Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Week in the Word; April 27 – May 3

Theme: Great Bible Themes – Grace

Grace is favor.  It is acceptance. It is goodness on display and demonstrated.

Grace is what God has given to man.

But there is more to it.  What is so “amazing” about God’s grace (with a tip of the hat to the most famous hymn ever written) is that this is not what man should have received from God.  There are two sides of this fact.  First, God’s grace is not shown because humanity in any way is deserving of such treatment.  He’s not showing us grace because it’s what He should show us.  That is why grace is sometimes called “unmerited favor.”  It is the “gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). God isn’t good to us because it’s His obligation to do so.  He gives us what we don’t deserve.

Second, God is gracious to us when what we actually deserve is condemnation.  This isn’t because we have been so bad, but rather because God is so holy.  God’s holiness demands—not suggests or tends toward, but demands—that He cannot, in any way, associate with sin (Hab. 1:13; Psa. 5:4).   We, on the other hand, all sin and fall short of His glory (Rom. 3:23).  Our sin demands His condemnation.  Instead of condemning He offers salvation, redemption, justification.  He is gracious.  That is, He doesn’t give us what we do deserve.

Through Jesus’ blood—the sacrifice given, the debt paid (Scripture uses several pictures for this)—God offers us salvation.  That blood serves to satisfy the penalty for our sin making possible God’s acceptance and receiving of us.  So, salvation is said to be by grace (Eph. 2:8).

This abbreviated format cannot begin to do justice to all that could and should be said about God’s great grace.  We will be reading texts that convey the very ideas expressed above.  We will also see how the term “grace” is used in a variety of other ways as well, all deriving their meaning from this fundamental truth.

Readings and Introductory Comments:

Romans 3:21-26; 5:1-17; Ephesians 2:1-10; Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7
The fact that we are able to be saved by Holy God is ample evidence of grace.  That God should ever show goodness and kindness requires grace.  Several great texts proclaim the greatness of God’s grace.

John 1:14-18; 2 Corinthians 8:9; 2 Timothy 1:8-11; 1 Peter 1:6-11
Jesus is the personification of grace.  Without His sacrifice no forgiveness is even possible. So, grace is by and in and through Jesus.

Romans 12:3-8; 15:15; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; Galatians 1:15-17; 2:7-10; Ephesians 3:1-13
Since our salvation is only through God’s grace and in Jesus that grace is demonstrated, it is most natural that the preaching of this message, the gospel, is referred to as grace as well. The phrase “the gospel of the grace of God” is quite natural (Acts 20:24).   Very often Paul refers to “the grace given to me” (Rom. 12:3; 1 Cor. 1:4; 3:10; Eph. 3:2, 7, 8; etc.).  It is difficult to distinguish at times—and probably not necessary—whether he’s speaking of his salvation or the privilege of preaching the gospel.  As an extension of that then, the gifts given by God to His children as members of Christ’s body are referred to as grace as well (Rom. 12:3-8).

2 Corinthians 6:1-2; Galatians 1:6; 2:21; 5:4; Hebrews 10:29; 12:15; Jude 4
One word used in Scripture for sin means to bend or twist, therefore to pervert.  It is typically translated as “iniquity” (Psa. 32:2; 51:2).  So God’s good grace can be twisted or perverted.  The good that is intended for those whom God loves can be thwarted, rejected, and lost.  So, as would be expected, these possibilities, and warnings against such, are not uncommon.

2 Corinthians 9:8, 13-15; Colossians 4:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:16; 2 Timothy 2:1; Hebrews 13:9; 2 Peter 3:18
Since our God is gracious, so ought we to be gracious as well. Grace is to be a part of the Christian’s live and demonstrated in Christian living.

Rom. 1:7; 16:20
Something important, but easily missed, happens in the many of the New Testament books, especially the epistles; the greeting expresses grace to the recipients which is repeated in the conclusion.  We offer only one example for our reading, but notice how this is also true in the following books: 1 Cor. 1:3; 16:23; 2 Cor. 1:2; 13:14; Gal. 1:3; 6:18; Eph. 1:2; 4:18; Php. 1:2; 4:23; Col. 1:2; 4:18; 1 Thess. 1:1; 5:28; 2 Thess. 1:2; 3:18; 1 Tim. 1:2; 6:21; 2 Tim. 1:2; 4:22; Titus 1:4; 3:13; Phm. 3, 25; 1 Pet. 1:2; 5:12; 2 Pet. 1:2; 3:18; Rev. 1:4; 22:21.  Grace is the bookends for the messages to Christians and the church.

Study/Thought Questions

Romans 3:21-26

  • By what are we justified? Through whom is redemption found? And by what is it received? (vv. 24-25)
  • What does this demonstrate or show? (v. 25)

Romans 5:1-17

  • By what do we gain access into grace? (v. 2)
  • By whom has the gift of grace abounded to many? (v. 15)

Ephesians 2:1-10

  • By what and through what have we been saved? (v. 8)
  • By what and through what have we not been saved? (v. 9)

Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7

  • To whom has God’s grace appeared? (2:11)
  • By what are we justified? (3:7)
  • By what are we not saved? (3:5)

John 1:14-18

  • Of what is the Word full? (v. 14)
  • What have we received from His fullness? (v. 16)

2 Corinthians 8:9

  • What are we able to become because of Jesus’ grace? (v. 9)

2 Timothy 1:8-11

  • We are saved because of what? (v. 9)
  • We are not saved because of what? (v. 9)

1 Peter 1:6-11

  • What about God’s grace were the prophets curious? (v. 11)

Romans 12:3-8; 15:15

  • Gifts differ according to what? (12:6)
  •  What was Paul as a result of God’s grace? (15:15)

Ephesians 3:1-13

  • What was Paul made according to the gift of God’s grace? (v. 7

2 Corinthians 6:1-2

  • In what wrong way might one receive God’s grace? (v. 1)

Galatians 1:6; 2:21; 5:4

  • What would nullify God’s grace? (2:21)
  • What has one done who seeks justification by the law? (5:4)

Jude 4

  • Into what have some perverted God’s grace? (v. 4)

Colossians 4:6

  • In what way should a Christian demonstrate grace? (v. 6)

2 Thessalonians 2:16

  • What do we as Christians have by grace? (v. 16)

2 Peter 3:18

  • In what are we to grow? (v. 18)

Meditation Thoughts:

If our salvation is by grace and not by works then what role does obedience play?

What part does Jesus’ sinlessness play in His sacrifice?

In the familiar parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32; not a part of this week’s reading), what role does grace play for the prodigal?  for the older brother?

How is our giving an act of grace? (2 Cor. 8:7)

Memory Verse:

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (Titus 2:11)

A Week in the Word, April 20-26

Theme: Psalms & Proverbs—The Value of Wisdom

A post in my FaceBook feed the morning encapsulates quite well what the book of Proverbs is all about: “Why does life have to be so hard?” (from a young, struggling wife and mother).  Life is best live when we live it with wisdom.

So many of the decisions we make and the paths we follow in life—though we may be trying to do what appears to be in our best interest—only serve to make life more difficult.  The book of Proverbs addresses this very problem.  The fact is many voices appeal to us in life and depending on which ones to which we choose to listen, we will either increase our frustration and angst or move in the direction of reward and fulfillment.

So many of the Proverbs are on such a practical level of everyday life.  It is so interesting that the issues and concerns and potential pitfalls and danger areas of ancient life are really no different from modern life.  As the saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” (Is that an example of a modern proverb?).

A proverb is a pithy saying expressing general truth.  It’s “general” truth because many of them are not hard-and-fast rules, they are general principles of truth.  There may be exceptions.  But overall, in the big picture, they are quite true.

The Proverbs cover a wide range of topics from the use of the tongue, family relationships, business practices, sexual fidelity, work ethic, finances, self control and so on.  The challenge in reading and studying them is that they are not arranged in any type of topical format.  For much of the book the individual proverbs are usually one verse (sometimes two) long and simply strung together as a rather random collection.  An exception to that is first nine chapters which are more extended appeals to pursue wisdom and avoid folly.  Much of the content here is addressed to young men, typically as a father and mother to a son.

This week’s reading will focus on the promotion and excellence of wisdom as a deliberate choice to be made in life.  The typical distinction of the book of Proverbs is between wisdom and folly.  Also, the format of our reading and questions will be different from the usual, the questions will immediately follow the listed readings and should be considered while reading.

Readings, Introductory Comments and Questions:

Proverbs 1:20-33             13:1, 10, 14, 20               23:15, 19, 23, 24
        2:1-22                         14:3, 6, 8, 16, 24, 33      24:3, 5, 6, 7, 14, 23
        3:13-35                       15:2, 7, 12, 20, 31, 33    25:12
        4:1-27                         16:14, 16, 21, 23            26:5, 12
        8:1-36                         17:16, 24, 28                   27:11
        9:1-18                         18:4, 15                           28:11, 26
        10:1, 8, 14, 23, 31     19:20                               29:3, 8, 9, 11, 15
        11:2, 29, 30                20:1, 18, 26                    30:3, 24
        12:15, 18                    21:11, 20, 22, 30            31:26

In considering a life of wisdom the Proverbs approach it from all angles: the obvious and deliberate extolling of wisdom with encouragement to pursue and gain it, the blessings and benefits of a wise life, the corresponding problems and troubles that result in failing to live wisely, the attitudes and approach one should take regarding it, and even for wisdom to be personified and speak to the reader.

Following are some questions to think about as you read.

• What blessings and benefits does wisdom and wise living provide?

• What should be our attitude and outlook regarding wisdom?

• What are characteristics of wise people?

• What do wise people do?  What do they not do?

Proverbs 1:7, 29          10:27                    22:4
                   2:5                14:2, 26, 27         23:17
                   3:7                15:16, 33             24:21
                   8:13             16:6                      28:14
                   9:10             19:23                    31:30

The foundation is the fear of the Lord (9:10).  Predictably, many Proverbs touch on this fundamental them.

• What do these proverbs teach us about fearing God?

Proverbs 2:6                                      16:1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 33
                  3:11, 12, 19                       17:3, 15
                  3:23, 33                              18:22
                  5:21                                     19:14, 17, 21
                 6:16                                      20:10, 12, 22, 23, 24, 27
                10:3, 22                                 21:1, 2, 12, 30
                11:1, 20                                 22:2, 12
                12:2, 22                                 25:21, 22
                15:3, 8, 9, 11, 25, 26, 29     29:13

If God is to be feared and that relationship with God is basis of wisdom, then we need to know God.

• What do these verses teach us about God’s nature?

 

Meditation Thoughts:

What does it mean to “fear” God?

What is required for a person to be considered wise?

How does the New Testament say we attain wisdom? (James 1:5)  By what means might God give it?

 

Memory Verse:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the HOly One is insight.” (Prov. 9:10)

A Week in the Word, April 13-19

Theme: Christian Living – Prayer

How does one measure spiritual health and vitality?   That’s a tough one.  It’s not by attendance to worship assemblies and Bible studies.  It isn’t necessarily by participation of religious acts and rituals.  It’s not by frequency and quantity of Bible reading.  Sure, all of these and others are going to be a part of a spiritually healthy life, but they can also all be present in a weak, shallow, and pretentious faith.

How about prayer? Even more specifically what about personal and private prayer?

The presence or absence of such prayer is a good indicator isn’t it?  It is a heart and soul desirous of a close and pleasing relationship with God that engages in such prayer.  It’s compassion and love that moves one to offer petitions to  God on behalf of the hurting and helpless.  It’s a devoted, humble and submissive person who is compelled to take everything to God in prayer.

Yes, this seems to be an excellent indicator.

Like Jesus’ own disciples, a sense of inadequacy drives His followers to want to know how to pray (see Luke 11:1).  Is there any other activity relative to one’s relationship with God in which men have engaged any more frequently in the Bible than prayer?   Prayer is never absent in the life of the righteous.

This week’s readings will focus on instructive and encouraging texts regarding prayer as well as several examples; that is, prayers offered to God, the contents of which are recorded in Scripture.  Example is a powerful teacher.

Readings and Introductory Comments:

Matthew 6:5-15; Luke 11:1-13
Twice Jesus uses the same model to teach about prayer and praying.  The best known, of course, is within the Sermon on the Mount.  The other is when one of His disciples requests that Jesus teach them to pray.  This is typically called—especially Matthew’s account—the “Lord’s Prayer.”  It would be better named the “Model Prayer” since it is given in a context of preaching and instruction.

James 5:13-18; Philippians 4:4-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17; 1 Timothy 2:1-10
These texts all engage in teaching and encouragement to prayer from the pen of James and Paul.

John 17:1-26; Matthew 26:36-46
Jesus prayed with great frequency.  Often the text simply acknowledges the fact of Jesus having prayed without telling what He prayed.  He rose before dawn to pray (Mk. 1:35).  He prayed all night (Lk. 6:12).  He prayed in anticipation of great and important events.  These two readings are just such prayers; one in the upper room on the occasion of the Last Supper, the other in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Acts 4:23-31; Philippians 1:3-11; Colossians 1:3-14
The apostles often prayed as well.  Here are some of those prayers.  One is by the apostles as persecution and opposition began in Jerusalem against the church, and then two samples of prayers of Paul which he often incorporated into his letters.

Psalm 17; 86; 1 Kings 8:22-53; 2 Kings 19:14-19
These readings are all examples of prayers offered by kings.  The Psalms texts are the only two of the Psalms that carry the inscription “A Prayer of David.” Solomon’s great prayer (1 Kings 8) is at the dedication of the temple and Hezekiah’s (2 Kings 19) when Jerusalem is besieged by the Assyrians.

Jeremiah 32:16-25; Daniel 9:1-23
Having read prayers of Jesus, prayers of apostles and prayers of kings, we now consider prayers of prophets. Jeremiah had shockingly been forbidden to pray for the people because of their belligerence (Jer. 7:16; 11:14; 14:11).  He did, however, pray for understanding of God’s actions and instruction.  Daniel was renowned for his praying—remember, that’s what landed him in the lion’s den.  Here his prayer is for God’s people.

Study/Thought Questions

Matthew 6:5-15

  • How ought one to pray?  As compared to what/whom?  (vv. 5-6)
  • When does God know the needs about which we pray? (v. 8)
  • What is the first petition Jesus says to make in prayer? (v. 9)
  • With what discussion does Jesus conclude this teaching on prayer? (vv. 14-15)

Luke 11:1-13

  • How does Jesus follow up this teaching on prayer? (vv. 5-13)

James 5:13-18

  • What will save one who is sick? (v. 15)
  • Whose prayer is powerful? (v. 16)

Philippians 4:4-7

  • How ought a Christian to combat anxiety? (v. 6)
  • What should accompany prayer and supplication? (v. 6)

1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

  • In addition to and accompanying prayer, what ought a Christian to do? (vv. 16-17)

1 Timothy 2:1-10

  • When praying for persons in authority, for what should we pray? (v. 2)
  • What is good and pleasing in God’s sight? (vv. 2-3)
  • What should be absent when we pray? (v. 8)

John 17:1-26

  • For whom does Jesus pray? (vv. 1, 9, 20)
  • What is  Jesus’ desire in regard to His followers? (v. 21)

Matthew 26:36-46

  • How many times did Jesus pray in Gethsemane? (v. 44)
  • What was the basic content of all three prayers? (vv. 39, 42)

Acts 4:23-31

  • From what had the apostles been “released”? (vv. 1-3)
  • What request was made in this prayer? (v. 29)

Philippians 1:3-11

  • Why did Paul continually remember the Philippians in his prayers? (v. 5)
  • What desire did he have for them? (v. 9)

Colossians 1:3-14

  • What desire did Paul have for the Colossians? (vv. 9-10)
  • What else? (v. 11)

Psalm 17; 86

  • What did David desire from God? (17:7)
  • For what was God praised? (86:5)
  • What desire is expressed in 86:11?

1 Kings 8:22-53

  • What is the fundamental request of this prayer? (vv. 32, 34, 36, 39, etc.)

2 Kings 19:14-19

  • What did Hezekiah wish for God to do? (v. 19)

Jeremiah 32:16-25

  • How does Jeremiah identify God? (v. 17)

Daniel 9:1-23

  • What accompanied Daniel’s prayer? (v. 3)
  • What did he confess? (v. 5)

Meditation Thoughts:

What role does prayer play in your spiritual life?  How might it be improved?

What frustrations do you feel or experience relative to prayer?

If God knows what we need before we ask (Matt. 6:8), then why pray?

What promise of God is intended to aid our prayers? (see Rom. 8:26-27)  What in your life that you pray for leaves you puzzled as to how to pray about it?

Memory Verse:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Php. 4:6)

A Week in the Word, April 6 -12

Theme: Jesus—The Son of God

The critical issue regarding Jesus is His identity as God’s Son.  Saying the words “Jesus Christ the Son of God” flows easily from our tongues, but the weight of meaning for those titles can just as easily escape us.

Each of the Gospels serves the purpose to present Jesus precisely in this way—He is God’s own Son.  Mark’s opening statement is, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus, Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).  As  John begins to conclude his account, he says that everything that he has written has been intended to produce faith in Jesus as the Son of God (John 20:30-31).  The presentation of  Jesus of Nazareth is quite intentional, He will be known as far more than the iconoclastic rabbi from Galilee.

The roles Son of God and Messiah are synonymous (Messiah and Christ are Hebrew and Greek words for the same thing—anointed one).  When Peter makes his “great” confession of Jesus’ identity it is that He is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16).

“Son of God” is an expression of a relationship and this particular way of saying it focuses on Jesus and is, as we have noted, the emphasis of Scripture.  Sometimes, though the same relationship is spoken of in different terms.  For instance, there are those occasions in which God speaks of Jesus as “beloved Son,” both at His baptism and the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 3:17; 17:5).  Jesus, in turn, calls upon God as His Father at the tender age of 12 in the temple and in the model prayer (Luke 2:49; 11:2).

Of course, to be the Son of God, makes one God as well.  To claim this role is to lay claim to being deity.  For this very reason Jesus was vilified by his opponents.  To them it was blasphemous.  But if true, and it was/is, the complete submission, obedience, and homage were in order.

Since the Gospels set out to show Jesus as God’s Son, our readings this week could be all four gospels in their entirety.   That not being realistic we will select several incidents to read from Jesus’ life in which this identity is explicitly stated.

Readings and Introductory Comments:

Luke 1:26-38; 2:41-52

In the startling revelation to Mary, the angel informs the young virgin that the child to be born to her will fill important and exalted roles; king on David’s throne reigning over the house of Jacob as well as Son of the Most High, the Son of God.

At an early age Jesus recognizes God to be His Father (long standing scholarly debate has focused on “messianic consciousness,” that is, at what age did Jesus realize He was God’s Son?).  At age 12 He viewed the temple as “My Father’s house” (the same designation He gives it later when He cleanses the temple; John 2:16).

Matthew 3:13-17; 17:1-8

Though the Bible is God’s word, rarely does He audibly speak for people in general to hear.  Not leaving any room for question or subjective interpretations, God plainly states on the occasion of Jesus’ baptism and His incredible transfiguration that Jesus is indeed His beloved Son upon whom His pleasure rests and to whom men must listen.

Matthew 14:22-32; 16:13-20; Mark 3:7-12; Luke 4:38-41

The miracles of Jesus were intended to have an impact, not just on the persons who may have benefited from them (those healed or had demons removed, etc.), but, of course, also on those who witnessed them.  They were intended to demonstrate that Jesus could not merely be a man, but rather God’s own Son.  And so Peter was able to confess Him to be.

An interesting feature of His miracles of casting out demons was that often these spirits would confess Jesus’ identity.  They well knew exactly who He was, though Jesus preferred to not have their testimony.

John 5:1-18; 10:22-42; Matthew 26:57-68

The very purpose of the Gospels—to show Jesus to be God’s Son—was also the point at which Jesus’ enemies focused their attacks and for which they finally killed Him.

1 John 4:13-21; 5:1-5, 20-21

The letter of 1 John was written many years after Jesus had ascended back to God.  Over time, some began to doubt and question whether or not Jesus was really God’s Son or whether or not God’s Son had come to earth in the flesh.  As is still true to this day, Jesus’ identity as God’s Son is the critical issue.

Study/Thought Questions

Luke 1:26-38

  • How did the angel refer to Mary? (v. 28)
  • What did the angel say Mary had “found” with God? (v. 30)
  • What did the angel say the solution would be to the problem of Mary’s virginity, yet bearing a child? (v. 35)
  • How did Mary identify herself? (v. 38)

Luke 2:41-52

  • Why was Jesus taken to Jerusalem by His parents? (v. 41)
  • What was Jesus doing when His parents found Him? (v. 46)
  • Whom did Mary say had been searching for Him? (v. 48)

Matthew 3:13-17

  • What was John’s response to Jesus’ request to be baptized by him? (v. 14)
  • What did John witness following Jesus coming up out of the water? (v. 16)

Matthew 17:1-8

  • Who accompanied Jesus up on the mountain? (v. 1)
  • Who appeared with Jesus after His appearance changed? (v. 3)
  • How did Peter think the occasion should be commemorated? (v. 4)
  • What was God’s response to Peter’s suggestion? (v. 5)

Matthew 14:22-32

  • How did Jesus reach the disciples’ boat on Galilee? (v. 25)
  • What did the disciples think they saw? (v. 26)
  • What was Peter’s request? (v. 28)

Matthew 16:13-20

  • Whom did the disciples say that people were saying Jesus was? (v. 14)
  • From where did Jesus say Peter had learned His identity? (v. 17)
  • Upon what rock did Jesus promise to build His church? (v. 18)

Mark 3:7-12

  • Why did the great crowd come to Jesus? (v. 8, see also v. 10)
  • What did Jesus’ healing of many people prompt “all who had diseases” to do? (v. 10)

Luke 4:38-41

  • Why did the people wait till after sunset to come the house where Jesus was? (v. 40)
  • The next day, what did Jesus say took priority over healing and casting out demons? (see vv. 42-44)

John 5:1-18

  • Why did the Jews tack exception to Jesus’ healing the lame man? (v. 16)
  • That Jesus broke the Sabbath in the Jews’ view was bad enough, but for what reason did they want to kill Jesus? (v. 18)

John 10:22-42

  • What is it that Jesus said bore witness about Him? (v. 25)
  • What was the Jews’ response to Jesus saying “I and my Father are one”? (v. 31)
  • Of what was Jesus accused because He said, “I am the Son of God”? (v. 36)

Matthew 26:57-68

  • What did the high priest want Jesus to admit? (v. 63)
  • What was the priest’s response to Jesus’ response? (v. 65)
  • What was the judgment of the Council based on Jesus’ words? (v. 66)

1 John 4:13-21

  • In whom does God abide? (v. 15)
  • In whom also does God abide? (v. 16)

1 John 5:1-5, 20-21

  • Who has been born of God? (v. 1)
  • Who overcomes the world? (v. 5)
  • Who is true? (v. 20)

Meditation Thoughts:

  • Why would Jesus not want the testimony of demons?
  • How ought we to respond to the world’s efforts to “honor” Jesus as a great moral teacher, prophet, founder of a major religion or an otherwise highly influential figure of human history?
  • How is it that our faith in Jesus as God’s Son allows us to overcome the world? (see 1 John 5:1-5)

Memory Verse:

“And we know that the Son of God has come and given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20)