A Simple Way to Serve a Memorable Thanksgiving Meal

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred” (Proverbs 15:17).

This proverb, contrasting two meals, bases the pleasantness of the meal on the heart of the participants and not the food. A simple salad or a pot of vegetables can be a feast if love unites the the souls of those at the table. But if there is hatred or strife present, even succulent filet mignon disappoints.

This week, families will gather together for the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Unfortunately, many will have meals mingled with strife and tension. The conversation among relatives will be negative, critical and sarcastic; while others will remain sullenly silent in quiet rage. Such behavior becomes a habit; strife becomes a family tradition and they do not even know their error. The time and expense of the Thanksgiving meal will be spoiled by strife (cf. Proverbs 17:1). At the end of it all everyone is just thankful that it’s over. These things should not be among Christian families, but sadly they are.

So this year, heed the Wiseman, prepare a memorable Thanksgiving meal for yourself and those you love. Foster peace, harmony, unity, and love one for another – no matter what you eat. The result will be a balm to each soul present and a joyful pleasure to every heart. With love as the centerpiece of your gathering, it won’t even matter if the turkey is dry.

A few questions to consider:

1) Recall a time when you had a meal mingled with bitterness, hatred, contention, or resentment. Describe the tenseness and the stress. How did these bad attitudes ruin what should have been a pleasant event?

2) Think of a time when you had a wonderful meal with just a few simple things, because you loved the person(s) you were with, and they loved you. Describe the love and companionship. How did these good attitudes contribute to the happiness of the simple meal?

3) With holiday gatherings approaching, examine yourself. Have you offended others? Have they offended you? If so, are you harboring bitterness in your heart toward them? What will you do today to correct and/or perfect relationships in your home or within your extended family so that meals together are pleasant, soul strengthening experiences?

Week 23 Questions for 2019 Bible Reading Plan

Group Of Young Multiethnic People Reading Bible Over Wooden Desk

The early church had learned how to deal with persecution from outside the community, but needed help defending themselves against those who would destroy her from the inside. Differences within the church were not uncommon – but the recipients of Peters second epistle, Jude’s little letter, and Paul’s communications to the Corinthians faced something altogether different those who purposely distorted the gospel for their own gain and immorality. Peter and Jude denounce these false teachers, while Paul calls the Corinthians to a life of holiness, all three encourage their readers to stand firm in the faith, holding to the promise that Jesus would someday return.

This week in New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan we’ll read 2 Peter and Jude and start 1 Corinthians. Along with these New Testament epistles, we’ll read Psalms that call us to communal thanksgiving and wisdom from Proverbs that challenges to be better parents for our children along with a prescription for a peaceful heart. It was good to be back writing this week after an extended break. Blessings to you friends and keep reading God’s word.

Monday, June 3 – 2 Peter 1; Psalm 64

After writing an earlier letter telling his readers to expect suffering as a part of this life, Peter now writes a second letter. This time he points toward the end of life: our eternal reward. It’s not uncommon to sometimes see v. 3 called the key to Peter’s second letter. What all would you expect to find in a book with this verse as an introduction? How are knowledge of Jesus and godly living related to each other? If you were to increase your knowledge of Jesus and more fully draw on His power for your life, what changes would you hope to see in yourself?

In Psalm 64, David asks God to judge the enemies of the righteous. This psalm begins with a vivid description of the devious ways of the wicked, especially their speech (vv. 3-5, 8). Still, David does not fear that God will lose control of the situation. He requests divine protection and voices confidence that God will judge his wicked foes. The godly should commit their case to God in prayer when they become targets of malicious gossip. They can also rest in the assurance that God will eventually turn the antagonism of the wicked back on them (ref. 1 Samuel 25). He will do so for His own glory and for the welfare of those who trust in Him. Why is gossip so hurtful? Recall a time when someone’s gossip especially hurtful. How did you respond? After reading Psalm 64, in what ways will you react the same or differently the next time someone spreads gossip about you?

Tuesday, June 4 – 2 Peter 2; Proverbs 14:22-29

As Peter continues preparing his readers to hold onto their faith without him (ref. 1:12-15), he addresses the dangers of heresy and targets the “false teachers” of his day who tempt Christians. Here Peter makes a stand for truth against heresy, providing us with an example of standing up for truth in a relative society. With so many different views about God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, how can we identify “false prophets” and “false teachers”? Study vv. 4-9 and any cross references you have, what did Peter want his readers to learn from these Old Testament events? Why are false teachers and their heresies like “waterless springs and mists driven by a storm” (v. 17a)? In what ways can you protect yourself from the influence of false teachers?

“In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death” (vv. 26-27). The catchword connection between these two proverbs is, “The fear of the Lord.” A life committed to reverential awe of God reaches beyond its own existence. Since evil not only attacks but also attracts, a parent must know and show their family something both stronger and better. Through faith the believer finds the abundant life that saves him and others (namely his children) from death. How would you define “The fear of the Lord” in terms a child would understand? In what ways will “children… have a refuge” in a parent who’s life is rooted in “the fear of the Lord”? Think of several concrete things you can do as a parent (or a parental figure) to show a child the joys of living for God.

Wednesday, June 3 – 2 Peter 3; Psalm 65

Nearly everyone is in agreement that the world will someday end, folks just differ on how it will end. From nuclear holocaust, to global-warming, to drug-resistant disease, or even alien invasion it seems there’s all sorts of end-of-the-world theories (or fantasies). The final chapter of Peter’s final letter speaks of the end-times destruction of the earth but not through catastrophe but through the return of Jesus. Naturally, there are those who scoff at the prospects of divine judgment. Peter and the church of his day had to contend with scoffers who cast doubt on the Lord’s returning, judging His creation and redeeming His people. Unfortunately, scoffers still abound. How does Peter answer the questions raised by the scoffers (vv. 5-7) and the faithful (vv. 8-10)? What words and phrases throughout this passage help describe the day of the Lord? Answers Peter’s question in v. 11, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people out you to be…?” Why might living this way prepare you for the kind of day described here?

Psalm 65 is a praise psalm, full of hopeful, confident, even enthusiastic feelings in response to God’s goodness through His spiritual and natural blessings. This psalm is a communal song of thanksgiving that celebrates God blessing His people with forgiveness and a bountiful land (note the plural pronouns in vv. 3, 4, 5). Other communal psalms of thanksgiving are 66, 107, 118, 124, and 129. In spite of our sins, God provides atonement and blesses His environment with many good things so we can prosper and rejoice. It is only fitting that together we give God thanks. List four or more blessings this psalm expresses gratitude for. How do God’s wonders and blessings call forth songs of praise? What value does expressing gratitude to God in a communal setting hold for you? If you church doesn’t already do so, organize a thanksgiving service of songs, prayers, and testimonies of God’s blessings. Make sure you incorporate some of the communal thanksgiving psalms.

Thursday, June 4 – Jude; Proverbs 14:30-35

Jude lived in a time when Christianity was under severe attack from without by the political forces of the day and more importantly from within by aggressive false-teachers. Jude paints a bleak picture of the situation the church faces. He sees an apostasy that undermines grace, disdains authority, and appears beyond repentance and redemption. Thus, Jude calls the church to fight, in the midst of intense spiritual warfare, for the truth. In face of the problem of false-teachers, Jude gives his readers two sets of instructions: “remember” (v. 17) and “build yourselves up” (v. 20). Notice the specific instructions under each of these. How would remembering in the way Jude describes help believers keep the essential ingredients of the Christian faith? How would building ourselves up in the ways Jude outlines (vv. 20-23) help us keep on living in a way that is true to our faith? What errors in faith and life do you see as subtle dangers to today’s Christians? Using Jude’s little epistle as your source, how can you protect yourself, and other believers whose lives you touch, from falling into these errors?

“A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones” (v. 30). Here the Wiseman contrast the peace of contentment with the cancer of jealousy. A contented, peaceful heart will preserve one’s life, but jealousy will kill him. A person who is content with what they have in life possess a peace of mind that leads to a healthy mind, body, and soul. While on the other hand, a resentful mind, which focuses solely only what others have, is like bone cancer that rots the most firm components of the body and shortens a person’s life. Why do you think peaceful contentment leads to a healthy mind, body, and soul? How is jealousy like a cancer to rots a person from the inside? When do you find yourself tempted to be jealous of someone else? When those times come, what will you do to bring peaceful contentment into your heart? Ask God to give you a peacefully content heart.

Friday, June 5 – 1 Corinthians 1; Psalm 66

The church in Corinth was far from perfect. While in Ephesus, Paul hears from several sources a long list of complaints about this eager but misguided flock. From division and factions, to sexual immorality, to abuse of spiritual gifts, to false teaching about the resurrection and much in between the Corinthians were church in trouble. The most serious problem of the Corinthians was worldliness, an unwillingness to divorce themselves from culture around them. I think it’s safe to say, that of all the churches in the New Testament, the church at Corinth was perhaps the most dysfunctional. In light of the topics Paul will discuss throughout this epistle, why do you think he describes himself as “called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus” (v. 1)? And why do you think he identifies his readers as “to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (v. 2)? Next, Paul surprisingly affirms his readers by giving thanks for them. What does he say about why he is thankful for them? How does Paul’s view of the Corinthians in these opening verses challenge you to view dysfunctional churches and Christians?

Psalm 66 is a song of thanksgiving, as was the previous one. We do not know the writer or the occasion for sure (though a crises of some sort is referenced in vv. 10-12). This joyful psalm begins with group praise (vv. 1-12) and then focuses on individual worship (vv. 13-20). The psalmist rehearses the Red Sea and Jordan River crossings from Israel’s past (v. 6a; ref. Exodus 14; Joshua 3-4) and testifies that God has always been faithful in the midst of serious troubles. First, communally then individually God’s people acknowledge His deliverance and invite other people to join them in praising Him (v. 8a). How might communal praise mentioned in Psalm 65 and here in vv. 1-12 encourage and foster individual worship (vv. 13-20)? How should the giving of thanks and recounting the Lord’s awesome deeds motivate our hearts to call others to know and worship God (v. 8a)? The psalmist ends with a note of his righteousness before God (vv. 16-20). What role should thanksgiving play in promoting a righteous life?


Week 19 Questions for 2019 Bible Reading Plan

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The Jews of Jesus’ day, long oppressed by foreign rulers, yearned for a new king – one whom God Himself would anoint and use to establish His own rule of justice and peace not only over Israel but the whole earth. Imagine the excitement when John the Baptist, after hundreds of years of silence from God, came announcing the coming of the Lord as king and when Jesus Himself announced, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Not everyone was pleased with the kind of kingdom He announced. The religious rulers especially opposed Him, but the common people heard Him gladly.

In the second gospel of the New Testament, Mark sets out to tell the story of Jesus, showing that the kingdom in its glory comes at the end of the path of suffering and service. Mark portrays Jesus principally as the servant-king whom we should follow (see Mark 1:17). The gospel of Mark challenges us that if we are to enjoy the glories of the kingdom, we too must follow our Savior down the road of suffering and service.

This week in New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan we’ll dig deeper into Mark’s account of Jesus’ life. Additionally, we’ll read David’s musings on the wickedness of humanity (Psalm 53), along with two Psalms that came from difficult times in his life (Psalms 54 and 55). Additionally, we’ll look at Solomon’s proverbs concerning wealth and popularity and the proper use of the tongue. This week promises to be challenging and uplifting. May God bless us as we read His Holy Word together.

Monday, May 6 – Mark 2; Psalm 53

Chapter 1 of Mark’s gospel is a string of success stories. Beginning with chapter 2, however, opposition begins to develop. As Jesus speaks more about the meaning of His message and the significance of His healing ministry, He provokes confrontation by challenging not only the authority of religious leaders but their whole way of life. Nevertheless, Jesus keeps reaching the lost and the outcast who come to Him. What motivates Jesus to respond to the paralytic’s plight was his friends’ “faith” (v. 5). Why do you suppose their faith made such a difference to Jesus? In what ways does Jesus’ healing of the paralytic answer the questions raised in the minds of the teachers of the law? The paralytic’s friends provide a model of caring. What are some practical ways you can follow their example?

In Psalm 53, the psalmist observes that the human race is morally corrupt. Evildoers oppress God’s people, but the psalmist is confident of God’s protection and anticipates a day when God will vindicate Israel. The ultimate lesson of this psalm is that it’s foolish to disregard God. Those who do so will experience present vanity in their lives and future judgment for their folly. How does it make you feel to live in such a wicked world, surrounded by such sinful people? Why, according to this psalm, is it foolish to say “There is no God” (v. 1)? It would be easy to throw up your hands and give up on trying to live a righteous life in face of such a sin-filled world, but what hope does David give you to stay true to God? In what ways did you need to read this psalm today?

Tuesday, May 7 – Mark 3; Proverbs 12:8-14

As Jesus’ ministry expands, so did rejection of Him as God’s anointed servant. Mark directs his readers back and forth between Jesus’ acceptance on a superficial level by the multitudes, His disciples’ growing commitment to Him, the increasing hostility of the religious leaders, and then opposition from an unlikely quarter… Jesus’ own mother and brothers. On one occasion, Jesus’ family came to seize Him and take Him back home (vv. 20, 31-32) because they thought, “He is out of His mind” (v. 21). Why were they thinking this about Jesus? When we you are opposed or rejected by those who are closest to you, what comfort can you receive from Jesus’ words in vv. 33-35? If you learn to see yourselves as part of God’s family, how might that transform your attitude toward His commandments?

“Better to be lowly and have a servant than to play the great man and lack bread” (v. 9). This is one several proverbs which makes use of the “Better… than” comparison structure (see also: 15:16-17; 16:8, 19, 32; 17:1; 19:1; 21:9; 25:7, 24; 27:5, 10; 28:6). To live comfortably without social importance is better than an outward show of affluence to win public praise that conceals poverty. In order not to live above his means, this modest individual allows himself to be slighted by society. While the petty person, enslaved to public opinion and doomed to shame, unwisely spends his sparse resources to keep up a vain show. Why do we care so much what people think about us? Be honest, to what lengths have to you gone to “play the great man [or woman]”? With these word of wisdom, how does Solomon challenge societies (and your own) perspective of what means to be successful or popular?

Wednesday, May 8 – Mark 4; Psalm 54

For the most part, the disciples were tough, hard-as-nails men. Several of them were seasoned fishermen from the Sea of Galilee (namely Peter, Andrew, James, John). Short of a storm of biblical-proportions it would take a lot to scare these men. In the midst of the wind and waves their faith in Jesus is tested but once again the Savior demonstrates His authority. Many unique features of Mark’s narrative seem to indicate that it came from an eyewitness account, probably Peter. These include mention of “on that day” (v. 35), “as He [Jesus] was” and the other boats (v. 36), the stern and the cushion (v. 38), and the rebuke, terror, and bewilderment of the disciples (vv. 38, 41). Why do you think the disciples were so afraid? What did the disciples learn about Jesus from this episode? Have you ever felt like the disciples did in v. 38? How did God respond to your fear and frustration?

According to the superscription, David wrote Psalm 54 during the period when Saul was seeking his life (as does Psalm 52). David composed this individual lament after the Ziphites had told King Saul where he was hiding (see 1 Samuel 23:19-20). Though despairing, David expresses ultimate confidence in God. His prayer here has three parts: 1) A Prayer of Distress (vv. 1-3), Anticipation of Deliverance (vv. 4-5), and The Thanksgiving for Deliverance (vv. 6-7). The psalm is a fitting prayer for any believer who is maligned by others. What are your first impressions about David’s prayer? In what ways is this prayer similar to and/or different from the prayers you offer when your heart is weary? In v. 4 David declares, “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” How would your prayer life change for the better if you constantly keep these words in your heart? Write them on a card and keep it someone you’ll see it to remind you of God’s help.

Thursday, May 9 – Mark 5; Proverbs 12:15-22

The raising of Jairus’ daughter and the healing of a woman with a hemorrhage is a rare miracle account within the gospel. Here we see two desperate representatives of society: one rich, the other poor; one accepted, the other outcast; one familial, the other alone – both beyond natural help. For twelve years Jairus (and his daughter) and the woman had lead such different lives, but now adversity had bound their souls unaware together, and they were both recipients of God’s life-giving power. Compare the faith and fear that both Jairus and the woman exhibited? When has your faith been mingled with fear? Does Jesus’ reply to both of these believers give comfort to you? If so how?

Several of the proverbs in today’s reading deal with proper speech. Solomon has a great deal to say about what we say. The nearly 150 references to the tongue, lips, mouth and so on indicate that proper speech is one of his top concerns. The tongue, says Solomon, can accomplish great good if used wisely but severe damage if used foolishly. In v. 18, Solomon observes, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrust, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” The proverb promotes thoughtful speech by explicitly comparing the spiritual damage done by the thoughtless “tongue” to the physical damage done by the lethal sword and by contrasting it with one that heals. Give examples of rashly spoken words that cut and thoughtful words that heal. From your experience, which is easier to speak: cutting words or healing words? Why? What can you do to constantly speak wise, healing words?

Friday, May 10 – Mark 6; Psalm 55

In His final tour of Galilee, Jesus continues to confront the powers of darkness, both directly and through His twelve apostles (vv. 7-13). Additionally, he demonstrates His power over creation itself with the feeding of the 5,000 and walking on the water, then calming the storm (vv. 30-52). Mark alone ties together these two miracles stating, “And they were utterly astounded for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (vv. 51b-52). Faith was an uncommon commodity among the Lord hometown (vv. 1-6) and sadly even among those closest to Him. What should the disciples have understood about the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000? Why do you think their hearts were hardened to these lessons? Do you see any of these reasons in your own life? Explain. Recognizing this, what steps can you take to counteract a hardened heart?

The occasion that inspired the composition of Psalm 55 was David’s betrayal by an intimate friend. We do not know certainly who he was, though some commentators have suggested Ahithophel (see 2 Samuel 15:7-17:23). David prayed that God would deliver him from his plight. He also lamented his distress that a trusted friend had betrayed him, and he voiced confidence in God who redeems His elect. In what way(s) had David been betrayed by his friend? Write down the words and phrases David uses to describe his feelings of betrayal? No doubt the pain when a trusted friend turns on us runs deep. In those times of hurt, anger, and pain how can following David’s words in v. 22 bring relief?

Week 18 Questions for 2019 Bible Reading Plan

bible reading and prayer

“If only I had more…” We’ve all said in one form or another. More money, more success, more happiness, more knowledge, more clothes, more excitement, more of this and more of that. Not only in our society but also in the church, we cry for more. If only we had… more leaders, more money, more prestige, more people, more space, more influence, more workers, more faith. Guru’s abound to help us fill our desires for more. But what if we slowed down for a minute and remembered Who and what we already have; Jesus Christ our Savior and the fullness of life in Him.

This week in New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan we’ll read through Paul’s epistle to the Colossians. This epistle will be one of Paul’s strongest declarations of the uniqueness and sufficiency of Christ, his full authority over all powers and the fullness of life He gives. Paul spells out the implications of this fullness of life again and again in the letter. Like the Colossians, we are bombarded by longings for something more. But Paul declares, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:9-10). Enjoy it! Be satisfied in the Lord!

In addition to reading Colossians, we’ll have our first reading from the gospel of Mark (let’s wait until next week to introduce Mark). There will also be a psalm from Asaph, and two from David rooted in two troubling episodes of his life. Then from Proverbs we’ll, among other things, be challenged to have generous hearts and for the ladies a challenge to wisely use the power you possess as wives. These questions were a pleasure to write. I hope they are a blessing for you. Keep on reading and God bless you with every word you read.

Monday, April 29 – Colossians 1; Psalm 50

There’s a lot going on in Colossians 1. As was customary in ancient letters, Paul begins by identifying first the senders, then the recipients (vv. 1-2a). He follows with a greeting (v. 2b) and continues by listing the reasons he is thankful to God for the Colossian church (vv. 3-8). He reminds the Colossians how he prays for them, demonstrating his sensitivity to their needs (vv. 9-14). To combat teachers who were denying the deity of Christ, Paul not only declares Christ’s supremacy – he sings it in this example of early Christian hymnody (vv. 15-20). Finally, the chapter ends with a word on the reconciling work of Christ and Paul’s role in spreading the gospel (vv. 21-29). Let’s focus on Paul hymn. Drawing from vv. 15-20, make as many statements as you can about why Jesus is supreme. Begin each with “Christ is…” How should each of them affect your attitudes and actions? Choose at one or two, and write down how they are personally important to you.

In Psalm 50, the first psalm contributed to Asaph (see also Psalms 73-83), we find a picture of God seated in His heavenly throne room. He has two indictments against His people Israel (vv. 1-6). The wicked among them were hypocritical in their worship (vv. 7-15), and rebellious in their actions (vv. 16-21). The Lord ends each accusation with a warning and call to return to Him (vv. 14-15, 22-23). When do you find yourself most often going through the motions of worship? How can the Lord’s words in vv. 14-15 help you break out of a worship rut? Be honest with yourself, when do you find yourself most often rebelling against God? How can the Lord’s words in vv. 22-23 help you break a rebellious spirit?

Tuesday, April 30 – Colossians 2; Proverbs 11:24-31

With Colossians 2, Paul turns his attention to point out the flaws in the fins-sounding arguments to which the Colossians have been listening. He starts by reminding them, “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (v. 6-7). According to the false teachers, believing in Christ was a good beginning, but you must do more (see vv. 8, 16, 18, 21-23). Why do such humanly conceived additions appeal to us? To protect Christians from such heresies, Paul declares in v. 10, “in [Jesus] you have been made complete.” How do you respond to the idea of being complete or having fullness in Christ?

At the heart of our reading from Proverbs today stands the call to be generous and not stingy with our resources. It is axiomatic that greedy and selfish people, epitomized in Western literature as Mr. Scrooge, are hated by the populace at large while generous people gain love and respect. What the hoarder fails to realize, however, is that in God’s economy the greedy ultimately lose even the material things they try so hard to keep while the benevolent only prosper more and more. When are you reluctant to help a person in need? Why, according to Solomon, is generosity wiser than stinginess? How do these proverbs motivate you to respond to the needs of the poor rather than pretend they don’t exist?

Wednesday, May 1 – Colossians 3; Psalm 51

By starting with “Therefore…” (v. 1), Paul is about to draw conclusions from what he has been saying. Christ is supreme; He has freed us from the dominion of darkness; He has canceled our record of sin debt and disarmed the evil powers; He has released us from their delusive and oppressive rules. We have died with Christ and been raised with Christ. In Him we are complete. What then? In Colossians 3, Paul explains how these truths should impact out day-to-day lives. What does Paul mean when he speaks of setting your mind on “things that are above” and not on “things that are on earth” (v. 2)? In what kinds of situations are you tempted to set your heart and mind on earthly things? How, according to this chapter, can you proactively set your heart and mind on things above rather than on earthly things?

According to the Psalm 51’s superscription, David offered this prayer when Nathan confronted him with his sin following the king’s affair with Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 11-12). To David’s credit, he recognized fully how horrendous his sin was against God, blamed no one but himself, and begged for divine forgiveness. Following the style of penitential psalm (also: Psalms 6; 38; 102; 130; 143), the psalmist confesses his sinfulness to God and begs for forgiveness and a transformation of his inner character. It seems that at the least nine months has lapsed from the time David committed his sin with Bathsheba till the time Nathan confronted him. One has to wonder how David dealt with the guilt he felt for what he had done. What is the role of guilt as an emotional response to sin? Why is guilt often seen as something to be avoided or downplayed at all cost? What God-honoring purpose can guilt fulfill? What sort of things cause you to ignore the sin-caused guilty feelings? From David’s example, in what way(s) will you address the guilt you feel because of your sin?

Thursday, May 2 – Colossians 4; Proverbs 12:1-7

The last section of Colossians illustrates the two faces of a Pauline epistle: the timeless instructions from the Spirit of God to all Christians (vv. 2-6); and the personal comments from a very human writer to a certain people on a specific occasion (vv. 7-18). But even the newsy bits of this personal letter are part of God’s Word and give us insights into living the Christian life. Let’s focus on how to reach those outside the church. It’s been said that debating whether what we say or how we live is more important in spreading the gospel is like asking which leg is more important for walking. In vv. 5-6, Paul gives instructions for how Christians are to act wisely toward outsiders – unbelievers. What’s the benefit of acting and talking this way? What do you need to do to live and speak the gospel so that others will want to know Christ? Look over the names and places mentioned in vv. 7-18 each one represents a person, or group of people, who were united by the common bond of Christ. How do you think the unity of these people Paul mentions was a testimony to outsiders of the power of the gospel? What does you fellowship of Christians need to do to live and speak the gospel so that others will want to know Christ?

“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones” (v. 4). This proverb contrasts wise and foolish wives by the metaphors of a crown on the head verses decay in the bones. The former is high, outward, and visible; the latter is deep, inward, and invisible. The noble wife strengths and empowers building up her husband’s very being. On the other hand, the ignoble wife invisibly saps her husband’s strength and vitality, deconstructing him from within. When have you seen the twin truths of this proverb demonstrated? Why is the wife’s influence so powerful to either make or break her husband at home or in the community? What wisdom do you think Solomon wants to impart to wives? To husbands?

Friday, May 3 – Mark 1; Psalm 52

Unlike the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John, the gospel of Mark doesn’t have a formal introduction or a genealogy to get our bearings, there isn’t even the familiar infancy narrative. There’s simply a two verse quote from the Old Testament, from there Mark hits the ground running. The intensity of Mark’s writing and his enthusiasm for Christ’s gospel brings us a powerful message of salvation, inspiration, and encouragement. From vv. 14-45, what does Jesus do to show that “the kingdom of God is at hand”? Summarize how the people respond to Jesus’ ministry? What’s your impression of Jesus from what you’ve read so far in Mark?

This Psalm is a poetic lesson about the futility of evil, the final triumph of righteousness, and the sovereign control of God over the events of history. According to the superscription, David wrote this psalm during the period when Saul was seeking his life. On one occasion Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s head shepherd (1 Samuel 21:7), informed Saul of David’s whereabouts (see 1 Samuel 21-22). Doeg was a horrendously evil individual. What appears to have been a desire for favor from Saul, Doeg slaughtered “eighty-five person who wore the linen ephod” (priest), additionally from the priestly city of Nob “he put to the sword both man and woman, child and infant, ox, donkey and sheep” (1 Samuel 22:18b, 19). David’s acceptance of the blame for this tragedy weighed heavy on his heart as he composed this psalm (see 1 Samuel 22:20-23). What words or phrases does David use to describe the rashness of the wicked in vv. 1-5? How should the righteous react to wickedness men? (vv. 6-9) Specially, in what ways would the acts of v. 9 fortify your faith to face the wickedness of the world?

Week 17 Questions for 2019 Bible Reading Plan

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It is easy to be happy when life goes well. But what would it be like to have a sense of joy that continued even in times of trouble? Paul doesn’t pen this epistle from a padded-leather office chair surrounded by books on how to be happy. On the contrary, he is a prisoner awaiting news that could result in his death. In this short letter of encouragement to his beloved brethren in Philippi (see Acts 16:6-40), Paul aims to inspire his readers to persevere in the work of Christ, and he tells them how to find peace, joy, and contentment in a perilous world. In four brief chapters, the apostle teaches us how to live joyfully in every situation. This week in New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan we, too, will discover the secret of Paul’s joy and experience his triumphant confidence in Christ.

A personal note: I took two weeks off from writing in order to complete several pressing task leading up to chaperoning my oldest son’s 8th grade field trip to Washington D.C. There was too much to do and I was certainly not going to write during the five hectic days we were away from home. The trip was exciting (we were evacuated from the White House by secret service), awe inspiring, and educational. I’ll admit that after not studying and writing for a number of days it was hard to get back into the swing of it. But here we are and I’ll soldier on for the remainder of the year. Over the next month or so (or the year) I’ll go back and write questions for the two weeks I missed. I’ll let you know when they’re done.  

Lastly, I started this week’s questions on Tuesday since it was the first chapter of Philippians. May God’s blessing be upon you as you read His word.

Tuesday, Apr. 23 – Philippians 1; Proverbs 11:7-11

It is easy to be happy when life goes well. But what would it be like to have a sense of joy that continued even in times of trouble? Paul doesn’t pen this epistle from a padded-leather office chair surrounded by books on how to be happy. On the contrary, he is a prisoner awaiting news that could result in his death. Philippians is the second of Paul’s Prison Epistles (which include Ephesian, Colossians, and Philemon). In this brief letter, the apostle teaches us how to live joyfully in every situation. What things have happened to Paul that you would find discouraging? Looking back over the whole chapter, summarize the various factors which can transform difficult circumstances into a joyful, Christ-exalting situation? What are the difficult circumstances you are presently facing? How can Christ be exalted in that situation?

The main thrust Solomon presents in today’s reading from Proverbs is the social influence a person has for good or bad within his or her community. When have you seen the truth of these sayings play out on a national, state, or local stage? Think about your own community, not just your town but smaller say your neighborhood, church, your kid’s school, at work, or a social circle. When have you seen these truths demonstrated? How can you be an influencer for good in these areas of your community? Pray that God will make you an influencer for good and that He will rebuke those in your community that do evil.

Wednesday, Apr. 24 – Philippians 2; Psalm 48

Philippians 2:6-11 is perhaps the finest hymns in the New Testament and a foundational statement of the doctrine of Christ. Yet, Paul states it not to teach something new but to motivate the Philippians to action – humble service and self-sacrifice. Notice how Paul expects an understanding of doctrine to bring gladness and joy into the hearts of believers. How does Paul define humility (toward one another as typified in Christ) in vv. 1-11? To encourage you toward the humble life, Paul says you are to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (v. 12) because God “works in you” (v. 13). What difference should in make in your life to know that God works in your to “will and to work for His good pleasure” (v. 13)? In what way(s) should/does following the example of Jesus and humbly serving others through the power of God bring gladness and joy to your life?

Like Psalm 46, Psalm 48 is a hymn celebrating Zion as God’s special city, which He defends for the sake of the world. The central theme is the psalmist praising God for delivering Zion from her enemies. While the city may be heavily fortified, Jerusalem was secure and glorious because God blessed her with His favor. It is critical that God Himself be the defense of His people. I don’t see it as a stretch to think of the church (not a building but the collective body of the saved) as Zion, the place where God dwells on earth (ref. 1 Peter 2). With that in mind, how has and does God protect His church from her enemies? Are there times you, or your community of believers, are tempted to think that by your on wits and strength you have prospered as a church? Explain. In what way(s) does this Psalm call you to humbly praise God for His protection and the prospering of His people?

Thursday, Apr. 25 – Philippians 3; Proverbs 11:12-23

From all indications, the Philippians knew the gospel clearly, and so their task was to work together in accord with their identity “in Christ Jesus” (2:5). But false teachers threatened to undermine the church’s firm foundation. So, in 3:1-21 Paul reinforces key doctrines that are at the root of Christian faith and action. As you read over chapter 3, what kinds of errors do you deduce Paul was refuting? Acts 9 recorded the external facts of his conversion, while vv. 1-14 record the internal spiritual conversion he experienced. In the context of refuting false teaching, what’s the point Paul is making be recounting his conversion? How does a works-based salvation get in the way of know Christ and rejoicing in the Lord? On the flipside, how does a faith-based salvation open the way to knowing Christ and rejoicing in the Lord? Where do you find yourself today?

In this collection of Proverbs Solomon offers many insights on what happens to the righteous and the wicked alike (vv. 12-21, 23). Apart from the rest, v. 22 stands alone as a humorous, single line proverb. “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who rejects discretion.” What do you think is the warning that Solomon wants both women and men to see? Write down the name of someone you know who could benefit from this proverb. Why this person? Additionally, write a short prayer for them. For the next week continually pray for them and for yourself then go to them and lovingly share this wise saying and meaning with them. You may be rejected at first but keep praying and continue to be there for them.

Friday, Apr. 26 – Philippians 4; Psalm 49

Paul was living with many powerful stressors (he was in prison facing possible execution while defending himself against critics and heretics inside the church), yet he seems to be strangely at peace. In the closing chapter of Philippians, Paul reveals some of the secrets of his peace. What seems most significant to you of all that Paul says in this chapter? What is one implication this truth has for your life? Paul tells us to, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (v.9). In the coming week, how might you put into practice one truth he reveals in this chapter?

Often called a wisdom psalm (see vv. 3-4), Psalm 49 is an encouragement to the godly who are haunted by the power and influence of the rich. The psalmist states that he will not fear the rich enemies who threaten him, for despite their wealth, they are mere men who will die like everyone else. He is confident the righteous are better off because they have a sure hope for the future. Why is it so deeply disturbing to see arrogant, rich people thriving, especially those who exploit or hurt the little man or woman along the way? How does the psalmist contrast the state of both the rich and poor? What hope for justice does the psalm give to the one who has been taken advantage of by the rich? In what way(s) did you need this psalm today?

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.

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?