DEEPER INTO THE WORD
(From The Upper Room Disciplines 2016
Reproduced by permission)

Week of August 1–7, 2016 – God Is Great by L. Joseph Rosas III
Scripture Overview: The lesson from Isaiah and the psalm call the people of God to “Hear!” The message has to do with sacrifices and burnt offerings: God does not want them! The sacrificial system had come to be understood as a means of attempting to manipulate God for self-centered purposes, and the texts therefore call for worship that is God-centered. The Gospel lesson also calls the people of God to decision. Our use of financial resources is inextricably linked to our conviction that the future and our destiny lie ultimately with God. What we believe about the future affects how we live in the present. This affirmation is precisely the message of Hebrews. The entrusting of one’s life and future to God is “the reality of things hoped for, the proof of things not seen.” For those who trust in God’s reign, “God is not ashamed to be called their God.”
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
· Read Isaiah 1:1, 10–20. In what ways can you let go of a self-centered focus in worship?
· Read Psalm 50:1–8, 22–23. What are your antidotes to worry? How do they allow you to deal with anxieties in your life?
· Read Hebrews 11:1–3, 8–16. What allows you to focus on the awe and wonder of being held in God’s grace?
· Read Luke 12:32–40. Where do you see God at work in your life? How is this awareness a part of having your “lamp lit”?

Week of August 8–14, 2016 – Shocked into Change by Mandy Hackland
Scripture Overview: Isaiah 5:1–7 and Psalm 80:8–19 employ similar images to represent the people of God—a vine or a vineyard. The image clearly communicates the careful commitment of God to God’s people. Unfortunately, the people do not respond in kind, so God must destroy the vineyard. The people plead for restoration, and their future life will depend not on their repentance but on God’s repentance! Jesus issues a radical call for human repentance in Luke. God will bear the burden of human disobedience, and God’s gracious turning to humankind makes life possible. Hebrews shows that the story of God’s people does contain outstanding episodes and exemplars of faith and suggests that God never gives up on calling us to follow, to run the difficult race that leads to life.
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection
· Read Isaiah 5:1–7. What fruit are you growing—wild grapes or sweet ones? How can God redeem you?
· Read Psalm 80:1–2, 8–19. How do you recognize God’s love and presence?
· Read Hebrews 11:29–12:2. Think of a circumstance when your faith in God was all you could rely on.
· Read Luke 12:49–56. Where do you recognize the urgency of the kingdom of God? How does this awareness affect your daily actions?

Week of August 15–21, 2016 – Faith or Fear—Our Choice by James E. Magaw Sr.
Scripture Overview: The Luke text portrays the healing that Jesus has just performed as a call to decision, a call to “repentance and changed lives.” Hebrews proclaims to the readers that they “have come...to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem...and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.” For Luke, Jesus and his wonderful works signal the accessibility of God’s transforming power and thus signal also the time for repentance. The accessibility of God’s transforming power is evident in the lessons from Jeremiah and the psalm, although Jeremiah has no choice! And amid opposition from the wicked, the psalmist affirms what Jeremiah had been told by God—that his life from its very beginning has belonged to God.
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
· Read Jeremiah 1:4–10. God offers light to a world covered in darkness. Where do you see God’s light in your life? How can you offer this light to others?
· Read Psalm 71:1–6. When in your life have you turned to God for refuge? How did trust in God help the situation?
· Read Hebrews 12:18–29. We belong to a kingdom that cannot be shaken. How does that realization help during difficult times?
· Read Luke 13:10–17. How do the limitations we experience turn us to the power and grace of God?

Week of August 22–28, 2016 – God on the Margins by Mira Conklin
Scripture Overview: The admonition in Hebrews 13 “to show hospitality to strangers” is vividly illustrated by Jesus’ advice to guests and hosts in Luke 14. In the topsy-turvy world of divine hospitality, everybody is family. Radical hospitality makes sense only in light of the conviction that God rules the world and therefore adequate repayment for our efforts is simply our relatedness to God and our conformity to what God intends. The texts from Jeremiah and the psalm call the people of God back to commitment to God alone, rather than to the gods of the nations and their values. God is no doubt still lamenting our failure to listen but is also, no doubt, still inviting us to take our humble place at a table that promises exaltation on a scale the world cannot even imagine.
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
· Read Jeremiah 2:4–13. To whom or where do you go to fill your cup with living water?
· Read Psalm 81:1, 10–16. What shape does God’s bread and honey take in your life? Where are you being invited to open your mouth and to name the gift as sacred?
· Read Hebrews 13:1–8, 15–16. How do you offer hospitality to those closest to you?
· Read Luke 14:1, 7–14. When have you been blessed by a party of misfits? How can you extend the table?

Week of August 29–September 4, 2016 – The Decisions of Discipleship by Ken A. Ramsey
Scripture Overview: The gospel lesson stresses the cost of discipleship. One of the costs involves family, but the implication is that there are compensations as well as costs. Belonging to God affects the way in which one belongs to others. Traditional patterns, kinship and otherwise, are transformed. This insight lies at the heart of Paul’s letter to Philemon concerning Philemon’s slave, Onesimus. Without directly requesting that Philemon set Onesimus free, Paul clearly suggests that the ties that bind persons as brothers and sisters in Christ transform traditional social patterns, including slavery. Both Jeremiah 18 and Psalm 139 affirm our belongingness to God, individually and corporately.
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
· Read Jeremiah 18:1–11. How has the “word of the Lord” come to you? What obstacles prevent you from placing yourself entirely in God’s hands?
· Read Psalm 139:1–6, 13–18. How does your life evidence God’s handiwork?
· Read Philemon 1–21. What person or group needs your advocacy in the name of Christ?
· Read Luke 14:25–33. How have you counted the cost of following Jesus?