Daily Bible Readings – Thursday, April 24, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 149

Prayer Point. New songs were sung when God intervened and saved his people by defeating their enemies.  God’s ultimate victory was Christ’s death and resurrection. Meditate on what that victory means for us and pray a prayer of thanksgiving to God.

Matthew 28:16-20

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. Verse 17 says that ‘some doubted’. Why do you think that there were still doubters among the disciples even after the resurrection of Jesus? How does Jesus handle this?

Jesus before his ascension gives the disciples the mission they (and we) are to carry on in his absence. The central command is “make disciples.” Just as an apple tree is designed to make more apple trees, so Jesus’ disciples were made to make other disciples. All the other statements describe what it means to make a disciple.

From among what people were the disciples to make disciples? What two things were they to do with those they were calling to be disciples of Jesus?

In what way is Jesus still with us even though he has ascended into heaven? (See Acts 2:1-4.)

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 15:41-50

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. Like a seed, our physical bodies will die only to have new life emerge with a new “spiritual” body. How will our new bodies compare to the one we have now? How does the first Adam (Adam, the first human being created in Genesis 1) compare to the last Adam (Jesus Christ)? How are we like the first Adam? How will we become like the Second Adam?

What can’t “flesh and blood” and “perishable” inherit? How will this problem be solved? You’ll have to read tomorrow’s reading.

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 13:3-10

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? You can use the following background to guide you.

Background. Because people are so forgetful, what does Moses do to fend off their tendency not to remember?  (“This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the LORD is to be on your lips.  For the LORD brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand.  You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year.” (Exodus 13:9-10 NIV))

How significant is it that this observance be like a sign on one’s hand and a reminder on one’s forehead?  Where have we seen these allusions to both the hand and forehead before?  (See Deuteronomy 6 and Revelation 13)  (The sign on the hand and forehead means that it would be in the mind and ever before them.  In Deut. 6 this is Moses’ admonition to the people regarding the Law and how they are to keep it in mind.  In Revelation it is on these parts of the body where the anti-Christ will place his number (the famous number of the beast).)

Obey. The three steps of Gospel obedience

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

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

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

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Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 115

Prayer Point. An idol is anything we trust for our security and significance outside of God. We all have them and without God’s intervention, we will become like the lifeless gods we serve. What idols have a hold on your heart? Confess them to God today and pray for the faith to believe that God will keep his promises and satisfy our souls.

Matthew 28:1-16

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. What question weighs heavily on Mary, Mary and Salome as they approached Jesus’ tomb? Jesus’ tomb had been sealed by Pontius Pilate with a detachment of soldiers left to guard the tomb. The concern of the religious leaders and the Romans was that the disciples would come and steal the body and claim that Jesus had risen from the dead. Who is it that opens the tomb? What do the women hear from the angel? Who do they see on the road back to the disciples?

The soldiers guarding the tomb also have a story to tell and they hurried back to share it with the chief priests. How do the chief priests conspire to keep the story secret? Why were the soldiers willing to go along with the story? What does this event tell you about the condition of the chief priests’ hearts?

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 15:29-41

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 is the resurrection of the dead, not just Christ’s but our own, so central to the Christian faith? What sacrifices in Paul’s life would be pointless if the resurrection was not true?

The idea of a physical resurrection was absurd to a Greek culture like the city of Corinth. The Greeks believed that the spiritual world was good, but that the physical world was bad. The body was something to escape from, not restore.

Why be resurrected, if the physical world is what you want to be liberated from? For Christians, the physical world was created good and will be restored by Christ.

What does Paul point to show that resurrection is built into God’s creation? How is our life experience like that of a planted seed?

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 12:40-41

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 long had the Israelites been in Egypt?  Why is the “vigil” so important?  (“Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the LORD for the generations to come.” (Exodus 12:42 NIV))

What are some of the restrictions regarding those who may partake of the Passover meal?

Why, do you suppose, the bones may not be broken? (v. 46)  Psalm 22 may be of some help with this one, or Psalm 34.  (“It must be eaten inside the house; take none of the meat outside the house.  Do not break any of the bones.  The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.  A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the LORD’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. (Exodus 12:46-48 NIV)  “I am poured out like water and all my bones are out of joint.  … All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me.” (Psalm 22:14, 17)  “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.” (Psalm 34:19-20 NIV))  See John 19:31-37.

What is an absolute requirement of any male who wants to partake of the Passover meal?  Why?  (All males must be circumcised.  This, I believe, is because circumcision was the original covenant made with Abraham and is a sign of being an Israelite.)

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, January 6, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 46

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

Matthew 12:14-21

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 Pharisees, who were regarded by the people as the guardians of Jewish Law, were threatened by Jesus. Outwardly they were moral people, but most were motivated by a desire for power and to be loved by the people. Jesus exposed them by healing a man on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the last day of the week, Saturday. Jewish Law prohibited work on the Sabbath. It was a day devoted to the worship of God. The Pharisee’s considered healing someone to be work and so they tried to prevent Jesus from healing a man with a crippled hand on the Sabbath. Jesus healed him anyway with the words, “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” The Pharisees were clearly embarrassed and they sought to get rid of Jesus.

The people have been won over by Jesus’ acts of power and kindness. They follow him and he heals many of their sick, but he warns them not to tell anyone who he was. Jesus was the Messiah, but if word got out prematurely, the people would attempt to make him king by force. Jesus will climb the throne, but only after he goes to the cross.

Pay close attention to …

  • Isaiah’s prophecy (see Isaiah 42:1-4) and what it tells us about Jesus and his ministry. God is the speaker and Jesus is the “servant” described in verses 18-20.

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Revelation 21:22-27

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. The Apostle sees a vision of a new heaven and new earth that will come Jesus and God the Father returns to this world. This earth, the home of God’s people is symbolized as a city. One final note that will make this passage easier to understand: the Lord Almighty is God the Father and the Lamb is Jesus, the Son of God.

In the Old Testament, the temple was a place where the people went to meet God and offer sacrifies.

Pay close attention to …

  • What is not in the city and why.
  • What is never shut and why.
  • What will never be allowed to enter the city.

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.

Isaiah 49:1-7

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. Isaiah’s message is to spread hope to a people who are despondent. Throughout Chapters 51 and 52 Isaiah is exhorting the people to “Rise up”. “Woe” and judgment have been a prevailing theme in Isaiah thus far but now the message is turning.

Pay close attention to …

  • Those whose feet bring the good news and who bring glad tidings. who proclaim salvation (v. 7)
  • The watchmen (v. 8)
  • What the watchmen see with their own eyes (v. 8)

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 – Tuesday, December 24, 2013 – Christmas Eve

Prayer Psalm: 45

Prayer Point. Today’s psalm was written for the wedding of a Jewish King, but I think it is best understood in light of the great wedding when King Jesus will marry his bride, the church at the end of all things. The poet expresses a number of hopes for the world under the reign of this great king. Pick two or three that resonate with you and pray “your kingdom come.”

Matthew 1:18-25

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? Using the following background as a guide.

Background. The births of Isaac, Abraham’s son, and Samson were both miraculous and announced by an angel as Jesus’ was. What sets Jesus apart is that he is conceived by a virgin through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a critical part of Jesus’ identity and his mission.

The central dilemma of the Bible is that humanity, because of our sin, owes God a debt that not even eternity in hell could pay. No one but a human could pay the debt, but no human was capable of paying the debt. That is until Jesus came to earth. Because he is born of a virgin, Jesus is both fully God and fully man. As a man, Jesus has the right to pay humanity’s debt. As God, he has the capability of paying it.

This is who Jesus was, but God chose to set this plan in motion in partnership with an ordinary couple, Mary and Joseph. Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes for a moment. His fiance is pregnant and he is not the father. If he goes through with the marriage he will bring great shame upon himself.

Pay close attention to …

  • Joseph’s great faith and courage even before the angel appears to him.
  • The angel’s message to Joseph which confirms his faith.
  • The connection between Jesus’ name which means “the Lord saves” and his mission.

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.

Galatians 2:23-4:7

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 help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background.

Sons were the exclusive heirs to their family estate in the Roman world. The boy from age six to sixteen was placed under the care of a slave who made sure that he went to class and stayed out of trouble. He was under the supervision of this slave until he came of age and received his inheritance.

Paul, the author of the letter to the Galatians, is comparing our experience to that of a young Roman heir. The slave that served as our guardian was the Law. We did not come of age and receive our full inheritance until Jesus (“this faith came”) entered the world. It was at that point that we went from a slave, the experience of the heir while he was still a child, to a full heir and son of God.

The Law of God did several things to us. It restrained us through fear of punishment. We were held back from acting according to all the dark desires of our heart. Second, the Law reminded us that we needed a Savior. The Law of God said that anyone who failed to keep it, that would be all of us, are under the curse of death. None of us is able to keep the law’s demands because we are born with corrupt hearts. The Law’s purpose is force us to face our broken selves, see the curse that we are under and create in us a need for Jesus.

Some may be put off by the fact that Paul speaks only of sons. This only reflects the cultural reality that only sons were eligible to receive the family inheritance. Imagine how radical it was for Paul to address the church made up of men and women, Jew and Gentile, slave and free and call them all “sons of God.”

Pay close attention to …

  • The contrast between our lives before Jesus’ coming and after.
  • How Jesus freed us from the curse.
  • What the Holy Spirit does for us once we go from being a slave to a full son or daughter of God.

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, December 21, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 55

Prayer Point. What are you afraid of in this world? What concerns do you carry with you every day? The opposite of living in perpetual fear is a life of continual prayer. Try praying throughout the day. Put this verse into practice: “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.”

Matthew 25:31-46

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

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

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? Using the following background as a guide.

Background. Matthew 25:31–46 Judgment at the End. Jesus’ disciples are to wait patiently in anticipation of reward at his return, when the unprepared and unrepentant will receive only judgment [ESV Study Bible Notes]

According to this passage both the sheep and the goats are surprised by the shepherd. They both did not know what was to come.

What is the difference between the sheep and the goats relating to the heart? Who are the sheep? Who are the goats? What is the sheep’s reward? Why do they receive this reward?

Matthew 25:40 In the context of the parable the least of these refers to those who are most needy among Jesus’ brothers—a reference most likely to Jesus’ disciples and by extension all believers. The “sheep” are commended for their great compassion for those in need—for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger; for those who are naked, sick, or in prison. The righteous will inherit the kingdom not because of the compassionate works that they have done but because their righteousness comes from their transformed hearts in response to Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom, as evidenced by their compassion for the “least of these.” In caring for those in need, the righteous discover that their acts of compassion for the needy are the same as if done for Jesus himself (you did it to me) [ESV Study Bible Notes].

What is the goat’s punishment? Why do they receive this punishment?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Revelation 6:1-17

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

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

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. As all of God’s creation worships at the throne of God, Jesus, the lamb of God, sets God’s final plan of redemption into motion. He opens the first of seven seals of the book which represents God’s plan to redeem his people and restore Creation. Who are summoned by the living creatures as Jesus opens the first five seals? What do they do?

Who are the souls under God’s altar? What do they ask God? Can you imagine John, who was exiled because of his faith on the Isle of Patmos, asking the same question? How does God respond to the saints calling for an end to the violence and persecution of the church? Why does God wait?

With the opening of the sixth seal by Jesus, the lamb of God, God is ready to vindicate his people. Just as God rescued Noah by shielding his family from judgment with the ark leaving them in a new purified world, so God will rescue his people through bringing judgment on their oppressors. What will happen to the powerful of the earth? How is this message comforting to John and his churches, who were being persecuted by what appeared to be an invincible Roman Empire?

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.

Zechariah 8:9-17

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

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

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. In verse 9:“This is what the LORD almighty says: ‘… Let your hands be strong…” Why? Why could no one go about his business beforehand? [For I have turned every man against his neighbor.] What does the LORD promise to do now for the remnant of his people?

“As you have been an ______ __ _______ among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you and you will be a ________.” (v. 13)

Why had the LORD determined to bring disaster upon his people and to show them no mercy? [Because their fathers had angered the LORD by their earlier idolatry and sins.] Now since the Lord was determined to do good for his people, what changes does he expect of them? [“These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely.” (v. 16-17)]

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, December 20, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 40

Prayer Point. How can we repay God for his kindness and salvation? We can do nothing but offer ourselves in gratitude. Think about the ways God has demonstrated grace in your life. Confess to him the areas of your life you are afraid to offer him. Tell him your troubles and ask him to save you once again.

Matthew 25:14-30

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

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

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? Using the following background as a guide.

Background. Jesus’ earthly ministry is coming to a close. Soon he will leave earth and journey to his Father in heaven. To prepare his disciples for his departure, he tells the story.

Who is the master in the story? Who are the servants? What are the talents that are given to the servants? Which servants are praised? Why? Which servant is condemned? Why? How did the servant who hid his talents view the master?

What will we have to believe about God in order to freely invest what he has given us in the work of building Jesus’ kingdom?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Revelation 5:6-14

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

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

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. Who steps forward to open the scroll? What is interesting about this Lamb? Who must this Lamb be?

What do the four living creatures (representative of the reflection of God’s glory in creation) and the 24 elders (representative of God’s people, Israel and the church who have died and are in heaven) do once the Lamb opens the scroll? What do they sing about?

Throughout history God’s people sang “new songs” in response to a “new action” performed by God to save his people. We knew God as our Creator. Now through Jesus, we know God as our Savior.

Like ripples on the water, worship of Jesus, the lamb of God, begins at the throne and moves out to fill the whole universe. Who surrounds the 24 elders (God’s redeemed people – Israel and the church who have died) and the four living creatures (symbolic of the creation)? What do they sing? Remember that God’s plan of salvation goes beyond saving people, but also includes the restoration of all Creation. How do the creatures of the sky, the earth and the sea get in on the act?

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.

Zechariah 7:8-8:8

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 help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. Remember this?

Micah 6:8b: “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

How does this apply to Chapter 7 verses 9 and 10? How does the LORD describe the response of the people? How is the heart of the people described? What is the result of this behavior? What happens when the people cry out to God? What was the LORD’s judgment? What happens to the land? [The land is made desolate. I think the LORD was purging the land of all its evil just as he did when he brought the Israelites into the promised land. j.t.] What is the Lord’s determination for Jerusalem in Chapter 8? [He will return and dwell there; Jerusalem will be called faithful; the mountain of the LORD – the holy mountain. Both the very old and the young will fill the streets.] What does the LORD promise to do? [He promises to bring his people back from the east and the west and to save them and as the prophet Jeremiah predicted: they shall be his people and he will be their God.]

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, December 19, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 50

Prayer Point. We’d like to think that God only judges “bad people,” but this psalm reminds us that “good people” (verses 7-15) and “bad people” (verses 16-23) alike stand in need of God’s mercy. Where do you see yourself in the descriptions of the wicked and the good? Confess those areas of your life to God and pray for the faith to take your cares to him and cultivate a heart of gratitude.

Matthew 25:1-13

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? Using the following background as a guide.

Background. Matt. 25:1 the kingdom of heaven will be like. ten virgins. Bridesmaids. bridegroom. As God referred to himself as the “husband” of Israel in the OT (e.g., Isa. 54:4–6), so Jesus pictures himself here as a bridegroom (cf. Matt. 9:14–15). It was the Jewish marriage custom (cf. 1:18) for the groom and his friends to leave his home and proceed to the home of the bride, where the marriage ceremony was conducted, often at night. After this, the entire wedding party returned to the groom’s home for a celebratory banquet [ESV Study Bible Notes].

Matt. 25:11–12 I do not know you. The OT speaks of God “knowing” his chosen people (Jer. 1:5; Hos. 13:5; Amos 3:2). The same theme continues in the NT, where it describes a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ (cf. Gal. 4:8–9; 2 Tim. 2:19) [ESV Study Bible Notes].

One again we see Jesus here bringing home the point that the disciples will know “neither the day nor the hour” of his return.What should the disciples of Christ do while they wait for Jesus to arrive?

Christ brought the kingdom of God, making it present in His church. He pointed to the future when he would bring the kingdom in its fullness. Believers must be alert, prepared to greet Christ when He returns. Other people cannot prepare us at the last moment [Disciple’s Study Bible Notes].

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Revelation 4:9-5:5

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

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

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. God is on the firmly on the throne in heaven, despite Rome’s appearance of power on earth. What are the four living creatures (symbolic of creation) and 24 elders (symbolic of God’s people who have died) doing as they stand in the presence of God? What do God’s people do with the crowns they received for remaining faithful to Jesus? What is about God that inspires his people and all of creation to worship him?

The vision from heaven’s perspective continues in chapter 5. God is seated on the throne, with a sealed scroll in his right hand. The scroll represents God’s plan to restore Creation, rescue his people, and rid the world of evil once and for all. Why does John begin to weep?

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.

Zechariah 4:1-14

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

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

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. The golden lampstand was an item of furniture in the tabernacle (temple) even when it was a tent. This lampstand was slightly different in that it had seven lights and seven channels for each light which would amount to 49 lights. (7 x 7) The two olive trees would be the source of all the oil needed to keep this lampstand lit forever (as it were). [The image here of the lampstand reminds me of the 7 golden lampstands recently discussed in Revelation. That image also provides for 49 separate lights. The sad reality is that Revelation does not specify that those lampstands have 7 flames – that is a supposition that I am making. j.t.] All of this is confusing to Zechariah. What is his question to the angel? And in typical Jewish tradition of answering a question with a question, what question does the angel address to Zechariah? Okay! How does the angel finally answer Zechariah? To whom is Zechariah to address this message? Who is Zerubbabel?  What is the task assigned to Zerubbabel and Joshua?

[Notes from The Life Application Bible (NKJV) p. 1637 “4:10 ‘Who despises the day of small things?’ Many of the older Jews were disheartened when they realized this new temple would not match the size and splendor of the previous temple built during King Solomon’s reign. But bigger and more beautiful is not always better. What you do for God may seem small and insignificant at the time, but God rejoices in what is right, nor necessarily in what is big. Be faithful in the small opportunities. Begin where you are and do what you can, and leave the results to God.”]

Again the two olive branches are discussed. What does the angel say this time? Unhappily we don’t know exactly to whom the two anointed ones refer. Some think they are the two most responsible for the current rebuilding project: Zerubbabel and Joshua. Others say Haggai and Zechariah who were the prophets assigned to exhort the people to action.

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.