Week 15 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan

2020 Reading Plan JPEG.jpg

Stuck at home with nothing to do? It’s never been better time to binge read about the life and teachings of Jesus. It’s so easy and interesting with the the The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan. So turn off the TV and open your Bible and your heart to Jesus.

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 15 – April 13-17:

Monday – Luke 6:43-45 (Matt. 7:15-20; 12:34-37): Continuing with His Sermon on the Plain, Jesus begins this warning with a horticultural axiom: “For no good tree bears bad fruit, not again does a bad tree bear good fruit” (v. 43). In other words, the tree determines the fruit (v. 44). This being the case, the human axiom is easily understood, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil” (v. 45a). Significantly, Jesus emphasizes here that the mouth is what provides the primary evidence of the state of one’s heart, “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (v. 45b). In other words, the heart determines the words one speaks. A person can attempt an external veneer of goodness, but the truth will become known through their words.

Make a list of your most used words, topics of discussion, and the comments you often make throughout the day. If your list was all the evidence someone had to decide if you were a Christian or not, what would they say? How would they come to their conclusion? In what ways will you turn your heart toward Jesus so that the words you speak will reflect Him?   

Tuesday – Luke 6:46-49 (Matt. 7:21, 24-27): Luke concludes Jesus’ sermon to the disciples, as does Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount (7:24-27), with the parable of the Two Builders. As a lead up to His sermon, great crowds clamored to seek Jesus’ healing touch (ref. Luke 6:17-19). Now He provides an illustration of the importance of adding obedience to an eagerness to hear His message.  The parable is introduced with the disciples giving lip service to Jesus, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do what I tell you?” (vv. 46). So what is the antidote to false faith and discipleship? The answer is given in the three present tense verbs: coming, hearing, and doing (v. 47). These three qualities lay the foundation for genuine discipleship. The parable that follows illustrates the importance of acting on what one knows and hears from Jesus. Matthew’s version of the parable is about where one builds – on rock vs. sand. Luke’s version is about how one builds – with or without a foundation. Whoever builds their house (or life) on Jesus Christ and His words will not be shaken. Think about people you’ve known throughout the years.

Write about someone you know who built their life on the foundation of doing the Lord’s will. How did that firm foundation sustain them through life’s trials? Conversely, write about someone you know who didn’t build on the foundation of Jesus’ words they had heard taught.  How did their world fall apart?   

Wednesday – Matt. 8:5-13 (Luke 7:1-10): “When [Jesus] entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to Him, appealing to Him, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home suffering terribly’” (v. 5-6). In this time period, the Jewish lands of Israel were occupied by the hated Roman legion. While it was not unusual for someone to request a healing, this request came from a most unusual source. The centurion would have been a Gentile, the commander of a division of the occupying imperial force. Yet, with such authority backing him, the centurion approaches Jesus with remarkable respect. He submissively calls Him, “Lord.” He demonstrates a deep concern for the great suffering of one who was merely a “servant.” Jesus affirms His willingness to help, “I will come and heal him” (v. 7). But recognizing his own unworthiness for the Lord to come to his home, he amazingly believes in the Savior’s ability to cure his servant from a distance, merely by a word of command, “Only say the word and my servant will be healed” (v. 8). The centurion bases his belief not on Old Testament scripture or witnessing such a healing, but on his own experience with the military (v. 9). God has such authority, He can give the order for illness to be cured instantaneously and it will be done. “When Jesus heard this, He was amazed” (v. 10) at the depth of the man’s faith. “Truly, I tell you with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” Sadly, those closest to the truth faithlessly take it for granted whereas those who have had the least exposure to it more often readily recognize its power. 

It wasn’t often that Jesus was “amazed” (cf. v. 10; Mark 6:6; Luke 7:9), or complimented someone’s faith (v. 10; Matthew 15:28). Looking at your spiritual life, would Jesus compliment your faith? Would He be amazed at your lack of faith or your faithfulness? Explain.

Thursday – Luke 7:11-17: The death of a child is certainly one of the greatest agonies possible in this life – a burying of a part of oneself. It’s a burden that all parents dread to consider. Such untimely pain was the emotional context of Jesus’ next healing.  Of the all gospel writers, Luke alone captures this intensely poignant scene of a mother burying her only child. He clearly narrates this miracle as a sequel to the healing of the Centurion’s servant. At a distance of twenty-five miles, Nain lay a full day’s journey from Capernaum. As Jesus and His retinue approach the gate of the city, they meet a funeral procession coming out of the town. At this decisive point in community life, a grief-stricken widow and Jesus meet. “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep” (v. 13). All of our Lord’s actions center on the plight of the mother rather than the son, much as in the preceding story where Jesus focused on the Centurion rather than the servant. With a touch and a word, Jesus gives life back to the young man and gave the young man “to his mother” (v. 15). The two crowds, first mentioned at the beginning of the scene, are present to witness, to interpret (v. 16) and to report this great miracle of resurrection (v. 17). And what a great miracle it was!

There is no request for help, no outward sign of faith from the widow. (Quite different from the centurion.) What do you learn about Jesus from how He responds to the widow’s plight?

Friday – Luke 7:18-35 (Matt. 11:2-19): As Jesus’ ministry expanded, that of John the Baptist suffered literal confinement (cf. Matthew 11:2). As John languished in prison, he became increasingly perplexed by the reports he heard of Jesus’ ministry. “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (v. 19, 20). Exactly why John questioned Jesus’ Messiahship is not revealed to us. Nevertheless, Jesus was not put off by John’s doubts. He responded with an eye-popping display of spiritual power (vv. 21). The Lord informed the messengers that His actions were fulfilling Messianic prophecies given to Isaiah (cf. 26:19; 29:18ff; 35:5ff; 61:1). The only hint of encouragement comes with the beatitude, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (v. 23). The sense is, don’t be disappointed in the way I choose to work, just believe I am He who is to come. More than ever, we need to live out this beatitude. Then, lest anyone wrongly begins to depreciate John’s ministry, a situation the Savior would not let go unchecked, He issues this praise, “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John” (v. 28a). Even the greatest, most faithful man ever, could doubt.

Reflect on Jesus’ response to John’s doubt. How does it reveal His sympathy for John’s spiritual crisis? Have you ever experienced a spiritual crisis? If so, when? How did Jesus help you through that experience?

Jesus’ Healing Touch

Jesus' Healing Touch.jpg

In ancient Israel of all the disease one could contract, or test positive for, leprosy was perhaps the most dreaded. Mycobacterium leprae, the infectious bacterial agent of leprosy not only affects the skin with putrid lesions, but also the throat (it deteriorates the vocal cords thus creating a low, raspy voice), and it also gradually destroys nerves contributing to the loss of extremities such as fingers, ears, toes and nose. If this all wasn’t bad enough, the necessary separation from society that went along with leprosy was most heartbreaking. A slow, wasting death isolated from loved ones was the leper’s curse. Yet, it just this sort of man, “full of leprosy” (Luke 5:12) who broke through the crowd and approached Jesus one day seeking a cure. What would Jesus do when confronted by such a grotesque person? Let’s read Mark 1:40-44 and find out.

  1. The Law of Moses, has much to say about leprosy. However, the lot of a poor leper is best summed up in Leviticus 13:45-46. What details do you read here?
    • Their appearance had to be disheveled – torn clothes, with long unkempt hair.
    • If they encountered anyone they had to cover the lower part of their face and cry “Unclean, unclean!” as a warning to get back.
    • Lepers were isolated not just from society, but from family.
    • If left uncured, the leper was sentenced to a life of humiliation and isolation his whole life.
  1. What risk do you think he was taking by coming to Jesus (v. 40a)?
    • Matthew’s account starts with the words, “And behold…” Implying this was a sudden and unexpected occurrence. Indeed, on the only other occasion Jesus heals lepers, they remain back some distance (Luke 17:11-16).
    • We should also add that this man had advanced leprosy. Luke adds the detail that he was “full of leprosy” (5:12).
    • There was a crowd but I see them parting and fleeing this loathsome looking man. If you’ve seen just one picture of a leper you get the idea. The great risk is that Jesus would reject him.
  1. The leper, “imploring” Jesus says “If you will, you can make me clean” (v. 40b).
    • Note the man doesn’t question the Lord’s ability to heal, but rather His willingness to heal. Why do you think this pitiful man doubted Jesus willingness to heal?
    • Sin tries to control us with two exactly opposite lies: The first lie is that our condition is not as severe as we might think. The leper was acutely aware of his condition.
    • Second lie, on the opposite end of the spectrum, is that realize our true condition that we think we are so bad we are beyond help. I think that’s where the leper is at in his life. He knew Jesus could heal him, but he didn’t know where Jesus would heal him.
  1. Do you ever feel so “unclean” that you think Jesus doesn’t want you in His presence? If so when? Why?
    • I think on some level we can understand the leper’s hesitation. Have you ever sinned so grievously, or so much, or for so long that you think Christ won’t forgive? We’ve all been there in our own way, one time or another. We know He can forgive, but in our hearts we wonder if He will.
    • In those times we need to come to a story like this and be reminded that Christ is not only able, He is willing to cleanse us from our unrighteousness (ref. 1 John 1:7, 9)

From the Leper’s plea let’s turn to Jesus response: “Moved with compassion, He stretched out His hand touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean” (v. 41). Let’s take a closer look at Jesus’ actions:

  1. As you picture this scene in your mind, what do you think it was that caused Jesus’ heart to melt with “compassion” (or “pity” ESV) toward this man?
    • Jesus has a visceral reaction to this man’s presence and words. He felt it in the pit of His stomach. It was a gut-wrenching compassion.
    • Perhaps it was the loathsome look of the leper, his prostration, or the way his request fell from trembling lips. Above all these, Jesus say into the man’s heart. Our Lord peered beyond his ragged look and into the leper’s heart.
  1. Jesus could have healed the leper with mere words (cf. Luke 17:11-16), yet He chose to interact with this man on a physical level. Why do you think He chose to touch this untouchable man?
    • I’ve read that the meaning of touch here is not a superficial contact, but a full-hearted hand on the shoulder.
    • I wonder how long it had been since the leper had felt the warmth of a gentle touch of a loved one? How long it had been since he had known the comfort of a friend’s embrace? Regardless, he felt it all and more when Jesus, compassionately reached out and touched him.
    • Jesus touched the leper because it was what the man needed. I believe he wanted the man to feel His willingness.
    • In Mark’s gospel, the touch of Jesus was a part of His healing process:
      – 1:31 – Peter’s Mother-In-Law
      – 1:41 – The Leper
      – 5:41 – Jairus’ Daughter
      – 6:5 – Healings in Nazareth
      – 7:33 – A Deaf Man
      – 8:23 – The Blind Man of Bethsaida
      – 9:27 – A Boy with an Unclean Spirit
  1. Imagine you’re the leper, what would it have meant to you for the Savior to reach out with a compassionate hand and touch your disease riddled body?
    • Oh the joy this man would have felt! I don’t think I can adequately describe the ecstasy that would have coursed through this man’s body and soul.
  1. How does our Lord’s response, “I will, be clean” align with His mission, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17)?
    • This man’s condition didn’t matter to Jesus. He was willing to cleanse him.
    • The leper was acutely aware of his condition. He wasn’t hiding it from Jesus, rather he was on full-display before the Savior.
    • This is the very type of person Jesus came to save. Those who are willing to admit their uncleanness.
  1. What does Jesus’ interaction with the leper tell you about His character and how He will (and does) interact with you despite all your unclean sins?
    • Jesus won’t reject the sinfully unclean who come to Him with humble hearts.
    • It doesn’t matter what we’ve done, nothing is too great from us touch to heal and cleanse. 

“Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean” (v. 42). Can you hear the thunderstruck crowd roar with amazement as the leper’s skin turns soft and his missing appendages reappear? Can you hear the man crying not, “Unclean! Unclean!” but, “I’m clean! I’m clean!” This is what Jesus Christ can do for you and for anyone who comes to Him. The poor leper not only said he was unclean – he knew he was unclean. And he knew he was hopeless, that there was nothing he could do to help himself. In this way he optimized the blessed spiritual awareness of the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). So, come to Jesus just like the leper did, with humility “If You will,” mingled with confidence “You can make me clean.” That’s faith – absolute trust in Jesus and absolute poverty of spirit before Him. This is the perfect posture to receive Jesus’ healing touch.

I also prepared a bible study to go along with this sermon. It makes for a great listening guide or personal study.

Week 14 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan

2020 Reading Plan JPEG.jpg

Stuck at home with nothing to do? It’s never been better time to binge read about the life and teachings of Jesus. I’ve made it so easy and interesting with the the The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan. So turn off the TV and open your Bible and your heart to Jesus.

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 14 – April 6-10:

Monday – Mark 3:7-12 (Luke 6:17-19): With His life threatened by the religious and political leaders, “Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea” (v. 7). Nevertheless, the crowds of commoners flocked to Jesus. From every corner of Israel and beyond, they came seeking a miraculous healing. It was a massive response. We must remember that people who have traveled far will not be denied. There were hordes followed by hordes, wave upon wave of needy people each clamoring for Jesus’ attention. So great was the press that the Savior was in physical danger, “And He told His disciples to have a boat ready for Him because of the crowd, lest they crush Him” (v. 9). Jesus’ aim was not notoriety, especially from demons (vv. 11-12), but to serve those who most needed His healing touch.

Picture yourself there as part of the crowd, describe what you see, smell, and hear as you look out over the mass of humanity.  How do you picture Jesus interacting with each person He came into contact with?  

Tuesday – Luke 6:12-16 (Mark 3:13-19; Matt. 10:1-4): Escaping the thronging crowds, our Lord sought the peace of a mountaintop to pray to the Father. Luke begins by informing us that, “Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and all night He continued in prayer to God” (v. 12). A monumental decision laid ahead and prayer was His first course of action. At daybreak, Jesus descended from the mountain and chose twelve men from among His followers, naming them apostles (v. 13). The number of twelve apostles signifies a mission to the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Matthew 10:1; 1 Corinthians 15:5). Also, Jesus chose a band of disciples that was in some respects diverse to reach all Israel and beyond. From fishermen, to a tax collector, to a revolutionary zealot, and the others in between, our Lord selected common, non-aristocratic men to represent Him and His gospel. Later, Jesus will send these twelve men out to “to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:2). Together, excluding Judas Iscariot, this rag-tag group of men would become the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20).

The call of Jesus Christ brought together a diverse background of personalities, yet they had to work together for the sake of the gospel. How has Christ called you to work with people that are not like yourself for the sake of the gospel? Are there still people, or personality types, you can’t seem to work with? Pray about it.

Wednesday – Luke 6:20-26 (Matt. 5:2-12): Following the selection of the twelve apostles, Jesus instructs His disciples – the twelve and the larger community of disciples from which they were chosen – in behaviors that uniquely distinguish Christians. Much shorter than Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (v. 17) is a sampling of the ethic expected of those who heed the call to follow Jesus. Not a treatise for the crowds on what one must do to enter the kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 5:1), but rather on what is expected of the disciples who are already in the kingdom (v. 20). Through four parallel blessings and woes, Jesus cuts through socio-economic expectations of His and our day.

According to Jesus, who is blessed, and why? Who is cursed, and why?

Thursday – Luke 6:27-36 (Matt. 5:43-48; 7:12): In one word, describe the essence of following Jesus. LOVE. Perhaps to signal its importance, the love discourse in Luke contains symmetry, repletion and parallelism. What Jesus teaches about love is addressed specifically to His followers. The over aching command, “Love your enemies” (v. 27), and the commands that spring from this, are non-intuitive, they may not seem reasonable and they enjoin behaviors that do not come naturally. First in vv. 27-28, we are given four imperatives: love, do, bless, and pray. Second, the four actions of vv. 27-28 are followed by four specific behaviors in vv. 29-30. Third, at the center of the summary principle, “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them” (v. 31). Fourth, vv. 32-34 set forth three negative behaviors in contrast to the teachings on love in the foregoing verses. Lastly, Jesus completes His teaching on love by repeating, “Love your enemies” (v. 35a), coupled with a reward (v. 35b). However, the reward is not material but a behavior rooted in the imitation of God which is the greatest reward of all (v. 36).

Jesus’ high standards for His followers grate against our “me-first” human nature. How can this passage give you hope that you can maintain His standards? 

Friday – Luke 6:37-42 (Matt. 7:1-6): Rarely misquoted, but almost always misapplied, “Judge not, and you will not be judged” is a worn out Bible verse by unbelievers and believers alike. “Judge not” is not a command to refrain from ethical evaluations or spiritual discernments. Rather, in its Lukan context, this is nothing but the command to love one’s enemies restated negatively. Just as our merciful God does not predetermine who will or will not be the recipients of His kindness, Jesus calls for His followers to refuse to “judge” who might be the recipients of their gracious love. The result is that God will lavishly and abundantly repay those who are generous with their judgment free love. “For with what measure you use it will be measured back to you” (v. 38).

If you followed Jesus’ guidelines in judging others, what positive and negative effects might it have on your relationships?

Week 13 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan

2020 Reading Plan JPEG.jpg

Stuck at home with nothing to do? It’s never been better time to binge read about the life and teachings of Jesus. I’ve made it so easy and interesting with the the The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan. So turn off the TV and open your Bible and your heart to Jesus.

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 13 – March 30-April 3:

Monday – John 5:19-29: Why did the Jews want to kill Jesus? Simply stated it was, “because not only was He breaking the Sabbath but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). Did Jesus break the Sabbath? No, He only broke the Pharisees’ traditions regarding the Sabbath. Did Jesus really claim to be equal with God the Father? Yes, He did, and the audacious claims of Christ that we find in our text have colossal implications. Jesus prefaces His claims of equality with “Truly, truly” (v. 19) meaning, “I tell you the truth without the possibility of contradiction. Therefore, you must hear and accept what I have to say.” Jesus makes three great claims: He’s one with the Father in action (vv. 19-20), the power to give life just like the Father (vv. 21, 24-26), and like the Father Jesus has the authority to judge (vv. 22, 27-30). Even if we have already embraced this truth, we must repeatedly affirm it because the world wishes to deny this great truth.

In your own words, restate in what areas does Jesus claim to be equal with God the Father? What are the implications of this equality for you?

Tuesday – John 5:30-47: “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life” Jesus said, “and it is they that bear witnesses about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life” (vv. 39-40a). The Pharisees had three problems: One, they regarded the scriptures with such esteem that they linked study and memorization of holy text with salvation (vv. 39-40). They made knowing scripture an end in itself, instead of knowing the Savior of the scriptures. Second, they studied the scriptures with a wrong motive (41-44). They knew the word of God backwards and forwards, but they weren’t saved because they didn’t have the love of God within them. They loved their own opinions of the word of God which brought them the glory and notoriety. Self-love kept them from loving the God of scripture. Finally, the Pharisees didn’t really believe the scriptures they studied (vv. 45-47). Yes they would have died for their scrolls but they didn’t really believe what was written on them. The purpose of the Law of Moses was to expose their sinfulness and drive them to the Messiah. Instead, they hypocritically covered up their sins and rejected Christ. For believers today, there’s a great temptation to get caught up in the minutiae of scripture, which if left unchecked can trivialize our faith. There’s no doubt that as believers it is imperative that we immerse ourselves in the Bible, but it’s vastly more important that we respond to its teachings.

What “witnesses” does Jesus call forward to testify on His behalf and how does their testimony validate His clams? What factors influence your verdict for or against Jesus as being equal with God the Father?

Wednesday – Matt. 12:1-8 (cf. Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5): The disciples were hungry, so “they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat” (v. 1). The controversy that ensues centers not on whether the Sabbath should be observed but on what that observance entailed in practical terms. The Old Testament commandment was clear, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work” (Exodus 20:8-9). But what constituted “work”? Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus doesn’t attempt to define work. Rather, His reply consists of two related Old Testament analogies (vv. 3-4, 5-6), together with a prophetic quotation which exposes the underlying issue (v. 7), followed by a pronouncement which summarizes the thrust of the earlier analogies, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (v. 8). In other words, Jesus possesses the right to interpret proper Sabbath keeping. According to the Pharisees, a person should go hungry rather than glean on the Sabbath.

How did this view of God’s Sabbath miss its true significance? (cf. Mark 2:27) In what way(s) did Jesus’ answer dodge His opponent’s preoccupations and get to the heart of the matter?

Thursday – Mark 3:1-6 (cf. Matt. 12:9-14; Luke 6:6-11): Continuing on from the grain fields from our last reading, Jesus enters the synagogue (perhaps in Capernaum) “and a man was there with a withered hand” (v. 1). Like gathering grain on the Sabbath, medicine and healing on the day of rest were highly regulated. It was an accepted principle in most Jewish circles that saving a life on the Sabbath was permissible but it must be life-threatening. Healing a withered hand could wait until the next day. So, Jesus takes the initiative in asking what is permitted on the Sabbath, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” (v. 4a). His adversaries remain stubbornly silent (v. 4b). In their eagerness for legal detail they had forgotten the mercy and grace shown by God to man when He made provision for the Sabbath day (cf. Mark 2:27). In their zeal for piety they have become calloused to the purposes of God and to the sufferings of humanity. Restoring the man’s hand demonstrates what it means “to do good” and “to save life” on the Sabbath. As Lord of the Sabbath Jesus delivers both the Sabbath and humanity from oppression.

The irony in this second Sabbath assault by the Pharisees is that while Jesus is healing on the Sabbath, the Pharisees are making plans to kill Him. How does Jesus’ attitude toward people and Scripture differ from that of the Pharisees?

Friday – Matt. 12:15-21: Immediately after the two Sabbath day clashes, Jesus withdraws from those hostile to Him. Nevertheless, He heals those who flock to Him but is anxious to prevent the people from forcing the issue of His Messiahship by prohibiting inappropriate publicity (v. 16). Through a quote from Isaiah, Matthew paints a portrait of Jesus as God’s chosen servant; one who is not quarrelsome but gentle. Thus, the confrontations Jesus has encountered are not of His making. Matthew draws a sharp contrast to Jesus’ critical opponents, they seek to kill Him, but Jesus won’t even break a “bruised reed” or quench a “smoldering wick.” They live to condemn, however Jesus lives to encourage the damaged and vulnerable people and will do so until God’s purpose of “justice” has been achieved.

To describe the Messiah’s character, Matthew quotes Isaiah 42:1-4. What does this Old Testament passage confirm about Jesus? Based on this description, why is He worth following?

Fighting the Fight with Prayer

Fighting the Battle with Prayer.jpg

During the reign of King Saul (cf. 1 Chronicles 5:10) the valiant troops of the Transjordan tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish and Nodab with 44,760 men  who were described as “experts in war.” These soldiers were specialist in handling both a shield and the sword. When it came to drawing the bow, there were no others who were as capable as these men. With their combined fighting force they drove the uncircumcised out of the land. Why were they able to conquer their enemy? What was the secret to their victory? It wasn’t their valor or bravery. Nor was it their expertise of shield, or sword, or bow. All would have been in vain if they would have relied on these. These warriors were victorious because they were mighty warriors in the weapon of… prayer. Let’s start our study by reading 1 Chronicles 5:18-22.

They Fought the Battle with Prayer:

  1. “They cried out to God in the battle…” (v. 20)
    • Deuteronomy 20.1-4 – In the Law of Moses, the twelve tribes of Israel were given principles that governed warfare. First among them was seeking God’s blessing before battle.
    • It was not an uncommon practice for the nation (Judges 20.18; 1 Samuel 7.8-10; 2 Chronicles 20.20-22). However, one at least one occasion, it could become ritualistic and lead to devastating results (1 Samuel 4.1-3).
    • In our text, the soldiers are praying during the battle. When it would have been easier to focus on the enemy at hand, they focused on God.
  2. “He granted their urgent plea…” (v. 20)
    • “Urgent” suggest a frantic prayer in a time of trouble. We don’t know the words of their plea but we can get an idea from other urgent prayers: Psalm 3.7; 2 Chronicles 14.11; 20.12.
    • We don’t know the size of the opposing army, but based on the spoils it seems the enemy army was rather larger. But the size of the other army doesn’t matter at all, big or small, powerful or weak, they urgently need God for they fight.
  3. “Because they put their trust in Him.” (v. 20)
    • Psalm 20.7 reminds us, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”
    • The text clearly points out the marshaling might of the Transjordan tribes (1 Chronicles 5.18). Nevertheless they didn’t trust in themselves, they trusted in God as evidenced by their prayer. Therefore, God gave them the victory (1 Chronicles 5.21-22)

There are Four Lessons to Draw from this Story:

    • The battle the Transjordan tribes fought was the Lord’s (ref. 1 Chronicles 5:22). The fight had a deeper, richer spiritual context that a mere political or ethnic conflict.
    • Paul reminds us that our fight isn’t against “flesh and blood” but rather against the dark, evil powers of Satan (Ephesians 6.10-12).
    • God has given us spiritual armor to help us in our spiritual fight (Ephesians 6.13-17).
    • One essential component of our armor is prayer (Ephesians 6.18).
    • It’s not uncommon to hear prayer referred to as the straps that hold all of our armor in place. This is an apt comparison. It takes prayer to hold the “breastplate of righteousness” in place, and secure the “shield of faith” to one’s arm, and to keep the “helmet of salvation” securely on one’s head.
    • Certainly, a short prayer before a meal, or a quick word before an important event is well and good. But these prayers will not suffice to sustain the Christian life in the spiritual battle we are fighting.
    • Note the words used to describe prayers: “Be constant in prayer” (Romans 12.12); “strive together with me in your prayers” (Romans 15.30); “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4.2); lastly “struggling on your behalf in his prayers” (Colossians 4:12) and from our text “urgent plea” (1 Chronicles 5:20 ESV)
    • Praying quick, rote, throwaway prayers won’t bring about the victory.
    • The kind of prayers that bring victory in the battle are “constant… striving… watchful… struggling… urgent pleas.” Do these describe your prayers? They better or defeat is at hand.
    • “Pray for one another” James writes in James 5:16.
    • To encourage us to pray for one another, he reminds us that the great prophet Elijah was human just like us. And through his prayers he did mighty works (James 5.16b-17).
    • Even though we’re ordinary people, we can work mighty deeds through prayer. We must never lose sight of this important spiritual truth!

Unfortunately, the story of the children of the half-tribe of Manasseh doesn’t end well. The next scene, after their triumph through prayer, says “They were unfaithful to the God of their fathers, and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples, whom God had destroyed before them” (1 Chronicles 5:25). It goes on to say God punished them by leading them into captivity. They in essence stopped praying. We’ve got to remember, that we can’t rest on our spiritual laurels, even though Jesus as won the war, the fight still rages. There is always an urgent need for Christians to pray. We must constantly be striving and struggling in praying for ourselves, our loved ones, our church, our country, our friends and our enemies. Because our souls and their souls depend on it. So fight the battle with prayer.

Week 12 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan

2020 Reading Plan JPEG.jpg

During times like these it’s important to stay spiritually grounded. One great way to that is with the The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan. There’s so much anxiety and fear going around don’t contribute, rather be a light of hope and love in your community. It’s not enough to read about Jesus, we’ve got to live like Him! Remember two things: He>covid-19 and pray for a vaccine. Blessings to you my friends. By the grace of God we’ll get through this together.

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 12 – March 23-27:

Monday – Matt. 7:24-29 (cf. Luke 6:47-49): Jesus’ great Sermon on the Mount concludes with a fourth warning and summary statement. The last warning is a parable about one man building on rock and another man building on sand, emphasizing the importance of acting in accordance with Jesus’ teaching. We neglect the warning at our peril. “And when Jesus had finished speaking these words” (v. 28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1) the crowd responds with awe. What amazes them so much about our Lord’s teaching is not His use of beatitudes, parables, hyperboles, or others forms of teaching; rather what astonishes them is His authoritative teaching, “He taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (v. 29).  Jesus declares God’s word, and the people recognize that He speaks with authority unlike any other.

In what ways was Jesus’ authority demonstrated in His sermon? What difference does it make to you that Jesus teaches with authority?

Tuesday – Mark 1:40-45 (cf. Matt. 8:1-4; Luke 5:12-16): “If You will, You can make me clean.” Afflicted with the worse disease of his day, a man with disfiguring leprosy doesn’t questions Jesus’ ability to heal, but rather His willingness to heal. Unfortunately, too many think that they are beyond help. Yet, we see Jesus’ answer to the man in v. 41 through His compassion, His touch, and His word. Mark tells us that Jesus was “moved with pity” when He heard the man’s request. Deep down in the pit of His stomach, Jesus felt a gut-wrenching compassion for this man. Then what follows is the Lord’s touch, He “stretched out His hand and touched him.” Mark delighted in telling the stories of Jesus’ touch (cf. 1:31; 1:41; 5:41; 6:5; 7:33; 8:23; 9:27, 36; 10:16). There’s no doubt that this was the first time in a long, long time that this man had felt the warmth of human contact. Finally, the Lord spoke, “I will; be clean.” Unbothered by the man’s question or grotesque appearance, Jesus compassionately heals him and sends him on his way.

What does Jesus’ interaction with the leper tell you about His character and how He will treat you with your “unclean” sins?

Wednesday – Mark 2:1-12 (cf. Matt. 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26): Four men struggling with a litter on which lay a paralytic, prone and motionless man, approached the fringe of the impossible crowd. Their attempts to get through to Jesus were met with noisy rebuffs. So they did what any desperate person would do… they tore the roof of the house and lowered their beloved friend down to Jesus. What a picture of faith! “And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven” (v. 6) and “Rise, pick up your bed, and go home” (v. 11). Jesus’ power to heal the paralytic’s physical infirmities proved the veracity of His claim and power to forgive sins.

Let’s think through this story in spiritual terms. What sorts of sins may psychologically, emotionally, or spiritually “paralyze” you? Is there any such “paralysis” in your life from which you might be freed if you asked Jesus to forgive you? Who are some trusted friends who will go to any length to help you? Bring them into your struggle with spiritual paralysis.

Thursday – Matt. 9:9-17 (cf. Mark 2:13-22; Luke 5:27-39): “As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed Him” (v. 9). Can you imagine writing your own conversion story in your very own gospel account of Jesus’ life? That is what we’re getting in this passage. To most first-century Jews, tax collectors, were easily the most hated men in Jewish society. They were viewed as religious and political traitors, trained extortionists, and thugs. Nevertheless, it’s that very type of person whom Jesus called to be His disciple, and later an apostle. Excitedly, Matthew threw a party and invited his friends to meet Jesus. This was too much for the religious hard-liners, who questioned, “Why does [He] eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (v. 11). In response Jesus made three statements: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (v. 12), “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (v. 13a), and “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (v. 13b).  Each declaration demonstrated that our Savior’s mission was (and still is) to save those who acknowledged their sinfulness.

From your perspective, what does each one of Jesus statements mean, and how does each relate to you?

Friday – John 5:1-18: Although opposition to Jesus smoldered beneath the surface, the story of Jesus’ healing at the Pool of Bethesda highlights the beginning of open hostility toward Him by the Jewish leaders. John repeatedly ties his narrative to various Jewish feasts (ref. 2:13; 5:1; 6:4; 7:2; 10:22; 11:55), and so he does with this story, “After this there was a feast of the Jews and Jesus went up to Jerusalem” (v. 1). Entering the holy city, Jesus encountered the blind, lame and paralyzed (v. 4). To one invalid He asked, “Do you want to be healed?” (v. 6). The text states that this poor man had suffered in his condition for thirty-eight years. “Yes I do,” the man desperately replied. So Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed and walk. And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked” (vv. 8-9). Just as the thirty-eight years proved the gravity of the paralysis, so the carrying of the bed and the walking proved the completeness of the miracle. John briefly mentions that the healing took place on the Sabbath day, thereby setting the stage for the confrontation that followed.

The fourth commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” (see Exodus 20:8-11). In their zeal to apply this command, what do the critics of Jesus fail to realize? What does this say about them? Are you ever tempted to exhibit this same type of narrow-mindedness?

Week 11 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan

2020 Reading Plan JPEG.jpg

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 11 – March 16-20:

Monday – Matt. 7:7-11 (cf. Luke 11:9-13): When you pray, do you make your petitions with timidity as if you’re requesting something from a grudging giver or with impudence as if you’re requesting something from a generous giver? In our reading today, Jesus calls for us to approach the throne of our Father with boldness. Now, carte blanche approach to prayer taught by prosperity preachers is not supported from scripture. Perhaps it is wise to read the unqualified offer of vv. 7-8 against the backdrop of Matt. 6:11, 16-24, 25-34. But for all the necessary caution, there is a sense that Jesus invites not merely a resigned acceptance of what the Father gives, but a willingness to prayerfully explore the extent of His generosity. The point Jesus is making is not that human persistence wins out in the end, but that the heavenly Father who loves His children will certainly answer their prayer… if only they would ask, seek, and knock.

What encouragement does Jesus give those who ask, seek and knock? How can we be assured of these promises?

Tuesday – Matt. 7:12 (cf. Luke 6:31): “Therefore, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” For ninety-one verses Jesus has been teaching us what He expects from His disciples. Yet, in one verse He summarizes His whole sermon, not to mention all of the Old Testament. In these few words, our Lord gives us a guide to how unselfish love should work itself out in our relationships with others. Our actions, He teaches, are not supposed to be dictated by the actions of others. If a person is mean to us, then we’re to be good to them because that’s how we want to be treated. The person who consistently lives according to this rule is totally excluding selfishness and replacing it with love and care for others. An ancient Jewish teaching stated in the negative, “What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else.”

How does Jesus’ positive rule go beyond this command? In what ways would your life change if you followed Jesus’ teaching from this verse?

Wednesday – Matt. 7:13-14: The concluding section of the sermon is taken up with impressing upon hearers the difference between real and nominal discipleship. In four short warnings (vv. 13-14, 15-20, 21-23, and 24-27) Jesus calls for wholehearted commitment to Himself and the Father’s kingdom. To start, Jesus makes it clear that there are only two paths in life that are set before people; therefore it is important that the right choice be made. He presents a scene where a broad road leading to a splendid gate is obvious and easy to be seen, whereas a way that brings a traveler to the unimposing gate is inconspicuous and is perceived only by those who look for it carefully.  The first road “leads to destruction,” a fact that doesn’t alter its popularity. While the second road is “narrow” (or “difficult” NKJV) and few find the way “to life.” (We must not press “few” too hard, for elsewhere in Matthew Jesus speaks of “many” that are saved cf. 8:11; 20:28.) The contrast is stark and clear between the two roads in their character, popularity, and in their destination. Without using the words, this saying sets before us the alternatives of heaven or hell. Those are our only two choices, choose wisely.

In what sense is “the gate wide and the way easy” that leads to destruction? Conversely, in what sense is “the gate narrow and the way hard” for those who follow Jesus? Which road are you on?

Thursday – Matt. 7:15-20 (cf. Luke 6:43-45): The second warning focuses on the danger posed by false prophets, who are, by implication, contrasted with true prophets who may be trusted. How can followers of Jesus recognize false teachers? From their fruits; their fruits will in the end betray them. It is not outward appearance that is important (ravenous wolves may be dressed in sheep’s clothing) but the things that the false prophets teach and the manner of their life. For their teaching and lifestyle proceed from what they are in their hearts. The fruit is the test of the tree; if there is no good fruit, there is no good reason for the tree to exist. And the fruit is the test of one who claims to be a prophet (or in modern terms, preacher, pastor, etc.). “Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” Jesus asks. Obviously not, if there is no fruit there, then there’s no good reason for the person to be treated as a prophet worthy of an audience.

List several “fruits” a false teacher would produce and several “fruits” a true teacher would produce.

Friday – Matt. 7:21-23 (cf. Luke 6:46): In the third warning, we’re confronted with a profoundly searching and disturbing scene for all professing disciples. Here we meet people who confess their allegiance to Jesus as “Lord” and who can back up that claim with impressive spiritual achievements, all carried out explicitly in the name of the Lord. Nevertheless, Jesus says to them, “I never knew you, depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness” (v. 23). Even good works by themselves are not enough. There are good people who claim to follow Jesus as “Lord” and who do good works, nonetheless they are on the broad way leading to destruction. Despite their good deeds, they were carried out by people who still lacked the relationship with Jesus which is the essential basis for belonging in the kingdom of heaven. While the words and actions may be good, their lives were lawless denying Him in their hearts. Since they didn’t really know Him, He didn’t know them.

In spite of their admirable statements or actions, why does Jesus condemn these people? Why do you think people so often confuse religious activity with knowing and doing the will of the Father?