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

Week of June 27–July 3, 2016 – The Disciple’s Journey
by Chanequa Walker-Barnes
Scripture Overview: The passage in 2 Kings 5:1–14 portrays the arrogance of the leprous Naaman and the faithfulness of Naaman’s anonymous servants. Because of the trust expressed by these unnamed menials and because of the power vested in Yahweh’s prophet, Elisha, Naaman’s body is renewed. Psalm 30 expresses God’s help in suffering. The epistle lection reminds us that the gospel’s radical invasion of human life is linked to nothing less than a cosmic change, initiated by God. The authority of the Luke passage lies in its larger declarations: Jesus’ call for prayer on the part of those who undertake his mission. The Lord who sends out the laborers is also the Lord who is in charge of the harvest. The mission is tough, but its absolute importance motivates those who are sent. Their joy flows not from their success but from their identification with Jesus and his people.
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
· Read 2 Kings 5:1–14. Where in your life have you recognized God’s quiet blessings? How have these allowed you to experience prayer in new ways?
· Read Psalm 30. The psalmist praises God even in times of God’s seeming absence. How do you continue to praise and glorify God in difficult moments?
· Read Galatians 6:1–16. Paul reminds us that accountability is an important aspect of Christian community. How do you avoid growing weary of working and seeing no change.?
· Read Luke 10:1–11, 16–20. What do you need to let go of in your life to lean into the arms of Christ? How will this allow you to move beyond your comfort zones?

 Week of July 4–10, 2016 – A Fruitfulness Measure by Juan Huertas
Scripture Overview: Amos appears to have lost all hope that the people would realize the serious nature of their sin and renounce it. Because Amos has now come to terms with this melancholy reality, he also understands that God’s judgment must inevitably come. Psalm 82 proclaims the supreme rule of the God of Israel: those who forfeit loyalty to the true God will only have their lives dominated by false and destructive gods of their own creation. Colossians emphasizes the crucial place within the Christian life of the qualities of faith, love, and hope. In an ironic twist, the parable of the good Samaritan makes an outsider the one who is “good.” We then can place ourselves in the ditch as the victim at the mercy of the very outsider who has been rejected.
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection
· Read Psalm 82. In what ways are you guilty of ignoring the plight of those who need God most?
· Read Amos 7:7–17. Who are the prophets in your path? To whom are you paying attention?
· Read Colossians 1:1–8. How can you bear witness to God’s love today? Tell someone about their impact on your life and God’s kingdom.
· Read Luke 10:25–37. Where are the front porches in your life that allow you to get to know others?

Week of July 11–17, 2016 – The Better Part by Natalya Cherry
Scripture Overview: In the Amos passage, the vision of judgment is followed by a statement of God’s impending justice. Psalm 52 is addressed to some anonymous tyrant who, out of love for evil, has worked against God. But God will not allow such tyranny to go unchecked and will ultimately vindicate those who have lived faithful lives. The Colossians hymn heightens the connection between the cosmic Christ and the church, his earthly body. The familiar complaint of Martha directed against her sister, Mary, constitutes the Gospel passage. When placed in its larger context, the passage is balanced by the parable of the good Samaritan, which suggests that listening without doing is an empty exercise. The story of Martha and Mary maintains that doing without listening is equally futile.
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
· Read Amos 8:1–12. When have you simply gone through the motions of a relationship with God?
· Read Psalm 52. What enemies do you face, and in what or whom do you place your trust?
· Read Colossians 1:15–28. How do you respond to the concepts of mystery and revelation?
· Read Luke 10:38–42. Do you identify more with Mary or Martha in this passage? How difficult is it for you to choose the better part?

Week of July 18–24, 2016 – Intimacy with God by Steven Lottering
Scripture Overview: The Hosea passage implies that the relationship between God and Israel is similar to a marriage that has been ruined by an unfaithful spouse. Yahweh has been scorned, and judgment is at hand. However, the prophet implants a reminder that Yahweh’s final word is not destruction but redemption. Psalm 85 reveals a community of God’s people who are suspended between the “already” and the “not yet.” Colossians reminds the readers that no other force or personality may compete with Christ, for Christ and only Christ embodies “the whole fullness of deity.” Faith and action are one. Luke’s Gospel directs the disciples’ attention to their real needs, as well as reminding them of the only one who can fulfill those needs.
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
· Read Hosea 1:2–10. Do you truly believe that nothing is beyond God’s redemptive love? How does that affect the way you live?
· Read Psalm 85. How do you respond to God’s forgiving, redemptive love? When have you experienced the healing and wholeness of that love?
· Read Colossians 2:6–19. How is your life rooted and established in Christ? What fills your life?
· Read Luke 11:1–13. How much do you trust God to provide for all you really need?

Week of July 25–31, 2016 – Transforming Mercies by Sue Engle
Scripture Overview: The Hosea passage portrays the agony of God, who is torn between the demands of judgment and of grace. When justice and grace are weighed in God’s balances, grace always prevails. Psalm 107’s language applies to many experiences of alienation. Lostness, hunger, thirst, and weariness characterize the condition of those cut off from God; yet if they seem abandoned, they are not. God has guided them out of the desert and back to their homes once again. The freedom to live in goodness is the subject of Colossians. The passage points readers beyond “things that are on earth” to “things that are above.” Freedom from greed is the focus of Luke 12:13–21, a text that addresses the difficult issue of how the Christian is to deny the temptations of materialism while living in a very material world. The farmer is not condemned because he worked to produce a bumper crop, but his demise is viewed as tragic because he wrongly believed that his bulging barns would be his salvation.
Questions and Thoughts for Reflection:
· Read Hosea 11:1–11. God’s constant love, mercy, and grace allow for transformation. What would it be like if our systems employed a justice designed to transform?
· Read Psalm 107:1–9, 43. From what captivity has God redeemed you?
· Read Colossians 3:1–11. What do you need to take away from your life in order to clothe yourself with the practices that reflect the image of God?
· Read Luke 12:13–21. How can you feel more satisfied with what you have? How will this allow you to share more with others?

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”?