Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, April 26, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 104

Prayer Point. Why is God worthy of our praise? He created our world; the valley, the mountains and the seas.  He has given rhythm to our world with days, nights, weeks, seasons and years. He is our provider and he is our Savior. Think about the world God has made, meditate on Jesus’ death and resurrection and offer God your own psalm of praise.

Mark 12:18-27

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. Both the Pharisees and the Herodians wanted to trap Jesus in his talk. The two groups couldn’t have been more diametrically opposed. The Pharisees held to a strict observance of the law. The Herodians were a loosely organized group who looked to advance the political and economic influence of the Herodian family. The Pharisees and Herodians were adversaries on many political and religious issues, but here we see them collaborating to trap Jesus and find cause to get rid of him once and for all.

The Pharisees and Herodians try to butter Jesus up with flattering speech. Jesus sees this as hypocrisy and calls them on it. Jesus knows they are trying to trap him, but notice how he answers them.

He asks for a coin which contains the image of Caesar on it. (This would have been an offense to any Jew because of the law which states that they should not make or bow down to any graven images). The likeness of Caesar and the inscription which read “Augustus Tiberius, son of the divine Augustus” would have been a definite slap in the face to any Jew who was looking for the messiah to come. On the other sign of the coin it read, “High Priest.” You can easily see why Jesus says to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

What is Jesus saying here to the Pharisees and Herodians as well as the disciples within earshot? What was Caesar’s and what was God’s according to Jesus?

Mark 12:18-27. Here the Sadducees come and try to trick Jesus. The interesting thing about the Sadducees is that they did not believe in a resurrection. So to ask Jesus a question about resurrection was quite scandalous. Of course Jesus knows right away that they are trying to trick him.

According to this passage what kind of relationships do we have in heaven? Is marriage an issue? How does Jesus demonstrate the reality of the resurrection from the Old Testament?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. 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 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.

2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10

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? You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. We’ve all seen it: the deterioration of old age, the ravages of cancer and other terminal diseases. Why shouldn’t these things cause us to lose heart? What do we have to look forward to that will overshadow our present sufferings? What guarantee has God given us so that we will know the certainty of God’s promises?

Why is death preferable in some cases for a Christian? If it is God’s will for us to continue to live, what goals should drive us in this life?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. 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 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.

Exodus 13:17-14:4

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.  Why doesn’t the LORD take the shortest route (through Philistia) to the “Promised Land”?  Why would the people be armed for battle as they make their way toward the “Promised Land”?  (“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter.  For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’” (Exodus 13:17 NIV)

To where does the LORD lead the people?  (The LORD led the people around the desert toward the Red Sea.)

Whose dying wish was fulfilled in this Exodus? (Joseph wanted his bones to be carried from Egypt to the Promised Land for burial.)

How does the LORD present himself to the people as they journey?  (The LORD appears both as a pillar of fire and a cloud to lead the people both day and night.)

What is the LORD’s plan for both Israel and Egypt?  (The Lord is planning on one more encounter with Pharaoh to show his power through him.)

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. 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 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 – Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 74

Prayer Point. How do you pray when you lose something you believed was forever?  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.

Mark 12:1-11

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. Jesus continuing in his role as a prophet, speaks a parable (a story) against the religious leaders in Israel. Considering the fact that in the Bible the vineyard was used as a symbol for Israel, who is the vineyard owner? Who are the tenants? Who are the servants in this parable? Who is the beloved son who is dragged outside of the city and killed? What does the owner of the vineyard do once his son his killed?

The story closes with a quotation from Psalm 118:22-23, “the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.” This stone is a reference to Jesus who is killed but is raised to life and becomes of the capstone of a new community of God’s people. This new community will include both Jews and Gentiles. In other words, the risen Christ becomes the capstone of God’s new people, the church, the ones to whom the vineyard is now given.

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. 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 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.

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11

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. Why did Paul change his mind and decide not to visit the Corinthians? Why did he write a letter instead (that letter happens to be 1 Corinthians)? What did he hope that his letter would accomplish? What does this say about the nature of Paul’s relationship with the Corinthian church?

In verse 5, Paul speaks of a man who had been punished by the community. It is likely that this man was the one Paul had exhorted the Corinthians to expel from their church (see 1 Corinthians 5:1-5) who was living with his father’s wife. The idea behind the expulsion was the hope that the man would feel the seriousness of his sin, repent and return to following Christ. Apparently this man had experienced this change of heart. How does Paul encourage the Corinthians to treat this repentant man? What danger is there in continuing to be harsh and unforgiving towards this man?

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.

Lamentations 2:1-9

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 background to help guide you.

Background. Verse 1.  With what is the LORD covering Zion?  From where is the LORD hurling the “Splendor of Israel”?  What is the LORD’s “footstool”?  (Isaiah 66:1; Matthew 5:35)

Verse 2.     What aspect of God described in this verse should all give us pause?  How were “the strongholds of the Daughters of Judah” torn down?  What has the LORD done to “her kingdom and its princes”?

Verse 3.      We have yet another description of what is going on in Jerusalem.   What is the metaphor used here?  Do you see a trend?  If it can happen to them can it happen to us today?  How is the approach of the enemy described? (verse 4)

In verse 4 the author combines the imagery of warfare and fire to paint a picture of Zion.  Why is all this destruction so meaningful in Jerusalem?  There is a spirit of presumption that Jerusalem would never be destroyed they could not imagine that God would destroy his own temple.

How is the LORD described in verse 5?  What had the people done to warrant this retribution?

What is the main target of the LORD’s wrath as depicted in verse 6?  What is the LORD’s attitude toward Jerusalem as characterized in verse 6?

It is my opinion that the Ark of the Covenant was stolen by the forces of Nebuchadnezzar.  How does verse 7 support my theory?

The destruction of Jerusalem appears to be personal.  What words used in verse 8 prove that to be true?  What is the significance of the “measuring line”? [Stretching out a measuring line was a prophetic image of impending destruction.]

Verse 9 shows that Jerusalem is completely laid waste.  What is the disposition of the king, the princes and the prophets?  What does “the law is no more” mean?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. 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 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, April 15, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 94

Prayer Point. We live in a world where the most vulnerable: widows, orphans, the unborn and refugees are often oppressed with impunity. Many say, “the Lord does not see.” Pray on behalf of the weak and the oppressed. Pray that God will be their fortress.

Mark 11:27-33

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 was not a Pharisee, nor was he a trained priest. He had not been schooled by one of Israel’s rabbis and so they questioned him, “by what authority do you do these things?” In other words, “who is your rabbi?” Jesus could have answered, “my rabbi is God the Father?” but they would have roundly rejected his answer. Instead Jesus puts them on the defensive by asking them a question.

Why can’t the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders not answer Jesus’ simple question? What heart motivation does Jesus expose in them?

Jesus refuses to answer their question because they are not prepared to put their faith in him. They are not interested in learning the truth, only to hang onto their power.

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. 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 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.

2 Corinthians 1:8-22

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 Roman province of Asia consisted of what we would call Western Turkey. Its largest city was Ephesus. Paul managed to plant a church in that city despite great opposition and suffering which you can read about in Acts 19.

What did Paul and Timothy learn from their suffering and despair in Asia (Ephesus)? How did the fact that God raises the dead give them hope? How did the Corinthians aid Paul and Timothy during this time of trial?

In verse 12 Paul speaks of God’s grace. One thing that might help you understand this passage is to know that Paul uses the term “God’s grace” in two senses. One describes the unmerited love and favor that God gives us through Jesus Christ. The other refers to the empowerment, or spiritual gifts, that God gives us through the Holy Spirit to enable to us to carry out the unique life mission that Jesus gives each of us. What did God’s grace enable Paul and Timothy to do? What benefit did the Corinthian church receive from their gifts?

Who is the “yes” of the promises of God? Who is the deposit guaranteeing that we will receive what God has promised in the future?

Here is one way to think about it. God the Father conceives the promises. Jesus, the Son makes the promises of God reality. The Spirit makes the promises real to one person at a time.

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.

Lamentations 1:17-22

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 background to help guide you.

Background. Why would the LORD decree that Jerusalem’s neighbors become her foes? (Verse 17?)

Why, according to verse 18 did the LORD send the young men and maidens into exile?

Why, according to verse 19, are people perishing in the City? (Jerusalem)

Verse 20 eloquently describes the goings-on in Jerusalem.  What is at the root of all this distress?

What is the imagery of Jerusalem’s plight?  What is the author’s request for his enemies?  Whom does he not blame?  (Verse 21)

Verse 22 echoes verse 21.  What doesn’t the author insist on?  Have you ever felt this kind of remorse for your own sins?  Rather than seek revenge by himself who does the author trust to address his enemies?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. 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 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, April 14, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 69

Prayer Point. “I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.” Are you or someone you know in this place? Lift up Psalm 69 as your prayer. After you cry out to God, meditate on the fact that the suffering man in this psalm is Jesus and that he entered our pain. We are not alone, because Christ suffered for us on the cross.

Mark 11:11-25

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. During his life on earth, Jesus filled three roles: prophet, priest and king. As king Jesus rules creation and calls us to follow and obey him. As priest, he offers himself as a sacrifice for our sin and prays to the Father on our behalf. As prophet, Jesus speaks the words of God the Father to us.

In Mark 11 Jesus is not unlike an Old Testament prophet who not only spoke their messages, they often acted them out. That’s what is going on with the fig tree. Jesus is not angry with the fig tree. He is angry with what the fig tree represents. The fig tree is a stand-in for Israel and the missing fruit were the missing acts of love for God and love for neighbor. Most importantly Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations; to show the world through their very lives the love of God. But that dream had long been lost and Israel was a fig tree without fruit.

What does Jesus find in the temple that confirms that Israel is “fruitless”? What was the temple supposed to be? What has Israel made it instead? Uncircumcised Gentiles were not allowed to worship God in the inner courts of the temple. There was an outer court set aside for them where they could pray. The problem was that the market was set up in the court of the Gentiles. Not only were people being ripped off, the Gentiles were being crowded out.

What do you think is the significance of the withered fig tree?

What two heart attitudes does Jesus insist must be present when we pray?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. 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 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.

2 Corinthians 1:1-7

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. Corinth was a prosperous Greek city located on a small strip of land that connected the northern and southern parts of Greece. The city as an important commercial center in southern Greece, Achaia, because it had ports with access to Rome on the west and Asia Minor (Turkey) in the east.

Let’s get some of the basic details of this letter down before we move on. What two men authored this letter? Who is the letter addressed to? Already we have a window into Paul’s missionary strategy. In Acts 18 we learn that Paul planted the church in Corinth, the largest city in the region of Achaia. The idea was to plant churches in the large cities with those churches carrying the gospel to the outlying areas. We see that this strategy is already working as there are Christians scattered through the region of Achaia.

Now that the formalities of Roman letter writing are out of the way, Paul begins the letter in verse 3 with a blessing. Why does Paul call God the “the God of all comfort”? What is the purpose of God’s comforting power in our lives? What two things flow into our lives from Christ? What is the purpose of distress in Paul’s and Timothy’s lives? How has God’s comfort in their lives impacted the Corinthians? What does Paul see in the Corinthian church that makes him hopeful in verse 7?

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.

Lamentations 1:1-2, 6-12

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 background to help guide you.

Background. Let’s begin with a definition of what a lamentation is or what it is not.  According Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (1975): lamentation (noun) an act or instance of lamenting. [How helpful is that?  It begs the question.]  lament (verb) to mourn aloud: WAIL; to express sorrow or mourning for, often demonstratively: MOURN; to regret strongly.  (noun) a crying out in grief: WAILING; DIRGE; ELEGY; COMPLAINT.  That is probably what most of us think of when we think of lament or lamentation.  The biblical definition goes a little further: “Lamentations is not an emotional outburst but a formal expression of grief in a high literary style.  However, each lament moves rapidly from one topic to the next, revealing that the writer’s soul is still in turmoil.  Like most elegies, the lyrics in Lamentations deal with profound loss by recollecting past glories and cataloging what is now gone forever, lamenting the finality of the losses while at the same time seeking consolation in present sorrows and some hope for the future.” [ESV Study Bible Introduction to Lamentations p. 1477]  So although we may associate mourning and grieving with lamenting, the biblical view includes an element of hope.

Lamentations is ascribed to Jeremiah though the book does not itself identify its author.  It was written sometime between the fall of Jerusalem (587 B.C.) and the renaissance of temple worship (in 516 B.C.)  Clearly, if Jeremiah is the author, the earlier date is more likely since he will be dead by 516 B.C.  The lamentations are poems written acrostically which means little to those of us confined to a language other than Hebrew.  It means that the first verse begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet; the second with the second and so forth until the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are expended.  What this means to us is that a great deal of thought and skill went into the writing of Lamentations.  The writer of Lamentations was no slouch.   There are five chapters of Lamentations.  Three chapters (1, 2, 4, and 5) each have 22 verses; the third chapter has three times as many verses as the other four.  If this is significant, it is lost on me.  [It is very important to remember that the “versing” of the scriptures was done long after the bible was compiled. – j.t.]

Verses 1-2 describes Jerusalem after the Babylonians have destroyed it (and its temple).  She is like a widow where once she was like a princess, she is now a slave.  Now she weeps and is deserted by her “lovers”; there is none to comfort her.  She is surrounded by her enemies.  All of this was foretold by Jeremiah and by other prophets, even Moses some 1,300 years before (Deuteronomy 32:15-38).  Verses 3-4 describe the desolation and the fear in Judah.  Judah now dwells among the nations (she had always thought herself better than they); there is no rest and as prophesied, she is overtaken by her pursuers.  Zion (i.e., Jerusalem) is desolate and there is no joy “and she herself suffers bitterly.” (Lamentations 1:4b ESV)  Verses 5-6 tell us that the writer knew why all this happened: “Because the LORD has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions”. (Lamentations 1:5a ESV)  Verse 6 tells us that the princes are without strength.  The heartbreak is that the people could not see that their strength was in the LORD and so relied upon their own, which always, like fuel, runs out.  David wrote about 400 years before: “The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalms 27:1b KJV)  Who were Jerusalem’s “lovers”? (The “nations” and their false gods.)  How is it that even now Judah does not repent?  (Pride)

Verse 7 tells us that “Jerusalem remembers” all the precious things from days of old.  Well, one of those things they did not remember was Psalm 27:1b.  We have seen time and again that the faith was poorly transmitted from one generation to the next.  In Josiah’s time the Book of the Law had laid lost in the temple for many years.  Josiah was so moved (or upset, or broken for Judah’s sake) that he donned a mourning attitude and thus launched his religious reforms throughout the land.  But even his sons “did evil in the sight of the LORD”.   Where is the disconnect?  “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.” (Deuteronomy 11:18-21 ESV emphasis added)  Verse 7 continues telling us that Jerusalem’s enemies mocked and gloated at her downfall.  What does Jerusalem remember?  (The precious things from days of old.  “The good old days.”  They, like us, remember what they want to remember, not necessarily the truth of the thing.)  Why could none help her?  Why was Jerusalem mocked and gloated over?  (None could help her because it was the LORD’s doing.  Jerusalem was mocked and gloated over as a result of her pride – she would not humble herself before God.)

Verse 8 says that Jerusalem had sinned grievously and that all who had honored her now despise her and have seen her “nakedness”.  This nakedness harkens to the image of a marriage: the LORD was Jerusalem’s (more specifically Judah’s and Israel’s) husband.  This imagery is also alluded to in verse 2 “Among all her lovers she has none to comfort her…” (ESV)  Seeing her nakedness means she had broken her marriage vows (covenant) with the LORD.  Idolatry was the means by which the covenant was broken.  We also see that Jerusalem discovers shame: “for they have seen her nakedness; she herself groans and turns her face away.” (ESV)  Why is the image of marriage so important?  (It describes the relationship of Israel [& Judah] to God.  This is a constant theme throughout the entire bible.)  What is the “nakedness” that was seen?

Verse 9 reiterates the violation of the marriage vows: “Her uncleanness was in her skirts.” (ESV)  There is a plea: “O LORD, behold my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed!” (ESV)  The ESV Study Bible suggests that the enemy was Babylon.  I think it goes much deeper than that.  Jerusalem was her own enemy.  She it was who did not listen to Moses and the prophets but “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you.” (Jeremiah 44:16 ESV) That, I think, is the enemy.  The result of the inattentiveness of Judah shows itself in that the present enemy (the Babylonians) have desecrated the temple “those whom you forbade to enter your congregation.” (v. 10b ESV)
What is meant by uncleanness? (Sinned grievously v. 8 – Idolatry – though not stated, is the prevailing sin against God.  Except for Josiah, all kings after him, “did evil in the sight of the LORD.)  Are we today guilty of the same thing?  How?

Verses 11 & 12 talk of the starvation rampant in Jerusalem during the fall of the city.  There is something like self-pity in verse 12 “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?  Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow which was brought upon me, which the LORD inflicted on the day of his fierce anger.”  There is a cross-reference in The ESV Study Bible to Daniel 9:12-15.  Daniel would have been written in about the same time-frame and certainly from a different perspective.  Daniel, at this time, was actually an exile in Babylon. “He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity.  For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem.  As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the LORD our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth.  Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice.  And now, O LORD our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.”  It was pretty clear to Daniel, who was hundreds of miles away, what was going on.  What does “starvation” refer to?  How is it symbolic of spiritual privation?  How does the passage from Daniel fit this situation?  (I think the people were so “dull of hearing” that they could not imagine that this chastisement from the LORD was warranted.  Daniel and the writer of Lamentations were keenly sensitive of Judah’s sins.)

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. 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 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 – Friday, April 11, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 143

Prayer Point. Does God hear the prayers of sinful people? This psalm reminds us that we would have no hope if he didn’t, for all people are unrighteous in the eyes of God, and yet he answers all those who call on him in faith. How are you empty today? What are you afraid of? Where do you need wisdom in your life?  Take these all today to our gracious God.

Mark 10:32-45

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 guide you.

Background. There is fear mixed with excitement as Jesus leads his disciples to Jerusalem. The disciples are afraid because the chief priests and teachers of the law, who were based in Jerusalem, were looking to kill Jesus. They are excited because they believe Jesus may be the Messiah and is about to establish the kingdom of God. They reasoned that as members of his inner circle, they would be given high positions in his new government. What the disciples don’t understand is that Jesus’ path to the throne leads to the cross. Instead of killing his enemies, he must first lay down his life for them.

Pay close attention to …

  • What Jesus says is going to happen to him.
  • The pressing argument that ensues among the disciples and how it demonstrates that the disciples don’t understand what is about to happen to Jesus.

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. 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 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.

2 Corinthians 4:1-12

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. We not only receive forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Christ, we receive a new calling; a new ministry. We are ministers of God’s new covenant, a new relationship with God where God gives his Holy Spirit to those confess their sins and place their trust in Jesus. Just as this new covenant gives us life, as ministers of this new covenant, we are to share this new life with others.

Pay close attention to …

  • How Paul presents God’s message to the world. What does he do? What does he not do? Why does he not try to change his tactics to convince those from whom “the gospel is veiled”?
  • The one that lifts the veil and allows the “light of knowledge” to shine in our hearts.
  • How our possession of the Gospel is compared to a treasure housed in jars of clay. What is the treasure? What are the jars of clay?
  • How God entrusting the treasures of Christ to us demonstrates his power, even through our suffering and death.

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.

Exodus 9:13-35

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 background to help guide you.

Background. You will have noticed that we are not discussing the plagues of flies, the plague on Egyptian (only) livestock; and the plague of boils.  Very briefly, while these plagues devastated all the lands and households of the Egyptians, the Hebrews were unscathed by any of them.

Again, the LORD sends Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh.  At this point someone should be afraid.  Moses might well be afraid to go to Pharaoh and certainly Pharaoh could easily be afraid of what Moses could do next.  Undaunted, Moses goes in to Pharaoh,  What is the next plague and what message does the LORD deliver specifically to Pharaoh?

[“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, “This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth.   For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth.”’” (Exodus 9:13-15 NIV)]

Why has the LORD been very patient with Pharaoh to this point?
[“But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:16 NIV)]

It is important to remember that these plagues afflicting Egypt are not for the Egyptians alone.  As stated above, these demonstrations of power are done to proclaim the name of the LORD to all the earth.  It is hoped that the Israelites might learn something from these object lessons visited upon the Egyptians.  What is the next plague?  Is there any distinction being made?
[The next plague is one of hail.  This hail storm came equipped with thunder and lightning and was touted as the worst ever in the land of Egypt.  Again, in order to prove that the LORD is author of this disaster, the land of Goshen (where the Israelites lived) will be untouched.]

Of course, when the disaster is passed, so is Pharaoh’s resolve to release the people.  This time Moses didn’t even bargain for Israel’s release.  Once Pharaoh summoned him to abate the storm, Moses told Pharaoh that he had not yet reached the point of repentance.  How do we know this?
[“Moses replied, ‘When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the LORD.  The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the LORD’s  But I know that you and your officials do not fear the LORD God.”

“So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had said through Moses.”  (Exodus 9:35 NIV)

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. 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 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, April 10, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 142

Prayer Point. David prayed this prayer while hiding in the back of deep, dark cave.  If you  know someone in this place pray Psalm 142 on their behalf today.

Mark 10:17-31

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 people of Israel in Jesus’ day were eagerly awaiting the Messiah. This Messiah would establish God’s kingdom on earth and those who were allowed to enter it were given the gift of eternal life. The question: who is in and who is out? The rich man who approached Jesus asked the same question this way: “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

The common belief was that good people; that is people who did a reasonably good job of keeping God’s commandments were in, and bad people were out. Riches were largely seen as a sign of God’s blessing so the disciples expected Jesus to reassure this man that had already done enough to inherit eternal life. Instead Jesus has a question …

Pay close attention to …

  • The only person Jesus considers to be “good.”
  • The man’s assessment of his record in keeping the 10 Commandments.
  • How Jesus exposes the one thing this man lacks. What he loves more than God and his neighbor (See also Mark 12:28-31).
  • Why it is difficult, but not impossible, for a wealthy man to enter the kingdom of God.
  • The reward that Jesus offers in this life as well as the next, to those who leave everything to follow him.

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. 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 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.

2 Corinthians 3:7-18

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. Paul continues his contrast between the “ministry that brought death” with its letters on stone (a reference to the Law and the 10 Commandments) and the “ministry of the Spirit”. You can not understand this passage without the background of Exodus 20 where God gives the 10 Commandments through Moses. When Moses descended from Mount Sinai with the stone tablets written by God his face radiated with such an intensity that the people could not look upon his face. They could not bear to look at the reflection of God’s glory on his face.

Now, Paul says, things are different. Through the followers of Jesus Christ, there is a new ministry of the spirit. How is this ministry of the spirit different from the old ministry of death? Notice especially what Paul says about the veil. Who takes away the veil that the people had previously begged Moses to wear? What happens in verse 18 to those with unveiled faces?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. 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 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.

Exodus 7:25-8:19

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 background to help guide you.

Background. This guy Pharaoh is going to be a hard nut to crack.  This was the first plague; there are yet nine more to go.  What is the next plague and what is the result?

[For the next plague Moses brings upon the land of Egypt frogs.  Not to be outdone, Pharaoh’s magicians also “bring up” frogs.   They were everywhere!  Everywhere!  So Pharaoh asked Moses to pray to the LORD to remove the frogs.  In order to show Pharaoh that this was from the LORD, he asked Pharaoh exactly when he would like the frogs to be gone.  Moses delivers.  The frogs suddenly die at the very hour designated by Pharaoh.]

The bible tells us that when Pharaoh sees relief, his heart is hardened.  He is still not listening.  What is the next plague?  What distinction is now being made?
[The next plague is one of gnats.  The gnats were covering everything – just like dust.  The difference this time is that Pharaoh’s magicians cannot produce gnats.  These priests tell Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” (Exodus 8:19 NIV)  Again, Pharaoh is unmoved.]

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. 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 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, April 9, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 130

Prayer Point. We have created the oceans of pain and misery in this world. So how can we expect God to hear us when cry out for mercy? Because with God there is forgiveness. Follow Psalm 130 in prayer today by lifting up to God the pain of your life and brokenness of our world. Thank him for his forgiveness. Make space in your life to wait quietly for his answer.

Mark 10:1-16

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. Neither women nor children were held in high regard in Jesus’ day. This was reflected in local attitudes towards marriage and divorce. The controversy around divorce that Jesus was asked to address centered on the question of when it was lawful for a husband to divorce his wife. It was taken as a given that a woman could not divorce her husband. Some rabbis believed that divorce was unlawful except in cases of infidelity, while others believed that husbands could end their marriage for any reason they chose. The Pharisees ask Jesus to weigh in on this question, not because they are interested in his opinion, but in hopes that his answer will alienate some of his followers.

Pay close attention to …

  • Why God allowed men to divorce their wives.
  • God’s perspective of marriage.
  • What Jesus teaches his disciples about divorce and remarriage.
  • Jesus’ attitude toward children.
  • How Jesus saw children as a model for those who would enter the kingdom of God.

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. 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 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.

2 Corinthians 2:14-3:6

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 uses the image of a military hero marching through a conquered city with prisoners of war parading behind him. Christ is the conquering king and Paul and all Christians are his prisoners captive not by force, but by the force of his love. What does God do through his captive people? Why do some find the  prisoners of Christ revolting while others find in them the fragrance of life?

What are the marks of a true messenger of Jesus? What will not motivate them?

Paul was a traveling missionary who planted new churches and encouraged existing ones. Local churches often asked these traveling ministers to come with letters of recommendation to prove their authenticity. What letters of recommendation does Paul offer the Corinthian church? What does this tell about the nature of Paul’s relationship with these Christians?

There was an Old Testament prophecy that declared:

Jeremiah 31:33 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

God had given his people Israel the Ten Commandments, the law written on tablets of stone. But as the saying goes, “you can’t legislate morality.” The law of stone could only point out our sin. It could not change us. So God announced through his prophet one day, that he would write his law on the hearts of the people so that they would love him. In other words, God himself would change the hearts of his people. Paul refers to this in 2 Corinthians 2:3-6 as the law written with the Spirit of God on the hearts of his people.

What was the result of Paul’s ministry to the Corinthians (see verse 3)? Where did Paul (and us) get the power to do this?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. 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 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.

Exodus 7:8-24

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 background to help guide you.

Background. Care to guess how old Moses was when he began his ministry to Pharaoh?

[Moses was eighty years old when he first spoke to Pharaoh.  With the LORD age doesn’t matter: eighty is still young enough to serve the LORD.  Aaron was even older – eighty-three.]

Moses and Aaron are strengthened by the LORD’s words (Chapter 6:1) and so march in to Pharaoh with great confidence.   What demonstration do Aaron and Moses perform before Pharaoh?  What are the results?
[Moses and Aaron make their staff become a serpent but Pharaoh’s magicians manage to do the same thing.  There was only one difference: Moses’ serpent devoured the serpents of Pharaoh.]

If Moses and Aaron thought this demonstration would soften Pharaoh’s attitude about letting the people go, they are in for a great disappointment.  On the contrary, Pharaoh’s heart becomes harder.  What is next in store for Pharaoh?
[Moses and Aaron will meet Pharaoh on the bank of the Nile there to taunt him into letting the people go.  Moses threatens Pharaoh that he will change the water of the Nile and the lakes and ponds into blood and not only that, he will also change the water in various vessels into blood.  Pharaoh’s magicians also made the water turn into blood.  Then the fish will die and there will be a great stench throughout the land.  The only water untouched will be that which is dug for out of the ground.  The water will be contaminated for seven days.   And yet, Pharaoh is unmoved.]

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. 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 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.