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


women reading bible holding hands

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?

Rahab’s Persevering Faith


Rahabs Persevering Faith

Well I guess I’m officially old. Sure I turned forty last September, but that did not phase me; it was just another day. No, I am now old because of something far more damaging to my youthful-ego… the classic rock station is now playing songs from my youth. The soundtrack of my teens and early twenty’s is now old. Don’t get me wrong; I am flattered that my music made on the same station as my dad’s music, because he called it garbage. Ironic, is it not? Nonetheless, I was not ready for this to happen. 

Unfortunately, the trauma brought on by this realization has caused me to forget the song that pushed me over the proverbial hill. However, there is another classic song from my teens that I often hear on the classic station, R.E.M.’s It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).

I really to like that song (even if it does make me classic). It is one of the tracks where the tempo demands you roll the windows down, turn the radio up and sing along with gusto. The gist of the song, at least the repeated chorus, is that the world as we know it is coming to an end, but that’s alright because “I feel fine.” The song will occasionally be featured in a post-apocalyptic movie (one of my favorite genres), usually somewhere in the opening scene. Its use foreshadows the impending disaster, but do not worry – humanity will prevail and survive.

Bringing this around to our lesson: if I were to put a sound track to the story of Rahab, I think I would choose this song for this particular scene in her life. It was the end of the world as she knew but she would be fine. Let’s explore why. Thus far in our study of Rahab’s faith, we have considered Rahab’s Working Faith and her Outreaching Faith. In this, our third installment, let’s turn our attention to her Persevering Faith 

The Pledge:

You will recall from our previous posts that under the leadership of Joshua, the children of Israel had ended their forty-year wondering and were poised to take the Promised Land. Just before their first invasion, Joshua sent two spies into the land (Joshua 2:1).

However, their clandestine operation was foiled, and with their covers blown the two spies took shelter in the home of “a prostitute whose name was Rahab” (2:1). With some quick thinking, Rahab concealed the two men and sent their pursuers on a wild goose chase (2:3-7). Once the coast was clear, she brought the two spies out from their hiding place and asked for her and her family’s safety during the coming invasion (2:12-13). The two spies pledged that she and her family would be saved if she followed these conditions: not telling anyone their mission, identifying her house with a scarlet cord, and no one could leave the home (2:14-21).

With the promise of safety secured Rahab let the two spies “down by a rope through the window, for her house was built upon the city wall, so that she lived on the wall” (2:15). The city wall probably formed the back wall of her house with a window opening up the outside. As we will see, this detail will play an important role in the testing of her faith. 

The Wait:

As soon as Rahab had helped the spies escape “she tied the scarlet cord in the window”(2:21). Then she waited. A close reading of Joshua 3:1-6:14 reveals that nearly a month passed from the time the spies left, to the day Jericho fell. (I’m allotting 2-3 weeks to heal from the circumcision.)

Do not discount the agony of her waiting. I have no doubt that while Rahab waited, fears and anxieties arose in her heart. Put yourself in her sandals! Imagine being locked up in your house fearful to leave least you die. The kids were crying, your dad is doubting, your sister is silently withdrawn and as usual your brother is no help. The tension is thick in the air. Then confusion and bewilderment really set in when the army of Israel comes against the city and does nothing but march around the city once a day for six days (6:1-13). Certainly, the stress of waiting tested her faith. 

The End:

The climatic fall of Jericho is recorded in Joshua 6:15-27. After marching around the city once a day for six days, the text says, 

“On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. And at the seventh time, when the priest had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout, for the Lord has given you the city’… As soon as the people heard the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.” (Joshua 6:15-16, 20)

With her house situated on along the city’s wall, Rahab’s home must have violently shook as Jericho’s wall came tumbling down (cf. 2:15). As I envision what it must have been like within the walls of her home, I feel fear all around and I hear ear piercing screams. The instinct to run into the streets must have been incredibly hard to squelch (cf. 2:19).

Then to compound matters, the roar of deadly battle exploded outside her door and the army of God stormed the city. So great was the annihilation we are told, “They devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword” (6:21). Finally, after the battle had died down and before the city was burned, the two spies went into the defeated city, “and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her” (6:23).

As we have already noted, Rahab was a woman of great faith. What we must understand is that her faith was made great through testing (cf. Romans 5:2-5; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-9). The risk she took in hiding the spies and accepting their word was a test of faith. Each day she anxiously waited for her salvation was a test of faith. Staying in her home as the wall fell and the battle ensued was a test of faith. Through each one of these tests, she did not give in or turn back; she persevered.  

To say Rahab had a Persevering Faith does not imply that she was never afraid or anxious about the future. She was human, to feel and experience those emotions is only natural. Rather, what it meant was that she did not succumb to those fears or worries. With each test, her faith grew stronger and served as an unshakable anchor for her life and for those around her. Only through testing could her faith, her great faith, produce the endurance necessary to hold onto the promises of salvation. In essence she lived out truth of James 1:2-4; 

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

As Christians today, we need, more than ever, to model Rahab’s Persevering Faith. When our faith is tested and negative emotions flood our hearts we must hold onto to the One in whom we have believed, and with His help rise above the chaos of this world (cf. 2 Timothy 1:12). Our faith should serve as “a sure steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19). Sadly, for far too many Christians their faith does not impact their day-to-day lives and thus they end up being “tossed to and fro by the waves” (Ephesians 4:14) of fear and doubt. Therefore, they give in and give up.

Much like Rahab, we too have been given a pledge of salvation, and, like her, our faith is continually tested as we wait for the end to come. The question is will we give up or persevere to the end?

The Pledge:

The Lord Jesus has pledged to return and take us home to be with Him forever.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

The promise of the Lord’s return should bring comfort (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11) and provide a catalyst to endure amid the troubles and trails of life.

 The Wait:

However, it has been nearly 2,000 years since Christ Jesus pledged to return. Because it has been so long it would be so easy now, as some did in New Testament times, to question, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Peter 3:4). As each day passes it can become harder to wait and resist the temptations of this wicked world. Thus we are admonished to have a Persevering Faith that will,  

 “Be patient… until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”(James 5:7-8)

 The End:

As the last days approach, “times of difficulty” for believers will increase (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-9).  Then suddenly,

 “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works are done on it will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10)

He then continued by asking,

“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” (2 Peter 3:11-12a)

The pledge has been made; the Lord Jesus will return. The wait continues, but the end is near. What sort or people then should we be? People who demonstrate a Persevering Faith. Believers who do not give in or give up, but rather live lives of holiness and godliness as we wait for our blessed hope – the appearing of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. For the Spirit has promised,

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trail, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12) 

The end of the world as we know it is coming. Will you be fine? If you have a Persevering Faith like Rahab you will. If I can help you with any spiritual need drop me a line at clay@claygentry.com. May God’s blessing be upon us as we keep sharing the good news. 

Rahab’s Outreaching Faith


Rahabs Outreaching Faith

During the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, one of the leading candidates was asked about their religious beliefs. In part, the candidate replied they were a Christian, however, their faith was deeply personal and something they did not talk about. Needless to say, this particular candidate was ridiculed by many for offering an insincere and hollow response.

Personally, I believe the candidate in question was trying to pander to religious voters and non-religious voters alike; so the criticism was warranted. Frankly, the very idea that we would not share our faith in Christ runs counter to New Testament teaching. The good news of Christ demands that we share it with others. That is the purpose of this blog and hopefully at the heart of every believer’s life. But sadly, there are too many so-called Christians who typify the attitude expressed by a certain presidential candidate; they simply want reach out to others and share their faith.

In our last post, we began a four part series exploring different facets of the faith of the Old Testament character Rahab. You will recall that she was a Gentile prostitute living in the city of Jericho who, at great personal risk, saved two Israelite spies from her countrymen. Consequently, she was rewarded and memorialized for her working faith (cf. James 2:14-26). In this, our second installment, I want to direct our focus to Rahab’s Outreaching Faith. The way she reached out to others and shared her faith is a model for us today as we seek to do the same.

You can continue Rahab’s story with part 1 – Rahab’s Working Faith, and part 3 Rahab’s Persevering Faith

The daring story of ancient espionage involving Rahab and the two spies is recorded in Joshua 2:1-24. With their covers blown, the two spies took shelter in the home of “a prostitute whose name was Rahab” (2:1). With some quick thinking, she concealed the two men and sent their pursuers on a wild goose chase (2:3-7). Once the coast was clear, she brought the secret agents out from their hiding place and asked,

“Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” (2:12-13)

Just before the spies departed, they confirmed their agreement with Rahab. Under the two-fold condition that she identify her house with a scarlet cord and no one leave the home. Then all who were gathered under her roof would be spared (2:14-21). A little over a week later, on the day of the miraculous taking of the Jericho (we’ll have more to say about this in our next post), Joshua reminded the people,

“And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent” (Joshua 6:17).

As the city and its inhabitants laid in ruins, Joshua honored the promise of safety to the household of Rahab by ordering the two spies to, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her” (6:22). The record states,

“So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. And they burned the city with fire, and everything kin it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive.” (6:23-25a)

I do not know about you, but I think God is wanting us to see something here by repeating the fact that she saved her family. Four times we are reminded that because of Rahab her family was saved from certain death. She was not merely concerned with herself. Her concern included her family and household. Rahab did not keep her faith in God a secret, she shared it with others and consequently they escaped God’s judgment. This is God’s design for spreading the gospel; one person sharing with another person the good news of salvation. It is what every Christian should be doing.

I’m sure that you would agree that as Christian we should be sharing our faith with others, but frankly how many of us are doing it on a regular basis? I venture to say very few. So, why do we not purse this most fundamental Christian act? Well, I guess some folks still think STRANGER DANGER! Others think they do not know enough Bible. While with some there is the perception that evangelism is the preacher’s job. These reasons (and we could cite many others) help explain our inactivity. Nevertheless, it should not be this way. In the model of Rahab, we should possess an outreaching faith, one that we will not hold inside but must share with others. To help equip us for this task, I would like to use the commission of Mark 5:19 as a model for us to follow.

In the first half of Mark 5, we read of Jesus’ healing the demoniac of the Gerasenes (Mark 5:1-20). It indeed is a marvelous account of one of the Lord’s great miracles. Following the miracle, Mark notes that “the man who had been possessed with demons begged [Jesus] that he might be with Him” (5:18). However, Jesus had other plans for him, so He sent the man away commissioning him to: 

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19).

Let’s break this verse down into three parts: 1) Where to Go; 2) Who to See; 3) What to Say.

Where to Go:

Too often missionaries are portrayed as people who leave home and go off to live and work in some far away land. No doubt, the church needs men and women who will do this kind of work, but more importantly Christians need to have a missionary mindset here at “home.”

Our mission field is where we live, work and play. We need not go across the seas to share the gospel, rather we need to go across the yard, the street, across town, the room, the table, or wherever we might find ourselves in this life. An outreaching faith goes home and shares the gospel with others.

Who to See:

I admire people who can easily transition a polite “hello” into a conversation about God and salvation. I do not have that gift and because it is a rare talent, I suspect you do not either. For the most part, most of us are uncomfortable talking to strangers about the gospel. Thankfully, the commission of Mark 5:19 does not require that of us, instead, Jesus sent the Gadarene home to those he knew best; his “friends.”

It is only natural that we share our faith with those who are closest to us. When Andrew found Jesus, his brother Peter was the first person he went to (John 1:35-42). When Matthew answered the Lord’s call, he invited his tax collecting friends to sit at table with Jesus (Luke 5:27-32). When the Samaritan woman concluded Jesus was the Christ, she brought her whole village out to meet Him (John 4:1-45). Then there is Cornelius (Acts 10:24), Lydia (Acts 16:15) and the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:33) who made sure their family and friends heard the good news of Jesus. Tapping into our network of family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors is God’s number one plan for evangelism. If will open our eyes we will see that, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).

What to Say:

It is a common practice in advertising to rely heavily on testimonials. Companies can give you all the technical information for why you should buy their product. But rarely does that hold any weight compared to a trusted friend saying this product is worth having because it improved their life. What is true in advertising is also true with the gospel.

Sharing our faith need not be a theological exegesis of the scriptures. Remember, the Gadarene was told to go, “tell how much the Lord has done for [him], and how He has had mercy on [him]” (Mark 5:19). His sharing of Jesus’ mercy and love would not be in technical jargon, but instead in personal tones. He could say, “Here is the man I used to be, here is who I am now, and here is how Jesus changed me.” That would have been a powerful message.

We all have a story of how our faith has transformed our lives; we need to simply tell it to others. “Here is the man/woman I used to be, here is who I am now, here is how Jesus changed me and here is how Jesus will do the same for you.” Couched in a personal story, your faith will be easier to share and your transformed life becomes a living testimony of the gospel’s power. One note: If you do not think you have a story, then you really need to do a serious gut check about your relationship with Jesus.

Rahab’s outreaching faith resulted in the salvation of her family. Her faith was deeply personal yet, rather than keeping it in, her faith propelled her to reach out to others so they could experience salvation as well. The question then is how concerned are you about the salvation of your friends and family? Do you have an outreaching faith like Rahab? If not, then I would encourage you today to pray to God asking Him to light a fire in your heart to share your faith with others. If I can help you with any spiritual need drop me a line at clay@claygentry.com. May God’s blessing be upon us as we keep sharing the good news.

One last thought: There’s an old hymn I remember singing as a youth. Its words paint a haunting picture that I hope will encourage you to exercise an outreach faith. The song is entitled, “You Never Mentioned Him to Me” written by James Rowe (1949):

When in the better land, before the bar we stand
How deeply grieved our souls will be
If any lost one there, should cry in deep despair
You never mentioned him to me

O let us spread the word, where-ever it may be heard
Help groping souls the light to see
That yonder none may say, you showed me not the way
You never mentioned him to me

A few sweet words may guide, a lost one to his side
Or turn sad eyes on Calvary
So work as days go by, that yonder none may cry
You never mentioned him to me

Chorus
You never mentioned him to me
Nor help me the light to see
You met me day by day and knew I was a-stray
You never mentioned him to me

 

Rahab’s Working Faith


Rahabs Working Faith

When my wife and I found out we were going to have our fourth child, people immediately asked us three questions: First it was, “Don’t you know what causes that by now?” Yes we’re well aware of what causes this. Then they asked, “Well, do you know what you’re going to have?” Yes, a girl. Immediately followed by, “Have you picked out a name yet?” Yes we have, but sorry I cannot tell you what it is. Finally, “When is the baby due?” End of May.


You can continue Rahab’s story with part 2  – Rahab’s Outreaching Faith and part 3 – Rahab’s Persevering Faith


I have to admit that it makes me happy to see others excited about our new addition. I do not mind all the questions one bit. In fact, I especially love the question about her name.  Like most parents, we take our children’s names seriously because names matter. Whether we will admit it or not, we subconsciously stereotype and form expectations of our peers and co-workers simply based on their first name. What do you think when you hear the name Mercedes or Bubba? Like it or not those names carry certain connotations.

While we are keeping our baby’s full name top secret, I can assure you that we will not bestow on our daughter the name of Rahab. We are not alone in this, according the U.S. Social Security Administration, Rahab has never made it into the top 1,000 girl names since 1900 (the first year for which data is available). I suspect it is based on the descriptive noun that is attached to her name throughout scripture, “harlot.” Time and again, the Bible reader is reminded of the fact that Rahab was a prostitute. (We’ll address this in the last post.)

Nevertheless, she was a woman of impressive faith. So much so, her story, that of a Gentile woman nonetheless, is recorded in the annals of Hebrew history (cf. Joshua 2:1-21; 6:17, 23, 25). Furthermore, the New Testament writers point to her faithfulness in an effort to fortify the fragile faith of Jewish believers (cf. Hebrews 11:31). Finally, James used her, alongside Abraham of all people, as a classic example of an active, working faith (cf. James 2:24-25). The only time we are not reminded of her past sin is when she makes a surprise appearance in the linage of Jesus (cf. Matthew 1:5).

Over the next few post, I plan to explore how this godly woman’s faith shaped her actions and life. It is my prayer that we will be challenged to a deeper and more faithful service for our Lord through this study.

As the book of Joshua opens, we find that after 40 years of wilderness wondering the children of Israel are poised to enter the Promised Land. Though it was a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8; et. al.) numerous battles were to be fought against the Canaanite inhabitants before the land could be conquered. The first such encounter would be a key city in the Jordan Valley, Jericho. It is here, along the massive walls of this fortified city, that the story of Rahab’s legendary faith is recorded for all posterity.

In preparation for the battle, Joshua dispatched two spies to, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho” (Joshua 2:1a). The spy’s intent to remain undercover was somehow foiled, and they took refuge in “the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab” (2:1b-2). At some personal risk, she hid the Jewish spies from her own people, sending their pursuers on a wild goose chase (2:3-7). Then, when the coast was clear, “she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall” (2:15-16). It was her protecting the spies that the New Testament writers point to as an example of a working faith.

So what set Rahab apart from the other inhabitants of Jericho? She reported to the spies how all in Jericho had heard of the Lord God’s drying up of the Red Sea and His destroying the two kings of the Ammonites (Joshua 2:10; cf. Exodus 14:21-31; Numbers 21:21-35). Moreover she added, “And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in the heavens above and the earth beneath” (2:11). Everyone in this great city believed (or had faith if you will) in God and His mighty works, yet, their faith lead only to fearful trembling. (Their faith was useless, akin to the faith of demons cf. James 2:19). However, Rahab was different. Her faith lead to action and in turn, those actions led to the saving of her life and the life of her family.

Spend any time in church and hopefully, sooner rather than later, Ephesians 2:8-9 will be emphasized in a lesson:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

As Christians, this passage is a cornerstone belief of our faith. Our works cannot save us, rather, it is by God’s grace through faith we are saved. However, while we are not saved by works we are saved to work. Paul makes this abundantly clear in the next verse, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (v. 10). Thus, good works are the subsequent and resultant fruit and evidence of faith.

This is the point that James drives home in 2:14-16 of his epistle. “Faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead” (2:17). Faith that is not accompanied by works is stone-cold dead and frankly is no faith at all. A mere profession of faith is unworkable without that faith being put into practice. The godly works of a believer proves the existence of their faith. He sums up his argument in verses 24-26 noting:

“You see a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

Rahab demonstrated the reality of her faith when she protected the messengers of God. Thus, she became a model of faith completed by works. A model we as Christians today should follow.

But we need to recognize that a working faith like Rahab’s is more than sitting in the pew each Sunday and fulfilling our weekly spiritual duty. Do not get me wrong, that is important, but having a working faith like Rahab’s is so much more. Staying in James’ epistle we find a definition of a working faith called religion in this passage:

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle the tongue but deceives heart this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:26-27)

All Christians should be challenged by these two verses because it demands that our faith extends beyond our assemblies and worship services to the point it permeates our day-to-day lives.

James catalogs three characteristics of the truly religious person who has a working faith. First, they keep a tight rein on their speech (cf. James 3:2-6; 1 Peter 3:8-17). Second, they demonstrate sacrificial love by helping the helpless (cf. Matthew 25:34-36; 1 John 3:17-19). Finally, they keep themselves unstained by the world’s sinfulness (cf. James 4:4-10; Romans 12:2). This is the essence of the working faith.

God could have made the spies invisible or smote the people with blindness or used angels, but He chose to use a Gentile woman with courage to act on her faith. While our culture may not memorialize Rahab by naming our daughters after her, we as Christians should model our faith after hers. If I can help you with any spiritual need drop me a line at clay@claygentry.com. May God’s blessing be upon us as we keep sharing the good news.

What’s Your Story?


Blessed Assurance This Is My Story This Is My Song

If the story of your life was written for all to read, what would it reveal about you? Or, what if a song was sung to celebrate you, what would it say?

Let me encourage you friend, if you enjoy the blessed assurance found in Jesus, then make the story of your life the praising of your Savior all day, every day.

Why would you not praise Him? Fore it is through the Lord Jesus that you are an heir of salvation, purchased by God. Remember, it is through Him, you are born of His Spirit when you were washed in His blood.

Oh friend, give your life to Him with perfect submission and enjoy the foretaste of glory divine. Allow Him to purge evil from your heart and fill you with His goodness as you lose yourself in His mercy and love. Turn away from the allurements of the world they have nothing lasting to offer. Only in Him can you find the perfect delight of rest, happiness and blessings.

He is coming again one day to take you home. So tell the author now and say to the composer, “This is my story; this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long!”

If I can help you with any spiritual need drop me a line at clay@claygentry.com. May God blessing be upon us as we keep sharing the good news.


Many of you who have been in church, for even the shortest amount of time, recognized that I weaved together the words from “Blessed Assurance” (Fanny Crosby 1873) for this post. But just in case you are not familiar with the lyrics of the song they are as follows:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Refrain:
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

 

 

The #1 Reason Not To Sin


The #1 Reason Not To Sin

What motivates you to not give into temptation? Now, I realize, depending on the situation several different reasons might be cited. For example, an unhappily-married couple facing the temptation of divorce might stay together for the sake of the kids. Or, an employee may not steal because he or she is afraid of getting caught. Or, a teenage couple may abstain from sex because of the fear of pregnancy. These reasons are all well and good, however, there is one fatal flaw they all share… the motivation for not sinning is temporal in nature.

When the kids get older or leave for college, the marriage ends. When the employee figures out how not to get caught, he or she steals. When the teenagers no longer fear pregnancy, they will have sex. In essence, so long as our reasons for not sinning are solely based on our ever-changing circumstances, we will eventually yield to temptation and thus sin.

However, there is another approach to overcoming temptations; a motivation that will keep us from sinning. What is this reason you ask, well consider with me the example of young Joseph from Genesis 39:6b-10. In this reading, we find Joseph as a slave in the house of an Egyptian named Potiphar. But trouble is at hand in the form of Potiphar’s wife.

“Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Come sleep with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to go to bed with her.” (Genesis 39:6-10 ESV)

Did you notice what motivated Joseph to resist what must have been an intense time of temptation? It was not merely his position or the kindness of his master; but more importantly, it was his relationship with God. Read it again, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” For Joseph, his relationship with God was the #1 reason not to sin. He would do nothing to compromise that relationship.

Consequently, if we want to overcome temptation then we have to see our relationship with our Heavenly Father as the #1 reason not to sin. He has saved us and thus calls for us as His children to live lives of holiness before Him (cf. 1 Peter 1:15-16). Therefore, may our prayer echo that of the Psalmist, “[Lord] may [we] store up Your words in [our] heart, that [we] might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).

If I can help you with any spiritual need drop me a line at clay@claygentry.com. May God blessing be upon us as we keep sharing the good news.