Week 14 Questions for 2019 Bible Reading Plan


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This week, we’re at a unique place in  New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan. We’ll be ending the letter to the Romans, transitioning to a new and challenging part of Proverbs, beginning the epistle to the Galatians, and last but not least we’ll keep plugging away through Psalms.

On Tuesday, we’ll begin the middle section of Proverbs, sometimes called proverbs proper. The first section of Proverbs 1:8-9:18 prominently featured parental praise of wisdom in the form of poetic verse. Those chapters prepare the reader for the actual proverbs for which this book is known. The second section of Proverbs, 10:1-22:16, contains 375 of Solomon’s individual proverbs, or maxims. They are based on Solomon’s inspired knowledge given to him by God (1 Kings 3; 10:1-13). There’s going to be a lot to learn.

On Thursday, we’ll complete our reading of Paul’s powerful epistle to the Romans. For me, it has been a real challenge each day to formulate introductions and three questions that captured the essence of each chapter. I hope it was profitable.

On Friday, we’ll begin our reading of Galatians. The churches in the region of Galatia had come to Christ by faith – powerless to win God’s favor apart from His mercy. Nevertheless, certain people (often called Judaizers) were saying, that in order to be saved Gentile Christians had to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses. In other words, salvation comes through keeping the Law, not by faith through grace. To safeguard the essence of the gospel, the apostle Paul reaffirms that we can only live right with God by faith in His Son, and His empowering presence in us.

Last, but not least, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday we’ll be challenged once again by David to take all of life’s pain and suffering (mostly due to our own sins) to the God who heals the broken.

May the God of all wisdom bless you this week as you continue to read His Word.

Monday, Apr. 1 – Romans 13; Psalm 38

Chapter 13 continues the theme of the transformed life Paul began in the previous chapter. Here Paul broadens the Christian’s sphere of responsibility by extending it to include the civil government under which he or she lives (vv. 1-7) and his or her fellow citizens (v. 8-14). In your own words, describe how Christians should be subject to governing authorities. Explain what it means for “love [to be] the fulfillment of the law” (v. 10)? Think back over this chapter. In what ways do you need to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” in your relationship to the government and your fellow citizens?

Psalm 38 is another of David’s penitential psalms (also: Psalms 6; 32; 51; 102; 130; 143). This is a lament that lays a person’s troubles before God, when that person realized that his troubles result from his own sin. The psalm describes anguish of body and mind, desertion of friends, and how the singer’s folly has made him vulnerable to his enemies. Not all the troubles of life are the result from one’s sins, nevertheless this psalm is geared to those that do. Why is it not possible to have a sense of mental, physical, relational, or spiritual well-being when you’re aware of unconfessed sin? How does God use mental, physical, relational, or spiritual ailments to bring us to confession and repentance? How long are you usually willing to tolerate these ailments before you just own up to what you did? What’s causing you pain now? How can you decisively deal with the sin God is wants you to address?

Tuesday, Apr. 2 – Romans 14; Proverbs 10:1-7

The debt of love applied directly to a situation within the Roman church, knowing how to live with Christian freedoms. This section of Romans deals with Christian conduct when God does not specify exactly what we should do in every situation. In such cases some Christians will do one thing and others another, but both within God’s will. How to handle these situations is the focus of this passage. What is Paul’s overall message to “strong” Christians (those who don’t feel obliged to refrain from meat, wine, or keep holy days)? To “weak” Christians (those who feel obliged)? Someone somewhere is bound to be offended by almost anything we do! How can you practically apply the principles of this chapter?

The first section of Proverbs 1:8-9:18 prominently featured parental praise of wisdom in the form of poetic verse. Those chapters prepare the reader for the actual proverbs for which this book is known. The second section of Proverbs, 10:1-22:16, contains 375 of Solomon’s individual proverbs, or maxims. They are based on Solomon’s inspired knowledge given to him by God (1 Kings 3; 10:1-13). Generally there appears to be no apparent order. However, at closer examination it’s often the case that individual proverbs are grouped together into small collections which, taken together, give the reader a more complete understanding of a given topic. Finally, one last note about the types of proverbs we will encounter in our readings. The parallel, two line proverbs of chapters 10-15 are mostly contrast or opposites (antithetical), while those of chapters 16-22 are mostly similarities or comparisons (synthetical). In what ways have you seen a wise child, make his or her parents proud (v. 1)? Gain life through righteousness (v. 2)? Protection from God (v. 3)? Become a diligent worker (vv. 4-5)? And receive blessings from others (vv. 6-7)? Of these proverbs, select the one that spoke to you the most and post it on social media or share with a friend. For extra credit explain why you needed this word of wisdom.

Wednesday, Apr. 3 – Romans 15; Psalm 39

Paul now develops the key concept to which he referred to in chapter 14, namely putting the welfare of others before that of self. This is love. To solidify his argument he cites the example of Christ who lived free of taboos and unnecessary inhibitions but was always careful to bear with the weaknesses of others. Focusing on vv. 1-13, how is Christ the supreme example of what Paul commands? If you follow Christ’s example in this and other areas of your life why will you need “endurance… encouragement… and hope” (vv. 4-5)? Why are Bible study and prayer essential if you are to maintain these attitudes as you serve/yield to others?

Psalm 39 is an exceptionally heavy lament, which compares with Job 7 and much of Ecclesiastes. With these words, David allows those who are suffering (especially at the hand of God see vv. 10, 13) to express the pain of their anguish. The circumstances of the suffering are left vague, although there is acknowledgment of sin (vv. 8, 11); the focus is on how suffering is a reminder of the fleeting nature of human life. What images does David use to describe the brevity of life? From your perspective, why is brevity of life both a bitter curse and a blessing? How do these twin perspectives, bitter curse and blessing, affect the way you live your short life here on Earth?

Thursday, Apr. 4 – Romans 16; Proverbs 10:8-14

In Jesus, believers have a bond that is stronger than flesh and blood. We are now and will always be brothers and sisters in Christ, members of God’s family. In this, the last chapter of Romans, Paul introduces us to some of his spiritual family. Men and women of faith who have aided and helped him along his ministry journey. Paul praises several people in vv. 1-15 for things they have done. What deeds and qualities does he commend? Think about how these Christians are models for you to follow. Write down several ideas on how you can help a minister, your pastors, a missionary, etc. in their work and service to God’s people. Lastly, how has Romans helped you to understand your salvation more completely?

Here Solomon contrast the actions of the “righteous” and the “wicked.” These contrast began in v. 6 and will go throughout the rest of chapter 10. How does Solomon describe the actions and blessings of a “righteous” person? In contrast, how does he describe the actions and curses of a “wicked” person? Applying these wise words to yourself, in what ways can you strengthen your “righteous” behaviors and correct your “wicked” deeds?

Friday, Apr. 5 – Galatians 1; Psalm 40

The churches in the region of Galatia had come to Christ by faith – powerless to win God’s favor apart from His mercy. Nevertheless, certain people (often called Judaizers) were saying, that in order to be saved Gentile Christians had to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses. In other words, salvation comes through keeping the Law, not by faith through grace. To safeguard the essence of the gospel, the apostle Paul reaffirms that we can only live right with God by faith in His Son Jesus, and His empowering presence in us. Paul abruptly begins his letter to the Galatians. Omitting his customary expression of thanksgiving, he plunges immediately into an impassioned discussion of their accepting a new, so-called gospel and his call by God to preach the true gospel of Christ. As you read this opening chapter how would you describe the mood of this passage? How do you think Paul would respond to the claim there are many roads that lead to heaven? Why? What aspect(s) of the gospel do you need more grace and faith right now to believe and practice? Pray to God about this and seek the help of a trusted believer.

Psalm 40 is a combination of both thanksgiving for God’s past aid (vv. 1-11) and a lament/prayer for continued deliverance (vv. 12-17). Unlike investment institutions, perhaps David would say that with God, past performance is indicative of future results. Why does the power of God seem more obvious after a relatively long period of waiting for Him to act? Why should this encourage us all the more to hang in there while we’re waiting on God’s timing? Make a list of the prayers you’re waiting for God to answer. Go through your list and ask God to remember your plea and for patience to wait on Him.

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Week 13 Questions for 2019 Bible Reading Plan


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This week in our New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan we encounter Romans 9-11. These three chapters are, by far, the most controversial section in this epistle, if not the whole of the New Testament. Nevertheless, we must remember that the Spirit of God did not inspire this text to confuse or divide us. The teachings in this passage of Romans is vital to the gospel and to our own spiritual walk. I’ve done my best to capture the essence of each chapter with the goal to inform and inspire our faith. Let’s keep reading together and may God’s rich blessing be upon us as we continue to read His word.

Monday, Mar. 25 – Romans 8; Psalm 35

The struggle described in Romans 7 doesn’t end when we become Christians. But there is a new dimension to that struggle which completely changes its outcome… the Spirit of God. This chapter contains the greatest concentration of references to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, an average of one almost every two verses. Whereas there are 31 occurrences of “I” in chapter 7, there are 17± references to the “Spirit” in chapter 8. Here Paul explains the benefits of sanctification made available through the presence and power of God’s Holy Spirit who indwells every believer. Make a quick list of everything Paul says in chapter 8 that the Spirit does in the life of a believer? What evidence do you see of your life being controlled by the Spirit? Meditate on the blessing of God’s Spirit from vv. 1-30 and Paul’s poetic praise of God’s love in vv. 31-39. How do these two teachings affect your attitude toward the God of your salvation, your struggles with sin and the current circumstances you face as a Christian?

With Psalm 35, David laments the unjustified opposition of his enemies as he calls on God to deliver him. With language that alternates between legal and military terminology, David cycles between exasperation and expectation. In vv. 1-10, he asks God to deliver him from enemies who were trying to kill him without cause. With vv. 11-18, he laments that “they repay me evil for good”. Lastly, in vv. 19-28, David petitions God on his behalf. Describe a time when you were betrayed by someone close to you. When they hurt you, did you seek your own vengeance or did you give it to God? If you sought your own vengeance in light of David’s plea in vv. 19-28 do you think God was pleased with your actions? Why or why not? If you allowed God to vindicate you then what was that experience like for you? For the other person? Praise God for His wisdom and mercy.

Tuesday, Mar. 26 – Romans 9; Proverbs 9:7-12

Coming off the uplifting stanzas of chapter 8, Paul writes, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsman according to the flesh” (vv. 2b-3). Paul writes this section of Romans with tears in his eyes because of Israel’s unbelief. Their Messiah had come and they had rejected Him. In chapters 9-11 Paul wrestles with the problem of Israel’s faithlessness. These three chapters are, by far, the most controversial section in this epistle. Nevertheless, we must remember that the Spirit of God did not inspire this text to confuse or divide us. The teachings in this passage of Romans is vital to the gospel and to our own spiritual walk. In this chapter Paul focuses on the difficult question of God’s sovereignty. What all can you learn from Romans 9 about God’s character and His treatment of Abraham’s decedents? Are you ever tempted to regard God as unfair or arbitrary in His dealings with people? If so, in what ways? How does the illustration of the potter and clay help you gain a proper perspective on your relationship with the sovereign God? Talk to God about your feelings.

In our last reading from Proverbs (March 21st) we noted Proverbs 9 presents the dilemma of deciding between two dinner invitations, one from Lady Wisdom the other from Lady Folly. Which one you attend will largely determine your health, your wealth, and your happiness for the rest of your life. With vv. 1-6, Solomon has Lady Wisdom describe her feast. Next, in vv. 7-12 we learn her dinner conversation will not consist of merely idle chatter. What do vv. 7-12 tell you about how Lady Wisdom imparts benefits to her guest? How do you generally respond when people correct you? Why do you think you act this way? What specific actions can you take to more humbly and wisely receive correct?

Wednesday, Mar. 27 – Romans 10; Psalm 36

Again, Paul begins this section with a note of lament, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (10:1). As previously stated, over the course of three chapters, Paul grapples with Israel’s faithlessness in light of the promises of God. Chapter 9 discussed God’s choice of the Jews for the purpose of choosing the gentile world as well but the Jews refused to embrace His choice. Now in chapter 10, Paul focuses on Israel’s opportunities to respond to the Lord’s gracious offer of salvation in Christ. He explains the Jew’s pursuit of righteousness is good, but their method is not (see 9:31-32). Likewise, their zeal for God is good, but its basis is not (see 10:2-3). What is wrong with the attitude behind their zeal to be close to God? What, according to Paul, does a Jew, or any person, need to do to be saved? Why can’t the Jews blame their unbelief on the fact that they can’t, or didn’t, understand the word of Christ? Why can’t you? Think about the lost in your orbit of acquaintances. Pray persistently that God will send them messengers with the good news. Pray with the attitude that if God think it best then you will go to them with the gospel.

With Psalm 36, David presents a powerful contrast between human wickedness at its most malevolent and divine goodness in its many-sided fullness. Meanwhile, the singer is menaced by the one and assured of victory by the other. Few psalms cover so great a range in so short a space. This psalm is unique in that some translations describe it as an “oracle,” or in other words, a message from God (v. 1 NKJV; see also 2 Samuel 23:1). How does David describe the wicked? In contrast, how does David describe God? David relied on the character of God to strengthen his faith in the face of an evil world. In what ways will you find hope in God’s character as you face the evil world around you?

Thursday, Mar. 28 – Romans 11; Proverbs 9:13-18

Let’s start by looking back over the last couple of readings from Romans. In chapter 9, Paul explored God’s divine choice of Israel and the Jews rejection of God. Then with chapter 10, he focused on Israel’s unheeded opportunities to respond to the Lord’s gracious offer of salvation in Christ. Finally, in chapter 11, Paul answers the question that logically arises from the previous two chapters, “Has God rejected his people?” (11:1). Ultimately, what’s at stake in this discussion is whether God can be trusted to keep His promises. In your own words, how does Paul explain Israel’s unbelief as being partial (vv. 1-10)? Purposeful (vv. 11-16)? And temporary (vv. 25-32)? The mechanics behind all that Paul says in chapters 9-11 is boggling to our mortal minds. So then, focusing in on Paul’s description of God in vv. 33-36, how does this passage affect your willingness to trust God to work out the fulfillment of all His promises?

In our last two readings from Proverbs (March 21st and 26th) we noted Proverbs 9 presents the dilemma of deciding between two dinner invitations, one from Lady Wisdom the other from Lady Folly. Which one you attend will largely determine your health, your wealth, and your happiness for the rest of your life. We’ve examined Lady Wisdom’s feast and table talk now we’ll turn our attention to Lady Folly. Describe Lady Folly’s house, invitation, and feast. What similarities and differences to you see with Lady Wisdom’s house, invitation, and feast? No matter which invitation you accept, your decision will result in both pleasure and pain. How do the pleasure and pain from dining at Lady Wisdom’s house differ from the pleasure and pain one finds at Lady Folly’s house? What will help you to reject Folly and embrace Wisdom?

 

Friday, Mar. 29 – Romans 12; Psalm 37

After the song of praise in 11:33-36, what more is there to be said? Nothing but the practical implications of what has gone before. “Therefore” (v. 1) ties the rest of the letter to the first eleven chapters. Up to this point, Paul has described God’s gift of righteousness. In Christ we who were condemned are justified. We who were sinners are sanctified. And we who had no hope will be glorified. For the rest of his epistle, Paul explains how Christians should live in view of God’s grace, love, and mercy. Explain what you think Paul means when says we “should present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (v. 1). According to 12:2, what must happen in order for you to discern and agree with God’s will? How does this happen? Name an area of your life where you are tempted “to conform to this world.” Write down specific ways in which you can put into practice vv. 1-2 with regard to the temptation you are facing.

Here in Psalm 37, David urges the righteous not to let the prosperity of the wicked upset them but to continue to trust in God’s justice. Through an irregular acrostic form, David answers that age-old question, “Why do the ungodly prosper while the godly painfully struggle through life?” In the old gospel song, Father Along we still lyrically wonder the same question; “Tempted and tried we’re oft made to wonder Why it should be thus all the day long, While there are others living about us, Never molested tho’ in the wrong.” When have you wondered why the wicked prosper while believers suffer? In those times what did (or do) you think about the wicked person? Yourself? God? How can hymns like Psalm 37 and Father Along help you sort through your feelings?

Week 12 Question for 2019 Bible Reading Plan


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As Christians, we have a life long goal: to become more like Christ. This involves change, and change isn’t always easy. But the more you know of God’s gracious salvation, His wisdom for living, and His purposes for you, the more you can experience His joy, hope and love. That’s the whole purpose of the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan, to know more about God and His son Jesus Christ and to reflect Their glory in this sin filled world. We’re now a quarter of the way through 2019 and our reading plan. It’s my prayer that the Lord is blessing you in your efforts.

I apologize for being late getting the questions completed. My family and I spent a lot of time last week traveling to Middle Tennessee State University to watch our Columbia Academy Bulldogs compete in and win the TSSAA Class A Boy’s basketball title. We couldn’t be prouder of our boys. With apologizes offered, here are the questions for this week’s reading.

Monday, Mar. 18 – Romans 3; Psalm 32

Like prisoners on death row, people are guilty, condemned and awaiting execution of God’s wrath. They sit silently in the miserable darkness of their cell, all hope extinguished. Then abruptly, the door swings open and darkness becomes light, death becomes life, and bondage becomes freedom. That’s what God has done for us. In the vv. 21-31 Paul describes how righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ upholds both God’s justice and His grace. In your own words, explain how Jesus has enables believers to become righteous if they put their faith in Him. How does this way of righteousness make it impossible for anyone to boast about his or her own actions? In what way(s) might you feel or act differently if you more fully grasped what Jesus has done for you?

Psalm 32 is often classified as one of the seven penitential psalms (also: Psalms 6; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143). Among these Psalms 32 and 51 stand out as confessional giants. The overall thrust, intent and development of Psalm 32 may be summarized as follows: We must not forget the lessons learned through sin, confession, and forgiveness. And we must relay these lessons to others. From your perspective, is it possible to have a sense of well-being when you’re aware of unconfessed sin in your life? Why is it important to be specific about what one has done that was wrong and about the damage it caused to yourself and others? How can telling others your sin, confession, and forgiveness story help them and you avoid the same pitfalls and heartache?

Tuesday, Mar. 19 – Romans 4; Proverbs 8:32-36

Paul’s readers could have understood faith as being a new method of salvation since he contrasted faith with the Law. Yet, justification by faith was not a uniquely Christian revelation contrasted with Jewish doctrine. In Romans 4 the apostle shows his readers that God has always justified people by faith. In particular, he emphasizes that God declared Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, righteous because of his faith, not ritual. What themes do you see running through this passage? God’s promise is worthless if the only people who can inherit it are those who live up to it by perfect obedience. Why would this requirement make the promise worthless? It’s easy to feel that God fully accepts us only when we’re good and perfect. When you feel this way, how can the examples of Abraham and David give you hope?

As previously stated, we have four readings from Proverbs 8. This chapter is an apology, or defense, of wisdom. We’ve seen that wisdom would be every person’s guide (vv. 1-11), that it is the key success (vv. 12-21) and we’ve noted its role in the creation (vv. 22-31). Finally, let’s consider that wisdom is the one essential necessity of life (vv. 32-36). On the basis of all that has been said in this chapter, Wisdom exhorts us to live by her words, and thereby “find life and obtains favor from the Lord” (v. 35). However, the one who spurns her “injures himself” and he who hates her “loves death” (v. 36). Write down the name of a person who you know loves wisdom, then someone who hates wisdom. Describe how these two people illustrate the truths of vv. 35 and 36. Look at the trajectory of your life, which of these two people are you most like? Why? What will you need to do make wisdom the one necessity of your life’s journey?

Wednesday, Mar. 20 – Romans 5; Psalm 33

We now have reached a bridge chapter in Paul’s letter. Some commentators group chapter 5 with 1:18-4:25 because it summarizes justification by faith. Other people group chapter 5 with 6:1-8:39 because it begins to describe the life that justified people live by faith. Personally, I prefer the latter. From vv. 1-11, list as many benefits as you can find of justification by faith and its corresponding peace. How does Paul’s comparison of Jesus and Adam in vv. 12-21 give you another reason to rejoice because of the power of God’s grace toward you through Jesus? We all long to live with a sense of peaceful joy. Yet it can, at times, seem so elusive. What keeps you from letting the Lord’s grace fill your heart with joy of salvation by faith? Pray about this.

Psalm 33 is a general hymn of praise. It is one of fifty psalms that is not attributed to an author. Its two primary themes are: 1) God is the Lord of nature, and 2) He is Lord of the nations. These two realms are always related; the Creator sovereignly rules over the totality of His creation. What is the relationship between hope in God, trust in Him, and His love in Psalm 33? What is it about God’s love that you can count on, no matter how you’re feeling? How do see God’s love for His creation expanding your hope and trust in Him?

Thursday, Mar. 21 – Romans 6; Proverbs 9:1-6

Paul has shown that all of us are guilty before God. All of us – even Abraham – are acquitted of guilt and reconciled with God by the gracious gift of Jesus. This free gift of grace, received by faith, unearned by any obedience to the law, raises serious questions which Paul answers through the diatribe format of his letter. We’ve all been there, the subtle allure, the persistent urges, and the passionate desires; sin entices us in many ways. Then a thought enters our mind which we dare not acknowledge: “If I give in, I can always be forgiven.” Sound familiar? According to Paul, how does this way of thinking betray a fundamental misunderstanding of God’s grace in our lives? In your own words, explain how Paul illustrates the differences between our old life and new life using baptism, slavery, and marriage. In what ways do these three illustrations assure and encourage you in your struggle against sin?

An invitation to dinner is always welcomed in our house, until we get invitations to two different dinners, held at the same time. Then we have to decide which one to accept and which one to decline. With four kids, several factors influence our decision. Proverbs 9 presents the dilemma of deciding between two dinner invitations. But these are no ordinary dinners, nor ordinary hostesses. Which one you attend will largely determine your health, your wealth, and your happiness for the rest of your life. With the next three readings from Proverbs we’ll examine Lady Wisdom’s feast (vv. 1-6), along with the dinner conversation (vv. 7-12), then we’ll contrast this with Lady Folly’s feast (vv. 13-18). Briefly describe Lady Wisdom’s feast, invitation, guest, and benefits for sitting at her table. Do you think you’re among those specifically invited to Lady Wisdom’s dinner? Explain. Reflect on v. 6, what attitudes or habits do you have that might be classified as “simple”? Make this a matter of prayer and reflection, asking God to reveal godly wisdom to you that you might leave your simple ways.

Friday, Mar. 22 – Romans 7; Psalm 34

Romans 7 is an eye opening, behind the scenes exploration of Paul’s inner struggles to do good and avoid evil. For dramatic effect let’s repeat that; in vv. 14-25 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit in ways that only you and I could imagine, chronicles his inner conflict with sin. There is some debate about whether or not Paul is describing his life before becoming a believer in Christ, or after. For me it simply doesn’t matter, the struggle against sin is real. According to vv. 14-24a, overall why does Paul feel so wretched? Do you experience the struggle Paul discusses? If so, describe one specific experience you have had with this struggle. If not, explain why you think you do not experience it. “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul ask. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” he exclaims. (vv. 24b-25a). Why is it important to realize that only Christ can rescue you from the power of sin?

From the superscription of Psalm 34, we learn this hymn originates from one of the darkest hours in David’s life when he, in desperation, feigned insanity (1 Samuel 21:10-22:5). When the details of David’s dire situation are compared to the jubilant praise of Psalm 34, its clear David found comfort from God’s presence in the midst of his personal struggle. Over and over again in Psalm 34, David invites people to experience and praise God’s goodness. As you read through these calls to praise God, select one or two that really speak to you today. Write them on a piece of paper and put them in a conspicuous place to remind you to seek after God in times of struggle. Additionally, share your findings with a friend either in person, in a card, a text, or share it with all on social media. Share what you read in Psalm 34 and how it helped you.

Week 11 Questions for 2019 Bible Reading Plan


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This week in the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan we’ll complete Acts and begin Paul’s epistle to the Romans. One writer has said, “Romans may be the most important letter you will ever read.” It is indeed Paul’s masterpiece, the clearest and fullest explanation of the gospel in the Bible. We desperately need to grasp the message of Romans in our day. Many are preaching a gospel which lacks clarity or substance. Churches turn out feel-good-Christians who lack an understanding of the seriousness of their sin or the spiritual depths of the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection. We cannot correct this problem merely by memorizing gospel outlines or canned presentations. As Christians, we need to immerse ourselves in Scripture through diligent study and thoughtful reflection. Only when the gospel grips our hearts can we realize, “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). As you begin Paul’s letter, may you be encouraged and challenged by the new life and the new lifestyle we have in Christ. Blessed readings friends.

Monday, Mar. 11 – Acts 26; Psalm 29

Though his innocence has been clearly stated many times, Paul remains a prisoner. Now, for a fifth time he will give a defense of his life of faith (ref. 22:1-21; 22:30-23:10; 24:10-21; 25:1-12; and then a sixth in 28:17-19). Paul was not on trial here in chapter 26. When he had appealed to Caesar (25:11), he had guaranteed that his next trial would be before the emperor. This was simply a hearing designed to acquaint Agrippa with Paul’s case so the King could give governor Festus help in understanding and communicating the apostle’s suit to the emperor. Looking back over Paul’s miscarriage of justice in the last several chapters, how does he set an example for you in Christian Living? Character? Attitudes? Outreach? Evangelism? What one aspect of Paul’s example would you like most to apply?

This is a hymn of praise to the Lord for His awesome power, where a thunderstorm serves as a visible emblem of God’s majestic voice. Biblical authors do not present the phenomena of nature as problems for humanity. Rather, they are God’s creation, serve His purposes, and demonstrate His power, wisdom, glory, faithfulness, and even love. The awesomeness of nature, serves as a reminder that the power of God is a resource for us. That’s to say, the God of creation is also the God who saves His people. What effect does the majestic, awe inspiring beauty of nature have on your perception of God? Does your view of God change when nature becomes violent and seemingly out of control? Explain. What is the weather like right now? Of which part of God’s character does today’s climate remind you?

Tuesday, Mar. 12 – Acts 27; Proverbs 8:12-21

For reasons unknown to modern readers, Luke describes this scene from Paul’s life in great detail. (I like to think that since it was such a harrowing event Luke wanted everyone to know about it.) This story, perhaps like none other in Acts, also throws more light on the personality and character of Paul. Though he was a prisoner, he became the leader and savior of those who traveled with him. Luke artfully (and by inspiration) weaves together an edge-of-your-sit kind of story. It might be helpful to expand your daily reading on to 28:16. What do you see of Paul’s confidence in God throughout his ordeal at sea? How were others affected by this great confidence in God? In what ways have you see your confidence in God affect those around you?

As previously stated, we’ll have four readings from Proverbs 8. This chapter is an apology, or defense, of wisdom. We’ve already noted that wisdom would be every person’s guide (vv. 1-11). With today reading we’ll see embracing wisdom as the key to success (vv. 12-21). In what ways does Lady Wisdom bring success into one’s life? Since success only comes to those who “love” wisdom (vv. 17, 21), how does one “love” wisdom? How would you characterize your own “love” of wisdom? Beyond merely reading Proverbs, what’s one specific way you will foster a deeper fondness for Wisdom?

Wednesday, Mar. 13 – Acts 28; Psalm 30

The last scene of Paul in Rome brings Luke’s account of the spread of the gospel to a climatic close. It had gone from Jerusalem to Judea the Samaria, and now to the uttermost parts of the earth (ref. Acts 1:8). Paul was now able to bear witness to the power and gospel of Christ in the capital of the empire just as had desired to do for many years (ref. Romans 15:22-33). Luke’s closing words “boldly and freely he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 31) summarizes not only Paul’s two years in Rome but his whole Christian life. To what degree would you like this to be a summary of your life? Explain your thoughts.

In Psalm 30, David tells of his emergence from an experience of chastening by the Lord for some sin he had committed. He praises God because His anger is temporary but His favor is permanent. The title of this psalm is subject to several interpretations. There are two episodes from David’s life that might be the inspiration for this work. First, when the tent that David erected in Jerusalem to house the Ark of the Covenant was brought it into the city (2 Samuel 6). Or perhaps the occasion was the dedication of the temple site (1 Chronicles 21:1-22:1). The Lord’s chastening of the king preceded both of these events. Describe a time when you felt the Lord was chastening you: What sin(s) had you committed? What was the chastening like? How did you respond? Now, slowly reread vv. 4-5 and reflect on how this truth has played out in your life. Share your thoughts with God in prayer.

Thursday, Mar. 14 – Romans 1; Proverbs 8:22-31

For many believers, Romans is the most important letter one will ever read. It is Paul’s masterpiece, the clearest and fullest explanation of the gospel in the Bible. The apostle was excited about the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ, and wanted nothing more than to share it with others. As you read these opening verses of his magnum opus, you find his excitement is contagious. Why is it difficult to keep good news to yourself? Think of some good news you’ve heard recently. How did you respond when you heard it, and why? How does it compare or contrast with how you share the good news of Jesus? Do you ever feel or act ashamed of the gospel? Why? If you do, confess and meditate on vv. 16-17. Ask God to truly convince you that the gospel is His power to save and to light a desire within you to tell others the good news of Jesus.

As previously stated, we’ll have four readings from Proverbs 8. This chapter is an apology, or defense, of wisdom. We’ve already noted that wisdom would be every person’s guide (vv. 1-11) and that it is the key success (vv. 12-21). Today calls for us to consider Wisdom’s role in the creation (vv. 22-31). As Creator, God counted wisdom most important. Wisdom is older than the universe, it has always existed as an attribute of God, and it was essential in the act of creation. As such we should value it highly. Even though the times change, the wisdom of God is timeless. In your opinion, why do some reject God’s wisdom? Why do others accept it? How does the timelessness of God’s wisdom help fortify your decision to accept and apply it in your life?

Friday, Mar. 15 – Romans 2; Psalm 31

It’s not uncommon to see Romans characterized as a classical diatribe. Simply stated, this is a classical style of discourse in which the speaker, or writer, seeks to persuade an audience by debating an imaginary opponent. The speaker, or in this case writer, raises hypothetical questions and responds to them or states false conclusions and goes on to refute them. Paul will do this over and over again throughout Romans. Having described in Romans 1:18-32 the depravity of those who reject God, now in chapter 2 Paul begins to employ the diatribe style of writing to show why even nice, religious moralist also need the gospel. Explain how Christians today can be like the people Paul describes? What is Paul’s message to them? To you? Confess the Lord any ways in which Paul describes you. Ask God to change your attitudes and show you your weaknesses this week.

In this Psalm, David is worn out with trouble and beset by enemies who want to do him harm. The psalm weaves together expressions of grief and gratitude, depression and dependence, fear and faith. With each line, we’re never quite sure where the psalmist will land emotionally. But one thing is clear, he puts his faith in God to deliver him. Reflect on your previous prayers, for what do you often ask to be rescued from? What words would you use to characterize your faith during difficult times? Give this last question some thought, how does (or how should) the kingdom’s cause benefit when God delivers you from difficult circumstances?

Week 10 Questions for 2019 Bible Reading Plan


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P. T. Barnum was fond of saying, “A sucker is born every minute.” From Solomon’s point of view, every one of us was born “simple,” that is gullible, credulous, naive. But while Barnum saw human’s gullibility as an opportunity for profit, the proverbs see the condition as a character weakness to be corrected. As we continue to work through the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan we’ll change things up a bit this week. Instead of only two readings from Proverbs we’ll have three. As you read through Proverbs 7 and the first part of 8, think about how the proverbs are a mirror that lets us see where and how we are naive but more than that, how they will set us on the road to wisdom. May God show you the way as your read His word this week.

Monday, Mar. 4 – Acts 21; Proverbs 7:1-5

Just as Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem, knowing He would die there (ref. Luke 9:21-22, 44, 51), so Paul went resolutely to the Holy City, prepared for the same fate (vv. 4, 13). His sole frame of mind was to deliver a financial gift for the Jerusalem church; the fruit of the genuine love and gratitude from Greek Gentile brethren to help solidify the bond of Christian love between Jews and Gentiles (ref. Romans 15:22-33). However, James and the elders want Paul to do more by participating in the Jewish rites of the Nazarite vow. Why did the James and the elders want Paul to share in the rights of the Nazarite vow? In their eyes, how would this act serve the furtherance of the gospel? What might have been some of Paul’s reasons for doing as these believers asked? (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 and Romans 14:13-15:3 may help shed some light on his possible motives.) What lessons does vv. 17-26 teach you about dealing with differences within the church and even the broader religious world today?

“My son, keep my words…” (v. 1). Growing up in the South it wasn’t too uncommon for my dad to say to me, “Now boy, you better listen to me.” While my father’s warning was not as eloquent as Solomon’s it got the point across; I better heed what I’m being told. Proverbs 7 is Solomon’s third warning against the temptation of adultery (ref. 5:1-23; 6:20-35) and it begins with the familiar refrain for the son the pay attention to the father’s wisdom. Think of a time when you didn’t listen to your parents warnings. How did that turn out? Why is it that teens and/or younger adults have such a hard time listening to wise counsel? As an older (and hopefully wiser) adult what can you do to better help a younger person avoid the temptations and pitfalls of life? Think of someone in your orbit whom you can help. Pray for them consistently and also pray for God to give you the right words to share with them.

Tuesday, Mar. 5 – Acts 22; Psalm 27

Paul’s attempt to smooth relations over between himself and fellow Jews in chapter 21 dramatically backfires when his detractors accuse him of defiling the temple. Enraged, an angry mob attacks and nearly kills Paul. Remarkably, he was able to quiet down the throng and give a defense of his conversion and mission to the Gentiles for Christ. Why did Paul’s statement in v. 21 make the Jews interrupt with rage? What might make people of your community, or country, react with fury to an evangelist or the gospel? What would you say in your country if you had a chance to give a defense as Paul did? What’s keeping you from saying them? Pray about it.

Many of the psalms begin with a lament and end in trust. However, Psalm 27 begins with trust, then sinks into a lament, and finally rises again to confidence in God. “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (vv. 13-14). Why does waiting for anything seem so unnatural in our on-demand, high–speed society? Explain if waiting on God is necessarily a passive thing, where we’re doing nothing? OR, what do you think God expects us to do while we wait for His perfect timing?

Wednesday, Mar. 6 – Acts 23; Proverbs 7:6-27

“The following night the Lord stood by [Paul] and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome” (v. 11). This is the fifth of six visions/appearances by the Lord Jesus that Paul receives in Acts (ref. 9:3-6; 16:9-10; 18:9-10; 22:17-18; 27:23-24), all coming at crucial points in his ministry. In this vision, the Lord encourages Paul (in spite of all that he’s endured and will endure) to live with confidence knowing that He will fulfill His purpose for Paul’s life. Think about God’s hand in your life. How have you seen Him work to protect and direct you toward His will? In what way(s) do you need to grow in humbly acknowledging God’s hand in your life? Share with a struggling friend how God has helped you. Pray with them for God’s blessings and direction in their life as well.

As previously stated, Proverbs 7 dramatizes the arguments against adultery Solomon advanced in two previous section (5:1-23; 6:20-35). Here he tells a story that vividly illustrates his point. In the margins of my wife’s Bible she has written, “You can substitute any sinful behavior into this passage.” Her statement is so true; men and women can be persuaded to do foolish things other than adultery. Following the logic of the seductress, give other examples of how someone could be persuaded to do something foolishly sinful. What can one do to avoid such temptations? What should one do if he/she falls into such folly? Are you afraid to face any sin in your life because you believe that God can’t or won’t forgive you? Enlist the aid of a spiritually minded friend to help you see God’s amazing grace for you. Pray about it.

Thursday, Mar. 7 – Acts 24; Psalm 28

For a tireless traveler like Paul being in custody must have been difficult. Even though he had some liberties and his friends could attend to his needs (ref. v. 23) Paul was on a mission to spread the good news of Jesus Christ; sitting still must have been excruciatingly hard. However on occasion, Felix the governor would discuss the gospel with Paul. What do you think were the truths about “righteousness, self-control, and judgment” (v. 25a) that Paul discoursed upon? Why do you think Felix responds to the gospel as he did (ref. v. 25b)? How should these truths affect your attitudes and actions? How are these relevant to the decisions currently facing you?

In Psalm 28, David cries for help amid the imminent treat of an evildoer. In the first five verses David prays for God’s aid. Then, without regard for his unchanged circumstances, shows his confidence in crisis by thanking God for His protection. “The Lord… is my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped” (v. 7a). What types of things do you need to be shielded from during a difficult trial? What difference(s) does it make to your situation when God acts as this shield? In what way(s) does the Lord’s shielding you engender trust?

Friday, Mar. 8 – Acts 25; Proverbs 8:1-11

“I appeal to Caesar!” (v. 11). One of the sacred rights of a Roman citizen was his ability to appeal his case to Caesar himself. For a third time in Acts we see Paul asserting the rights and privileges his Roman citizenship (ref. 16:37-38; 22:25-29; 23:27). Clearly, he uses his rights and privileges to protect himself and thus further the gospel. In America, we have tremendous freedoms not enjoyed by other believers around the world. Make a detailed list the various rights, privileges, and liberties you enjoy politically and socially as a Christian. In what ways are you using these blessings of freedom to further the cause of Christ? Research the political and social conditions other believers live under around the world. Record your findings. Take some time this weekend to specifically pray for your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who live under difficult or oppressive political circumstances.

The next four readings from Proverbs all come from chapter 8. This chapter is an apology, or defense, of wisdom. The arguments of this section develops as follows. Wisdom would be every person’s guide (vv. 1-11). She is the key to success (vv. 12-21), the principle of creation (vv. 22-31), and the one essential necessity of life (vv. 32-36). In your own words, describe how wisdom is open to all any person willing to accept it. In what ways is instruction, knowledge and wisdom more precious than silver, gold, or jewels? Write vv. 10-11 on a note card and keep it for yourself as a reminder or mail it to a young person as encouragement to study the wisdom of God.

 

Week 9 Questions for 2019 Bible Reading Plan


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Often we can feel like reading the Bible is our time to give to God, or Christian duty if you will. But God clearly wants the reading of His Holy Scriptures to be more than a duty we check off a list. So this week, lay aside your effort to do your Christian duty and commit yourself to accepting God’s wisdom and grace as you read His Word.

We’re in the ninth week of the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan. During this week’s reading God will show us how to pray when troubles and troublemakers invade our lives, along with some wisdom from Proverbs on what not to do, coupled with an example extreme repentance and why we should do it, and finally we’ll learn from a married couple how to be someone else’s supporting cast. There is so much God wants to give us through His word. Let’s jump in together.

Monday, Feb. 25 – Acts 16; Psalm 24

Bloody and battered in the stocks of a lightless prison, Paul and Silas spent the night, “praying and singing hymns to God” (v. 25). What attitude(s) toward self, God, circumstances, the other prisoners, and the jailer do these actions show? In what ways does your response to opposition and suffering compare and contrast to that of Paul and Silas? How can you better give both a verbal and living witnesses to the power of the gospel? Who specifically do you want to influence and bring to Christ through your words and life? Pray for yourself and them.

David does not note an occasion or reason for composing Psalm 24. It does however seem to fit a liturgical occasion, perhaps, as many scholars contend, when the ark of God was brought into Jerusalem (ref. 2 Samuel 6:12-19; 1 Chronicles 13). This psalm asserts the astounding idea that the God who created and owns everything is the very same God into whose presence the faithful worshiper enters. When you can, go outside and take a panoramic view of the creation around, above, and below you noting the intricacy and majesty of God’s creation. What thoughts about God come to your mind as you contemplate His creation? Looking at your list in what way(s), should the fact that “the earth is the Lord’s” (v. 1) by virtue of His creation and sustentation silence your fears? Cause you to live for Him? Bring you to worship Him?

Tuesday Feb. 26 – Acts 17; Proverbs 6:12-19

“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (v. 6b). These hostile opponents spoke better than they knew, for the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire was the beginning of a movement that would turn the world upside down for the good of all humanity. It’s been my experience that many Christians feel that they have very little impact on the world. When have you ever felt this way? Is it possible that your worldview is too big and rather you would do well to narrow your perspective? According to Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46, what can you do to turn someone else’s world upside down for the good? In the coming days, how will you personally change, for the positive, the world of a neighbor? Or a child? Or a widow/widower? Or a single mom/dad? Or a coworker? Or a struggling teen? Pick at least one or more is you’re able. Be specific and follow through.

The numeric devise “Six… seven” (v. 16) implies that this list is representative of (and by no means exhaustive) what God hates with particular attention given to the final item as the focus of Lord’s hatred. The list in vv. 16-19 parallels what Solomon mentions earlier in his description of the “worthless person” from vv. 12-15. These seven practices deal with attitude (v. 17a), speech (17b, 19a), actions (17c, 18b), thoughts (18a), and discord (19b). It’s easy to agree that God hates the first six entries of this list; it is also easy to overlook the seventh. Why do you think God hates “one who sows discord among brother” (v. 19b)? When have you been guilty of sowing discord? How did the situation turn out? What did you learn from the experience? How does it impact you now to know God vehemently hated your actions?

Wednesday, Feb. 27 – Acts 18; Psalm 25

The husband and wife team of Aquila and Priscilla become some of Paul’s closes friends and companions (ref. 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19). So tight was their bond, on one occasion they even risk their lives for him (ref. Romans 16:3-4). The work of this faithful couple in Corinth, Ephesus, Roman, and points in between can’t be underestimated. Pulling from Acts 18 and the other referenced verses, describe Aquila and Priscilla? Then, put yourself in the place of Paul, how would you be affected by this kind of relationship? Next, put yourself in the place of Apollos, how would being taught by this kind of couple encourage you? Take a moment in the next day or two to write a letter of appreciation to a Christian couple who have been an Aquila and Priscilla to you.

In Psalm 25, David laments various troubles and troublemakers in his life. He begins his prayer with an emotionally heavy expression of confidence and trust, “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul” (v. 1) as he works out his grief, heartache, fear and shame. Why do you think God is the safest person to hear and receive your deepest fears and concerns? How does expressing those emotions, and more, in prayer help process your feelings? There’s a hymn that we sing from time-to-time entitled, How Long Has It Been. I’ll let a few of the words of the song ask you the last questions: “How long since your mind felt at ease? How long since your heart knew no burden?” If it’s been too long then make a point to spend time emptying your heart to your God who loves you and will take you through all your troubles.

Thursday, Feb. 28 – Acts 19; Proverbs 6:20-35

Perhaps the most costly act of repentance in the New Testament is when “many of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver” (v. 19). Essentially, the value of the books represented fifty thousand day’s wages for a common labor (just shy of 137 years). Needless to say, in today’s money their act of repentance meant divorcing themselves of not only assets in the millions but also lucrative means for making such high sums of money. From your perspective, why was it important for the Ephesians to burn their magical scrolls? Look closely at your own life, is there anything you should destroy or get rid of? Explain. If yes, then seek a trusted friend to help hold you accountable.

Solomon’s lengthy warning against one of life’s most destructive practices is classic. We can profit from reading it frequently. Wisdom here helps the reader see past the immediate temptation to the consequences of infidelity, namely, spiritual ruin in the midst of social and financial disgrace and possibly even death. Put into your own words Wisdom’s warning of what happens to a person who commits adultery. When have you seen the truth of this passage play out in your life, or someone else’s? Take what you’ve learned and pass it along to someone who would benefit from your insights.

Friday, Mar. 1 – Acts 20; Psalm 26

Even though Luke takes the reader through Paul’s journeys rather quickly, his missionary trips were no 10-day excursions. Rather they were grueling year’s long expeditions to systemically spread the gospel. Sometimes he spent a few weeks in a city or as in the case with Ephesus three years. With this in mind, its little wonder then why Paul so very much wants to meet with the elders of the Ephesian church; men with whom he had labored with for a long time and sadly, “will [never] see [his] face again” (v.25). Imagine that your congregation or close Christian friends would not see your face again. Write out what you would want to say to them? Like Paul, take time to express your hope, your love, your priorities, your warnings, and your passions for them. Remind them of how important it is for God and His Word to be the center of their lives. Now take your notes, asking God for courage, and go say these most important words to those you love in the Lord.

“Vindicate me, O Lord” (v. 1). With this plea, David prays that the Lord would show others that he was not guilty of the things with which he was falsely accused. To prove himself innocence of the fabricated claims against him, David invites God to “Prove me… try me… test my heart” (v. 2); knowing the Lord would find no guilt. How does David demonstrate to God that he is not the type of person who would commit the sins he is being accused of doing? Think of a time when you were falsely accused of doing something you did not do. In what way(s) did you follow David’s example? In what way(s) did you not? Detail what the experience taught you about others, yourself, and God?

Week 8 Questions for 2019 Bible Reading Plan


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For David, the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1), God was a sanctuary – a place of rest and restoration. He understood that it was only in the quiet and still presence of God that his heart would experience renewal. The classic expression of this has been Psalm 23. Penned some 3,000 years ago, the words of this beloved psalm still stirs the hearts of believers today. As we begin the 8th week of the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan it’s my prayer that as God leads you beside the still waters, may you find rest for your heart and soul.

Monday, Feb. 18 – Acts 11; Psalm 21

In the two previous chapters, Luke detailed the conversion stories of the enemy of the church Saul, along with the Roman solider Cornelius. In today’s reading, these two stories come together. Peter defends his ministry to Cornelius before the church at Jerusalem. It is also here that Saul reappears as a minister to the church in Antioch, a church filled with both Jew and Gentile Christians. From this point on in the book of Acts, we will observe a dramatic shift within the church as it progresses from a Jewish church separate from the Gentiles to a Jewish-Gentile fellowship. In the face of change, how do you handle the need for a new perspective? Resistance? Excitement? Uncertainty? Fear? In what areas of your life and Christian community do you face change now? How are you responding to this change?

As previously stated, Psalms 20 and 21 are generally viewed as twin psalms; the first being a prayer before battle, the second being a thanksgiving for victory. So we shouldn’t be surprised to read David rejoicing that the Lord God has, “given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips” (v. 2). God always answers our prayers. At the most basic level He answers with either a yes or no. (I know it’s simplistic to think this way but play along.) Make a two-column list, on one side list you top-three yes answers to prayer. On the other side list your top-three no answers to prayer. Try to recall how you felt when God intervened and when He didn’t. How did you praise God for answering your prayers with a yes? With a no? Should there be a difference in your praise? Explain.

Tuesday, Feb. 19 – Acts 12; Proverbs 5:15-23

Acts 12 presents a conundrum for many believers, how could God allow Herod to execute the apostle James (vv. 1-2) but dramatically saved Peter from the same fate (vv. 3-11). Especially when we consider that it would be inconceivable to imagine that the same “earnest prayer” (vv. 5 and 12) that the church offered up for Peter wasn’t also offered up on behalf of James and yet James was killed. What conclusions about persecution, prayer, and deliverance can you draw from this scene?

Finally, in the third part of Solomon’s warning about illicit sex he extols the wisdom of marital fidelity (vv. 15-23). The erotic language of vv. 18-20 may be surprising for some, but it shows that God approves of sexual joy in marriage and how it can serve as a safeguard against unfaithfulness. In v. 19, Solomon says (depending on your translation) a man should be so “intoxicated” (ESV), “exhilarated” (NASB), or “enraptured” (NKJV) with love and sex for his wife so that he won’t be drawn to other women. (It’s worth noting that in 1 Corinthians 7:5 the apostle Paul offers similar advice to both men and women.) With the hustle and bustle of work and family life the need for sleep can quickly send sex to the back-burner. So then, what does Solomon’s council look like in the real world? What role does the husband play? The wife?

Wednesday, Feb. 20 – Acts 13; Psalm 22

Chapter 13 marks a turning point in Acts. The first twelve chapters focus on Peter with an emphasis on the Jewish church in Jerusalem; the remaining chapters revolve around Paul and his mission to the greater Gentile world. Having been culled from the faithful and tasked with spreading the gospel far and wide, Paul and Barnabas set off on what is common called the First Missionary Journey of Paul. A side from the miraculous (vv. 6a-12), what qualities do you see in Paul that enabled him to effectively share the gospel? What characteristics and qualities do you have that make sharing the gospel natural for you? What makes it difficult for you to share your faith? Pray to God to fortify your strengths and help you to be content with your weaknesses.

With Psalm 22, David provides a lament for the innocent sufferer who is being attacked by unscrupulous people and is intensified by the mockery of those who should pity him. Nevertheless, the sufferer looks forward to vindication and joyful worship with the rest of God’s people. Although Jesus quotes only the first part of the first verse of Psalm 22 (ref. Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; Luke 24:44), the psalm seamlessly reflects His experience on the cross. From what you read in this psalm (and the crucifixion accounts), what do you learn about the Christ’s mindset during His time of deep despair?

Thursday, Feb. 21 – Acts 14; Proverbs 6:1-11

The Lystrians reacted to the healing of the lame man like typical pagans of that time. What do you learn from this incident about the religious beliefs of those people and the assumptions that Paul and Barnabas had to overcome? What are some of the assumptions about God or gods, miracles, creation, morality, the nature of man, etc. that your friends hold? Which of these beliefs are barriers to understanding and believing the gospel? How can you help them rethink those assumptions?

With his unreasonable aversion to productive work, the sluggard learns too late the high price of “A little… a little… a little” (v. 10) as he is overpowered by poverty (ref. v. 11). Even though, the proverbs hold out little hope for reforming a committed fool; wisdom does offer some hope for reforming the sluggard. What does the sluggard desperately need to learn from the ant? Describe an area of your life where you tend to be lazy (for example: yard work, house work, or all work in general, or parenting, hygiene, finances, and so on). Be honest! How would you apply the lesson(s) learned from the ant to the one area of sluggardliness you mentioned previously?

Friday, Feb. 22 – Acts 15; Psalm 23

Whether it’s doctrinal issues or personal ones, conflict among believers is a difficult reality all Christians must face. Sadly for some, their total outlook on Christianity has been drastically shaped by conflicts within congregations and personal relationships. In Acts 15, Luke records for us two different conflicts, one doctrinal and the other personal along with the resolutions. In your own words, describe the two conflicts that arise between believers in this chapter. What principles do you observe in this passage that are vital to follow as you face both doctrinal and personal conflicts with others in your Christian community? When you are in conflict with others, how does your response compare or contrast with that of the church leaders (vv. 1-35)? With Paul and Barnabas (vv. 36-41)?

I firmly believe, that out of all Bible, the 23rd Psalm is probably the second best known passage just slightly behind “Judge not” (Matthew 7:1a). In these words, we find a testimony by David to the Lord’s faithfulness throughout his life leading to the conclusion that God would continue to be faithful to him and grant him fellowship in the future. This truly is a psalm of trust and confidence in God’s goodness in the present and in the future which lends itself to be a favorite funeral passage. Often though, we can become so familiar with a passage and it’s usage that perhaps the words and imagery can lose their power. With that in mind, slowly and purposefully re-read Psalm 23. With a fresh perspective, allow your mind to drift over the words as you picture the scene that David is painting. Take a few moments to record your thoughts that popped into your heart as you read this much beloved psalm.