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In the World–April 21, 2024

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DESPERATE TO PROVE A DEATH

Unfortunately, insurance fraud is common to many parts of the world. For instance, the country of South Africa is battling an epidemic of fake life insurance claims. When a person reports a non-existent death, that person might be able to collect lucrative benefits from an insurance company. Extended family members might try to claim a relative’s death ahead of time, hoping to maintain their family’s standard of living. Other times, criminals use sophisticated trickery, acquiring unidentified remains from mortuaries and passing these bodies off as “proof of death” to collect a payout. Insurance companies have to fight these crimes, with so much money on the line.

DESPERATE TO SHOW HER DEVOTION

In first-century Israel, meals were usually taken with diners reclining on pillows with their feet extending away from the table. In today’s passage, a woman with a checkered past approaches Jesus’ feet and begins to weep, either in sorrow over her sin or gratitude for the Lord’s forgiveness. Her tears drop onto his feet, and she wipes them with her hair and pours perfume on them. Her desperation to show her devotion is as extreme as the men who tore through the roof to lower a paralyzed friend to Jesus (see Luke 5:18–27).

  1. When have you been desperate to prove something? How did it turn out?
  2. In Jesus’ Jewish culture, how scandalous do you think it was it for this woman to do what she did?
  3. What can we do when our hearts are overflowing with love for Jesus?

Additional Resources

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In the World–April 14, 2024

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GREAT HONOR TO A PLAYER

The Philadelphia 76ers honored Allen Iverson this week by unveiling a statue of the basketball great outside the team’s arena. Iverson led the Sixers to the NBA finals in 2001 and had a long, stellar career. The Legends Walk features a series of sculptures honoring former Philadelphia players such as Charles Barkley, Wilt Chamberlain, and Moses Malone. “Allen Iverson is one of the greatest 76ers to ever live and one of the most iconic players in the history of the NBA,” said Sixers co-owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer in a statement. “We’re thrilled to honor his accomplishments with a well-deserved sculpture on Legends Walk.”

GREAT HONOR TO THE LORD

The centurion mentioned in today’s passage must have been remarkable, for when he sent word asking for Jesus to heal his servant, the Jewish leaders of Capernaum vouched for the Roman soldier. They even said that he deserved to have Jesus go help him. But the centurion didn’t hold such a high view of himself. He instead sent a message, telling Jesus that he didn’t deserve to have him enter his home. His faith was so great that he knew Jesus could heal his servant from anywhere, with just a spoken command.

  1. Whom do you know who deserves to have a statue put up in his or her honor?
  2. What might be a modern equivalent of the Jewish leaders praising this Roman centurion?
  3. How was the centurion’s faith greater than any person Jesus had encountered in all of Israel?

Additional Resources

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In the World–April 7, 2024

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POLICE CAMERAS INTRODUCED TO SCHOOL BUSES

Last month the Greece Central School District in New York became the latest in the region to install cameras on their buses’ “stop arms.” These cameras record the license plates of any cars that pass a stopped school bus. Fines begin at $250 for first offenses and increase for second and third violations. In other districts in the same county, cameras have recorded well over a thousand violations just since October. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think in just a few months, we’d see more than a thousand times someone’s child was in danger getting on and off the school bus,” said county executive Adam Bello. I think we can all agree that’s unacceptable. 

A PARALYZED FRIEND INTRODUCED TO JESUS

Today’s passage tells of the men who lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof of a house to get him to Jesus. Their faith was great, and so was their urgency. In an act of reckless determination, they found a way to bring their friend to the only one who could heal him. We have no record of there being any faith exhibited by the man on the pallet, but Jesus saw the faith of his friends, and rewarded their belief. 

  1. What do you think is the most effective way to increase the safety of children who ride school buses?
  2. When have you been desperate and determined to make something happen for someone else?
  3. Who do you know who needs to be introduced to Jesus?

Additional Resources

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In the World–March 31, 2024

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MARS SAMPLE RETURN HINGES ON BUDGET

Since 2021, the Mars rover called Perseverance has been exploring an ancient river delta on the red planet’s surface. At scientifically strategic spots, the rover has been extracting and preserving samples from the rocks it encounters. From the mission’s outset, the plan has been to return those samples to earth, where full-size labs of today and powerful tools not yet invented can examine their composition; and possibly conclude that Mars once had microbial or other forms of life. But the missions to bring the samples back are in jeopardy due to budget cuts to NASA this month. Everything pivots on there being the money—and the international will—to make the sample return missions happen.

THE CHRISTIAN FAITH HINGES ON THE RESURRECTION

All of Christianity pivots on Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:16–17, if Christ has not been raised, then every believer’s faith is worthless, and we all remain in our sins. Today’s passage from Mark gives a reliable eyewitness account of the event that our faith hinges upon and that we celebrate this Easter Sunday.

  1. What’s the most exciting space-related event you’ve heard of?
  2. When has something important in your life hinged upon one thing happening?
  3. What is your favorite way to celebrate Easter?

Additional Resources

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In the World–March 24, 2024

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RECEIVE LEARNING FROM THE HIVE

Scientists studying bumblebees have discovered that individual bees can solve complex puzzles through social interaction with their peers. In a recent issue of Nature, lead researcher Dr. Alice Bridges reported that a complicated two-step puzzle task, in which the bee had to perform two actions to gain access to a sugar solution, could be taught by “demonstrator” bees who knew how to do it. But bees without training could not figure out how to break the code. “This is an extremely difficult task for bees,” said Bridges, that “opens exciting possibilities” for further study. Lars Chittka, another scientist who reviewed the findings, said that it “challenges the traditional view that only humans can socially learn complex behavior” from peers.

RECEIVE WISDOM FROM THE SPIRIT

In today’s passage, Stephen, a deacon in the newborn church in Jerusalem, found himself debating with learned Jewish scholars who revered the temple. None of his opponents could refute—or even stand up against—the wisdom given to Stephen by the Holy Spirit. This infuriated them, much as it had done when they had debated Jesus. So they hatched a similar plan to get rid of him.

  1. What’s an example of insects or animals learning something that was not instinctual (for instance, kittens learning to use the litter box or crows crafting twigs as tools)?
  2. When have you been given instruction or guidance from the Holy Spirit?
  3. Why do you think the Jewish religious leaders didn’t take Stephen to Pilate with their false accusations?

Additional Resources

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In the World–March 17, 2024

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REFUSE TO BE UNFORGIVING

Last month, a wrestling student at Campbellsville University in Kentucky allegedly strangled his teammate, Josiah Kilman. A week later, Kilman’s father spoke to the student body at an emotional chapel service. He urged the students to forgive the accused killer. “Forgiveness is a choice,” he said. “If Josiah was standing here right now, he would talk to you about forgiveness. It’s the center of what Jesus is. Unforgiveness? That’s a curse. It comes with things you don’t want, things you don’t need. From the life of Josiah, I challenge you to choose forgiveness because in that, we become the light of Jesus.”

REFUSE TO TAKE REVENGE

Today’s passage contains Peter’s plea to his readers not to take revenge or to repay evil with evil. He advocates living in ways that are above reproach, for that is likely to cause them to be on the receiving end of fewer acts of malice. Suffering may still come, Peter says, even if we’re doing good. But suffering will surely find us when we choose to take our own revenge.

  1. When have you been moved by someone’s tragedy? What did you want to do in response?
  2. How do you imagine that a grieving father might be able to call for forgiveness so soon after his son’s death?
  3. If you have ever suffered for doing right, how did it feel?

Additional Resources

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In the World–March 10, 2024

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ONBOARD LASER DIAGNOSTIC CHECK

Last month, for the first time, a privately owned company (as opposed to a government-funded agency) successfully landed a spacecraft on the moon. The unmanned lander, Odysseus, built and operated by Intuitive Machines, made a soft landing on the lunar surface, but it was almost a disaster. The flight operators who were working on a separate issue decided to check the craft’s distance from the moon the night before the scheduled landing. When they tried to fire the laser rangefinders on board, nothing happened. These lasers were critical to help the craft land safely. Normally, the team wouldn’t have discovered this internal failure until they were already committed to landing, but thanks to this unrelated problem, they had an early warning. They delayed the landing long enough for engineers to come up with a brilliant solution, which they programmed and uploaded to the lander. And it worked.

INTERNAL SPIRITUAL DIAGNOSTIC CHECK

In today’s passage, Paul is warning the Christians in Corinth that he is about to visit them for a third time, and he’s concerned that this will be their third strike. They have worked to correct their previous acceptance of someone’s egregious sin, but he wonders if they’ve really put aside sexual immorality (see 2 Cor. 12:20–21). He asks them to do an internal check to be sure they’re reflecting Christ in their actions.

  1. What is your reaction to sending spacecraft—eventually, humans—back to the moon?
  2. When was a time that you wondered whether a machine or your health was working as it should?
  3. How can we examine ourselves to see if we are faithful in our behavior?

Additional Resources

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In the World–March 3, 2024

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RETAINING ALLIES BY STRENGTHENING SECURITY

In February, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced intentions to speed up new measures designed to remedy serious security breaches. The US discovered the cybersecurity breach in 2020, when it saw that information it had shared with Japan was being leaked to China. Japan was informed of the problem as a matter of highest urgency but has since moved slowly on it, doing—in the words of one US official—“too little, too late.” Making policy changes to communications protocols has wide-ranging legal impacts on Japanese law, creating resistance to change. But Japan risks losing the trust of its allies, as things stand. One Japanese official said that other nations “are not going to be comfortable sharing sensitive data with Japan if they think it is going to be compromised.”

REMAINING IN GOD’S LOVE AS OTHERS FALL AWAY

Jude wrote to warn Christians that scoffers would come who would divide the church and cause some to fall away from the faith. But he urged his readers to strengthen their faith, keeping themselves in the love of God and praying to the Holy Spirit to stay the course.

  1. When have you recently come to someone with a matter of urgency? Did they react quickly?
  2. How can scoffers bring division to a church body?
  3. In what ways can we strengthen our faith, even as others may fall away?

Additional Resources

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In the World–February 25, 2024

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HER FLIGHT WILL BE ON TIME

Super Bowl LVIII is ancient history now, but one fan made an epic ’round-the-world trek to get to the game in time for kickoff. Music superstar Taylor Swift is dating Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce, and she wanted to be in her seat to watch her boyfriend play for the Lombardi Trophy. The problem was that she was doing four shows in Tokyo. After her final show, she rushed to the airport to begin the twelve-hour, fifty-seven-hundred-mile journey across nine time zones and the international date line. At some point over the Pacific, the pilots received word that all the private aircraft parking lots at the airport in the destination city (Las Vegas) were full. Swift’s plane landed in Los Angeles, and then she and her friends had to drive the final five-hour stretch to Allegiant Stadium in Vegas. She did make it to the game on time, and her boyfriend’s team did take home the trophy.

HIS PROMISE WILL BE ON TIME

Sometimes we notice the discrepancy between the things God has promised to do in the world and the actual condition of the world, and we can begin to wonder if the Lord has forgotten or is slow about keeping his promises. In today’s Scripture passage, the prophet Habakkuk received an assurance from God that, though the promised deliverance for his people seemed to be delayed, it would certainly come in its fullness and at the proper time.

  1. What’s the longest or most difficult journey you’ve ever made?
  2. When has God made a promise to you, one that seemed to take a long time to materialize?
  3. How can we patiently wait upon the Lord’s timing?

Additional Resources

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In the World–February 18, 2024

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WORSHIPING GOD DESPITE CHINESE PERSECUTION

At the end of last month, about one hundred and fifty police officers descended upon the church service of a group of Protestant Christians in northeastern China. Some two hundred of the people were arrested and put on buses, and their fate is unknown as of this writing. The church is affiliated with the SOLA Network, which is working to spread the good news of Jesus Christ through both local churches and digital media platforms. The church’s beliefs were not sanctioned by the Chinese state, and it comes at a time of increased persecution, when the government under Xi Jinping has been cracking down on Christians. Locals became suspicious after noticing a strange car parked outside the gathering place the night before. But everyone was surprised at the number of officers who were sent. “Even when they arrest criminals, we have never seen so many police officers,” one witness said.

WORSHIPING GOD DESPITE BABYLONIAN PERSECUTION

The prophet Daniel, though a captive and a slave, was known for worshiping the God of the Jews. His enemies sought to use this fact to remove him from his favored position in the court of King Darius. They tricked Darius into passing a law whose aim was to make Daniel’s worship a criminal offense punishable by death. But even knowing this edict, Daniel threw open the windows and openly prayed toward Jerusalem. He didn’t know whether God would save him or not, but his love for God overruled his concern for his own life.

  1. How do you think you would do in a country where expressing your faith was a crime?
  2. When have you or someone you know been the target of a plot or persecution?
  3. What were Darius’s options when he realized what was going to happen to Daniel?

Additional Resources

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In the World–February 11, 2024

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RESCUED FROM A FIERY CAR

Thirty years ago, two NYPD detectives in Harlem spotted a car billowing smoke. They flagged down the car, which had a young mother and two young children inside. Just then, the engine burst into flames, and they pulled the three out and got them to safety. Earlier this month, one of the two children in that car—Denise Gomez, who was two at the time—achieved her dream of emulating the heroes who had saved her life, and she became a NYPD officer herself. The two detectives who rescued her are now retired, but they attended the ceremony where Denise received her badge. They were surprised to learn that she would carry the exact badge as Eric Ocasio, one of the officers who had pulled her from the car. Ocasio said, “To know that, thirty years later, Police Officer Gomez became a police officer due to our actions that day is very special and near and dear to my heart.”

RESCUED FROM A FIERY FURNACE

After uttering one of the most profound expressions of faith in the Bible, three young men known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown alive into a blazing furnace, which was supposed to execute them. But the God in whom they had placed their unwavering faith, a faith they would hold to whether he rescued them or not, delivered them from the flames. The miracle was a powerful testimony to a pagan tyrant, who gave glory to God.

  1. What’s the greatest thing you’ve ever seen a police officer or other service worker do?
  2. Who is someone you admire so much that it has brought change to your life?
  3. How can we know whether our faith is as courageous as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?

Additional Resources

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In the World–February 4, 2024

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DISTRUSTING THE POWER COMPANY

During last month’s winter storms, the Portland, Oregon area was hit especially hard, with one hundred twenty-seven thousand people going without power for days. The Portland General Electric (PGE) webpage and mobile app were unreliable, as well, even telling residents that their address didn’t exist. The company worked diligently, mobilizing over fifteen hundred employees and calling in crews from surrounding states. Within two days, nearly a hundred thousand people had their electricity restored. Still, some went five days or more without heat at home, leading Portland resident Jai Sen to say, “I still have no honest answer from PGE as to what to expect, and I don’t know if I could trust anything provided at this point.”

TRUSTING IN THE POWER OF THE LORD

Today’s passage from Isaiah is a testament to the trustworthiness of God. With imagery similar to God’s words in Job 40–41, the Lord is portrayed in glory and power, for the one who created the earth and the cosmos has no equal. Yet this tremendous God employs that power to come to the aid of those who hope in him.

  1. What was your most extreme encounter with cold weather?
  2. What is something in your life that has proved less reliable than you expected it to be?
  3. Where have you experienced the power of God in your life?

Additional Resources

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In the World–January 28, 2024

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USING THEIR SKILLS OFF THE FIELD

The University of Washington played in the championship of the College Football Playoffs this month. (They lost 34–13 to Michigan.) But three members of the UW Huskies’ football team are working with a professor on a study that identifies how the skills needed to thrive in high-level athletic competition are transferrable to a variety of career and academic fields. These players are “developing and analyzing plays, observing human behavior, anticipating their opponents, and adapting a complex strategy based on real-time information that they’re synthesizing from their surroundings,” says Holly Barker, a University of Washington teaching professor. “That hasn’t been widely acknowledged, and does a disservice to players, especially in the academic opportunities they pursue and their future careers.”

USING YOUR GIFTS IN THE CHURCH

In today’s passage, Paul calls the Christians in Rome to assess what spiritual gifts they’ve been given and then use those gifts to serve the body of Christ. The Lord has beautifully designed the church to build up its members, and this happens as every person uses his or her gifts in faithful service to Christ and one another.

  1. What abilities have you developed in one hobby or sport that you’ve been able to apply in other settings?
  2. What do you think sets a spiritual gift apart from a natural ability?
  3. How can someone use a spiritual gift in a creative way or an unusual setting?

Additional Resources

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In the World–January 21, 2024

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ERODING TRUST IN A COMPANY

In the online store of the Boeing aircraft company, you can buy a t-shirt that says, “If It’s Not Boeing I’m Not Going.” This reflects the trust the public once held in the company and the safety of its planes. However, recent disasters—including two deadly crashes of its 737 Max aircraft in 2018–19—have tarnished their image. Their Starliner spacecraft program has been plagued with errors and failures, and their design of the two planes slated to replace Air Force One has amassed more than $2 billion in losses. Then on January 5 of this year, a 737 Max 9 suffered the rupture of its fuselage in the main cabin while at 16,000 feet, with 171 passengers aboard. After the crashes five years ago, US consumer advocate Ralph Nader said the Boeing 737 Max must never fly again, and recent events have not stopped the erosion of public confidence.

ENCOURAGING TRUST IN THE LORD

During the reign of Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, an enemy alliance of three armies invaded the land. The people of Judah came to Jerusalem and cried out to the Lord. The king prayed to God, ending with the words sometimes translated, “We don’t know what to do but our eyes are on You!” (2 Chron. 20:12 NIV). Then the Lord gave a message to a prophet among them, who urged them to trust in the Lord’s deliverance, because the battle would be fought by the Lord on their behalf.

  1. Which companies or brands do you deeply trust, and why?
  2. What do you think of the words of the king in reaction to the danger?
  3. When have you trusted in the Lord to help you through something in your life? What was the result?

Additional Resources

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In the World–January 14, 2024

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COUNTERINTUITIVE PARENTING

It may seem odd, but modern parenting of school-age children in Western cultures may be increasing anxiety in children rather than giving them confidence for life. “Unfortunately … what the statistics and the studies show us,” says Jennifer Breheny Wallace, a journalist, parenting researcher, and author, “is that the very life-vest we’re hoping to put on our kids to keep them afloat in an uncertain future is actually … acting more like a lead vest, and drowning too many of the kids we are trying to protect.” Parental anxiety over their children, especially their children’s performance in school and extracurricular activities, may be sending the message that what really matters is their scores, grades, and rankings. This can have a chilling effect on children, causing them to hesitate about taking the risks that will make them stronger and teach them how to handle anxiety in life.

COUNTERINTUITIVE TRUST

Following God can sometimes seem counterintuitive to a watching world. Today’s passage reminds us that our own understanding—logical though it may be—is far inferior to the Lord’s commands and guidance. Proverbs reminds us that it’s better to trust in the Lord’s ways than in even the most popular or agreed-upon wisdom of the world.

  1. What’s an example of a parenting strategy that did not work as planned?
  2. When have you found something to be true but counterintuitive?
  3. Why do God’s ways sometimes seem confusing to non-Christians?

Additional Resources

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In the World–January 7, 2024

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SINKING FAITH IN GOALS

In Europe and America, governments have set goals that significant percentages of energy be obtained through renewable sources such as solar or wind power in the near future. The European Union, for example, has set a legally binding mandate that it will be producing 42.5% of its energy from renewables by 2030, up from its current 32%. However, supply chain interruptions begun during the pandemic have not been resolved, and manufacturing and shipping costs have risen dramatically. It has reached the point where wind power companies can’t afford to build the turbines and infrastructure. Britain recently held an auction for wind farm companies to bid to supply that country’s energy needs, but no bidders showed up. “The ratio between risk and reward is out of line in the offshore wind market,” said Ben Backwell, CEO of the Global Wind Energy Council. If things don’t change, he warned, “climate and economic goals will simply not be met.”

STEADY FAITH IN GOD

In the famous chapter on faith from the book of Hebrews, the writer features several biblical heroes. What is praised is each person’s belief that God’s faithfulness would be present in the future. Whatever the Lord asked them to do, they did it, counting it as sure that God would work things out to his glory and according to his design.

  1. What is a goal you were able to reach? What is one you were unable to reach?
  2. When have you had to trust in someone who had not always proved to be reliable?
  3. How have you trusted in God for something in the future and found him faithful?

Additional Resources

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In the World–December 31, 2023

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UNWAVERING IN A BAD FAITH LAWSUIT

This year, a judge in Houston, Texas, made a ruling in a trade dispute between Teligistics, an expense management company, and Liquid Networx, a San Antonio-based cybersecurity company. Teligistics accused Liquid Networx of stealing a trade secret, but a jury found that Teligistics did not own the secret and had brought the lawsuit in bad faith, which means with dishonest or harmful intent. In September, the Houston judge awarded Liquid Networx over a million dollars in attorneys’ fees as damages. Attorneys praised Liquid Networx, which “never wavered in its denial of any wrongdoing and asserted that the lawsuit was brought in bad faith.”

UNWAVERING IN A GOOD FAITH JOURNEY

Somewhere in “the east,” possibly Persia, Magi saw a star rise in the sky and understood it to herald the birth of a king of the Jews. In faith that their observations were correct, they set out on a long, overland journey to come worship such a supernaturally announced king. In faith, they asked King Herod about where the baby would be born, in faith they went to Bethlehem as the Jewish teachers advised, and in faith—because of a warning dream—they departed via another way.

  1. What does it feel like to be exonerated from a false accusation?
  2. When have you seen non-Christians behave with admirable faith?
  3. Why do you think none of the Jewish chief priests accompanied the Magi to Bethlehem?

Additional Resources

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In the World–December 24, 2023

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REVEALING THE GENDER

An expectant woman from Texas had celebrity help in discovering her baby’s gender this fall. Larissa Silva of Weslaco, Texas, attended a Jonas Brothers concert in San Antonio, hoping that the music group would do the honors during the show. The three brothers, all young fathers themselves, have been kindly announcing babies’ genders throughout their current tour, and Silva and her husband were able to arrange for them to do so for their baby. After the band sang “Little Bird,” a song dedicated to their daughters, Joe Jonas opened the envelope that revealed the findings of the ultrasound and announced, “It’s a girl!” The crowd cheered uproariously, and the lights turned pink.

REVEALING THE SAVIOR

The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would be the mother of the Son of God, who would be the Savior. Despite the incredible nature of this news, Mary gladly submitted to the will of the Lord. Gabriel told Mary that her Aunt Elizabeth was also expecting, so Mary journeyed to the hill country to share the news with her aunt. But as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, the baby growing inside Elizabeth—who would be John the Baptist—leapt inside her. In two senses, John would be among the very first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

  1. What’s the most interesting gender reveal you’ve ever heard of?
  2. What would be your ideal Christmas celebration, if you could have your best dream come true?
  3. Of what significance might it be that a woman was the first to be told of the Savior’s birth and that a woman was the first to witness the risen Christ?

Additional Resources

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In the World–December 17, 2023

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A LIST OF SITES WITH GREAT HERITAGE

In September of this year, an ancient earthworks circle joined Stonehenge, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Angkor temple complex in Cambodia as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This ceremonial site isn’t on the plains of Mesopotamia or Africa, however, but in Ohio. Around two thousand years ago, the Indigenous people now referred to as the Hopewell culture built hundreds of ceremonial earthworks. Over the centuries, especially with European migration to the area, most of the sites have been damaged or erased. A quarter of a century of work from organizations across Ohio culminated in the U.S. Department of the Interior applying to UNESCO in March of 2022, and in September 2023 the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthwork site was officially added to the list.

A LIST OF FATHERS WITH GREAT HERITAGE

Today’s passage includes Matthew’s genealogical list tracing the lineage of Jesus from Joseph to David, Ruth, and Rahab, and all the way back to Abraham. A careful reading of the list reveals it to be not just a dry sequence of begats but a remarkable tale of God’s grace, faithfulness, and love for people of all nations.

  1. Which UNESCO heritage sites would you like to visit? Here’s the link: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/
  2. How far back do you know your own genealogy?
  3. What do you make of the fact that Matthew’s genealogical list includes women and non-Jews?

Additional Resources

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In the World–December 10, 2023

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Download “In the World” for December 10, 2023 here.

GOING UP AGAINST A CORPORATE GIANT

This fall, a small real estate holding business, Courtland Company, successfully challenged a much larger corporation in federal court. In what the company hailed as a “David versus Goliath victory,” U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr. ruled favorably for Courtland against chemical giant Union Carbide, which is owned by Dow Chemical. Between 1950 and 1980, Copenhaver found, Union Carbide had illegally dumped toxic waste in a nearby property called the Filmont Landfill. Toxins from that practice have and continue to leech into public waterways and groundwater. If the ruling is not overturned, Union Carbide will be forced to pay for the cleanup of soil and water contamination and could face civil penalties under the Clean Water Act.

GOING UP AGAINST AN ACTUAL GIANT

When a young man from Bethlehem came to King Saul and offered to face a Philistine giant in single combat, Saul was hesitant. How could this David, not much more than a boy, stand a chance against a nine-foot-tall warrior? But seeing no other volunteers, and perhaps being moved by David’s zeal for the God of Israel, he relented. David stood before Goliath in the power of the Lord, and he prevailed.

  1. When have you seen someone take positive responsibility for harm done to another?
  2. What’s a David vs. Goliath situation you’ve been part of?
  3. Why do you think King Saul agreed to let David represent Israel in this situation with Goliath?

Additional Resources

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In the World–December 3, 2023

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REUNITED WITH HIS BIRTH MOTHER

One day in 1981 in Santiago, Chile, a poor woman gave birth to a premature baby boy. She was discharged from the hospital while the baby was put in an incubator, but when she returned, she was told the baby had died and his body had been disposed of. In reality, the baby was sold in a human trafficking scheme that was common at the time. The boy was adopted by an American family and given the name Jimmy Lippert Thyde. The mother, María Angélica González, had more children but never forgot her baby boy. Forty-two years later, through an organization called Nos Buscamos (which means, “We are looking for each other”), mother and son were reunited in Chile. “Mijo,” María told her son, “you have no idea the oceans I’ve cried for you. How many nights I’ve laid awake praying that God let me live long enough to learn what happened to you.”

STAYING WITH HER NEW MOTHER

Naomi had gone to Moab because of a famine in Israel. She had prospered there, marrying and raising two sons, both of whom married Moabite women. But when all three men died and news reached Naomi that Israel had food again, she determined to return home. She urged her two daughters-in-law to go back to their own homes and remarry, but one of the two—Ruth—refused to be parted from her mother-in-law. Her devotion was such that she gave up her homeland and her religion to stay by Naomi’s side.

  1. What’s the happiest adoption or reunion story you’ve ever heard?
  2. How can we help put an end to human trafficking?
  3. What could cause you to leave everything behind and start a new life?

Additional Resources

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In the World–November 26, 2023

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FREEDOM THAT RISKS HARM TO ONESELF

Protestors in several countries recently commemorated the anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died in police custody in Iran last year. Amini had been arrested by morality police for allegedly violating Iran’s mandatory headscarf law. Her death is believed to have resulted from beatings inflicted by Iranian police. News of the tragedy triggered massive protests across the country that threatened to overthrow the Islamic regime. Though the uprising was violently put down, women in Tehran and elsewhere could be seen openly flaunting the headscarf rule. Amini’s efforts to win freedom were celebrated by anniversary gatherings not only in Iran but also in England, France, Italy, and Germany.

FREEDOM THAT RISKS HARM TO OTHERS

Paul countered the claims of some people connected to the church at Corinth who were saying that freedom in Christ meant they were freed from restrictions of any kind. The apostle argued against such libertinism, saying that the freedom we have in Jesus is not meant to be license to sin—nor should it be used to cause others to stumble. If our flaunting of freedoms harms the faith of others, then we are not walking in love.

  1. What freedoms do you enjoy now that you or others had to fight for?
  2. Why do people sometimes flaunt freedoms that others do not have access to?
  3. How can we keep our freedoms from becoming a stumbling block for someone else?

Additional Resources

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In the World–November 19, 2023

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COPYRIGHT NO LONGER APPLIES

On January 1, 2024, the Walt Disney Company’s copyright protection on Mickey Mouse finally runs out. Technically, it’s just the 1928 animated short film “Steamboat Willie,” Mickey Mouse’s first appearance in film, that will no longer be protected. But at 12:01 a.m. in the new year, the entire film will enter the public domain and be fair game to anyone to do with as they please. Users have already been using Mickey and other Disney characters in their own art before now, but there has always been a risk of legal action from the copyright holder. But come the new year, that risk will disappear. In this day of artificial intelligence-driven graphics, who knows what new forms—delightful or unsettling—people will come up with for that mouse.

RESTRICTIONS NO LONGER APPLY

Paul urged the Christians in Colossae to leave behind the “elemental principles” of the world, specifically manmade restrictions pertaining to special foods, festivals, and dates. These strict limitations, which were easy to understand even if they were not so easy to obey, belonged to the non-Christian way of living. Paul wanted his readers to abandon such restrictions and stop thinking that such rules had any value to produce a heart of godliness, humility, or wisdom.

  1. What is your favorite animated character or movie?
  2. What food dish are you most looking forward to enjoying in the holidays?
  3. How can we be sure we don’t put our faith in human restrictions that have no value in God’s eyes?

Additional Resources

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In the World–November 12, 2023

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LOVE CONQUERS ALL

Last month during the NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys, two fans of the rival teams found a way to bridge their differences. NBC cameras caught the moment when Arty, wearing a 49ers jersey, got down on one knee and presented a ring to his sweetheart, Lexi, who was wearing a Cowboys jersey. The football commentators had fun with the moment, and some observers questioned whether this might be the closest the Cowboys would get to a ring this year. Arty and Lexi, both from El Paso, Texas, walked away from the game engaged, showing the world that if even fans of rival teams can find romance, maybe love really can conquer all.

LOVE SURPASSES ALL

In today’s two passages from Paul’s letters, we see that the love of God, expressed through Jesus Christ, is the greatest attribute to pursue. Love sums up the whole law of God and gives substance to any act of piety we can do.

  1. When have you seen love overcome differences and even obstacles between people?
  2. What does Paul mean that love fulfills the law?
  3. How can Paul say that love (charity) is greater even than faith and hope?

Additional Resources

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In the World–November 5, 2023

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INHERITING UNBEARABLE DEBT

Following every war fought by the United States up to and including World War II, national wartime debt was quickly reversed by a united leadership and populace. For example, during WWII, publicly held debt was around 105% of the gross domestic product (GDP), but the White House and Congress worked together to quickly shrink it to 23%. But today the political mood is primarily to increase spending and think about reducing debt at some later time (if at all). According to Forbes, the current debt is already at WWII levels, and this is expected to grow to 115% of GDP in the next ten years…and to 180% in the next thirty years. Our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will inherit crushing financial burdens if older generations don’t unify to send a message of drastic change to lawmakers at every level.

INHERITING UNBEARABLE LAW

When Jewish Christians came to Antioch, where Paul was, and began teaching that believers needed to be circumcised and follow Old Testament law and traditions, the resulting debate culminated in a council in Jerusalem. Paul was unwilling to put Jewish legal, dietary, and sacrificial requirements on Gentile believers, as if Christianity consisted of those things as much or more than faith in Jesus. But Jewish believers wanted to continue following their religious traditions while worshiping Jesus as Lord. After much debate, the council finally sided with Paul, refusing to make Gentile believers inherit a burden that even the Jews could not bear.

  1. What factors may have contributed to the current high national debt?
  2. When have you seen older and younger believers finding common ground in the church?
  3. How can traditions that were well-intentioned later become burdensome?

Additional Resources

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In the World–October 29, 2023

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REMOVE THE TRAINING WHEELS

American students have long trailed their international peers in math skills. Disruptions caused by COVID-19 intensified the problem, and educators are scrambling to keep up. One solution being tried is an artificial intelligence tutoring program called Digit, developed by Arizona State University. For middle schoolers doing their math work on a computer, Digit corrects mathematical inaccuracies and provides real-time feedback right as the students are solving the problem. It’s individualized, immediate help for every student, something most teachers simply cannot replicate. With middle schoolers, Digit offers hints and game-like rewards. But for high schoolers and college students, the training wheels come off, and Digit instead provides video lectures of why it’s imperative that they learn higher math.

REMOVE THE TUTOR

In his letter to the Galatian church, Paul gives a master class on the purpose of the Jewish law in the context of the New Covenant. It was there as a tutor and guardian for the people of God, holding them in check and preparing their hearts to receive their inheritance, which is not through law but by faith. The law was never God’s final solution. In the fullness of time, the Lord removed the tutor and presented the Savior.

  1. Who or what gave you the most help in learning a new topic or skill?
  2. Why do some people see artificial intelligence as a threat? Why do some people see it as a benefit?
  3. What tasks of a tutor or guardian did the Old Testament law perform for God’s people?

Additional Resources

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In the World–October 22, 2023

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STAY ON THE TRAIL

This month in Australia, a woman tragically fell to her death at a lookout spot on a popular walking trail. “At one stage, she was there with the witnesses, just walking along,” said Police Inspector Paul Hoyer, “then all of a sudden she’s gone over the edge.” She fell one hundred fifty feet and did not survive. This lookout had no guard rails, but people have fallen in spots that did have them. “Fences, unfortunately, sometimes don’t preclude people from jumping them to get a better view or to look over the edge of cliffs,” said Hoyer. “There’s an inherent risk at these locations that you’ve got to be mindful of.”

STAY ON THE PATH

Paul wrote to the church in Galatia because they were danger of falling away from true Christian faith. They had started out well, following Paul’s sure guidance at the beginning of their spiritual journey. But new teachers had come along promoting a false gospel, and news had reached the apostle that some of them had begun to abandon the truth and wander into deadly error. In today’s passage, he urgently calls them back to the truth.

  1. Where is the most dangerous drop-off you’ve visited or heard of?
  2. When it comes to the outdoors, how can we find the balance between caution and fear?
  3. What are some ways that Christians can wander from the true path of the faith?

Additional Resources

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In the World–October 15, 2023

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WALKING BACK PLANS FOR RETIREMENT

Michael Caine is 90, and he says he’s finally retiring from making movies. He announced last month that his new film, The Great Escaper, will be his last. This is the third time Caine has retired, he admits with a laugh in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly. Back in the 1990s, when he’d turned 60, he wasn’t getting many offers for roles, so he thought he would retire—until fellow actor Jack Nicholson talked him out of it. Then in 2021, after the release of Best Sellers, he suggested that role would be his last. “There’s not exactly scripts pouring out with a leading man who’s 88,” he wrote at the time. He quickly walked back that claim too. But this time, he says the retirement is real. Instead, he wants to concentrate on writing books. “I’m very happy with that because it’s something I can do without walking. All you need is a chair and a pencil and paper.”

WALKING BACK A GOSPEL STANCE

In the early church, especially in churches with both Jewish and Gentile believers, there was much that had to be figured out regarding what, if anything, non-Jewish Christians had to “add to their faith” to be believers, and what, if anything, Jewish believers no longer had to observe from their religious traditions. On at least one occasion, it seems that Peter affirmed the freedoms of Gentile converts … until certain conservative Jewish believers came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. Around these men, Peter walked back his behaviors, putting on a more traditional and “Jewish” manner of living. In today’s passage, Paul tells about how he called Peter out for this hypocrisy, because of the damage it could do to the faith of non-Jewish Christians.

  1. Which paying jobs could you still be doing if, by God’s grace, you reach the age of 90?
  2. What’s a major life decision you (or someone you know) changed your mind about?
  3. Why do we sometimes change our behavior when we’re around certain people?

Additional Resources

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In the World–October 8, 2023

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REPEALING A LAW

Quebec is a mostly French-speaking province of Canada, and Montreal is its chief city. In 2022, Quebec passed a language reform law whose goal is to “limit government communications in languages other than French.” Last month, two bilingual (French and English) Montreal suburbs filed a court challenge to elements of this law, saying that it violates constitutional law allowing local governments to use languages other than French. The challenge also seeks to repeal an element of the new law that says that French is Quebec’s official language.

DEAD TO THE LAW

Today’s passage in Romans contains Paul’s metaphor that a wife whose husband dies is free to marry another without the Jewish law declaring her an adulteress. His intent is to show that Christians are free from the authority of the Old Testament law and are rightfully bound to Jesus as their new Lord.

  1. What are the pros and cons of requiring official government communication to be only in a certain language?
  2. What freedoms does a person gain by coming to Christ?
  3. Why do we sometimes gravitate to rules and legalism, even as Christians?

Additional Resources

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In the World–October 1, 2023

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DISOBEYING A LAW THEY KNEW

Last month, a Christian family killed in World War II were honored by the Catholic Church for harboring two Jewish families in Poland. The Nazis had invaded Poland and the governor made a law forbidding any citizen from aiding or protecting the Jews. Anyone who so much as gave a piece of bread to a Jewish person would risk the death penalty. Nevertheless, Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, along with their seven children, hid two Jewish families in their backyard for a year and a half, risking their lives every day. Eventually, someone turned them in to the Nazis, and soldiers descended upon the house. They executed the Jewish families on the spot, killed Józef and Wiktoria Ulma right in their yard, then killed all seven children.

OBEYING A LAW THEY DID NOT KNOW

Paul wrote Romans to at least two audiences: Gentile and Jewish Christians. In today’s passage, he challenges his Jewish Christian hearers about how Gentiles who have never heard the law of God as recorded in the Old Testament can sometimes obey it better than those who do know the law. Their natural obedience will be judged favorably by the Lord, even being declared righteous in God’s sight if they heed the voice of conscience.

  1. What factors may have gone into the Ulmas’ decision to shelter the Jewish families?
  2. How is it that non-Christians sometimes conduct themselves with more compassion or kindness than some believers?
  3. What comfort can you draw from the knowledge that God will deal fairly with all people?

Additional Resources

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In the World–September 24, 2023

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VIOLENCE FOR THE GROUP

This September 11 saw the release of research examining why people commit violence in support of a group. Joanna Lindström, PhD Researcher in Psychology at Stockholm University, and her team found that some people—but not all—who saw their group as “unjustly disadvantaged” felt justified in the use of violence for their cause. Lindström’s team wanted to know why some in this group called for violence and some did not. They found that individuals who felt superior to others and entitled to privileges were most likely to think their group was unfairly disadvantaged. This held true even if their group was not actually “structurally disadvantaged.” It seems that feeling superior may be linked to a tendency to justify violence.

VIOLENCE FOR THE LAW

Today’s passage describes two events in Jesus’ life when the Jewish religious leaders took up stones to commit violence to carry out their interpretation of God’s Law. In one, they sought to “purge” Israel of the sin of adultery, and in the other, they sought to punish Jesus over his claim to have existed prior to Abraham. In both cases, they felt righteous and justified in attempting to kill someone else. And in both cases, Jesus prevented their ungodly violence.

  1. Under what conditions, if any, would you consider violence justifiable?
  2. Why do some people feel unjustly disadvantaged even when most observers would not consider them disadvantaged at all?
  3. What do you think of the claim that non-violence is a core teaching of Christianity?

Additional Resources

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In the World–September 17, 2023

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A RELIABLE CHAMPION

American gymnast Simone Biles is again on top of her sport. Late last month, Biles won her eighth all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, breaking a record that had held for nearly ninety years. Two years ago, Biles pulled out of the team finals in the Tokyo Olympics after suffering from “the twisties,” a mental phenomenon that affects a gymnast’s perception about their position in the air. Soon afterward, she and other gymnasts testified about being sexually abused by the team doctor. After two years away from competition, it appears the world’s most decorated gymnastics athlete—winner of twenty-five medals at world championships, including eighteen golds—is back.

A RELIABLE MESSENGER

One year during Jesus’ ministry, he went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. Some Jewish leaders challenged his teaching, citing the fact that he hadn’t been educated in their formal system. Jesus said his teaching was reliable because he wasn’t seeking his own fame but only God’s glory. Those who are committed to accurately relaying the message of the one who sent them are reliable messengers, he said. This was in contrast to the Jewish leaders, who were perverting the message of Moses for their own gain.

  1. When have you or someone else made a tremendous recovery?
  2. What does Jesus mean by someone who “speaks on their own” (or “speaketh of himself”)?
  3. How can we be sure we are seeking God’s glory only and not speaking on our own?

Additional Resources

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In the World–September 10, 2023

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THE LETTER OF THE GUN LAW

Last month in Utah, state lawmakers called officers from the Salt Lake City Police Department to explain why they had suspended one of their own officers for trying to obey a new law at the city’s airport. The law states that travelers should be ticketed if they try to bring a firearm through security—unless the person brought the gun unintentionally or had forgotten it was in a carry-on bag. In that case, the person should not be ticketed (but still be disallowed from bringing the gun through). The SLCPD preferred to ticket everyone who brought a gun to the airport, no matter what, choosing a “letter of the law” reading of the legislation. The suspended officer had been disciplined by his superiors for trying to follow the intent of the law and not writing a ticket for someone who had accidentally brought a firearm to security. The lawmakers wanted to know why the police were violating what they felt was the clear intent of the new law.

THE INTENT OF GOD’S LAW

In today’s passage, some Pharisees tested whether Jesus would violate the letter of the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy. They brought a man in need of healing before Jesus on the Sabbath to see if he would heal him and thus, in their minds, violate the Sabbath by doing work. Jesus did heal the man, and then he dashed their efforts to trap him by showing God’s original intent for the commandment—and by showing that even they would “work” on the Sabbath to save a child or a cow in a well. So how could he not save this son of Abraham, even on a Sabbath?

  1. Why might someone prefer a letter-of-the-law interpretation over the spirit of the law?
  2. What does it say that the Pharisees took for granted Jesus’ miraculous healing power and concentrated instead on questions about the Sabbath?
  3. How can we know if we have begun obeying the letter of an instruction in the Bible and straying from its intent?

Additional Resources

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In the World–September 3, 2023

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TRAGIC MISTAKEN IDENTITY

In San Francisco last month, a family that had already been touched by tragedy was struck again. In 2008, in a case of mistaken identity, three members of the Tony Bologna family were killed in gang violence. Tony and two of his sons, Michael and Matthew, were murdered when Edwin Ramos, an MS-13 gang member, thought one of the sons was a member of a rival gang. Left behind were Tony’s third son, Andrew, and Tony’s wife, Danielle, and daughter, Francesca. But last month, Danielle and Francesca were killed when a car veered into their lane on a highway. Now Andrew Bologna has had to bury every member of his family. A GoFundMe page has been set up to allow people to provide assistance to him.

SINFUL FALSE IDENTITY

In today’s passage, the Pharisees came under the Lord’s discipline for hypocrisy. They presented a false identity of being pure and righteous, carrying their supposed love for God to the extent of giving him a tenth of everything—even their garden herbs—and yet their hearts were full of sin and greed. Jesus exposed their façade and called them to make their true selves line up with the righteous identity they showed the world.

  1. When have you or someone you know been touched by false or mistaken identity?
  2. Why is it sometimes tempting to present a more positive, but not entirely accurate, version of ourselves to others?
  3. When has someone been honest with you about their faults?

Additional Resources

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In the World–August 27, 2023

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UNTIL THE AXIS ENEMY IS DEFEATED

The movie Oppenheimer (which we are not endorsing) tells the story of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, who led the American effort to build an atomic bomb before the Germans could do so. Historians have suggested that the US government needed Oppenheimer and his team to succeed in order for the Allies to win World War II, but in the decade afterward, he was not needed and was cast into suspicion as a Communist, as the World War ended and the Cold War began. For himself, Oppenheimer wished to turn control of all atomic weapons over to some neutral body like the United Nations to attempt to prevent a nuclear arms race.

UNTIL THE LAST ENEMY IS DEFEATED

Jesus Christ is eternal and will reign forever. His mission on earth was to be not only deliverer but also conqueror, with the task of defeating sin and the devil and reconciling humanity with God. In our passage today, Paul explains that Jesus’ role as God’s war commander would continue until the very last enemy, death, was defeated. When his task is complete, he will lay aside that role, bow to his Father, and rejoin him in eternal majesty.

  1. What do you think of the arguments for and against the use of nuclear weapons in WW2?
  2. In what ways would the world change if all nuclear weapons disappeared today?
  3. How do we reconcile the idea of Jesus as equal with God the Father and the fact that he submits himself to his Father, as seen in today’s passage?

Additional Resources

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In the World–August 20, 2023

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RISING TO HIGHER AUTHORITY

When the top-ranking Marine—the commandant of the Marine Corps—retires or needs to be replaced, the successor must be sanctioned by the U.S. Senate. The elevation of someone to the Corps’ top post, along with nearly 270 other military nominations and promotions, is being blocked by a senator who wishes to bring attention to some of the Pentagon’s policies. Despite the obstacle, the officer deemed most likely to step into the commandant’s position—Gen. Eric Smith, assistant commandant—has this month written a letter giving direction for all marines. “Until the Senate confirms our 39th Commandant, this guidance will serve as our reference point,” Smith wrote. “What I require is that when decisions are made, we move out as one to attack our problems together.”

WAITING FOR HIGHER AUTHORITY

The Christians in Corinth had evidently passed judgment on how Paul was conducting his ministry, perhaps even accusing him of having sinister motives for his actions. Paul responded that he didn’t really mind what they thought of him—or even what he thought of himself—but deferred all judgment to the Lord Jesus. Paul answered to God, not to humans, and the Lord’s judgment would reveal not only Paul’s motives but also their own. He would be exonerated, and he did not shrink back from exercising the authority entrusted to him as a servant of Christ.

  1. What is a time when you approved of someone in authority?
  2. When have you made a decision based not on what people wanted in the moment but on the wishes of the higher authority you were going to have to report to?
  3. How can we balance our responsibility as Christians with the sometimes-ungodly desires and demands of our culture?

Additional Resources

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In the World–August 13, 2023

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REMOVING OBSTACLES TO HOUSING

Late last month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced $85 million in “innovative competitive grants for communities to identify and remove barriers to affordable housing production and preservation.” Government entities at the local and state level can apply for grants ranging from $1 million to $10 million to help them improve zoning restrictions, housing policies, and the availability of affordable new homes and the preservation of existing ones. “HUD recognizes that communities have unique housing challenges,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge in announcing the new grants. “Today, we are acting to increase the supply of affordable housing, which is crucial to lowering housing costs.”

REMOVING OBSTACLES TO FAITH

Paul wrote to the believers in Rome that they should be sensitive in their exercise of freedoms so as not to offend or upset other, especially new, Christians. For example, eating food dedicated to idols could cause some brothers and sisters to question their faith. Instead, mature Christians could exercise some of their freedoms in different circumstances to avoid putting obstacles in the way of people coming to faith. Better to temporarily not eat something than to eat it in such a way that it makes someone stumble.

  1. If you had a $10 million grant to deal with some housing issue, how would you use it?
  2. What’s something about the Christian life that an unbeliever might not understand?
  3. How can we be careful that an unbeliever or less mature Christian will not be harmed by our actions?

Additional Resources

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In the World–August 6, 2023

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CONDITIONS FOR BAD FRUIT

South Carolina peach farmers are in a bad way this year. A combination of an early spring and hard freezes in March have cost them as much as seventy percent of their crop. What they have managed to harvest are mostly small, “button” peaches, which can’t be sold at market, or have pits that are difficult for machinery to remove when processing for fruit cups. “When you lose 70% of a crop,” says Ross Williams, chief operating officer of post-harvest operations at Titan Farms, “it’s difficult to be able to make ends meet at the end of the year.” Farmers are trying to keep relations with major retailers intact by providing as many peaches as they can and hoping for better in the future. “Next year, hopefully when we do have a full crop,” says Williams, “we don’t want to have missed out on a year with that retailer.”

CONDITIONS FOR GOOD FRUIT

This week’s passage includes Paul’s lists of deeds of the flesh and fruit of the Spirit. While it is tempting to think of the fruit of the Spirit as qualities we can work on and develop in our lives, Paul teaches that these things simply “grow” in us as we walk by the Spirit. We can’t make ourselves have more love, joy, or peace, but we can create conditions in our heart for those things to appear on their own by the working of the Lord.

  1. What experience, if any, do you have with farming?
  2. If you could have more of any fruit of the Spirit, which one would it be, and why?
  3. In what sense are the deeds of the flesh another sort of spiritual fruit?

Additional Resources

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In the World–July 30, 2023

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WORTH EVERYTHING IN THE WALLET

Shohei Ohtani is an extremely talented Major League Baseball player for the Los Angeles Angels. Ohtani, originally from Japan, is setting records both as a batter and a pitcher this year. And he is nearing a time of free agency, when the pocketbooks of many MLB team owners are expected to come all the way open. Los Angeles Dodgers’ player Freddie Freeman calls Ohtani a “unicorn” whose new contract may shatter the previous high amount of over $426 million. Several people have suggested the new deal could reach $600 million. When asked what he would pay to sign Ohtani if he were an owner, Baltimore Orioles’ center-fielder Austin Hays said, “As much money as I have. I’m giving him everything that I’ve got.”

WORTH EVERYTHING YOU OWN

Today’s passage includes some striking parables in which Jesus urged believers to value the kingdom of heaven so dearly that they would be willing to give everything away in order to obtain it. Others may not understand it, but he or she is no fool who uses what is temporary to obtain what is eternal and who trades earthly belongings for heavenly treasure.

  1. If you could own any sports team in the world, what would it be, and why?
  2. When have you realized that you would pay everything you owned to gain, change, purchase, or prevent something?
  3. How can we live out our commitment to the kingdom over the things of this life?

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In the World–July 23, 2023

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SEPARATING OUT THE PLASTIC

A 22-year-old Irishman has taken third place in the Young Inventors Prize contest in Europe for his ingenious method of removing microplastics from water. The UN estimates that there are more than fifty-one trillion microplastic particles in the seas, a crisis that affects our food chain and, ultimately, us. Fionn Ferreira’s method mixes seawater with ferrofluid, a magnetic liquid mixture that binds to microplastic particles. A magnet draws both the ferrofluid and the plastics out of the water, removing eighty-five percent of the particles in a single pass. The plastics can be recycled, the ferrofluid can be reused, and the water is rendered safe. “This prestigious award,” Ferreira says, is “a profound acknowledgment of the urgent need to combat the devastating impact of microplastics on our planet’s water systems.”

SEPARATING OUT THE WEEDS

In Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares (weeds), a field where good seed was planted gets sabotaged by an enemy, who sows weeds alongside the good seed. The workers soon spot the weeds and ask the owner if they should begin weeding. But the owner instructs them to let both crops grow together, and they’ll sort one from the other in the harvest. Jesus later reveals that this is a metaphor for the people of God’s kingdom and the people of the devil, who share the earth. They will continue to live side by side until they are separated in the judgment.

  1. As a steward of the earth, what do you feel is the most pressing concern in the natural environment?
  2. What do you think Jesus means by the children of the devil?
  3. If Jesus is going to sort out these two groups, what role does evangelism or missions play?

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In the World–July 16, 2023

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THE RIGHT NUTRIENTS FOR THE SOIL

In a global first, the soil in Northern Ireland’s farms is receiving free testing by the government. The massive scheme, developed by Rachel Cassidy, a scientist in the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Belfast, is designed to level the playing field for all farmers in Northern Ireland. By making the assessment free, all farmers can receive the comprehensive soil sampling and analysis of their fields, plus detailed erosion maps of their land. The goal is to save farmers money and improve their efficiency, especially against a backdrop of soaring costs for feed, fertilizer, and fuel. The larger goal of the scheme is to protect the environment by reducing the risk of excess fertilizer polluting nearby waterways.

THE RIGHT KIND OF SOIL

Jesus’ parable of the soils continues to resonate across the centuries. Nearly everyone can relate to the different kinds of soils: hard-packed, shallow, weedy, or receptive. Though the farmer casts the seed far and wide, dropping good seed on all sorts of soils and hearts, all it takes is a few spots of good soil, with receptive hearts—and the few spots that have truly receptive hearts will produce a tremendous harvest.

  1. What is the best government program you’ve ever heard of?
  2. How can we develop a heart of good soil that produces such a plentiful harvest in the Lord?
  3. What connection can we make, if any, between this parable and the current exodus of many young people from the church?

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In the World–July 9, 2023

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A REGIME DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF

Late last month saw one of the most bizarre episodes of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Putin employs a mercenary army called the Wagner Group, commanded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has an ongoing power struggle with Moscow’s military brass. In late June, Prigozhin accused his rivals of firing rockets at Wagner Group troops. He took his tanks and troops off the war front and turned toward Russia itself, rolling rapidly toward Moscow. Then, through negotiations behind the scenes, Prigozhin abruptly halted his tank columns and diverted to Belarus. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky triumphantly declared, “Everyone who chooses the path of evil destroys himself…. Russia’s weakness is obvious…. And the longer Russia keeps its troops and mercenaries on our land, the more chaos, pain, and problems it will have for itself later.”

A KINGDOM DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF

When Jesus delivered a demon-possessed man who had not been able to speak or see, the people were astonished—and the Pharisees felt jealous and threatened. They claimed that Jesus was only able to command demons because he used Satan’s power to do so. Jesus responded that the devil would never divide his forces and weaken his kingdom by letting Satan fight against Satan.

  1. What are your feelings about the war in Ukraine and the divisions within Russian top leadership?
  2. When people are feeling jealous or threatened, what are they likely to say or do?
  3. In this passage, Jesus talks about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit—what do you think that means?

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In the World–July 2, 2023

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THE CROWN JEWELS OF SCOTLAND

Every year, the monarch of the United Kingdom pays a week-long visit to Scotland to celebrate Scottish culture, community, and contributions. This year is special because the UK has a new king and queen. King Charles and Queen Camilla are scheduled to be Edinburgh this week, where amidst much pomp and a twenty-one-gun salute, Charles will be presented with “The Honours of Scotland,” England’s oldest crown jewels. The first monarch to be crowned with it was Mary Queen of Scots in 1543. The crown and accompanying scepter and sword of state are made of gold, silver, and precious gems.

THE CROWN JEWELS OF GOD

In today’s passage, we study Zechariah’s prophecy of rejoicing for the Jewish exiles returning to Jerusalem. This chapter contains the messianic prophecy about the king coming to Jerusalem mounted on the foal of a donkey. Zechariah also says that God’s people will glitter in Jerusalem like jewels in a crown.

  1. What royal ceremony anywhere in the world would you love to be present to witness, if any?
  2. While that celebration is going on in Scotland, Americans will be celebrating Independence Day. What are your plans?
  3. Which biblical metaphor or word picture, like today’s simile of jewels in a crown, is your favorite?

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In the World–June 25, 2023

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CONVICTION OVERTURNED

Back in 2003, someone robbed a Walgreens store at gunpoint in Dania Beach, Florida. A witness tentatively identified 33-year-old Leonard Cure as someone who might’ve been the robber. There was evidence that Cure was miles away at the time of the crime, but a jury nevertheless convicted him, and he was given a lifetime sentence plus ten years. This month, however, the state attorney’s office got the entire case thrown out, and Cure was not only released from prison after sixteen years but was also granted record compensation of $817,000 and 120 hours of college tuition and fees. “No amount of money will get those years back for Mr. Cure or give him peace,” said Broward State Attorney Harold Pryor, “but it is a small gesture that recognizes Mr. Cure was wronged.”

PUNISHMENT RESCINDED

After years spent in Babylonian exile because of the rebellion and idolatry of the people of Judea, God promised through Zephaniah to bring them home. The Lord announced his intention to cancel his punishment, cease his rebuke, and deal with any who had oppressed them. God’s discipline of his people was not without end.

  1. What’s the worst case of injustice you know of? How should things have gone instead?
  2. When have you felt the Lord’s discipline?
  3. This passage depicts the Lord rejoicing over his people with singing. What do you think that means?

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In the World–June 18, 2023

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COMING OUT OF A COMA

British eleven-year-old Tom White was struck by a police van this month and left in critical condition. The boy spent nearly a week on life support and then began waking from his coma. As his family awaited Tom’s full awakening, when they could find out his long-term prognosis, they launched a Facebook page to collect videos and notes from well-wishers. Among the many contributors was WBC heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury. Fury’s personal video shows the British boxer saying, “Keep fighting, Tom! All the best. Get recovered. See you soon, buddy. God bless.” When Tom comes to his senses, God willing, he will have many such treasures to discover.

COMING TO THEIR SENSES

The Babylonian exile had taught the Jewish people a costly lesson about turning away from God to idols. The Lord spoke through the prophet Ezekiel, promising to gather the Israelites from all the nations they’d been scattered to and to bring them back to their own land, where they would be united again and ruled by a king from the line of David. All these benefits awaited them if they would come to their senses and put their idolatry behind them forever.

  1. Why do you think even busy celebrities go out of their way to help young people sometimes?
  2. What was your most memorable Father’s Day?
  3. When did you realize that you needed to put something behind you?

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In the World–June 11, 2023

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A BRIGHT FUTURE FOR 3D PRINTING AND SPACEFLIGHT

A few weeks ago, Terran 1, the world’s first full-sized 3D-printed rocket, blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was a maiden test flight of the rocket prototype, which at the time was the largest 3D-printed object in the world, at 110 feet tall and 7.5 feet wide. The unmanned rocket launched and successfully endured Max-Q, the moment of most intense vibration during ascent, proving that 3D-printed rocketry is robust and viable. The vehicle had an “anomaly” later in the flight, causing it to fail to reach orbit. But as a test flight, it was highly successful, and the manufacturer, Relativity Space, incorporated lessons learned and is already moving to its next-stage prototype, the Terran R rocket, and sees a bright future for 3D-printed space technology.

A BRIGHT FUTURE FOR ISRAEL AND JERUSALEM

In our passage today, the Lord paints a picture of a day when God’s people will live in complete peace and joy. Children will not die shortly after childbirth in this future, and lifespans will be such that if someone doesn’t reach 100 years of age, it will seem very strange indeed. They will build houses and live in them, and they will have such a measure of peace that even the wolf and the lamb will dwell together in harmony. Such will the future be for those who belong to the Lord.

  1. If someone gave you the opportunity to ride a rocket into orbit, what would you say?
  2. What would perfect peace and harmony look like to you?
  3. How does knowing what heaven may be like change your life on earth?

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In the World–June 4, 2023

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VETERAN ESCORTED BY POLICE

Last month, just before his 95th birthday, WWII veteran John Powell got a special ride through his home city. Back in 1945, young John Powell turned 17 and promptly enlisted for the Navy. But on May 15 of this year, he rode through downtown Greenfield, Indiana, in a 1948 MG TC Roadster convertible escorted by police and cheered by all who saw the little parade pass by. Representatives from the Greenfield Veterans Honor Guard presented Powell with an American flag, and the town’s mayor presented him with the city’s Distinguished Citizen Award. “I’m grateful,” said Powell as he shook the mayor’s hand. “There are no words.”

ISRAEL ESCORTED BY THE LORD

Now that the Babylonian Empire had been overthrown, the Israelites heard that they would soon be able to return to Jerusalem. In today’s passage, the Lord promises to be both their vanguard and their rearguard, allowing them to make the journey without fear of ambush or attack.

  1. Who is the oldest person you have ever met?
  2. What’s the most unusual car you’ve ever ridden in?
  3. How would your actions or decisions change if you knew God was going both before and behind you?

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In the World–May 28, 2023

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KINDNESS TO A LEGAL ENEMY

Last month, a years-long legal battle involving actress Gwyneth Paltrow concluded in her favor. On the slopes of a Utah ski resort in 2016, Paltrow and another skier, Terry Sanderson (now 76), collided, resulting in injuries to Mr. Sanderson. He sued her for $3.1 million, and she counter-sued for one dollar plus attorney fees. After a highly publicized court trial last month, the jury sided with Paltrow. On her way out of the courtroom, the actress went to Mr. Sanderson and, rather than gloating, told him, “I wish you well.” Sanderson responded, “Thank you, dear,” and later characterized Paltrow’s gesture as “very kind.”

KINDNESS TO A SPIRITUAL ENEMY

Saul the Pharisee had been blinded in a divine encounter on the road to Damascus. The Lord had rendered him blind in order to open his eyes. Jesus appeared in a vision to a faithful discipled named Ananias, instructing him to go lay hands on Saul to regain his vision and bestow the Holy Spirit. Ananias, quite naturally perhaps, asked the Lord for clarification. But God sent him to his former enemy to make him a brother.

  1. What is a celebrity encounter you have had?
  2. When have you or others doubted whether someone had actually become a Christian?
  3. How have you acted with Christ’s love toward someone you formerly considered an enemy?

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In the World–May 21, 2023

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HAPPY COINCIDENCE AT THE CORONATION

Earlier this month, England held the coronation ceremony for King Charles at Westminster Abbey. It was a spectacle of pomp and history, but what caught the attention of many was all the blue and yellow in the ceremony. Several members of the royal family and distinguished guests, including First Lady Jill Biden, wore blue or yellow, and the interior of the abbey itself was decorated in blue and yellow carpets. With the war in Ukraine in the news, and the first lady of Ukraine in attendance, the prominent display of the colors of the Ukrainian flag was a welcome sight to many. “I saw Ukraine there,” said Dame Melinda Simmons, Britain’s Ambassador to Ukraine, about the carpets, “and lost my composure for a minute.” A Palace spokesman described it all as “a happy coincidence.”

HAPPY COINCIDENCE ON A DUSTY ROAD

In the early days of the Church, one of its leaders—Philip—was led by the Holy Spirit to leave Jerusalem and approach a certain chariot that was traveling slowly along the dusty road. Philip approached the chariot and, in a beautiful example of God’s coordination and timing, overheard the passenger, an official from the Ethiopian royal court, reading aloud from the book of Isaiah. It happened to be Isaiah 53, which is a clear Messianic prophecy. Philip engaged the Ethiopian, and it led to the man becoming a baptized follower of the Lord.

  1. What’s the most bizarre coincidence you’ve ever heard of?
  2. How do you respond to this quote by William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1940s: “When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don’t, they don’t”?
  3. When have you felt most directly guided by the Holy Spirit?

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In the World–May 14, 2023

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TRADING UP FOR EDGE PRESSURE

In Kansas City last month, the NFL draft took place. In the third round, the Carolina Panthers traded the Pittsburgh Steelers a late fourth-round draft in exchange for the eightieth overall pick. The Panthers wanted University of Oregon outside linebacker DJ Johnson, and they were concerned he wouldn’t still be available when their next pick—at ninety-three overall—came around. Johnson fits well with the new defensive scheme the Panthers are adopting, which benefits from multiple edge rushers who can get to the quarterback. “This was one of the teams that I liked and wanted to go to,” Johnson said of the Panthers. “I am super excited. Super juiced. This is one of my dream spots, for sure.”

TRADING UP FOR LEGS THAT WORK

One day not long after the Day of Pentecost, Peter and John were hailed by a paralyzed man begging for money at one of the gates to the temple. The man was hoping for silver or gold to help him get by one more day, just as he’d done most of the days of his life, having been paralyzed since birth. But Peter offered him the chance to trade up for something much better than coins. He offered him the chance, in the name of Jesus Christ, to gain the use of his legs. He accepted, and his legs and ankles were miraculously healed. He leapt and cavorted and shouted praise to God, and a crowd ran up to see this miracle.

  1. What are your feelings about the NFL or other pro sports leagues?
  2. When have you seen God give someone something greater than they’d dared hope for?
  3. In what ways has your life with the Lord been a “trade up” from the life you had before?

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In the World–May 7, 2023

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CALLING ON A NEIGHBOR TO BE SAVED

Late last month, video footage was released from body cameras of first responders who rushed to save the life of actor Jeremy Renner on New Year’s Day. Renner, who played Hawkeye in the Avengers movies of superheroes, was run over by his own snowcat while attempting to rescue his nephew, Alex Fries. The 13,500 lb. vehicle ran him over, breaking more than thirty bones and crushing him nearly to death. In the footage, Fries explains what happened, and first responders are amazed to find Renner still alive. Desperate to find help, Fries spotted the legs of neighbor Rich Kovach through a partially opened garage door. Fries yelled and even grabbed Kovach’s ankle to get his attention, so someone could call 911. Renner has had several surgeries and has a long road ahead, but he is determined to fully recover.

CALLING ON THE LORD TO BE SAVED

On the day of Pentecost, God poured out the Holy Spirit onto the believers gathered in Jerusalem. They began speaking in foreign languages they had never learned, astonishing the crowd that had come to the city for the feast. Peter addressed the entire throng, telling them that in this miracle the Lord was fulfilling his promise concerning Jesus Christ, the Messiah—whom they had killed—and was offering pardon and salvation to anyone who would repent and call upon the name of Jesus in faith.

  1. What’s the most serious accident you’ve ever heard of anyone recovering from?
  2. How might you pray for Jeremy Renner and everyone involved in that event?
  3. What do you think it would’ve been like to have been in the crowd on the day of Pentecost?

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In the World–April 30, 2023

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THE PROMISE OF ELECTRICAL POWER

This month, rain and high winds knocked out power to twenty thousand Michigan residents, just as a cold front moved in. DTE Energy deployed more than 160 crews on the day of the storm, and by 2:00 p.m. the next day, power had been restored to 99.9% of their customers. We expect that sort of responsiveness from utility companies, as a CEO of another power company makes plain: “As an electric utility, our responsibility is to provide reliable power to our customers,” said Kevin Thornton, CEO of Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative. “That’s the promise we make, and we take it very seriously.”

THE PROMISE OF SPIRITUAL POWER

Today’s passage describes a time after the Resurrection but before the Ascension, when Jesus ate a meal with his followers. They pressed him for information about what was going to happen next, but Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem until the promised Holy Spirit came upon them in power. Then they would know what to do, and it would be to take the good news outward from there until it reached the ends of the earth. But they could not accomplish that task without power from above.

  1. When were you most affected by the absence of electricity, water, or some other utility?
  2. What’s a task you simply didn’t have the power to accomplish on your own, and how did you eventually manage it?
  3. What questions would you have had for Jesus if you’d been eating with him after the Resurrection?

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In the World–April 23, 2023

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REINSTATED AFTER THEFT

The city manager of Brookings, the southernmost city on the Oregon coast, was reinstated last month after pleading no contest to a charge of theft after allegedly shoplifting from an area grocery store. Janell Howard repaid the store for the items she is accused of taking and paid a $500 fine. But Brookings locals report feeling “betrayed” that she was given her old job back. “What message does that send to our at-risk youth that are trying to negotiate the system?” wondered Brookings resident Jan Miller. “That it’s okay to be a thief?” Concerned citizens vowed to hold a recall on all elected city council members who supported the reinstatement. That includes the mayor, said Miller. “We’re going to recall them all.”

REINSTATED AFTER BETRAYAL

After denying three times that he was Jesus’ disciple, and after watching his Lord crucified and buried, Peter’s remorse weighed heavily upon him. Even the reports of Jesus’ resurrection had not brought relief from his sorrow. So when the risen Christ appeared to several disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and asked if Peter loved him, Peter saw his chance to seek forgiveness. His three denials were canceled by three new protestations of his devotion to Jesus, and Peter was reinstated as leader of the newborn church.

  1. Under what conditions would you consider reinstating a public official—or religious leader—who is guilty of a crime?
  2. What cases could be made that Peter should or should not have been reinstated to lead the church?
  3. How can we balance prudence with Christ’s forgiveness of us as we consider reinstating Christian leaders who fall?

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In the World–April 16, 2023

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ENTHUSIASTIC DIVE IN MICHIGAN

Five years ago, Michigan native Chris Roxburgh was paddleboarding on Lake Michigan when he saw in the waters beneath him a ghostly sunken ship. It turned out he’d discovered the wreck of the George Rogers, a tugboat that sank in 1914. The wreck had never been found because researchers had looked in deeper waters. A week later, and without any training but full of excitement, Roxburgh went back to the spot with a wetsuit and a GoPro camera. His photos and video of the wreck were instantly hailed by local, and then national, media. The thrill of the discovery and his sudden fame convinced Roxburgh that he’d just found his new passion. Five years later, he is a certified scuba diver and a leading expert on photographing deep shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, featured in national publications and on The History Channel.

ENTHUSIASTIC DIVE IN GALILEE

After Jesus’ resurrection, Simon Peter and half a dozen other disciples spent the night fishing on the Sea of Galilee. As the morning dawned and the boat neared land, they spotted a man on the shore beside a cookfire. When Peter understood that it was Jesus, the one he’d so badly failed only a few days before, he threw himself into the water and swam a hundred yards to reach his Lord.

  1. What do you think it would feel like to make a significant historical discovery?
  2. Despite proof of Jesus’ resurrection, Peter still seems troubled—why do you think that was?
  3. When have you felt desperate to get back to Jesus as quickly as possible?

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In the World–April 9, 2023

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DETERMINED TO BELIEVE

Last month, the men’s basketball team from San Diego State University (SDSU) won their quarterfinals game against Creighton University to move into the Final Four for the first time in the school’s history. With the game tied and the final period ticking down to overtime, Creighton committed a foul, sending SDSU star Darrion Trammell to the free-throw line with only 1.2 seconds left. Trammell missed the first shot and then took a deep breath. After the game, he was asked what went through his mind right then. “That the moment wasn’t too big for me,” he said. “Through everything I’ve been through, I feel like the opportunity was just set there for me. It was God’s timing. I just had to believe in that.” He sank the second shot, and SDSU won by one point.

SLOW TO BELIEVE

On the first Easter Sunday, Jesus’ disciples heard from Mary and the other women who had seen the angels that Jesus was alive. They themselves found the tomb empty. But evidently, two of Christ’s disciples did not believe this meant Jesus had defeated death. Though Jesus’ resurrection changed everything, opening the way for his followers to rise to life as he had, still his closest disciples did not believe that the empty tomb meant Jesus had overcome death and become the firstborn among many more to follow.

  1. When has belief (in God, in yourself, or in someone else) helped in a critical moment?
  2. What factors went into the disciples’ slowness to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead?
  3. Why do we sometimes still live in defeat or fear even though Jesus has overcome the grave?

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In the World–April 2, 2023

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THE EMPTY HOMES

In Hong Kong, forty thousand small housing units sit empty. Some were occupied briefly for COVID-19 quarantine stays during the pandemic. But nearly two-thirds of them were never occupied, having been finished after the need diminished, and one was just officially shut in March. This in a city of seven million residents where 1.4 million live below the poverty line and many need subsidized housing. While the average new home sells for over a million dollars, and hundreds of thousands of people wait five years or more for housing, all these quarantine units remain empty. Some critics theorize that the government obtains so much income from house prices being high that it is intentionally slow to ease the housing problem and thus drive down home prices. A government spokesperson said that future plans for the empty units “will be announced after a decision is made.”

THE EMPTY TOMB

When the women got to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, they found the stone rolled away and no sign of Jesus. They saw angels, heard about the resurrection, and ran to tell the disciples. Not knowing what to think, Peter ran to the tomb and he too found it empty. Even when we believe, we can still be astonished when God moves in power.

  1. What’s an example of government doing a good job for its citizens?
  2. What questions do you have about the resurrection of Jesus?
  3. When have you believed that something would happen and yet you were still surprised when it did?

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In the World–March 26, 2023

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DELIVERANCE AND THE JESUS REVOLUTION

Jesus Revolution is a current movie about the Jesus Movement of the 1970s, especially as it involved Pastor Chuck Smith’s church in California. The real-life instigator of the movement at Smith’s church was Lonnie Frisbee, a hippie played in the movie by Jonathan Roumie (who also portrays Jesus in The Chosen). Frisbee’s early life had been marked by brutal beatings by his father and molestation by a babysitter. The young man turned to drugs and homosexuality before becoming radically saved by the Lord. Later, Frisbee fell away from the faith. But near the end of his life, he repented and found deliverance from the Lord he’d inspired so many to follow. His final release came in 1993 when he died from AIDS at age 43.

DELIVERANCE AT THE HANDS OF JESUS

Today’s passage depicts the demon-possessed man who lived in the country of the Gerasenes. The legion of demons gave him tremendous strength, allowing him to break free from shackles and chains. But it wasn’t until Jesus set foot on the shore that he could truly be delivered from his torment. When Jesus delivered him from possession, all the man wanted to do was follow the Lord. But Jesus sent him home to testify about what God had done for him.

  1. If you were aware of it at the time, what did you think of the Jesus Movement as it was happening?
  2. Why do you think Jesus sent the man home rather than letting him become a follower?
  3. In what ways has Jesus delivered you?

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In the World–March 19, 2023

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THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN HUMAN AND ROBOT

Science fiction authors have long predicted the moment when artificial intelligence (AI) becomes as capable and intelligent as humans. We have not reached that point yet, but a new AI program called ChatGPT has made a huge leap in that direction. ChatGPT lets you enter questions or commands in a way similar to how you might do a Google search, and then you watch as it instantly researches, synthesizes, and types out a well-written response. Whether you want it to summarize the book of Galatians, list the top five themes of the works of Shakespeare, or write a letter to your congressman, ChatGPT can do it almost as quickly as you can type the command. College professors now have to try to determine if term papers were written by their students or by this program. Though we are more capable than AI in many respects, the time when we can easily define the boundary between something written by humans and robots is past.

THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN SAVED AND LOST

Because of a long history of hatred, invasion, intermarriage, and religious disagreement, Jewish people in the first century did not willingly interact with Samaritans. The boundary between Israel and Samaria was well known by both parties, and each stayed away from the other. But Jesus not only crossed the border and went into a Samaritan town, he also broke the barrier between Jewish rabbi and unaccompanied Samaritan woman—so that he could reach a woman who was desperately lost.

  1. What opportunities or dangers do you see in the advances being made in artificial intelligence?
  2. Who might be today’s equivalent to the Samaritan woman?
  3. What boundaries would you be willing to cross to bring the gospel to someone who needs it?

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In the World–March 12, 2023

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A FATAL STUMBLE

Changes may be coming to equestrian events after the tragic death of Irish rider Tiggy Hancock (15) in 2001. An inquiry last month found that the trained showjumping horse the young girl was riding could not see a jump bar. This led to a tumble in which horse and rider flipped. Tiggy landed on the ground first and the horse fell on top of her, crushing her chest and one lung, leading to her death. Her mother, who witnessed the fall, said the obstacle was “brown water with a brown jump and brown sand.” Tiggy is remembered as an accomplished rider and rising star in Irish equestrian sport. The family welcomes the call to use contrasting colors so both horse and rider can see obstacles, hopefully avoiding future tragedy.

AN ETERNAL STUMBLE

In today’s passage, Jesus drives home the importance of not stumbling and not causing others to stumble. To follow Jesus in humility and devotion is the way to enter the kingdom of heaven, and nothing must be allowed to be an obstacle to this. The stakes can be eternal. He urges us to prefer entry into the kingdom over anything on earth—and to be sure not to block others as they seek to get in.

  1. What experience do you have with horses?
  2. If you could suggest a safety improvement to any sport or activity, what would it be?
  3. Why did Jesus use such disturbing imagery in today’s passage?

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In the World–March 5, 2023

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REGRETS OVER LEAVING A JOB

In 2021, partially due to the disruptions of COVID-19, 47 million Americans quit their jobs, and the trend has not entirely ended. This unprecedented shift in the workforce was dubbed The Great Resignation. But a recent survey found that for most of those who quit, it has become The Great Regret. The survey, performed by HR company Paychex, found that eighty percent of employees who left their jobs during this period feel that they made a mistake, and sixty-eight percent have tried to get their old jobs back. Workers who resigned reported missing co-workers, having lower pay, and finding less work satisfaction in a new job as compared to the previous one. Only twenty-seven percent of those trying to get rehired at their old places of employment have succeeded.

REGRETS OVER LEAVING HOME

Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son follows a similar trajectory. Thinking the grass was greener out in a faraway country where he could be master of his own time and finances, the young protagonist strikes out and lives the high life. Until the money runs out. But at his lowest point, he comes to his senses and determines to go home, humbly and with newfound gratitude over what his father had provided all along.

  1. What’s a workplace or relational decision that you came to regret?
  2. When have you made a big change that was definitely a good one?
  3. What is your favorite aspect of the prodigal son story?

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In the World–February 26, 2023

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REJECTED PHONE CALL

Earlier this month, the United States military shot down several objects thought to be unmanned Chinese spy balloons in the airspace of the US and Canada. The first incident was the downing of a very large balloon at high altitude (over 60,000′). Shortly after the Air Force F-22 destroyed the balloon with a Sidewinder missile, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin used a special phone line to reach out to his Chinese counterpart, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, to try to manage the crisis. But the minister refused to get on the line, later saying that the U.S. had “not created the proper atmosphere” for dialogue. A call to prevent a possible escalation was rejected, and matters became worse.

REJECTED SAVIOR

Peter appealed to all people to heed the call of Jesus to be saved. He said that some—including the Christians he was writing to—had indeed believed in Jesus as God’s chosen and precious cornerstone. By this, they had become spiritual stones themselves, and God had constructed them into a spiritual building. But others continued to reject the Lord’s offer, and Jesus had become for them a stumbling stone. A call to prevent eternal doom was rejected, and if they did not change their minds, matters for them would become much worse.

  1. What are acceptable and unacceptable practices for nations to spy on one another?
  2. When did someone reject a positive effort on your part? What did you do?
  3. What causes an unbeliever to change his or her mind and come to Jesus in faith?

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In the World–February 19, 2023

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IMPARTIALITY REQUIRED IN AFGHANISTAN

Humanitarian agencies working around the world sometimes struggle to ensure that the aid they deliver makes it into all the right hands. For example, in Afghanistan the Taliban has recently placed restrictions on food aid agencies that make it nearly impossible to assess whether or not the food is reaching the most vulnerable—women and children—with any degree of impartiality. Some agencies have halted their aid to the country because of the restrictions. The issue highlights the difficulty of balancing women’s rights with delivering aid.

IMPARTIALITY REQUIRED AT CHURCH

This week’s passage records James’ observation that people in churches were giving precedence to rich congregants and treating poor congregants disrespectfully. Though some among the rich were exploiting other Christians and dragging them into court, these were the ones being honored. He called believers to treat all people equally and to remember that God has chosen the poor to be rich in faith.

  1. What factors prevent vulnerable people from receiving aid, even when it’s offered?
  2. When and where have you seen good examples of impartiality at church?
  3. What explains the tendency to treat rich people favorably?

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In the World–February 12, 2023

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IMMORTAL CELLS

People have been trying to defy death for millennia before Ponce de León searched for the Fountain of Youth. In more recent years, scientists have explored “cell death” in the bodies of mammals, and last month, researchers discovered how to accelerate, decelerate, and even reverse aging in mouse cells. They learned how to tell the epigenome (the part of the DNA system that gives cells their instructions) to erase the corrupted instructions that had been causing cell death. The researchers have hopes that further work will show potential in healing a host of diseases—including chronic heart disease and even neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s. “It’s no longer a question of if rejuvenation is possible,” says David Sinclair, professor of genetics in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School, “but a question of when.”

IMMORTAL SOULS

In today’s passage, the Apostle Paul urged Timothy, his protégé, to fan into flame the spiritual gift that was in him. Timothy had the responsibility and the honor of proclaiming the message that Jesus Christ had abolished death and brought immortality to light. Timothy needed to leave his natural timidity behind and guard the good thing that Christ had deposited into him and given him the grace to use in his service.

  1. If science developed the ability to hold off death indefinitely, why (or why not) would you be interested?
  2. What advantages and disadvantages would there be in prolonging earthly life indefinitely?
  3. When have you had to leave behind some natural tendency of your own to follow the Lord?

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In the World–February 5, 2023

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TRACTION THROUGH AN UNLIKELY SOURCE

Oklahoma City motorists were seeing red late last month as they made their way across frozen bridges and overpasses. The city’s public works department was experimenting with a mixture of rock salt brine and beet juice to increase the effectiveness of their ice-melting efforts. The brine alone needs a temperature of at least fifteen degrees to melt ice, but adding a percentage of beet juice to the mixture drops its operating temperature to negative twenty degrees. If the experiment is successful, the program may expand—and if it gives drivers better traction, perhaps they won’t mind the red tint on the roads.

WISDOM THROUGH AN UNLIKELY GROUP

In Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Corinth, he developed one of his favorite themes: that the weakness of humans is the perfect stage for the demonstration of the power of God. Though the Corinthian church did not have many impressive people in it—few government officials, notables, or celebrities of any sort—nevertheless, they were the ones whom God had chosen to use to show the foolishness of the world’s wisdom.

  1. What’s the strangest solution you’ve ever seen to a problem?
  2. What do you think of Christians’ fascination with celebrities who come to faith in Christ?
  3. Where have you seen the wisdom of humans nullified by the wisdom of God?

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In the World–January 29, 2023

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EMERGING FROM PHYSICAL COLLAPSE

On January 2, during a Monday Night Football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills, Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin made a routine tackle on Bengals’ receiver Tee Higgins. Both players got up, but Hamlin suddenly collapsed. Medical staff rushed to the field, where they determined that his heart was not beating. First responders administered CPR, and Hamlin was rushed to a local hospital, where he remained in a coma in intensive care. Over the next three days, not just the world of pro football but most of the nation hung on scraps of updates. Finally, to the relief of all, Hamlin emerged from the coma and showed no sign of lasting injury to his mental or physical capacities. “We’re not promised anything,” said NFL great Tom Brady, reflecting on Hamlin’s injury and recovery, “none of us are…. Let’s not take anything for granted,” he said. “Nothing’s forever.”

EMERGING FROM SPIRITUAL COLLAPSE

The land of Judah had been devastated by a plague of locusts because of the disobedience of God’s people. But even though the Lord had sent his army to devastate their fields as in the Day of the Lord, he nevertheless promised to be with them and to bless them in the future. His discipline was not forever, and his mercy remained for those who worshipped him. God promised that Judah would emerge from that disaster and once again praise him.

  1. What is the most serious injury you’ve heard about in sporting events?
  2. When has something happened that has reminded you that there are more important things than what we often get so worked up about?
  3. How often do you think about God’s discipline on those he loves?

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In the World–January 22, 2023

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EMANCIPATION FOR SLAVES

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and already many communities across America have celebrated the 160th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. On January 1, 1863, a document signed by President Abraham Lincoln went into effect declaring the freedom of enslaved people living in Confederate states that were not yet in Union hands. This freedom was not realized by most slaves in the South until the conclusion of the Civil War, in 1865. Today, slavery remains a scourge in America through forced labor and sex trafficking. “I call upon businesses, civil society organizations, communities of faith, families, and all Americans,” said President Biden in a December 30, 2022, proclamation, “to recognize the vital role we play in combating human trafficking.”

EMANCIPATION FOR ALL

Through Isaiah, the Lord reminded the Jewish people that his will has always been to loose the chains of injustice, feed the hungry, and remove the yoke of oppression. In today’s passage, Isaiah declares God’s promise that those who heed his call to bring emancipation to all who are in forced labor will receive blessing and power from heaven.

  1. What was your closest encounter with slavery, forced labor, or human trafficking?
  2. How can we fight human trafficking today?
  3. Who is one person whose suffering you could alleviate this week?

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In the World–January 15, 2023

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CLOSED IN BOTH DIRECTIONS

In the last week of December, a small sinkhole opened on the shoulder of SR-261 just south of Washtucna, Washington. Department of Transportation crews closed the rural road in one direction, reducing traffic to a single lane. Then over the course of the next few hours, the sinkhole began to collapse the asphalt, widening to dangerous proportions. Officials finally closed the road in both directions and set up a detour. Sinkholes in Washington are usually caused by extreme weather changes or flooding beneath the surface. The water can hollow out an area beneath land, a road, or even a structure, and eventually the roof of the cavern can’t support itself. “If you see a sinkhole,” said TV station Fox 28 in Spokane, “even a small one, quickly leave the area and report it. Though they can look harmless at first, the opening can spread rapidly.”

THE GOD WHO GIVES DIRECTIONS

In today’s passage, God reminds the Jewish people that he had announced his plans for them in generations past. They had no room to claim that they had thought them up or brought them to pass through their pagan idols. Then he says he’s doing new things that they couldn’t predict, so they can’t claim they’d already known of them. God is the one who directs them, either in the past or the future, and teaches them what’s best for them. But will they heed his directions?

  1. What’s the worst sinkhole incident you’ve ever heard of?
  2. When have you had to change the direction of your life?
  3. How has God directed you in the past?

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In the World–January 8, 2023

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OVERCOME BY SMOKE

A 66-year-old woman in Benton Harbor, MI, died in October in a house fire. When firefighters arrived at 1:49 p.m., fire was coming from the eaves of the home. The incident commander circled the house and found the woman’s husband struggling to open the back door to rescue his wife, but he was overcome by smoke and could not proceed. The firefighters entered the home and rescued the woman. On the way to the hospital, she regained a pulse, but she later died from her injuries. It was her birthday the next day.

NOT OVERCOME BY FIRE

Though God’s people had disobeyed Him, He still promised to not forsake them. He was their God and He had summoned them by name. Though waters might rise up against them, they would not drown, and though they passed through fire, they would not be overcome. They were witnesses to the fact that the Lord is the only God.

  1. Have you ever had breathing problems caused by smoke? What did it feel like?
  2. When, if ever, have you felt that God might have abandoned you?
  3. How can you know that God has called you and not forsaken you?

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In the World–January 1, 2023

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DEBT FORGIVENESS FOR A STUDENT

The federal Student Loan Forgiveness program is understandably popular for the many millions of college students carrying debt from their educational loans. Some analysts, however, point out that such forgiveness may encourage financial irresponsibility and that it would tend to discourage those who worked to repay their debt after graduation. But with university costs skyrocketing and the pandemic putting some people out of work, many have fallen behind and feel they can never recover. No matter what may be said about the policy or the program, when a person needs help with any debt, forgiveness is always welcome.

SIN FORGIVENESS FOR A PEOPLE

Today’s passage includes one of the most well-known verses in the Old Testament. The “If my people…” passage is a common rallying cry to call a nation back to God. The benefits of turning the hearts of a people back to God are many, not least of which being forgiveness of sin. The dangers of turning away from the Lord are manifold, as well, and include invasion, conquest, and exile to another land—all of which did happen for God’s people.

  1. What do you think about any effort to forgive or cancel financial debt?
  2. As we enter this new year, who in your life will you decide to forgive?
  3. What benefits and dangers are there in today’s world for turning toward or away from God?

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In the World–December 25, 2022

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GRASPING THE CORE MESSAGE

When students are learning a language other than their mother tongue, some use reader books in which the original words have been simplified by the books’ writers. However, as artificial intelligence (AI) tools become more powerful, simplification software is emerging that can simplify any written material automatically. This fall, in a test of an English-language AI text simplification tool in Busan, South Korea, students who were learning English were able to grasp the core message of an article simplified from the magazine Scientific American. The automated tools need more work to help readers of all levels, however. “Software developers will continue to develop AI-enhanced tools,” says the study’s leader, Professor Dennis Murphy Odo, “that will make challenging texts more and more comprehensible to foreign language learners with different reading proficiencies.”

EXPRESSING HIS CORE MESSAGE

When Mary was pregnant with Jesus, she was filled with the Holy Spirit and uttered beautiful words that expressed the heart of God and what would be Jesus’ core message on earth. Those who fear the Lord will be exalted. Those who oppress the poor will be cast down. The hungry will be filled, and the proud will be scattered and sent away empty.

  1. What’s a complex idea someone has expertly simplified for you?
  2. How would you describe God’s core message? What is the Lord’s heartbeat?
  3. Who around you needs to hear that message?

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In the World–December 18, 2022

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REMOVING OBSTACLES TO GOD IN AFRICA

In a commencement address at Coal City University Enugu in Nigeria this fall, Senator Anthony Agbo called on Africa’s universities to lead the way in turning to Scripture for how to live. He urged his countrymen to turn from pagan gods and lay aside internal conflicts, basing their lives on the Bible in order to avoid the obstacles caused by those ancient prophecies. He urged them to turn to the Word of God, “whose power, authority and impeccable truth have defied the coordinated onslaught of misguided men of all ages, including those of elevated but sinister institutions; to produce the greatest nations on earth and most insightful men of all time.”

REMOVING OBSTACLES TO GOD IN ISRAEL

John the Baptist was raised up by God to go in the spirit of the Old Testament prophets to make the people’s hearts ready to welcome their King. His ministry would be to remove all obstacles from the path of the Lord’s coming. Every valley would be raised, every mountain flattened, and every crooked way straightened to hasten the arrival of the Son of God.

  1. What correlations are there, if any, between a nation that reveres the Word of God and that nation’s status?
  2. What Old Testament judgments are still in effect today?
  3. In what way did John’s ministry remove obstacles for the coming of Jesus?

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In the World–December 11, 2022

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THE WRONG KIND OF ATTENTION

The wastewater treatment plant in the city of Driggs, ID, has for years failed to come into compliance with federal pollution statutes. The city has been working to eliminate the problem and build a new plant, but the federal government filed a lawsuit in October to pressure the city to come into compliance. However, some in the media have misrepresented the seriousness of the problem, painting the city as negligent and irresponsible. “It is challenging to know the facts surrounding our [plant],” said Mayor August Christensen, “and see how some media outlets spun the story. I am hearing how much it is affecting our community.” Despite the large amount of negative media attention, Christensen hopes people will support the city’s efforts to correct the problem.

THE RIGHT KIND OF ATTENTION

After failing to believe the angel’s words about a son, Zechariah was rendered mute until the boy was born. At John’s birth, however, news began to go out that God had been merciful to Elizabeth by giving her a son, even in her old age. But when Zechariah indicated, by writing a message on a tablet, that the boy’s name was to be what the angel had proclaimed, his muteness vanished, and he began praising God and prophesying. Then everyone in the whole region turned their attention to the great things God was doing for Israel.

  1. When has someone gotten the wrong idea about you, and what did you do?
  2. Why do you think the media sometimes misrepresents true events?
  3. What’s something God did that you just had to tell someone about?

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In the World–December 4, 2022

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SHE COULDN’T BELIEVE THE PARTY WAS FOR HER

For more than two decades, Dolores Santucci (now 96) manned her hot dog cart in Hillsdale, New Jersey. “She was there six days a week, rain or shine,” says Esther Davidowitz writing in NorthJersey.com. “Everyone in town and beyond, it seems, knew her, if not by name, then by her nickname: The Hot Dog Lady.” After a liver infection sidelined her from working the cart, the city decided to honor the woman many called “Mom.” The mayor proclaimed October 28 “Dolores Santucci Day,” and more than 200 people turned out for the celebration. “It was a complete surprise,” said Dolores of the party, which took place at the cart. “I couldn’t believe it. The people are very nice. They always were nice.”

HE COULDN’T BELIEVE GOD HAD GRANTED HIS PRAYER

For many decades, the priest Zechariah prayed that his wife, Elizabeth, would bear him a son. Sadly, she remained barren, and by the time they were both well advanced in years, one wonders if his prayers slowed or finally stopped. So, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in the Temple and told him that his prayers for a son had been heard, Zechariah didn’t buy it. He still got the son he’d prayed so long for, but there were consequences for his unbelief: he was rendered mute until his son, John the Baptist, was born.

  1. If you could throw a big celebration to honor someone, who would it be?
  2. When have you or someone else stopped praying for something only to receive it unexpectedly?
  3. How do you think God decides if, how, and when to grant prayers?

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In the World–November 27, 2022

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TOOLS TO SPOT AN UNSEEN ENEMY

The invasion of Ukraine is the first time that both sides in a conflict have had reconnaissance drones—and the ability to shoot down the enemy’s drones. Throughout the war, Ukraine’s hordes of locally produced drones, which are cheap enough to lose during a mission without causing much hardship, have been a better option to Russia’s small number of very expensive drones, which Moscow doesn’t want to lose. As a result, the Ukrainian military has had much better knowledge of Russian positions and movements than the Russian military has enjoyed.

TOOLS TO FIGHT AN UNSEEN ENEMY

When the devil’s schemes come on the day of evil, Christians can stand firm in the power of the Lord. Paul’s famous passage on the full armor of God—based on the armor worn by Roman soldiers all around him in prison—encourages believers to take up and strap on the various pieces of armor. The enemy may be spiritual and invisible, but Jesus does not leave His children without powerful defenses.

  1. What do you think of self-flying or self-driving vehicles like drones?
  2. How can we improve our ability to see things that are otherwise invisible?
  3. When have you used one or more pieces of the full armor of God?

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In the World–November 20, 2022

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THE BEAUTY OF FALL COLORS

During spring and summer in the northern hemisphere, tree leaves bud and sprout, becoming a luxurious green in the warmth of the middle of the year. But as autumn begins, leaves turn color, becoming the glorious shades of gold, yellow, red, and orange we often see at Thanksgiving. What many people don’t know is that the leaves were always secretly gold, yellow, red, and orange. During the long-daylight months of spring and summer, the trees were producing chlorophyl and lots of green pigment, which masked the other colors. When the sun is up fewer hours, the chlorophyl breaks down and there is no longer enough green pigment to hide the leaves’ true colors.

THE BEAUTY OF GOD’S WORKMANSHIP

Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus that they are creations hand-crafted by God for specific purposes. Like the handiwork of a master craftsman, believers are beautiful in their own right. But God hasn’t created, called, and justified us simply to be admired but rather to be useful to him in the good works that he has prepared for us to do. We find our meaning when we are used by God to do his will on earth.

  1. What is your favorite autumn memory?
  2. What are your plans for Thanksgiving?
  3. In what ways are you a masterpiece? In what ways are you a trusty tool for the Lord?

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In the World–November 13, 2022

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ENLIGHTENED FOR THE EARTH

Late last month, the Frost and Sullivan Institute released its second annual Enlightened Growth Leadership Awards. The prize goes to companies that “have demonstrated commitment to [environmental] sustainability by leveraging technology and innovation-driven solutions to make strides in innovating some of the major global challenges we face.” One of this year’s winners is Ubisoft Entertainment, makers of video games such as Assassin’s Creed and Ghost Recon. Their efforts to support the environment include targeting 100% renewable energy in their facilities, limiting employees’ international travel, and eliminating single-use plastics in their offices. “The recipients of the Enlightened Growth Leadership Recognition,” said Aroop Zutshi, Director, Frost & Sullivan Institute, “have demonstrated success in merging business acumen with a moral imperative.”

ENLIGHTENED BY GOD

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians includes his prayer that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened with wisdom so they could fully grasp the hope that Christ had given them. He prayed that their understanding would be stretched so they would know the inheritance of power, riches, and security that was theirs through the Lord.

  1. How do you help care for the world the Lord made us stewards of?
  2. What improvements have you seen in how some companies treat the environment?
  3. How has your understanding of Christ’s riches toward you grown over the years?

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In the World–November 6, 2022

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PICKED TO RULE WITH XI

Last month, China’s President Xi Jinping secured a third term in office. In addition, he handpicked his top cabinet members, the Politburo Standing Committee, promoting and demoting so that only those personally loyal to him remain. One surprise was the promotion to the top spot among Xi’s advisors of Li Qiang, who had fallen out of public favor by his poorly planned and deeply unpopular COVID lockdown in Shanghai, where Li held top party leadership. “If Li Qiang does become premier, which looks now certain,” said Tony Saich, an expert on Chinese politics at Harvard University, “it clearly means that loyalty is more important than performance.”

PICKED TO INHERIT WITH CHRIST

Before the creation of the world, God chose us in Him to be adopted as His sons and daughters. He redeemed us through Christ, made us to the praise of His glory through our hope in Him, and marked us with a seal of the Holy Spirit when we believed. The Spirit is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance from God until the day when we receive it in His presence.

  1. When have you seen loyalty prized above performance? When have you seen the opposite?
  2. What do you think it means that we were chosen to be blameless in God’s sight?
  3. What’s an example of something held as a deposit or guarantee until a later date?

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In the World–October 30, 2022

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WHO HE IS UNDER THE COSTUME

Halloween is Monday and depending on where you live and whether or not you leave your porch light on, you may get some trick-or-treaters at your door. This year, you can expect to see more than the usual number of cute little dinosaurs, Spider-Man imitators, fairies, and characters from the Netflix show Stranger Things. Those are the most popular Halloween costume searches this month, according to Google. It can be humorous when children dressed in costumes expect us to recognize them under the mask. But sometimes, the outward appearance doesn’t give us any clues as to who is actually standing before us.

WHO HE IS UNDER THE APPEARANCE

After God let Israel have their way in choosing a regal-looking first king—and the disasters that followed—He decided to replace Saul with a king who would be a man after His own heart. He sent Samuel to Bethlehem, to the house of Jesse, to anoint God’s selection. But none of Jesse’s handsome, impressive, full-grown, regal-looking sons were God’s choice. They had to go bring in the kid brother, who smelled of sheep, before God revealed His plan. Sometimes, the outward appearance of a king doesn’t show how well he will rule. What God examines is the heart.

  1. Why would we hide our true character from other people?
  2. What does it mean to be a person after God’s own heart?
  3. When have you been surprised at the disconnect between someone’s appearance and true character?

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In the World–October 23, 2022

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A CONSIDERATE KING

Last month, King Charles III took the throne of England after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. While his mother’s coronation ceremony had lasted three hours and boasted 8,000 dignitaries as guests—and cost a fortune, Charles wishes to streamline things. With an eye toward the financial crisis in the UK, Charles didn’t want to create a huge, expensive spectacle of his coronation. So the event (next year) will be one hour long, and the guest list will drop to 2,000. Still big and befitting a kingdom, but sensitive to the cultural moment. “The King is very aware of the struggles felt by modern Britons,” said a royal source. “It should also be representative of a monarchy in a modern world.”

A RELUCTANT KING

After Samuel had ruled Israel as the last judge and first prophet for a lifetime, he grew old and his sons did not follow the Lord. The people, perhaps looking with envy at surrounding nations who were led by monarchs, came to Samuel and demanded that he select someone to rule over them as king. Samuel consulted the Lord, certain that God would refuse their demand. But the Lord told him to grant their request, assuring him that it wasn’t Samuel they were rejecting, but God. However, when it came time to crown Saul, they couldn’t find him. They finally located him hiding with the luggage.

  1. What do you think it would be like to live in a monarchy? What would you like or dislike about it?
  2. If you were king or queen of your own country, what would be your first decree?
  3. Why do you think Saul hid from those who wanted to make him king?

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In the World–October 16, 2022

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OPPORTUNITY FROM WEAKNESS

The global economy continues to struggle. This month, an Australian economic writer named Taylor Dart wrote an article featuring an Australian mining company called Evolution Mining, which has been hit hard by market conditions. Though it had a down fiscal year in 2022, running at seventy-five percent below its highs, Dart sees evidence to predict that the company’s stock will experience a sharp turnaround in the new fiscal year. His personal opinion is that his readers should watch for Evolution Mining’s stock prices to drop even further first though, and he sees this as a good chance to seize the moment. “I would view any pullbacks below US$1.15,” he says, “as buying opportunities.”

STRENGTH FROM WEAKNESS

Israel’s disobedience of the Lord had left them hiding in winepresses to conceal their meager harvests from the occupying Midianites. A young man named Gideon felt quite sharply his weakness as the youngest child of the least important family in a conquered clan. And yet this is the champion the Lord chose to deliver His people. Gideon’s story is a magnificent illustration of how God delights to exert His power through the weakness of willing humans.

  1. If you have invested in the stock market, what have been your own highs and lows in doing so?
  2. What’s an example of something that others saw as a weakness but that you knew was a strength?
  3. Where are you called by God to do something you know you are in desperate need of His help to accomplish?

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In the World–October 9, 2022

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COLLIDING WITH AN ASTEROID TO SAVE THE EARTH

On September 26, NASA intentionally crashed one of its spacecraft into an asteroid. The DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission released an impactor probe that slammed into Dimorphos, a tiny “moon” that orbits the asteroid known as Didymos, while the other portion of the probe observed the impact as it sailed past. Also watching were the James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble telescope. The mission was the first “live” test of a proposed method of saving the earth from any asteroids that might someday be found to be on a collision course with our world. The goal of the collision was to see if the impact could adjust the little moon’s orbit around the asteroid, and to what degree. It provided crucial data for scientists and engineers to develop plans for planetary defense.

CONFRONTING THE ISRAELITES TO SAVE THEIR SOULS

At the end of Moses’ life, he gave a speech we often refer to as the Song of Moses. His farewell speech was at times harsh as he called the children of Israel to obey God. Moses knew, after leading them for forty years, that the people were obstinate and tended toward disobedience. But he urged them remember the glorious faithfulness of God after he was gone and to not forget the rock of their salvation.

  1. What would you do if you found out that a large asteroid was on a collision course with Earth?
  2. When have you or someone else used “tough love” to motivate someone’s behavior? Did it work?
  3. How effective was Moses in preventing the children of Israel from committing wickedness after he was gone?

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In the World–October 2, 2022

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THE RISKS OF COVID-19 UNDER CHINESE POLICY

The Chinese government has taken a zero-COVID policy throughout the pandemic. Citizens are ordered to stay in their homes during local outbreaks. Reports have emerged of police welding apartment doors shut to keep people inside, and people were ordered to stay in their homes even during and after an earthquake. In September, a bus carrying 45 residents who had been exposed to infected people left after midnight to take them to quarantine housing. Around 2:40 a.m., the bus rolled into a ditch, killing 27 of those aboard. The incident, a forced move made when visibility was low and the driver bleary-eyed, highlighted the glaring safety risks the Beijing government has been willing to accept to keep COVID under control. “For such a large-scale, long-distance transport,” said Hu Xijin, the former editor in chief of China’s state-run Global Times, “did it really have to be done so late at night, and was there really no alternative?”

THE RISKS OF THE NILE UNDER EGYPTIAN POLICY

The Egyptian government that assumed power after Joseph’s death adopted a zero-new-Hebrew-boys policy to limit the growth of their slave population. But after months of hiding her newborn son, one Levite mother finally had to obey the letter of the Egyptian edict, so she put her son into the Nile (but in a little boat). Would the boat even float? Would the current overturn it? Would the crocodiles attack? Such dangers are a small thing in God’s eyes; He ensured that the risks were averted and the child would be found by a daughter of Pharaoh, and later named Moses.

  1. How do you feel about the stricter or more lenient governmental responses to COVID-19?
  2. What risks would you be willing to accept to keep other people safe?
  3. When have you had to trust God to keep you from danger?

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In the World–September 25, 2022

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FAMILY DISPUTE IN MODERN RUSSIA

The citizens of Russia have been told the invasion of Ukraine is a “special military operation” to liberate the people from fascist forces. But some Russians, including the grown daughters of a returning Russian paratrooper surnamed Grigoryev, know that the truth is much different. Their father returned from six months of fighting “a broken man,” which exacerbated an already sore subject of whether or not the war is justified. “He says he didn’t kill anyone” in the fighting, says one daughter, Elizaveta. “But war is a crime in and of itself,” says Anastasia, the other daughter. The conflict within the family became so intense last month that the daughters fled the home. It’s an example of how the invasion is tearing some Russian families apart.

FAMILY DISPUTE IN ANCIENT CANAAN

Through a sad series of events, two sons of Judah died before having children. Both in turn had been married to a woman named Tamar, and Judah promised to give his third son to her as a husband when he came of age. But the time came, and Judah did not keep his promise. Tamar felt she had to resort to deception to achieve justice—and children—from Judah. Nevertheless, God promised to bring about the Messiah through the line of Judah.

  1. What criteria, if any, must be met before you would consider a war to be justifiable?
  2. How can family disputes be solved well?
  3. Why did God promise to bring the Messiah through the line of Judah, despite Judah’s sins?

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In the World–September 18, 2022

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NAME CHANGED FROM

In Germany this month, a family won their legal battle to change their six-year-old daughter’s name from Alexa to something else (undisclosed). Alexa is the name and activation word used by Amazon’s Echo device. Children and even adults would “tease” the little girl by saying her name and commanding her to do things. One man accosted her on the street and said, “Alexa, dance for me.” Lauren Johnson, founder of the I Am Alexa Alliance, says, “The whole thing is a step beyond ‘normal’ teasing and bullying. It’s identity erasure…. The word Alexa has become synonymous with servant or slave,” she says. “It gives people a license to treat people with the name Alexa in a subservient manner.”

NAME CHANGED TO

When Jacob had sent his family and servants across the Jabbok River, he remained alone on the near bank. A mysterious figure appeared and wrestled with him all night, and when he saw he could not overpower Jacob, he said he had fought with God and prevailed. He who could perform such a feat deserved a new name, so the man changed Jacob’s name to Israel, which means one who wrestles with God.

  1. When have you wished you could change your name or something else about yourself?
  2. What steps have you taken on behalf of someone who was being bullied or harassed?
  3. If God were to give you a new name, what might it be? What would you wish your new name to be?

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In the World–September 11, 2022

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SHORTSIGHTED IN THE MILITARY

A report released last month by the Defence Safety Authority, an investigative arm of the British military, claims that a tragic death happened because someone was not wearing his contact lenses. Last year, during a live-fire training exercise at the Castlemartin range in Pembrokeshire, Wales, Sergeant Gavin Hillier, 35, of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, was fatally shot. The report found that the shooter was not wearing his lenses and mistook his fellow soldier for a shooting target. Without his contacts, the shooter would’ve had to be six times closer to the target to be able to distinguish what he was shooting at. Sergeant Hillier had served in several countries, including Afghanistan, where he’d fought the global war on terror, which we especially remember this weekend.

SHORTSIGHTED IN GOD’S PLAN

Jacob and Esau were twin brothers in the book of Genesis. Esau loved his wide-open spaces and wild game, while Jacob was a homebody who sometimes enjoyed vegetarian dishes. One day, Esau returned from the hunt in a state of great hunger. In order to get a bowl of the savory bean soup Jacob was cooking, Esau was willing to give away his birthright as Isaac’s firstborn son. His shortsighted decision changed the course of the two nations that would rise from their lines: Edom and Israel.

  1. What’s the worst tragedy you’ve heard of resulting from reduced or obstructed vision?
  2. As you remember the 21st anniversary of 9/11, what are your thoughts on the state of the world?
  3. How can we balance our real but shortsighted goals against the need to take the long view, especially as it relates to God’s plan?

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In the World–September 4, 2022

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COME BACK

Several major corporations in North America have designated this Monday—Labor Day—as the day when most of their workforce must cease working exclusively from home. It is RTO (return-to-office) day. However, “Workers have grown accustomed to being able to work where and when they wish,” says Bloomberg writer Matthew Boyle, “freeing them up to care for kids, aging parents or to simply escape … and take a stroll in the backyard after lunch.” Labor Day may be when companies draw a line in the sand for their workers to come back to their desks. “In the battle of the boardroom versus the bedroom,” Boyle says, “something has to give come September.”

GO FORTH

During his life in Haran, Abram had grown wealthy and was probably anticipating enjoying his sunset years enjoying the fruit of his labors. However, the Lord God spoke to Abram and called him to leave the country of his father and journey into a land that God would show him. Once he and his family, along with his servants and flocks, had arrived in Canaan, God promised to bless Abram—and the whole earth through him. He believed the word of the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness.

  1. What advantages and disadvantages do you see in working from an office vs. working from home?
  2. In your current life situation, would you say you are feeling more of a tug to go out or to stay put? Explain your answer.
  3. When has God ever called you or someone you know out into an unknown land or on an adventure?

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In the World–August 28, 2022

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INVITED TO A BIRTHDAY PARTY

Turning six is a big deal. So this month when one girl in England started making out the guest list for her party, she decided to send an invitation to Prince George, the nine-year-old son of Prince William and Duchess Kate. George’s parents received the invitation and ultimately decided he wouldn’t be able to attend. However, they dictated a kind note to the birthday girl. “The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were immensely touched that you should take the trouble to write,” said the response. “It really was most thoughtful of you and Their Royal Highnesses have asked me to send you their warmest thanks and best wishes.” While she didn’t get the prince at her party, the little girl did get a personalized message from the royal family, which her mother says will always be “something amazing she can keep.”

INVITED TO THE ULTIMATE PARTY

The Spirit and the bride invite everyone who hears to receive the free gift of the water of life. When the business of the fall has been tended to and the damage undone, the party that got delayed in Eden can begin, and we’re all invited.

  1. What’s the greatest party or celebration you’ve ever been part of?
  2. Of all the people who have attended your celebrations over the years, whose presence was most meaningful to you?
  3. Revelation describes many pictures of heaven—which aspect appeals to you most?

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In the World–August 21, 2022

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FOR THE HEALING OF THE NEIGHBORHOODS

Washington, D.C., contains many pockets of financial wealth and many pockets of poverty. Two such neighborhoods are split by the Anacostia River, which is quite wide at the point where it separates the affluent Navy Yard homes from the downtrodden Ward 8 region. A highway bridge linking the neighborhoods was torn down a decade ago, but the piers and pilings were left in place. And now plans are finalizing to rebuild the bridge as an elevated park, garden, art space, and performance venue. “These communities are separated by 900 feet of water,” said Scott Kratz, one of the planners. “They have been divided for generations.” He hopes the park will bring residents from both sides together. Harriet Tregoning, former D.C.-area director of planning, agrees, calling the new bridge “a space where people who wouldn’t otherwise be in the same place would be able to mingle and do things together.”

FOR THE HEALING OF THE NATIONS

Our passage today depicts the New Jerusalem of God, through which runs a wide street with a river flowing down the middle. Straddling this river of crystal-clear water stands the tree of life, which yields twelve crops of fruit and bears fruit every month. It’s a picture of plenty and luxurious life, and its leaves are for the healing of the nations.

  1. If you wanted to bring two divided populations together in peace, how would you do it?
  2. What step could you take today to be a peacemaker or bridge-builder?
  3. In what ways is the New Jerusalem similar to the garden of Eden, and in what ways is it different?

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In the World–August 14, 2022

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YOUR NEW CITY

Since 1989 with Sim City, fans of computer games have been able to play civic engineer and build their own dream cities. City-building games form a genre that remains popular today. Late last month, a game called Urbek City Builder became the newest entry into the category. In the game, you pick your location and biome (seaside, desert, forest, etc.) and start building your infrastructure, power grid, transportation system, housing districts, and more. You’re limited only by terrain, money, resources, and your own imagination. Urbek brings a focus on how your city will develop on its own, so long as you provide the conditions necessary. For example, if you place several homes around a park, eventually it will become condominiums. If you’ve ever wanted to build a city the “right” way, these games will let you do so.

GOD’S NEW CITY

In today’s passage, we see the new Jerusalem descending from heaven in the glittering glory of God. The city has been designed and constructed by God, and it is both functional and gorgeous. In fact, the emphasis in John’s account of the city is all on how beautiful it is and how richly adorned it is with precious jewels of all kinds. It is from this passage that we learn that heaven has pearly gates. When we finally see the city whose architect and builder is God, we will be astonished.

  1. What’s your favorite game (computer game or otherwise) of all time?
  2. If you were to build your dream city, what would it be like, and what would it have in it?
  3. When you walk the streets of the heavenly Jerusalem, what will you want to do first?

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In the World–August 7, 2022

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A NEW BRIDE AND A BURNED HOME

Steve and Andrea Ward of Mariposa County, California, were married last month under a wooden arch in the yard of what was to be their home. Shortly after their wedding, a wildfire broke out, quickly expanding to more than 15,000 acres and forcing over 6,000 residents to evacuate—including the Wards. The fire did take their home, burning it to the ground in a matter of minutes. The newlyweds were allowed to return to the site late last month, where almost everything was gone. The wooden arch had burned away, except for part of its base. “If I gotta prioritize keeping her safe versus keeping the house safe,” said Steve Ward of his new bride, “I’m gonna take her…. What was more important that was built in that … was strong bonds and a stronger love.”

A NEW BRIDE AND AN ETERNAL HOME

The Bible concludes with an account of heaven and the glorious eternity that believers will share with the Lord. In today’s passage, the new Jerusalem descends from heaven adorned as a bride arriving at her wedding. The home the Lord will share with His beloved will never burn or fade, and every tear will be wiped away, replaced by joy.

  1. When were you most affected by a fire?
  2. What’s the funniest newlywed story you know?
  3. What are you most looking forward to about heaven?

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In the World–July 31, 2022

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PEACE AS THE WORLD GIVES

The Russian invasion continues, and nowhere in Ukraine seems safe—not even 167 miles away from the fighting. Earlier this month, Liza Dmytriyeva, a little four-year-old girl with Down syndrome, played big-girl in a park in the city of Vinnytsia, pushing her own stroller and smiling up at her mommy in a video posted to social media. Photos from hours later show the stroller on its side, mangled and bloody, marking the spot where Liza was killed by a Russian cruise missile that destroyed the medical center nearby. The peace the world gives—assuring families that being far away from the battlefield will keep them safe—is not real peace.

PEACE AS THE LORD GIVES

On the night Jesus was to be betrayed, he promised that though he himself was going away from his disciples for a while, they would see him again. Better yet, he would come to them in the form of a helper or advocate, the Spirit of truth, so he could be in them—and they in Him—forever. The Holy Spirit brings the peace that Jesus carried inside him, and no act of war, disease, or death can ever separate those who believe in him from the peace he gives.

  1. What has been your strongest reaction to the war in Ukraine?
  2. When has human or earthly peace failed you?
  3. How have you felt the peace of the Lord—and have you experienced it lately?

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In the World–July 24, 2022

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BELIEF AND TENNIS GLORY

Two weeks ago, tennis star Elena Rybakina won the women’s singles final at Wimbledon. Though she was born in Russia, she moved to Kazakhstan and has been playing for them for four years. “I’m really happy representing Kazakhstan,” she said before the finals. “They believed in me.” In the final match, Rybakina, then ranked #17 in the world, gained glory by defeating #3-ranked Ons Jabeur in three sets. She again hailed Kazakhstan’s belief in her, noting that the president of their tennis federation had come to some of her matches. “It’s really a big thing,” Rybakina said. “It’s unbelievable support, which I just appreciate.”

BELIEF AND GOD’S GLORY

Four days after Lazarus had been laid in his tomb, Jesus arrived at the home where Martha and Mary grieved the death of their brother. Jesus assured Martha that her brother would rise again. And while her great faith allowed her to believe in Jesus’ power to resurrect, Martha’s still believed they would find a rotting corpse if they opened Lazarus’ tomb. Jesus gently reminded her that if she believed in Him, she would see the glory of God—and after Jesus prayed, Lazarus emerged from the tomb alive.

  1. How does someone’s belief in you help you perform at a high level?
  2. Whom do you know who needs someone to believe in them today?
  3. When have you believed God and seen His glory?

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In the World–July 17, 2022

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CAN’T BELIEVE IT

After a 21-year dry spell, the Colorado Avalanche NHL hockey team won the Stanley Cup last month, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games. After the victory celebration on the ice, with the Avs team posing for the camera beside the big metal statue, the Stanley Cup was taken away so it could later be delivered to the home of the Avs team captain, Gabriel Landeskog. Unfortunately, the delivery team couldn’t read the street address in front of the houses and accidentally delivered it to the wrong home. “I couldn’t believe it!” said Kit Karbler, the temporary holder of the Stanley Cup. “I knew that we had Avalanche players that lived in the neighborhood, but I didn’t know how close!” After much friendly laughter and a rare photo op, the delivery team took the trophy to its rightful resting place next door.

MUST BELIEVE IT

Jesus came into the world as its light—and as the perfect representation of His Father. He brought into the family of God all those who believed Jesus had been sent by Him. He also believed that every word His Father gave Him to say led to eternal life, so He carefully delivered each one to His hearers exactly as He’d received them from God.

  1. What’s the funniest story you know of something delivered to the wrong person—or of the wrong thing delivered to the right person?
  2. When have you had to be absolutely certain that you delivered a message with perfect accuracy?
  3. Which command(s) of God did Jesus deliver that lead to eternal life?

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In the World–July 10, 2022

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SEEING THE MIRACULOUS

In just a few days (July 12), the very first full-color images from the new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) are scheduled to be released to the public. The telescope itself is an engineering miracle, having been folded up origami-style to fit inside its launch vehicle and then unfolded in space. But the infrared images it is set to deliver could revolutionize our understanding of the physical universe. With a clarity and magnification greater than any previous telescope, including Hubble, and with infrared’s ability to peer through stellar dust, JWST is poised to wow us with miraculous images and take its place as the greatest space telescope ever built.

BELIEVING THE MIRACULOUS

A royal official from Capernaum traveled to Jesus and begged Him to come heal his son, who was dying. After challenging His listeners to believe in God without first seeing miracles, Jesus promised the father that his son would live. The man took Jesus at His word—believing in Him with no miracle already witnessed—and returned to Capernaum, where he found that his son had been healed at the hour Jesus had promised the miracle.

  1. What’s your favorite thing to gaze at when you look into the night sky?
  2. What miracle or miracles have you seen God perform?
  3. When have you believed God would do something and then you later saw Him bring it to pass?

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In the World–July 3, 2022

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DON’T MISS THE POINT

This Fourth of July, if you go out to watch fireworks, don’t forget that this is a celebration of freedom and unity. Don’t miss the point, as some did last month in Disney World. A couple had staked out the perfect spot to watch fireworks at Cinderella Castle, but shortly before the program began, a family tried to get right in front of them. A physical altercation broke out, first between the wives and then between the husbands. With the result that the police were called and one of the women went to the hospital with a brain bleed. These couples missed the point of ending a fun day at the Happiest Place on Earth by fighting over watching fireworks.

DON’T MISS THE MESSIAH

The Son of God made the entire universe, yet when He walked among His creation, people did not honor Him. Most did not even recognize Him, and fewer still believed in Him. The Light that gives light to the world walked through the darkness, and yet He was not recognized. But some people listened to what John the Baptist said, and some observed the words and works of Jesus, and they did not let Him pass them by. Those who believed in Him received the greatest freedom imaginable.

  1. What are your best memories of fireworks?
  2. When have you or someone else completely missed the point of what was happening?
  3. How can we make sure we don’t miss what Jesus is doing in our own day?

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In the World–June 26, 2022

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IGNORING THE GUIDANCE OF EXPERTS

Soccer (globally known as football) is a high-speed, sometimes violent game in which head injuries are common. There is pressure from teams, owners, and fans for injured players to continue playing. This can result in extremely serious injuries, including permanent brain damage. This month, the sport’s global governing body, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), received an open letter from the Professional Footballers’ Association, prominent ex-players, and a top consultant neuropathologist urging changes. But the letter’s recommendations were rejected. “It’s disappointing to hear,” said Penny Watson, wife of former England captain Dave Watson, who now lives with dementia due to multiple concussions suffered in football, “that IFAB do not seem to listen to the suggestions and advice from those eminent people involved in the head injury debate.”

HEEDING THE GUIDANCE OF GOD

Many messages delivered through God’s prophets were calling the people back to obedience. But occasionally, a portion of the people received praise from the Lord. This week’s passage contains a message Isaiah delivered to those in Judah who pursued righteousness and heeded God’s instructions. The Lord promised to destroy those who threatened them and to turn Judah’s deserts into gardens. God knows the ones whose hearts are truly His.

  1. When have you ignored experts’ advice to your own detriment?
  2. What advantages come to those who pursue righteousness and seek the Lord?
  3. How could Isaiah have handled being the bearer of bad news from God so often?

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In the World–June 19, 2022

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REVERSAL OF AGING IN MICE

This month, a molecular biologist at Harvard Medical School announced success at resetting certain cells to an earlier age. Dr. David Sinclair’s lab has used special proteins to turn aging cells in mice back into stem cells, essentially reversing the ravages of time. This was done first in old mice with damaged retinas, returning their vision to levels they had in youth. Sinclair has had success with mouse muscles and brains, as well, and is working to reverse aging on a mouse’s entire body. While it will take years of further testing and analysis before any such treatment would be approved for humans, that is the future Sinclair envisions. “We’ve done it in a mouse,” he says. “There’s no reason I can think of why it shouldn’t work in a person, too.”

REVERSAL OF FORTUNE IN ISRAEL

Though God had disciplined the children of Israel for their disobedience and idolatry, He always had their restoration in mind. Through Isaiah, the Lord declared images of reversal, such as the ruined land once again thriving and the depleted population coming to exceed the space available inside their borders. God would bring other nations to give tribute to His people, too, once more lifting up all those who put their hope in Him.

  1. If science offered the chance to reverse aging on any one part of your body, which would you choose?
  2. What advantages and disadvantages can you foresee if humans gained the ability to stave off death indefinitely?
  3. In the Bible, when else did the Lord completely reverse someone’s situation?

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In the World–June 12, 2022

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LIGHT ECLIPSED

On the night of May 15–16, most of the Western hemisphere and beyond were united in witnessing a total lunar eclipse. Because this happened when the moon was near its closest distance to earth (lunar perigee), the moon seemed especially large in the sky. Sunlight refracted through the earth’s atmosphere, tinging its shadow red, giving the eclipsed moon that color, and earning it the status of a “super blood moon.” People from Canada to Argentina and from California to Italy—from dozens of languages, races, and religions—stood together and watched the light of the moon go dim.

LIGHT UNVEILED

Though the children of Israel were convinced that God was theirs alone and that salvation was for the Jewish people only, that had never been God’s design. The prophet Isaiah was frustrated with the hardness of heart among the people, feeling that he had served the Lord in vain. But God’s plan was well under way to make redemption shine forth as a light to all, uniting people from every land, language, and race in Christ.

  1. What’s the most spectacular eclipse you’ve ever witnessed?
  2. What causes you to feel a kinship with all people, even those who look or speak differently than you do?
  3. How do you think Isaiah felt when he heard that God’s salvation was meant for the Gentiles too? How do you think Isaiah’s listeners would’ve felt when they heard it?

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In the World–June 5, 2022

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UNRELIABLE CRIMINALS

Ransomware is a crime in which hackers gain access to a victim’s computer network and demand payment to return control to the owners. Victims range from individuals all the way up to huge companies and even entire cities. Part of the agreed-upon arrangement in ransomware, says cybersecurity expert Charles Carmakal, is that hacker gangs promise to abide by the deal and not simply seize control again tomorrow or release embarrassing data even if the victim pays. But as this crime becomes more mainstream, unscrupulous hackers join in, many with no intention of honoring a deal. Carmakal says victims could pay the ransom and yet still see their data leaked. Such unreliable criminals could give hackers a bad name.

UNRELIABLE SORCERY

The people of Judah in Isaiah’s day had turned to magic spells and astrology to bring them good fortune and protect them from calamity. But the prophet sought to turn them back to the Lord. He delivered God’s warning that soon a disaster would come upon them that they could not dispel with their magic nor ward off with any ransom. All such protections would prove futile and unreliable in the end.

  1. Which aspect of computer technology do you like best? Which do you like least?
  2. What do you think of the notion of honor among thieves?
  3. When have you given up on something unreliable in exchange for more faith in the Lord?

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In the World–May 29, 2022

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A NEW LIFE AFTER LEAVING HOLLYWOOD

When she was 9, Melissa Gilbert played Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie. Now, at age 58, she has finally put Hollywood behind and given herself permission to age. Growing up in Tinseltown led Gilbert to pursue superficial standards of youth and beauty. Before long, she was obsessed with her weight and was going down the path of Botox and cosmetic surgery. As she says in her new book, Back to the Prairie, “I finally woke up and went, ‘What am I doing?’” She and her husband moved to the Catskills to restore an old hunting cabin and live in the country. “I’m excited about this,” she says about aging and rediscovering herself. “I love all these changes and watching what’s happening and getting to know this new person.”

A NEW LIFE AFTER COMING TO CHRIST

Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians to remind the believers there that life in Christ meant freedom from and freedom to. Jesus had set them free from all the old behaviors they had come out of—envying, fighting, carousing, sensuality, and the rest. And He had set them free to walk in the Spirit and to enjoy the new person this allowed each one of them to become.

  1. Who was your favorite TV star when you were younger?
  2. What’s something you had to put behind you to go on to maturity?
  3. Which aspect of the fruit of the Spirit do you want more of in your life?

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In the World–May 22, 2022

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A RETURN TO THE GOOD OLD DAYS

“Just look at this,” said octogenarian Joaquin Diaz as he led the Cinco de Mayo parade in Saginaw, MI. “We needed this.” Diaz and his late wife, Cruz, founded the city’s parade in 1979. After running annually for fifty years, health concerns over COVID-19 caused the event to be cancelled for the previous two years. This year, with pandemic restrictions lightened, Diaz rode in his pickup ahead of hundreds of vehicles in the parade, delighting the thousands of people who turned out to watch. “It’s so wonderful to be out here again,” he said. “This reminds me of the good old days.”

A RETURN TO THE BAD OLD DAYS

The Apostle Paul had founded the church in Galatia on the solid rock of freedom in Jesus Christ. However, not long after he left, someone tricked the believers into surrendering their freedom and returning to the bad old days of slavery to sin and law. When the news reached Paul, he was baffled. What—short of sorcery or a smooth-talking salesman with something to gain—could convince people walking in freedom to voluntarily downgrade their lives and submit to bondage again? He urged them to resist the lie and fight for their freedom in Christ.

  1. What’s something you remember from the good old days that you wish would come back?
  2. When have you seen someone knowingly reject a superior solution or return to an inferior way of life?
  3. How do Christians today return to a bondage to law or the primitive, pre-Christian life of unbelievers?

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In the World–May 15, 2022

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UNITED FOR UKRAINE

In a time when American politics is seemingly more factional than ever, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has united Americans to a refreshing degree. Early this month, results were released from an ABC/Washington Post poll about the war. A whopping seventy-six percent of Americans polled were in favor of providing even more support to Ukraine in the form of humanitarian aid. There are many factors involved here, experts say, but one reason for this show of support is Americans’ love of a heroic figure. “The image of a young and charismatic leader courageously leading his country in a time of war has also galvanized support,” said George Washington University assistant professor Michelle Kelso. She said that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “is, for us, an underdog. We love the underdog in this country.”

UNITED IN FREEDOM IN CHRIST

When Judaizers from Jerusalem came to the church in Galatia, Paul was concerned that the new believers there would fall away from the grace of the free gift of salvation in Christ. He wrote to them, stressing that there are no superior/inferior divisions within humanity when it comes to Christ. Before salvation, all people are united under the condemnation of sin because of the Law. And after salvation, all those who believe in Christ are united in their freedom from bondage. Against those who want to put them again into slavery, believers must stand firm in Christ.

  1. What are your hopes and fears regarding the war in Ukraine?
  2. When have you found yourself unexpectedly united with someone you would not normally connect with?
  3. Why does Paul need believers to understand that all social, ethnic, racial, and other divisions are erased in Christ?

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In the World–May 8, 2022

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AN END TO A BEAR CUB’S SUFFERING

Sometime in early 2022, a bear cub in the Appalachian region of Tennessee was hit by a vehicle but survived its injuries. However, late last month, officers with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Association found the cub greatly underweight and struggling with months-old injuries. They contacted Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR) personnel, who rushed the yearling to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinarian Medicine. However, the wounds were too severe, and the vets made the painful decision to end the cub’s suffering. “This bear was one of ours,” said an ABR spokesperson, who also commented that they’d named the cub Caledon Bear, which means tough.

AN END TO OUR SUFFERING

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, the consequences reached beyond humankind and extended to Creation itself. We still groan under sin and illness and broken relationships. The world of nature groans too, suffering under decay and fear. But because of Jesus’ incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension, all of this suffering will one day come to a positive end—not only for those who follow Christ but also for the universe He created.

  1. When have you taken steps to end some form of suffering?
  2. In what ways do you long for an end to the suffering we face in this world?
  3. What does Paul mean when he says that creation is suffering the pain of childbirth?

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In the World–May 1, 2022

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PLAYING FOR ANOTHER TEAM

NBA stars CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard spent nearly nine seasons playing together with the Portland Trail Blazers. Then for this season, McCollum was traded to New Orleans, where he helped lead the Pelicans to the 2022 playoffs. For over eight years, McCollum and Lillard became close friends and adapted their play styles to enhance the strengths of the other. This year, Lillard had to watch his friend play in a different jersey. “It’s weird, man,” Lillard said. “It’s weird to see him enjoying playing with somebody else. It’s almost like a little bit of jealousy, like…man, he’s having fun playing with them.” But when the trade happened, it did make sense to Lillard. “Look at their team: They got the talent; they got the youth mixed with a little bit of experience—and you throw [CJ] into the mix, and you really got something.”

SERVING ANOTHER MASTER

Before salvation, every person serves sin. Paul says we’re all slaves to sin outside of the Lord. But when we come to Christ, we switch teams. We switch alliances and masters, and we become available to serve Jesus instead. Paul speaks of it as a death and resurrection. New Christians are set free to offer themselves as slaves not to sin but to the risen Lord.

  1. When has someone you had partnered with become allied with a new person or group? How did you feel about it?
  2. In what ways can someone be enslaved to sin?
  3. How can Christians make sure they never enter again into slavery to sin?

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In the World–April 24, 2022

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IN BONDAGE TO FEAR

Earlier this month, a Utah man slammed his car into a man sitting on a parked motorcycle. Surveillance video shows the car approaching and then accelerating toward the man and motorcycle. The car hits, sending the bike crashing away and the rider upside-down in the air and off the hood. Miraculously, the rider hops to his feet, mostly uninjured. But the driver leaps from the car and attacks the man. The driver fled but was soon arrested. He insisted that he believed the unarmed motorcyclist was a hitman who had been hired to assassinate him. He said he’d had a hit out on him since 2009 and decided that it was time to kill or be killed. His bondage to a fear of death caused him to try to kill an innocent man.

SET FREE BY THE SON

Jesus told some Jews who had believed in Him that they needed to be set free from their bondage, and He said He was the one who could grant their freedom. This offended them, and they made the outrageous claim that they were free and had never been slaves of anyone. Jesus primarily meant that they were slaves to sin, and yet this offended them even more. Nevertheless, He promised that they could be set free—free indeed—by the Son of God.

  1. What’s the most serious traffic accident you’ve ever witnessed or been part of?
  2. When do fears, especially irrational fears, tend to come upon you?
  3. Why do you think the Jewish believers were offended by Jesus’ words about freedom?

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In the World–April 17, 2022

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IRISH FEMALE SCIENTISTS RESURRECTED THROUGH TECHNOLOGY

In many nations, there is a serious shortage of young women entering fields of science and engineering. An effort in Irish classrooms is seeking to help correct that through clever technology. A new phone app called Volu uses 3D holograms of female pioneers from Ireland’s scientific history to engage the interest of girls at the high school level. The scientists are depicted by actresses in full animation and sound, and their moving images can be placed into real-world scenes via the Volu app on a smart phone. It’s a versatile and innovative use of augmented reality that brings famous Irish female scientists back to life and into our modern lives. “Lots of women aren’t really into science and things,” said one female high school student. “So seeing women actually achieving that…it really helps. Because it they can do it, you can do it too.”

THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD RESURRECTED FOR ETERNITY

Early in the morning on the day of Jesus’ resurrection, two women who loved Him experienced an earthquake at the tomb and encountered a powerful angel. The angel reminded them that Jesus had predicted His death and resurrection, and he announced that it had happened as He had promised. They turned to obey the angel’s command to inform the disciples of the resurrection. As they ran, they met the risen Lord and worshipped Him. Their faith and love had been rewarded with the first revelation that Jesus had conquered death for us all.

  1. If you wanted to interest young people in some field of study, how would you go about doing it?
  2. What does it mean that women were the first to know of Jesus’ resurrection?
  3. How would the world be different if everyone knew the true meaning of Easter?

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In the World–April 10, 2022

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EXPECTING A REWARD FOR LOYALTY

Most fast-food chains in the United States have customer loyalty programs. It’s reached the point where restaurants that don’t offer such programs “run the risk of falling behind,” according to an article by PYMNTS.com. The article, entitled “Restaurant Loyalty Holdouts Get on Board as Consumers Expect to Be Rewarded,” explains how, in March, two notable restaurant chains—Carl’s Jr. and IHOP—launched their own programs to reward frequent customers. “In today’s digital-first age,” said Chad Crawford, chief brand officer of the company that owns Carl’s Jr., “we want to reward our loyal customers in a fun and engaging way.” Only twenty percent of restaurants that allow mobile ordering do not have loyalty programs, so the holdouts may find they had better reward their frequent customers or risk losing them.

HOPING TO BE FOUND LOYAL

While eating His last Passover meal with His disciples, Jesus revealed that one of them would betray Him. One after another, they protested their loyalty to Jesus, saying, “Is it me, Lord? Surely it can’t be me, can it?” They were desperate to prove themselves loyal, and they longed for Jesus’ assurance that their hearts were true. We don’t know what, if anything, Jesus replied to each one. But when Judas Iscariot said, “Jesus, is it me?” Jesus responded, “You have said it yourself.” Jesus lays bare the thoughts of every person.

  1. Why are customer loyalty programs suddenly so important for businesses today?
  2. What contrasts can be made between the loyalty of modern consumers and the disciples at the Last Supper?
  3. How can you know if your heart is loyal to the Lord?

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In the World–April 3, 2022

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A HUMBLE LEGISLATOR IN INDIA

In March, Indian legislator Bhagwant Mann won an election to become the next chief minister of the Aam Aadami Party. In a speech to his fellow victorious party members, he urged them to reject the typical behavior of other politicians in their shoes and instead remain humble. “We should not be arrogant,” he said. “You are also the [representatives] of those who did not vote for you.” Instead of moving to the regional capital and staying there, as many do, Mann encouraged them to go out to the people. “Stay in Chandigarh for the least possible time. We have to go and do work at those places where we went and asked for votes,” he said. “Go sit in villages and meet people. Have tea, speak to people about their problems, take officials with you.”

A HUMBLE KING IN JERUSALEM

Though many in Jesus’ day longed for a Jewish military leader like David who could rally the people and drive out the Romans, this had never been God’s plan. Jesus indicated what sort of kingdom He was instituting by arriving in Jerusalem not astride a massive warhorse but on the back of the foal of a donkey. Everyone watching would be reminded of Zechariah’s prophecy that said the king who came to bring salvation would ride humbly upon the back of a donkey’s colt. Jesus had come to eliminate war and bring peace.

  1. How do you think politicians should behave after they win an election and take office?
  2. How can government officials serve even those who did not vote for them?
  3. In what ways have you seen God behave differently than what you expected?

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In the World–March 27, 2022

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GRATEFUL FOR THE CAT

A nighttime tornado ripped through Florida this month, tearing away a roof and wall of some apartments in Ocala. One woman was awakened by her cat acting oddly and crying from the kitchen. She got up to see what the cat’s problem was, and just when she got to the kitchen, the tornado tore away the walls and roof of her bedroom. “She moved at just the right time,” said the woman’s neighbor. “If she didn’t move, she would’ve been right there” when the tornado hit.

GRATEFUL FOR THE LORD

At the end of the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the children of Israel were instructed by God to remember how He had taken care of them. Their shoes hadn’t worn out and the feet hadn’t swelled. He had disciplined them as a loving father disciplines a child, but His intent was always to bless them. The Lord wanted them to remember His kindness when they got into the plentiful land He was about to bring them into.

  1. Has an animal ever warned you of something you wouldn’t have known about otherwise? What happened?
  2. Why do we have to be taught to be grateful or to notice when someone has done us a kindness?
  3. What helps you trust God’s ways when things seem to be going badly around you?

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In the World–March 20, 2022

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RESCUED FROM UKRAINE

In the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, business owner Vladislav Guristrimba awoke to explosions and missile strikes near his home. Russian missiles were bombarding Kiev’s airport, not far from the Guristrimba residence. Vladislav and his wife, Dariya, made hasty plans, and three days later they and their five children fled the fighting to meet up with Dariya’s parents. In the city of Sokryany, on the border with Moldova, Vladislav got the family to safety. But instead of joining them in the rescue, Vladislav remained in Ukraine to help other families find their way to safety. Using his resources and contacts, he arranged for the escape of others to Moldova and Poland. “I’m not going to fight,” Vladislav said, “because I’m not military. My value is as a manager. I can be a manager in a military system or a volunteer system.”

RESCUED FROM BABYLON

After the Jewish captives had lived so long in Babylonian exile, the new ruler—Darius of Persia—allowed them to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Under Ezra’s leadership, the Temple was rebuilt, and in the sixth year of Darius’s reign, the people dedicated the house of the Lord by celebrating Passover. Their relief and joy over how God had rescued them overflowed in seven days of celebration.

  1. What emotions has the invasion of Ukraine brought up in you?
  2. If an invasion happened in your nation, what would you do?
  3. When have you been rescued from something? How did you celebrate?

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In the World–March 13, 2022

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NOT FREE TO WORSHIP IN IRELAND

During his six-year enslavement in Ireland, the young Briton who became known as St. Patrick was not free to worship Jesus. He served pagan masters and could not openly pray to the Lord. Though he was the son and grandson of Christian ministers in England, the young man named Maewyn Succat had not shown much interest in the things of Christ before the Irish raiders had appeared on the horizon. But over his years of hard labor in Ireland, he came to call upon Jesus with his whole heart. When he escaped and returned to England, he was finally free to worship the Lord who had saved him. It wouldn’t be long before that Lord would call young Patrick back to bring the light of life to his former captors.

FREE TO WORSHIP IN ISRAEL

After seventy years in captivity, the Jewish people were allowed to leave Babylon and return to Israel. The conqueror, King Cyrus of Persia, was perhaps keen to get all the people (and gods) of Nebuchadnezzar’s conquests to look favorably upon him and his new empire. So he was generous with freedom, supplies, and edicts to help the departing peoples go home and reinvigorate their religions. The letter he wrote to protect the returning Jewish exiles ensured they would be able to worship freely in Jerusalem and throughout Israel.

  1. What would it take for you, like Patrick, to be willing to offer salvation to the people who have mistreated you?
  2. How can the superstitions of non-Christians sometimes aid the cause of Christ?
  3. What would you do if you were suddenly not free to worship the Lord?

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In the World–March 6, 2022

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LIONS RETURN TO THEIR HOMELAND

Four adult African lions—named Angela, Bellone, Säida, and Louga—have been returned to Africa after being part of a French traveling circus. The big cats, all born in captivity, were removed from the circus in 2018 and looked after by experts. They were set to be transported in 2019 to a sanctuary in South Africa by Born Free, an international wildlife charity. Then COVID-19 hit, and the plans were put on hold. But last month, the lions finally stepped onto African soil. “Lions in lockdown have had a long arduous journey,” said Catherine Gilson, Manager of Shamwari Private Game Reserve, “but [these lions] are settling in so well [with their other lions]. We have just seen them all under a tree together in the shade sheltering from heat here, which is a great relief for us.”

EXILES RETURN TO THEIR HOMELAND

After the Babylonian Captivity, any Jewish captives who wished to return to Israel were allowed to do so by the new king, Cyrus of Persia. He issued a decree that his own citizens should provide the returning exiles with silver, gold, and livestock. Moreover, Cyrus returned to the exiles thousands of gold and silver items that had been pillaged from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. Cyrus instructed the exiles to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, and more than 40,000 Jewish people accepted the offer and went back to their homeland.

  1. When have you had a “going home” moment? Did it live up to your expectations?
  2. Why do you think Cyrus was so generous in giving away all that gold and silver, not to mention captives?
  3. If you had been born in Babylon and had never seen Israel, do you think you would want to go there when given a chance? Why or why not?

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In the World–February 27, 2022

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WHEN THE UNIFORM IS TOO BIG

During the recently concluded Winter Olympics in Beijing, five female Japanese ski jumpers were disqualified because of their uniforms. The thigh portions of the team’s suits were found to fit 2cm too loosely, which could give an aerodynamic advantage. “I am very sorry that the chance of winning a medal has been taken away from the Japanese team,” said ski jumper Sara Takanashi. “It is an undeniable fact that my disqualification changed everyone’s lives. Even if I apologize, the [chance for a] medal will not be returned.”

WHEN THE SELF IS TOO BIG

While Job was challenged by his friends and wife to accept their sometimes-false views of God, he stood firm and maintained his innocence. However, he did finally complain to God that he had been treated unfairly. The Lord reminded Job that God is the Almighty One and Job is a mere human. Thus returned to his proper reverence and fear of the Lord, Job humbled himself and repented in dust and ashes, and God again blessed him bountifully.

  1. On the whole, do you tend to be a stickler for the rules, or do you prefer to let things slide? Why?
  2. How might we compare Job’s sense of smallness before God with our own culture’s emphasis on throwing off authority in order to “live our own truth”?
  3. What other examples can you think of in which someone humbled himself and God raised him up?

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In the World–February 20, 2022

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BLAMED FOR THEIR OWN ATTACK

“In deeply patriarchal conservative societies, women have been the victims of inequality since time immemorial.” So said a female writer named Kabir in The Kashmir Observer. She wrote in response to an acid attack this month. In Hawal, a city near the northern tip of India, a man asked a 24-year-old woman to marry him. She declined his offer, so he and two others tracked her down and splashed acid on her face. According to a hospital official, “Nine percent of her face has been completely burned.” Kabir criticized the patriarchal tendency of blaming the victim for angering or humiliating the man. Such attacks by males in her culture can be explained, she says, “by how men see any attack on their power as an opportunity to resist through inflicting punishment on the opposite gender.”

BLAMED FOR HIS OWN TRAGEDY

As Job lay on the ashes mourning the tragic death of his children, his friend Bildad informed him that the children were obviously killed because of their sins against God. He seems to be chiding Job for his sadness, and possibly rebuking him as a father…because if he and his children had done the right thing, none of this would’ve happened.

  1. Have you ever witnessed an example of victim blaming? Describe the incident.
  2. Why do you think Bildad said what he did to Job?
  3. What’s something helpful we can say to someone who is in grief?

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In the World–February 13, 2022

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GUIDELINES FOR A SUGAR-FREE VALENTINE’S DAY

Diabetics and others wanting to cut down on sugar may look on Valentine’s Day with dread. But confectioners have made great strides in recent years to provide delicious treats that have low or zero impact on glucose levels. This Valentine’s Day, you can choose sugar-free gummy bears, zero sugar Reese’s peanut butter cups, sugar-free Jolly Ranchers, and more. But you can still get sick to your stomach eating too much candy, even if it’s sugar-free. Viola Holmes, associate director of nutrition science and health care for the American Diabetes Association, says this is because of the sugar alcohols sometimes used to sweeten these treats. “You should still practice some form of portion control,” Holmes says, “because some sugar alcohols, like sorbitol, for instance, can cause abdominal discomfort.”

GUIDELINES FOR A GODLY LIFE

At the end of the Babylonian Exile, Ezra led a group of priests, Levites, and other religious workers back to Jerusalem to revive the Temple. The Bible indicates that Ezra had devoted his life to the study and observance of the guidelines included in God’s Law, a factor that may have led directly to the Lord’s hand being on him so firmly. God grants favor to those who serve Him wholeheartedly.

  1. What are your best memories related to Valentine’s Day—or sweets?
  2. When have you known the hand of God upon you or someone you know?
  3. What guideline from God’s Word is helping you today?

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In the World–February 6, 2022

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CALLING OUT A PRIME MINISTER

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a challenge to his leadership after reports of a series of parties he or his staff hosted during strict COVID-19 lockdown rules. While Britons abode by rules to not gather with more than one person outside their household—voluntarily being cut off from family and friends—Johnson and his guests were drinking, dancing, and partying until all hours. The night before Queen Elizabeth’s husband’s funeral, a party at the prime minister’s residence went until midnight. The next day, the queen sat alone at the funeral, obeying the social distancing rules. Many reported Johnson’s string of rule-breaking gatherings, and calls for Johnson’s firing increased rapidly.

CALLING OUT A KING

Though God had given King David the throne and great wealth and power, David nevertheless sinned with Bathsheba and had her husband, Uriah, killed. Though his sin remained a secret from most in his kingdom, it was not hidden from the eyes of the Lord. God sent the prophet Nathan to David with a brilliant parable that showed David the horrible evil of his crime … and cut him to the quick. David repented, and God relented in some of His punishment, but both Uriah and Bathsheba’s son died as a result of David’s actions. Nathan’s courage in obeying God to call out a king saved David and the kingdom from greater consequences.

  1. How does it make you feel when a leader violates restrictions that you yourself have obeyed?
  2. Our society loves to cast down leaders for their injustices, real or imagined. How can you tell the difference between true injustice and lesser trespasses like poor judgment, etc.?
  3. What do you think was going through Nathan’s mind when he approached his friend and king to tell him God’s judgment?

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In the World–January 30, 2022

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PROVIDING FOR THE POOREST IN MODERN INDIA

The state government of Rajasthan, India, has provided benefits for its poorest citizens during the pandemic. They have paid benefits to more than 14,000 orphans and widows of COVID-19. The expenditures, which began in June of last year, have exceeded one billion rupees (nearly $14 million USD). The government has provided both one-time and monthly payments to these orphans, promising to continue until they reach the age of 18. Free education through grade 12 has been provided to these children, along with a monthly pension for the widows. Help is also available to the homeless of the state, as well, including those out in the villages. “As [many] such people are unaware about the facilities including free stay, free food and medical aid,” said judge Dinesh Kumar Gupta, “we will create awareness about the program and its benefits.”

PROVIDING FOR THE POOREST IN ANCIENT ISRAEL

Landowners and farmers in Old Testament Israel were instructed to provide for the poorest among them, as well. Their fields weren’t to be scrupulously reaped, nor were their orchards to be utterly harvested. The extras were to be left for the poor, including widows, orphans, and those not even from among God’s people. Generosity was built right in to their daily rhythms.

  1. How is the government intervention in Rajasthan similar to what you have seen from your local or national government during COVID-19? How does it differ?
  2. How have you seen the Church rising up to help those affected by COVID?
  3. What can we learn about the character of God from the instructions he gave about leaving part of the harvest for the poor, the fatherless, the widow, and the foreigner?

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In the World–January 23, 2022

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FINE THOSE WHO FLOUT THE LAW

Neighborhoods in Scottsdale, Arizona, just got a little quieter, thanks to a new ordinance. It used to be that neighbors could do very little about loud parties outside homes occupied by short-term renters. The new ordinance requires that the property owners furnish police with an emergency contact number. If the police serve a notice and no one has corrected the problem within an hour, the owners receive a fine of $750. And on each subsequent offense, the fine goes up, reaching nearly $2,500 for a fourth offense. “We just want them [renters] to have a good time and enjoy themselves,” says Scottsdale police sergeant Kevin Quon, “while still respecting the neighborly type of feel that we grow to expect in Scottsdale.”

EXECUTE THOSE WHO FLOUT THE LAW

As God’s people wandered in the wilderness under Moses, they too had people who tended to disregard laws and legal decisions handed down by judges chosen by the Lord. The judges were under strict instructions to pursue justice faithfully, rejecting bribes and other perversions of justice. But if anyone showed contempt for the judge God had chosen, he was to be put to death to send a message to the rest of Israel not to be contemptuous again.

  1. What are effective and ineffective ways of making sure people follow rules, ordinances, and laws?
  2. Why is it dangerous if officials have no way of enforcing rules, ordinances, or laws?
  3. What behaviors do you think would disappear overnight if death were the penalty for doing them?

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In the World–January 16, 2022

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PRESSURED TO FIT IN

Today, peer pressure among young people often takes the form of “challenges” issued on Tik-Tok and other social media platforms. There have been challenges to eat laundry detergent pods, steal large items from school bathrooms, style one’s hair using gorilla glue, and strangle oneself within an inch of death. A recent example is the “dry scoop challenge,” which involves eating energy drink powder without first adding water. This has been linked to at least one heart attack, and doctors are adamant against it. Still, children and teens try it in hopes of gaining affirmation from peers. “Kids are biologically built to become much more susceptible to peers in adolescence,” said Mitchell Prinstein, of the American Psychological Association. “And social media has magnified those peer influence processes to be much, much more dangerous than they were before…. These kids are being influenced at a level that’s beyond their conscious awareness.”

PRESSURED TO DO WRONG

Today’s passage involves matters of justice among the Israelites during Moses’ leadership. When the majority favored one side over the other, others were inclined to side with that group regardless of guilt or innocence. God commanded them not to pervert justice for any reason, and certainly not to fit in with peers.

  1. What’s the worst example of peer pressure you know of?
  2. Why is peer pressure so powerful?
  3. How can we be on the side of right even when the pressure to fit in is so strong?

Additional Links

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In the World–January 9, 2022

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POEM FOR THE EXPAT

This past fall, Danielle Obisie-Orlu was named Youth Poet Laureate of Allegheny County (Pennsylvania). The University of Pittsburgh junior was born in Washington, D.C., to Nigerian parents, and she was raised mainly in South Africa. She has always felt like something of an outcast, and this comes through in her poetry, including “Poem for the Expat,” which won her the title of Youth Poet Laureate. “My personal experiences of growing up as a dark-skinned Black woman in South Africa and the U.S. have really shaped how I hold myself.” Her passion to build bridges across cultural and racial divides is summed up in the African concept of ubuntu. “Ubuntu … [is] an approach to life that’s about valuing human dignity in one another,” she explains. It is the quest to “get to a place where I can say, ‘I recognize my humanity within you.’”

MERCY FOR THE OUTCAST

When Sarah had her son, Isaac, by Abraham, she wanted to be rid of Hagar and Ishmael. She urged Abraham to get rid of them, but Abraham was distressed by the idea. God assured him that He would not only protect the child but raise him up into a great nation. When the baby cried from thirst in the desert, the angel of God called out to Hagar, guided her to a well, and saved the lives of the outcasts.

  1. What is your favorite poem, and why?
  2. Who do we find it easiest to see dignity and humanity in? Who do we find it hardest to see these in?
  3. What does it say about God’s character that He treated Hagar and Ishmael as He did?

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In the World–January 2, 2022

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GRIEVING OVER THE DEATH OF A SISTER

“That must’ve been so hard on your parents.” That’s a phrase often heard by the siblings of someone who has died, especially if the person died young. The grief of the brothers or sisters is sometimes considered less important or painful, explained UK therapist Jennifer Park. The grieving siblings can even take “on the role of helping out, making sure other people are okay, so their own grief gets lost.” Three sisters who lost their fourth sister in adulthood found little help for sibling grief, so they decided to do something about it. “We wanted to change the landscape of sibling loss,” said Maeveen Brown. “We launched Sibling Grief Club to provide an online resource and community that adult siblings could utilize, so they never have to feel alone in their grief again.” Brown said they have found that the amount of grief isn’t determined by the age of the person who died but by the love the sibling had for that person. “If you love hard, you will grieve hard.”

DEFIANT OVER THE DEATH OF A BROTHER

Today’s passage concerns the first murder in the history of humanity. Cain killed his brother, Abel, because he could not master the anger that was roused when God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s. Not only did Cain kill his brother, he lied—and expressed defiance about it—to God. God’s judgment on Cain was severe, but even then, the Lord was merciful to the sinner.

  1. Who do you know who has had to hide his or her grief in order to spare someone else’s pain?
  2. What has helped you grieve through a loss of your own?
  3. Why do you think Cain became angry enough that he would kill his own brother?

Additional Links

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In the World–December 26, 2021

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THE QUICK ANGER OF MAN

In September, when the Taliban regained power in Afghanistan, their retribution was as swift as it was unjust. Certain groups were primarily targeted. Among them were female judges, especially those who had sentenced Afghan men to prison for violence against women. “They feel like it’s their right to find me, to hit me, to kill me,” said a female judge named Bibi, since now “they don’t have anyone to be afraid of.” Many of these women are trying to flee Afghanistan, but most remain in hiding, moving from house to house. Their danger came quickly, as soon as the old regime fell. “A day or two after the Taliban arrived in Kabul,” said a judge named Nabila, “my personal number was called and I was threatened with revenge, threatened with murder.” Bibi is hiding with her three young children, but she lives in fear. “My kids … they can’t see their mother being killed.”

THE SLOW ANGER OF GOD

The Lord’s anger at the Kingdom of Assyria was long in the building. He had graciously sent Jonah to preach a warning to the capital city of Nineveh, which the Assyrians heeded. But this did not change their ways for long, and they renewed their attacks against the Kingdom of Judah. Finally, God had had enough, and He sent Micah to carry word of Assyria’s impending downfall. The Lord’s anger is slow, but when it is kindled for His people, it cannot be resisted.

  1. When have you seen human anger flash out? When have you seen someone slow to anger?
  2. Why are you grateful that God is slow to anger?
  3. Why did the Ninevites’ repentance in Jonah’s time not continue?

Additional Resources

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–December 19, 2021

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CORRUPTION IN GOVERNMENT

In October, the leader of Austria—Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (35)—resigned amidst accusations of corruption. He and nine other individuals plus three organizations were accused of using government money to gain favorable coverage in a prominent newspaper and other daily media. Bribery and manipulated content, including doctored opinion surveys, were used to generate a consistently positive view of his administration. Kurz maintained his innocence and said he resigned “to make space to guarantee stability.”

GOVERNING WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS

At Christmas, we remember Isaiah’s prophecy of a child who would be born to be a great light for people living in darkness, The government would be on this child’s shoulders, and He would establish His kingdom with justice and righteousness. Our passage today reminds us of how much greater the rule of Christ will be.

  1. Who is or was the finest elected official you know of? Why do you think that person was elected?
  2. Why do governments seem prone to corruption?
  3. In what ways does the government foreseen in Isaiah 9 stand in contrast to governments today?

Additional Resources

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In the World–December 12, 2021

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INSPIRING CHILDREN TO SHOW KINDNESS

Last month, the subscription programming service Apple TV+ debuted a children’s program called Hello, Jack! The Kindness Show. With more than a few similarities to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the new show features actor Jack McBrayer, famous for his broad smile and “infectious positivity.” The show was developed by Angela C. Santomero, creator of Blue’s Clues and co-author of a book entitled Radical Kindness: The Life-Changing Power of Giving and Receiving. Apple says Hello, Jack! aims to “ignite kindness through exploring empathy, humor, playfulness and imagination.” In a time when things can seem dark and scary to children, a show that inspires them to show kindness to others is a welcome development.

INSPIRED TO SHOW KINDNESS TO A FRIEND’S CHILD

When King David was at the height of his reign, having subdued the enemies on all sides, his mind turned to his late friend Jonathan. He wished to do some kindness to Jonathan’s family, so he investigated whether or not any of his relatives remained alive. He found Mephibosheth, a crippled son of Jonathan, and brought him to his palace. He returned to the young man all the land that had belonged to his father, Jonathan, and his grandfather, King Saul, and he invited him to dine at the king’s own table regularly.

  1. Of what benefit is a television program that models kindness to children?
  2. When have you shown kindness to one person because of gratitude to someone else?
  3. How could God’s kindness to us inspire us to show kindness to others?

Additional Links

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–December 5, 2021

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A SIGN TO WARN OF DANGER

In October, a 43-year-old man was killed after being washed off a jetty in Crescent City, CA. There are signs and fences warning people against going out at high tide, but these are often disregarded. Crescent City leadership member Rick Shepherd has since suggested that new signs be put up, saying that anyone who disregards warning signs and then has to be rescued will be charged up to $12,000 for the effort (assuming they live). “A lot of times,” Shepherd said, “it jeopardizes our search and rescue [folks] to go out there and try to rescue people” who have ignored the warning signs.

A SIGN TO REMEMBER GOD’S FAITHFULNESS

Before God had brought the children of Israel into the promised land, He gave them commands for what to do when it did come to pass. He instructed them to pile up uncut stones on the far bank of the Jordan River, whitewashing them and then writing the Law on them. This was to be a sign and a memorial to them and their children, reminding them of God’s faithfulness on their behalf—and of the benefits of obeying the Lord.

  1. When have you seen someone disobey a warning or law, resulting in negative consequences?
  2. What do you think of billing someone who needs rescuing because they ignored warnings?
  3. How can you remind yourself of crucial moments of God’s faithfulness in your own life?

Additional Resources

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–November 28, 2021

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INCLUSION IN MAKING ANIMATED MOVIES

In a recent roundup article of the top 50 animation studios in the world, many of them were in Hollywood, as one might expect. Studios like Pixar, Disney, and DreamWorks topped the list. However, some might be surprised to learn that more than half of the studios (26 of 50) were not in the U.S. at all. Many were in Japan or Canada. Other countries active in computer animation include Germany, England, the Philippines, Iceland, India, and Turkey. Add to that the many individual animators and artists from scores of other nations who work for these top studios, and you’ll see that computer animation is now a radically international affair. These studios often have a surprising openness to international animators and artists. “You should be fine,” said one industry insider in an online forum, because “most animations studios/companies in the creative industry look mostly at portfolios.” If you’ve got the skills, studios will be interested, no matter where you’re from.

INCLUSION IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Our passage today shows the moment when Peter became suddenly aware that the salvation of Jesus is intended for all people in all nations. He took fellow Jewish Christians with him to the home of Cornelius the centurion, and all of them witnessed the Holy Spirit falling upon these Gentiles as He had fallen on the Jewish believers. Through the vision and this dramatic event, Peter began to understand that God offers salvation to everyone in every nation, language, and tribe.

  1. What’s an animated film you have a positive opinion of?
  2. How do you respond to the idea that the world has become more of a global village?
  3. What do you admire about Christians who come from other countries or cultures?

Additional Resources

These videos and materials are for your personal use. If you show videos in class, be sure to have the necessary rights to do so.

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–November 21, 2021

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MARRIAGE AT ITS LOWEST

In 1946, when most Americans were euphoric about the hopeful state of the world, the national marriage rate hit an all-time high. In the 152 years these statistics have been kept, that year’s rate of 16.4 marriages per 1,000 people was the highest it had ever been. Since that time, the rate has generally declined, especially since the early 1980s. In 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, the marriage rate dropped to its lowest since recordkeeping began, to a rate of 6.1 per 1,000. Sally C. Curtin and Paul D. Sutto, curators of these statistics for the National Center for Health Statistics, found “that adults in the United States are increasingly postponing marriage, and that a record number of current youth and young adults are projected to forego marriage altogether.” Studies have cited multiple factors for this, including declining religious adherence to marriage, public disenchantment with marriage, COVID-19, and unstable jobs and strained finances. Tragically, fully one-quarter of unmarried Americans aged 25 to 34 years are living with a romantic partner.

A MARRIAGE IN THE HIGHEST

In stark contrast to our culture’s attitude toward marriage, today’s passage shows us that God places a wedding at the pinnacle of His divine plan. The Lord Jesus, having purified for Himself a bride, convenes the wedding in the throne room of God. The fine linen of her dress represents the righteous deeds of His people.

  1. What’s the best wedding you’ve ever seen? What made it so good?
  2. Why is marriage still important to society?
  3. Why does Scripture begin and end with a wedding?

Additional Resources

These videos and materials are for your personal use. If you show videos in class, be sure to have the necessary rights to do so.

  1. Music Video, Traditional: “This Is My Song” by VOICES8
  2. Music Video, Multicultural: “He Understands” by Chandler Moore
  3. Music Video, Contemporary: “Stir a Passion” by Lindy Cofer (Revere)
  4. Guzik’s Commentary on Revelation 19
  5. Pulpit Commentary on Revelation 19
  6. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Revelation 19

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In the World–November 14, 2021

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GRATITUDE FOR THOSE WHO SACRIFICED ALL

Every year, Wreaths Across America places Christmas wreaths on the headstones of veterans in cemeteries around the nation. There is even an annual running program, the Escort to Arlington challenge, associated with the wreath-laying. Trucks in Maine load wreaths in December and then make the 737-mile trek down to Arlington National Cemetery. Runners can “escort” those trucks by amassing 737 miles of running by the time the trucks reach Washington, D.C. This year’s event has special significance to Emily Kraines, whose husband was an Air Force pararescue jumper who died in a training accident in 2019. Emily had always been a runner, but when her husband died, she stopped. She discovered that this year’s Escort to Arlington challenge culminates on what would’ve been Peter’s 36th birthday, December 18, so she committed to amassing all those miles. “This year, I will get to visit his grave with an accomplishment of finishing another race,” she said. “I know he would be so proud.”

GRATITUDE FOR THE ONE WHO SACRIFICED ALL

Our passage today captures the scene in heaven when the reign of the Lord Jesus is celebrated. Having overcome on earth, purchasing people from all tribes and tongues for God, now His forever reign is celebrated again. It is a scene of tremendous gratitude and worship.

  1. As you are filled with thankfulness in this season, how can you show gratitude?
  2. What’s the most extravagant expression of gratitude you’ve ever witnessed or received?
  3. In what key ways was Jesus treated differently on earth from how He is treated in heaven?

Additional Resources

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In the World–November 7, 2021

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WORSHIPING TOGETHER IN ALABAMA

Believers “of all colors” united in worship in Mobile, Alabama, in October. It was the annual Shrink the Divide gathering organized by The Pledge Group. “Today is an opportunity for a diverse group of believers to come together and communicate the fact that we believe the Gospel is the way to bring racial reconciliation in every situation,” said Roy Hill, president of the Pledge Group. This year, hundreds of people were in physical attendance, with many more watching online. “We have a message for everyone that will listen,” said Hill. “Through Christ, we’re all family. We’re all brothers and sisters, and we need to start treating each other that way.”

WORSHIPING TOGETHER IN HEAVEN

Christ is the great uniter and Savior of humanity. Our passage today pulls back the curtain on a scene in heaven, in which people from all nations and tongues unite in praise of Jesus. Whatever factors might’ve divided these people in life are overwhelmed by the family relationship we share with every believer in Christ.

  1. Have you seen racial unity in our country increasing or decreasing in recent years? Why do you think that is?
  2. How can you take a step toward uniting with a believer in Christ who may be different from you in external ways?
  3. What are you most looking forward to in eternity?

Additional Resources

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–October 31, 2021

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PRAISING MAN WITH A PRIZE

This month, the Nobel Prize for physics was awarded to three men for their groundbreaking work in climate change in the 1960s. One of the three was Japanese-born Syukuro “Suki” Manabe, 90, a meteorologist at Princeton University. Manabe was honored for “the physical modelling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability, and reliably predicting global warming.” This work laid the foundation for the modern science of climate modeling. Colleagues praised Manabe for his “combination of brilliance and humility,” the latter of which was illustrated in his acceptance speech. He said he felt his work didn’t compare with the outstanding research done by previous winners of the prize. But when he considered that his work could help lead to a better understanding of our current climate crisis, he changed his mind about winning the prize. “Then I thought, maybe it’s OK.”

PRAISING GOD WITH WORSHIP

Today’s psalms are some of the most jubilant celebrations in Scripture. We get an image of raucous, musical glory, like a marching band playing all around us to worship God. The psalmist calls the people to praise the Lord with an almost reckless abandon.

  1. What’s the highest prize you have ever personally witnessed anyone receiving?
  2. When have you been in a celebration that almost got out of control?
  3. What could send you into this kind of jubilant worship?

Additional Resources

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–October 24, 2021

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LIVING FARTHER FROM THE CITY

As the pandemic caused a shift from in-person employment to remote work, people began to realize they didn’t have to live in the big city anymore. If they weren’t forced to show up at the desk at 8:00 a.m., why fight the traffic and endure the other hassles of urban living? Realtors in the Seattle area, for example, found demand skyrocketing for housing in more outlying and rural areas. “People were coming up to the islands and Whatcom County in droves,” said real estate agent Annie Dameron Pederson. People began to arrive “with cash to spend and mountain bikes in tow,” said Windermere agent Damian Pro. “​​They have this mentality of, ‘We want to live our best life.’” For them, that means moving away from something.

LIVING CLOSER TO THE LORD

For the psalmist in ancient Israel, pursuing the best life meant moving toward something—namely, the temple, the place where God was thought to dwell. In our passage today, the psalmist admires the swallow, who builds a nest very close to the altar of God. He wishes to be the lowest servant in the house of the Lord rather than to dwell in lavish luxury with the wicked.

  1. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why?
  2. When have you taken a big step back and reevaluated important aspects of your life?
  3. What do you do when you feel a desire to move closer to the Lord?

Additional Resources

These videos and materials are for your personal use. If you show videos in class, be sure to have the necessary rights to do so.

www.standardlesson.com/category/in-the-world
Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–October 17, 2021

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A CRY FOR HELP LEADS TO RESCUE

Last month, Hurricane Ida slammed Louisiana. With power and phones down in the middle of the night, area resident Kamie Tatum went into labor. Kamie (22) was alone and nine months pregnant. “I was having full-on contractions,” she said. Because the phones were out, she got in her car and tried to make it to a hospital. But she encountered a huge tree that had been blown down across the highway. “I thought I was going to have my baby in the car by myself…. I just sat in the middle of the highway in my car and cried.” About this time, a crew of thirty sheriff’s deputies and volunteers with chain saws, wire cutters, and axes, who had been working their way on the road for three hours, came upon Kamie’s car and heard her cries of pain. The crew pushed the tree off the road, and Lt. Trent Duplantis climbed into the driver’s seat and drove Kamie to Thibodaux Regional, where she later gave birth to a healthy baby boy. “If it wasn’t for Deputy Trent,” she said, “I don’t know what I would’ve done.”

A CRY FOR HELP LEADS TO DELIVERANCE

In our passage today, the psalmist describes how God is drawn to those in need. The distressed, the lost, and the hungry cry out to God, and He delivers them. Indeed, the Lord delights to come to the aid of all those who call to Him. God is never more than a prayer away.

  1. When have you cried out to God and then seen His rescue?
  2. Why does God so often choose to send help in the form of other people?
  3. Who around you is crying out for help today?

Additional Resources

These videos and materials are for your personal use. If you show videos in class, be sure to have the necessary rights to do so.

www.standardlesson.com/category/in-the-world
Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–October 10, 2021

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JUSTICE FROM A JUDGE

Late last month, a court in India finally delivered sentences to those responsible for a so-called honor killing of a young married couple in 2003. The wife, D. Kannagi, was from a higher caste than her husband, S. Murugesan. The couple eloped and kept their marriage secret from the families. But when the wife’s relatives learned of the marriage, her brother and father took it as an insult to their family and caste. The brother formed a mob of extended family, paid two police officers to look the other way, and tortured and killed the couple in front of many witnesses. India’s parliament had passed the Prevention of Atrocities Act in 1989 to punish such behavior, but such cases still occur with regularity. Justice did finally come for the couple last month, as a judge handed the wife’s brother the death sentence and gave life sentences to twelve others, including the two policemen.

JUSTICE FROM THE LORD

David cried out to God for justice against his enemies. In our passage today, David praises God for bringing judgment against whole nations, overthrowing their cities, and establishing his throne. Though human magistrates are fallible and can be swayed, God rules with righteousness and judges with perfect equity, defending the innocent and bringing down the corrupt.

  1. What differences might be cited as justification for discrimination or violence?
  2. How can we celebrate justice as a blessing from God?
  3. How are our celebrations tempered by the awareness that we have not seen God’s perfect justice?

Additional Resources

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In the World–October 3, 2021

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AN EXPERT SHEPHERD

“I kept meeting people with expertise but without an opportunity to mentor,” says Deborah Heiser, founder of The Mentor Project. In a recent interview in Forbes, Heiser explained that this led to her forming a non-profit organization with the goal of connecting experts in science, law, business, and finance with students around the globe for free. One example happened at the height of the pandemic, when the organization connected a 16-year-old inventor with two mentors: an innovator and an intellectual properties lawyer. “A patent is out of the realm of possibility for most people,” Heiser said, “but because they worked each week with him for free, he could get a patent pending! And, for a 16-year-old, this is a life-changing experience.” The Mentor Project pairs world-class mentors with students eager to be shepherded, and the results are powerful.

THE GREATEST SHEPHERD

Psalm 100 reminds us that we are the sheep and God is the shepherd. It is a powerful metaphor for how wise and knowledgeable God is and how simple and sometimes clueless we are. Happy is the “sheep” who attends to the guidance of the divine shepherd.

  1. Who have been your key mentors?
  2. When have you “stumbled into” a situation that you came to see as the result of God’s shepherding?
  3. In what other ways is the shepherd/sheep metaphor applicable in the Christian life?

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In the World–September 26, 2021

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STRATEGIC COLLABORATION

Earlier this month, the third annual Future of Home conference took place in New York City. The conference, which focuses on companies that serve the home market, hosted a discussion that featured home guru Martha Stewart and Jim Shreve, president and CEO of Baccarat North America (Baccarat sells high-end crystal products). Stewart and Shreve recently collaborated to create new glasses for Stewart’s signature drinks. Over the years, Stewart has created several of what she calls “playful partnerships,” alliances with partners as diverse as a hydroponics firm and rapper Snoop Dogg. A collaboration such as this is fun, Stewart says, “but it’s calculated fun—it makes money, and it gets people thinking…. [Collaborations] brought in a new group of people and more opportunities.”

SPIRITUAL COLLABORATION

When Peter preached to the crowd at the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit initiated a large-scale collaboration. In a single day, God added 3,000 people to the Church in Jerusalem, and they joyfully joined their resources and gifts to serve one another. The realities of this new happy partnership meant that everyone had to get creative in using what they had and could do to help their fellow believers. They give us a wonderful illustration of how God has designed the local church to work.

  1. What’s a great partnership, alliance, or collaboration you know of?
  2. What factors do you think might go into making a strategic partnership successful?
  3. How long did it take for the new believers in Jerusalem to begin using their gifts and resources to serve the church?

Additional Resources

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In the World–September 19, 2021

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DESPERATE FOR NURSES

“Stress is part of the game when you sign up to be an emergency medicine RN, but this is another level.” Trauma nurse Matt Miele made it through the brutal early waves of COVID-19, though not without extreme stress. But just when he and his burned-out peers thought things were heading back toward normalcy, the Delta variant hit. “We thought the pandemic would be over soon and could take time later to deal with our emotions,” said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, president of National Nurses United. But it was not to be. Now, hospitals and clinics across America deal with critical nursing shortages, and the nurses who remain are being pushed beyond the breaking point. “Some days coming home from the hospital I yell at God, I yell at myself, I yell at COVID and cry,” said ICU nurse Mary Lynn Briggs. “And that’s all before I pull into my driveway.” The need for more nurses is desperate, but the nurses themselves are becoming emotionally desperate.

DESPERATE FOR GOD

Life was hard for Bartimaeus, a blind beggar in Jericho during the ministry of Jesus. Perhaps word of the miraculous healing powers of Jesus had reached his ears, and perhaps he found himself longing for a chance to gain access to him. But how could he? He couldn’t exactly just hop up and go find him. So when he heard that Jesus was in Jericho, actually near enough that he could reach him, Bartimaeus leapt up and awkwardly but boldly stumbled toward the Messiah, crying out to Jesus. People told him to be quiet, but his desperation only surged, and he wailed for mercy. Jesus rewarded his faith by healing his blindness.

  1. When in your life were you most desperate for something?
  2. In what ways could your church minister in Jesus’ name to local nurses and other medical staff?
  3. What is the relationship between Bartimaeus’ desperation and the faith Jesus praises him for?

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In the World–September 12, 2021

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DANCING TO HONOR A CHARITY

More than 200 people gathered in Toledo, Ohio, recently to raise money for a local charity. The event was a mock dance competition with area performers, in which the audience voted for their favorite dance couple. But the real winners were the children served by the Ottawa County Family Advocacy Center, which supports local families by “providing compassionate support as they navigate the educational, legal, and social systems of our community.” This year’s banquet was the 13th anniversary of the event, and attendees raised more than $20,000. The community rose up in dance to honor a group doing good in their community.

DANCING TO WORSHIP GOD

King David leapt and danced before the Lord with all his might when he and the people brought the ark of the Lord into Jerusalem. His own appearance and dignity were not as important to him as his worship of the Lord God. His own wife, Michal, did not approve, however. She saw him cavorting about, and she despised him in her heart. But God was pleased with David’s worship, because he had risen up in dance to give honor to Him.

  1. What’s the most extreme expression of celebration you’ve ever given?
  2. Which expressions of worship are you more comfortable with? Which expressions are you less comfortable with?
  3. In what ways can we express joyful worship to God today?

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In the World–September 5, 2021

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A SONG BY VICTORY

Victory Brinker, a nine-year-old singer from Pennsylvania, wowed the judges on a popular television talent show, and last month moved on to the semifinals of the competition. At the age of six, Victory saw someone singing opera, and she knew what she wanted to do with her life. But in the second round of the TV show, she increased the drama by changing her song at the last minute. Happily, she performed beautifully and moved on to the semis. “If I impress the judges, that’s wonderful,” Victory told a reporter. “My goal is to get a standing ovation by the judges.” She achieved this, and the song of Victory propelled her onward.

A SONG OF VICTORY

Immediately after God brought the people across the Red Sea on dry land and plunged Pharaoh’s army to their deaths, Moses and Miriam sang a song of victory of their own. With God’s arm outstretched like that, all Israel’s other enemies would think twice about opposing them. Propelled onward by this triumph and their song of victory, God’s people moved toward the Promised Land.

  1. When has a very young person wowed you with their talent or knowledge?
  2. What can make someone’s enemies think twice about opposing them?
  3. What could the Israelites know about God’s character in light of His deliverance at the Red Sea?

Additional Resources

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In the World–August 29, 2021

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TEMPORARY HOUSING

Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services (IRIS) is a non-profit organization based in New Haven, Connecticut. They help refugee families find housing, jobs, and support. With the American withdrawal from Afghanistan this month, IRIS is seeking to help a large influx of Afghan refugee families, often receiving only 24 hours’ notice before a family arrives. The organization’s leaders are calling for temporary housing—like unoccupied apartments or vacation homes—to be made available for these families. “Receiving families on short notice when we’re already at full tilt because of the pandemic operations, it’s really stretched our budget,” said Ann O’Brien, director of community engagement at IRIS. Meanwhile, the families long for a permanent dwelling too. “As of right now,” O’Brien said, “the housing market is so tight that it takes us two weeks to find permanent housing that they can afford, so we’re incurring hotel costs, which is why we’re looking for temporary housing.”

TEMPORARY HOME

In today’s passage, Paul was thinking of leaving his temporary home behind to move into eternal dwellings. He knew his time on earth, in the earthly dwelling of his body, would someday come to an end. He longed to cast off his physical body and clothe himself with his permanent dwelling—in his permanent home. But he knew he had work to do here until that day, and he was determined to be faithful to his Lord.

  1. What would be your hopes if your family needed to flee from your home country?
  2. How eagerly do you share Paul’s desire to leave this life and put on eternity?
  3. How do you seek to be pleasing to the Lord while you are still in the temporary housing of this life?

Additional Resources

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In the World–August 22, 2021

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THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING

Earlier this month, a representative of a ransomware group made an encouraging promise. Ransomware is a form of computer hacking in which a company’s software is rendered unusable unless the company pays millions of dollars in ransom. Targets of such attacks this year include Colonial Pipeline, Kia Motors, and the National Basketball Association (NBA). But pressure from the White House may be having an impact. A spokesperson for ransomware group BlackMatter promised to leave crucial infrastructures alone. But computer security experts are skeptical. “The fact that a single group has said it will avoid attacks on critical infrastructure,” said Brett Callow, a threat analyst at Emsisoft, is “a meaningless nothing-burger.” Whether the word of computer hackers can be trusted is yet to be seen. The proof will be in the pudding.

THE PROOF IS IN THE LOVE

In our passage today, the Apostle John writes that the evidence of someone’s faith will be his or her love shown toward others. As Paul had written previously, even the most laudable of actions are suspect if they are not done in love. Confessing the divinity of Jesus and living in God’s love is how we can identify those who truly belong to the Lord. The proof will be in our love.

  1. Who do you know who has been affected by hackers or other malicious computer users?
  2. When have you taken a wait-and-see approach on someone’s promise or claim?
  3. How can we be sure we are acting in love as we interact with others?

Additional Resources

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In the World–August 15, 2021

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PERSEVERING THROUGH COVID

New York City veteran firefighter Kinga Mielnik nearly died from COVID-19 and suffered a miscarriage in the last year. After 20 years fighting fires with the FDNY, it was the coronavirus that almost took her life. But the mother of five young boys persevered and fought for her life in Bellevue Hospital. When she was still recovering, she got pregnant again and she and her husband had their sixth child—a girl, at last: Aleksandra. “You never know what was going to happen with COVID, but you have got to let life go on,” Mielnik said. “Some people were afraid to have kids during the pandemic and put it off, but you can’t let things like this stop you from living.”

PERSEVERING THROUGH PERSECUTION

The writer of Hebrews called upon believers to persevere in their faith despite public insult, persecution, prison, and the loss of their property. They suffered for Christ in ways that might cause some people to turn from the Lord and throw away their confidence. The author called on them to hold fast to the end so they would receive the reward promised to those who endure.

  1. What things have you put on hold because of COVID, and what things have you continued doing no matter what?
  2. What’s the most inspiring story of perseverance you’ve ever heard?
  3. How might hardship or persecution help refine your faith in God?

Additional Resources

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Get unlimited access to the “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

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In the World–August 8, 2021

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SUSTAINED BY FAITH IN TOKYO

Grace McCallum, 18, is a member of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team at the Tokyo Olympics. She credits her faith in Christ as sustaining her not only through years of training but also through a serious injury earlier this year. Until Tokyo, her parents had never missed one of her competitions. The thought of being without them in Japan has driven Grace to the Lord even more. “I’ll really be leaning on my faith,” she said before the Olympics. “My dad is sending me a couple of prayers to say before each practice in the morning. I think that will be really helpful to keep me at peace and calm while I’m there.”

SUSTAINED BY FAITH IN LIFE

Faith is the chief quality the Lord requires in those who follow Him. Christians are referred to as believers, which shows the importance of faith in our spiritual lives. Our passage today is a brilliant rewind of great examples of people of faith throughout Scripture. “By faith Abel…” and “By faith Enoch…” and “By faith Noah…” The writer of Hebrews heaps up reminder after reminder that faith is difficult, and sometimes deadly, but it is what it takes to follow Jesus not only to the cross, if necessary, but then on to the city that God has prepared for those who believe.

  1. How has your faith sustained you when the pressure was on?
  2. Who are some of your heroes of faith, both in the Bible and in life?
  3. In what way does faith make us strangers or pilgrims on earth?

Additional Resources

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In the World–August 1, 2021

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SCHOOL LUNCH FOR ALL

This fall, California public school students, all 6.2 million of them, will be offered free school lunches, regardless of income. There has been a perceived stigma against children who accept school lunches, causing many who need the offered meal to be ashamed to take it. “This is so historic,” said Erin Primer, director of food services for the San Luis Coastal Unified School District. “It’s beyond life-changing.” This is the largest free lunch program in the nation, but other states are watching California’s experiment carefully, and Maine has already announced a similar plan. “We’ve completely leveled the playing field when it comes to school food,” Primer said.

SALVATION FOR ALL

In the minds of most people in Israel during the first century, eternal salvation was something available to only a select few: the Jews. Whereas the children of Israel had always been meant to draw the world to the salvation available in God, they had come to think of it as a gift offered exclusively to them. Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection reconciled the whole human race to God for all who believe. Today’s passage shows Paul’s teaching that, in Christ, salvation is offered to everyone.

  1. What’s something that had once been available only to some but then was offered to all?
  2. Why do people sometimes wish to keep benefits private rather than making them available to everyone?
  3. When has someone tried to keep Christ’s salvation away from certain people or groups?

Additional Resources

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In the World–July 25, 2021

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SAVED FROM DEATH

An Alaska man named John Pearl Smith II is accused of murdering two people and wounding a third in 2016. When the case neared a court date, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced its intention to pursue the death penalty. However, earlier this month, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that federal executions would halt, pending a review. The motion to seek Smith’s execution has now been withdrawn. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska cautioned that, just because execution has been taken off the table, Smith’s alleged guilt remains. “This decision does not change our intent,” she said, “to pursue justice for the victims and their family members.”

SAVED FROM WRATH

In our passage today, Paul teaches that Christ’s blood covers our guilt. Through the cross, we are justified and reconciled to God. We ourselves have not become more righteous—but the wrath of God has been withdrawn because of Jesus’ atonement. Condemnation has been taken off the table. We stand to gain even more at the judgment because of the resurrection of Jesus. Justice for our sins was obtained at the cross, and now we have peace with God.

  1. What arguments would you give for or against the death penalty?
  2. When have you been saved from a punishment you expected?
  3. What does it mean that God paid such a high price to achieve peace with humanity?

Additional Resources

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In the World–July 18, 2021

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FAITH IN THEIR CHANCES

No matter how the Stanley Cup series ended, the Montreal Canadiens NHL hockey team made it to the finals because of their faith. Not many others shared this faith at the beginning of the tournament, as the Canadiens had the worst record of any of the teams that qualified. But they won 11 of 13 games through the preliminary rounds and in the first round made a sensational comeback against their rivals, the Toronto Maple Leaves, to overcome a 3-1 deficit. But when they were playing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the best-of-seven final round, their faith in their chances rose dramatically. “We wouldn’t be here right now if we didn’t believe,” said Canadiens goalie Carey Price. “We’ve believed this whole time.”

FAITH IN HIS GOD

In Paul’s masterpiece of theology, the letter to the Romans, he carefully laid out why faith in Christ is what is required for salvation. Obedience to the Law will save no one. In today’s passage, Paul recalls that it was the faith of Abraham, not his obedience, that brought about his justification from God. It wasn’t the Law of Moses that brought justification, as that was still 600 years in the future, and it wasn’t even the rite of circumcision that brought justification, as that too was in Abraham’s future. It was Abraham’s belief that God would keep his promises that brought about Abraham’s justification. Therefore, we too are made right with God through our faith and not through our works, sacrifices, or obedience to the Law.

  1. When did you believe in someone (or even in yourself) when no one else did?
  2. Why do you think people—including believers—tend to trust more in works than in faith?
  3. Why do you have faith in a God you have never seen?

Additional Resources

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In the World–July 11, 2021

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FINDING THE COURAGE TO CONFESS HER FAITH

In Makassar, Indonesia, a young woman named Yaya is suffering for her faith in Christ. She grew up in a Muslim home but had always been curious about Christianity. When Yaya met Uda, a faithful Christian man at the bank where they both worked, she was drawn to him, and they began seeing one another. Yaya attended church with Uda, eventually giving her life to Christ. But she was too afraid to tell her mother about her conversion. When Yaya learned that she had actually been adopted by her Muslim parents, she found the courage to finally tell her mother. Her mother flew into a rage, became violent, and threatened Yaya with a knife. She reported her daughter to a radical Muslim organization, who is suing the bank to have both Yaya and Uda fired. As of this writing, the matter was still unresolved.

DECLARING HIS COURAGE TO PREACH THE FAITH

Paul had wanted to visit the church in Rome but had long been prevented from doing so. Perhaps his desire to not build on works begun by others had something to do with it, as well. Whatever the reasons for his absence, it was not because he was somehow ashamed of the gospel. He knew that it was the very power of God for salvation, the only hope for humanity.

  1. When have you had to summon the courage to tell someone about your faith in Christ?
  2. What’s a situation that might cause someone to be ashamed of the gospel?
  3. Who would you speak to about Jesus if you had complete courage?

Additional Resources

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Get unlimited access to the “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

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In the World–July 4, 2021

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GRATITUDE FOR CITIZENSHIP

This Fourth of July, 51 new American citizens are celebrating independence with a happy memory. A surprise speaker attended their naturalization ceremony in New York City last month: Douglas Emhoff (husband of Vice President Kamala Harris). The second gentleman gave the keynote address, mentioning his ancestors, who came to Ellis Island from Austria, and his wife’s parents, who are immigrants from Jamaica and India. One new citizen in the crowd felt especially grateful for her official status. Jia-Lin Liu from Taiwan waited 20 years for the ceremony. “I was laughing and crying but I’m really thankful,” Liu said. “Being an American gives you a lot of rights and power and resources.”

GRATITUDE FOR HEALING

Jesus met ten lepers on the border of Galilee and Samaria. He graciously granted healing to all ten, but only one—a Samaritan—came back to give Jesus thanks and praise. Though the Lord had miraculously restored their lives and status in society, only this one outsider showed gratitude.

  1. How did you or your family come to live in this nation?
  2. What are you most grateful for about this country?
  3. What are three things you’re deeply grateful to the Lord for?

Additional Resources

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In the World–June 27, 2021

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FEAR LEADS TO SUPERHUMAN FEAT

In Russia, strongmen compete in bizarre ways to prove they are the strongest in the country. This month, Maxim Gametsky, the “Siberian Bear,” strapped a 737 jet to his back and tried to pull it across the runway. It wouldn’t budge. In practice, he couldn’t get it to move. But when the crowds and reporters came, something shifted in Maxim, and video shows him pulling the 40-ton beast 15 meters down the tarmac, to the wild cries of fans. “I couldn’t move it on the first attempt in any of my training sessions,” he later said. “And to be honest, I was a little scared today would be the same. Maybe it was excitement, maybe it was fear, but I did it anyway.” Fear and excitement enabled him to perform at a level he’d been unable to attain alone.

FAITH LEADS TO SUPERNATURAL STEP

Imagine the shock and fear the disciples felt that night when they saw a ghostly figure walking on the whitecaps of the Sea of Galilee. Sailors are notoriously superstitious anyway, and seeing Jesus there must’ve been not only terrifying but disorienting. Were they about to hit land? What was happening? The supernatural mood only deepened when Jesus called Peter out onto the water with Him. Peter is often ridiculed for his lack of faith here, but he exhibited a faith so strong that it enabled him to do—for a few steps, at least—something that none of the others even dared to try.

  1. What’s the most impressive feat of human strength you’ve ever witnessed?
  2. When have you found yourself capable of something you never thought you could do?
  3. What was your moment of greatest faith in God?

Additional Resources

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Get unlimited access to the “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

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In the World–June 20, 2021

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DESPERATE FOR ACHIEVEMENT

Climbing North America’s tallest peak, Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley), isn’t like climbing other mountains. Even experienced climbers of peaks in the 14,000′ range, like Mt. Rainier, aren’t automatically prepared to reach the Alaskan giant’s summit, at 20,308′. “We have seen a disturbing amount of overconfidence paired with inexperience in the Alaska Range,” the National Park Service wrote in a statement, citing the mounting number of deaths and serious injuries among Denali climbers in 2021. As an expedition’s days begin to run short, climbers are tempted to make the 7,000′ final ascent in a single day. Rangers said that many climbers get “desperation, impatience and summit fever,” causing them to take unwise risks to reach their goal.

DESPERATE FOR HEALING

In Capernaum, Jesus was thronged by people eager to hear Him teach—or desperate for Him to heal them. A father whose twelve-year-old daughter had died begged Jesus to bring her back to life. So great was his faith in Jesus that even death was not a barrier. As Jesus went with him, a woman in the crowd was just as desperate. After suffering for twelve years with a medical condition, she reached out to Jesus as He passed, just to touch the edge of His cloak. Her faith too was so great that she believed He didn’t even have to notice her to provide healing. Both this woman and the bereaved father were rewarded for their faith— faithful risks allowed Jesus’ reach to work miracles.

  1. What’s the highest hill or mountain you’ve ever climbed?
  2. What’s the relationship between desperation and faith?
  3. Who in the biblical story do you most identify with?

Additional Resources

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–June 13, 2021

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SHAKING IN THE STREETS

On May 18–20, a skyscraper in Shenzhen, China began inexplicably shaking, sparking a panic in the city. Video shows people screaming and running away down the streets in all directions, fleeing a possible collapse. However, inspectors could find no problems or anomalies in the safety standards they monitor. And there was no wind, earthquake, or structural failure in the seventy-two-story building. Some speculate that a combination of temperature changes, gusts of wind, and a subway running below the streets might be the cause. But the building is twenty years old, and those conditions have never caused such shaking in the past. After three days of such shaking, the building was finally shut down as officials discussed what to do.

SHAKING IN THE BOAT

Jesus was asleep in the boat as the disciples rowed across the Sea of Galilee. A sudden storm blew in, bringing high winds and waves and causing even the fishermen among them to panic. Though the architect of the universe was right there with them, and surely He wouldn’t perish in a freak wind, they feared for their lives.

  1. What’s the most frightened you’ve ever been?
  2. What have you learned about the relationship between fear and faith?
  3. How would the disciples’ actions have been changed if they had acted out of faith instead of fear?

Additional Resources

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–June 6, 2021

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FAITH OVER WORRY ON D-DAY

Sunday marks the 77th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. Though there are fewer and fewer veterans of that day still living, we have the writings of many. On that day, the men in the landing boats were almost entirely defenseless. After riding in a landing craft to Omaha Beach, Chaplain John G. Burkhalter wrote home: “It was a pure miracle we even took that beach at all. Yes, there were a lot of miracles on the beach that day. As we approached the French coast I began praying more earnestly than ever, and our assault craft was miraculously spared.” Amidst the anxiety of that harrowing landing under deadly enemy fire, all Burkhalter had to protect him was hope in the Lord.

FAITH OVER WORRY TODAY

Today’s text is a favorite of many. How powerful are Jesus’ words reminding us of God’s tender care and His loving attention upon us. If the Lord spares the time and effort to care for blades of grass and the smallest of birds, how much more must He care for us! Assured that He is tending to those things and armored by His attentiveness, we can shift our focus from our anxieties to doing His will.

  1. When have you been the most worried?
  2. How do you cope with worry when it comes upon you now?
  3. When have you asked God to meet a need, and He met it?

Additional Resources

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Get unlimited access to the “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–May 30, 2021

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COMPASSION FOR THE HURTING

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. This May, one couple was dining at a restaurant in Buffalo, NY, and noticed a semicolon tattoo on the wrist of their server, Katie Battel. A semicolon is used when a writer could’ve chosen to end a sentence but chose not to; in the same way, a semicolon tattoo shows that the person has chosen not to end his or her life. The couple left a nice tip for Katie and a note saying they were so glad she was still here. What they didn’t know was that Katie’s suicidal thoughts had returned lately. “It was just like a sign,” she told a reporter. “Like, ‘Hey, girl, we know you’re going through it again, but … here’s a little boost to help you keep going.’ ” An act of compassion helped give this young woman a future.

COMPASSION FOR THE SINFUL

When Jonah finally preached God’s message of doom in the heart of Nineveh, he could hardly have guessed the city’s reaction. While he was still hoping for them to reject God’s warning and suffer His judgment, they took the prophecy seriously. From the king in his palace to the lowliest livestock, all put on sackcloth and fasted, together begging the Lord to show compassion on them and turn His wrath away.

  1. When you hear the words Mental Health Awareness Month, who or what comes to mind?
  2. What’s a dark outcome you or someone else turned from, and what caused the change?
  3. Do you regularly pray for those who hurt you? Explain your answer.

Additional Resources

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Get unlimited access to the “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–May 23, 2021

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IRRESPONSIBILITY IN SPACE

This month, China’s space agency successfully placed in orbit the first module of its new space station. However, the main rocket used to launch it was not caused to burn up in the atmosphere or controlled to splash down in the ocean, as NASA and other space agencies do. Instead, the 20-ton Chinese rocket entered orbit, which meant it would then fall to earth at some point—and in some random location, possibly on a populated area. Thankfully, it eventually splashed down in the Indian Ocean. However, “China was just playing the odds,” said Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “They decided … ‘We’ll take the risk and we’ll pay compensation if it hits anything.’ ”

IRRESPONSIBILITY WITH SIN

In Ezekiel’s day, the Israelites thought they were not responsible for their own deeds. They played the odds too, hoping God would put the punishment for their sins onto the next generation, instead. God’s message for them was that He holds every person responsible for his or her own sin—and that the person who does not sin would certainly not be punished for the sins of the previous generation.

  1. What’s an example of someone who hoped to escape punishment by letting the responsibility fall on others?
  2. What’s the difference between taking responsibility for one’s own actions and acknowledging one’s complicity with the actions of others?
  3. When have you wanted someone else to take responsibility for their actions or choices?

Additional Resources

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–May 16, 2021

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A COACH’S CHOICE

The NFL draft took place a couple of weeks ago. The San Francisco 49ers traded up to have the third overall pick in the draft because they sorely needed a quarterback. The first two teams to make their picks were virtually guaranteed to also pick quarterbacks, and pretty much everyone knew who those first two picks would be. So the 49ers had to select from the young quarterbacks who remained. As sportswriter Josh Shrock put it, the choice for 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is whether he would take one player who was “NFL-ready” but might have already reached his potential or another player who wasn’t as ready but whose potential might be unlimited. “Two paths stretch before Shanahan,” Shrock wrote. “Which one he walks will determine the course of his and the 49ers’ future.” He decided to draft the young player with potential, Trey Lance.

A KING’S CHOICE

King Zedekiah was in a terrible spot. However, Jeremiah made the situation crystal clear to him: you are going to Babylon either way. Your only choice is whether or not you’re going to bring about the deaths of your family and the destruction of Jerusalem too. The capital of David, the home of the temple, and the resting place of the ark of the covenant, not to mention all his sons and the other citizens inside Jerusalem, were in the king’s power to save. Sadly, Zedekiah chose poorly, and great was the suffering that followed.

  1. When have you or someone else taken a complicated situation and found a way to boil it down to a very clear choice?
  2. What was an example of when you had an extremely important decision to make? How did you decide?
  3. Why do you think King Zedekiah chose as he did?

Additional Resources

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–May 9, 2021

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SECRET PLOT EXPOSED BY A PHOTO

British television network ITV has begun shooting a dramatic portrayal of a notorious crime committed in 2002. John and Anne Darwin, an English couple in their sixties decided to fake John’s death in a canoeing accident in order to claim nearly $1 million in insurance payouts. The scam involved Anne reporting John’s death to police and then lying to their two sons, who were devastated by the loss of their father. Meanwhile, John lived in a secret room for five years, using the stolen money to plan for he and Anne to begin a new life in Panama. Their crime was discovered when an amateur sleuth, acting on a tip, Googled “John,” “Anne,” and “Panama” and found an image of the couple in Panama, and then contacted media and the police. The treacherous plans the Darwins kept secret were revealed to the world, and their expectations were thwarted.

SECRET PLANS EXPOSED BY THE LORD

People in Isaiah’s day thought they could hide their treacherous plans from the Lord. They went to great lengths to do so, and they were confident that He would never find out. One of their worst offenses was that they claimed to honor the Lord with their words and offerings, but their hearts were far from Him. Their hypocrisy would bring about God’s judgment, and their expectations of deception would all be dashed. But God nevertheless remained with His arms stretched out to His people and gave them hope for the future.

  1. What’s an example of someone you know who tried to deceive but whose plans fell apart?
  2. How do we sometimes claim to honor God but don’t?
  3. Since we know God understands our private thoughts, why do we sometimes think we can hide from the Lord?

Additional Resources

These videos and materials are for your personal use. If you show videos in class, be sure to have the necessary rights to do so.

Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–May 2, 2021

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FALSE TESTIMONY GIVEN TO SWAY A JURY

Last month, the Indiana Court of Appeals reexamined the case of a man sentenced to 55 years in prison for the murder of an elderly woman in 2002. Andrew Royer was convicted of the murder due largely to testimony that was coerced, falsified, and later disproved, and now the court is deciding whether or not to “vacate” the previous conviction. The detective in the case was removed from other cases for making misleading statements to attorneys. It was also revealed that the key witness was paid for her testimony and threatened with having her children taken from her if she didn’t comply. Falsehoods were presented to the legal authority in order to bring about someone’s desired outcome.

TRUE TESTIMONY GIVEN TO JUDGE A KING

When King Ahab wanted to find out if an attack against the Arameans at Ramoth-Gilead would succeed, he sent for the prophet Micaiah. All of Ahab’s other advisors were telling him that God would surely give him the victory, and even Micaiah said the same. But Micaiah did so, he explained, because God had ordained that Ahab must die in the battle. He essentially said, “Sure, go ahead, my king. It is God’s will for you to fight them. Not for you to win, however.” Truth was spoken to the king in order to bring about God’s desired outcome.

  1. When has false testimony been used against you or someone you know?
  2. Why is it sometimes hard to speak truth to those in power?
  3. If we feel we must speak truth to someone in authority, how can we be sure we’re delivering God’s will and not just speaking from our own mind or preferences?

Additional Resources

These videos and materials are for your personal use. If you show videos in class, be sure to have the necessary rights to do so.

Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–April, 25, 2021

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A DRONE HEARS A CRY FOR HELP

Drones are used to search for lost hikers or survey areas devastated by flood or earthquake. However, the most common way for people in need of rescue to be found is when rescuers hear them crying out for help. Until now, drones have not been able to listen for these pleas. Even if a drone had a microphone, all it would pick up would be the sound of the drone’s rotors. Dotterel Technologies, a drone manufacturer in New Zealand, has solved this by including both a directional microphone and an onboard processor that filters out the sound of the drone itself. “Many missing people are found by rescuers listening for voice appeal in hard-to-reach locations,” says Auckland search and rescue leader Brandon McCarthy. “The ability to quickly extend our hearing range is of high value.” These drones are no longer deaf to cries for help.

GOD LISTENS TO A CRY FOR HELP

The people of Judah were left in devastation after the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and carried many into exile. In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah, appropriately nicknamed the weeping prophet, described the people’s distress and dismay. They admitted their sins but wondered why God seemed deaf to their cries—or perhaps too angry at them to consider reconciliation. He did hear and would reconcile, but the consequences for their sin had to be carried out through Babylon, God’s instrument of judgment.

  1. When has someone’s cries for help brought you to their aid?
  2. How has God seemed slow to hear your cries?
  3. When has someone’s consequences extended even beyond the person’s repentance?

Additional Resources

These videos and materials are for your personal use. If you show videos in class, be sure to have the necessary rights to do so.

Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–April 18, 2021

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BUILDING ISRAEL’S DEFENSES TODAY

Modern-day Israel is surrounded by hostile nations. One of its primary foes, Iran, is seeking nuclear weapons capability, a development that senior Israeli military officials believe could spark a nuclear arms race in the region. “The United States is [now] looking at other regions,” IDF Brig. Gen. Tal Kalman said in an interview this month, “and doesn’t want to invest as much in ours.” Israel needs to develop new tools to better deal with Iran, even on Iran’s own territory, he says. “When you’re competing against an intelligent, strategic actor who plays long term, you need to act to influence his intentions. For that, you need to act also in other places and in other ways.”

BUILDING ISRAEL’S DEFENSES CENTURIES AGO

Israel after the Exile was surrounded by enemies, as well. When Nehemiah returned from Persia to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he understood that he would be doing so amidst great opposition. Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite servant, and Geshem the Arab mocked the Jewish people who were rebuilding the city’s defenses. In the face of their pressure and threats, Nehemiah urged his countrymen to rebuild the walls and gates so as to restore their strength and remove their disgrace.

  1. What level of peace do you think is possible in relations between Israel and its enemies?
  2. When have you tried to build something despite strong opposition?
  3. In what ways does the Christian life stand in conflict with the surrounding culture?

Additional Resources

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Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–April 11, 2021

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STATELESS BY THEIR OWN CHOICES

Four years after the fall of ISIS, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, many women and children remain in limbo. More than 500 young women born in the West left their homes to help the Islamic cause and marry ISIS fighters. Some may have been misled and mistreated, but all abandoned their citizenship to join the new Caliphate. A few weeks ago, twenty-one-year-old Shamima Begum, originally from London, lost her court case to be reinstated as a British citizen after marrying an ISIS member in 2015. The tribunal who heard her case refused to repatriate her, citing national security concerns. Whatever the factors that led to her situation, they said, Begum is stateless “as a result of her own choices.”

MATELESS BY THEIR OWN CHOICES

Following the Exile to Babylon, three waves of Jewish citizens were allowed to return to Israel to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. Though they had been exiled as punishment for violating God’s Law, the returning Israelites continued to sin, most notably by marrying foreign women. Ezra cried out to God, and the people agreed to send their foreign wives away, showing how costly it may be to follow God after making bad choices.

  1. If you sat as a judge hearing a case like Begum’s, how would you decide if the person was a national security risk or a victim of fraud and lies?
  2. What’s something significant you’ve given up to follow Jesus?
  3. How have bad choices—yours or someone else’s—resulted in pain or sin?

Additional Resources

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Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

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In the World–April 4, 2021

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HIS LIFE GIVEN FOR MANY

Three weeks ago, Tampa Bay police officer Jesse Madsen took Interstate 275 home after his shift. Madsen, father of three and a seven-time recipient of the Tampa Police Department’s Life-Saving Award, saw a car coming toward him, racing the wrong way at over 100 mph. The driver, probably intoxicated, was almost certain to cause multiple accidents and possibly many fatalities. So Officer Madsen intentionally veered into the car’s path. Both men died in the fiery collision, but no one else was injured. “Officer Madsen is a true American hero,” said police Chief Brian Dugan. “He deliberately moved his patrol car into the other driver’s path of travel … to stop this wrong way driver from putting anyone else’s life in danger by laying down his own.”

HIS LIFE GIVEN FOR ALL

This weekend we celebrate Easter, when the greatest act of personal sacrifice in history was overwhelmed by resurrection. Isaiah 53, our passage today, is one of the most remarkable Old Testament descriptions of the Messiah, later revealed to be Jesus. To make a way for all humanity to be offered salvation from something even worse than physical death, Jesus deliberately offered His life in exchange for us all. May we worship Him in awe.

  1. What is the greatest act of sacrifice for the sake of others that you have ever seen or heard of anyone making?
  2. Which aspect of Christ’s suffering, crucifixion, death, burial, or resurrection is most meaningful to you this year?
  3. How could you honor the family of a fallen police officer, firefighter, soldier, or other hero?

Additional Resources

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Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–March 28, 2021

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WOMEN OF COURAGE

On March 8, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden helped the U.S. State Department honor twenty-one women with the International Women of Courage Award. Seven of the women had been murdered in Afghanistan while serving their communities. The other fourteen were from were from Belarus, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Iran, Myanmar, Nepal, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Venezuela. They had all faced tremendous difficulties, and many had endured imprisonment, threats, and violence. “You see, courage isn’t really found,” Biden said. “It’s an intentional decision made.”

MAN OF COURAGE

The prophet Elijah made an intentional decision to present himself before King Ahab, who was on a murderous rampage to locate him. Obadiah, the king’s official, also had to summon his courage to go to Ahab and promise that he would find Elijah in the place where Obadiah said he would be. If Elijah left or hid himself, Ahab would certainly have had Obadiah executed. But Obadiah trusted himself to the Lord and the prophet, and he led Ahab to Elijah, where an epic confrontation was brewing.

  1. What’s the most courageous act you’ve ever witnessed or heard about?
  2. How could you have done what Elijah (or Obadiah) did if you were in their position?
  3. This is Palm Sunday—what courage do you think Jesus or others exhibited on this day?

Additional Resources

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–March 21, 2021

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HUMAN FORGIVENESS

Last week were the annual Grammy Awards. Secular musician Grace Potter was nominated in two categories. One song from her most recent album is called “Release” and is about forgiveness. The lyrics speak about how she’s loosing someone, perhaps herself, from resentment. “Back when I first wrote a piece of the chorus,” Potter said, “I didn’t really know what forgiveness would feel like because I wasn’t there yet.” But over time, she came to understand “that forgiveness is the most beautiful feeling you can have; to really go through the cathartic, angry and overwhelming emotions that grief or loss can bring on” and find release.

DIVINE FORGIVENESS

Through the prophetess Huldah, God had proclaimed disaster upon Jerusalem because the people had turned to idols. But the current ruler of Judah, King Josiah, was deeply grieved over the nation’s behaviors and the coming judgment from God. He tore his robes and wept before the Lord in confession, and God was pleased. Huldah gave instructions that Josiah should be told that the judgment had been delayed until after the king’s death. His humility before God brought a release and a reprieve to the whole nation.

  1. What song, fictional story, or poem has ever moved you to release bitterness?
  2. When have you witnessed someone give authentic confession of wrongdoing?
  3. Who benefits the most from forgiveness?

Additional Resources

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Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

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In the World–March 14, 2021

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CHAINS OF IRON BROKEN

Contrary to popular understanding, the historical St. Patrick was a courageous Christian missionary. He was a Roman Briton captured as a teenager by Irish pirates, and yet after his escape, God called him back to the land of his enslavement. Based on one of Patrick’s own surviving letters, we know that he was once clapped in irons by local warlords because of his testimony for Christ. “They stole everything they found in our possession, and they bound me in iron,” he wrote. However, “On the fourteenth day, the Lord set me free from their power; all our possessions were returned to us for God’s sake.” Mighty chains could not hold back the plan of God for His servant.

WALLS OF STONE THROWN DOWN

Nor could mighty walls hold back the plan of God for His people. Today’s passage contains the story of how God supernaturally cast down the walls of Jericho to give His people the victory. From the instructions God gave Joshua and the lack of any assault on the walls by the people, it was clear that this incredible conquest came directly from the hand of the Lord.

  1. How does knowing about the real St. Patrick encourage you on the holiday named for him?
  2. What have you seen happen that could be only from the hand of God?
  3. When has God asked you to take Him on faith for something that seemed impossible?

Additional Resources

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Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–March 7, 2021

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LISTENING WITH PERSEVERANCE

On February 18, NASA landed its Perseverance Rover on the surface of Mars. In addition to amassing incredible photos and video of the landing itself, an onboard microphone recorded the first-ever direct sounds from another planet. At a press conference on February 22, the audio recording was played, and the sense of the world holding its breath and leaning forward to hear it was palpable. After the whirring of the rover itself was filtered out, the puff of Martian winds was clearly audible. On a barren plain 129.9 million miles away, an alien wind blew, and humans strained to hear.

LISTENING FOR DELIVERANCE

In our passage today, the children of Israel wondered how they could tell the difference between the words of a false prophet and the words of a prophet sent from God. They were leaning forward to hear, but there was interference that made discernment difficult—and their very deliverance as a people rested on hearing correctly. God told Moses to have the people watch to see if the alleged prophet’s words came true. If they didn’t, that person was not a prophet sent from God.

  1. What’s the most memorable sound you’ve ever heard?
  2. When have your ears told you that something was wrong or dangerous?
  3. How do you know when you’re hearing from God, from yourself, or from some other source?

Additional Resources

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Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

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Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
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In the World–February 28, 2021

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Download “In the World” for February 28, 2021 here.

OVERCOMING DIVISIONS FOR DEMOCRACY

Earlier this month in the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, the military overthrew the democratically elected government and seized control of the country. The nation is normally divided by a wide array of religious, ethnic, and regional factions all fighting the government and sometimes each other. But in demonstrations across Myanmar this month, citizens have set aside their differences to jointly call for the military to reverse its coup. “What is happening right now is not about party politics,” said Ke Jung, a youth leader from a remote Indian border area. “It is a fight for the [democratic] system.”

OVERCOMING DIVISIONS FOR THE GOSPEL

How odd it must have been for Paul to be speaking not in a synagogue but on a riverbank, and not to Jewish men but to Gentile women. Yet that is the scenario the Apostle encountered in the Roman colony city called Philippi when he taught Lydia and the other women. Yet with the Gospel, God was tearing down the old, man-made divisions so that all the world could be offered salvation in Christ.

  1. What divisions—social, economic, political, etc.—have held you back in your life?
  2. When have you seen someone cross a boundary to reach out to someone else?
  3. What divisions might you dare set aside for the gospel?

Additional Resources

These videos and materials are for your personal use. If you show videos in class, be sure to have the necessary rights to do so.

Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

www.standardlesson.com/category/in-the-world
Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
All rights reserved. Each download is for the use of one church only.

In the World–February 21, 2021

By "In the World"

Download “In the World” for February 21, 2021 here.

CO-TEACHING FOR INCLUSION

Early last year, the DuBois Area School District in northwestern Pennsylvania announced they would no longer be providing special education services for its sending districts. So one area school, Jefferson County Vocational Technical School, decided it would find a way to continue offering special ed to its students. Turning to its own personnel, school officials devised a co-teaching arrangement and an all-inclusive approach. “Co-teaching involves a regular instructor and a special ed. instructor working together to present the lesson,” explained Special Education Supervisor Amber Hathorn this month. This method “allows all learners to be in the regular education environment and learning at the same time as their peers.” Teaching teams are making a difference in this school.

CO-TEACHING FOR THE KINGDOM

Among the Apostle Paul’s many co-laborers were the husband-wife team of Priscilla and Aquila. These two tentmakers from Rome became believers in Christ and joined Paul’s ministry in Corinth. They were an effective gospel partnership, co-teaching the believers in Ephesus and also the gifted apologist named Apollos. Paul even declares that Priscilla and Aquila risked their lives for him (Romans 16:4). We are called to work together to explain the gospel.

  1. When has a partnership with someone helped you achieve more than you could do alone?
  2. Who is a “power couple” you admire, and why?
  3. What other pairs of people did God use in Acts to further the Gospel?

Additional Resources

These videos and materials are for your personal use. If you show videos in class, be sure to have the necessary rights to do so.

Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

www.standardlesson.com/category/in-the-world
Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
All rights reserved. Each download is for the use of one church only.

In the World–February 14, 2021

By "In the World"

Download “In the World” for February 14, 2021 here.

DECLARING HIS LOVE FOR HER

On Valentine’s Day, we give thought to voicing our affection for our loved ones. Celebrity Peloton cycling instructor Ally Love recently got engaged to her long-time boyfriend, Andrew Haynes. He took her to one of her favorite places in the world, a beach in Mexico, and surprised her by dropping to one knee and proposing. When she said yes, the private fireworks display he had arranged was set off, and the couple are now planning their wedding.

DECLARING OUR LOVE FOR HIM

When Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared first to the faithful women such as Mary Magdalene who had followed Him in His ministry. They first testified to the world of His resurrection, and they were effective communicators of the Lord’s victory over sin, death, and hell, supporting the advance of the kingdom of God.

  1. What’s the most extravagant or romantic way you’ve ever voiced your love to someone?
  2. Which is your favorite (or least favorite) thing about Valentine’s Day?
  3. What do you imagine it was like for the women who followed Jesus during His ministry?

Additional Resources

These videos and materials are for your personal use. If you show videos in class, be sure to have the necessary rights to do so.

Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

www.standardlesson.com/category/in-the-world
Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
All rights reserved. Each download is for the use of one church only.

In the World–February 7, 2021

By "In the World"

Download “In the World” for February 7, 2021 here.

TESTIFYING TO THE GREATNESS OF TEAMMATES

Today (Sunday) is when Super Bowl 55 is scheduled to be played. After the championship games two weeks before, both winning teams went to great lengths to testify to the worthiness of their teammates, coaches, opponents, and fans. Each offense lauded its defense, and vice versa. When singer John Legend tweeted “Hire. Eric. Bienemy.” [sic] to encourage some NFL team to hire Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy as head coach (after the Super Bowl), the Chiefs’ official Twitter feed answered, “What. He. Said.” In the day of victory, people are quick to testify to the greatness of others.

TESTIFYING TO THE GREATNESS OF JESUS

When the Samaritan woman spoke with Jesus at Jacob’s Well (John 4), she became convinced that He was the long-awaited Messiah. She left her water jar behind and rushed back to her town to testify to anyone who would listen that she had found the one they’d been longing for. An entire population came to faith because she was willing to testify.

  1. When have you been so excited about something that you just had to tell someone else?
  2. What was it like (or what do you imagine it would be like) to testify in court?
  3. What part (if any) did a witness’s testimony play in your path to salvation?

Additional Resources

These videos and materials are for your personal use. If you show videos in class, be sure to have the necessary rights to do so.

Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

www.standardlesson.com/category/in-the-world
Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
All rights reserved. Each download is for the use of one church only.

 

 

In the World–January 31, 2021

By "In the World"

Download “In the World” for January 31, 2021 here.

WOMEN ARE VALUED IN ICELAND

Sara Sigmundsdottir is one of the world’s top female CrossFit athletes. She is from Iceland, which has produced a disproportionate number of world-class contenders in this fitness category for its population of only 360,000. Many have wondered why this is so. Some credit the shieldmaiden legacy of Viking women. Others mention the toughness demanded by life in the cold land of volcanoes and geysers. In more recent years, people have pointed to the fact that Iceland has the world’s best male and female parity policies, enforced by many laws and agencies and mandated as a teaching throughout the school years. Sara praises the opportunities given by her homeland, and she channels these into her work ethic. “I want to prove that if you set your mind to something and work hard for it,” she says, “you will get it.”

WOMEN ARE VALUED IN GOD’S KINGDOM

From the beginning, God has set men and women on equal footing. Scripture is full of stories of the Lord’s high regard for women. Jesus was considered controversial for how He consistently valued those whom society had labeled as outcasts, including women. Today’s Scriptures remind us that Jesus expects women to have integral parts in the establishment of His kingdom, including the sacred act of divine prophecy.

  1. If God considers men and women to be of equal value, why have societies not shared that view?
  2. How have women been more recognized for their importance in your lifetime?
  3. How do we put God’s high value of women into daily practice?

Additional Resources

These videos and materials are for your personal use. If you show videos in class, be sure to have the necessary rights to do so.

Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

www.standardlesson.com/category/in-the-world
Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
All rights reserved. Each download is for the use of one church only.

In the World–January 24, 2021

By "In the World"

Download “In the World” for January 24, 2021 here.

UNIFIED BY THE OLYMPIC SPIRIT

As we anticipate the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo, we may recall that the 2008 Beijing Games were the scene of an incredible display of Olympic spirit. The Danish sailing team was favored to win the gold medal in the men’s 49er competition, but in rough seas just before the final race began, their mast broke. When the team from Croatia, who had not qualified for the medal race, heard that the Danish team needed a boat, they sprinted to the marina to get theirs rigged for the race. “For them it was just a natural thing to do—‘These boys need a boat, we have a boat, they’re getting our boat,’” one of the Danish sailors recalled. “They were true legends, really nice guys showing true sportsmanship.” The Danish team went on to win gold.

UNIFIED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

Christians around the world and across time are united by the Holy Spirit. Truly, we may have more in common with a brother or sister from a completely different culture or era than we do with our next-door neighbor. Jesus prayed that the world would comprehend that this unity is a sign that the same Spirit is within us all, which would be a further testimony that He and the Father are one.

  1. What club, alma mater, or affiliation best unites you with people who are otherwise strangers to you?
  2. If there were no language barrier, what could you talk about with a believer in a very different culture?
  3. How well or poorly do you think the world sees unity in the Church, and why do you think that is?

Additional Resources

These videos and materials are for your personal use.

If you show videos in class, be sure to have the necessary rights to do so.

Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

www.standardlesson.com/category/in-the-world
Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
All rights reserved. Each download is for the use of one church only.

In the World–January 17, 2021

By "In the World"

Download “In the World” for January 17, 2021 here.

EMPLOYEES MADE WHOLE

In April of last year, the aldermen of Starkville, Mississippi, instituted a 20 percent pay cut for many of its city employees. The goal was to compensate for the drastic reduction in sales tax revenue due to COVID-19. Pay for these employees was returned to its normal level in July. But then, in November, the city approved a measure to compensate those employees with a 20 percent pay increase for the same amount of time that the pay reduction ran. “I think it was incredibly important to make those people whole,” Mayor Lynn Spruill said. “It was a matter of fairness and equity, since we have the capability to do it.”

FORGIVENESS MADE WHOLE

When Jesus healed the man with paralysis who had been lowered through the roof, He said the man’s sins were forgiven. Some teachers of the Law took offense at this, thinking He was blaspheming, since only God can forgive sins. Jesus pointed out that it was easier to say that a person was forgiven than to declare that the person was healed, because the former is invisible while the latter can be immediately ascertained. To prove that He could do the invisible forgiving, he performed the visible healing. Jesus makes us whole in all ways.

  1. When have you seen someone “made whole” in a financial sense?
  2. What’s something that is easy to claim but hard to prove?
  3. In what ways have you been broken by life or sin but made whole by Jesus?

Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

Additional Resources

These videos and materials are for your personal use. If you show videos in class, be sure to have the necessary rights to do so.

Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

www.standardlesson.com/category/in-the-world
Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
All rights reserved. Each download is for the use of one church only.

In the World–January 10, 2021

By "In the World"

Download “In the World” for January 10, 2021 here.

CAREER CHANGE TO EMPOWER WOMEN

In 2014, Chiney Ogwumike was chosen #1 in the WNBA draft. She played in the US and also in Italy in China. As a basketball player, she used her platform for “uplifting and amplifying women in particular.” But major injuries—knee and Achilles tendon—forced her out of professional sports. She changed careers when she had the opportunity to work for ESPN. For her, broadcasting is a place “where my perspective can matter and [I can] also create other opportunities for other people that look like me.”

CAREER CHANGE TO FISH FOR MEN

When Peter saw Jesus provide the miraculous catch of fish, he knew his life would be forever changed. He fell to his knees, as Isaiah had done long before, in the presence of Almighty God. Jesus raised him up and gave him a new career—no longer as a fisherman but as a fisher-of-men. He joined Jesus’ mission to bring salvation to the world.

  1. What’s the most radical career change you’ve ever heard of anyone making?
  2. How has your life’s path been influenced by your faith in the Lord?
  3. In what ways do people change when they encounter God through faith in Christ?

Additional Resources

These videos and materials are for your personal use. If you show videos in class, be sure to have the necessary rights to do so.

Get unlimited access to “Unpacking This Week’s Lesson” podcast when you sign up for our Church Support Program: https://churchsupport.davidccook.org/

www.standardlesson.com/category/in-the-world
Copyright © 2021 by Standard Publishing, part of the David C Cook family.
All rights reserved. Each download is for the use of one church only.

In the World–January 3, 2021

By "In the World"

Download “In the World” for January 3, 2021 here.

DOING GOOD IN THE WORLD

Many of today’s young people are keenly interested in committing their lives to careers that will actually do good in the world. A recent article published for Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, Canada, highlights study programs the school offers that lead to jobs that aim to make people feel empowered “to enact change in the real world.” These include degrees preparing students for careers as wildlife ecologists, social workers, health care assistants, or environmental scientists. We all want to know, the article says, that “what we do in our day-to-day lives has some positive impact on those around us.”

GOOD NEWS FOR THE WORLD

Jesus’ sermon in the synagogue in Nazareth officially launched His mission to proclaim good news to the world. The message He came to give would have positive impact in the context of first-century Israel, but His eyes were on the whole cosmos and into eternity. He came to set the oppressed free, in both the physical and spiritual realms. Jesus calls His followers to the same mission.

  1. What opportunities do you have for bettering the world through your Christian witness?
  2. If you had access to unlimited resources, how would you proclaim the gospel to the world?
  3. How do you minister to people around you who don’t see