Week 3 Summaries and Questions for The Life of Jesus Reading Plan

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If you haven’t downloaded your copy of The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan it’s not too late to get started. One aspect of this reading plan is that it’s short enough for children and teens to easily do as well as adults.

Week 3 – January 20-24:

Monday – Luke 2:8-21: Rather than announce the birth of the Messiah to Israel’s official shepherds in Jerusalem, a heavenly host of angels proclaim the “good news” (v. 10) to lowly shepherds “out in the field keeping watch over their sheep” (v. 8). Upon hearing the angelic message proclamation, the shepherds “went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger” (v. 16). The Savior of the world was not the mighty Augustus in Rome, but an infant lying in a feed trough in the little town of Bethlehem. The testimony of the shepherds results in three responses: the amazement of the hearers (v. 18), the pondering of Mary (v. 19), and the praise of the community (v. 20).

Going back to the message of the angels (v. 14), to whom does God assure peace? Why to them? Trace the idea of God’s pleasure in Luke 3:2; 10:21; 12:32 what do you find?

Tuesday – Luke 2:22-38: In keeping with the piety of Mary and Joseph, Jesus is circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21) and He was, “according to the Law of Moses” (v. 22; see Exodus 13:2, 12, 15; 14:19-20; Leviticus 12), presented to the Lord. As the family enters the temple, no high priest, nor any other temple official, such as a priest or Levite, receives them. Rather, two otherwise unknown persons, Simeon and Anna, announce the Lord’s arrival. Although they hold no temple office, together these two embody the sincere faith of the common people of Israel. (Not unlike what we saw with the shepherds.)

Write a short description of Simeon and Anna. What do they each add to your understanding of the coming of the Messiah?

Wednesday – Matthew 2:1-12: As much as two years has passed since the night the Savior was born. (This time frame comes from combining Herod’s question in v. 7 with his orders in 2:16.) “Wise men” or “Magi” (v. 1) come to Jerusalem from the east to worship the new born King.  Within Matthew’s narrative this visit suggest three things: First, their coming and bringing gifts, recall the story of the Queen of Sheba’s visit to the other son of David, King Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-10; cf. Psalms 72:10-11, 15; Isaiah 60:5-6). Secondly, the star which plays such a prominent role in the story echoes Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17, “A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” Lastly, these foreign dignitaries become the first example of Gentile faith (cf. Matthew 8:5-13; 15:21-28; 27:54).

The Magi not only found Jesus, but worshiped Him and told the entire city of Jerusalem concerning His coming (vv. 2-3). In what ways has your search for the Lord resulted in your worshipping Him and telling others about Him?

Thursday – Matthew 2:13-23: Warned in a dream to flee, Joseph and family immediately depart “by night” (v. 14) to Egypt. God’s direction to the wise men in Matthew 2:12 has bought time for the family’s escape, but it has only added to Herod’s frustration. Unable to secure the child’s identity leads to the indiscriminate slaughter of males two years and younger. When the threat has passed (literally), Joseph and his family are brought back to Galilee. Throughout this portion of the narrative, Matthew carefully demonstrates how these actions fulfill Old Testament scripture (vv. 15, 17-18, 23).

Why do you think God instructs Joseph and his family to flee to Egypt rather than confront the enemy? What do these early incidents teach you about what was to come?

Friday – Luke 2:41-52: This is the only story of Jesus’ youth among the four canonical Gospels. There were many apocryphal gospels that attempted to fill in the lost years of Jesus’ life. By and large, these extra-Biblical accounts present a miracle-working Jesus with the temperament of a preadolescent. (For example, in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas Jesus turned a rude child into a goat, then back again after the child repented.) In contrast, the Bible’s lone youth narrative focuses on Jesus’ wisdom and humility.

From vv. 46, 49, 51, 52, in what ways is Jesus a model for Christian children today?

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 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?

Week 10 Questions for 2019 Bible Reading Plan

ladies bible study

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, Mar. 5 – Acts 22; Psalm 27

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, Mar. 7 – Acts 24; Psalm 28

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

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

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

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

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


Week 8 Questions for 2019 Bible Reading Plan


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

Monday, Feb. 18 – Acts 11; Psalm 21

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, Feb. 20 – Acts 13; Psalm 22

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, Feb. 22 – Acts 15; Psalm 23

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

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

Week 7 Questions for 2019 Bible Reading Plan

Activists Protest Arizona's Controversial Immigration Law In Phoenix

Until I put together the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan, I had never really given much time to the psalms. As I’ve been reading them and writing daily questions I’ve discovered something… The psalms offer us the gift of expression and the courage to honest with God. These sacred verses give us permission to talk to God without holding back and to be exactly where we are and who we are with God. If you haven’t given the psalms much attention, join me as we enter the world of the psalms where we’ll come into God’s presence as the vulnerable, honest, needy, spontaneous, joyful child He made us to be.

Monday, Feb. 11 – Acts 6; Psalm 18

With vv. 1-7, Luke wraps up his snapshots of the early days in the life of the Jerusalem church with an example of internal problem solving and a practical working out of fellowship. From 2:42-47, 4:32-37, and 6:1-7, summarize what mattered most to the early believers. What one insight from these three passages would you like to apply to your life this week or to your church community? What specific action(s) can you take toward apply this insight?

As the title indicates, David wrote this psalm “when the Lord rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.” Life in a fallen world is hard, unfair, and unpredictable but then there is our God who is exactly the opposite! The psalm starts with a series of powerful titles and allusions for God each beginning with the personal pronoun “my.” List the descriptions David gives for God in vv. 1-2. Now pick one or two of these statements, describe how God fulfills this role in your life? [For extra credit: write out these “my” statements on an index card or piece of paper and keep them close at hand for times when your “enemies” press hard against your spirit.]

Tuesday, Feb. 12 – Acts 7; Proverbs 5:1-6

Stephen’s speech is the longest recorded in Acts. As he answers the charges made against him (ref. 6:13-14) He demonstrates that: (1) God has acted outside the Temple, (2) God works with Gentiles, and (3) Jews have always rejected God’s message, men, and now they have rejected the Messiah! Throughout this whole passage we see in Stephen the evidence of being full of “faith [or grace] and power” (6:8) along with “wisdom and the Spirit” (6:10). What are the evidences today of being full of these qualities? In what aspect(s) of your life would you like to reflect more Stephen’s example?

Times have changed, but people haven’t. Ever since The Fall, humanity has struggled with sexual purity. The problem is catastrophic in our modern cultural, so Solomon’s wisdom in this area is all the more relevant. Our next three readings from Proverbs deal with the consequences of sexual sins. First (vv. 1-6), wisdom reveals the ugliness under the surface of the attractive seductress. Using vv. 3-4 as your guide, describe how at first the gratification of illicit sex seems pleasurable but how below the surface lies troubles. Why do you think that above all other evils, sexual sins are so appealing? When have you seen the truth of vv. 3-4 play out in your own life, or the life of someone else?

Wednesday, Feb. 13 – Acts 8; Psalm 19

Clearly Luke intends for us to see that Simon the sorcerer was a Christian, noting that he “believed, and [was] baptized” (v. 13; cf. Mark 16:16). The story of Simon demonstrates that becoming a Christian doesn’t instantly resolve all of one’s problems and character flaws. List all the ways you see Simon’s request connecting back to his sinful life before becoming a believer? How would you describe Peter’s response? What results do you see in Simon? Look at your own life, what problems and character flaws do you still struggle with as a believer? Enlist the help and prayers of a mature Christian to help you overcome your struggles.

David observes in this wisdom psalm that the majesty of the heavens declare, without “speech” or “words,” the glory of God to humanity. Likewise, people learn of God’s plan to bless humanity through the word of God, or in our modern vernacular the Bible. Write out vv. 7-8, slowly considering each statement. How does your current view of the scriptures match David’s? In what way(s) has your appreciation of the Bible changed over the years? What have the practical manifestations of these benefits from God’s word looked like in your life?

Thursday, Feb. 14 – Acts 9; Proverbs 5:7-14

In Acts 9, Luke records the dramatic conversion and call of Saul of Tarsus (later on we’ll know him better as Paul). This unlikely convert to Christ will spearhead the mission to take the gospel to the Gentiles as well as writing thirteen of the twenty-seven New Testament books. His contributions to the church can’t be underestimated. In your own words, why was Saul an unlikely convert? (ref. 7:58; 8:1-3; 9:1-2) What does Saul’s conversion teach you about those in your life who are most likely not to believer? What role(s) did Ananias and Barnabas play in Saul’s conversion and acceptance by other believers? Consider the people in your life who are most antagonistic to Christianity. How might God use you to bring them to Christ?

In the second part of Solomon’s warning about illicit sex he clarifies the cost of marital unfaithfulness (vv. 7-14). The price of infidelity is so high that it is unreasonable. Therefore one is wise to avoid the temptation altogether (compare v. 8; 1 Corinthians 6:18a). One commentator put it this way, “If you want to avoid the devil, stay away from his neighborhood.” Consider the areas of your life such as relationships, or entertainment, or social activities, etc. that pose (or have the potential to pose) as a sexual temptation. How do these warnings to flee sexual temptation apply to you? What safe guards do you have in place to keep yourself from going unnecessarily going close sexual temptations?

Friday, Feb. 15 – Acts 10; Psalm 20

The conversion of Cornelius along with his relatives and close friends is the longest narrative in Acts. The importance of the story is highlighted through three references to it chs. 10, 11, and 15. The conversion and full acceptance, of not only a gentile, but a Roman army officer sets the stage for a widespread mission to the Gentile world. Focus in on the great truth that Peter learns through this experience, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him” (vv. 34-35). Why is it important for you that God doesn’t show favoritism? When (or with whom) are you most tempted to act as though God does favor certain ethnic, national, economic, social or political groups? In what ways do you most need to grow in relating to people of other cultures and races? Be sure to pray about it.

Psalms 20 and 21 are generally viewed as twin psalms; the first being a prayer before battle, the second being a thanksgiving for victory. It is crucial that every Christian understands that he or she is in a spiritual war (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Ephesians 6:11-18, and 2 Timothy 2:3-5). The spiritual battle is quite personal for each Christian and the need for aid from fellow-soldiers is great. This psalm is a good example of what it means to intercede for another, especially as we fight against the wicked one. Look around at your circle of friends, coworkers, and family members and select someone in a crisis. It would be especially good if you can identify someone who is going through something difficult that you’ve overcome. Write out a prayer for that person, modeling your thoughts off of Psalm 20, particularly vv. 1-5. Then do two things: 1) Pray your prayer often for the person you’ve selected. 2) Give or mail the person a hand written note (not an electronic message but a real-old school handwritten note) sharing with them your prayer you are praying on their behalf. Repeat as necessary.