Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, January 4, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 85

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

John 9:1-12, 35-38

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pay close attention to …

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

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 5:1-20

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

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

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

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

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

Pay close attention to …

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

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Joshua 3:14-4:7

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

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

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

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

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

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Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, January 5, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 29

Prayer Point. Several months ago I stood on East Beach and was amazed by the power of Sandy’s winds and the crashing of the normally placid sea. These natural forces, as awesome as they are, are only dim reflection of the power of God. Lift up your fears to God and meditate on the truth that our powerful God will bless us, his people, with peace.

John 15:1-17

Background. Jesus revealed himself in a series of important “I am” statements that are recorded in the gospel of John (see John 6:35; 6:51; 8:12; 9:5; 10:7, 9; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5). In today’s reading he declares himself to be “the true vine” and his Father, “the gardener.”

The Bible often compares God’s people to a grape vine and God to the gardener or vineyard owner. Jesus continues this image, although in today’s reading he declares himself to be the vine and God’s people to be branches belonging to the vine.

The scene Jesus describes was common for his day. Unfruitful brunches were cut off and burned to allow the vine as a whole to flourish and become more fruitful.

Pay close attention to …

  • Which branches are cut off and burned and which branches are pruned and why.
  • What it takes for a branch to bear fruit.
  • The kind of fruit that God the Father (the gardener) is looking for in the vine branches (the disciples of Jesus). See verses 9-17.
  • God’s definition of love and how it was demonstrated to us.
  • What God the Father will do for those who remain in Jesus the vine and love others as Jesus commanded us.

Listen. Believe. Obey. Share

What is the passage saying? About God? About ourselves? (Listen)
What is God asking us to believe? (Believe)
What is God asking us to do? (Obey)
Who can we share this with? (Share)

Romans 15:7-13

Background. John, the disciple of Jesus, said that “we love because he first loved us.” The experience of God’s love for us is meant for us to be enjoyed, but also reflected to others. You will see this same connection in today’s reading. Paul teaches in Romans 15 that our treatment of others must flow from Jesus’ gracious treatment of us.

These words were badly needed by the diverse church that had gathered in Rome (the original recipients of this letter). The congregation was made up of Jews who both followed Christ and the Jewish traditions and Gentiles who knew little of the Jewish practices of circumcision and keeping kosher. It was easy for the Jews to look down on the Gentiles who were new to following the God of Israel (whom Christians follow by following Jesus).

In the background of today’s reading is a promise made to Israel’s patriarchs (founders) that God would bless their nation for the purposes of blessing the whole world through them (see Genesis 12:1-3). Rather than being arrogant

Pay close attention to …

  • The connection of Christ’s acceptance of us and the command to accept others.
  • The connection between Jesus’ service to the Jews and the Gentiles becoming worshipers of God.

Listen. Believe. Obey. Share

What is the passage saying? About God? About ourselves? (Listen)
What is God asking us to believe? (Believe)
What is God asking us to do? (Obey)
Who can we share this with? (Share)

Joshua 1:1-9

Background. Of the over 600,000 people who fled from Egypt, there were only two of the original bunch who actually entered the Promised Land: Joshua was one of them. I think that is significant. Even Moses was denied entrance to the land flowing with milk and honey. The other was a fellow named Caleb. Moses had commissioned one man from each tribe to scout out the (Promised) land shortly after the Hebrews’ departure from Egypt. Ten of the spies came back with bad reports of how dangerous the conditions and the men were and that the Hebrews would not be able to overcome them. If the Hebrews had pursued the venture they would have had the LORD to go before them. “These were those listed by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who listed the people of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho. But among these there was not one of those listed by Moses and Aaron the priest, who had listed the people of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai. For the LORD had said of them, ‘They shall die in the wilderness.’ Not one of them was left, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.” (Numbers 26:63-65 ESV) For most of the forty years’ journey in the wilderness, Joshua was Moses “right hand man”. He was commissioned by Moses and by God in front of the whole congregation so that an orderly transition of power could be effected. So Joshua has credentials. As a point of interest Joshua is the same name that Jesus had.

Pay close attention to…

  • What the LORD says to Joshua (vv. 2-10)
  • The promise the LORD makes personally to Joshua (v. 5)
  • What Joshua is to do with the book of the Law (v. 8)
  • The benefit of being obedient (v. 8b)
  • Where the LORD will be (v. 9)

Listen. Believe. Obey. Share

What is the passage saying? About God? About ourselves? (Listen)
What is God asking us to believe? (Believe)
What is God asking us to do? (Obey)
Who can we share this with? (Share)

Daily Bible Readings – Tuesday July 31, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 62

Prayer Point:  Before you start your day and enter this broken world full of problems, center yourself on God. Meditate on the opening words of Psalm 62, “My soul finds rest in God alone … he is my fortress and I will never be shaken.” Pray that these words will stay with you throughout the day, so that you will be able to stand when trouble comes.

Matthew 27:32-44

In yesterday’s post (Matthew 27:24-31) drawing on material from Shane Claiborne’s book, Jesus for President, we saw that the Roman soldiers’ patterned the execution of Jesus after the coronations of the Caesars to humiliate the one who claimed to be King. These parallels continue in today’s reading.

After the Caesar had been arrayed with a crown, a scepter and a purple robe, he took part in a procession through the city followed by a bull that was to be sacrificed and a slave carrying an ax, the instrument of the sacrifice. The procession wound it way to the Capitoline Hill, the highest hill in Rome.

Jesus, “the Caesar,” is paraded through the streets of Jerusalem. There is no bull in this procession, so who or what is the sacrifice? What is the instrument of the sacrament? Notice who carries the cross.

Upon reaching the Capitoline Hill, the priest offered the Caesar wine mixed with myrrh. Following tradition he initially accepted it only to refuse it and hand it back to the priest. The priest then poured the wine on the bull and sacrificed it.

Notice what Jesus does with the wine mixed with myrrh. Who gets sacrificed? Notice how the Romans sarcastically proclaim him. The prophet Isaiah wrote about this centuries before:

Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

What Rome did not understand was that they were sacrificing the Great King, who was dying for the sins of his people. Unlike the Caesar, it was not a bull that died, but God himself. In our world, kings become king by killing the old king. But Jesus declared that his kingdom is not of this world. He becomes the exalted king by laying down his life.

The Caesar ascended the throne with his second in command on his right and his third in command on his left as the final act of his coronation. Who are the 2nd and 3rd in command during Jesus’ crucifixion?

The insults come not only from the Romans, but from the Jews as well. In what ways do the chief priests mock Jesus? Compare what they say to Psalm 22:6-8, a psalm that speaks prophetically of the death of Jesus.

Romans 16:17-27

What sorts of people does Paul want the Roman Christians to watch out for and why?

What hope does Paul offer to the church despite the opposition they will face?

What do you notice about the way the letter was constructed as the writer signs off? Does Paul work alone? What do you notice about the network of people around Paul?

Paul’s letter to the Romans closes with praise. What is about God the Father that causes Paul to worship him and have full confidence that he will preserve his brothers and sisters living in Rome?

Joshua 2:1-23 – “Then Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord”

Unfortunately doing evil in the eyes of the LORD will be a recurring theme throughout this book. Forewarned is forearmed. The sad truth is that things are not all that much better today if at all. Today we are doing evil in the eyes of the LORD and I don’t think we believe God is watching.
What happened to the generation that had succeeded Joshua and his bunch? (Once Joshua had died and all those of his generation, the next generation “grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10 NIV))

How was it that the generation after Joshua neither knew the LORD nor what he had done? (The problem then is the same one we have today. The law was not taught nor impressed upon the young people. We will encounter this condition from this point onward. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8 NIV) This admonition will continue to prove itself true even long after the resurrection of Jesus. How would you rate yourself in transmitting the gospel to your children or to those who are committed to your charge? I will quote these verses every time this forgetfulness shows itself.)

How does this ignorance of the LORD manifest itself among the people? (“They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the people around them. They provoked the LORD to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.)

What does the LORD do as a result of this apostasy? (“In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around whom they were no longer able to resist.” (Judges 2:14 NIV))

How does the LORD save them out of the hands of these raiders? (“Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders.” (Judges 2:16 NIV))

And the response of Israel was? (“Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD’s commands.” (Judges 2:17 NIV) And this was just the beginning…)

Why would the Lord raise up judges for Israel? (“… for the Lord had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them.” (Judges 2:18) Sound familiar? This was the same thing the people had done in Egypt as they groaned under their taskmasters.)

Remember: when the cat’s away the mice will play. How does this description figure in this passage? (“But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.” (Judges 2:19 NIV) All too often we today think we have come so far. I don’t think the demands made on the ancient Israelites are any less than those we should aspire to today. (Holiness) How are we different than the ancient Israelites? How are we the same?)

What does the LORD resolve to do for Israel because of their stubbornness? (“Because this nation has violated the covenant that I laid down for their forefathers and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their forefathers did.” (Judges 2:20b-22 NIV) I get the impression that the people thought that the LORD “didn’t mean it!” I wonder if we don’t think the same thing at times.)

So the LORD had allowed those nations to remain.

Daily Bible Readings – Monday July 30, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 57

Prayer Point:  Hidden in the back of cave, surrounded by his enemies, David lifts up hands to heaven and prays. Use this psalm as a pattern for your own prayer for yourself or someone you know that may be in that dark place. Cry out to God for mercy. Take refuge in him by faith and wait expectantly for his answer. Worship God even from the back of the cave.

Matthew 27:24-31

As you read the story of Jesus’ crucifixion in the next couple of days, consider for a moment the parallels between Jesus’ death and the coronations of the Roman Caesars (this information is courtesy of Shane Claiborne’s book, Jesus for President).

First, the Praetorian (elite unit of Roman soldiers) gathered in the Praetorium and placed the new Caesar in the center. Notice what first happens to Jesus when he is handed over for crucifixion (see verse 27).

Second, the soldiers went to the temple of the Roman god Jupiter and bring back a purple robe and place it on his shoulders. They also placed a golden wreath of olive leaves on his head and scepter in his hand. Compare this to what the soldiers do in verses 28-31.

It is pretty clear that the Roman soldiers intended to cruelly humiliate Jesus with a mock coronation, but for God, the cross is the surprising path Jesus walked to become King. The Romans had no idea that the words, “hail, king of the Jews” was truer than they knew.

Romans 16:1-16

We forget that Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians was a personal letter to people he deeply cared about because the letter contains a heavy dose of theology. For Paul, the study of God was never divorced from the reality of life and the people he served and loved. As the letter draws to a close, he sends greetings to his dear friends.

Take note of the diverse range of relationships that Paul enjoyed. What types of experiences did he share with his friends?

Joshua 24:16-23 – Joshua’s Valedictory

Joshua has just made what might be considered his “signature” confession: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” This puts the crowd (all of Israel) in an enthusiastic mood. How do they respond to Joshua’s challenge? (The people want to do Joshua one better … “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods.” (Joshua 24:16 NIV) Then they go through the brief history (a little more than the forty years since they had left Egypt) of all the proofs of the LORD’s love and care shown to Israel. They show that have a good memory. They finish by bragging, “We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.” (Joshua 24:18b NIV))

It seems that these Jewish leaders are forever warning their people. Here we have Joshua on what amounts to be his death bed; what rather stern warning does he issue to the people? (“You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make and end of you, after he has been good to you.” (Joshua 24:19-20 NIV))

The people respond in predictable fashion: “No! We will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:21 NIV) What does Joshua say then to advise the people that they are venturing perilously close to breaking one of the Ten Commandments? (“Then Joshua said, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:22 NIV) The commandment is the Third Commandment “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.” This is a prohibition against making frivolous vows or promises to God.)

How do the people reaffirm their vow? (“Yes, we are witnesses.” (Joshua 24:22b NIV))

What does Joshua admonish the people then to do? (“‘Now then,’ said Joshua, ‘throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.’” (Joshua 24:23 NIV))

There are a couple of things to consider in these verses. The first is that Joshua believes that the people are still harboring “foreign” gods – i.e., false gods, and the second is that he wants the people to give their hearts to God. Our actions betray our heart attitude. The LORD has only and always wanted our hearts. We are called even today to “yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel”. What are our own false gods? Ask God to show them to you.

The people then, again, echo: “We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.”

What does Joshua do to settle the matter with the people? (“On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD.” (Joshua 24:25-26) Here it looks like Joshua is “adding” to Moses’ words in the Book of the Law. This record of Joshua’s exploits with the Israelites would serve to remind the people of all that had happened and all that they had promised their God.)

Joshua had set up a stone “under the oak near the holy place”. This is not the first time we have seen this type of memorial. Immediately upon entering the Promised Land the people were instructed to erect a stone altar (one stone per tribe – 12 in all) to serve as a reminder of the parting of the Jordan River. How does Joshua dedicate this stone under the oak? (“‘See!’ he said to all the people. ‘This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.’” (Joshua 24:27 NIV))

How old was Joshua when he died? (Joshua was 110 years old.)
Jesus is just a Greek rendering of Joshua’s name. It means “Jehovah [the LORD] saves”. Before Jesus was even conceived he was given this name (according to Matthew (1:21)) “because he will save his people from their sins.”

Daily Bible Readings – Sunday July 29, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 29

Prayer Point:  How powerful is the God that we trust? Psalm 29 compares him to the power of thunderstorm and ferocity of a tornado. He is king forever and no power on earth can shake him. If only we believed this. Confess your unbelief to God today and pray for the faith to believe that God is who he says he is.

Mark 2:23-28

The fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8-11) clearly prohibited work on the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week. The teachers of the law, however, wrestled with the thorny question of how to define ‘work.’ They determined that picking grain to eat constituted work and therefore was prohibited on the Sabbath.
Why does Jesus go out of his way to challenge this interpretation? What is Jesus saying about the Sabbath? What is he saying about himself?

Acts 28:23-31

Paul has finally achieved his goal and has arrived in Rome. As was his custom, he began his ministry there by going to the Jewish synagogue to present the gospel. What does Paul use in his attempt to convince the Jews to put their faith in Jesus?

The Law of Moses and the Prophets is what we would call the Old Testament today. How did the Jews respond to Paul’s preaching? Where does Paul go, once his message his rejected,an why?

What is Paul free to do during his two years in Rome?

Remember where we have come from. The book of Acts began with the promise of Jesus in Acts 1:8 that his disciples would his witnesses to all the world. Now we see that the promise has been fulfilled with the gospel being freely preached in the capital of the Roman Empire.

Joshua 24:1-15 – Recapping the History of the Family

Joshua is now very old (very nearly 110 years old). What is the substance of his message to the leaders of Israel? (Joshua wants the leaders to remember all that the Lord had done for them as they conquered the Promised Land. He reminds them that it was the Lord who had done the fighting for them and admonishes them to trust in him. Further he promises that the Lord will drive out the remaining nations still in the land. He encourages them to be strong and careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law. He urges them to veer away from the false gods of the land. “You must not serve them or bow down to them. But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now.” (Joshua 23:7b-8 NIV))

What does Joshua warn the people which echoes what Moses had said? (“But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the LORD your God has given you.” (Joshua 23:12-13 NIV))

The chapter closes with yet another exhortation to faithfulness: “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. … If you violate the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.” (Joshua 23:14, 16)

oshua is about to give what amounts to a valedictory to the whole nation. He gathers all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. How does Joshua begin his speech? (Joshua reviews all of the history of the Jews beginning with Abraham’s father Terah and then to the gift of Isaac and then the twins Esau and Jacob. He then recounts the sojourn of the people in Egypt and the hardships they faced there. Then he talked about the miraculous deliverance from Egypt and the encounters and victories in the Promised Land.)

What is Joshua’s final encouragement to the people? (“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the [Euphrates] River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the [Euphrates] River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.” (Joshua 24:14-15a))

What is Joshua’s choice? (“But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15b NIV))

The chapter closes with a declaration from the people: “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods.” (Joshua 24:16 NIV) This last statement may actually have been true for those people at that moment. We have seen how easily the people move away from the LORD and how difficult it is to move back. If anything is to be gleaned from all that we’ve read so far it is this: the message (gospel) from the bible must be transmitted to each succeeding generation. This cannot be emphasized enough. To quote from Deuteronomy Chapter 6: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9 NIV)

Daily Bible Readings – Saturday July 28, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 55

Prayer Point:  Sometimes we feel that God is a million miles away when we are suffering. Yet in this psalm you can hear the voice of Jesus anguishing over the betrayal by his good friend Judas. Psalm 55 reminds us that Jesus has entered our pain and suffered for us on the cross. It is that demonstration of love that call us to put our faith in God and to call on him, “evening, morning and night.” Pray that instead of worrying today, you will call to God and instead of trusting yourself, you will trust him.

Matthew 27:11-23

Compare Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57-64) to his questioning before Pilate. What is the only question he is willing to answer in both trials? Why do you think he won’t answer the other charges (see Isaiah 53:7)? What is Pilate’s impression of Jesus?

Pilate represents the power of the Roman Empire, but ironically he is not in charge of his own court. He is stuck between trying to maintain the facade of “Roman justice” and his true mission which was to keep order in occupied Israel.

How does Pilate try to get out of the bind he found himself in? Who further encourages him to release Jesus? How is Pilate’s plan thwarted?

Romans 15:25-33

In yesterday’s reading we discussed Paul’s mission. Where is his mission taking him now? What will he do when he arrives at his destination? Who has partnered with him to make this mission possible?

Jerusalem, as the first church, was the mother church of all the other churches that were planted by its members. At the time this letter was written, Jerusalem and all of Judea was in the midst of a terrible drought and there was widespread hunger and starvation. What obligation did the churches in Macedonia and Achaia (Greece) owe to their brothers? What have the Gentiles received from the Jews? What do they owe in return?

How does Paul encourage the Roman church to partner with him in his ministry? What specific things does he ask them to do?

Joshua 23:1-16 – Joshua’s Farewell

Joshua is now very old (very nearly 110 years old). What is the substance of his message to the leaders of Israel? (Joshua wants the leaders to remember all that the Lord had done for them as they conquered the Promised Land. He reminds them that it was the Lord who had done the fighting for them and admonishes them to trust in him. Further he promises that the Lord will drive out the remaining nations still in the land. He encourages them to be strong and careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law. He urges them to veer away from the false gods of the land. “You must not serve them or bow down to them. But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now.” (Joshua 23:7b-8 NIV))

What does Joshua warn the people which echoes what Moses had said? (“But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the LORD your God has given you.” (Joshua 23:12-13 NIV))

The chapter closes with yet another exhortation to faithfulness: “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. … If you violate the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.” (Joshua 23:14, 16)

Daily Bible Readings – Friday July 27, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 54

Prayer Point:  When David is attacked by his enemies, what does he believe and what does he ask of God in Psalm 54? Make this psalm the pattern of your prayers today when you are afraid.

Matthew 27:1-10

Compare and contrast Judas’ response to his sin to that of Peter’s (see Matthew 26:75). What does Judas do to try to undo the sin he had committed? Do you think this is true repentance on the part of Judas? Why or why not?

Why are the priests unable to put the returned money into the temple treasury? How does its eventual use also fit into God’s plan?

Romans 15:14-24

If Paul considered the Christians in Rome to be full of goodness and knowledge, for what purpose did he write this letter to them?

You might have noticed in verse 15 that Paul writes “because of the grace God gave [him].” We normally think of grace of God’s unmerited favor in forgiving sinners, but it also refers to the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to every Christian and that is the meaning that Paul has in mind here. These gifts or “graces” are what determine our unique callings and ministries as we follow Jesus. What is Paul’s unique grace-empowered ministry? Who does he preach to? Where has he been? In what sorts of places is he called to preach?

Remember that this was Paul’s unique calling based on the grace that was given him. Our calling and the graces to fulfill those callings will be different. What do you think your unique mission might be?

Joshua 9:22 – 10:15 – Joshua and the Gibeonites / The Sun Stands Still

What does Joshua say to the Gibeonites regarding their deception? (“You are now under a curse: You will never cease to serve as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.” (Joshua 9:23 NIV))

And their response to this was? (“They answered Joshua, ‘Your servants were clearly told how the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you. So we feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this. We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you.’” (Joshua 9:24-25 NIV))

If you had heard that a mighty fighting force had come into the neighborhood – a force which had wiped out two important cities (Jericho and Ai) and had humbled a third city into submission, what would you do? (I like to think I would sue for peace but not Adoni-Zedek, King of Jerusalem. He enlists the help of Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish and Debir king of Eglon. This Adoni-Zedek wants to attack Gibeon. Because of this treaty between the Gibeonites and the Israelites, Israel will have to defend Gibeon from this onslaught.)

This time Joshua seeks the LORD’s help. What does the LORD tell him? (Now this is a case of the LORD bailing Joshua out of a problem of his own making. The LORD tells Joshua: “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.” (Joshua 10:8 NIV))

While it is a foregone conclusion that these five kings will meet with disaster, what is the distinguishing feature about this victory? (“As they fled before Israel … the LORD hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.” (Joshua 10:11 NIV))

What is the odd thing that Joshua does without any apparent explanation? (“Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: ‘O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped till the nations avenged itself on its enemies. … There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!” (Joshua 10:12b-13a, 14 NIV))