Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 119:121-144

Prayer Point. Sometimes life is difficult even when you do the right thing. This section of Psalm 119 shows you how to pray when you are in this situation. Look at the requests David makes in this psalm and follow those requests into your own time of prayer for either yourself or someone you know that is in this situation.

Mark 8:11-26

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 guide you.

Background. We have seen Jesus’ willingness to perform miracles for those who come to him in faith. Is Jesus willing to perform miracles to convince those who don’t believe him and only want to test him?

As Jesus gets into the boat he warns his disciples to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod. The disciples would have considered Herod and the Pharisees to be on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Herod was a Roman puppet, while the Pharisees encouraged a strict adherence to Jewish Law with the hopes that God would come and deliver his people from Roman rule.

Jesus sees them as the same yeast despite their differences. Yeast was a symbol of the corrupting effects of sin. A small amount quickly spreads and changes the whole batch of dough. N.T. Wright points out that both Herod and the Pharisees had a distorted view of God’s kingdom that Jesus needed to confront. Herod was attempting to establish himself and his line as the true kings of Israel. The Pharisees envisioned a kingdom where God saved only those who strictly adhered to Jewish Law as they interpreted it. Jesus’ kingdom was something different.

Pay close attention to …

  • How Jesus responds when the Pharisees demanded a miraculous sign.
  • How the disciple’s failure to understand Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the four thousand is connected to their misunderstanding of Jesus’ warning against the yeast of Herod and the Pharisees.
  • How Jesus’ method of healing the blind man is connected to the blind man’s request. Compare this to the healing in Mark 7:32-35.

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

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

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

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

Background. What is impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit (see verse 3)? “Jesus is Lord” was no idle statement. In Paul’s day, “Caesar is Lord” was the pledge of allegiance of the Roman Empire. To declare “Jesus is Lord” was considered to be an act of treason.

While all Christians have the same Spirit, and the same Lord, how is each follower of Jesus unique? Why is each Christian given “spiritual gifts” by the Holy Spirit? What examples of spiritual gifts does Paul give us? For a fuller list of spiritual gifts see 1 Corinthians 12:27-31; Romans 12:1-8; Ephesians 4:11-13; and 1 Peter 4:10-11. How would you define spiritual gifts? Which gifts do you think you have?

We live in a society where gifts and talents are a means to enriching the self. Who is to benefit from our unique set of spiritual gifts?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

Genesis 50:15-26

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 background to help guide you.

Background. What were Joseph’s brothers still afraid of?  How do they plot to “disarm” Joseph?

[Joseph’s brothers thought that because their father was dead that Joseph would now take his revenge on them.  They said that their father left instructions that Joseph was to forgive his brothers for all that they had done to him.]

What was Joseph’s reaction to the message sent to him by his brothers?
[Joseph wept.]

How is Joseph quite sensitive to his brothers’ fears?
[“But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. …  I will provide for you and your children.’” (Genesis 50:19-21 NIV)]

What does Joseph’s believe about God that makes him able to forgive his brothers?

How old was Joseph when he died?  What did he ask to be done to him?
[Joseph was one hundred and ten years old when he died and he asked that his remains be carried from Egypt when the Lord would bring all of the Israelites out from there.]

What kinds of characteristics do you see in Joseph from our look into his life?
[I see things like perseverance; honesty; faithfulness; trust; love; honor; faith; righteousness among others.]

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

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Daily Bible Readings – Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 95

Prayer Point. If God is our Creator, Shepherd and Savior then why do we struggle to trust him? Confess the areas of your life where you are failing to trust him and pray for the faith to rest in his goodness and faithfulness.

Mark 8:1-10

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 guide you.

Background. A prophecy was spoken by Moses over a thousand years before the coming of Christ.

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

God had fed Israel with daily bread, manna, while Moses led them through the wilderness (see Exodus 16). In today’s reading, we see a prophet like Moses miraculously feed his people.

Pay close attention to …

  • What moves Jesus to feed the crowds.
  • What he asks of the disciples.
  • The way Jesus performed this miracle and what it tells us about his ability to provide.

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

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. Why does Paul conclude that the Corinthian church meetings (church services) do more harm than good? What exists among them that should not exist?

It appears that the Corinthian church celebrated communion, the Lord’s Supper, as part of a meal that was shared by the whole community. What is wrong with the way they celebrate the Lord’s Supper? (obviously getting drunk during communion is a big problem, but what else?)

Paul received the tradition of communion from __________ and passed it on to ___________ (verse 23).

Communion, sometimes called the Lord’s Supper was instituted by Jesus as he celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples on the night he was betrayed by Judas and arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane (see Matthew 26:17-30). Just as the first Passover was celebrated on the night before Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt, so also the first Communion was celebrated on the night before Jesus liberated us from slavery to sin by going to the cross and rising from the dead. Just as the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine were part of the celebration of Passover, the cup and the bread are shared in communion.

What is the significance of the bread and the cup? For what purpose do we drink the cup and eat the bread? What should we do before we eat the bread and drink the cup?

Paul has a warning for those who participate in communion in an unworthy manner. Celebrating communion unworthily is connected to “not recognizing the body of the LORD”. While some have argued convincingly that failure to recognize the body of the LORD, is taking the bread and cup without recognizing Jesus’ body and blood in the elements, I believe that Paul has a different form of Christ’s body in mind. The church community is the body of Christ that has gone unrecognized.  Look at verse 33 and verses 20-22 to see what Paul means by celebrating communion unworthily. What have the Corinthian Christians experienced because they made a mockery of the Lord’s Supper?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

Genesis 49:29-50:14

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 background to help guide you.

Background. Before Jacob dies he makes a request of Joseph.  Given Israel’s love for Rachel, what was interesting about his request?

[When Rachel died Jacob buried her in Bethlehem but he wants to be buried with his father and grandfather – and interestingly enough – his less-favored wife Leah.]

Embalming in Egypt had become somewhat of a science.  Joseph had his father embalmed.  How long did that process take?  How long was Jacob mourned in Egypt?
[The embalming process took forty days.  Israel was mourned in Egypt for seventy days.]

So Joseph receives permission from Pharaoh to take Jacob’s remains and to convey them to Canaan for burial.  How is this event described in Chapter 50?
[“So Joseph went up to bury his father.  All Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him – the dignitaries of his court and all the dignitaries of Egypt – besides all the members of Joseph’s household and his brothers and those belonging to his father’s household. … Chariots and horsemen also went up with him.  It was a very large company.” (Genesis 50:7-9)]

When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, near the Jordan, Joseph stopped and mourned for seven days.  He and those with him must have made quite a racket; “they lamented loudly and bitterly.” (Genesis 50:10 NIV).  What observation did the Canaanites make?
[“When the Canaanites who lived there saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, ‘The Egyptians are holding a solemn ceremony of mourning.’” (Genesis 50:11 NIV)]

Once Jacob is buried, Joseph and those with him return to Egypt.

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Monday, March 31, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 89

Prayer Point. God’s story with Israel is a tale of God’s faithfulness despite their faithlessness. God saves. His people forget. God sends judgment. His people cry out and God sends a Savior. Israel’s story is our story. Praise God for the ways he has been faithful to you. Confess the way you have been unfaithful to him. Give your needs to God and ask him to save you.

Mark 7:24-37

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. It was difficult for the Jesus’ disciples, or any Jews for that matter, to believe that he had come to save those outside the nation of Israel. Jesus leaves the confines of Israel and heads to the Gentile city of Tyre in what we call Lebanon today. Jesus sounds harsh to the Syrian woman, but he is only mouthing the biases of his people in order to test her faith.

From Tyre Jesus travels to the Decapolis, another Gentile region on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. The point is clear, Jesus is more than Israel’s Messiah, he is the Savior of the entire world.

Pay close attention to …

  • Why Jesus is so impressed by the Syro-Phoenecian woman and what he does in response to her reply.
  • The way Jesus heals her daughter and what this tells you about his power over demons.
  • Why Jesus chooses to touch the deaf man.
  • What the people of Decapolis do when Jesus commands them not to tell anyone about the healing.

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1

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 urges the Corinthians to flee idolatry, the worship of false gods.  The “cup of thanksgiving” and the “bread” are the bread and cup of communion.  How does communion bind us to God and to each other? Why couldn’t the Corinthians participate in communion (the Lord’s Table) and pagan sacrifices at the same time? If the idols are nothing, what is the harm?

Paul argues that we have a considerable amount of freedom as followers of Jesus. Why would we not do everything that is permissible for us? For what reasons should we set aside our freedoms? How should we exercise our freedoms in light of Jesus’ command to “love our neighbor as ourselves?”

Paul teaches a Christian way of life through words, but also by__________ (see 11:1).

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

Genesis 49:1-28

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

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

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

Background. Jacob imparts his final (public) words to his sons in the order in which they were born.  What is significant about the “blessings” to Reuben, Simeon, and Levi?

[Israel reminds Reuben that, because he had “taken” his concubine (Bilhah), he would not now be favored as the firstborn.  Jacob’s complaint to both Simeon and Levi was the bloodshed they masterminded regarding Hamor and his men in the matter of Dinah’s rape in Chapter 34.]

Judah’s blessing in considerable.  In it Jacob prophesies about events which will not take place for another eight hundred years.  What does Jacob prophecy?
[Jacob tells of a time when there will be a king in Israel and that the king will be a descendant of Judah: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.” (Genesis 49:10 NIV)  This prophecy also applies to Jesus, who as a descendant of David, is also a descendant of Judah.  Of course, at this time there was no king of the sons of Israel.]

Even at death, how does Jacob show his partiality to Joseph?
[Jacob saves his choicest blessing for Joseph.  In Chapter 48 we saw that Jacob took for his own Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh as his own.  In time, this will result in Joseph receiving a double portion of an inheritance, once the land of Canaan is apportioned to the sons of Israel (more than four hundred years in the future).  Jacob heaps honor and praise on Joseph and recounts, very briefly, his ordeals at the hands of his brothers.]

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Sunday, March 30, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 46

Prayer Point. It is easy to despair over the evil in our world. We fear for our safety. The wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. The economy is uncertain. Psalm 46 calls us to fix our eyes on another reality, God’s reality. Pray that we might know that God truly is “our refuge and strength” so that “we will not fear, though the earth give way.”

John 6:27-40

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

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

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

Background. The people of Israel were enslaved by the Egyptians for four hundred and fifty years until God sent Moses to rescue them. This victory was temporary, because it was God’s intention to send a second and greater Moses who would lead his people out of bondage to sin and into eternal life. Moses foreshadows Jesus. His miracles point to the greater miracles that Jesus will perform. One of which was the manna or daily bread that God fed his people each day in the wilderness.  With no crops with which to make bread, manna appeared each morning on the ground like the dew giving the Israelites just enough to get through the day. Today Jesus will speak of a greater bread.

Pay close attention to …

  • The food Jesus encourages the crowd to work for and why it is greater than the miracle bread and fish he had just given them (see John 6:1-15).
  • The work we must do to receive the food from God that endures to eternal life.
  • What bread Jesus offers the people that is greater than the bread God gave to the Israelites through Moses.
  • What is promised to those who come to Jesus, the bread of life.
  • Who will come to Jesus and why.
  • Why Jesus came down from heaven.
  • The Father’s will in verse 40.

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

Romans 8:11-25

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

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

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

Background. What does it mean for us that we have the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead living in us according to verse 11? What is true about us now that we have the Holy Spirit?

In Christ there is now no obligation to _________________. (verse 12)

What will happen if we live according to the sinful nature (flesh in some translations)?  How do you put to death your sin?  How does God’s Holy Spirit go to war against fear, the core of our flesh and sinful nature?  How does God’s Holy Spirit help us in our present struggles with sin and the sufferings we experience in this world?

How does Paul deal with his present suffering in verse 18? What hope does he have for himself in God’s creation?

Paul calls the first signs of the future restored creation the fruits of the Spirit.  In some sense this new world has already begun for ourselves because we have these firstfruits. While the new world has already begun what do we look forward to? How does this hope impact us and the way we live today?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

Genesis 48:8-22

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

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

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

Background. As Jacob is about to die, Joseph brings his two sons to Jacob for him to bless them.  What does Joseph do to make things easier for Jacob?  What unusual action does Jacob take?

[Joseph approaches Jacob with Ephraim on his (Joseph’s) right and Manasseh on his left.  Ephraim would then be on Jacob’s left and Manasseh was on the right.  Jacob then, as he blesses Joseph’s two sons, crosses his hands over the children so that the right hand lands on Ephraim and his left hand on Manasseh.  So Ephraim is treated as the firstborn.  Jacob had appropriated Joseph’s sons as his own (above).]

How did Joseph feel about that?
[Joseph probably thought that Jacob just made a mistake: “Joseph said to him, ‘No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.’” (Genesis 48:18 NIV)]

Jacob makes it clear that he made no mistake: “‘I know, my son, I know.  He too will become great.  Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.’  He blessed them that day and said, ‘In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing: “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.”’”  (Genesis 48:20 NIV)

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, March 29, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 136

Prayer Point. God deserves our gratitude because he is both our Creator and our Savior. Make this psalm your own by meditating on God’s creation and remembering the times he has rescued you and offering your thanks in response.

Mark 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. It is important to remember that Jesus is not standing against the Old Testament law, but the interpretation of those laws by the Jewish religious leaders which he calls, “traditions.” The rigorous regulations related to hand-washing was simply their interpretation of the law, not what the law said itself. Why is this a problem? Sometimes the traditions themselves can get in the way of obeying the heart of God’s law which is simply, “love God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.”

One example is verses 9-13. The fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12) commanded Israel to “honor their father and mother.” Honor included supporting parents in their old age as well as treating them with respect, but the teachers of the law found a work around. They followed the letter of the law, but violated its heart which is predicated on one word, “love.”

Pay close attention to …

  • What the people do with their lips, but fail to do with their hearts.
  • How the traditions gave the people a loophole to avoid loving their mother and father.
  • What makes someone clean or unclean according to verses 14-23.

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

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 guide you.

Background. Paul compares the Christian life to the history of Israel. While Israel endured 400 years of slavery in Egypt, we also were slaves to sin. Israel became a free people when God parted the Red Sea and they passed through the waters (were baptized) while the pursuing Egyptian army was destroyed. We became free when we came to faith in Jesus Christ and were baptized in His name. But the Red Sea and our baptism and conversion is only the beginning of the journey, not the end. There is a desert we must cross before we reach the Promised Land (heaven) and eternal life with our Father. How does Israel’s experience in the wilderness serve as a warning to us as we journey towards the Promised Land? What must we believe to overcome temptation?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

Genesis 47:27-48:7

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 background to help guide you.

How old is Jacob when he dies?
[Israel is 147 years old when he dies.]

What odd demonstration of an oath does Jacob require of Joseph?  Where have we seen this before?
[Israel tells Joseph to place his hand under his thigh and to promise that Jacob would be buried in the land of Canaan.  We saw Abraham do the same thing in Genesis 24:2.]

In verse five Israel says “Ephraim (the younger) and Manasseh (the firstborn) will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine.”  Why is this so significant?
[This is going to be fun.  Many years before Jacob displayed his favoritism on Joseph.  He was the firstborn of Rachel whom Jacob loved.  Reuben added to his own misfortune (he was the firstborn of Leah) by “going into” his father’s concubine (Bilhah – Rachel’s handmaid) thus making a public declaration of his contempt for his father.  He is no longer going to be treated as the firstborn – more on that in Chapter 49.  {Simeon may have lost favor because of his actions done to the sons of Hamor the Hivite in the matter of the rape of Dinah (Chapter 34) – j.t.}  Also, you may remember how Jacob tricked Isaac into believing he (Jacob) was actually his older brother Esau when it came time for the blessing of the firstborn.  Jacob does it again (foreshadowing actually) in addressing Ephraim (the younger) before the older Manasseh.  So history will repeat itself.  Joseph will receive the double portion of the firstborn when Jacob dies.]

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Friday, March 28, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 92

Prayer Point. The writer of Psalm 92 praises God for destroying evil and causing his people, “to flourish like a palm tree.” Here is what we know this side of the cross: God has destroyed the evil within us, without destroying us, by nailing our sins to the cross of Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God will rid the world of evil without getting rid of us. Praise God for his grace this morning.

Mark 6:47-56

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 sends his disciples across the lake ahead of him while he goes up onto a mountainside to pray. The previous had been a long arduous day of ministry. When Jesus and his disciples were looking for rest, they were mobbed by the people, but Jesus patiently taught them and miraculously fed 5000 of them with five loaves of bread and two fish. Now the disciples are straining to row their boat into a stiff head wind. It is in this place that Jesus goes out to meet them …

Pay close attention to …

  • How the disciples react to seeing Jesus walking on the water.
  • How Jesus comforts his disciples.
  • Why the disciples are amazed by Jesus’ mastery over the wind and the waves (see verses 50-52).
  • What happens to the desperate people who come to Jesus.

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

1 Corinthians 9:16-27

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. How does Paul live differently based on who he is preaching to?  Paul says that when he is with the Jews he lives like a Jew and when he is with gentiles (those without the law) he lives like a gentile.  Why?

For Paul to become like a Jew in order to win the Jews meant that in their presence, he held to Jewish customs and practices, such as keeping Kosher. Paul understood that he was no longer bound by these cultural practices, but for the sake of his audience, he keeps their traditions so that they will be able to hear the message of Jesus Christ.

Paul compares the Christian life to the life of an athlete in training. What would your spiritual life look like if you approached your faith the way an athlete prepares for the Olympics?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

Genesis 47:1-26

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 background to help guide you.

Background. Joseph chooses five of his brothers to present to Pharaoh.  Of course, when they are asked about their occupation, they unhesitatingly tell him that they are shepherds.  Apparently Pharaoh (as the chief priest among the Egyptians) is unfazed by this revelation.  Pharaoh next meets the patriarch Jacob.  What is his first question?

[“After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh asked him, ‘How old are you?’” (Genesis 47:7b-8 NIV)]

So how old is Israel?
[Jacob, at this time, is 130 years of age.]

Joseph, at Pharaoh’s insistence, gave the choicest land to his father and brothers.  It was called the “district of Rameses” or Goshen.  Rameses (II) was Pharaoh many years later and this area was named for him.  This was edited (perhaps by Moses) perhaps to clarify exactly where the Hebrews resided.

The famine continued (only two years of five had elapsed) and was to continue for another five years.  Pharaoh had instructed his people to go to Zaphenath-Paneah (Joseph) for relief.  What did Joseph decide regarding payment for the food?
[All the people (including the Hebrews) had to buy (pay with silver) their food and once the money was gone they then had to sell their livestock.)]

What was the last resort of the people to buy grain once the money and livestock were gone?
[The “last resort” was that the people had to “sell themselves” into slavery to the Pharaoh for grain.]

Who were the only ones exempt from all this distress?
[The priests were exempt – perhaps because Pharaoh was regarded as the chief priest.]

Going forward, what was to be the policy of the land as dictated by Joseph?
[Joseph would provide seed for planting (once the famine was past) and the people were to return one-fifth of the harvest as payment to Pharaoh.)]

What was the people’s attitude toward Joseph during this time?
[“‘You have saved our lives,’ they said.  ‘May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.’”  (Genesis 47:25 NIV)]

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Thursday, March 27, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 86

Prayer Point. How do you pray when your back is against the wall? Psalm 86 shows us how to worship and plead with God in the darkest of times. Pray this psalm on behalf of someone you know that is struggling. If you are in a difficult place, pray it on your own behalf.

Mark 6:30-46

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 just days before had sent his disciples out to carry out his ministry. They were given the authority to preach the good news of Jesus, heal the sick and cast out demons (see Tuesday’s reading, Mark 6:1-13). This was the purpose for which the disciples were called (see Mark 3:14): to watch and learn from Jesus and eventually to carry out his work when he returned to heaven. In today’s reading, the disciples have just returned from their first test mission.

Pay close attention to …

  • How Jesus models a way of life for his disciples. Look at what he asks his disciples to do when they return from their mission (Mark 6:30-31) and compare it to Mark 1:35.
  • How Jesus responds when the crowds interrupt their planned time of rest.
  • How he tests his disciples’ faith in verse 37 and how well the disciples respond.
  • The way Jesus performed his miracle and what that says about his ability to provide.
  • What Jesus does as the day comes to a close.

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

1 Corinthians 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 guide you.

Background. What freedoms did Paul lay aside that were his by right as an apostle (messenger, one who was sent) of Jesus Christ? For what purpose does he surrender these rights? What good does Paul put ahead of his own personal happiness and fulfillment?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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

Genesis 46:1-7, 28-34

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 background to help guide you.

Background. In Chapter 37 we learn that Jacob is residing in Hebron and now sets out for Egypt.  Once they get to Beersheba (which is quite far south in Canaan) Israel offered sacrifices to the Lord.  How does the LORD allay Jacob’s fears?

[“And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, ‘Jacob!  Jacob!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied.
‘I am God, the God of your father,’ he said.  ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there.  I will go down to Egypt with you…’” (Genesis 46:2-4a NIV)]

Judah was sent ahead to get directions to Goshen and to prepare for Israel’s arrival.  Joseph rides out to meet his father.  How did that reunion go?

[This was a very emotional meeting between Jacob and Joseph.  “As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.” (Genesis 46:28 NIV)]

Jacob begins his reunion with Joseph with a cheery thought: “Israel said to Joseph, ‘Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.’” (Genesis 46:30 NIV)  What does Joseph caution his brothers against saying?

[Joseph urged his brothers to refer to their livelihood as tending livestock but not shepherds because shepherding was “detestable” to the Egyptians.  The Notes in the NIV Study Bible indicates that the Egyptians’ distaste for shepherds may be cultural.  Who knows?]

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

  • Walk. What is God asking me to do?
  • Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey what I have read?

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

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