Daily Bible Readings – Monday, December 23, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 61

Prayer Point. David has seen the pain, sorrow, and violence of our world and so he cries out to God.  He prays for the coming of God’s kingdom, when Jesus will be enthroned forever. What pains you about the world today? Lift it to God by praying, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Luke 1:1-25

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. Zachariah had the faith to pray for a son, but when the answer came he couldn’t accept it.When you have answers to prayer do you accept them or do you have trouble believing? Unbelief produces silence (Psalm 116:15; 2 Corinthians 4:13), faith opens your mouth in praise to God. Who was this child to be born unto Zachariah and Elizabeth? What makes this a special event in biblical history? Who is this child to become? Why does Zachariah lose his speech? Why did Elizabeth say, “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”?

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.

Titus 1:1-16

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 help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. Paul served as an apostle of Jesus Christ in that he was sent out by him to preach his message. In obedience to his call, Paul traveled throughout the Roman Empire, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ; he formed churches from among those who believed the message; helped the church establish itself before moving on to the next town to repeat the process. Paul did not minister alone but had a number of men and women who served alongside of him. Titus is one of those co-workers.

This letter was written following a mission campaign where Paul and Titus established new churches on the island of Crete. Paul will be moving on, but he leaves Titus behind to complete the work of developing leaders for these new churches so that they might be able to survive on their own.

Pay close attention to …

  • How Paul sees himself and his purpose.
  • His relationship with Titus.
  • The reason Titus was left behind on Crete.
  • The positive and negative criteria Titus was given for choosing elders for the churches in Crete.
  • How the criteria for selecting elders was related to their mission and the situation they faced in Crete.

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 3:14-20

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 help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. The opening words of this section of Zephaniah enjoin the people of Israel (returnees from captivity) to sing, shout aloud, to be glad and to rejoice. Why? [The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back our enemy. v. 15a NIV] What words of comfort does Zephaniah speak in verse 15b? [“The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.” NIV] Why is Jerusalem exhorted not to fear and “do not let your hands hang limp” (or grow weak)? [“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save.” v. 17] What other wonderful things are declared in verse 17? [“He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing”] Verses 19-20 speak of a future period of time. What will be Israel’s (or Jerusalem’s) lot then? [The LORD will deal with the oppressors; rescue the lame; gather those who are scattered (like sheep); bring them home; give honor and praise to them – all this before their very eyes.]

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.

Advertisements

Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, February 16, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 43

Prayer Point. The author of Psalm 43 believes God has abandoned him but notice how he prays: “Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”  Pray this on behalf of someone you know who is going through a difficult time.

John 1:43-51

Background. You became a rabbi in Jesus’ day by becoming the disciple of a rabbi. Disciples literally followed their rabbis everywhere they went. They lived together. They ate together. The disciple watched the rabbi carefully because his purpose was to learn to do what the rabbi did and become like him. Rabbis accepted new disciples with the words, “follow me.”

In verse 51 Jesus speaks of the heavens opening and angels of God ascending and descending on the son of man. This is a reference to two important passages in the Old Testament:

  1. Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel and became Israel’s namesake, had a dream where the heavens opened and he saw a ladder reaching to heaven with angels ascending and descending upon it. God stood above the ladder and announced to Jacob that he was included in the promises God had given to his grandfather and father, Abraham and Isaac. See Genesis 28:10-22.
  2. The Son of Man is a reference to another divine dream, which was given to the prophet Daniel. In this vision, Daniel sees a figure called the “son of man” ascending into heaven, led into the presence of God the Father, seated on a throne and given authority to rule heaven and earth. See Daniel 7:13-14.

By mixing these two images, Jesus is saying that the ladder that Jacob saw in his dream is the Son of Man.

Pay close attention to …

  • What Philip does immediately after being invited to follow Jesus.
  • How Philip describes Jesus to Nathanael and how Nathanael responds.
  • How Jesus demonstrates his power to Nathanael and how Nathanael now sees him.
  • The greater thing that Nathanael will see.

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)

Titus 3:1-15

Background. Titus, who was a member of Paul’s missionary team, has been left behind on Crete to strengthen the churches that Paul established. Titus’ mission is to select elders for these churches and to teach the people how to live their lives in a way that is consistent with the gospel they have been taught.

Pay close attention to …

  • How the Cretan Christians are to relate to those outside the church; their rulers, fellow citizens.
  • What their lives were like before they followed Jesus.
  • What caused their lives to change. 
  • Why God saves us, how he saves us and the purpose for which he saves us.
  • What Titus is to stress in his teaching and what he is to avoid.
  • How divisive people in the church are to be handled.
  • Why the Cretans must devote themselves to do what is good (see verse 14).

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)

Deuteronomy 7:17-26

Background. The Lord seeks to assuage the fears of the Israelites in the campaign to conquer the land. He wants the people to trust that he is able to achieve this goal. He also recognizes that the people are fear-filled when it comes to face to face combat. In this passage the Lord reminds the people just how he overcame the powerful Egyptians through such things as flies, frogs, locusts, palpable darkness, fiery hail to mention only a few. The same forces will be brought to bear on Israel’s enemies as they begin to take the land.

Pay close attention to …

  • The argument of the people (v. 7:17 )
  • What the Lord’s answer to these objections is (vv. 7:18-21 )
  • How the Lord will drive out the nations (vv. 7:22-24 )
  • The images of their gods (v. 7:25 )
  • The gold and silver (v. 7:25 )
  • What not to bring into your house (v. 7:26 )

I suppose one of the difficulties of having a God whom one cannot see is that one may come to think that God is not even there. This is echoed much in the Psalms with voices of frustration, particularly when it appears that the godless are prospering. In Old Testament times many people (good ones too) thought that personal prosperity was a sign of God’s favor. Job was remarkably prosperous (in today’s terms he was probably a multi-millionaire) and yet he suffered the loss of everything. Happily for Job his attitude was enviable: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21 NIV) Job didn’t lose just his wealth, he lost, in one day, his ten children. Evidently Job’s wealth was not a snare to him as cautioned in Deuteronomy 7:25. [Job was fully restored after his ordeal but that was because he proved faithful in everything. — j.t.]

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 – Friday, February 15, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 35

Prayer Point. There are two ways we can respond to injustice.  We can seek vengeance, or, as Psalm 35 encourages us, leave matters of justice in God’s hands. Where do you see injustice in our world? Lift the victims of this injustice up to God in prayer and ask him to rescue them.

John 1:35-42

Background. The lamb of God was an important symbol in the Law of Moses. God required an unblemished lamb to be sacrificed so that the sins of the people could be forgiven. In today’s reading we find that the true lamb of God is an actual person.

Pay close attention to …

  • Whom John identifies as the Lamb of God.
  • How John’s two disciples react to his declaration.
  • The first thing that Andrew does as new follower of Jesus.
  • How Andrew describes Jesus to Peter.
  • Simon’s new name and its significance (Peter means ‘rock’. See also Matthew 16:18)

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)

Titus 2:1-15

Background. Titus, who was a member of Paul’s missionary team, has been left behind on Crete to strengthen the churches that Paul established. Titus’ mission is to select elders for these churches and to teach the people how to live their lives according to Jesus’ gospel (sound doctrine).

Pay close attention to …

  • What living according to sound doctrine looks like for: older women, older men, younger women, younger men, and slaves.
  • Why it is important to for the Christian on Crete to live good and holy lives (see verses 7-8, 10)
  • What teaches us to say no to ungodliness and shows us how to live godly lives.

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)

Deuteronomy 7:12-16

Background. This section of Chapter 7 will discuss the benefits of being faithful to God’s covenant. Here Moses outlines one blessing after another, I suppose, in an effort better to encourage the people to adherence. “If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers.” It really sounds so simple but as time will tell, simple is the least of it. For some reason it became very important for the Israelites to “see” their God just as their neighbors could see theirs. Later this same attitude will cause the people to reject their God as their king and insist on one from among their own. Samuel explains the high cost of having a king in 1 Samuel Chapter 8:
“But the people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.'” (1 Samuel 8:19-20) I guess the Lord’s defeat of the Egyptians had, by then, faded from memory. What were they celebrating the Passover for? This is exactly why it is so important that the message from God is imparted to each generation. Everyone’s experience of God will be unique.

Pay close attention to …

  • How the Lord will bless those faithful to his covenant (vv. 7:13-15 )
  • The dictate in verse 7:16

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 – Thursday, February 14, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 37

Prayer Point. Anger at the unpunished evil in our world can easily derail our spiritual lives. Psalm 37 calls us to respond differently. Pray for the faith to: trust and commit your life to God, delight yourself in him, be still before him, wait patiently for him, to do good to those who do evil and have compassion on the wicked who will perish if they don’t return to God.

John 1:29-34

Background. In Jewish Law, the people’s sins were transferred to a perfect lamb and the animal was sacrificed to God as a sin offering. John has this imagery in mind as he fulfills his life mission to point Israel to their Messiah.

Pay close attention to …

  • How John identifies Jesus and his purpose.
  • The purpose of John’s baptism (see verse 31).
  • How John knew that Jesus was the Lamb 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)

Titus 1:1-16

Background. Paul served as an apostle of Jesus Christ in that he was sent out by him to preach his message. In obedience to his call, Paul traveled throughout the Roman Empire, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ; he formed churches from among those who believed the message; helped the church establish itself before moving on to the next town to repeat the process. Paul did not minister alone but had a number of men and women who served alongside of him. Titus is one of those co-workers.

This letter was written following a mission campaign where Paul and Titus established new churches on the island of Crete. Paul will be moving on, but he leaves Titus behind to complete the work of developing leaders for these new churches so that they might be able to survive on their own.

Pay close attention to …

  • How Paul sees himself and his purpose.
  • His relationship with Titus. 
  • The reason Titus was left behind on Crete.
  • The positive and negative criteria Titus was given for choosing elders for the churches in Crete. 
  • How the criteria for selecting elders was related to their mission and the situation they faced in Crete.

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)

Deuteronomy 7:6-11

Background. The opening of Chapter 7 is rather straight forward. Moses tells the Jews they are to go into the land and destroy the “seven nations larger and stronger than you”. The Israelites are to make no treaties with them nor to intermarry with them. Further they are to destroy any and all traces of the false gods and idols in the land.

Pay close attention to …

  • Why the Israelites are to do all this (v. 7:6 )
  • What made the Israelites so special (v. 7:8 )
  • What’s so special about God (v. 7:9 )
  • What’s in store to those who hate God (v. 7:10 )

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)

New Testament Reading Guide – December 19-25, 2011

How do I use this reading guide?

Titus 1:1-16

To make sense out of this personal letter from the Apostle Paul to Titus, you must understand that Paul spent much of his life working as part of the missionary team. Paul’s life was dedicated to preaching the good news of Jesus Christ and forming churches out of those of who believed the message. As Paul traveled on his missionary journeys throughout Syria, Turkey and Greece, he brought assistants with him who were trained to be missionaries in their own right. Titus was one of those assistants who had “graduated” and now headed up the missionary work on the island of Crete. Paul’s relationship with Titus continued although largely through letters such as the one we read today.

How does Paul describe the mission he has dedicated his life to? What is the nature of his relationship with Titus?

What task has Titus been given to do on the island of Crete? What qualities should he be looking for in selecting elders (pastors, overseers, church leaders) for the local churches? Why? What challenges does Titus face?

Titus 2:1-10

Christian teaching contains two elements, the story of what Christ accomplished for us through his life, death, and resurrection and the life we are to live in response to the grace of God. The emphasis of this chapter is on how we are to live in response to the love of God.

What does living the Christian life look like for: older women? Young men? Young women? Older men? Slaves? What common theme runs through Paul’s teachings to each of the groups in the church? Why is it so important that the Christians in Crete live this way (see verse 10)?

Titus 2:11-3:8

Paul has just finished laying out his vision of the Christian life. What is the power to live this Christian life? Is it will power or something else? What is it that teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness?

How are God’s people to live in response to the grace of God expressed through his Son Jesus Christ? How are they to relate to government authorities? To their neighbors?

List what Christ done for us that frees us to live in this holy and loving way?

Galatians 3:1-14

In the early years of the church, the vast majority of Jesus’ followers were Jewish (all the Apostles were Jewish). But as the Christian faith began to spread around the Roman Empire, Gentiles (people who are not Jewish) began to flow into the church. This presented a problem for the church. For thousands of years they and their ancestors had held to the laws and customs given to them by Moses. These laws and customs are recorded for us in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and they covered all aspects of life: circumcision, special holidays to be observed, regulations concerning food and cleanliness, and laws governing how we were to relate to God and to our neighbor. The questions for the early church were: Do Gentile followers of Jesus need to follow Jewish laws and customs in order to be saved? Do they need to be circumcised? (Acts 15:1) Does someone need to become Jewish in order to become a follower of Jesus? Now that Jesus has come are we still bound to keep the law of Moses?

For more background on this issue and how the church resolved it take a moment to read the Acts 15. This controversy over circumcision, found its way to the churches in Galatia. Apparently Christians who believed that Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised (male circumcision only) and adopt Jewish customs came to Galatia and pressured the Gentile men to be circumcised. Paul wrote this letter in response to that pressure.

For Paul, receiving the Holy Spirit, not circumcision was the true mark of a Christian. Why did God give the Holy Spirit to the Galatians?

The word ‘justify’ is a legal term meaning to declare someone to be innocent or righteous. ‘Credit’ is a banking term, meaning to transfer money from one account to another. How was it that Abraham was ‘credited’ righteousness? How are we, the Gentiles, like Abraham? What can’t the Law (the Law of Moses including circumcision) do? How is it that we are rescued from the curse of the Law? Why does bless us and give us the Holy Spirit?

Galatians 3:15-22

A covenant is simply an agreement, a contract, between two or persons. A mortgage, even a marriage vow, is a covenant. Which came first, God’s covenant promise to Abraham or the law (the 10 Commandments, Jewish law including circumcision)? Does the law set aside God’s promises? Why or why not? What can’t the law do? What is the law’s purpose?

In case you are wondering, the “Seed” is a reference to Genesis 12 where God made a promise with Abraham and his “seed” or descendant (see Genesis 12:1-3). That “seed”, that special descendant of Abraham was Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus that we are included in God’s promises and receive His blessings.

Galatians 3:23-4:7

The phrase “the law was put in charge” (NIV) or “guardian” (ESV) in verse 24 is a translation of the Greek word, paedagogos. A paedagogos was a household slave who was charged with watching over the family’s heir to make sure he stayed out of trouble until he was old enough to receive his inheritance and take charge of the family’s estate.

What is the law’s temporary role in our lives? When is it’s job complete? Who was it that liberated us from the slavery to the law? What is our new identity because of God’s Son, Jesus?

Many in Paul’s day believed that God’s promises (and inheritance) were only for the people of Israel. What do you think it meant to the Galatian Christians, most of whom were not Jewish, to hear the words: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus”?

Philippians 2:1-11

What is the life pattern that Christ left for us to follow? Where did Jesus begin? Where did he go? Where did God the Father take him in the end? What would it would like for you to follow that same life pattern (go back and look at verses 2-4)?