(From The Upper Room Disciplines 2016
Reproduced by permission)

Week of September 26–October 2, 2016 – The Tracks of Our Tears by Steven R. Guthrie
Scripture Overview: Moving from the sadness of Lamentations 1 to the thanksgiving prayer of 2 Timothy 1 is to move from total darkness to “the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Lamentations 1 and Psalm 137 are both painful laments from the vantage point of the exile. Both laments dramatize the expression of honest pain, which offers to God anger as well as grief. In contrast, the New Testament texts speak of faith, The writer of the epistle delights in Timothy’s heritage of faith nurtured by mother and grandmother and empowered by divine gifts of love and self-discipline. But it is a heritage that must put itself at risk for the sake of the gospel and not flinch in the face of inevitable suffering. The disciples ask Jesus for “more” faith, only to be told that faith cannot be quantified.
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
· Read Lamentations 1:1–6. When have your tears of regret washed away illusion? How do you begin again after repentance?
· Read Psalm 137. Recall a time when someone angered you. How did you deal with your anger?
· Read 2 Timothy 1:1–14. The author states that when we shed tears for another person we “testify to our profound connectedness to others.” When in your life have you shed tears for the suffering of another?
· Read Luke 17:5–10. How do you experience gratitude even as you live with the demands of the Christian life?

Week of October 3–9, 2016 – Joy and Obedience by Kate Obermueller Unruh
Scripture Overview: One might have expected Jeremiah to advise the exiles to maintain their independence and be ready to return to Judah. Instead, he tells them to settle in, to build and plant, to seek the welfare of Babylon, even to pray for its prosperity. The judging purposes of God call for extended exile and not impatient rebellion. In the story of the ten lepers in Luke, one returns to praise and thank Jesus for giving him health. Only then do we learn that he is a Samaritan. The ultimate outsider becomes the model of faith. Second Timothy bears witness to the awesome character of God that always honors divine commitments, thereby appearing to humans full of surprises. For the psalmist, God merits the worship of all the earth.
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection
· Read Jeremiah 29:1, 4–7. When have you found yourself in exile? How did you cope with the situation? What reminded you that God had not abandoned you?
· Read Psalm 66:1–12. When has the testing of God brought you out to ”a spacious place”?
· Read 2 Timothy 2:8–15. How do you ready yourself to present yourself as one approved by God?
· Read Luke 17:11–19. The writer states that Jesus’ question, “Where are the other nine?,” invites us to receive God’s healing of illness and inner wounds. What in your life needs God’s healing touch?

Week of October 10–16, 2016 – Teach Me Your Way, O Lord by Jan Sprague
Scripture Overview: Christians want help in understanding the significance of the Bible. Psalm 119 delights in the instruction of Yahweh. The text of the Torah is valued, not as a legal document but as an occasion for meditation and for the shaping of values, intuitions, and sensitivities. Scripture in second Timothy is the gift of God and a guide for the practical life of God’s people. Its instructive role equips believers for every good work. Jeremiah 31 anticipates the time when God will write the law on the hearts of the people and reminds readers that at the core of “the law” is the covenant relation God establishes: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” The parable of the persistent widow directs us to the companion of Bible study: prayer.
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
· Read Jeremiah 31:27–34. In what sense do you perceive God’s guidance coming from within you?
· Read Psalm 119:97–104. How immersed are you in God’s word? How does scripture guide your decisions?
· Read 2 Timothy 3:14–4:5. Who in your life has been a courageous teacher leading you toward God? How has he or she helped sustain your faith?
· Read Luke 18:1–8. How have your attitudes toward prayer changed? How does this passage help you to view prayer in a new light?

Week of October 17–23, 2016 – Gratitude: Foundation of Faith by Jay M. Hanke
Scripture Overview: The Hebrew scripture readings declare the salvation of humankind and insist that the initiative for that salvation comes from God alone. The prophet Joel looks forward to the day when all Israel’s sons and daughters will become as prophets in the land. Psalm 65 is a psalm of thanksgiving for the “God of our salvation.” The writer of Second Timothy elevates his own achievements by means of athletic imagery, but the reading concludes with an acknowledgment that strength and deliverance have come and will come from God. The story of the prayers of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke suggests the perils of ignoring the fundamental truth of Joel 2 and Psalm 65. The Pharisee presumes that his achievements are his alone; the tax collector knows that prayer begins and ends with a cry to God for mercy.
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
· Read Joel 2:23–32. In the face of tragedy, how can we encourage one another to see with Joel’s eyes?
· Read Psalm 65. What in the created world brings words of praise of the Creator to your lips? What ridges and furrows in your life need God’s softening?
· Read 2 Timothy 4:6–8, 16–18. What would it look like in your life to run the race God has set before you without striving to outrun others?
· Read Luke 18:9–14. Where might God be inviting your gratitude? How can your gratitude to God lead to tangible love of a neighbor you might have otherwise disregarded?

Week of October 24–30, 2016 – Our Joy in God’s Righteousness by Rosemary D. Goodne
Scripture Overview: Habakkuk stands aghast at the “destruction and violence” all around and wonders how justice never seems to conquer. At the end of the reading, God contrasts the proud, whose spirit “is not right in them,” with the righteous who live by faith. The psalmist delights in God’s righteousness and in the commandments of God; however, he admits that “I am small and despised.” The psalmist’s “trouble and anguish” appear in Second Thessalonians also, but here the “persecutions and the afflictions” endured by the faithful serve a particular end: They stand as signs of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel reading Jesus tells Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house,” which reminds us that the righteous who live by faith are not necessarily the socially or religiously acceptable.
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
· Read Habakkuk 1:1–4, 2:1–4. What situations in your life and world cause you to cry out to God, “How long?”?
· Read Psalm 119:137–144. Who have you known who trusts God implicitly? How has that person’s example helped you in the past? How might you let it help you in the future?
· Read 2 Thessalonians 1:1–4, 11–12. How will you offer Christ’s peace to someone you meet today?
· Read Luke 19:1–10. Jesus’ interaction caused Zacchaeus to trust God and straighten out his life. Where and with whom might God be leading you to share with others the heart of Christ?
Week of October 31–November 6, 2016 – A Place in the Choir by Jonathan C. Wallace
Scripture Overview: The rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple became a test of God’s promise. The prophetic word of Haggai insists on courage and labor, reminding the people that God’s Spirit is already present among them and points toward the future. In Second Thessalonians, some Christians have grown extremely agitated by claims that the “day of the Lord” has already come. The passage recalls what Jesus and God have already accomplished and insists that God’s future may also be trusted. Jesus’ response to the Sadducees confutes them, not merely by its cleverness (their question also is clever) but by its truth. The eschatological future cannot be understood simply as an extension of the present, except in one profound sense: God is Lord both of the present and of the future. This profound truth demands the praise to which Psalm 145 calls all creatures.
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
· Read Haggai 1:15b–2:9. The people return home from exile—but home has changed. When have you returned “home” to a different setting than the one you left? How did you feel the changes?
· Read Psalm 145:1–5, 17–21. How fully do you participate in worship? In what areas are you more reserved?
· Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1–5, 13–17. The phrase “shaken in mind” may be better translated as “shaken out of mind,” implying great distress. What basics and foundation do you return to when you are “shaken out of mind”?
· Read Luke 20:27–38. The Sadducees miss the core of who Jesus is. When has an “old” religious mind-set blocked your ability to see and hear a “new thing”?