Daily Bible Readings – Sunday, December 15, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 63

Prayer Point. Are we hungry and thirsty enough to reach out to God? Meditate on the promises of this psalm. Confess our lack of faith in these promises. Pray for the faith to believe that God, not money, not relationships, will satisfy us.

John 5:30-47

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 Law of Moses, the law given to Israel by God, summarized by the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20), required all legal testimony to be verified by two or three witnesses.  Jesus is claiming to be the Son of God, but the crowds are skeptical. The implied question is: where are the two witnesses to support your outlandish claims?

Pay close attention to …

  • Why Jesus doesn’t need John the Baptist (see  John 1:19-36 for John’s story) as a witness.
  • The witnesses that verify Jesus’ teaching.
  • The reason the Jews missed Jesus even though they were experts of the Bible (see verses 37-47).

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.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

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. We worship one God, but this one God exists as three persons: the Father,  the Son and the Holy Spirit.  All three worked together to bring the universe into existence. Today’s reading celebrates that all three, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, work together to bring about our salvation.

Paul, the author of this letter, will mention a few terms that warrant some explanation:
Gospel. Good news or specifically the message that the Jesus we crucified by our sin has been raised from the dead by power of the Holy Spirit and elevated by the Father to the throne from where he now rules as eternal king of the universe. Jesus, our new king, offers the promise of forgiveness and eternal life to all those who humbly return to him, confess their sin and believe this good news.

Sanctifying.  The process of becoming holy. Through God, not only is sin’s guilt forgiven, but its power is slowly destroyed. We have been saved through Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are being saved in that God is slowly sanctifying us and making us more like Jesus.  We will be saved in that one day we will stand before God sin-free.

Pay close attention to …

  • The distinct roles that the Father (God), the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit (Spirit) play in our salvation (verses 13-14).
  • How we are to respond to God’s initiative (verse 15).
  • Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians and for us (verses 16-17).

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.

Amos 9:11-15

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. In verse 11 to what does “that day” refer? What plans does the Lord have for “that day” once the destruction is complete? What kind of abundance is in store for “that day”? What is the supreme hope in this final passage? [“‘I will bring back my exiled people Israel; … I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,’ says the LORD your 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.

 

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Daily Bible Readings – Saturday May 12, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 75

Prayer Point: When we look at the choas and injustice of the world it is easy to conclude that God is either weak or uncaring. Psalm 75 invites us to think again. It is God who “holds the pillars of the earth firm” and “brings one [leader] down and exalts another.” Pray for the faith to believe this so that we can live patiently waiting for God’s justice and not life lives of fear and anger.

Matthew 7:13-21

Jesus sees only two paths through life. One leads to eternal life, the other leads to eternal destruction.
What is it that makes the Christian life, ‘the road to life,’ a ‘narrow road’; and the ‘road to destruction’ a ‘wide road’?

Prophets had a prominent teaching role in the early days of the church, delivering messages from God . The trouble was, how could you tell a true prophet from a false prophet? What is it that differentiates a false prophet from a true prophet? What sort of ‘fruit’ should they be looking for?

2 Thessalonians 3:1-18

You might have noticed that Paul’s relationship with the Thessalonian church is not a one way street. What two things does he ask them to pray on his behalf? How does Paul pray for them?

Verses 6-15 contain some final instructions as the letter draws to a close. What example has Paul set for the Thessalonians that he expects them follow? What sin are they to avoid? What should be done with fellow believers who refuse to heed Paul’s warning? What is the purpose of such treatment?

Leviticus 23:23-44             The Feasts of the LORD (Part Two)

Chapter 23 goes into greater detail regarding the feasts of the LORD which occur in the seventh month (that would correspond with our September – October.) The Feast of Trumpets: the Jewish New Year. Since there were no written calendars rampant throughout Israel a system was developed to announce the beginning of the month. The system chosen upon was that of announcing the new month with the blasts of the trumpet. However, in the seventh month, this was to be a sacred celebration which was launched by a gathering of the sacred assembly. So the first day of the seventh month was to be a Sabbath to the LORD. Today we know this day as Rosh Hashanah.

What is next on the agenda for the seventh month (see verses 26-32)? (The next big event – perhaps the biggest in the year – is the “Day of Atonement”.)
How important does the LORD view this Day of Atonement? (“Do not work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God. Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people. I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day. You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. It is a sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. (Leviticus 23:28-32 NIV))

What day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement? (The Day of Atonement is to be celebrated on the tenth day of the seventh month. v. 26)
The Feast of Tabernacles can be described in two ways. Can you describe them? (The Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths) might be likened to a celebration at the harvest. The celebration begins with a sabbath of a solemn assembly and is marked by the people living in booths or tabernacles.)
What is the point of living in tents (or booths or tabernacles) for seven days? (“Live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt.” (Leviticus 23:42-43 NIV))

Daily Bible Readings – Friday May 11, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 106

Prayer Point: Psalm 106 is a psalm that looks back at the story of Israel and remembering the countless times God remain faithful despite Israel’s unfaithfulness. It shouldn’t surprise us that the psalm begins and ends with the words “Praise the Lord.” Take some time today to think about your own life. Remember the times when you failed God.  Recall the times that God has been faithful to you and offer him your own prayer of praise.

Matthew 7:1-12

Judging, according to Jesus, is a final “writing off” of a person.  ”You will never amount to anything.”  ”You will always be a liar, and I will never trust you.”  What will happen to those who judge and condemn other people?  Does Jesus command, ‘do not judge’, preclude the possibility that we might have to point out the sin in another person?  What must we do before we approach someone and point out their sin?

“Do not give dogs what is sacred, do not throw pearls to pigs …”  (verse 6)  This verse is difficult to understand and there is wide range of opinion as to what it means.  My best guess is that Jesus is drawing a contrast between giving yourself to people and putting your exclusive trust in God which follows in verses 7-11.  The “sacred” and the “pearls” would refer to the giving of our trust to another.  Will it be a fallen human being, or to God?

How are we to ask God for good gifts?  How are we to see Him?  How are we to see ourselves?

How does Jesus sum up the Old Testament Law in one sentence (see 7:12)?

2 Thessalonians 2:1-17

When Paul talks about the “day of the Lord” he means the day of Christ’s return to earth when evil will be destroyed and God’s kingdom will be fully established on earth forever. Apparently there were teachers who had come through Thessalonica teaching that Christ had already returned. You can imagine the confusion and concern this would have caused them. What two things, according to Paul, must happen before Christ’s return (verses 3-4)?

The figure described in verses 3 and 4 as the “man of lawlessness” and the “man doomed to destruction” has come to be known as the “Anti-Christ.” This Anti-Christ is not Satan himself, but a person through whom Satan acts. You can think of him as a counterfeit Jesus who falsely claims to be God.

This did not mean that Satan was not operating in the world at that time (see verse 7), but the final expression of Satan’s power was being withheld until just before his end (see verse 6). It will distressing to see the counterfeit “Jesus” come. Why shouldn’t Christians despair when it does happen? How will the deception of the masses serve God’s purposes (see verses 9-12)?

Why is Paul confident that the Thessalonian Christians won’t be deceived (verses 13-14)? What role did each member of the Trinity, God the Father (God), God the Son (Lord Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit (the Spirit), play in the salvation of the Thessalonian Christians (verses 13-14)?  What are the Thessalonian Christians called to do in response to God’s salvation?  What does Paul pray that God the Father and God the Son will do for them as they respond to God?

Leviticus 23:1-22             The Feasts of the LORD (Part One)

What is special about the sabbath?  (“There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly.  You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the LORD.” (Leviticus 23:3 NIV))

This is clearly outlined in the fourth commandment “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.”  What does the Sabbath represent?  (The Sabbath reminds us that the LORD made all of creation in six days and rested on the seventh day.  If it is good enough for God it shall be good enough for all of us.  The Sabbath will be restored, along with everything else, once Jesus returns.)

When is the Passover to begin?  (The Passover is to be observed on the evening of the 14th day of the first month (March – April) and is to last for seven days.)

The principal feature about the Passover is the absence of ________________________.  (Yeast or leaven)
How are the beginning and the ending of the Passover celebrated?  (There is to be a sacred assembly and no one is to do any regular work.  These, then, become Sabbaths to the LORD.)

What is the next feast described? (The next feast is the Feast of the Firstfruits.)

What would be the purpose of the Feast of the Firstfruits?  (The Feast of the Firstfruits was to give thanks to the LORD for the coming harvest.  Typically the barley would be the first crop which would be followed by the wheat harvest.  So the Feast of the Firstfruits would be both a thanksgiving for the LORD’s bounty as well as the promise of more bounty to come.)

The offering to the LORD was to be a sheaf of the first grain; a sacrifice of a lamb a year old (without defect, of course); a grain offering of  two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil which is offered by fire, and a quarter of a hin of wine.  [An ephah was about 3/5 of a bushel – whatever 1/5 of that was = the offering;  a hin equals about 4 quarts (a gallon) and in this case a quart of wine.)  What was prohibited until the very day this offering was made?  (One must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain.)

Roughly how much time elapses between Passover and the “Feast of Weeks”?  (There are approximately 50 days between Passover and the Feast of Weeks.)

What is the rendering of this feast in the New Testament?  (The New Testament uses the Greek terminology for this time-frame: Pentecost, i.e., fifty days)

What is the reminder regarding the reaping of the harvest in verse 22?  (The reminder is not to glean the excess of the harvest, but rather, to leave it for the poor and the alien.)

Daily Bible Readings – Thursday May 10, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 70

Prayer Point: Are you or someone you know in a place where the only prayer that comes to mind is “help”? Psalm 70 is one of those “help” prayers. Offer Psalm 70 on behalf of yourself or someone you know that is in this desperate place.

Matthew 6:25-34

Worrying about the necessities of life is a universal human experience even here in the United States where few of us have known true hunger.  How is it possible not to worry about such things?  What does Jesus point to as examples of God’s faithfulness?  What would we have to believe about God in order to not worry for food, clothes and shelter? What should consume our thoughts if not the basic necessities of life?

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

Paul, Silas, and Timothy were a missionary team who traveled through what is now Syria, Turkey, Macedonia, and Greece preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and establishing new churches for those who placed their faith in Christ. Once the church was established, the team traveled on to the next city, but the support continued in the form of letters such as 2 Thessalonians.

What is it about the new church in Thessalonica that causes Paul to be thankful? What hope does Paul give the Thessalonians to inspire them to continue persevering in the faith despite their experiences with persecution? Whom will they see in the end? Who will be shut out of this joy?

It was this faith that freed the early Christians to love their enemies. It was not their job to exact revenge on their enemies. That was God’s job. Their job was stand firm and leave all thoughts of retaliation to God. In some cases, it was the faithful courage of early Christians that caused their oppressors to become Christians themselves.

Leviticus 19:26-37        More of the Same (Various Laws)

“Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it.  Do not practice divination or sorcery.”  Why would there be a law against eating meat with the blood still in it?  (In fairness, you will have to refer to Chapter 17 verse 11 which states: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for one’s life.  Therefore I say to the Israelites, ‘None of you may eat blood, nor may an alien living among you eat blood.’”  What is interesting is that the laws the LORD set forth are not limited to only the Israelites but to for foreigner among them as well.  Okay, I can’t find among the Ten Commandments how this prohibition would fit in.)

Why is there a prohibition against sorcery or divination?  Were not the prophets “diviners”? (The prophets of Baal were considered “diviners” whereas the prophets of the LORD were considered “seers”.  That may seem like semantics or “hair-splitting”, but it is a valid distinction.  The false prophets “prophesy” what they think the king wants to hear.  The LORD will send a spirit of delusion among these false prophets so that they believe their own deceptions.  1 Kings Chapter 22 recounts a vivid encounter of one true prophet of the LORD against four hundred or so prophets of Baal.  Here the four hundred plus prophets are advising the king (Ahab) to go to war against the king of Aram to reclaim the territory known as Ramoth Gilead.  Ahab, the king of Israel, has asked Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, to join him.  Jehoshaphat makes only one request: that Ahab seek the LORD’s counsel.  Now Ahab trots out the only prophet of the LORD in Israel.  Micaiah, the true prophet at first urges on Ahab, evidently in such a sarcastic manner that it prompts Ahab to say: “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?” (1 Kings 22:16 NIV)  Micaiah continues: “‘I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the LORD said, “These people have no master.  Let each one go home in peace.”  The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?’  Micaiah continued, ‘Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right hand and on his left.  And the LORD said, “Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?” … Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, “I will entice him.”  “By what means?”  The LORD asked.  “I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,” he said.  “You will succeed in enticing him,” said the LORD.  “Go do it.”’  ‘“So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours.  The LORD has decreed disaster for you.’”  Clearly Ahab was unimpressed with Micaiah’s encouraging words and sentenced him off to prison until he should return victorious, to which Micaiah replies: “If you ever return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me.”  (1 Kings 22:1-28 NIV)  The principal reason to avoid diviners, soothsayers, fortunetellers is because they provide inroads of evil spirits into one’s life.   Another event regarding fortunetellers can be found in 1 Samuel Chapter 28 where Saul consults the Witch of Endor.  Again, a wrong turn for Saul.  Here the witch actually brings up Samuel’s spirit whereupon Samuel condemns the act and informs Saul that his life will end on the morrow.  Exciting reading!  All of this just for divination and sorcery!)

Verse 27 talks of not cutting the hair at the sides of your head or clipping off the edges of one’s beard.  These prohibitions were instituted because this was the type of thing the Canaanites practiced.  The Jews were to remain separate.  This practice is still observed by many orthodox Jews even today.

The laws against cutting one’s body and applying a tattoo (for the dead) to the body again reflect the practices of the heathen of the land.  While I have no personal opposition to tattoos on people, nowadays the tattoos are going a bit far – both in number and in graphics.  Anyway, an argument could be made against tattoos by virtue of the fact that the believers’ body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 29 is self-explanatory.   Prostitution, not good.  Judah, one of Joseph’s older brothers had dealings with a prostitute (or so he thought).  See what happened to him in Genesis Chapter 38.

Verse 30 is another reminder to “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy”, the fourth commandment.

Verse 31 revisits which verse from above?  (Verse 26b)

Respect for the elderly is emphasized in verse 32.  Why is it important to respect the elderly?  (The elderly have earned wisdom – they have had experiences which can help to guide the generations behind them.  In our society we have a tendency to warehouse our older people.  The psalmist (David, in this case,) had good things to say about them: “The righteous will flourish like to palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.  They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green proclaiming, ‘The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’”   (Psalm 92:12-15 NIV))

Why is the alien or foreigner to be treated just as one of the people of Israel?  (“Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:34 NIV))

Verses 35 & 36 deal with keeping honest weights.  What command supports this action?  (The eighth command – “You shall not steal.”  Cheating, stealing, dishonest gain… all of those are covered under the eighth commandment.)

New Testament Reading Guide – November 28 – December 4, 2011

How do I use this reading guide?

2 Peter 1:1-11

The author of the letter is Simon Peter, one of the twelve disciples and one of the original leaders of the church in Jerusalem. ‘Simon’ was his birth name. ‘Peter’ was the name given to him by Jesus.

How does Peter identify himself in relation to Christ? The word ‘apostle’ means ‘one who was sent’, a messenger who is sent to deliver a message created by another.

How does Peter identify those who will receive the letter?

As with most letters from the Roman world, the letter opens with a greeting or blessing in verse 2. What does Peter pray that his readers will receive? How will they receive it?

Now that Peter has opened the letter with the preliminary greetings in verses 1 and 2, he now begins the body of his letter. He begins with an exhortation…

2 Peter 1:5-ff For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness …

In other words, Peter wants his readers to grow as followers of Jesus. What must we believe about Jesus in order grow as his followers (see verses 3-4)? What is our problem if we are not growing (see verse 9)? What hope gives us the strength to persevere today (verse 10-11)?

2 Peter 1:12-21

Peter sees it as his mission in life to remind his readers of ‘these things’ (verse 12). What ‘things’ are Peter referring to (see verses 16-21)?

Peter is an eyewitness to ______________________. (verses 16-18, see also Matthew 17:1-8)

And we have the __________________________ made more certain. (verse 19)

Why should the message Peter delivers be trusted?

Why is it so urgent for Peter to remind these Christians of things they already know (verses 12-15)? Why must we be reminded of these things daily?

2 Peter 3:1-10

As Peter closes his letter, what two things does he want his readers to remember (verse 2)? What warnings does he have for them (verses 3-7)? Peter, in verses 3-7, alludes to the Old Testament story of the Great Flood (Genesis 6:1-9:17).

The story of the great flood is one of judgment and rescue. God’s faithful people, Noah and his family, are rescued through the destruction of an evil world through the flood waters. After the flood, Noah and his family enter a new world purged of evil, but not forever. Peter compares Noah’s experience to the future “day of the LORD” when God will return and set this world to rights. What will the day of the LORD be like? How will it be similar to the Great Flood? How will it be different? How long will we have to wait? How have some misinterpreted the slowness of God? Will we be able to predict when it will happen?

2 Peter 3:11-18

What kind of life should we live while we wait for the “day of God” (God’s final judgment of the world)? While this world will be destroyed, what hope do God’s people look forward to? A ______________________ AND a _________________________ (verse 13)? The Lord’s patience meant that the suffering of Peter’s readers continued for the short-term as the “day of God” was delayed. What good comes from God’s slowness? As the letter comes to close, what does Peter perceive as the greatest threat to the church while it waits for the return of Christ? What should we grow in while we wait for the return of Christ?

Jude 1-16

The author Jude is the brother of James and the half-brother of Jesus.

How does Jude identify himself? How does he address the Christians he is writing to? What has God the Father done for them in the past? What is the Father doing for them in the present? What is Christ doing for them as the letter is written? Have you ever thought about how the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) holds your faith together?

What is Jude’s central concern as he opens the main body of the letter in verse 3? What false teaching does he attack in verse 4?

The concept of grace, where God gives forgiveness and love to people who don’t deserve it, was a central theme of early church teaching. It was important for people to understand that one could not earn salvation through their obedience to God’s law. God’s law condemns every human being. God’s blessings can never be payment for a life well-lived. They can only be given on the basis of grace, a gift from God to a people who have failed to earn it.

But there was a twisting of grace that concerned Jude. If God saves me by grace and not by what I do, then I can sin anyway I want. It doesn’t matter. I am forgiven. Grace became a “license for immorality” (Jude 4) in other words.

Jude uses a number of Old Testament stories to warn us against turning grace into a license to sin. What happened to the Israelites who were saved by grace from Egypt, but failed to continue trusting in God? What happened to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah who spurned God all together (see Genesis 18:16-19:29)?

How have Jude’s opponents ignored these warnings and turned grace into a license to sin (verses 8-16)? What sorts of sin are they engaging in? By the way, angels were regarded by Jews and the early Christians as messengers of God, which is what the word angel means. To speak against an angel was to speak against God. The story of the devil disputing with the angel Michael was a story from Jewish tradition, although it is not in the Old Testament. The point is that Jude’s opponents have the audacity to do what even the devil was afraid to do.

Jude 17-25

How are Jude’s readers to withstand the attack of these false teachers? Why should they ignore their teaching? It is not enough to shut their ears to the lies, they must fill their minds with the truth. How are they to ‘build themselves up’ in verses 20-21? How are they to treat those who are struggling with their faith (verses 22-23)?

Verses 24-25 are a closing prayer that is often used as a benediction today as a closing to a worship service. Who makes this possible for us to stand firm? Why is God worthy of our faith and our praise?

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

Paul, Silas, and Timothy were a missionary team who traveled through what is now Syria, Turkey, Macedonia, and Greece preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and establishing new churches from among those who placed their faith in Christ. Once the church was established, the team traveled on to the next city, but the support continued in the form of letters such as 2 Thessalonians.

What is it about the new church in Thessalonica that causes Paul to be thankful? What hope does Paul give the Thessalonians to inspire them to continue persevering in the faith despite their experiences with persecution? Whom will they see in the end? Who will be shut out of this joy?

It was this faith that freed the early Christians to love their enemies. It was not their job to exact revenge on their enemies. That was God’s job. Their job was stand firm, and leave all thoughts of retaliation to God. In some cases, it was the faithful courage of early Christians that caused their oppressors to become Christians themselves.


New Testament Reading Guide – May 23-29, 2011

How do I use this reading guide?

Colossians 3:18-4:18

Wives were called to submit to their husbands and slaves to their masters because in the ancient world they were believed to be inherently inferior.  For who sake are wives, children and slaves called to submit to oppression?  Who are slaves, wives, and children really serving?  What is promised to those who endure suffering?

The ancient world also demanded blind obedience to husbands, fathers, and masters without demanding that those in authority act responsibly to those under them.  Paul’s teaching is revolutionary.  He addresses those who are in authority.  What does Paul have to say to husbands, masters, and fathers? It is interesting that one member of Paul’s mission team, Onesimus, was a freed slave.   For more information see the book of Philemon.

What are Christians to devote themselves to?  How are they to interact with outsiders?  How are they to speak?

What does the conclusion of the letter tell you about Paul’s relationship with his missionary team and the Colossian church?  What do they do for each other?  

Romans 12:1-21

What are we called to do in response to what God has done for us?  How are we to relate to God?  How are we to relate to others?

What metaphor does Paul use to describe the church?  What are we?  How does each individual in the church serve the whole?  What is it that determines each person’s role in the church?

How does Paul apply the command ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ for the Roman Christians?  How are they to love their fellow Christians?  How are they to love non-Christians? 

Romans 13:1-14

How are Christians called to relate to the governments they live under?  Why?  Do you think this includes corrupt and oppressive governments?  Think about the government the Roman Christians lived under.

How does Paul summarize the second half of the Ten Commandments (Romans 13:19)?  What are we to do as we wait for the return of Jesus (this is what Paul means by ‘the night is almost over the day is almost here’)?  Should we spend time speculating about when Jesus is coming or is God calling us to do something else?

Romans 14:1-12

In a church there are going to be some people who have stronger faith and others who have weaker faith.  For Paul, strong faith is related to a better understanding of Jesus, the gospel, and how it is lived out.  How are those of strong faith to treat those of weak faith?  Why? 

Romans 14:13-23

What freedom does Paul chose not to exercise?  Why does he choose to give it up?  For what purpose are we sometimes called to give up our rights and freedoms?

Romans 15:1-13

What should the strong do for the weak in a church community?  What should we do for each other?  What does Paul pray that God will do for the Roman church (see verses 5-6 and verse 13)?  Who modeled for us what it means to accept another Christian?  What two groups of people, who had been enemies, have now been brought together in the church of Jesus Christ?

1 Timothy 3:14-4:5

1 Timothy is a letter from Paul to Timothy, Paul’s “son in the faith”.  Timothy was a young missionary who was personally mentored by Paul.  He traveled with Paul planting churches across the Roman Empire.  At the time this letter was written, Timothy is now on his own.  Paul continues to guide him through letters such as this one.

What was the purpose of Paul’s letter to Timothy?  What is the church according to Paul?  What is the foundational truth upon which the church was built?  By the way, the ‘he’ in verse 16 is Jesus.

What challenges will the church face?  In the Roman Empire, the dominant intellectual force was the remnants of Greek philosophy.  The Greeks taught the physical world was evil while the spiritual world was good.  These ideas began to filter their way into the church.  Does Paul agree with the Greeks?  Is the physical world good or bad?  Why or why not?


New Testament Reading Guide – May 16-22, 2011

How do I use this reading guide?

Colossians 1:1-14

The book of Colossians follows a certain structure typical of letters written in the 1st Century.

  • From (verse 1) – Who is the letter from?
  • To (first half of verse 2) – Who is the letter addressed to?
  • Greeting (second half of verse 2)
  • Thanksgiving and Prayer (verses 3-14) – What two things is Paul thankful for regarding the Church in Colosse?  What is Paul’s ongoing prayer for them?  

Colossians 1:15-23

Who is Christ according to Paul?  What was Christ’s role in the beginning of creation?  What is Christ’s ongoing role in creation?  Who is Christ in relation to the church?  What is God the Father accomplishing in the world through Christ?  For what purpose has God reconciled us to himself through Christ?  How do we hang on to what Christ has accomplished for us?

Colossians 1:24-2:7

Colossians 1:24 … I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.

This is not to say that Christ’s suffering and death was not sufficient to pay for our sins, but that the suffering of Christ’s followers demonstrates to the church and the world the infinite value of Jesus and his gospel.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is worth living, suffering and dying for.

How does Paul understand his identity in relation to the church?  What is his mission for the church?  How does Paul’s understanding of his mission and identity allow him to endure suffering?  

We receive Christ by faith.  We believe the message of the gospel and repent of our sins.  That is how we begin our journey following Christ.  According to verses 6-7 how do we continue to follow Jesus?  

Colossians 2:8-23

Paul’s letter to the Colossian Christians was written in the midst of the first controversy that gripped the early church.  Do you need to convert to Judaism and become a practicing Jew in order to be a true follower of Jesus?  Those who insisted that Gentiles follow Jewish practices were called ‘Judaizers’.  This question had profound implications for the many Gentiles (non-Jews) who were part of the Colossian church.  Would they need to be circumcised (a ritual that every Jewish male went through to demonstrate that they had entered God’s family)?  Would they need to follow Jewish cultural practices (see verse 16)?

Where does Paul come down on this question?  Why?  According to Paul what is the true circumcision done by Christ?  Were the old Jewish practices a mistake or did they serve a purpose?  Why were the old Jewish practices no longer necessary?  What have the Judaizers lost according to Paul?  What are human regulations unable to do for us?

Colossians 3:1-11

There is a pattern to Paul’s teaching that scholars have called ‘the indicative and the imperative.’

  1. This is who you are because of Christ.
  2. Now be who you are.

This pattern appears in verses 1-2 and 3-10.  In each case, who are we because of Christ?  How do we live out of the identity that Christ has created for us?  

Colossians 3:12-17

Who are we in relation to God?  How are we called to live out this identity?  List out the characteristics of God’s family.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

Thessalonians is a letter from the Paul’s missionary team (made up of himself, Timothy and Silas) to the church in Thessalonica (located in northern Greece).

What role did each member of the Trinity, God the Father (God), God the Son (Lord Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit (the Spirit), play in the salvation of the Thessalonian Christians?  What are the Thessalonian Christians called to do in response?  What does Paul pray that God the Father and God the Son will do for them as the respond to God?  

Salvation is initiated by God, sustained by God and completed by God in the future.  What is our role in salvation?