Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, April 26, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 104

Prayer Point. Why is God worthy of our praise? He created our world; the valley, the mountains and the seas.  He has given rhythm to our world with days, nights, weeks, seasons and years. He is our provider and he is our Savior. Think about the world God has made, meditate on Jesus’ death and resurrection and offer God your own psalm of praise.

Mark 12:18-27

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. Both the Pharisees and the Herodians wanted to trap Jesus in his talk. The two groups couldn’t have been more diametrically opposed. The Pharisees held to a strict observance of the law. The Herodians were a loosely organized group who looked to advance the political and economic influence of the Herodian family. The Pharisees and Herodians were adversaries on many political and religious issues, but here we see them collaborating to trap Jesus and find cause to get rid of him once and for all.

The Pharisees and Herodians try to butter Jesus up with flattering speech. Jesus sees this as hypocrisy and calls them on it. Jesus knows they are trying to trap him, but notice how he answers them.

He asks for a coin which contains the image of Caesar on it. (This would have been an offense to any Jew because of the law which states that they should not make or bow down to any graven images). The likeness of Caesar and the inscription which read “Augustus Tiberius, son of the divine Augustus” would have been a definite slap in the face to any Jew who was looking for the messiah to come. On the other sign of the coin it read, “High Priest.” You can easily see why Jesus says to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

What is Jesus saying here to the Pharisees and Herodians as well as the disciples within earshot? What was Caesar’s and what was God’s according to Jesus?

Mark 12:18-27. Here the Sadducees come and try to trick Jesus. The interesting thing about the Sadducees is that they did not believe in a resurrection. So to ask Jesus a question about resurrection was quite scandalous. Of course Jesus knows right away that they are trying to trick him.

According to this passage what kind of relationships do we have in heaven? Is marriage an issue? How does Jesus demonstrate the reality of the resurrection from the Old Testament?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10

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

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

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

Background. We’ve all seen it: the deterioration of old age, the ravages of cancer and other terminal diseases. Why shouldn’t these things cause us to lose heart? What do we have to look forward to that will overshadow our present sufferings? What guarantee has God given us so that we will know the certainty of God’s promises?

Why is death preferable in some cases for a Christian? If it is God’s will for us to continue to live, what goals should drive us in this life?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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

Exodus 13:17-14:4

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

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

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

Background.  Why doesn’t the LORD take the shortest route (through Philistia) to the “Promised Land”?  Why would the people be armed for battle as they make their way toward the “Promised Land”?  (“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter.  For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’” (Exodus 13:17 NIV)

To where does the LORD lead the people?  (The LORD led the people around the desert toward the Red Sea.)

Whose dying wish was fulfilled in this Exodus? (Joseph wanted his bones to be carried from Egypt to the Promised Land for burial.)

How does the LORD present himself to the people as they journey?  (The LORD appears both as a pillar of fire and a cloud to lead the people both day and night.)

What is the LORD’s plan for both Israel and Egypt?  (The Lord is planning on one more encounter with Pharaoh to show his power through him.)

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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

Advertisements

Daily Bible Reading – Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 114

Prayer Point. We are called to both fear and love God as Israel did. Psalm 114 explains why. It is the power of God that causes the earth to tremble, but it is that same power that breaks the power of oppression and sets us free. Pray that God will fill you with a reverent fear of his power, but also gratitude that this same power rescued us from slavery to sin and death.

Mark 16:9-20

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. Women were so lightly regarded that their testimony was disallowed in Jewish courts. Why do you think Jesus chose Mary Magdalene to be first to see him resurrected? How did the disciples receive her testimony? Did the testimony of the two additional disciples in verses 12-13 convince them?

Jesus is clearly upset by his disciples’ refusal to believe, but how do we know that he still accepts them? What mission does he give his unbelieving disciples? Why do think Jesus picks them? Was it because of their extraordinary faith? What hope does this give us who are also entrusted with the same mission?

The disciples begin to carry out Jesus’ instructions once he returns to heaven. How is it that this group of scared unbelieving disciples were able to fulfill such a difficult mission?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 15:12-28

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

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

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

Background.  Apparently some in Corinth preached against the idea of the resurrection from the dead. How central is resurrection to the Christian faith? What are we left with without resurrection?

Paul refers to Jesus as the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (15:20) “Fallen asleep” was the term early Christians used to refer to physical death, emphasizing its temporary nature. For Jesus to be the “firstfruit” of those who have been raised from the dead, means that Jesus is the first resurrected human being with a new, perfect, imperishable body. If you want to know what your resurrected body will be like, take a look at Jesus in John 20.
Jesus as the“second Adam” is an important theme in 1 Corinthians. Notice how he compares and contrasts Jesus to Adam.

Through Adam all _______________________. Through Christ (the second Adam) all will be _________________. (1 Corinthians 15:22)

Why must all things be put under Christ’s feet? What will Jesus do once this happens?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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

Exodus 12:28-39

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? You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. “The Hebrew title [of this book], ‘Names,’ is taken from the first line of the text, ‘These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob.’” (ESV Study Bible introduction to Exodus)  P. 139.

What does “Exodus” mean and where does it come from?  This word one can look up in the dictionary.  (“Exodus” means to go out.  This is the title of the second book of Moses in the Septuagint.)

What is Pharaoh’s directive to Moses and Aaron? (“During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Up!  Leave my people, you and the Israelites!  Go, worship the Lord as you have requested.  Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go.  And also bless me.” (Exodus 12:31-32 NIV))

Why do the “common” Egyptians urge the Hebrews to leave?  (“The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country.  ‘For otherwise,’ they said, ‘we will all die!’” (Exodus 12:33 NIV)

What do the Israelites ask of the Egyptians?  What is the Egyptian response?  Why? (See verse 36.)  (The Israelites “asked of the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing for the LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.” (Exodus 12:35-36 NIV))

How is the horde of Israelites described (i.e., how many of them left Egypt)?  This same terminology can be found in the gospels.  (There were 600,000 men on foot besides women and children. (v. 12:37))

Can you see in this passage where the LORD displays a lack of trust in the people?    (“So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading trough wrapped in clothing.” (Exodus 12:34 NIV)  It appears to me that the “rush” that the people were in prevented them from using leaven in the dough.)

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Monday, April 21, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 66

Prayer Point. Psalm 66 invites us to “shout to joy to God!”  and then proceeds to tell us the reasons why. “Come and see what God has done …” and what follows is the story of God’s rescue of Israel from slavery in Egypt. How has God saved you from a difficult place in your life? Remember what God has done and offer him your own prayer of thanksgiving.

Mark 16:1-8

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

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

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

Background. There had not been enough time to properly prepare Jesus’ body because the Sabbath, which started on Friday night, was fast approaching. That Sabbath did not end until Saturday evening, which meant that Sunday morning was the first opportunity these women had to properly prepare Jesus’ body.

Women were so ill-regarded in Jesus’ day that their testimony was not accepted in court. Why do you think Jesus chose these women to be the first witnesses of the resurrection? Who are these women to witness to? What message does this angel have for the disciples and Peter?

Think about this, even if Jesus did overcome the odds and rise from the dead, what chance did the disciples have after they had fallen asleep during his last night with them, deserted him when the soldiers came and Peter denied him three times? Imagine how the disciples would have felt when they heard the news that Jesus was eager to meet with them in Galilee.

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

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

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

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

Background.  Paul is going to give us a summary of the gospel in chapter 15. In begins with the phrase, “… what I received I passed on to you …”

What do you notice about Paul’s description of the gospel? Is it a set of ideas, or a story tied to historical events? What do you think Paul means by his being ‘abnormally born’? See Acts 9:1-19. Why does Paul consider himself to be the least of the Apostles? ‘Apostle’ means ‘one who was sent.’ In this context, an Apostle was someone who was a witness to the resurrected Christ and sent by Christ to spread the news.

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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

Exodus 12:14-27

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. “This is a day you are to commemorate…” (Exodus 12:14 NIV)  What “day” is being commemorated?  (The Passover is the day to be commemorated.)

Why is the prohibition against yeast so severe?  (The easy answer is that because the people were to take flight at a moment’s notice, that bread made with leaven would not have time to rise.  It is clear that the LORD himself held this prohibition so highly that he ordered that anyone who disobeyed it would be cut off from Israel.  In time leaven would come to be a metaphor for sin in that it permeates so thoroughly the dough (or the bread).  Interestingly enough this same metaphor is also used for the kingdom of God to permeate throughout the world.  “And again he asked, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God to?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.’” (Luke 13:20-21 NIV)

This celebration is “bookended” (i.e., begins with and closes) with “a sacred assembly”.   What is this “sacred assembly” likened to?  What is permitted on these days?  (The sacred assembly was to be treated like a Sabbath.  Only food preparation was permitted on these two days.  Since the Passover was to be on the fourteenth day of the first month, it was to be treated as a Sabbath irrespective of whether it landed on the seventh day of the week.  Thus there may have been as many as three Sabbaths during that seven day period.)

What is the point of the “Feast of Unleavened Bread”?  (Verse 12:17 NIV “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt.”

What is the penalty for violating this prohibition against use of yeast?  (“… for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel.” (12:15 NIV)

Who is bound to observe this celebration?  (“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘These are the regulations for the Passover meal: No foreigner may eat it.  Any slave you have bought it may eat it after you have circumcised him, but temporary residents or a hired worker may not eat it. … No uncircumcised male may eat it.’” (Exodus 12:43, 48 NIV))

“What does this ceremony mean to you?” (v. 26).  Does this celebration hold any significance for you?  (The sacrificial lamb, the substitutional aspect of the blood of the lamb preserving life.  The Lamb of God.  The celebration of the Passover is easily compared with the institution of the LORD’s Supper (Eucharist) on Maundy Thursday.)

What will happen on this particular night in Egypt?  (The firstborn of all the Egyptians and all livestock will die as the Angel of Death goes among them.)

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Maundy Thursday, April 17, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 143

Prayer Point. Does God hear the prayers of sinful people? This psalm reminds us that all people are unrighteous in the eyes of God, and yet he answers all those who call on him in faith. How are you empty today? What are you afraid of? Where do you need wisdom in your life?  Take these all today to our gracious God.

Mark 14:12-25

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. Passover was a meal that the Jewish people celebrated to remember what happened when Moses led the Hebrew people out of Egypt. It was called the Feast of Unleavened Bread because the Israelites did not have time to wait for the bread to rise. God was going to liberate them that very night. The Passover lamb was sacrificed to remember the lamb that was killed the night of Israel’s liberation. Each family took blood from the lamb and put it on the posts of their front door. That night the angel of death came through and struck down the firstborn son of every house in Egypt, except for the homes where the blood of the lamb was visible. For those houses, the Angel of Death “passed over” hence the name of the festival, “Passover.”  Jesus means to celebrate the Passover with his disciples, only this time he will invest the holiday with new meaning.

How does Mark demonstrate to us Jesus’ great authority in the preparations for Passover? What devastating revelation does he make during the meal? What new meaning does Jesus give to the unleavened bread of Passover? What new meaning is given to the cup?

This tradition that Jesus instituted is still celebrated by the church today, we call it Communion, the Last Supper or the Eucharist (Greek for “give thanks”).

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 10:14-17, 11:27-32

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. Today is Maundy (Holy) Thursday the Christian holiday that commemorates the Last Supper Jesus celebrated with his disciples on the night he was betrayed; the night before his crucifixion.  The Last Supper is celebrated by Christians all other the world. It is called the Lord’s Supper, communion or Eucharistic (which means “thanksgiving”). Today’s readings in 1 Corinthians discuss the significance of the bread and cup of the Last Supper and our present day   observance of communion.

Pay close attention to …

  • The connection between the cup of thanksgiving and the bread to the blood and body of Christ and its implications for us as Christians (10:14-17).
  • Why God judges harshly those who eat the bread and drink the cup of communion in an unworthy manner.

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.

Lamentations 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 background to help guide you.

Background. Verses 8-9 tell us that is was the LORD who was behind all this destruction (not just the enemy) and that he left no stone unturned, as it were.  Most importantly, he has discontinued his dialog with his people (“and her prophets find no vision from the LORD.” v. 9b ESV)

Why does the LORD “not restrain his hand from destroying”?  (The LORD had warned for centuries that devastation would come as a result of idolatry.  The removal of Israel should have been a wakeup call to Judah but alas, it was not.  “And the LORD said to me in the days of King Josiah: ‘Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? And I thought, “After she has done all this she will return to me,” but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it.  She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce.  Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore.  Because she [Israel] took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree.  Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 3:7-10 ESV)

Verses 10-12 There appears to be an attitude of remorse, repentance, and sorrow (mourning) among the elders.  But is it real?  The infants and babies are starving.  The writer weeps sorely for Jerusalem, because of its destruction.  Jesus, on his way to Jerusalem for the final week of his life, gazed upon the City  and lamented for her in exactly the same attitude.  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!  See, your house is left to you desolate.” (Matthew 23:37-38 ESV)

Why is Jerusalem so special?  (It is the place where God dwells.)  Verse 12 talks of the infants and babies whose life is poured out as they cry to their mothers.  “Where is bread and wine?”  I find that an interesting choice for sustenance.  (Flesh and blood?)

Is it “just” that the babies be included in this disaster?  How can God show mercy to the few who are righteous (or innocent)?

Verse 13 describes the anguish of the author for he cannot find any words of comfort for Jerusalem.  Who do you think is speaking in verse 13, is it the author or God himself?

Why were the prophets useless at this time?  What is the major charge leveled against the prophets in verse 14?  Is this not itself a fulfillment of prophecy? (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12)

What kind of mocking do we see in verse 15?

The scoffers in verse 16 open their mouths “and gnash their teeth and say ‘We have swallowed her up.”  Why are they so delighted?

What defense does the writer offer for the LORD in verse 17?  What has the LORD done?   Review chapter 29 of Deuteronomy to see how great Moses’ foresight (prophecy) was.

Why would the song Cry Me a River come to mind when one reads verse 18?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 74

Prayer Point. How do you pray when you lose something you believed was forever?  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.

Mark 12:1-11

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

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

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

Background. Jesus continuing in his role as a prophet, speaks a parable (a story) against the religious leaders in Israel. Considering the fact that in the Bible the vineyard was used as a symbol for Israel, who is the vineyard owner? Who are the tenants? Who are the servants in this parable? Who is the beloved son who is dragged outside of the city and killed? What does the owner of the vineyard do once his son his killed?

The story closes with a quotation from Psalm 118:22-23, “the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.” This stone is a reference to Jesus who is killed but is raised to life and becomes of the capstone of a new community of God’s people. This new community will include both Jews and Gentiles. In other words, the risen Christ becomes the capstone of God’s new people, the church, the ones to whom the vineyard is now given.

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11

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. Why did Paul change his mind and decide not to visit the Corinthians? Why did he write a letter instead (that letter happens to be 1 Corinthians)? What did he hope that his letter would accomplish? What does this say about the nature of Paul’s relationship with the Corinthian church?

In verse 5, Paul speaks of a man who had been punished by the community. It is likely that this man was the one Paul had exhorted the Corinthians to expel from their church (see 1 Corinthians 5:1-5) who was living with his father’s wife. The idea behind the expulsion was the hope that the man would feel the seriousness of his sin, repent and return to following Christ. Apparently this man had experienced this change of heart. How does Paul encourage the Corinthians to treat this repentant man? What danger is there in continuing to be harsh and unforgiving towards this man?

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.

Lamentations 2:1-9

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

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

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

Background. Verse 1.  With what is the LORD covering Zion?  From where is the LORD hurling the “Splendor of Israel”?  What is the LORD’s “footstool”?  (Isaiah 66:1; Matthew 5:35)

Verse 2.     What aspect of God described in this verse should all give us pause?  How were “the strongholds of the Daughters of Judah” torn down?  What has the LORD done to “her kingdom and its princes”?

Verse 3.      We have yet another description of what is going on in Jerusalem.   What is the metaphor used here?  Do you see a trend?  If it can happen to them can it happen to us today?  How is the approach of the enemy described? (verse 4)

In verse 4 the author combines the imagery of warfare and fire to paint a picture of Zion.  Why is all this destruction so meaningful in Jerusalem?  There is a spirit of presumption that Jerusalem would never be destroyed they could not imagine that God would destroy his own temple.

How is the LORD described in verse 5?  What had the people done to warrant this retribution?

What is the main target of the LORD’s wrath as depicted in verse 6?  What is the LORD’s attitude toward Jerusalem as characterized in verse 6?

It is my opinion that the Ark of the Covenant was stolen by the forces of Nebuchadnezzar.  How does verse 7 support my theory?

The destruction of Jerusalem appears to be personal.  What words used in verse 8 prove that to be true?  What is the significance of the “measuring line”? [Stretching out a measuring line was a prophetic image of impending destruction.]

Verse 9 shows that Jerusalem is completely laid waste.  What is the disposition of the king, the princes and the prophets?  What does “the law is no more” mean?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 94

Prayer Point. We live in a world where the most vulnerable: widows, orphans, the unborn and refugees are often oppressed with impunity. Many say, “the Lord does not see.” Pray on behalf of the weak and the oppressed. Pray that God will be their fortress.

Mark 11:27-33

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. Jesus was not a Pharisee, nor was he a trained priest. He had not been schooled by one of Israel’s rabbis and so they questioned him, “by what authority do you do these things?” In other words, “who is your rabbi?” Jesus could have answered, “my rabbi is God the Father?” but they would have roundly rejected his answer. Instead Jesus puts them on the defensive by asking them a question.

Why can’t the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders not answer Jesus’ simple question? What heart motivation does Jesus expose in them?

Jesus refuses to answer their question because they are not prepared to put their faith in him. They are not interested in learning the truth, only to hang onto their power.

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 1:8-22

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

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

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

Background. The Roman province of Asia consisted of what we would call Western Turkey. Its largest city was Ephesus. Paul managed to plant a church in that city despite great opposition and suffering which you can read about in Acts 19.

What did Paul and Timothy learn from their suffering and despair in Asia (Ephesus)? How did the fact that God raises the dead give them hope? How did the Corinthians aid Paul and Timothy during this time of trial?

In verse 12 Paul speaks of God’s grace. One thing that might help you understand this passage is to know that Paul uses the term “God’s grace” in two senses. One describes the unmerited love and favor that God gives us through Jesus Christ. The other refers to the empowerment, or spiritual gifts, that God gives us through the Holy Spirit to enable to us to carry out the unique life mission that Jesus gives each of us. What did God’s grace enable Paul and Timothy to do? What benefit did the Corinthian church receive from their gifts?

Who is the “yes” of the promises of God? Who is the deposit guaranteeing that we will receive what God has promised in the future?

Here is one way to think about it. God the Father conceives the promises. Jesus, the Son makes the promises of God reality. The Spirit makes the promises real to one person at a time.

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.

Lamentations 1:17-22

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

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

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

Background. Why would the LORD decree that Jerusalem’s neighbors become her foes? (Verse 17?)

Why, according to verse 18 did the LORD send the young men and maidens into exile?

Why, according to verse 19, are people perishing in the City? (Jerusalem)

Verse 20 eloquently describes the goings-on in Jerusalem.  What is at the root of all this distress?

What is the imagery of Jerusalem’s plight?  What is the author’s request for his enemies?  Whom does he not blame?  (Verse 21)

Verse 22 echoes verse 21.  What doesn’t the author insist on?  Have you ever felt this kind of remorse for your own sins?  Rather than seek revenge by himself who does the author trust to address his enemies?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Monday, April 14, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 69

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

Mark 11:11-25

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

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

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

Background. During his life on earth, Jesus filled three roles: prophet, priest and king. As king Jesus rules creation and calls us to follow and obey him. As priest, he offers himself as a sacrifice for our sin and prays to the Father on our behalf. As prophet, Jesus speaks the words of God the Father to us.

In Mark 11 Jesus is not unlike an Old Testament prophet who not only spoke their messages, they often acted them out. That’s what is going on with the fig tree. Jesus is not angry with the fig tree. He is angry with what the fig tree represents. The fig tree is a stand-in for Israel and the missing fruit were the missing acts of love for God and love for neighbor. Most importantly Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations; to show the world through their very lives the love of God. But that dream had long been lost and Israel was a fig tree without fruit.

What does Jesus find in the temple that confirms that Israel is “fruitless”? What was the temple supposed to be? What has Israel made it instead? Uncircumcised Gentiles were not allowed to worship God in the inner courts of the temple. There was an outer court set aside for them where they could pray. The problem was that the market was set up in the court of the Gentiles. Not only were people being ripped off, the Gentiles were being crowded out.

What do you think is the significance of the withered fig tree?

What two heart attitudes does Jesus insist must be present when we pray?

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 1:1-7

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. Corinth was a prosperous Greek city located on a small strip of land that connected the northern and southern parts of Greece. The city as an important commercial center in southern Greece, Achaia, because it had ports with access to Rome on the west and Asia Minor (Turkey) in the east.

Let’s get some of the basic details of this letter down before we move on. What two men authored this letter? Who is the letter addressed to? Already we have a window into Paul’s missionary strategy. In Acts 18 we learn that Paul planted the church in Corinth, the largest city in the region of Achaia. The idea was to plant churches in the large cities with those churches carrying the gospel to the outlying areas. We see that this strategy is already working as there are Christians scattered through the region of Achaia.

Now that the formalities of Roman letter writing are out of the way, Paul begins the letter in verse 3 with a blessing. Why does Paul call God the “the God of all comfort”? What is the purpose of God’s comforting power in our lives? What two things flow into our lives from Christ? What is the purpose of distress in Paul’s and Timothy’s lives? How has God’s comfort in their lives impacted the Corinthians? What does Paul see in the Corinthian church that makes him hopeful in verse 7?

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.

Lamentations 1:1-2, 6-12

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

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

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

Background. Let’s begin with a definition of what a lamentation is or what it is not.  According Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (1975): lamentation (noun) an act or instance of lamenting. [How helpful is that?  It begs the question.]  lament (verb) to mourn aloud: WAIL; to express sorrow or mourning for, often demonstratively: MOURN; to regret strongly.  (noun) a crying out in grief: WAILING; DIRGE; ELEGY; COMPLAINT.  That is probably what most of us think of when we think of lament or lamentation.  The biblical definition goes a little further: “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 was written sometime between the fall of Jerusalem (587 B.C.) and the renaissance of temple worship (in 516 B.C.)  Clearly, if Jeremiah is the author, the earlier date is more likely since he will be dead by 516 B.C.  The lamentations are poems written acrostically which means little to those of us confined to a language 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.  The writer of Lamentations was no slouch.   There are five chapters of Lamentations.  Three chapters (1, 2, 4, and 5) each have 22 verses; the third chapter has three times as many verses as the other four.  If this is significant, it is lost on me.  [It is very important to remember that the “versing” of the scriptures was done long after the bible was compiled. – j.t.]

Verses 1-2 describes Jerusalem after the Babylonians have destroyed it (and its temple).  She is like a widow where once she was like a princess, she is now a slave.  Now she weeps and is deserted by her “lovers”; there is none to comfort her.  She is surrounded by her enemies.  All of this was foretold by Jeremiah and by other prophets, even Moses some 1,300 years before (Deuteronomy 32:15-38).  Verses 3-4 describe the desolation and the fear in Judah.  Judah now dwells among the nations (she had always thought herself better than they); there is no rest and as prophesied, she is overtaken by her pursuers.  Zion (i.e., Jerusalem) is desolate and there is no joy “and she herself suffers bitterly.” (Lamentations 1:4b ESV)  Verses 5-6 tell us that the writer knew why all this happened: “Because the LORD has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions”. (Lamentations 1:5a ESV)  Verse 6 tells us that the princes are without strength.  The heartbreak is that the people could not see that their strength was in the LORD and so relied upon their own, which always, like fuel, runs out.  David wrote about 400 years before: “The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalms 27:1b KJV)  Who were Jerusalem’s “lovers”? (The “nations” and their false gods.)  How is it that even now Judah does not repent?  (Pride)

Verse 7 tells us that “Jerusalem remembers” all the precious things from days of old.  Well, one of those things they did not remember was Psalm 27:1b.  We have seen time and again that the faith was poorly transmitted from one generation to the next.  In Josiah’s time the Book of the Law had laid lost in the temple for many years.  Josiah was so moved (or upset, or broken for Judah’s sake) that he donned a mourning attitude and thus launched his religious reforms throughout the land.  But even his sons “did evil in the sight of the LORD”.   Where is the disconnect?  “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.” (Deuteronomy 11:18-21 ESV emphasis added)  Verse 7 continues telling us that Jerusalem’s enemies mocked and gloated at her downfall.  What does Jerusalem remember?  (The precious things from days of old.  “The good old days.”  They, like us, remember what they want to remember, not necessarily the truth of the thing.)  Why could none help her?  Why was Jerusalem mocked and gloated over?  (None could help her because it was the LORD’s doing.  Jerusalem was mocked and gloated over as a result of her pride – she would not humble herself before God.)

Verse 8 says that Jerusalem had sinned grievously and that all who had honored her now despise her and have seen her “nakedness”.  This nakedness harkens to the image of a marriage: the LORD was Jerusalem’s (more specifically Judah’s and Israel’s) husband.  This imagery is also alluded to in verse 2 “Among all her lovers she has none to comfort her…” (ESV)  Seeing her nakedness means she had broken her marriage vows (covenant) with the LORD.  Idolatry was the means by which the covenant was broken.  We also see that Jerusalem discovers shame: “for they have seen her nakedness; she herself groans and turns her face away.” (ESV)  Why is the image of marriage so important?  (It describes the relationship of Israel [& Judah] to God.  This is a constant theme throughout the entire bible.)  What is the “nakedness” that was seen?

Verse 9 reiterates the violation of the marriage vows: “Her uncleanness was in her skirts.” (ESV)  There is a plea: “O LORD, behold my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed!” (ESV)  The ESV Study Bible suggests that the enemy was Babylon.  I think it goes much deeper than that.  Jerusalem was her own enemy.  She it was who did not listen to Moses and the prophets but “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you.” (Jeremiah 44:16 ESV) That, I think, is the enemy.  The result of the inattentiveness of Judah shows itself in that the present enemy (the Babylonians) have desecrated the temple “those whom you forbade to enter your congregation.” (v. 10b ESV)
What is meant by uncleanness? (Sinned grievously v. 8 – Idolatry – though not stated, is the prevailing sin against God.  Except for Josiah, all kings after him, “did evil in the sight of the LORD.)  Are we today guilty of the same thing?  How?

Verses 11 & 12 talk of the starvation rampant in Jerusalem during the fall of the city.  There is something like self-pity in verse 12 “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?  Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow which was brought upon me, which the LORD inflicted on the day of his fierce anger.”  There is a cross-reference in The ESV Study Bible to Daniel 9:12-15.  Daniel would have been written in about the same time-frame and certainly from a different perspective.  Daniel, at this time, was actually an exile in Babylon. “He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity.  For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem.  As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the LORD our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth.  Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice.  And now, O LORD our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.”  It was pretty clear to Daniel, who was hundreds of miles away, what was going on.  What does “starvation” refer to?  How is it symbolic of spiritual privation?  How does the passage from Daniel fit this situation?  (I think the people were so “dull of hearing” that they could not imagine that this chastisement from the LORD was warranted.  Daniel and the writer of Lamentations were keenly sensitive of Judah’s sins.)

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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