Daily Bible Readings – Sunday, November 10, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 96

Prayer Point.  The world may appear chaotic, but God has made Jesus, whom we crucified, the LORD over all creation. He is the only God and ruler of this world. Meditate on this psalm (turn it over in your mind) and then respond with your own prayer of praise.

Luke 14:12-24

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

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

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

Background. Jesus turns the practice of throwing a party on its head. What motivates people to invite their friends, relatives and rich neighbors? Why should we invite the poor, crippled, lame, and the blind?

If you invite the A list, you’ve already been _________. 
If you invite those society rejects, you will be ________ in the future.

Jesus is not just talking about the feasts we enjoy today (Thanksgiving is just around the corner), he also speaks of the Great Feast that we will enjoy on the day of his return. It is a blessed thing to “eat at the feast of the kingdom of God.” Sadly, not all will enjoy this feast as Jesus’ story illustrates.

Why do so many of the invited guests miss out on the feast? Do these problems exist in our time? Who is invited to replace those who scorned God’s invitation?

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.

Acts 24:10-21

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. While Jesus was with the apostles he gave them this promise:

Matthew 10:18 On my [Jesus’] account you will be brought before governors and kings and be witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

This is Paul’s moment to see Jesus’ promise fulfilled. Arrested in Jerusalem. Falsely accused by the Jews of starting a riot by bringing an uncircumcised Gentile into the temple, Paul has been brought before Governor Felix and after the Jewish authorities made their case, Paul is summoned to make his defense.

What word does Paul use to describe the Christian faith in verse 14? Why is this significant for us?

How does Paul connect his new faith in Jesus Christ to the faith of his birth, Judaism? How does Paul view the Jewish Scriptures (the Law and the Prophets)? Is his hope the same or different from the hope of Judaism? How does Paul explain the charges that have been brought against him?

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.

Ezra 10:1-17

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. How does Ezra’s repentance inspire the people around him? How does the repentant hearts of the people move them to take action?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

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Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, November 9, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 76

Prayer Point.  Psalm 76 reminds us that we need a big God in a world with big problems. He will destroy the powers of this world and establish an eternal peace. Pray that we might believe this so that we will not succumb to fear.

Matthew 14:22-36

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. Jesus dismisses his disciples some time in the afternoon, but he does not rescue them until the fourth watch of the night, that is the last quarter of the night before dawn. Why would Jesus deliberately allow his disciples to sail into a storm and why does he wait so long to save them? What is he doing while his disciples are caught in the storm? What do the disciples learn about themselves? What do they learn about Jesus?

One note on where Peter gets the crazy idea to get out of the boat. In the video “Dust”, Rob Bell points out that the aim of a Jewish rabbi (a religious teacher) was to teach his disciples  (students) not only what he knew, but to teach to them to do what he did. Peter is Jesus’ disciple, and so he takes this extraordinary step of faith and figures that he must learn walk on water as well. What causes Peter’s faith to fail?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Revelation 17:1-14

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 help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. JRR Tolkien one wrote that evil cannot create, it can only mock the beauty that God has created. In chapter 14, we saw God’s people depicted as a woman. The woman in chapter 17, the whore of Babylon, is a mockery of the bride of Christ, the church. The beast, Satan, mocks the Lamb of God.

How does the life trajectory of the beast in verse 8 mock the life story of Jesus, the Lamb of God? What is the woman’s relationship with the kings of the earth and to the beast? What are the kings relationship to the beast? Is the woman wealthy or poor? What is she drunk on? Who is seduced by the beast?

Who will the kings of the earth, the woman, and the beast make war against? How is John and the seven churches who originally received the book of Revelation already feeling the effects of this war?

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.

Ezra 9:1-15

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

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

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

Background. “When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you … and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them and show no mercy to them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. (Deuteronomy 7:1-4 ESV emphasis added) [Well, maybe not so quickly. – j.t.]

From at least the time of Solomon, intermarriage with non-Israelites had been at the root of all of the evils that had pervaded the land. As indicated above in Deuteronomy, the infection results in idolatry. Because Ezra can read, he must have familiarized himself with the relative recent history of Israel (from the time of the tearing of the kingdom until the Babylonian Captivity). Prophet after prophet had proclaimed the word of the LORD regarding the national sin of idolatry which they linked to the intermarriage of the people with the heathen. Solomon, the wisest of the kings, was ensnared by idolatry.

Was nothing learned by the dispersion and the captivity? The Northern Tribes were dispersed and managed to lose their tribal identity. The prophets had continually warned both Israel and Judah that the LORD would cast them out of his sight because of idolatry. I wish I had Ezra’s sensitivity about my own sin as he had for his people.

Why does Ezra respond the way he does to the news of widespread intermarriage between the Jews and the neighboring peoples?

Romans 8:34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

How does Ezra the priest play the role of Jesus the High Priest for the remnant of Israel?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Friday, November 8, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 69

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

Matthew 14:13-21

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. Jesus retreats to a solitary place upon hearing the news of his cousin’s murder. What does Jesus do for the crowds despite his grief? Why do you think Jesus puts his disciples on the spot by saying, “you give them something to eat”? How do the disciples fail this simple test of faith?  What do we learn about Jesus through this miracle?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Revelation 15:1-8

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 help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. Chapter 15 starts a new vision and in this vision we see the familiar pattern: God judges the world (15:1, 15:5-8), God’s people are saved (15:2-4). The classic story of judgment and salvation echoes the Exodus story (see Exodus 7 – 15) where God rescued his people from slavery by bringing plagues and judgment on their oppressors, Egypt. Why do those who were victorious over the beast (Revelation 15:3) sing the same song that Moses and the Jews sang on the shores of the Red Sea (see Exodus 14-15)?

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.

Ezra 7:27-28, 8:21-36

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

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

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

Background. How does Ezra explain the favor and blessings he has received from the king? Why does Ezra refuse the king’s offer of an armed escort for their journey to Jerusalem? How do they “provide” for their own defense? What do the exiles do upon arriving in Jerusalem?

It is not insignificant that the 12 bulls for all Israel are offered but yet only three tribes are represented here (Levites, Judah, and Benjamin). There was always a kinship among all the tribes of Israel particularly when it came to worship. (You may remember that the first king of the Northern Tribe [Israel] Jeroboam I set up the golden bulls – one in the north at Dan and the other in the south at Bethel – just so that the people would not have to go to Jerusalem to worship and thus limit defection to Judah.)

Verse 36 tells us that once Ezra delivered the edict to the king’s satraps (like governors) and governors in “the province Beyond the River, they aided the people and the house of God.” (Ezra 8:36 ESV)

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Thursday, November 7, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 71

Prayer Point.  When you get older and your strength begins to fade it is easy to become discouraged and wonder if God has forsaken you. That is the fear expressed in Psalm 71. Pray this psalm today on behalf of an elderly person you know who is facing these fears.

Matthew 14:1-12

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

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

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

Background. Why did Herod decide to keep John the Baptist alive despite John’s public condemnation of him? What changes Herod’s mind?

How does Herod interpret Jesus’ miracles in verse 1? Why? Think about similarities between John’s message and Jesus’ ministry (see Matthew chapter 3, especially verse 1).

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Revelation 14:1-13

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

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

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

Background. Throughout the book of Revelation the message has been clear, despite the present suffering, God will preserve his people and they will emerge victorious in the end. As chapter 14 opens we see a vision of our future hope. What symbol refers to Jesus? How is Jesus’ people, his church described? How is God’s ownership and protection of his people symbolized? Why are they singing and how did they learn the song? Who joins the singing? From last week you might remember that the 4 living creatures represents creation which reflects God’s glory and the elders, God’s people who have died and are now in the presence of the Lord.

(14:6-13) What role do the three angels play? What is their message to the unbelieving world? What is their message to the church? Think about John and his readers, think about all the Christians who suffer persecution. This is the central message of the book. Persevere today. Stay faithful today. God’s salvation is coming tomorrow.

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.

Ezra 7:1-26

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. This chapter begins with the introduction of Ezra and it recounts his rather impressive genealogy which numbers among it such heroes as Hilkiah (the chief priest during the time of Josiah – who held Judah together during Josiah’s minority – see 2 Kings 22), Phinehas the son Eleazar who received honorable mention from God as being instrumental in staying the LORD’s plague against Israel (in Numbers 25), and perhaps most notably, Aaron the brother of Moses. Let’s just say that Ezra comes from good stock. Like so many before him, Ezra enjoyed the LORD’s favor.

Why is Ezra’s background and the role he will play in Jerusalem vital to the rebuilding efforts? How does Artaxerxes, the King of Persia, serve God’s purpose and pave the way for Ezra’s mission? It was believed that a defeated people pointed to a defeated God. How does God prove once again that he is still God even when his people are in exile?

Artaxerxes’ reason for such generosity is purely self-serving: he wants to get on the LORD’s good side: “What ever is decreed by the God of heaven, let it be done in full for the house of the God of heaven, lest his wrath be against the realm of the king and his sons.” (Ezra 7:23 ESV emphasis added)

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 119:49-72

Prayer Point.  Walking God’s path is not easy as this section of Psalm 119 reminds us. Scattered throughout the psalm are appeals to God for help. Pick one or two that resonate with you and make it your prayer this morning.

Matthew 13:10-17

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? Using the following background as a guide.

Background. Jesus spoke in parables to the crowds, but he explained them when he was alone with his disciples. Why did Jesus speak exclusively in parables to the crowds? Look at the Jesus’ use of the prophet Isaiah’s words in verses 13-15 for the answer. What is Jesus giving the disciples by explaining the parables to them?

Ultimately the parable of the sower is a story about the secrets of the kingdom of God (verse 11). Keep this mind as Jesus explains the meaning of the story in tomorrow’s reading.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Revelation 5:1-10

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

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

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

Background. The vision from heaven’s perspective continues in chapter 5. God is seated on the throne, with a sealed scroll in his right hand. The scroll represents God’s plan to restore Creation, rescue his people, and rid the world of evil once and for all. What is it that causes John to weep at the sight of this scene? Who steps forward to open the scroll? What is interesting about this Lamb? Who must this Lamb be?

What do the four living creatures (representative of the reflection of God’s glory in creation) and the 24 elders (representative of God’s people, Israel and the church who have died and are in heaven) do once the Lamb opens the scroll? What do they sing about?

Throughout history God’s people sang “new songs” in response to a “new action” performed by God to save his people.

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.

Ezra 6:1-22

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 to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. Darius made search and found that a decree was issued by Cyrus authorizing the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, further that it was to be financed from the royal treasury. That goes a bit further than the decree as reported in Chapter 1: “And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:4 ESV)

Darius’ decree for the rebuilding of the temple began with a warning to Tattenai, governor of the province Beyond the River to “keep away”. Let the work proceed and not only that, Tattenai is to provide for the cost of the building “is to be paid to these men in full and without delay from the royal revenue, the tribute of the province from Beyond the River.” (Ezra 6:8 ESV) And if that weren’t enough, the governor is to provide “whatever is needed – bulls, rams, or sheep for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, wheat, salt wine, or oil, as the priests at Jerusalem require – let that be given to them day by day without fail, that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons.” (Ezra 6:9-10 ESV) The penalty for anyone altering the edict is that he be impaled on a beam from his own house and that the house is to be completely destroyed, i.e., made into a dunghill.

It is clear from this that the LORD is working in the heart of Darius to get the temple built. There are now no excuses for the structure not to be built. All obstacles have been swept away. Why is Darius so eager to see the temple built? Can we see the obstacles in our own lives which need to be swept away?

Do we experience the same sense of urgency (in terms of importance not in terms of time) regarding God as Darius? How do we get to the point where “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart”? (Deut. 6:5-6 ESV) Is not this the thing the LORD really wants from us?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 45

Prayer Point.  Today’s psalm was written for the wedding of a Jewish King, but I think it is best understood in light of the great wedding when King Jesus will marry his bride, the church at the end of all things. The poet expresses a number of hopes for the world under the reign of this great king. Pick two or three that resonate with you and pray “your kingdom come.”

Matthew 13:1-9

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

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

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

Background. Jesus often told stories, parables, to describe the kingdom that he came to establish. These parables drew from images of everyday agricultural life. The explanation of the parable will come with this week’s readings, but take a stab at the meaning of the parable. You’ll be able to check your answers as you read on in chapter 13.

Who is the farmer? The seed? Why do you think there are four different types of soils, four different outcomes for the seeds that are planted?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Revelation 4:1-11

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

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

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

Background. As chapter 4 begins, John’s perspective will be changed from the earth’s to heaven’s point of view. What does John see in God’s heavenly throne room? To make sense of what we are seeing let’s review the principles we learned yesterday:

  • Numbers are highly symbolic in Jewish and Christian writing. In this case, seven means perfection.
  • John is describing a dream and in a dream images are symbols that refer to something else. How do you interpret these symbols? You look for other passages in the Scriptures that contain these same symbols.

From earth’s perspective it looks like Rome has all the power and Caesar will forever reign on the throne. Who is in on the throne from heaven’s perspective? How does this vision embolden John and the Christians of the seven churches? Why are there seven lamps before God’s throne? What do they represent (think about our interpretive principles and see also verse 5)? Where have we seen rainbows in the Bible and what do they represent (see Genesis 9:12-15)?

The identity of the twenty four elders is a little tricky, but following our interpretive principles we can reasonably assume that the 24 elders represent God’s people who have died and are in heaven, made up of the nation of Israel (12 tribes) and the church (represented by the 12 apostles). (12+12=24). From earth’s perspective, God’s people look like a powerless and persecuted minority. What do God’s people look like from heaven’s perspective? What are God’s people doing? What do they do with their crowns? What aspect of God’s character are they responding to in worship?

“The sea of glass, clear as crystal.” (verse 6). Do you remember the story where Jesus calmed the sea in Mark 4:37-41? The sea was the most feared force in the ancient world and it was associated with evil. A sea of glass, is a sea that has been calmed and an image of God’s power and future destruction of all that is evil. Imagine how that image encouraged John, who witnessed Jesus calming the sea, and his seven churches.

Compare the description of the strange living creatures in Revelation 1 to the living creature Ezekiel sees in his own vision of God (Ezekiel 1:1-28) and Isaiah’s vision of seraphim (angels) in Isaiah 6:1-3. What are the living creatures doing? While interpreting visions in the book of Revelation is never an exact science, these creatures seem to represent creation and by extension the glory of the Creator.

In the perspective from below, the earth is cruel place where evil goes unchecked. But when we see the world from heaven’s perspective, we see our glorious future, where God’s people joins with all creation worshiping around the throne of our God who made us, sustains us and saves us. No wonder Jesus taught us to pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

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.

Ezra 5:1-17

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. 

Not only did the prophets predict the restoration of Jerusalem, they also spurred the people into action and even rolled up their sleeves and got their hands dirty. What does this tell you about the nature of faith? See also James 2:17. What makes this faith all the more remarkable is that while Cyrus gave the order to begin work on the temple (Ezra1:2-4), a later order issued by King Artaxerxes (Ezra 4:23) halting the project had never been rescinded.

While the Jews put their faith into action by restarting work on the temple, God supplied the power. How does God prevent the work on the temple from being halted?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, October 26, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 32

Prayer Point.  Secret sin is a burden that saps our strength. Why suffer if our sins are forgiven and covered through Christ? Confess your sins to God today. Rejoice in his forgiveness. Submit yourself to him and allow him to teach you the way you should go.

Matthew 12:33-42

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. Complete this analogy based on what Jesus says in verses 33-35:

A tree is to its fruit as a person’s _____________________ is to their _________________.

Jesus compares the Pharisees to a “brood of vipers.” Why are these religious people incapable of saying anything good? What must be cured if we are going to change? What is in our future if we do not change?

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law rightly perceive that Jesus is attacking their credibility, so they demand that he perform a miraculous sign to “prove” that he was the Messiah. Jesus never performed a miracle to prove himself to an unbelieving person. The Pharisees and teachers of the law demand a sign. What is the only sign that Jesus offers them?

Jesus uses two examples from the Old Testament where Gentiles demonstrated greater faith than Israel did. He does this to shame them. We should pay close attention to them because pride is the sin that especially trips up religious people. Because we belong to God, we begin to see “outsiders” as being our inferiors. In Jonah’s day, it was the violent and vile Assyrians who repented before the Israelites did.

In Solomon’s day, the Queen of the South traveled a great distance to listen to the wisdom of this great king (see 1 Kings 10:1-13). Jesus, who is a greater king than Solomon, is here and ironically his own people won’t listen to him.

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.

Philemon

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 bkground to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. Philemon is a personal letter from Paul to a wealthy slave owner named Philemon, hence the name. Slavery was pervasive in Roman society, and the church was slowly coming to grips with the implications of Christ’s teaching and the institution of slavery. Philemon was a Christian, but he was also a slave owner.

Paul writes on behalf of Philemon’s runaway slave, Onesimus, who has become a Christian through Paul. As a runaway, Onesimus was in serious legal trouble, but under Paul’s guidance, he agrees to return to his master. Paul is not condoning slavery, but is practicing the Christian idea of “submissive subversion”. Just as Christ took down Rome, and the power behind Rome (death), by submitting to death on the cross, so also Christians were called to bring down injustice, not through armed revolution, but by submitting to it. See 1 Corinthians 7:21-24; Ephesians 6:5-9.

Notice that Paul could order Philemon as to what he should do, how does Paul appeal to him instead? How does Paul refer to Onesimus? Does he consider Onesimus to be property or something else? How does Paul want Philemon to consider Onesimus from this point forward?

How does Onesimus’ new identity in Jesus undo his status as a slave? Why do you think Paul and Onesimus decided to ask Philemon for Onesimus’ freedom rather than demand it?

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.

Ezra 4:7, 11-24

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

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

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

Background. We know from history that those who are in power are ever vigilant of those who would deprive them of that power.  It is also true that when one people appear to be thriving, envy and jealousy seize their neighbors.  This was true in Jerusalem as well.  Let’s face it, the Jews have never been a people warmly received.  So when it became clear to the peoples about Jerusalem (the non-Jews) that the activity going on in Jerusalem might mean its resurgence on the world stage, they took it upon themselves to write to the king.

Who is raised up to oppose the rebuilding of Jerusalem? How do they succeed in convincing Artaxerxes, the king of Persia, to put a stop to the rebuilding effort?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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