Daily Bible Readings – Friday, December 13, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 31

Prayer Point. It is easy to feel abandoned by God when bad times come. That’s why we need this psalm. It is the cry of a forsaken man who refuses to surrender his faith. Who is he? He is one who said, “into your hands I commit my spirit” as he hung from a cross (Luke 23:46). Give your concerns to God knowing that Jesus entered our world and suffered for us.

Matthew 23:27-39

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. To a Jew being in a tomb or anything associated with dead bodies would make a person ceremonially unclean.  What do the Pharisees look like on the outside? What are their insides like?

Israel had an antagonistic history with the prophets of God. It shouldn’t surprise us, because they were often sent by God to condemn them their for their sin and call them to return to God. Despite this sordid history, the tombs of the prophets became pilgrimage sites in Jesus’ day.  How did the Pharisees say that they felt about the prophets of God? How does this square with the way they treated THE prophet of God, Jesus? What judgment will come upon the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and their refusal to listen to Jesus? Abel was the first murder victim recorded in the Bible (see Exodus 4). Zechariah was a priest and prophet of God who called attention to the sins of Israel and was stoned to death in the temple by order of the king. (2 Chronicles 24:21)

How does Jesus feel about Jerusalem despite the fact that the city will ignore his warnings and kill him as they killed the other prophets? The image is that of a hen in a barnyard fire. A hen will gather her chicks under her, shielding her young from the flames while sacrificing her life. What does Jesus offer his enemies? Why do you think they refuse?

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 2:18-29

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. John, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, has been exiled to the island of Patmos for his faith. He is separated from the churches in Asia (Western Turkey) that he served and loved with all his heart. Like him, they are discouraged by the opposition they are faced from the Romans who appeared to be the undisputed powers of this world. But God sees the world differently and allows John to see a vision of Christ to encouraged him and the churches he served. Jesus commands John to pass on seven letters to the seven churches in Asia. Revelation 2:18-29, the letter to the church in Thyatira is the fourth of these seven letters.

You may notice that John writes “to the angel of the church in Thyatira.” This is not a guardian angel, the letters would not make any sense if this was the case, but a figure of speech referring to “the heart” of the local church. These letters are to be understood as personal messages from Jesus (“the words of the Son of God whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze”) to each church.

Pay close attention to …

  • What Jesus loves about the church in Thyatira and what he holds against them.
  • What they are to hold on to and what they are to let go of.
  • What is promised to them in they overcome (hang on to the teachings of Jesus).

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.

Haggai 1:1-15

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. Interestingly the opening words of Haggai begin with: “In the second year of Darius the king…”  Well, wouldn’t you know it, the word of the LORD came to Haggai in the second year of Darius the king.  As we have seen, the people in Judah have been told that they may not rebuild their temple nor their city.  Evidently, however, they have been allowed to build their homes and to make improvements to them.

Why has the remnant that returned to rebuild Jerusalem harvested little? Why are they unable to quench their hunger and thirst? Why can’t their clothes keep them warm? Why is their money never enough? How did the people respond to the LORD’s admonition?

How does God encourage those who were old enough to remember the old temple? What does God promise for the future? Who do you think the ‘desired of nations’ is? What is this new temple that the LORD speaks of? See Acts 2:1-3 and Revelation 21:1-27. One thing that may help is to remember that the temple is not so much a building, but the place where God lives with his people. In Israel’s past, God dwelt first in the tabernacle (a tent), then in the temple. Then it was Jesus. Then it was the Holy Spirit living in the hearts of Jesus’ followers. And then at the end of time, God himself will make his home on earth at the restoration of all things.

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, October 27, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 98

Prayer Point. New songs were sung in the Old Testament when God performed an act of salvation such as parting the Red Sea. We sing because God has made his salvation known through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Join with all creation today in thanking God for his forgiveness and his promised return to restore peace and justice to this world.

Luke 10:25-37

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? Using the following background as a guide.

Background. The question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life”, was a common one in Jesus’ day.  The Jews were expecting the arrival of their Messiah who would break the powers of evil and establish God’s eternal kingdom on earth.  The expert in the law in today’s reading is simply asking: “God’s kingdom: who’s in and who’s out.”

The usual answer was Jews who kept the Law reasonably well; that is Jews who  loved God and loved their neighbor. Samaritans and others of outside of the nation of Israel were generally excluded.  The law expert will give a similar answer, but Jesus will tell a story that will blow his assumptions out of the water.

The law expert will ask a second question.  Who is my neighbor?  Jewish rabbis did not include those outside of Israel (especially Samaritans) in the definition of neighbor.

Pay close attention to …

  • The true neighbor in Jesus’ story (verses 30-36).
  • The point of Jesus’ story (verse 37).

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 18:24-19:7

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

Background. The Apostle Paul always brought a team with him as he planted churches throughout the Roman world. In this case, he brought a couple Aquila and Priscilla to work with him and to learn from Paul. At a certain stage in their development, Paul released Aquila and Priscilla into their own ministry, by leaving them in Ephesus. In Ephesus, Aquila and Priscilla encounter a powerful, but inadequately trained preacher named Apollos. (He knew of John the Baptist’s baptism, but he had yet to learn of Jesus’ baptism). How do Aquila and Priscilla come alongside Apollos and support him in his ministry? What impact did Apollos have on the church in Achaia (a region in Greece)?

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.

Haggai 1:1-2:9

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 help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. Interestingly the opening words of Haggai begin with: “In the second year of Darius the king…”  Well, wouldn’t you know it, the word of the LORD came to Haggai in the second year of Darius the king.  As we have seen, the people in Judah have been told that they may not rebuild their temple nor their city.  Evidently, however, they have been allowed to build their homes and to make improvements to them.

Why has the remnant that returned to rebuild Jerusalem harvested little? Why are they unable to quench their hunger and thirst? Why can’t their clothes keep them warm? Why is their money never enough? How did the people respond to the LORD’s admonition?

How does God encourage those who were old enough to remember the old temple? What does God promise for the future? Who do you think the ‘desired of nations’ is? What is this new temple that the LORD speaks of? See Acts 2:1-3 and Revelation 21:1-27. One thing that may help is to remember that the temple is not so much a building, but the place where God lives with his people. In Israel’s past, God dwelt first in the tabernacle (a tent), then in the temple. Then it was Jesus. Then it was the Holy Spirit living in the hearts of Jesus’ followers. And then at the end of time, God himself will make his home on earth at the restoration of all things.

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 – Sunday, October 28, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 63

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

Matthew 18:15-20

Today’s reading assumes that another Christian has significantly hurt us by their words or actions. I emphasize significant so that we don’t include irritation or differences of opinion which should be overlooked.

What do we do first if a brother (a fellow Christian) sins against us? Why is this important?
What should be done if the brother or sister refuses to listen to your complaint? What happens if the person will not even listen to the church leadership?

What is described in Matthew 18 is called church discipline. The goal of church discipline is to call the person to repent and restore their relationship with God and those they have offended. The goal of treating them as a “tax collector”, meaning putting them out of the community, was to allow them to feel the weight of their sin and to create a desire to make things right. Note that this teaching shows us how to deal with fellow Christians who sin against us. For non-Christians, the other teachings would stand, “go the extra mile”, “turn the other cheek.”(See Matthew 7:38-48).

1 Corinthians 10:15-24

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?”

Haggai 1:1-2:9

Interestingly the opening words of Haggai begin with: “In the second year of Darius the king…” Well, wouldn’t you know it, the word of the LORD came to Haggai in the second year of Darius the king. As we have seen, the people in Judah have been told that they may not rebuild their temple nor their city. Evidently, however, they have been allowed to build their homes and to make improvements to them.

Why has the remnant that returned to rebuild Jerusalem harvested little? Why are they unable to quench their hunger and thirst? Why can’t their clothes keep them warm? Why is their money never enough? How did the people respond to the LORD’s admonition?

How does God encourage those who were old enough to remember the old temple? What does God promise for the future? Who do you think the ‘desired of nations’ is? What is this new temple that the LORD speaks of? See Acts 2:1-3 and Revelation 21:1-27. One thing that may help is to remember that the temple is not so much a building, but the place where God lives with his people. In Israel’s past, God dwelt first in the tabernacle (a tent), then in the temple. Then it was Jesus. Then it was the Holy Spirit living in the hearts of Jesus’ followers. And then at the end of time, God himself will make his home on earth at the restoration of all things.

Sirach 18:19-33

Chapter 18
Verses 19-33

19 Before you speak, learn;
and before you fall ill, take care of your health.
20 Before judgment comes, examine yourself;
and at the time of scrutiny you will find forgiveness.
21 Before falling ill, humble yourself;
and when you have sinned, repent.
22 Let nothing hinder you from paying a vow promptly,
and do not wait until death to be released from it.
23 Before making a vow, prepare yourself;
do not be like one who puts the Lord to the test.
24 Think of his wrath on the day of death,
and of the moment of vengeance when he turns away his face.
25 In the time of plenty think of the time of hunger,
in the days of wealth think of poverty and need.
26 From morning to evening conditions change;
all things move swiftly before the Lord.

27 One who is wise is cautious in everything;
when sin is all around, one guards against wrongdoing
28 Every intelligent person knows wisdom,
and praises the one who finds her.
29 Those who are skilled in words become wise themselves,
and pour forth apt proverbs.

SELF-CONTROL

30 Do not follow your base desires,
but restrain your appetites.
31 If you allow your soul to take pleasure in base desire,
it will make you the laughingstock of your enemies.
32 Do not revel in great luxury,
or you may become impoverished by its expense.
33 Do not become a beggar by feasting with borrowed money,
when you have nothing in your purse,
[for you will be plotting against your own life].

What is Sirach advocating in verses 18:19-29? (Sirach is telling us to turn inward. To think before speaking. Seek humility, repent when necessary [i.e., that would be daily — j.t.]. Keep your word “Let: nothing hinder you from paying a vow promptly, and do not wait until death to be released from it.” (Sirach 18:22 NRSV) The only vows we concern ourselves with today are those relating to marriage. At the time of this writing, people would make vows to the Lord because they felt deeply about certain public issues, for instance, the state of idolatry in Israel. The vow may include fasting as a means of demonstrating to oneself just how important the issue is. Vows were always intended to be private agreements between an individual and God except for that of the Nazarite. John the Baptist was the finest example of a Nazarite. He was wounded for the sin of his people which is why he looked and acted so strangely. Jesus tells us that when it comes to fasting, make it very personal; do it in secret.)

What does Sirach have to say about plenty and want? About wealth and poverty? (“In the time of plenty think of the time of hunger; in days of wealth think of poverty and need.” (Sirach 18:25 NRSV) That fact is that if all we had were beautiful days and no rainy ones, we would not appreciate how beautiful the days are. We always need a point of comparison — the better from the worse.)

What is the main subject of verses 18:30-33? (Sirach is addressing the subject of self-control.)

What apostle spent time talking about self-control? (Paul. He talks about how athletes subject their bodies to rigorous training to win a perishable prize and that we should do the same “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; be we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23a NIV))

Old Testament Reading Guide – October 24-30, 2011

How do I use this reading guide?

Read our own homegrown commentary on Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezra and Haggai. 

Jeremiah 44:1-14

The remnant of Israel, those left behind after the destruction of Jerusalem, lacked the faith to remain in Israel and instead fled to, of all places, Egypt. But God continues to pursue his people into Egypt through his prophet Jeremiah.

What is God’s message to the remnant of Judah (Israel) living in Egypt? What have they failed to learn from the destruction of Jerusalem? What is the remnant doing instead of returning to God? Where have they put their faith? What will happen to them because of their lack of faith?

Lamentations 1:1-12

“Lamentations is not an emotional outburst but a formal expression of grief in a high literary style.  However, each lament moves rapidly from one topic to the next, revealing that the writer’s soul is still in turmoil.  Like most elegies, the lyrics in Lamentations deal with profound loss by recollecting past glories and cataloging what is now gone forever, lamenting the finality of the losses while at the same time seeking consolation in present sorrows and some hope for the future.” [ESV Study Bible Introduction to Lamentations p. 1477]  So although we may associate mourning and grieving with lamenting, the biblical view includes an element of hope.

Lamentations is ascribed to Jeremiah though the book does not itself identify its author. It is a collection of poems (laments) written to mourn the destruction of Jerusalem. The lamentations are poems written acrostically which means little to those of us confined to other than Hebrew.  It means that the first verse begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet; the second with the second and so forth until the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are expended.  What this means to us is that a great deal of thought and skill went into the writing of Lamentations.

Israel in this book is identified with the “city”, “Zion”, “Daughter of Zion”, which are all references to its capital city Jerusalem, home to the Temple of God, which was destroyed by the Babylonians. Jerusalem in turn is personified as a woman. When you think about Israel’s history, who do you think the ‘lovers’, and ‘friends’ are? What did these ‘lovers’ fail to deliver? How have the ‘”woman’s” children and princes suffered because of her infidelity?

The punishment for the “woman’s” adultery has caused her to be exposed with the world despising her and looking on her shame and nakedness. Compare this to Jesus’ experience on the cross. He hangs there naked on the cross, as his enemies heap scorn upon him. Whose shame is Jesus bearing?

Imagine these words applied to the crucifixion of Jesus:

Lamentations 1:12 Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look around and see. Is any suffering like mike suffering that was inflicted on me, that the LORD brought on me in the day of his fierce anger?

Lamentations 2:8-15

What has God taken from Israel, the “Daughter of Zion”? In what way did their “prophets” fail them? What should the prophets caused the people of Israel to see?

There is one question that Jeremiah does not answer: “Your wound is as deep as the sea. Who can heal you?” That in poetic form is the central question of the Old Testament. The sin wound is so deep, who can rescue us from the his body of sin? See Romans 7:21-25a.

In what way does Christ the true prophet, succeeding where Israel’s prophets failed? Who will take on the wounds and shame of Israel in order to redeem her? Compare Lamentations 2:15 to Matthew 24:41-44.

Ezra 1:1-11

The books Nehemiah and Ezra are closely linked and are thought to be authored by the same person.  “The events narrated in Ezra cover almost a century.  Jews had been taken into exile in Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C., but in 539 King Cyrus of Persia overthrew the Babylonian king, Nabonidus.  By doing so, he took control of a vast empire, including the territory of the former kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  In 538 B.C., Cyrus issued a decree that the Jewish exiles were free to return to their ancestral home.”  The ESV Study Bible, Introduction to Ezra p. 799.

It was believed in the Ancient world that when a people was defeated, it was because their gods had been defeated. How does God demonstrate that he is still God even though his people are in exile? Who caused the remnant of Israel to return to Jerusalem? How does Cyrus explain his decision to allow the temple of the LORD to be rebuilt? How right is he?

Ezra 3:1-13

The remnant that returned to Jerusalem rebuilt the LORD’s altar, offered sacrifices and celebrated the Feast of the Tabernacles. How was this an expression of the people’s faith in the LORD? In other words, what made this move risky? When the foundation is laid, why is there a mixed reaction from the community? Who was it that rejoiced? Who wept?

Although the temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem, it will be nothing like the splendor of Solomon’s Temple. A remnant has returned, the promises of God are still alive, but we are still waiting for the descendant of David who will reign forever and build a temple that will outshine them all.

Ezra 4:7-24

A certainty in life is 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?

Haggai 1:1-2:9

Interestingly the opening words of Haggai begin with: “In the second year of Darius the king…”  Well, wouldn’t you know it, the word of the LORD came to Haggai in the second year of Darius the king.  As we have seen, the people in Judah have been told that they may not rebuild their temple nor their city.  Evidently, however, they have been allowed to build their homes and to make improvements to them.

Why has the remnant that returned to rebuild Jerusalem harvested little? Why are they unable to quench their hunger and thirst? Why can’t their clothes keep them warm? Why is their money never enough? How did the people respond to the LORD’s admonition?

How does God encourage those who were old enough to remember the old temple? What does God promise for the future? Who do you think the ‘desired of nations’ is? What is this new temple that the LORD speaks of? See Acts 2:1-3 and Revelation 21:1-27. One thing that may help is to remember that the temple is not so much a building, but the place where God lives with his people. In Israel’s past, God dwelt first in the tabernacle (a tent), then in the temple. Then it was Jesus. Then it was the Holy Spirit living in the hearts of Jesus’ followers. And then at the end of time, God himself will make his home on earth at the restoration of all things.