Daily Bible Readings – Sunday, January 19, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 114

Prayer Point. We are called to both fear and love God as Israel did. Psalm 114 explains why. It is the power of God that causes the earth to tremble, but it is that same power that breaks the power of oppression and sets us free. Pray that God will fill you with a reverent fear of his power, but also gratitude that this same power rescued us from slavery to sin and death.

Mark 3:7-19

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 following background to guide you.

Background. Why are the crowds pressing to see Jesus? Where are they from? What do the healings and the casting out of demons tell us about who Jesus is? How does Jesus demonstrate his authority over the demons?

From the hundreds of people who followed him, Jesus chooses twelve to be his Apostles. The number twelve corresponds to the twelve tribes of Israel showing the continuity between the old religious system and the new one based on Jesus’ message. Many people followed Jesus, but these twelve received the most intense training. We see the impact of these men throughout the rest of the New Testament (NIV Life Application Study Bible Notes).

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 4:1-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pay close attention to …

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

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Genesis 7:1-23

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. This chapter provides more detail regarding what Noah is to do in terms of collecting all the animals. Of the clean animals there shall be seven (!) pairs; of the unclean just the one pair. How long will it rain? [Forty days and forty nights. This number forty will show up throughout all of scripture.] How old was Noah when he embarked onto the ark? [He was 600 years old.] How many people went with him? [His wife, his sons and their wives – (ahem) seven (!) in all.] How high above the mountains did the water rise? [More than twenty feet. v. 20] The fate of everything outside the ark was “wiped out”. That actually leaves us with an image of cleansing. The ESV employs “blotted out”. Where “wiping” may hearken to cleansing; “blotting out” is more akin to removing sin (or so says the psalmist). Now we are left with Noah and those with him who now have the inauspicious task (?) of re-populating the earth.

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 – Sunday, January 12, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 146

Prayer Point. When we put our faith in men we will always be disappointed, for all men die and their plans come to nothing. God alone who is eternal and alone can provide for us and secure justice and peace in our world. Confess to God those people and things you have trusted for your security and hope. Pray for the faith to trust him and praise him for the reasons listed in verses 5-10.

John 1:29-34

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. In Jewish Law, the people’s sins were transferred to a perfect lamb and the animal was sacrificed to God as a sin offering. John has this imagery in mind as he fulfills his life mission to point Israel to their Messiah.

Pay close attention to …

  • How John identifies Jesus and his purpose.
  • The purpose of John’s baptism (see verse 31).
  • How John knew that Jesus was the Lamb of God.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 1:3-14

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

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

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

Background. The book of Ephesians was a letter from the Apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus, a church plant that he oversaw. The letter opens in verse 3 with an extended prayer of praise to God the Father for the unfathomable blessings he has given us. In verses 3-14 Paul unpacks these treasures for us.

Through whom has God blessed us (verse 3)? For what purpose has God chosen us (verse 4 and verses 11-12) ? Through whom are we adopted by God the Father as sons? In Paul’s day only sons received an inheritance. To say that men and women were both sons was quite a radical statement. In God’s family, women are entitled to the same blessings that men receive through the gospel. What is the purpose of our adoption (verse 6)? How have we received redemption and forgiveness (verses 7-8)? What mystery has been revealed to us (verses 9-10)? What guarantee has God given us so that we might know that we have been included in His salvation and are full heirs of His inheritance (verses 13-14)?

The entire Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit work together to bring about salvation. Read the passage again and look for the role that each member of the Trinity plays.

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.

Genesis 1:1-2:3

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. According to the first verse, what was before the beginning?  How appealing were the heavens and the earth at this time?  Verse 2 tells us that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” What does “hovering” mean to you? [I think of things like helicopters or helicopter moms. A helicopter mom being someone who continues to do everything for her child long after he should be doing things for himself. Very attentive. Expectant.] In verse three we learn of the creation of “light”. What is remarkable about light?

We always think in terms of morning and then evening. What is different here? How could we be so wrong? “And there was evening and there was morning – the first day.” Do we really want to discuss this? [No!] The Jewish day beings at sundown; this is the biblical rationale for that.

Verse 6 talks of “waters to separate water from water”. What do you think this means? [This imagery is completely foreign to me and, I suspect, to the rest of us. One commentary associated water with the gods in the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian creation stories. If I were to take literally the waters above and beneath, I could understand the presence of water vapor in the heavens, but I doubt Moses was talking of that. j.t.] What is the expanse between the water under it and the water above it called? [Sky] The third day was a rather busy one. What were some of the things that happened on it? vv. 11-13 Why the emphasis on “seed”?

Verses 14-19 appear redundant or conflicting with verse 3. I relied on the ESV Study Bible for help on this one.

“1:14-19 This section corresponds closely with the ordering of Day and Night on the first day, involving the separation of light and darkness (vv. 3-5). Here the emphasis is on the creations of lights that will govern time, as well as providing light upon the earth (v. 15). By referring to them as the greater light and the lesser light (v. 16) the text avoids using terms that were also proper names for pagan deities linked to the sun and the moon. Chapter 1 deliberately undermines pagan ideas of regarding nature’s being controlled by different deities. (To the ancient pagans of the Near East, the gods were personified in various elements of nature. Thus, in Egyptian texts, the gods Ra and Thoth are personified in the sun and the moon, respectively.) The term made [ … ] need only mean that God “fashioned” or “worked on” them; it does not of itself imply that they did not exist in any form before this. Rather, the focus here is on the way in which God has ordained the sun and moon to order and define the passing of time according to his purposes. Thus the references to seasons (v. 14) or “appointed times” (ESV footnote) and to days and years are probably an allusion to the appointed times and patterns in the Hebrew calendar for worship, festivals, and religious observance (Ex. 13:10; 23:15).

Verses 20-23 tell us that the LORD created teems of living creatures in the water and the birds of the air. What does the LORD do here for the first time? [He commands that they be fruitful and multiply (increase in number) v. 22] Next the land creatures in vv. 24-25. What day is this? What else does the LORD do on the sixth day?  What is different with this last creation as compared with all the others? What commission does the LORD give on day six?  Why do verses 28-30 seem to repeat all that has been said? What politically correct behavior is encouraged in verse 30? [Vegetarianism or veganism] While we may not agree, what did God see before the end of the sixth day?

And for the grand finale: What did God do on the seventh day (hint: the sabbath day)?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Sunday, January 5, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 2

Prayer Point. It is easy to forget about the power of God when we watch news or read the papers. Psalm 2 reminds us that Jesus, the Anointed One, is on the throne.  He is in control. Pray that these words might become real to us, that we might live in our world with bold, fearless love.

John 11:17-27, 38-44

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 arrives in Bethany four days after the death of his friend Lazarus. By all appearances He has come too late to save his friend.

What does Martha already believe about the resurrection of the dead and about Jesus even before Lazarus is brought back to life?

What does Jesus say is his purpose in raising Lazarus from the dead (see verse 42)?

Compare this to John chapter 9 and the man born blind. The blind man’s healing revealed Christ to be the “light of the world”. The raising of Lazarus from the dead reveals Jesus to be the ________________________ and the ______________.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 6:10-20

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. Ephesians is a letter from the Apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus which he founded. His purpose is to encourage these young Christians to stand firm in their faith in Jesus Christ. In today’s reading Paul uses the image of the armor worn by Roman soldiers to describe the spiritual protection that God makes available to us so that we might stand against the attacks of the evil one.

When Paul speaks of powers, rulers, and authorities, he does not mean the men who ruled the Roman Empire, but the spiritual powers that made their domination possible.

Pay close to attention to …

  • The identity of our real enemies.
  • The defensive armor and weapon that God makes available to us.
  • The role of prayer in our war against the devil’s schemes and the spiritual powers of this world.

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.

Jonah 2:2-9

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 following background to guide you.

Background. [From the ESV Study Bible Notes p. 1683]

“The title of the book is the name of the main character, Jonah. The book is anonymous, and there are no indicators elsewhere in Scripture to identify the author. The foundational source for the book was likely Jonah’s own telling of the story after his return from Nineveh.

“The primary purpose of the book of Jonah is to engage readers in theological reflection on the compassionate character of God, and in self-reflection on the degree to which their own character reflects this compassion, to the end that they become vehicles of this compassion in the world that God has made and so deeply cares about.

“The genre of Jonah is debated. The book has been read as an allegory, using fictional figures to symbolize some other reality. According to this interpretation, Jonah is a symbol of Israel in its refusal to carry out God’s mission to the nations. The primary argument against this view is that Jonah is clearly presented as a historical and not a fictional figure . Another proposal is that the book is a parable to teach believers not to be like Jonah. Like allegories, parables are also based on fictional and not historical characters. Parables, however, are typically simple tales that make a single point, whereas the book of Jonah is quite complex and teaches a multiplicity of themes. The book of Jonah has all the marks of a prophetic narrative, like those about Elijah and Elisha found in 1 Kings, which set out to report actual historical events. The phrase that opens the book (‘the word of the LORD came to’) is also at the beginning of the first two stories told about Elijah (1 Kings 17:2, 8) and is used in other prophetic narratives as well (e.g., 1 Sam. 15:10; 2 Sam. 7:4). Just as the Elijah and Elisha narratives contain extraordinary events, like ravens providing bread and meat for the prophet (1 Kings 17:6), so does the book of Jonah, as when the fish ‘provides transportation’ for the prophet. In fact, the story of Jonah is so much like the stories about Elijah and Elisha that one would hardly think it odd if the story of Jonah were embedded in 2 Kings right after Jonah’s prophetic words about the expansion of the kingdom. The story of Jonah is thus presented as historical, like the other prophetic narratives….

“… Jesus, moreover, treated the story as historical when he used elements of the story as analogies for other historical events (see Matt. 12:40-41) This is especially clear when Jesus declared the ‘the men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah.’ (Matt. 12:41 ESV)”]

So …
What is going on here? Where is Jonah when he prays? [Symbolically speaking Jonah is in the grave. This is precisely the image Jesus refers to in Matthew 12:38-42.] What is the first thing Jonah says in his prayer? [He cries out in his distress and the LORD hears him.] What does verse four say about Jonah’s spirit of perseverance? [His hope to look again toward the holy temple.] Verse five talks about drowning; what does verse six tell us? [The Lord brought up his life from the pit.] What is the symbolism of this whole adventure? [As Jesus used it – to show the hope of the resurrection.] How does verse eight speak to us today? [That we actually forfeit grace that could be ours.] Can you see how verse nine foretells of the crucifixion? [The sacrifice with thanksgiving. The Eucharist is a remembrance of the Lord’s death until he comes again.] What is Jonah’s final cry in this section? [“Salvation belongs to the LORD!”]

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, January 4, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 85

Prayer Point. God has forgiven us in the past. How can we expect Him to forgive us today? Because God’s love and faithfulness, righteousness and peace, came together in Jesus.  He forgives us because Jesus bore the curse for our sin and earned our blessings with his perfect life. Confess your sins to God and receive the forgiveness that Jesus earned for you.

John 9:1-12, 35-38

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. Most Jews in Jesus’ day assumed that birth defects such as blindness were punishments from God for sin.

Jesus uses the term, “Son of Man” to refer to himself in verse 25. Far from being a generic way of saying, “I’m just a guy like you,” the term was Jesus’ way of saying, “I am God.” It is reference to a vision of God in Daniel 7:13-15 …

Daniel 7:13-15 In my vision at night I looked and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him …

Pay close attention to …

  • Jesus’ explanation of the reason for this man’s blindness and how his healing fulfilled that purpose.
  • The blind man’s full healing in verses 35-38.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 5:1-20

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 a pattern to Paul’s moral teaching: what we are commanded to do always flows out of what we have become through the grace of God. This is important. Religious or legalistic ways of relating to God say, “live right and you will be accepted as a child of God.” The gospel that Paul preaches says, “live right because you are already a child of God.” Religion feeds off fear. The gospel fuels a life of love through gratitude.

Ephesians 5:8 For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. (your identity by God’s grace) Live as children of light. (command to live out of this new identity)

Pay close attention to …

  • What should not exist in the lives of God’s dearly loved children.
  • The contrast between what the Ephesians once were and what they have become (verse 8).
  • What it means to live as children of the light (verses 8-15); what you do, what you don’t do.

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.

Joshua 3:14-4:7

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. What occurs at the Jordan that has a ring of familiarity? (See Exodus 13:17-14:22) What does the LORD tell Joshua to do once the people have crossed the Jordan? Why twelve stones? What is the point of the exercise?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Friday, January 3, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 68

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

John 6:15-27

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pay close attention …

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

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 4:17-32

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

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

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

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

Pay close attention to …

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

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

1 Kings 19:9-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Thursday, January 2, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 34

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

John 6:1-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pay close attention to …

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

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 4:1-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pay close attention to …

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

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

1 Kings 19:1-8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, January 19, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 42

Prayer Point. The low points, the dry periods of our life can be spiritually dangerous, but they can also lead us to God. Instead of medicating ourselves, lets do what Psalm 42 advises us to do. Allow the suffering, the sadness, and the emptiness to feed your hunger for God and go to him ask you today to fill, comfort and satisfy you.

Mark 5:1-20

Background. The Gerasenes was not only “the other side of the lake” (Sea of Galilee) it was also the other side of the tracks. Jesus has left the Jewish world and entered a community of Gentiles. You might notice that there are herds of pigs in this region. No God-fearing Jew would ever raise pigs and very few Jews would have traveled to this region, but Jesus sails across the lake to save one demon-possessed Gentile man.

Pay close attention to …

  • Where the demon-possessed man lived and what his life was like before he met Jesus.
  • The demon’s name and its significance.
  • How Jesus demonstrates his absolute power over this demon.
  • How the people of the region respond to Jesus’ miracle.
  • Why Jesus refuses to allow the healed man to leave with him.
  • How the people of Decapolis respond to the healed man (verse 20).

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)

Ephesians 6:10-24

Background. Ephesians is a letter from the Apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus which he founded. His purpose is to encourage these young Christians to stand firm in their faith in Jesus Christ. In today’s reading Paul uses the image of the armor worn by Roman soldiers to describe the spiritual protection that God makes available to us so that we might stand against the attacks of the evil one.

When Paul speaks of powers, rulers, and authorities, he does not mean the men who ruled the Roman Empire, but the spiritual powers that made their domination possible.

Pay close to attention to …

  • The identity of our real enemies.
  • The defensive armor and weapon that God makes available to us.
  • The role of prayer in our war against the devil’s schemes and the spiritual powers of this world.

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)

Isaiah 43:1-13

Background. The word “redeemed” show up in this reading. “Redeemed” seems to have lost some of its import. Usually when we think of “redeemed” we think more in terms of atonement or expiation. While that may be true, I think the better definition for “redeem” is to buy back. Our redemption is more like being rescued from bondage where someones pay a ransom to buy us back. “Redeem” can also mean to repair or restore. Jesus will return to “restore” all of nature and the earth to what it was before the fall.

Pay close attention to …

  • What the LORD says in verse 1
  • Why we should not fear (v. 1)
  • How we are addressed (v. 1)
  • How the LORD defines “redeemed” (vv. 3 & 4)
  • The return of the Jews dispersion and captivity (vv. 5-7)
  • To why the nations gather and the peoples assemble (v. 9)
  • What the people are called to be (v. 10)
  • What are the people witnesses to (v. 12)
  • Who can deliver out of the LORD’s hand

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)