2016 - LPNI

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2016

Bible Study - June, 2016
LUTHERAN PARISH NURSE INTERNATIONAL
BIBLE STUDY
JUST ONE MORE!
Daniel Paavola—Professor of Theology
Concordia University Wisconsin
Mequon, Wisconsin

UNIT ONE:  THERE’S STILL SOMEONE I WANT YOU TO MEET
OPENING:  Just one more.  It’s a standard line of commercials and the death of diets. Potato chips have famously been sold with the challenge that you can’t eat just one, you’ll need more.  The TV detective show of the 1970’s Columbo had a staple line of the detective Columbo turning at the door when you thought he was done. Then he would ask, “Just one more thing.”  Just one more clue would solve the case.
Biblically, God loves this same pattern. In our three part study we’ll see how often God turns back with just one more.  He has one more person for us to meet, one more miracle to perform, one more day to spend.  People, actions, time, they’re all in abundance beyond what we expect.
Let’s start with one more person to meet.  My mother was never ready to leave any gathering. After church, we were the last to go and literally turned out the lights in the narthex.  If there was one more person to talk with, Mom would talk.  By the way, my Dad left almost immediately and would wait patiently in the car for Mom to get done.
Who have you known, or maybe you’re that person, who is always ready to meet one more stranger?
What would that person’s favorite place be to meet as many people as possible?
STUDY:  READ LUKE 15:25-32
We would think the story is done. The prodigal son has returned home and this third parable of the set in Luke 15 can end just as the other two did, the lost sheep and the lost coin.  But just one more.  The younger son is back, so let’s celebrate. But the father can’t celebrate without the older son being with them.  One son is still lost, the one who has been with him all this time.  But he is as lost as the younger, lost in plain sight.
Who is still lost in plain sight today? This one might even complain that he has been with the Father all this time.  But now there might have come a barrier of celebration, or the unwelcome return of an old rival.  It is fine when there’s no one else, but the joy of God over someone else is too much. Perhaps he is like a nervous child who worries that the Father’s love can’t be multiplied, only divided. And division will leave less for him or her.
What does this tell us about the hunger of God for even those who are in plain sight but still standing outside the celebration?
When might God find these older brothers, so near, with such a long history of being with Him and yet, so distant at this moment?  Why is the celebration still not complete without them?
 
The older son shows the closest relationship in a family and is someone we had already met at the start of the parable.  We might have almost expected the son to join in the celebration. But what about someone who is all new to us?  God has a wider range of friends than any Facebook champion.  His mutual friend list must be enormous and his list of friends suggested to us would never end.
Imagine the one who is the connecting glue in relationships.  Who do you know is the middle ground between people, the one who is always glad to connect two strangers?
READ LUKE 24:13-35
This is the great day, Easter!  Think of all that Jesus has to do, all the places to go, all the people to see, and even the well-deserved time to himself. Who will he spend his day with?  Peter, James, John, his mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, those all make sense.
But he introduces us to two more, two men we have never seen before. We need the name of one, Cleopas, and the other remains anonymous. But we have to meet them! Jesus can’t spend this most crucial day with bringing these two into the story. And, this is not a momentary meet-and-greet, ten-second photo op.  It appears that it takes hours for them to journey, talk, listen to his thorough Old Testament commentary, and then eat. In these hours, these words and the breaking of the bread, it all finally comes clear to them. Their surprise confirms some of our own expectations.  Jesus, even if he is raised, wouldn’t be here with these men!
What was so important about these men and this opportunity that Jesus would spend much of his day with them?
What does their inclusion say about God’s continuing desire to lavish precious time, special days, and crucial moments on those who aren’t looking for Him?
So far, we’ve had one angry son who may or may not want to be found and two men who never imagined that God was seeking them out.  Let’s swing the pendulum the farthest now and find a man who is dead-set on staying away from Jesus.
READ ACTS 9:1-9
Did you expect God to find a thirteenth apostle? After Judas died, we could expect God to fill the vacancy as he does in Acts 1. But in seeking Judas’ replacement, note that the qualifications are someone who has been with the disciples since the beginning, obviously someone who has been for them, not against them, Acts. 1:21-22. So even if you could imagine a thirteenth apostle, wouldn’t he be someone who knows the story of Jesus personally and has shown his servant’s heart?
But a murdering Pharisee?  A man who wasn’t personally acquainted with Jesus?  A man who had seen none of his miracles, heard none of his teaching, but had done his utmost to destroy those who had? If we don’t need a thirteen apostle, we certainly don’t need him to be this man, Saul/Paul.
Why would God choose a thirteen apostle when twelve is such a biblically complete number, a perfect parallel to the twelve tribes of Israel?
Why would God chose this thirteenth to be one chosen so late, one who didn’t know Jesus or the other apostles and was so violently opposed to the Gospel?  (See 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 and 1 Timothy 1:12-16 for part of your answer.)
So God seeks one more.  In a way, all of these men are lost and then found.  Consider how God seeks and finds these men and how they share and also differ in their being found:
Did they all look to be found and expect that the Father would look for them?
Did they immediately and clearly contribute to the Father’s work so that finding them made sense?
What does it say about God’s hunger for one more person that he would seek to include these men in his work?
APPLY: When you think of that person who is most eager to talk with someone new, do you want to be that person yourself, or do you want to be the one they can’t wait to talk with?
With God, the good news is that we are both.  We are the ones he truly wants to share with, to share more words, more time, more change.
What does his appetite for more time, teaching, and experiences say about the relationship He wishes to have with you?
But we are also the people who can seek one more.  Consider the patience of the Father who left the party to find his son, and the patience of Jesus who walked on that Easter day with men who didn’t recognize him.
Who is waiting for your patient walk? Who might be on the outside of the party, but yet reachable to you?
Blessings to you as you are both the one God seeks and as the one who does his seeking.

     
UNIT TWO:  DON’T YOU HAVE ONE MORE?
 OPENING:  Do it again!  Every three year old says it, every parent dreads it.  You pulled off a great trick, showed a little effort, had a little danger even.  And your three year old says, “Do it again!”  Maybe you do, with a prayer that it works twice.  But don’t fool yourself that two will be enough. There is no “enough” for a three year old.  The only safe answer is “No, that’s enough.”
In our second session, we’ll be surprised that God doesn’t just say, “That’s enough.”  We want more. More miracles, more drama, more steps in his story.  It would make sense that he would say, “NO!”  After all, our ways are not his ways, and our childish understanding of his thoughts are never going to set his agenda.  Yet our texts will show the several times when he does more than we would have imagined.
To get started, discuss with your group this appetite we have for one more act, one more song, one more episode.
When have you wanted the performers to keep on going—the concert should have one more song, the movie should have another scene, and maybe a whole sequel, the TV show should never have been cancelled but should have had at least one more season?
If you had gotten one more song, scene, or season, would it have been enough?
READ JOHN 20:30-31
John says, in essence, “I could tell you so much more…”  Well then, tell us, please!  I can’t imagine any Christian saying, “No, thanks, we’ve heard enough.”  We would be glad to hear more miracles, more Sermons on the Mount, more confrontations with your enemies.  Tell us!
Of course, John tells us why there’s no more.  He’s building faith above all. Faith is not an endless appetite. Faith is trust that enough is enough. And so, we would expect these to be the last words of the book.
But now, read John 21:1-14.  Another miracle!  Just when we had given up hope and we weren’t even asking, John volunteers one more.   But this might not be the miracle we expected, simply more fish.  This had already been done at the start of their life together, Luke 5:1-11. Consider this parallel set of miracles:
Why might John include this last miracle, even after he said that he had told us enough for our faith?
Why might the disciples have especially valued this miracle of fish as a return to the beginning and a chance to start over?
READ ROMANS 5:1-5
I would be happy to stay at verse 1.  All is well with being justified by faith and surrounded by the peace of God.  Let’s just stay like this.  But then, verse 3, God says, “There’s more.”  When a TV commercial promises us there’s more, we usually get more of the same thing, a second, smaller knife, another tube of the same caulk. But here God gives us something completely different. We move from peace to trouble.
Why give us something more when we weren’t asking for it?  Why move us from relatively idle to very active?  In receiving grace and the gifts of justification and peace, we do nothing but exercise the faith which is a gift in itself from God.  But now trouble comes and we are called to rejoice, to endure, to demonstrate approved character.
Why would God make this key step forward when we’re not asking for anything more?
Why would God make these such active steps—endurance and demonstrating approved character—when we had gotten used to receiving salvation as a gift?
READ REVELATION 7:1-17
We had it exactly counted. The 144,000 were the whole number, the 12 tribes of the Old Testament times the 12 of the New Testament apostles times the number 1000, the number of numerical completion for the Greeks. It all made sense and was even a number that we could imagine.
It’s a bit like going on a bus trip in high school where you have three buses, 144 students, and three mother/chaperones standing in front of each bus.  The mothers are checking off the names on their checklist as students get on. We’re not leaving until everyone is on the bus and the right bus.
But then what happens when v. 9 comes?   After all the neat organization, all the symmetry and predictability, verse 9 says there are more.  But these are not a mere, single, forgotten tribe, or another neat multiplied New Testament apostle. Here is a crowd such as we’ve never imagined, beyond counting, from every nation and tribe.
Who would expected this? But perhaps it’s like our bus trip again.  Imagine that we have driven for four hours and it’s time to stop for lunch as the combination truck stop/McDonald’s in Ohio.  You’re standing in line with a stranger who asks where you’re going.  He thinks this sounds like a great trip and asks if he can go too.  You bring him to the mom/chaperone at the door of the bus and ask if your new friend can come too.
What does every normal mom/chaperone say when someone wants to take along a “friend” just found at a truck stop?
But what different response might we find from God when we bring a new-found friend to the doors of faith and eternal life?
Why does God show us the company of heaven as both a clearly known and counted number and also as a number beyond all our knowing?
APPLY:  When we have asked for more, God has often said, “No, that’s enough.”  But here we’ve had three times when he has shown his work and power, in and through us, and also beyond our doing.
When you have asked for God to do more of what you have already seen? What might he have been ready to show and do that is beyond our first request?
When might this something more change us?  How might we go from being those who receive his gifts by the faith to being those who exercise these gifts?

 
UNIT THREE:  THERE’S STILL TIME
OPENING:  An old country song by Diamond Rio sings about One More Day.  It’s a wonderful idea that we might enjoy just one more day together, one more meal, one more sunset to be watched.  We’ve all wanted that time and maybe we’ve even gotten it.
In our last section of this study, we’ll focus on the extension of time that God gives.  He’ll surprise us with time that comes to those who are looking for it and have no reason to expect his extension.  But perhaps that is the very essence of God, the eternity of time and his lavish use of it.
To get started, let’s think about that one more day.
When have you wanted just one more day?  Who was it with? What did you want to do?
On the other hand, when have you had just enough of a time, a good time?  For example, when did the vacation end at just the right time and you were glad to go home?
READ LUKE 10:25-37
Here is a story that already has more than we expect. Once the Samaritan stops to help the man, we’re already impressed.  Compared to the heartless priest and Levite, the Samaritan has done more than we would have thought of him. But then, wait, there’s more.  He not only stops, but he dares to dress the man’s wounds there in the dangerous spot of the road. That could be enough in itself, and we wouldn’t fault the man for getting out of a dangerous place as quickly as he can.
But this man has an abundance of mercy and time.  He loads the man on his donkey, knowing that this will slow him down and prolong his time on the dangerous road.  But beyond that, he then goes to the inn and spends the evening caring for him.  Certainly caring for an injured stranger wasn’t on his to-do list at the start of that day.
But there is even more.  When he leaves, he promises the inn keeper that he will return to pay for the future debts of the man.  What an amazing commitment of time and money!  Perhaps the wounded man, waking up in the inn, was astonished and wished for one more day of such care, but who would imagine that such a day would be volunteered by this stranger.
When have you seen this type of care, this lavish abundance of time and effort?
Was the caregiver a professional going beyond the call—such as a nurse who stayed beyond her shift?  Or, was the caregiver doing this just for the joy and love of caring?
When is this limitless giving especially needed?  Will it be known and appreciated or, as with the man here who might have been unconscious, will the help come without any thanks?
READ 2 PETER 3:1-9
So far we’ve used the idea that we want one more day, one more time.  However in this text of 2 Peter, we find people who want no more time. They are the scoffers asking when this coming of God will be. They don’t want another day. They are daring God to end time right now.
Imagine them standing before an empty, blue sky, looking as far as they can into the heavens. To their mocking stare, there’s nothing and no one there.  But then note the warnings in vv. 5-7, warnings that take us back to Noah and the flood.  Imagine how often scoffers mocked Noah under clear skies, asking when the flood would come.  Those scoffers died under that 40 days of rain. However, the next coming won’t be with the relative patience of 40 days and water, but with fire and that in an instant.  Be careful, scoffers, of complaining under blue skies for a coming you think is past due!
But God has one more day.  Note how the abundance of time in v. 8 where one day is as a thousand years and so also in reverse.  Our sense of delayed time is nothing to God who lives in the timeless eternity.  This might leave us worrying that God has no sense of time, no purpose for these passing days.
Verse 9 however makes it all clear. There is a purpose for God’s timing.  He is in a race with his children, whether they know it or not.
How do you race a three year old?  Race a three year old a hundred feet—Ready, Set, Go! (They will always cheat and go on “Set” but that’s racing a three year old for you.)  How do you run? What do you say to three year old?  How close do you stay to her? How much do you let her win by?
So now this is the purpose of God’s delay, his extended one more day.  He is in a race with his children, running at what seems like a slow pace, only to let his children come ahead him.
When have you wished God would hurry along and bring the end right now—no extra day needed?
While we’re ready, at least some days, for the end of time, who is someone that God is still waiting for?
How might that person come to know that God is patiently pacing himself in order that she might be saved child before the end comes?
APPLY:  One more has been our theme.  One more person, one more miracle, one more day.  Put these three themes together with our desire for more.
When we want more from God—another miracle, more time—what is His overall response:  (It could certainly be more than just one of the following four ideas.)
           You’ve got enough already—stop asking and be thankful
           Just wait—you’ll be surprised by what’s coming
           Look around, there’s more already here than you’ve seen
           Don’t complain—look at how much you have than others.
 
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