Daily Bible Readings – Sunday, March 9, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 103

Prayer Point. Are looking for a reason to praise God? Psalm 103 gives you a number of options. Concentrate on two or three and offer your own prayer of praise.

John 12:44-50

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 Jesus to be the light of the world? What does his light illuminate? Who does he point us to?

When we believe in Jesus, we also believe in _____________________.

When we see Jesus, we also see _______________________.

Jesus came to save the world. Who judges those who hear Jesus’ words, but do not keep them? Who directs Jesus’ mission and guides his words? What is the purpose of God the Father’s commands?

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.

Hebrews 2:10-18

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

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

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

Background. How are we all brothers (including women) of Jesus? Why did Jesus become our brother, and share in our humanity “Abraham’s descendants” was a Jewish way of referring to God’s people. Through the coming of Jesus Christ, all those who put their faith in Him are considered to be descendents of Abraham and heirs to the promises that God had given him. For more on these promises see Genesis 12:1-3. What new role has Jesus taken on because he became a human being? In what two ways can Jesus now help us with our struggle with sin?

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.

Daniel 9:3-10

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?

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 – Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 78

Prayer Point. This prayer is about passing the knowledge of God on to the next generation. Pray that your church will remember what God has done; not only in the Bible, but in our own lives. Pray that we will be faithful in sharing what God has done with the next generation, so they in turn will tell their children.

John 7:53-8:11

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.  The Feast of Tabernacles has come to a close and the pilgrims who traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast have now returned home. The feast may be over, but the Pharisees continue to see Jesus as a threat to their authority and they seek to trap and destroy him. In the woman caught in the act of adultery, they believe they have found their opportunity.

The idea is put Jesus in the position where he must side either with Old Testament Law or the Roman authorities. The penalty for adultery in the Law of Moses was indeed death, although it is curious as to why only the woman was brought before Jesus, because the Law demanded the lives of both the woman and the man. Already the Pharisees are in violation of the Law.

Here’s the problem. If Jesus says, “yes, stone her” then He would have been in trouble with the Roman authorities, because only the Roman Empire had the right to impose capital punishment. The Pharisees would have been able to portray Jesus to the Romans as someone who was fomenting insurrection. If Jesus says “no” they would portrayed Jesus as someone who did not believe in Jewish Law and Tradition.

How does Jesus stop these men in their tracks and rescue this woman? Who else in this story deserves judgment under the Law of Moses? How is this woman called to respond to Jesus’ gracious act of forgiveness? How are we called to respond?

Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions …

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.

Hebrews 13:17-25

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. Some final exhortations about leadership in the church as the letter draws to a close. Why should leaders be submitted to and prayed for?

The final prayer and blessing (verses 20-21). It is said that God the Father originates his plans, God the Son carries them out, and God the Holy Spirit supplies the power. How do you see this ‘Trinity’ pattern work itself out in this closing prayer? What is God being asked to do?

Lest we forget that this is a personal letter that has preserved for our benefit, Hebrews ends with some personal greetings.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Genesis 26:1-33

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

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

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

Background. In the first six verses of Chapter 26 we learn that Isaac went to see Abimelech of Philistia.  Many of the events of Isaac’s encounter with Abimelech are similar to those of his father Abraham’s dealings with another king of the same name (though unlikely the same man).  Verse two tells us that the LORD appeared to Isaac.  While the bible doesn’t tell us how that appearing happened, I think it was by means of a dream (for that was usually how the LORD met with people in those days).  What are the LORD’s instructions to Isaac?

[The LORD tells Isaac to remain in Gerar and not to go to Egypt.  Further, the LORD promises to increase Isaac’s blessings and then re-confirms the covenant or oath the LORD made to Abraham about his many offspring and that he would give them all the land of Canaan.]

While we can see several similarities between Abraham’s journey among the Philistines and Isaac’s, what is a striking difference?

[Abraham created a ruckus when first he entered the land of the Philistines by telling Sarah to admit that she was Abraham’s sister and not his wife.   Abimelech (I) bribed Abraham to leave his land so that the LORD would not destroy his people.  Isaac, on the other hand, was greatly blessed by the Lord and his flocks and herds multiplied thus making him very rich among the Philistines.  While they drove (and bribed) Abraham to leave, this Abimelech (II) commanded Isaac to leave because he was getting too powerful.  Isaac was not bribed.]

Isaac then digs a couple of wells over which the Philistines dispute.  He abandons them and finally digs a well where there is no dispute.  What does he call this well?  What does it mean?
[“He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it.  He named it Rehoboth, saying, ‘Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.’” (v. 26:22 NIV)  As indicated in the notes in the NIV, Rehoboth means “room”.]

We continue with the parallels in Abraham’s and Isaac’s lives.  Abraham makes a treaty with Abimelech (I) at Beersheba (“can mean ‘well of the oath’ or ‘well of seven’” NIV footnotes).  Isaac makes a treaty with Abimelech (II) also at Beersheba.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Monday, February 10, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 77

Prayer Point. Asaph, the author of Psalm 77, is thinking back on how he prayed during a dark period in his life.  He cried out to God and refused to be comforted. He then reminds God of the great things he has done and asks him to do it again. Try following this prayer today, either for yourself or someone you know that is in need.

John 7:37-52

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 Feast of Tabernacles commemorated Israel’s forty years of wandering in the wilderness between their liberation from slavery in Egypt and their entrance into the Promised Land. The people lived in tents (tabernacles, hence the name of the feast) during that time and there God taught them to rely on him daily.  When they were hungry, he gave them manna, daily bread. When they were thirsty, he split the rocks, providing fresh water for his thirsty people.

Pay close attention to …

  • What and who Jesus offers to those who are thirsty. Note the connection to the Feast of Tabernacles.
  • Why the temple guards are unable to arrest Jesus.
  • Who steps forward to defend Jesus and why his rebuffed.  Notice what the Pharisees don’t know about Jesus (see verses 27, 45-52 and Luke 2:1-7).

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.

Hebrews 13:1-16

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

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

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

Background. The letter to the Hebrews was written to a particular church what was made up of converts from Judaism. Because they were members of a what was regarded as new religion, these Christians faced persecution from the Roman authorities and they were ostracized by the Jewish community. Life was hard and they wondered if they had made the right decision. Maybe we should abandon our faith in Jesus?  That is the question that is being addressed.

Hebrews is a letter encouraging these Christians, and ourselves, to keep on keeping on.

What is this church encouraged to do and not do as they endured persecution? List out the commands to you see in verses 1 – 16.

The central theme of this letter is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Law and rituals.. In verse 11 we see yet another example. How is Jesus’ crucifixion compared to the Old Testament sacrifices? Why are they encouraged to share in Jesus’ shame? What hope is held out for them?  

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Genesis 25:19-34

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. While we won’t be discussing it here, the first part of Chapter 25 of Genesis tells us that Abraham got married again after Sarah died.  His second wife’s name was Keturah and she bore to Abraham six more sons.  When Abraham died (at the age of 175 years) he left all that he had to Isaac.  (Abraham had distributed gifts while he lived to the sons of Keturah.)

So, Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah but, alas, she was found to be “barren”.  What does Isaac do about this?  He had to do something to make sure he had children otherwise what happens to the promise the LORD had made?
[He prays “to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren”. (v. 25:21 NIV)]

What is the difference here between Abraham/Sarah, and Isaac/Rebekah?
[The LORD had promised Abraham that he would have a son by Sarah, but the LORD’s timing is woefully slow for us.  We, like Abraham, want things to happen now; we, like Abraham, cannot wait for the LORD.  So Sarah takes matters into her own hands and tells Abraham to get himself a child from her servant Hagar.  That is Sarah’s solution to the problem.  We saw how that worked out.  Isaac’s solution was a much better one: he prayed to the LORD to provide him with a son.]

What was the result of Isaac’s prayer for a son?
[Rebekah conceived of twins: Esau and Jacob.]

Something troubles Rebekah while she is pregnant.  What is it?
[The twins in her womb begin to fight.  I think Rebekah was afraid she would miscarry of her baby.]

What does Rebekah do and what does she find out?
[Rebekah prays to the LORD and the first thing she finds out is that she is going to have twins – boys.  The next thing is a prophecy: “… the older will serve the younger.” (v. 25:23b NIV)  We have to respect both Isaac and Rebekah because it seems that their first recourse to a problem (certainly at this point) is to go the LORD in prayer.  Unhappily, as we shall see, that tendency does not continue.]

Since, as we have seen, names which are given in the Old Testament are meaningful, what is the significance of the names of Esau and Jacob?
[Esau may mean “hairy”; “… and his whole body was like a hairy garment”. (v. 25:25 NIV)  Esau and his descendents will also become known as Edom (a perennial enemy of the Jews [Israel] which may mean “red”: “The first to come out was red.” (v. 25:25 NIV)  Esau was ruddy and hairy; this will play an important role later in Esau’s life.  “His brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel…” (v. 25:26 NIV)  So Jacob actually means “he grasps the heel” [from the footnotes of the NIV], which, because of what happens later, came to mean “deceiver”.]

We know that Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born to him; how old was Isaac when his sons were born to him?
[Isaac was sixty years old when Esau and Jacob were born.)]

Now the trouble begins.  It will be important to remember the promise that the LORD made to Rebekah regarding her sons: i.e., “… and the older will serve the younger” (v. 25:23b NIV).  Why, do you suppose, Isaac loves Esau over Jacob?
[I believe that Isaac loves Esau as is first-born son.  To him belongs the inheritance (Isaac’s).  The thing is we don’t know if Isaac was ever aware of the prophecy that Rebekah had received from the LORD regarding Jacob – that he would inherit as a first-born son should.  Esau was the outdoorsman and he became an experienced hunter and Isaac “…had a taste for wild game…” (v. 25:28 NIV)]

“… but Rebekah loved Jacob.” (v. 25:28b NIV)  Why would Rebekah prefer Jacob over Esau?
[In truth, the Scripture does not tell us why Rebekah preferred Jacob, but perhaps her maternal instinct to protect the younger and less-favored son kicked in.  Perhaps she remembered the prophecy of the Lord.  Actually, I doubt she remembered the prophecy regarding her younger son given what happens next.]

Phase One

The next scene is phase one of Jacob’s plan to usurp Esau’s favor with Isaac (through deception).  What is significant about the stew?  (This is a minor detail but it proves of some importance in verse 25:30.)  What does Esau say about himself which sounds rather exaggerated?  What is the cost of that exaggeration?
[The significant thing about the stew is that Esau describes it as being “red”.  In verse 25:30 “That is why he [Esau] is also called Edom.”  Esau claims to be famished unto death.  “Look, I am about to die. … What good is the birthright to me?” (v. 25:32 NIV)  So Jacob requires Esau to surrender his birthright (as the first-born) for a bowl of (red) stew.  In the NIV Study Bible notes p. 46: “25:33 Swear to me first.  A verbal oath was all that was required to make the transaction legal and forever binding.”  Times certainly have changed: today such a notion would be laughable.]

Verse 25:34b sums up Esau’s attitude: “So Esau despised his birthright.”

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, February 8, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 23

Prayer Point. God’s way is a journey that leads us to the house of the LORD, but takes us through the valleys of the shadow of death. It is difficult journey, but God promises to be with us everywhere we go. Meditate on the promises this psalm offers us and prayer for the faith to believe them.

John 7:14-36

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 guide you.

Background. The question of Jesus’ authority is at the heart of today’s reading. He has openly challenged the religious leaders’ interpretation of the Law.  He brazenly healed a man on the Sabbath even though the teachers of the law believed healing to be work and therefore a violation of the 4th Commandment (see Exodus 20:8-11). Who does Jesus think he is anyway? God?

Jesus teaches in the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles, which commemorated God’s provision for Israel while they wandered in the wilderness for forty years.  (See the book of Exodus for that story. It involves bread from heaven, water flowing out or rocks and meat delivered to their door.) His teaching is that of a great rabbi, but the idea of a self-taught rabbi was as absurd as a self-instructed doctor would be today. It just wasn’t done and yet Jesus, who had no rabbi, speaks with a wisdom unlike anyone who had come before him and the people don’t know what to do with him.

Pay close attention to …

  • Whom Jesus claims as his “rabbi”, the source of his teaching (see verse 16).
  • What it takes to learn the source of Jesus’ teaching (verse 17)
  • Whose honor a true teacher pursues (verse 18).
  • The people’s great sin (verse 19).
  • The connection between knowing Jesus and knowing God the Father, the “One who sent him.”
  • How Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the belief that is unlawful to heal on the Sabbath.(verses 21-24)
  • Why the crowds are skeptical of Jesus (verses 25-27)
  • Where Jesus claims he is from, how the crowds respond and why the crowds’ plans are frustrated (see verse 30). How others in the crowd responded and why (verse 31). What the Pharisees plan to do (verse 32).
  • Where Jesus is going that he cannot be followed (verses 33-36).

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.

Hebrews 12:12-29

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 guide you.

Background. What pitfalls does the writer of Hebrews warn us against? What kinds of things can cause us to give up?

What can we learn from Esau’s failure? For more information you can read his story in Genesis 25:19-34. You might remember from our readings in chapter 11 that the Old Testament faith heroes willingly suffered in this world because they valued the next world more than the present one. In what way did Esau have the opposite values? What did he lose? Why?

“The mountain that cannot be touched.” (12:18) The writer of Hebrews is reminding his readers of the scene when God gave Israel the 10 Commandments (the Law) at Mount Sinai. In the Old Testament, the people were told to stay away because they could not approach a holy God in their sinful state. Why would you want to go back to that, when Jesus has made us holy and now God tells all people to come and be reconciled 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.

Genesis 24:28-51

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. Hospitality is shown to Abraham’s servant (quite unlike the kind of hospitality we are accustomed to today).  The servant then replays the events that had just happened outside.  Whom do we meet for the first time?

[We meet Rebekah’s brother Laban.  He will be instrumental in the story of Jacob many years later.]

What is Laban and Bethuel’s response to the servant’s offer of Isaac as husband to Rebekah?
[“Laban and Bethuel answered, ‘This is from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or the other.  Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has directed.’” (v. 24:50-51 NIV)]

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Friday, February 7, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 73

Prayer Point. We believe that God watches over his people, but it troubles us that the wicked seem to prosper.  Sometimes we envy them.  Meditate on this psalm and pray that God will give us the faith to say, even in difficult times, “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you …”

John 7:1-13

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. Jesus taught that a prophet has no honor in his own country (John 4:44). Apparently that is also true of a prophet’s family: Jesus’ own brothers doubt him. It may surprise some to learn that Jesus had brothers, especially since his mother Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. While Mary was certainly a virgin before his birth, the scriptures do not say that she remained a virgin afterward. Remember that she was married to Joseph and it is likely that they had other children who would effectively be half-brothers of Jesus.

The skeptical brothers wonder why Jesus labors in obscurity when those who are trying to change the world normally place themselves in the center of the action. Why not go to Jerusalem? John tells us in verse 1 that the Jews were looking to take his life.  Jesus is not staying away out of fear, but because he will lay down his life at the time chosen by his Father.

The Feast of Tabernacles would have provided Jesus a great opportunity to take his campaign public because it was one of three festivals that Jews were required to celebrate in Jerusalem each year.  Everyone would be there.

Pay close attention to …

  • The skepticism of Jesus’ own brothers.  Imagine what that would have been like for Jesus.
  • Why Jesus refuses to go to Jerusalem with his brothers.
  • Why the world hates Jesus.
  • Jesus goes to Jerusalem in secret.  What are the crowds saying about him?
  • Why no one publicly acknowledges 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.

Hebrews 12:3-11

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. Let’s take a step back for a moment and look at the book of Hebrews as a whole. The book of Hebrews was written to a Jewish group of followers of Jesus who were undergoing a difficult time of persecution. Life was so hard for them, they were considering abandoning their faith in Jesus and returning to the safety of the Judaism they had been born into. This book was written to encourage them to cling to Jesus and to persevere in their new faith.

In chapter 11, the writer provided examples of persevering faith from their Jewish history and now in chapter 12 the writer starts to point us to Jesus.How can the example of Jesus encourage us to hold on to our faith even when life gets difficult?

How are we called to see the hardships that God allows in our lives? For the writer of Hebrews hardship = _____________? How does hardship mean that God still loves us? What is the purpose of struggle in our lives? What good can come of 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.

Genesis 24:1-27

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. Isaac was pushing forty and Abraham was “now old and well advanced in years” and he reckoned that it was time to find a bride for Isaac.  One cannot have a great nation if one does not have children.  A wife comes in handy when it comes to child-bearing.  Abraham enlists the aid of his chief servant in this endeavor and makes him take an oath.  What is the unusual nature of this oath (unusual to us, that is)?

[Abraham makes the servant put his hand under Abraham’s thigh to swear.  He promises not to find a wife from among the Canaanites, but to go to Abraham’s ancestral homeland to search.]

Why is Abraham so adamant about Isaac’s not going back to the land of the Chaldeans (Abraham’s ancestral home)?
[“The LORD … will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.” (v. 24:7)  I think it may have to do with “going backwards”.  Remember Lot’s wife who looked back.  The Lord called Abraham out of Ur (of the Chaldeans) and brought him to Canaan with the promise that one day his posterity will possess that land.  He didn’t want to “go back”. – j.t.]

Once the servant enters the town of Nahor (in the land of Abraham’s birth) what does he pray?
[“Then he prayed, ‘O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.  See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water.  May it be that when I say to a girl, “Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,” and she says, “Drink, and I’ll water your camels too” – let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac.  By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.’” (v. 24:12-14 NIV)]

As it happens Abraham’s servant stumbles right in the middle of Abraham’s distant family.  Rebekah is the girl who happens to be drawing the water that evening.  She is granddaughter to Nahor (who, if you remember, is Abraham’s brother – still confusing).

What does Abraham’s servant do to Rebekah?
[He gives her a gold nose ring and a couple of bracelets.  This amounted to engagement by proxy.  He was making a pledge for Isaac to Rebekah.  Now all he needed her to do was to accept.]

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Thursday, February 6, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 74

Prayer Point. How do you pray when you lose something you believed was forever? That is the dark place this prayer originates. Asaph laments the destruction of his beloved city, Jerusalem, and God’s temple. He asks, “why have you rejected us forever, O God?” Think of someone in your life that is in this place and pray psalm 74 on their behalf.

John 6:60-71

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’ willingness to offend people is quite striking in the gospel of John.  He is at the height of his popularity at the beginning of this chapter. Having fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, the crowds are ready to make him king. Then Jesus offers them a greater bread …

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:54

The crowds are revolted by the idea of eating his flesh and blood. Can Jesus be trusted be trusted even when his teachings are difficult to accept? To answer that question Jesus will draw on another prophetic image: Daniel 7:14-15.  In Daniel’s vision we see “one like a son of man” ascending to God the Father on the “clouds of heaven.” The Son of Man is seated on the throne and is given authority to rule over God’s creation.

Pay close attention to …

  • How Jesus’ own disciples react to his teaching.
  • How Jesus reacts to his disciples doubts.
  • How he explains why some will not come to him.
  • Why Peter chooses not to abandon 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.

Hebrews 11:32-12:2

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. While all the Old Testament heroes had faith in common, but their lives took very different paths. Compare the descriptions of the lives of the faithful in verses 32-35a to the descriptions in verses 35b-38. What does this tell us about what can we expect in our own faith journeys? What “disappointment” did all these faithful men and women experience (see verse 39)? How did God feel about them? Why?

The writer of Hebrews now turns his attention to us as he begins chapter 12. Why did the writer spend an entire chapter (chapter 11) relating to us the stories of the Old Testament saints? How are these stories designed to move us?

What metaphor does the writer use to describe our lives? Where are we headed? Why are we called to fix our eyes on Jesus? What do we see in 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.

Genesis 23:1-20

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

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

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

Background. How old was Sarah when she died?  (How old then was Isaac?  How old was Abraham at this time?)

[Sarah was 127 years old when she died.  Isaac then would have to be thirty-seven years old.  Abraham would be been 137 years old.)

Notice the deference that Abraham displays as he buys the property he needs in order to bury Sarah.  How do the Hittites view Abraham?

How much money does Abraham pay for the land?
[Abraham paid four hundred shekels (or about ten pounds) of silver for the land.]

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 119:73-96

Prayer Point. The God who made us is  the God we must obey if we seek to live with wisdom. His law are the path to life. But there are obstacles that block our attempts to follow him: our own ignorance, sin, and the brokenness of our world. What is getting in your way as you try to follow Jesus?  Lift those to God, ask him to remove them that we might live according to his will.

John 6:52-59

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 skeptical people demanded a miraculous sign from Jesus.  If Moses, their great leader, had given them bread from heaven, what would Jesus give them (see John 6:30 and Exodus 16)? Jesus declares that he will give them a greater bread that will satisfy them forever for that bread will be himself.  Needless to say this is difficult for the people to swallow.

The body and blood of Christ will become central to what we now call Communion or the Eucharist today.  This meal was instituted by Jesus on the night he was betrayed.  Speaking to his disciples, he took bread, broke it and gave it to his disciples and said, “this is my body.” He also took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Christians around the world celebrate this meal in remembrance of Jesus Christ whose body was broken and his blood shed so that we might be freed from the curse of death and receive eternal life.

Pay close attention to …

  • What is promised to those who eat the flesh and drink the blood 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.

Hebrews 11:23-31

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. Hebrews was written to encourage a group of Christians of Jewish ancestry who were considering giving up following Jesus. They were experiencing persecution, suffering that would cease if they returned to returned to Judaism. The writer inspires them to hang on by pointing to heroes of the faith that have gone before them (see Hebrews 11:1-22) mentioning the “faith heroes” of Israel’s past such as Abraham, Jacob and Joseph.

The writer of Hebrews in today’s reading continues to walk through Israel’s history and pick out inspiring figures who trusted God and put their faith in his promises even if they didn’t see these promises fulfilled within their life time. These were all examples of faith because they believed in something they couldn’t see and they were certain of things that had yet come to pass (see Hebrews 11:1)

Pay close attention to …

  • How Moses’ faith impacted the way he lived and what he valued. (See Exodus 1-4 for the whole story.)
  • What the people were able to do through faith in God (see verses 29-30). See also Exodus 13:17-14:31.
  • How faith turned the prostitute Rahab into a hero. See also Joshua 2:1-24 and 6:22-23.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Genesis 22:1-18

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

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

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

Background. What great demand does the LORD make of Abraham?  Considering the demand, what must Abraham believe the LORD will do?  What very innocent question does Isaac raise?  What is Abraham’s answer to this?

[The LORD demands (asks) Abraham to take his only son and offer him as a burnt offering.  While the Bible does not tell us this, it is reasonable to assume that Abraham must have believed that the LORD would raise his son from the dead after the sacrifice if the LORD were to be true to his promises.  Isaac: “The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (v. 22:7 NIV)  Abraham: “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.” (v. 22:8)

What is the LORD’s response to Abraham’s obedience? 
[“… the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’  ‘Here I am,’ he replied. ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said.  ‘Do not do anything to him.  Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son. … ‘I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore….’ (vv. 22:11-12; 16-17 NIV)]

Christians can easily see a parallel between this event and the event of Jesus’ death with one major difference.  While God stayed Abraham’s hand as he was about to offer his son on the altar, the LORD did not stay his own hand from offering his son, his only son on Calvary.  Interestingly enough, these two events, though separated by hundreds of years, occur in virtually the same place.  It is believed that the Temple (The Dome of the Rock) was built on the very place where Abraham was to offer up Isaac.

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.