Daily Bible Reading – Friday, May 24, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 22

Prayer Point.  The psalmist wonders where God is when bad things happen.  Read this psalm once through and if you are experiencing suffering a dark time right now allow it be your prayer.  If this is not your experience, pray it on behalf of someone you know who is in this place.  Read it a second time and  this time look for glimpses of Jesus (see Mark 15:21-38).

Matthew 12:1-14

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” and “Pay close attention to …”  sections to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. The fifth commandment (Exodus 20:8) prohibited work on the Sabbath day (Saturday). The question was: “what constitutes work.” The Pharisees, who were devoted to obeying and teaching others to obey the Ten Commandments, developed an extensive list of activities that were banned on the Sabbath because they were “work.”  Two such activities appear in today’s reading: harvesting and healing.  Picking heads of grain and eating them were deemed work and therefore was declared to be against God’s law.

Jesus goes out of his way to defy the Pharisee’s interpretation of the Sabbath Law.  The Pharisees are outraged and demand to know just who Jesus thinks he is. The answer to that question goes to the heart of today’s reading.

A couple of more things to help you with today’s readings. Jesus will refer to King David eating bread from the temple which was ordinarily reserved for the priests.  That story can be found in 1 Samuel 21:1-9. He will also point out that the priests “break” the Sabbath Law in that they work on the Sabbath in order to serve the people.

Pay close attention to …

  • The two Old Testament examples Jesus cites in defense of his disciples’ actions.
  • What is more important to God than the strict, letter-of-the-law observance of his commands (verse 7).
  • The Son of Man’s (Jesus’) authority over the Sabbath (verse 8).
  • How Jesus demonstrates that the Pharisees’ belief that healing was not allowed on the Sabbath is completely absurd.
  • How the Pharisees respond to Jesus’ unassailable teaching.

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?

2 John 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” and “Pay close attention to …”  sections to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. While at first glance 2 John appears to be a personal letter to a woman and her family, it is far more likely that “the chosen lady and her children” is a reference to a local church and its people. We say this for two reasons:  (one) the church is often referred to as the ‘bride of Christ’; (two) ‘your chosen sister’ in 2 John 13 appears to be a description of the church John was staying with when he penned this letter.

Pay close attention to …

  • The source of John’s great joy.
  • The command he gives this church.
  • The false teaching of the deceivers that John warns against.
  • How the church is to treat false teachers.

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?

Deuteronomy 5:1-22

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” and “Pay close attention to …”  sections to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. Many years earlier (this being the fortieth year of their meandering in the desert) Moses had ascended Mount Sinai and to him was delivered the covenant in stone, as it were.  About three months after the spectacular defeat of the Egyptians in the Red Sea, Moses had spent forty days on Mount Sinai whereupon he received the Ten Commandments.  These ten items frame the most famous covenant in all of human history.  No one says that observing this covenant is easy [just ask St. Paul, he would know].  At one point of the Jews’ rebellion, Moses took the two tablets and broke them at the foot of Mount Sinai.  Later Moses cut out two more tablets of stone and the LORD re-wrote the Ten Commandments on them.

Pay close attention to …

  • The covenant at Horeb (v. 2 )
  • With whom the covenant was made (v. 3 )
  • How the LORD spoke with the people and their reaction (vv. 4-5 )
  • Review the Ten Commandments (vv. 6-21)

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?

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Daily Bible Readings – Friday, April 19, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 105

Prayer Point. Psalm 105 is a call to remember, thank, and praise the God who saves us.  Verses 10-45 tells the story of God’s faithfulness to Israel, but what is God’s story with you? Take time to remember those times when God saved you, offer him thanks and share that story with someone in your life.

Luke 5:12-26

Background. Lepers were outcasts in Jesus’ day. It was a highly contagious and fatal disease whose devastating effects on the nervous system was only surpassed by the loneliness of those who were afflicted by it.  Lepers had to leave their families and live outside the city.  They had to declare themselves to be “unclean” to all those who approached them.  To touch a leper made one unclean and placed them at risk of catching the disease.

A clean man who touched someone who was unclean, became himself unclean and needed to undergo an elaborate ritual in order to be eligible to enter the temple and worship God.  With Jesus this is all about to change.

The second healing in today’s reading is all about Jesus’ authority.  The Pharisees and teachers of the law have gathered from all around Israel in order to evaluate Jesus who brought with him new teaching with an authority that not been seen before.  They want to know where he received his authority since he had not been trained by any of the rabbis of their day.

Pay close attention to …

  • The method Jesus uses to heal the leper and what it says about his power, authority, compassion and courage.
  • Why the Pharisees and teachers of the law are so angered when Jesus forgives the sins of the paralyzed man.
  • Jesus’ purpose in healing the paralyzed man.  Note that “Son of Man” is a title Jesus used for himself that conveyed his divinity and power.  It is a reference to Daniel 7:13-14.

Listen. Believe. Obey. Share.

What is the passage saying? About God? About ourselves? (Listen)
What is God asking us to believe? (Believe)
What is God asking us to do? (Obey)
Who can we share this with? (Share)

2 John 1-13

Background. While at first glance 2 John appears to be a personal letter to a woman and her family, it is far more likely that “the chosen lady and her children” is a reference to a local church and its people. We say this for two reason:  one, the church is often referred to as the ‘bride of Christ’. Second, ‘your chosen sister’ in 2 John 13 appears to be a description of the church John was staying with when he penned this letter.

Pay close attention to …

  • The source of John’s great joy.
  • The command he gives this church.
  • The false teaching of the deceivers that John warns against.
  • How the church is to treat false teachers.

Listen. Believe. Obey. Share.

What is the passage saying? About God? About ourselves? (Listen)
What is God asking us to believe? (Believe)
What is God asking us to do? (Obey)
Who can we share this with? (Share)

Daniel 6:1-15

Background. A week ago (Thursday of last week) we examined Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream, the one where he wanted the magicians, soothsayers, astrologers and seers first to tell him his dream and then to interpret it.  In that dream Nebuchadnezzar saw a giant statue with a head of gold (that was Nebuchadnezzar, of course) and next was a chest of silver (the Medes and Persians) followed by thighs of bronze (Greeks) and finally legs of iron with feet made partly of iron and clay (Roman).

One down three to go!

Yesterday we saw the fall of the Babylonian Empire to the Medes under Darius.  With the advent of a new ruler, people have to prove themselves yet again.  Darius had installed 120 satraps (something like a governor) who themselves were supervised by three administrators; one of which was Daniel.  At this point Daniel is getting rather old and yet envy among his enemies has reared its ugly head.  Daniel’s administration was without flaw so his enemies sought to trap him by using his God as a catalyst.

Pay close attention to …

  • The strange law of the Medes and Persians (v. 8 )
  • The decree itself (v. 7 )
  • Daniel’s behavior (v. 10 )
  • Darius’ regret (v. 14 )
  • The enemies’ victory (v.15 )

Listen. Believe. Obey. Share.

What is the passage saying? About God? About ourselves? (Listen)
What is God asking us to believe? (Believe)
What is God asking us to do? (Obey)
Who can we share this with? (Share)

New Testament Reading Guide – December 26, 2011 – January 1, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

Colossians 1:9-20

The “book” of Colossians, is a letter from the Apostle Paul to the church that he planted in the city of Colosse. Paul has moved on in his missionary travels, but he continues to guide this young church through letters such as the one we are reading today. How does Paul pray for the Christians in Colosse? What kind of life does he want them to lead? Who will provide the power to live in this way? What has God done for us that causes us to respond with such a life (see verses 12-14)?

We often think of the tiny Christ child this time of year. How does Paul paint a different picture of Christ? Who is He? What has He done? What is He doing today? How is Christ related to God the Father?  What is Christ’s position over creation? When Paul calls Jesus the first born of creation it does not mean that Jesus was created along with everything else. Being God, Jesus has always existed. In fact Paul says in verse 15 all things were created by Christ. “First born over Creation” is a title referring to Jesus’ lordship over all that God has made and not the first thing that God the Father created.

What is Jesus’ position over the church? What is His mission today?

Why is it important for us to come to know Jesus in this way?

2 John. While it appears that 2 John is a personal letter to a woman and her family, it is far more likely that the phrase “the chosen lady and her children” is a description of a local church. The church is often referred to as the ‘bride of Christ’. If this is the case, ‘your chosen sister’ 2 John 13 refers to the church that John was staying with at the time he wrote the letter.

In American churches we are used to talking about the faith in the past tense: When were you saved? Last week 20 people accepted Christ. We speak of our faith as an event in the past, but John does the faith as way of life, a process that is lived every day. Notice how many times John uses the verb “walk” in this letter to describe the Christian life. List them out. How does this list challenge your understanding of what it means to be a Christian?

What is it that gives John great joy (see verse 4)? What is John’s command to the church (see verse 6)? How is love connected to God’s Law and his commands? 

Having laid out the Christian way of life, what false teaching does John warn against (see verse 7)?

3 John. 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?

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

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)?

Revelation 21:1-6

Revelation 21 is a vision, a dream given by the Holy Spirit to the Apostle John. The dream describes the world when Christ returns. What is new? What is gone? The sea was a symbol in the ancient world for evil and fear. The Holy City or the New Jerusalem is also a symbol. We now this because John describes the city as a “bride dressed for her husband.” “The bride of Christ” is language used throughout the Bible to refer to God’s redeemed people.  In fact, you can read the Bible truly as a love story of the hero “Christ” who lays down his life for the love of his life, the church.

Is the new heaven a place we go to? Where will God live in the end? What will He do when He arrives?

What special message does Jesus have for John in verse 6? Compare Jesus word’s to his message to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.

Revelation 19:11-16

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?

Colossians 3:12-17

The good news of Jesus Christ goes way beyond forgiveness although that would be reason enough to celebrate. Because of Christ, we are adopted into his family and given a new identity. We become his “chosen” beloved people. That is who we are having become followers of Jesus Christ. Now Paul exhorts us to live out our new identity. How are we called to live as “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved”? What is to motivate all that we do (verse 17)?


New Testament Reading Guide – May 9-15, 2011

How do I use this reading guide?

Introduction to 1 John

1 John is a letter from the Apostle John, close friend of Jesus, to the churches he oversaw in what is now western Turkey.  The letter was a circular letter, meaning that it was circulated among each of the churches and read aloud to the congregations.

1 John 3:19 – 4:6

Knowing that we belong to the Christ (the truth) is an important theme in John’s letters.  Where does our confidence come from if we fail?  Where does our confidence come from if we succeed?  What two things does God ask of us?  How are God’s commandments connected to our peace with God?  How can you tell the difference between the Holy Spirit and the spirit of the Anti-Christ?

1 John 4:7-21

How is knowing God and our love connected?  What was the definitive demonstration of love to the world?  An atoning sacrifice (some translations propitiation) is a sacrifice that silences God’s wrath towards our sin.  What comes first, our love for others or God’s love for us?  What do you think John means by ‘God’s love is perfected (or made complete) in us’?  In what way does the world see God through us?  For John, there is a deep connection between what a Christian believes and what a Christian does.  What does someone believe if God is living in them?  What does someone do if God is living in them?  Who is the power to love?  Why is it impossible to love God but hate your brother (fellow human being)?  

1 John 5:1-12

‘Born of God’ is one of John’s favorite descriptions of a true follower of Jesus.  (For a fuller explanation see Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3.)  What does someone who is ‘born of God’ believe?  Christ is the Greek word for Messiah or ‘Anointed One’, the hope of Israel, the Son of King David who would come and establish God’s kingdom.  What does someone who is ‘born of God’ do?  What is the connection between love and God’s commands?  What is the great obstacle to obeying God’s commands?  What John means by the world are human cultures and institutions that are still alienated from God.  How is the world overcome?  What do the Holy Spirit, the water (Jesus’ baptism) and blood (Jesus’ crucifixion) all testify to?

1 John 5:13-21

What is the purpose of John’s letter?  What should we do for a fellow Christian (brother) who has fallen into sin?  The phrase “sin unto death” is particularly difficult to interpret.  Some have suggested that it is a sin that leads to physical as in the case of Ananias and Sapphia (Acts 5:1-11).  It is more likely that John speaks of a spiritual death where the unbeliever makes a final and total rejection of the Gospel.  John Calvin in his commentary on 1 John warns us not jump too hastily to the conclusion that this has occurred and to hold out hope that there will be a restoration of the person’s faith.  What will someone who is born of God not do?  Verse 18 can be a little confusing because there is ‘anyone who is born of God’ and ‘the one who was born of God’.  Most likely ‘anyone who is born of God’ refers to any Christian and ‘the one who was born of God’ refers to Jesus (see John 17: 11-12).  The world is a formidable opponent.  What has God done to empower us to overcome the world?  Look at verse 21.  Why do you think John ends the letter the way he does?

2 John 1-13

While it appears that 2 John is a personal letter to a woman and her family, it is far more likely that the phrase “the chosen lady and her children” is a description of a local church.   The church is often referred to as the ‘bride of Christ’.  If this is the case, ‘your chosen sister’ 2 John 13 refers to the church that John was staying with at the time he wrote the letter.

In American churches we are used to talking about the faith in the past tense: When were you saved?  Last week 20 people accepted Christ.  Notice that John speaks of faith in the present tense. What present tense phrase does John use to describe true faith?  How does that phrase challenge our understanding of what it means to be a Christian?  What is it that gives John great joy?  What is John’s command to the church?  How is love connected to God’s Law and his commands?  What if the law of God wasn’t simply a collection of rules showing us what to avoid?  What if the law of God is an exposition of what it means to love, specifically what it means to love God and love your neighbor.  How does that change things?

Having laid out the Christian way of life, what false teaching does John warn against?

3 John 1-15

3 John is a personal letter from the Apostle John to Gaius, a missionary that John has left in charge in one of the local churches.  In the early church, hospitality, particularly for traveling missionaries and teachers was vitally important.  Look for this theme in this short letter.

What does John’s greeting tell us about the nature of his relationship with Gaius and the disciples in that local church?  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?  

1 Peter 5:1-11

The New Testament church was lead by multiple leaders called elders who were responsible for teaching in the local church and its spiritual direction.  What advice does Peter give the elders? Notice that Peter considers himself to be an elder.  The commands he passes on to his fellow elders is the same command that Jesus entrusted to him:

John 21:16 Again Jesus said, “Simon [Peter] son of John, do you truly love me?” … “Take care of my sheep.”

What rewards are elders to look forward to?  What is Peter’s advice to the young men?  Why do you think these specific commands were directed towards the young men?  What enemy does Peter alert them to?  What hope do we all have to look forward to?