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 2 – 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 2 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.

Week 2 – January 13-17:

Monday – Luke 1:39-56: Today’s reading brings the two previous passages together into one event. Mary’s visit brought a reaction from John in Elizabeth’s womb. Through the Holy Spirit (cf. Luke 1:15, 41), the Messiah’s forerunner gives testimony to the Messiah even before he was born. Elizabeth praises Mary for filling an important role in the history of salvation (vv. 42-45). Mary replies to Elizabeth with an inspired utterance. Her hymn of praise in vv. 46-55 is known as the Magnificat, (Latin for “Magnifies”). There are strong echoes of Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 in Mary’s words. A striking feature of this hymn is the fact that Mary views God as overthrowing established authorities in favor of the weak and poor.

Respond to God’s deeds of salvation for you in the model of Mary and Elizabeth. Write a few lines praising God (or copy a few lines from your favorite hymn). Share your words with a friend or post them on social media so that God may be praised by others.

Tuesday – Luke 1:57-66: The next two readings complete the birth narrative of John. In keeping with Gabriel’s words (Luke 1:14), the surprising news of John’s birth gladdens the hearts of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s neighbors. Next, the focus of the narrative turns to the circumcision ceremony that occurred eight days after John’s birth (cf. Genesis 17:12; Leviticus 12:3). It’s during this time that a male child receives his name. Those present (the priests performing the ceremony perhaps?) want to name the child “Zachariah after his father” (v. 59). However, when the parents demand the child be named “John” (v. 60, 63; cf. Luke 1:13) Zachariah’s “mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God” (v. 64; Luke 1:20).

Note, that three times Luke described people’s spontaneous reactions to the happenings surrounding John’s birth (vv. 58, 63b, 65-66). What do you think might be Luke’s purpose in repeating this fact?

Wednesday – Luke 1:67-80: Often referred to as the Benedictus (Latin for “Blessed”) the prophecy of Zacharias ends the birth narrative of John. The one who disbelieved (Luke 1:20) now believes, and his first response is to praise God. His prophecy (v. 67) has two sections. The first part (vv. 68-75), set in past tense, declares God’s faithfulness to the covenant with Abraham. The second part (vv. 76-79), set in the future, foretells the redemption promises to Israel that are signified in the birth of John.

For what character qualities and acts does Zechariah praise God? In what way(s) might this prayer influence your own prayers to God?

Thursday – Matthew 1:18-25: Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus from the standpoint of Joseph rather than Mary, as Luke does. In his narrative of events, Matthew simply states that Mary became pregnant due to activity of the Holy Spirit, then goes on to tell what Joseph does. When Mary was “found to be with child” (v. 18) that was not Joseph’s, it was expected that he would divorce her (even an engagement required a formal divorce). Nevertheless, an angelic visitor tells him not to do so because all this has happened to fulfill the prophesy of Isaiah 7:14.

These extraordinary events bring Joseph face to face with a difficult decision. What personal qualities does he display in the way he handles the situation?

Friday – Luke 2:1-7: Luke anchors Jesus’ birth in history, in the powerful world of Rome. Our Savior’s advent is not a myth, but rather it is a record of divine activity in historical time. “In those days” (v. 1), God used a Roman emperor’s decree to fulfill the plan He announced in Micah 5:2. Because Joseph was of the lineage of David, he was required to register for the new tax at his ancestral home of Bethlehem (cf. 1 Samuel 17:12). It’s popular to imagine Mary arriving into the town, riding a donkey while in active labor, or at the very least having contractions. Luke however, clearly implies that the family had been in there for some time, “While they were there,” he states, “the time came for her to give birth” (v. 6). In the crowded confines of the village, the only comfortable place to lay the newborn Messiah is a “manger” (v. 7) the lowly feed trough of cattle, sheep, and goats.

Why do you think God had His Son born in the circumstances described in 2:7, rather than in a royal or at least a comfortable household? (consider: 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:1-10)

Week 1 Questions for 2020 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.

Week 1 – January 6-10:

Luke 1:1-4: Luke artfully introduces his gospel of the life and teachings of Jesus with a formal dedication following in the classical style of his day. Luke informs us that: 1) Others had sought to compile gospel narratives of the things believers had been taught by eyewitnesses and ministers of the word. 2) It seemed good to him, after careful research, to write his own “orderly account.” 3) Since he had “traced the course of all things accurately from the first,” Theophilus could have certainty concerning the things he had been taught about Christ.

As you begin this New Year exploring the life and teachings of Jesus, what do you hope to learn? How do you want your faith affirmed?

John 1:1-18: In the sublime opening lines of his gospel, John sets forth to introduce the great truths and themes which we will continually visit throughout our reading, such as: Jesus’ eternal nature (vv. 1-3), His incarnation (vv. 4-5), the work of John the Baptist as the forerunner of the Messiah (vv. 6-8), the Lord’s rejection by His own people (vv. 9-11), His saving work (vv. 12-13) and the magnificent Savior, Jesus Christ (vv. 14-18). Over the many entries of our reading plan we will see the richness of each of these topics.

Write down everything 1:1-18 says about the Word, noting who or what He is and what He does.

Matthew 1:1-17: At the outset of his gospel, Matthew, writing for a Jewish audience, establishes Jesus’ heritage as the “son of David, the son of Abraham” (v. 1).  With a series of three “fourteen” generational groupings (v. 17), Matthew demonstrates that Jesus is not only a direct decedent of Abraham and David, but ultimately the fulfillment of the covenant God made with each man (see Genesis 12:1-3; 2 Samuel 7:12-16).  Secondarily, Matthew wants to demonstrate God’s providential working to bring the Messiah into the world. He didn’t forget His promises to Abraham and David but worked to bring the Anointed One at just the right time (cf. Galatians 4:4, 29).

Look over the various names Matthew includes, which ones do you recognize? Other than Abraham and David, what significance can you attach to any of these people?

Luke 1:5-25: Following his introduction, Luke begins his narrative with the dramatic account of the foretelling of the birth of John the Baptist. In Jesus’ day most Jews believed that for more than 400 years God had actively spoke to His people since the prophet Malachi lived. Malachi ended his work with a promise from God to raise up Elijah and usher in spiritual renewal in Israel (Malachi 4:1-6). Now with the foretelling of John’s birth, God is remembering His long made promise by raising up Elijah in the figure of John (compare Luke 1:16; Malachi 3:1; 4:6).

From the text, describe Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth.  What, in Zechariah’s mind, made the promise of a child unbelievable? Have you ever responded to God’s promises as Zechariah did? Explain.

Luke 1:26-38: Next Luke turns his attention to the foretelling of Jesus’ birth. This section parallels the one immediately preceding (Luke 1:5-25). Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus as he had John’s (cf. Luke 1:19, 26). Again, a divinely initiated birth announcement shows the unique significance of the individual to be born. In the preceding section the father was the main figure, but in this one the mother is the center of the story. The significant feature of the birth of Jesus is that His mother was a virgin. The importance of the virgin birth cannot be overstated. A right view of the incarnation hinges on the truth that Jesus was virgin-born. Both Luke (v. 34) and Matthew (Matthew 1:18-25) expressly state that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived. The Holy Spirit produced the conception through supernatural means (v. 35). The nature of Christ’s conception testifies to both His deity and humanity in one.

How does Mary respond to the angel’s proclamation (v. 34, 38)? Compare Mary’s response to Zechariah’s in 1:18. Why did Mary receive no rebuke? How can you cultivate Mary’s attitude?

See you next week. Keep reading and meditating on the Life and Teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus. ~Clay

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?