Daily Bible Readings – Palm Sunday, April 13, 2014

Prayer Psalm: 103

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

Luke 19:41-48

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 knows he is riding into his enemies’ stronghold. The people of Jerusalem will reject him as king and hand him over to Romans to be crucified. He will enter Jerusalem and continue on to the temple in the heart of the city. There Jesus will find a market setup in the outer court of the Gentiles (Gentiles were not allowed in the inner courts of the temple). Originally this market was created as a convenience to those who traveled to the temple to worship God. You could buy the animal sacrifice right at the temple, rather than bring one all the way from home. The moneychangers allowed pilgrims to exchange money for temple money, the currency that was used to pay the temple tax. What began as a convenience became a business with big profits made on the backs of poor pilgrims. It’s location in the Court of the Gentiles effectively shut out the Gentles from worshiping God.

Pay close attention to …

  • How Jesus feels about Jerusalem. What does he wish would happen? Compare this to Luke 7:27-29.
  • How Jesus reacts to the sellers in the temple. Who is threatened by Jesus’ actions and what are they plotting to do?
  • Why the chief priests and teachers of the law are unable to kill Jesus.

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 Timothy 6:12-16

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. 1 Timothy is a personal letter from the Apostle Paul to Timothy, a young missionary that Paul mentored.  Timothy after serving with Paul on his missionary journeys was left behind in Ephesus to oversee the churches that were established there.  Paul writes to encourage and instruct his young protege.

Pay close attention to …

  • The fight Timothy is called to fight.
  • What he is to hold on to.
  • How long he is to keep the commands of God.
  • The hope that makes the struggle worth it.

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 9:9-12, 12:9-11, 13:1, 7-9

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. Much of what we look at today will have a ring of familiarity about it because today is Palm Sunday which launches us into Holy Week.  We refer to Jesus entry into Jerusalem as the “triumphal entry”.  That could mean any of several things, but it is quite significant that Jesus is atop a donkey.  This marks the “triumphal” aspect for if the king is riding on a donkey then he has been victorious and comes in peace.  A king seated on a war horse, obviously, is off to battle.  Not so here.

Pay close attention to …

  • These readings and how they relate to all the activity going on in Jerusalem as Jesus lives through these prophecies.
  • The emotion being encouraged (v. 9:9 )
  • What is being proclaimed (v.9:10 )
  • “…blood of my covenant…” (v. 9:11 )*
  • “Prisoners of hope…” (v.9:12 )

*The writer of Hebrews tells us “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins…” (9:22 NIV)  Indeed anything needing purification in the Old Testament required some amount of animal blood.  It would be a safe guess that there was enough blood shed in the thousands of sacrifices during the Old Covenant to float Noah’s ark.  Still that was insufficient.  The importance of blood in the scripture extends even to food.  Blood = life thus it was forbidden for anyone to eat food with blood in it.

John the Baptist first referred to Jesus as “the lamb of God”.  This lamb, like the hundreds of thousands before him, will have to surrender his life (blood) which will prove to be a sufficient sacrifice.

Continuing… (Zechariah 12:9-11)

  • “They will look on me, the one they pierced (v. 12:10 )**
  • Weeping in Jerusalem (v. 12:11 )

** Psalm 22:16-18 (NIV) “Dogs [Gentiles] have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.  I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me  They divide my garments among them and cast lost for my clothing.”

“Dog” was a common epithet for anyone who was a non-Jew.  Jesus also used it when he was asked to heal a Canaanite woman’s daughter of demon possession.  “The woman came and knelt before him. ‘Lord help me!’ she said.  He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.’  ‘Yes, Lord, she said, ‘but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’  Then Jesus answered, ‘Woman, you have great faith!  Your request is granted.’  And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”  (Matthew 15:25-28 NIV)

Not finished yet… (Zechariah 13:1, 7-9)

  •  The sheep (v. 13:7 )

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 – 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.

Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 119:49-72

Prayer Point. Walking God’s path is not easy as this section of Psalm 119 reminds us. Scattered throughout the psalm are appeals to God for help. Pick one or two that resonate with you and make it your prayer this morning.

Matthew 24:45-51

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

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

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

Background. Jesus is the Master in this story. He must leave for a time before he comes back. He does not let the servants know the hour of his return. His faithful servants are those who go about his business continually while he is away. The wicked servants are those who do not do his will. When he comes he will find them not doing his will.

What does the faithful servant do to prepare for the master’s coming? What is at the heart of the wicked servant’s actions? What does the wicked servant think of the master’s return? (it is delayed). Where will the wicked servant eventually end up?

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 4:1-8

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 help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. As chapter 4 begins, John’s perspective will be changed from the earth’s to heaven’s point of view. What does John see in God’s heavenly throne room?

Numbers are highly symbolic in Jewish and Christian writing. In this case, seven means perfection.

John is describing a dream and in a dream images are symbols that refer to something else. How do you interpret these symbols? You look for other passages in the Scriptures that contain these same symbols.

From earth’s perspective it looks like Rome has all the power and Caesar will forever reign on the throne. Who is in on the throne from heaven’s perspective? How does this vision embolden John and the seven churches? Why are there seven lamps before God’s throne (remember that the number seven is symbolic of perfection? What do they represent (see verse 5)? Where have we seen rainbows in the Bible and what do they represent (see Genesis 9:12-15)?

The identity of the twenty four elders is a little tricky, but following our interpretive principles we can reasonably assume that the 24 elders represent God’s people who have died and are in heaven, made up of the nation of Israel (12 tribes) and the church (represented by the 12 apostles). (12+12=24). From earth’s perspective, God’s people look like a powerless and persecuted minority. What do God’s people look like from heaven’s perspective?

“The sea of glass, clear as crystal.” (verse 6). Do you remember the story where Jesus calmed the sea in Mark 4:37-41? The sea was the most feared force in the ancient world and it was associated with evil. A sea of glass, is a sea that has been calmed and an image of God’s power and future destruction of all that is evil. Imagine how that image encouraged John, who witnessed Jesus calming the sea.

Compare the description of the strange living creatures in Revelation 1 to the living creature Ezekiel sees in his vision of God (Ezekiel 1:1-28) and Isaiah’s vision of the seraphim (angels) in Isaiah 6:1-3. While interpreting visions in the book of Revelation is never an exact science, these creatures seem to represent creation and by extension the glory of the Creator.

In the perspective from below, the earth is cruel place where evil goes unchecked. But when we see the world from heaven’s perspective, we see our glorious future, where God’s people join with all creation worshiping around the throne of our God who made us, sustains us, and saves us. No wonder Jesus taught us to pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

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 3:1-10

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 help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. What does Zechariah see in this vision? What role does Satan play? What does the LORD say to Satan? What do you think [“Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”] means? Who is Joshua? What does Joshua represent? [one may infer that Joshua represents the people of God as an intercessor.] Joshua is wearing filthy clothes. What do these filthy clothes represent? (refer to Isaiah 64:6 for filthy rags)What does the LORD do about the filthy clothes? How would you interpret what the LORD has done for Joshua? What charge does the LORD give to Joshua? What do you think of when you hear “If you walk in my ways and keep my requirements”? [Usually I think of trying to keep the commandments. I know this cannot be completely right because I can’t do that successfully. Check out Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”] What promise does the Lord make to Joshua if he can meet the LORD’s requirements?

To whom does the “Branch” refer? You may remember from last’s week’s discussion of Revelation 2:17 “I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it,” (NIV) that we don’t know to what this stone refers. Here in verse 9 “‘See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the LORD almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.’” We know as much about that stone as the one discussed in Revelation last week. What can we surmise about the removal of “the sin of this land in a single day”?

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 17, 2013

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 24:32-44

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. Christ here is warning to prepare for his second coming. Jesus is telling his disciples to look at the signs of the times. It is important to note that Jesus says in verse 35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Matt. 24:42 stay awake. Christians should not merely keep looking for the coming of the Son of Man. Instead they should be completing the work of the Great Commission (28:19–20), as well as being prepared and expectant, because the time of Christ’s return is unknown (24:36). On readiness for Christ’s return; cf. 1 Thess. 5:1–11; 1 Pet. 4:7; 2 Pet. 3:2–18[ESV Study Bible Notes].

What does Jesus say regarding the day and hour of his return? Why? Who alone knows the hour of his return? What attitudes should characterize Jesus’ followers as they prepare for the end knowing that his return is imminent?

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 3:14-22

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 help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. The letter from Jesus to the church of Laodicea (an actual church in Western Turkey that received this letter) relayed through John. How does Jesus identify himself in verse 14? Why does Jesus find the church in Laodicea so distasteful? What should the church do about the situation?

The word ‘repent’ implies a humble return to God. For a story example read Matthew 18:21-29. The clothing refers to Christ’s goodness and righteousness that covers over our sin when we humbly return to him.

What promise does Jesus hold out for this church if they overcome (think: hold on to their faith, persevere)?

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 2:1-13

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

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

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

Background. What does Zechariah “see” in this vision? How does the second angel describe Jerusalem? Does this describe the Jerusalem Zechariah is familiar with? What promise does the LORD make concerning Jerusalem? What encouraging and urgent command does the LORD give (v. 8)? According to verse 8 how does the LORD regard his people? To whom is the LORD giving this command (both to Israel and the captives of Judah in Babylonia)? What does the LORD have in store for those who took his people captive and plundered them? To what end does the Lord prove himself? ( v. 9b “Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me.” ESV) What age-old promise does the Lord make to the “daughter of Zion”? (v. 10) Who else benefits? What does verse 12 say about the LORD’s forgiveness and mercy? What image is brought to mind when you read verse 13?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

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

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

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

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

Daily Bible Readings – Monday, December 16, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 41

Prayer Point. God blesses those who have regard for the weak, but what hope is there if we have sinned? Hope survives because in verse 9, David’s voice gives way to voice of Jesus, who entered our world, was cursed for our sin and earned us the blessings of God. Confess your sin and appeal to God, not on the basis of your goodness, but on what Jesus has done for you.

Matthew 24:15-31

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

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

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

Background. “The abomination that causes desolation” is reference to the prophecy of Daniel (see Daniel 9:27). In this case, Jesus is referring to the destruction of the temple. What are the disciples to do when the day of the temple’s destruction comes? We do know that when the Roman army came to destroy Jerusalem many fled to the city believing that God would not allow his temple to be destroyed. The Christians on the other hand remembered the words of Jesus and fled to the hills avoiding the ensuing massacre.

What should Jesus’ disciples watch out for? Who shouldn’t they listen to?

What will the true coming of Jesus (the Son of Man) look like?

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 3:7-13

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

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

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

Background. John, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, has been exiled to the island of Patmos for his faith. He is separated from the churches in Asia (Western Turkey) that he served and loved with all his heart. Like him, they are discouraged by the opposition they are faced from the Romans who appeared to be the undisputed powers of this world. But God sees the world differently and allows John to see a vision of Christ to encouraged him and the churches he served. Jesus commands John to pass on seven letters to the seven churches in Asia. Revelation 3:7-13, the letter to the church in Philadelphia is the sixth of these seven letters.

You may notice that John writes “to the angel of the church in Philadelphia.” This is not a guardian angel, the letters would not make any sense if this was the case, but a figure of speech referring to “the heart” of the local church. These letters are to be understood as personal messages from Jesus (“the words of him who is holy and true, and holds the key of David”) to each church.

Pay close attention to …

  • Why Jesus is so pleased with the church in Philadelphia. What the church of Philadelphia did despite their weakness.
  • How Jesus will vindicate the suffering church in Philadelphia.
  • What Jesus promises them if they continue to hold on in the face of persecution.

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 1:7-17

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. Like Haggai, Zechariah begins: “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius…” (Zechariah 1:1 ESV). It is clear that both Haggai and Zechariah are addressing the ex-exiles at about the same time. The recurring theme is “return to me”. The LORD wants the people both to return to him and from their evil ways and deeds.

Zechariah experiences a vision of a man riding on a red horse. Naturally, Zechariah wants to know what this means. Also with the red horse were red, sorrel and white horses. Zechariah then asks “the angel who talked with me” “What are these, my lord?” (v. 9 ESV). The angel tells Zechariah that “these are they whom the LORD has sent to patrol the earth.” (v. 10 ESV) This actually harkens to Job 1:7 when Satan responds to God’s question: “‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth and from walking up and down on it.’” (Job 1:7 ESV) The similarities end there. These are angels patrolling through the earth reporting to the LORD that the world was as “rest”.

Why is the angel of the LORD troubled that by the report given by the man on the red horse that the world is at rest and peace? How does God feel about Jerusalem and Zion situation? Why does God’s anger burn against the nations (the nations that brought about Israel’s destruction)? How will God make things right?

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.