Daily Bible Readings – Friday, January 3, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 68

Prayer Point. God is our conquering and victorious king and David invites us to praise him: “Praise be to the LORD, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.” Is there a situation in your life where God has recently delivered you? Take time today to thank God our king.

John 6:15-27

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. For over a thousand years the people of Israel had been waiting for a great leader, someone who acted as Moses once did (see Deuteronomy 18:15). The people believe they have found their leader in Jesus, who as Moses once did, fed the people miraculously. With Moses it was the manna or daily bread in the wilderness. With Jesus it was feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish (see John 6:1-14).

The people want to make Jesus their king. Their thinking is quite understandable. If Moses led Israel out of slavery in Egypt, perhaps Jesus, the new Moses-like leader, will overthrow the Romans and establish himself as the rightful king of Israel. Jesus is king and will become king, but not by force, but by dying on a cross and rising from the dead. His Father will make him king, not the people, so he withdraws and commands his disciples to sail on ahead of him across the lake that was called the “Sea of Galilee.”

The sea was regarded as a place of evil and frightful power as it was one of the greatest known forces in the natural world.

Pay close attention …

  • How Jesus demonstrates his power over the waters.
  • The reaction of Jesus’ disciples to seeing him walk on water.
  • Why the crowds are pursuing Jesus.
  • What Jesus wants the crowds to pursue instead.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

Ephesians 4:17-32

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points?You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. The word “Gentile” normally refers to a person who is not Jewish, but Paul is using the term to refer to those who are without a relationship with God. The Gentile way of life is the lifestyle the Ephesians lived before they came to believe in Jesus Christ.

Pay close attention to …

  • How the “Gentile” lifestyle, the old way of life contrasts to the new life of following Jesus.
  • What the Ephesians are to put off and what they are to put on.
  • Whether the Holy Spirit’s healing and Jesus’ forgiveness comes before or after the Ephesians’ new life (see verses 30-32).

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

1 Kings 19:9-18

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points?You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. “What are you doing here Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9 ESV) The LORD asks Elijah this question clearly because the LORD is not yet finished with him. Remember that this would be considered a holy place of refuge – the place where Moses trod and where the Ten Commandments were handed down. This section of scripture is, perhaps, among the most riveting in all the Old Testament.

Elijah is very discouraged and is, quite frankly, afraid of Jezebel – of what she may do to him. She was far more formidable than Ahab. She was, after all, a king’s daughter (2 Samuel 9:34). When the Lord asks Elijah this question his response is: “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:10 ESV) With all that has transpired, Elijah may have forgotten what Obadiah had told him concerning the 100 prophets he had hidden away from Jezebel. The Lord tells Elijah, “‘Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.’ And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper (“still small voice” KJV). (1 Kings 19:11-12 ESV)

In any event, the LORD asks the question again, I suppose looking for a different answer, but Elijah repeats the same answer. Here the LORD commissions Elijah to go to Damascus to anoint Hazael king of Syria. Next he is to anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And finally Elijah is to anoint Elisha the son of Shaphat as prophet in his own place. These three men will carry out the sentence which the LORD has pronounced over Israel: “And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven [!] thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:17-18 ESV) Keeping Elijah and Elisha straight will prove a monumental task as you may judge for yourself; they had parallel lives.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

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Daily Bible Readings – Thursday, January 2, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 34

Prayer Point. David is remembering when God miraculously saved him and allowing that memory to move to worship. Take time today to think about a time when God intervened in your life and offer God your own prayer of praise.

John 6:1-14

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. Moses, the man who led Israel out of slavery in Egypt, made this prophecy over 1000 years before the coming of Jesus:

Deuteronomy 18:15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.

Among the events that Moses was most remembered for was the manna or daily bread that God miraculously provided his people while they wandered in the wilderness. That miracle provides the background for today’s reading as it profoundly impacted the people’s response to Jesus’ miracle.

Pay close attention to …

  • How Jesus tests his disciples in verse 5 and how well they perform.
  • The way Jesus performs this miracle and what it tells you about his power.
  • What is left over and why it is significant.
  • The people’s response to the miracle in light of Deuteronomy 18:15.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

Ephesians 4:1-16

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points?You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. Paul is calling the church in Ephesus, the church to whom this letter was addressed, to live a “life worthy of the calling you have received.” This is key to understanding this passage. Paul is not saying, “do this and you will received God’s blessing.” He is saying, “you have received God’s blessing, now live a life worthy of that grace.” What is Paul talking about? In the first chapter of this letter he tells the Ephesians that they were chosen by God to be forgiven, adopted as his children and to become holy and good people. This is all grace in that these are blessings that were not earned, but freely given by God.

Having described that grace, Paul in Ephesians 4, describes what life should look like in response to that grace.

Paul will also use the word “grace” in a different sense in verses 7 and following. “Grace” in today’s reading refers to the spiritual gifts (abilities and talents that are sometimes ‘supernatural’) that the Holy Spirit gives to each Christian (verse 7). These gifts determined the roles (apostle, prophet, evangelists, pastors and teachers) people played in the church.

Pay close attention to …

  • How the Ephesians are commanded to treat each other (verse 2).
  • What they are to work hard to maintain (verse 3).
  • What unifies each Christian (verses 4-5).
  • What determines each person’s unique role in the church, the body of Christ.
  • The purpose of each person’s gift (grace).

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

1 Kings 19:1-8

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points?You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. Elijah then tells Ahab to eat and drink before the rains come. Ahab eats and drinks and Elijah ascends to the top of Mount Carmel to wait. Elijah tells his servant to scout out the sky toward the sea and report what he finds. The servant reports, “There is nothing.” (1 Kings 18:43 ESV). Elijah sends him on this errand a total of seven (!) times. “And at the seventh time he said, ‘Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.’ And he [Elijah] said, ‘Go up, say to Ahab, “Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.” (1 Kings 18:44 ESV) Ahab mounts his chariot and rushes to Jezreel (where he had a palace about 20 miles north of the capital city Samaria). Oddly, “the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” (1 Kings 18:46 ESV) I have no idea why Elijah would want to go into the “lion’s den” and the scripture is no help here, but what it does suggest is there was something to what Obadiah said in 18:12 (“And as soon as I have gone from you, the Spirit of the Lord will carry you I know not where.” – ESV)

Elijah was unfazed by the supposed threats of Ahab. But when it came to a woman, he “ran for the hills” as it were. Wasn’t it William Congreve who said, “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned”? Anyway, Jezebel [which means ‘unmarried’, but she was) may not have been scorned, but she was mmm ‘miffed’ shall we say. “Then Jezebel sent a message to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them [the 450 false prophets] by this time tomorrow.’” (1 Kings 19:2 ESV) Elijah made haste to the land of Judah (probably safer there – no extradition treaty) to escape Jezebel. He came to Beersheba and left his servant there while he went off into the wilderness. As the scripture puts it, “Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life…” (1 Kings 19:3 ESV)

Elijah, whom I regard as a giant among the people of God, suffered a crisis of faith. He became fearful. He had brought a dead boy back to life, he called down fire from heaven, he opened heaven’s skies, and he rode to Jezreel on foot faster than Ahab who was in a chariot. He was drenched in the power of God and yet now he was afraid. In some respects this may demonstrate his humility – he doesn’t take the LORD or his power for granted. “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4 ESV) He then lies down and sleeps under a broom tree (“a bush with many branches and twigs, small leaves, and clusters of flowers” ESV Study Bible Notes p. 636). The angel of the Lord came and touched him and instructed him to eat (for he had prepared “cake baked on hot stones and water” v. 19:6 ESV) for the journey was too great for him. “He arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb [Mt. Sinai], the mount of God.” (1 Kings 19:8 ESV) This is, of course, the same place where the LORD delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses, after he had fasted for forty days and forty nights.

[ESV Study Bible Notes p. 636
“19:5 an angel touched him. Elijah has been responding so far only to Jezebel’s ‘messenger’ (v. 2). Now it is God’s turn to take the initiative with an ‘angel’ or messenger of his own. It is God’s first move in leading Elijah back onto the path of faith from which he has strayed.”]

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 103

Prayer Point. Are looking for a reason to praise God? Psalm 103 gives you a number of options. Concentrate on two or three and offer your own prayer of praise.

Matthew 1:18-25

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. The births of Isaac, Abraham’s son, and Samson were both miraculous and announced by an angel as Jesus’ was. What sets Jesus apart is that he is conceived by a virgin through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a critical part of Jesus’ identity and his mission.

The central dilemma of the Bible is that humanity, because of our sin, owes God a debt that not even eternity in hell could pay. No one but a human could pay the debt, but no human was capable of paying the debt. That is until Jesus came to earth. Because he is born of a virgin, Jesus is both fully God and fully man. As a man, Jesus has the right to pay humanity’s debt. As God, he has the capability of paying it.

This is who Jesus was, but God chose to set this plan in motion in partnership with an ordinary couple, Mary and Joseph. Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes for a moment. His fiance is pregnant and he is not the father. If he goes through with the marriage he will bring great shame upon himself.

Pay close attention to …

  • Joseph’s great faith and courage even before the angel appears to him.
  • The angel’s message to Joseph which confirms his faith.
  • The connection between Jesus’ name which means “the Lord saves” and his mission.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

Revelation 19:11-16

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points?You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. John sees a vision of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. The gospel of John refers to Jesus as the “Word of God” as he is in Revelation 19:13. What strikes you about this image of Jesus? In what ways is it reassuring? In what ways is it terrifying?

Why do you think we need to know Christ in this way?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

Isaiah 62:1-5, 10-12

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points?You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. Take a look at Revelation 22:16 and compare that with “her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch” in verse 1. [“I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Revelation 22:16] “The nations will see your _____________, and all kings your _____.” [v. 2 righteousness; glory] “You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.” We saw this earlier (actually later) in Chapter 65. Why are names so important? [Names are important because God’s name is supremely important. In the OT names also convey the character of the named. Examples: Hannah = gracious; Job = one persecuted; Samson = like the sun; Samuel = heard of God.] Refer to Revelation 2:17 for another reference to the name given by God. How are God’s people described in verse 3? [A crown of splendor, a royal diadem] According to verse 4 what shall we be called? [Hephzibah and Beulah – my delight is in her and married] It’s very nice that Isaiah tells us what these names mean (also in verse 4). What is the imagery in verse 5? [Married; marriage] Have we seen this before? [Hosea uses marriage throughout as a metaphor. Hosea was told to marry a harlot (Gomer) as an object lesson to Israel – a demonstration that Israel had given herself over to false gods (harlotry) but that God loved her anyway. Read all about it in Hosea. On many occasions Jesus referred to a bride and bridegroom, his first sign as reported by John in Chapter 2 was at the marriage in Cana. A coincidence?? And, of course, in Revelation we have the famous Marriage of the Lamb Chapter 21:2.] Verses 6 and 7 exhort us to do what? [Wait and watch, be vigilant] In verses 8-9 the Lord swears by his right hand to do what? [Never again will enemies, outsiders, and the nations conquer the LORD’s land and harvest it.]

Verses 8 and 9 speak of grain (bread) and wine. What do the grain and wine symbolize? [Bread and wine refer to life-giving substances. In the Old Testament the bread and wine were the principal ingredients in the Passover meal. In the New Testament they refer to the life-giving body and blood of Christ.]

The imagery in verse 10 is very similar to that of Isaiah Chapter 40:3-4 “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.’” What is the only difference between these passages of Isaiah to those of Chapter 40? [Verse 10 refers to the people of God whereas in Chapter 40 verses 3-4 the preparation is for the coming of the LORD.] Which advent is Isaiah referring to in verses 11-12? [An argument could be made for both the one when Jesus was born and his second coming.]

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

Daily Bible Readings – Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 46

Prayer Point. It is easy to despair over the evil in our world. We fear for our safety. The wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. The economy is uncertain. Psalm 46 calls us to fix our eyes on another reality, God’s reality. Pray that we might know that God truly is “our refuge and strength” so that “we will not fear, though the earth give way.”

John 5:1-15

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. The Jews were required by the Law of Moses to make three annual pilgrimages up to Jerusalem. John doesn’t tell us which feast it was, but Jesus as a good practicing Jew, makes the pilgrimage along with his countrymen.

Jesus encounters a lame man lying by the pool of Bethesda who had been crippled for thirty-eight years. The Jews of the time believed that the waters of the pool were stirred from time to time by an angel. The first man into the stirred waters was healed. This man had hoped for thirty-eight years for healing, but each time the waters were stirred, his hopes were dashed.

One other thing, the day that this healing occurred is important. This man was healed on the Sabbath (Saturday). The Sabbath, by God’s decree, was a sacred day where no work was to be done (see Exodus 20:8-11). The question was what constituted work. The religious leaders of the day considered both healing and carrying your mat to be work and therefor unlawful on the Sabbath day. This of course led to the absurd conclusion that God did not want people healed on the Sabbath and creates the tension you will see in today’s reading.

Pay close attention to …

  • The method Jesus uses to heal the lame man and what it says about his power.
  • The Jew’s surprising response the man’s miraculous healing and why.
  • Jesus’ warning to the healed man. Chronic conditions such as blindness or being crippled were widely seen in Jesus’ day to be God’s judgment for sin.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

James 4:13-17, 5:7-11

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points?You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. It is believed that the book of James was written by James the brother of Jesus. James was not one of the original apostles, but rose to become one of the leaders of the first church in Jerusalem (see Acts 15). James was written in the early days of the church when most Christians were Jewish and his emphasis was on living a holy life in response to what Christ has done for us.

What should a Christian’s attitude be towards future plans? Why? How is it possible to sin without doing anything?

James 5:7-11. At Christmas we celebrate the first coming of Jesus. Yet we also remember that we are waiting for his return, his second coming when He will put an end to death and evil once and for all. How are we to live today as we wait for His coming? What examples does James hold out as those who were rewarded by a loving God for their patience and perseverance (see the book of Job, particularly Job 42:10-17)?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

1 Kings 3:5-14

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points?You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. Very early in his reign Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. In those days alliances were often confirmed in marriage between the parties. In this case Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh. This is strictly forbidden by the law of God (“You shall not intermarry with them [strangers, foreigners]…” Deut. 7:3 ESV) While the law was making reference to the peoples Israel drove from the land, the intent was that if the Hebrews intermarried with non-Hebrews, these non-Hebrews would prove a snare to them. Samson is perhaps the finest example and the disaster he suffered from the hands of Delilah (see chapter 16 of Judges).

[ESV Study Bible Notes p. 597 3:1 marriage alliance with Pharaoh. This is another dubious act to add to those in chapter 2. Deuteronomy warns against a ‘return to Egypt’ (Deut. 17:16) in terms of too-close relations with that nation. The Hebrew verb (khatan), translated ‘made a marriage alliance’ in 1 Kings 3:1, is translated ‘intermarry’ in Deut. 7:3, where the command not to marry foreigners is explicitly tied to a warning that such marriages will lead the people to serve other gods (Deut. 7:4). This becomes all too real for Solomon (1 Kings 11:3-4). Even though Solomon ‘LORD the lord’ (3:3), he is a king with a divided heart, failing to keep the Law of Moses wholeheartedly as David had instructed (2:1-4)”]

“Solomon loved the LORD … And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there for that was the great high place.” (1 Kings 3:3a, 4) As we continue through the Old Testament we will see the prominent place the “high places” has in the history of Israel (usually not for good). Until the Temple was built sacrifices were offered where the tabernacle was located but it was not forbidden to make such sacrifices in other locations called “high places”. Interestingly enough, the LORD was good enough to visit Solomon in a dream while he was at Gibeon.

[ESV Study Bible Notes p. 597 “3:2 the high places. This is the standard translation of the Hebrew bamot, but it is not clear that height (whether natural or artificial) was an intrinsic feature of these worship sites. The idea is simply that of publicly accessible structures (including unenclosed altars and temple with altars) within which or on which offering were made to God or the gods. The continuation and proliferation of these local places of worship (as opposed to the one place of worship described in Deuteronomy 12) is one of the main concerns of the authors of 1-2 Kings (1 Kings 22:43; 2 Kings 12:3; 14:4; 15:4; 35). Solomon begins by tolerating worship of the LORD at these places and ends up being drawn into full-blown apostasy (1 Kings 11:7-8), as also later do Israel and Judah (e.g., 12:28-31; 2 Kings 21:3-9).”]

Solomon has a vision in a dream where the LORD appears to him and says, “Ask what I shall give you.” (1 Kings 3:5 ESV) After acknowledging all the good that the LORD had done for his father David, Solomon proceeds to his request: “And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. … Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your people?” (1 Kings 3:7, 9) Here Solomon displays unique wisdom (if not common sense) in this request.

The LORD was impressed! (How often can you say that?) “And God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.’” (1 Kings 3:11-14)

Solomon then returns to Jerusalem and there gives thanks to the LORD before the ark of the covenant.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

Daily Bible Readings – Monday, December 30, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 20

Prayer Point. Our greatest hope is  that Jesus will be victorious.  That’s why Jesus taught us to “pray, your kingdom come, your will be done.” Pray today that Christ will bring his kingdom into the broken places of our world. Pray for the faith to trust not in military and political power (chariots and horses) but that our faith will rest on the name of the Lord our God.

John 4:46-54

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. Jesus returns to the scene of his first miracle, Cana in Galilee (see John 2:1-11), where an opportunity for his second miracle presents itself. A royal official pleads for the life of his ailing son. Most likely this man was a Roman Centurion (officer over one hundred men) and not a Jew.

Pay close attention to …

  • Jesus’ criticism of the crowds who came to witness another miracle.
  • The royal official’s response to Jesus’ initially harsh answer and what it tells you about his faith.
  • The method Jesus used to heal the official’s son and what it tells you about his power.
  • The impact of the boy’s healing on the official and his household.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

3 John

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points?You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. 3 John is a personal letter from the Apostle John to Gaius, a missionary that John has left behind to pastor one of the churches that John planted. You’ll notice that John calls the people of Gaius’ church “my children” in verse 4. What does John’s greeting in verses 2-4 tell us about the nature of his relationship with Gaius and the disciples in that local church?

How does John describe the Christian life in verse 4? You’ll notice that this phrase also appears in 2 John. What is that gives John the greatest joy? Notice that John celebrates something that is ongoing, not something that occurred in the past. What does John warn Gaius against? What evil example is Gaius in danger of following? What was happening in Gaius’ church that should not have been happening?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

1 Kings 17:17-24

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points?You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. It happened that the widow’s son became ill unto death. “And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him.” (1 Kings 17:17 ESV) The poor widow now is now faced with a crisis of faith. Her memory became selective in the face of the death of her son. “And she said to Elijah, ‘What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!’” (1 Kings 17:18 ESV) She was preparing her last meal when Elijah arrived and he brought her through and now her son dies and she blames Elijah for this tragedy.

[ESV Study Bible Notes p. 633 “17:13 first make me a little cake. Against all parental instinct, the woman is asked to give Elijah something to eat first, before feeding herself and her son. This is to ask for a great step of faith.

“17:15 she and he and her household ate for many days. God looks after people not only in Israel but also on the Phoenician coast.

“17:18-20 You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son! The widow appears to have been convinced of the truth of Elijah’s religion by the demonstration of God’s power in vv. 8-16. When death does eventually catch up with the family, she knows that it must be the LORD’s doing; she blames God’s prophet for reminding God of her sin. Elijah concurs with her view about who is the ultimate cause (have you brought calamity … by killing her son?), but in his prayer he makes no comment on whether the widow’s sin was the human cause. In a world where there is only one true God, everything must in the end lie in his power.”]

Now Elijah has to do something to fix this problem. Elijah takes the boy up to his room and stretches him out on his mat and then prays: “‘O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?’ Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the LORD, ‘O LORD my God, let this child’s life come into him again.’ And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.” (1 Kings 17:20-22 ESV) No witnesses! Similar to when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:22 ff.) with only Jairus, his wife, and Peter, James, and John with him.

Elijah returns the boy to his mother who is understandably grateful: “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.” (1 Kings 17:24 ESV)

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

Daily Bible Readings – Thursday, September 19, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 74

Prayer Point. How do you pray when you lose something you believed was forever? That is the dark place this prayer originates. Asaph laments the destruction of his beloved city, Jerusalem, and God’s temple. He asks, “why have you rejected us forever, O God?” Think of someone in your life that is in this place and pray psalm 74 on their behalf.

Matthew 5:1-10

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? Using the following background as a guide.

Background. This passage, known as the Beatitudes, includes eight sayings that describe the virtues of a disciple in the kingdom of heaven. Each beatitude speaks of an inward quality of a disciple and a reward. What is the overall posture of a person who is called blessed according to these verses?  What is God looking for in a disciple or citizen of the kingdom? How is it different than the world’s understanding of a successful person?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

1 Corinthians 2:13-3:15

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background.  What role does the Holy Spirit play in our coming to know God?

Why does Paul consider the Corinthian church to be worldly and infantile?

How does Paul see himself, Apollos, and God working together and not in competition with each other? Think about Paul’s farming analogy. What roles do people play in spreading the message of Jesus? What role does God play?

Think now about Paul’s construction analogy. What is the foundation? Who builds the house? How will we know if our work has been of any value?

 Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

1 Kings 22:29-45 

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. How does Ahab futilely attempt to escape God’s judgment? How does he die in the end? What is significant about what happens to Ahab’s blood?

In all of Judah’s history there were four “good” kings and four “not so good” kings and the remainder were “bad” or evil kings in the LORD’s sight. They all had one thing in common: they were all descendents of David. Asa was the first of the “good” kings and he was succeeded by his son Jehoshaphat who also was good. As we have seen, Jehoshaphat and Ahab were contemporaries and it was Jehoshaphat who had established peace between the two nations.

In what ways what Jehoshaphat a righteous king? What did he fail to do?

As a religion, the worship of the God of Israel was quite demanding. Sacrifices to God could only be made at the temple in Jerusalem. Pagan worship on the other hand, was far more convenient. There were altars scattered throughout Israel on a high place near you. You didn’t need to go to Jerusalem. The Israelites adopted incorporated this practice into their worship of God by erecting altars on high places, eliminating the need to go to Jerusalem, but violating the command of God.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Repent. How have I failed to obey and share what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 119:73-96

Prayer Point. The God who made us is  the God we must obey if we seek to live with wisdom. His law are the path to life. But there are obstacles that block our attempts to follow him: our own ignorance, sin, and the brokenness of our world. What is getting in your way as you try to follow Jesus?  Lift those to God, ask him to remove them that we might live according to his will.

Matthew 4:18-25

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? Using the following background as a guide.

Background.

The highest aspiration for a young Jewish man in Jesus’ day was to become a rabbi. To become rabbi, you needed to become a rabbi’s disciple. This was not easy. Prospective disciples applied to the rabbis they wished to follow. If the rabbi believed that the young man had the intelligence and the integrity to do what he did, he accepted the prospective disciple with the words, “follow me.” If he rejected the young man, he would encourage him to go home and ply the family trade. (For more on this, check out the video “Dust” at http://nooma.com/nooma-dust-008-rob-bell.php )

What is different about the way Jesus accepted disciples? Who approached whom? What were Simon Peter and Andrew doing when Jesus called them to follow him? Why do you think Peter and Andrew did not hesitate to follow Jesus?

Why did Jesus’ fame spread so quickly? What was he doing? What was his message?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

1 Corinthians 2:1-13

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background.  The Corinthians, as did all Greeks, valued a speakers’ communication skills over the substance of their message just as a politicians today are judged by their ability to connect to the camera more than the validity of their ideas.

Pay close attention to …

  • Why Paul appeared to be weak to the Corinthians.
  • Why it was important to for Paul to communicate the Gospel in weakness.
  • The power that allows us to to know “the secret wisdom of God.”

 Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

1 Kings 22:1-28

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. The two kings of Israel (Ahab of the Northern Kingdom and Jehoshaphat of the Southern Kingdom) have come together to reclaim taken by the Arameans (Syria). Before they go to war, Jehoshaphat asks that they first inquire of the LORD. There is only one prophet left in Israel (the northern kingdom). Why does Ahab hate him? What note of sarcasm do you see in Micaiah’s initial “prophecy” to Ahab?

In Macaiah’s true vision, he sees Israel as a flock sheep scattered without a shepherd. Why? Because Israel’s kings have failed. It is no accident that when Israel’s true king arrives in Jerusalem hundreds of years later, this is what he saw:

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:35-36

How are the false prophets, who promised victory for Ahab and Jehoshaphat, part of God’s plan to bring judgment on Ahab?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Repent. How have I failed to obey and share what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.