelation” as stated in verse 30? What does prophecy help to achieve (31)? Which attribute of God should congregations reflect (33)?
Describe a time when you benefited from prophecy. How did it impact your life then and now? Recall moments when God spoke prophetically through you. How was His church encouraged? What areas do you need to mature in so that the Lord might entrust more prophetic service to you? If you desire the gift of prophecy, ask God for it and seek out a prophetically gifted friend to pray over you. How might better prioritisation and nurturing of your relationship with Jesus, via prayer and Bible reading, help you to become more sensitive to when the Lord is speaking? What is the first step you will take in this direction? What are some ways that you can protect yourself and the church from false prophecy?
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
“The work of the Holy Spirit is to manifest (make clearly apparent to the sight or understanding) the active presence of God in the world, and especially in the Church.” –Wayne Groomed
To what does Paul compare the church (12, 14, 27)? How does he describe diversity and unity among believes (13)? Summarize his explanation of the critical function of spiritual gifts within the body of Christ (15-21). What does he say specifically to those who consider some spiritual gifts to be inferior (22-26)? What examples of the Spirit’s gifts does Paul list in this passage (28-30)? Why do you think Paul asks if all are prophets, all are apostles, etc.? How does this discourage both comparison and competition among believers? How does the image of a physical body shed light on the need for other brothers and sisters in Christ?
What are some ways that you treat certain gifts as more “spiritual” than others? Repent and pray God would meet you in the challenge to appreciate the diversity of spiritual gifts within the body. As you ponder that we all drink from the same Spirit yet are each equipped differently, think of all the ways this is a perfect expression of His wonder and glory. What is God revealing to your heart? When the Holy Spirit gifts and leads you to bless someone, what do you think the recipient senses in the spiritual realm? How do you benefit from the act?
“[Paul] …did not think of spiritual gifts as synonymous with the eye-catching and very physical; the charismatic Spirit came to expression characteristically for him in service, no doubt, often hidden from the public eye, in the humdrum maintenance of others in the basics of everyday living, as the Spirit of the crucified.” –James D. G.Dunn
Summarize the ways Paul de-emphasizes individualism in the church (3-6)? What does he tell us to do (6-8)? What gifts does he mention in this passage (6-8)? Think of an example of what each of these gifts look like in practice. How do you think the church benefits when everyone exercises their gifts according to the Spirit’s leading? How is the church harmed when the body fails to do so?
What are some behind-the-scenes ways you have seen others serve in the church or reach out to those in need? Are you truly thankful for the opportunity to serve those who have no way of repaying you? Why or why not? Considering the abundant needs of those around us, how do you avoid burnout in serving others? How can you mature in using the Spiritual gifts God has given you? Pray that your community, yourself included, would use their gifts in a Spirit-led, sustainable way. Also pray that your community’s expression of spiritual gifts would make Jesus and His church attractive to those who do not know the Lord.
“A church in the land without the Spirit is rather a curse than a blessing. If you have not the Spirit of God, Christian worker, remember that you stand in somebody else’s way; you are a fruitless tree standing where a fruitful tree might grow.” –Charles Spurgeon
Imagine the scene described in verses 1-2. Who is present (1)? Where were they (1)? What were they doing (2)? What did the Holy Spirit say (2)? How do you think they were able to hear from the Spirit? How did they discern whether what they heard was truly from the Lord (3)? Describe the way they sent off Barnabas and Saul (3). Why did they lay their hands on them? Where did Barnabas and Paul go (4-5)? Who led them there (4)? At what point do you think the Spirit revealed their destination? What did they do upon arrival (5)? Do you think that this or any other texts present a foolproof formula for discerning the Spirit’s voice? Why or why not?
Does the Holy Spirit speak to you through your thoughts, with visions, or in some other way? When He does not reveal every detail to your satisfaction, how do you proceed? Recall a time of corporate worship and prayer when the Holy Spirit spoke the same word to multiple people. What did this experience teach you about the Spirit’s activity in the church?
Are you ever reluctant to share with others what the Holy Spirit may be speaking to you? If so, consider God’s desire to use you to bless His church and pray for both boldness and humility during your next opportunity to share a word from the Lord.