Monthly Archives: May 2014

A Week in the Word, May 25-31

Theme: Christian Living – Faith

This week’s category is “Christian Living.”  In the three previous week’s readings when we have visited this category we’ve read on discipleship, becoming a Christian, and prayer.  Another of our categories is “Bible Themes.”  In those three week’s readings we’ve read about sin and forgiveness, worship, and grace.  This week’s theme could easily fit in either of those categories.  Faith is certainly among the greatest of Bible themes and it must also define Christian living; after all, we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).  Truth be told, there is much overlap not only between Bible Themes and Christian Living, but among many other categories and themes as well.

Could it be any more plain; could it be any more forceful?  “And without faith it is impossible to please him” (Heb. 11:6).

We could add to that the fact that our salvation is by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8), God justifies the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26), faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4), and that faith is our assurance and conviction (Heb. 11:1).

That we truly understand faith, then, is of supreme concern.  Is it not, though, one of those terms and concepts with which we are so familiar that we assume understanding?
“Everybody knows what faith is.”   Do they?  Really?

Faith that saves and sustains and secures us is the faith we want and need.

Readings and Introductory Comments:

Hebrews 11
This, of course, is the great “Faith Chapter” of the Bible.  The chapter is actually an extended discussion of the concluding thoughts of chapter 10.  The readers are being encouraged to endure and not “shrink back” because “we are…of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul” (Heb. 10:39, NASB).  Chapter 11 is a description and discussion of that kind of faith.

In it, numerous examples of Bible characters—starting with Abel and ending with the prophets—are used to demonstrate this faith.  In a sense, the entire Bible is about showing and teaching and building faith.  So it is that faith truly does originate in the word (Rom. 10:17).

John 20:24-31; 8:12-30; 11:17-27
The very purpose of the Gospel records, according to John, is to produce faith in Jesus as God’s Son.  Our reading will cover not only that portion of John’s Gospel as he explains this truth, but also a couple of occasions when express confessions of faith are made in response to Jesus’ works.

Romans 3:21-26; 4:1-25; 5:1-11; 10:5-17; Galatians 2:15-21; 3:1-14, 23-29
One of the great theological challenges and debates of the early church had to do with the nature of our justification.  Paul argued that justification was by faith, as opposed to being by works of the Law.  Both Romans and Galatians address this critical point and go to great lengths in their discussion of faith.

2 Corinthians 5:4-10; James 2:14-26; 1 Peter. 1:3-9; 1 John 5:1-12
Quite expectedly, faith is a frequent topic throughout the epistles.  These readings represent but a sampling of all that could be read on the subject.

Study/Thought Questions

Hebrews 11

  • What is faith? (v. 1)
  • What do we understand by faith? (v. 3)
  • What must we believe about God? (v. 6)
  • For whom is God not ashamed to be called their God? (v. 16)
  • What had those who were commended through their faith not received? (v. 39)

John 20:24-31

  • Whom does Jesus say is blessed? (v. 29)
  • What is available “by believing”? (v. 31)

John 8:12-30

  • What is the consequence of failing to believe in Jesus? (v. 24)

John 11:17-27

  • What did Martha confess? (v. 27)

Romans 3:21-26

  • How do we receive the blessing of Jesus’ sacrifice of propitiation? (v. 25)
  • What is God able to be to the one who has faith in Jesus? (v. 26)

Romans 4:1-25

  • In whose footsteps are we to walk? (v. 12)
  • Why does our justification depend on faith? (v. 16)

Romans 5:1-11

  • What do we have since we are justified by faith? (v. 1)
  • Into what have we gained access by faith? (v. 2)
  • By what are we justified? (v. 9)

Romans 10:5-17

  • On what stipulation is salvation available? (v. 9)

Galatians 2:15-21

  • Who will be justified by works of the law? (v. 16)
  • If righteousness is through the law, then what is true? (v. 21)

Galatians 3:1-14, 23-29

  • Whose son are those who are of faith? (v. 7)
  • How shall the righteous live? (v. 11)
  • Since faith has come, what is no longer true? (v. 25)

2 Corinthians 5:4-10

  • How do we walk? (v. 7)

 James 2:14-26

  • What is the condition of faith apart from works? (v. 17)
  • Is a person justified by faith alone? (v. 24)

1 Peter 1:3-9

  • Through what are we able to be guarded by God’s power? (v. 5)

1 John 5:1-12

  • Who has been born of God? (v. 1)
  • What is “the victory”? (v. 4)
  • What has one done who does not believe God? (v. 10)

Meditation Thoughts:

  • What is faith?  (Give as an encompassing description as possible)
  • How is “my faith” to be distinguished from others’?  How is it not to be distinguished?
  • Here’s one from Jesus: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk. 18:8)

Memory Verse:

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Heb. 11:6)

A Week in the Word, May 18-24

Theme: Jesus – Miracles

When Peter addressed a curious yet incredulous crowd on Pentecost (Acts 2), his task was nothing short of monumental. He had to prove the assertion he would eventually make, that Jesus the Nazarene whom they had crucified, was in reality Lord and Christ as per the will of God (Acts 2:36).

Where to begin?

Peter said, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst…you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:22-23).  The force of what Peter said was that “Jesus’ miracles were His divine credentials, proclaiming  God’s appointment of Him as the Messiah” (Ralph Earle, Word Meanings in the New Testament, 99; also see similar characterizations of Jesus in John 3:2; Lk. 24:19; Acts 10:38).

The purpose of the miracles was never to heal all of the sick, lame, and blind, cast out every demon, or to raise all of the dead.  The fact is, Jesus didn’t even heal everyone who sought Him for that purpose (see Mark 1:35-39).  Instead the miracles’ primary purpose, though they certainly served people, was to identify this rabbi from Galilee as far more than just an ordinary man.  As His own apostles exclaimed at the conclusion of one of His miracles, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matt. 14:33).

There are, of course, numerous accounts of individual and specific miracles that Jesus performed.  Most of these are healing the sick but also include casting out demons, feeding multitudes, raising the dead, and power over nature—walking on water, calming a storm, catches of fish.  There are also numerous general statements of Jesus miraculous deeds.  For instance, Matthew writes: “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan” (Matt. 4:23-25; see also Matthew 8:16; 14:35-36; 15:30-31; Mark 1:34; 6:55-56; Luke 4:40).

John sums up well the ultimate purpose of Jesus’ miracles (and even for the recored of them we find in the Gospels). He says near the end of his Gospel, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

Readings and Introductory Comments:

John 2:1-12; 5:1-18; 9:1-41; 11:1-44
John records the first miracle Jesus performed, turning water to wine at the wedding feast in Cana.  Not only that but John records only eight of Jesus’ miracles (as compared to 18 in Matthew, 18 in Mark, and 20 in Luke) and of those, six are unique to John.  Among these are the healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  John has a particular interest in not only recording the miracle, but also showing how it effects faith.

Matthew 8:23-27; 14:13-21; Mark 6:45-52; Luke 5:1-11
Some of Jesus’ miracles were not performed directly upon people—such as healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons—but rather an exercise of power and authority over the natural order.  He calmed the storm, fed multitudes from meager portions, walked on water, and prompted a massive catch of fish.  These demonstrations of divine power also had a huge impact on the faith of those who witnessed them.  Incidentally, the miracle of feeding the 5,000 (Matthew 14) is the only one of Jesus’ miracles to be recorded in all four Gospels.

Mark 2:1-12; 5:1-20; Luke 17:11-19
Most often the intent of the Gospel record of Jesus’ miracles was to not just give an account of His divine power, other factors figure into the historical record as well.  We’ve already noted how this is often true in John’s accounts as he focuses on the effect on people’s faith.  Other important matters are often very much a part of what’s going on and contribute to the overall message Jesus’ ministry.  For instance there was sometimes opposition to Jesus’ actions (Mark 2), at other times important lessons were taught based on the events (Luke 17).

Study/Thought Questions

John 2:1-12

  • What was Jesus’ initial response to His mother’s request that He do something about the lack of wine? (v. 4)
  • What did His miracle manifest? (v. 11)

John 5:1-18

  • How long had this man been invalid? (v. 5)
  • Why were the Jews persecuting Jesus? (v. 16)

John 9:1-41

  • How did this man first identify Jesus? (v. 11)  What did he say of Him the next time? (v. 17)  The next time? (v. 33)
  • What did the man finally confess? (v. 38)

John 11:1-44

  • How long did Jesus wait to leave after learning Lazarus was sick? (v. 6)
  • What did Martha believe would happen to her brother? (v. 24)
  • How long had Lazarus been dead? (v. 39)

Matthew 8:23-27

  • What was Jesus doing as it stormed? (v. 24)
  • What did Jesus call His disciples? (v. 26)

Matthew 14:13-21

  • What did Jesus tell His disciples to do? (v. 16)
  • How many leftovers were collected? (v. 20)

Mark 6:45-52

  • How did Jesus reach the disciples in the boat on Galilee? (v. 48)]
  • Why had the disciples not gained any insight from Jesus’ miracles? (v. 52)

Luke 5:1-11

  • Why did Simon see no reason to put out their nets into the water? (v. 5)
  • What did Peter, James, and John do after their experience of the miraculous catch of fish? (v. 11)

Mark 2:1-12

  • How did the paralytic’s friends get him to Jesus? (v. 4)
  • Of what sin was Jesus accused? (v. 7) Why?

Mark 5:1-20

  • How did the demon identify Jesus? (v. 7)
  • Where did the unclean spirits go after leaving the man? (v. 13)
  • In what condition did the owners of the swine find the man when they came? (v. 15)

Luke 17:11-19

  • How many lepers begged Jesus for mercy? (vv. 12-13)
  • How many of them thanked Jesus? (vv. 15-16)

Meditation Thoughts:

Were those present to witness the miracles of Jesus at any advantage over those who have only read about them from Scripture?  Was believing “easier” for them?

What was Jesus priority above healing the sick and lame and raising the dead?  What does that say to us about our efforts in ministering to the needs of people and preaching/teaching the gospel?

Do the miracles of Scripture prove the Bible’s inspiration or does the Bible’s inspiration prove that the miracles recorded there are true?

Memory Verse:

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

A Week in the Word, May 11-17

Theme: God – The Holy Spirit

In making disciples of the whole world, Jesus said to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19).  Sometimes the word “trinity” is used to describe deity, though the word itself is never found in Scripture.  But like the famous “Great Commission” passage, others also unquestionably link these three—see 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; and Titus 3:4-6 for example.

In our quest to know God better, that obviously includes Jesus who is the exact representation of His nature (Heb. 1:3).  And surely our knowledge of God would be deficient without knowing the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit.  He is often referred to simply as “the Spirit.”  Other times though He is designated as the “Spirit of Jesus,” “Spirit of Christ,” “Helper,” Spirit of truth,” “Spirit of grace,” “Spirit of life,” “eternal Spirit,” and so on (Acts 16:7; 1 Pet. 1:11; John14:16, 17; Heb. 10:29; Rom. 8:2).

Though His presence is most evident in the New Testament, He is seen within the pages of the Old Testament as well, starting at creation (Gen. 1:2).  He plays quite an active role in the life and ministry of Jesus and  is most prominently seen in the early church, as shown in Acts.

In no way should we fear or shy away from the Holy Spirit and His work.  He is to be understood precisely as the Bible reveals Him. The words of C. J. Horton are appropriate: “In the sense that the Spirit never rules our lives completely we are never ‘completely’ Christian, but only to the extent that the Holy Spirit does direct our lives, are we Christians at all.”

Readings and Introductory Comments:

Matthew 1:18-20; 3:11, 16; 4:1; 10:20; 12:28, 31; 28:19
This series of brief readings gives us a feel for the work and involvement of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of Jesus.

John 14:16-18, 25-31; 15:26-27; 16:13-16; 20:19-23; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:1-11; 2:1-21
Jesus’ departure from earth following His death and resurrection was a reality for which the apostles needed instruction and assistance.  The Holy Spirit was to play a major role in leading and directing them.  Consequently, Jesus gave instruction and promises about the coming of the Holy Spirit and all that He would do.  Not only that, but the pouring out of God’s Spirit had been prophesied—as Peter explained;  Acts 2 and Amos 2) and marked the initiation of God’s kingdom on earth.

Acts 8:4-24; 1 Corinthians 12-14
One of the results of God’s Spirit coming on men was the practice of miraculous spiritual gifts.  Not surprisingly, misunderstanding and abuse accompanied the miraculous presence of the Spirit.

Romans 8:1-30; Galatians 5:13-26
It is God’s intent for His children, to whom is given His Spirit and therefore in whom He dwells (Acts 2:38; 5:32), to walk in and be guided by that Spirit.

1 Peter 1:9-12; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16; 2 Peter 1:19-21
One critical role of the Holy Spirit is His participation in the process of the revelation of God’s will to man and the inspiration in delivering that same message, both in oral and written forms.

Study/Thought Questions

Matthew 1:18-20

  • Mary, Joseph’s wife was found to be with child from whom?

Matthew 3:11, 16

  • What did John promise that Jesus would do? (v. 11)
  • In what form did the Spirit descend on Jesus? (v. 16)

Matthew 4:1

  • Where did the Spirit lead Jesus? (v. 1)

Matthew 10:20

  • What did Jesus promise the apostles that the Spirit would do? (v. 20)

Matthew 28:19

  • In whose name did Jesus instruct that disciples should be baptized? (v. 19)

John 14:16-18, 25-31; 15:26-27; 16:13-16

  • How does Jesus refer to the Spirit? (14:16)
  • What would the Spirit do for the apostles (14:26)
  • What would the Spirit do for Jesus? (15:26)
  • From whom would the Spirit speak? (16:13)

John 20:19-23

  • What act preceded Jesus saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit”? (v. 22)

Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:1-11

  • What was the “promise of my Father”? (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5)
  • What was the “power” they would receive? (Acts 1:8)

Acts 2:1-21

  • What was the visual manifestation of the Spirit’s presence? (v. 3)
  • What happened as a result of the apostles being filled with the Spirit? (v. 4)
  • How did some try to explain what they were hearing? (v. 13)

Acts 8:4-24

  • How did the people of Samaria receive the Holy Spirit? (v. 17)
  • What impressed Simon? (v. 18)

1 Corinthians 12-14

  • How many miraculous gifts are listed? (12:8-10)
  • What is the more excellent way? (12:31)
  • Miraculous gifts will remain until what happens? (13:8-10)
  • Which if the miraculous gifts is most desirable? (14:1)
  • Of what is God a God of? (v. 33)

Romans 8:1-30

  • What has the law of the Spirit of life done for us? (v. 2)
  • What does the Spirit do for us in prayer? (v. 26)

Galatians 5:13-26

  • How can we combat the desires of the flesh? (v. 16)
  • What are the fruit of the Spirit? (vv. 22-23)

1 Peter 1:10-12

  • About what did the prophets search and inquire diligently? (vv. 10-11)

1 Corinthians 2:6-16

  • Who has taught the words used to make known the mind of God? (v. 13)

2 Peter 1:19-21

  • What did the Holy Spirit do for those who spoke from God? (v. 21)

Meditation Thoughts:

 

  • What does it mean that baptism is to be done “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”?
  • What does it mean to walk  by the Spirit or to be led by the Spirit?
  • Take a personal inventory and determine to what extent you are in possession of the fruit of the Spirit.  Are their areas that need strengthened or improved?
  • How is it that one might “grieve” the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30)?

Memory Verse:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Rom. 8:26)

A Week in the Word; May 4-10

Theme: Biographical – David

King David of Israel is most famously remembered as the man after God’s own heart.

He’s also the man known for egregious sin and severe family troubles.

These aren’t contradictions, they are evident truths about a godly man that remind us that our own service to God—and even successful service—is not measured by perfection, but rather by a human—read, weak and flawed—heart wholly given to God.  That is what is remembered about David and the substance of his legacy.  Comparisons like, “his heart was not wholly true the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father” are not uncommon for later kings (1 Kings 11:4; 15:3).

David’s impact is not confined to the Old Testament. In the New Testament He is the first Old Testament  character named.  Not only that He’s the second person overall named, following only Jesus; and that in the New Testament’s opening sentence (Matt. 1:1).

The attitude of the first century peers of Jesus and the apostles is obvious in Peter’s Pentecost sermon.  To prove the incredible claim that Jesus was raised from the dead by God in order to show that He is “both Lord and Christ,” Peter appeals repeatedly to David (Acts 2:25, 30-31, 34)

God’s desire for our familiarity with this man is evident in the sheer amount of space devoted to him in Scripture. First of all, the historical accounts themselves are quite lengthy.  Beginning in 1 Samuel 16 and going all the way to 1 Kings 2, forty-two chapters are devoted to telling his story.  Add to that twenty-one chapters in 1 Chronicles and then also one has to remember a whole host of Psalms were also penned by the shepherd king.  David’s footprint in the Holy Writ is both large and deep.

Our readings this week will be categorized according to the various stages and circumstances of David’s life.  David’s Psalms will be excluded since one of our six major categories is already devoted to Psalms (and Proverbs).

Readings and Introductory Comments:

1 Samuel 16:1-23; 17:1-58; 18:1-30; 24:1-22; 25:1-44
These readings all cover the time prior to David’s becoming king.  From the time of his youth and being anointed as Saul’s successor (chpt. 16), to his service to the tortured king and defeat of Goliath (chpts. 16, 17) and his rise to prominence as an effective and popular military figure (chpt. 18), David’s early life proved quite eventful.  His situation worsened as Saul’s jealousy grew and the talented young leader was forced to live life on the run.  David proved his mettle through years of hardship (chpt. 24-25).

2 Samuel 1:1-27; 2:1-11; 5:1-10; 7:1-29
The death of Saul at the hand of the Philistines cleared the way for David to take his rightful place as the new king.  The transition, though, was not seamless as loyalists to Saul continued for a while attempting to maintain his bloodline on the throne.  Eventually David succeeded in ruling the entire nation, unifying and strengthening it, eventually establishing Jerusalem as his new capital.

2 Samuel 11:1-12:25; 13:1-39; 15:1-37; 16:15-23; 18:1-33; 24:1-25; 1 Kings 1:1-2:12
The later years of David’s reign were marked by much turmoil and instability.  Beginning with his sin with Bathsheba, and particularly through his son Absalom, David endured much grief and heartache in his last years.  Even the transition of the throne from David to Solomon proved problematic.

Study/Thought Questions

1 Samuel 16:1-23

  • To whose house was Samuel sent? and why? (v. 1)
  • How many sons did Jesse have? (v. 10)
  • For what purpose was David chosen to serve Saul? (v. 16)

1 Samuel 17:1-58

  • What was David’s confidence in facing Goliath? (v. 37)
  • With what did David combat Goliath’s sword, spear and javelin? (v .45)

1 Samuel 18:1-30

  • What was the depth of David and Jonathan’s friendship? (v. 3)
  • What stirred Saul’s jealousy of David? (vv. 7-8)
  • Why did Saul fear David? (vv. 28-29)

1 Samuel 24:1-22

  • How did David’s men attempt to convince him to kill Saul? (v. 4)
  • Why did David refuse? (v. 6)
  • What did Saul say he knew about David? (v. 20)

1 Samuel 25:1-44

  • What was the character of Nabal and his wife? (v. 3)
  • What did David propose to Abigail following Nabal’s death? (v. 39)

2 Samuel 1:1-27

  • How did David respond to news of Saul’s death? (vv. 11-12)

2 Samuel 2:1-11

  • From what city did David originally reign? (v. 3)
  • Over whom did David originally reign? (v. 4)

2 Samuel 5:1-10

  • How old was David when he began to reign?  How long did he reign? (v. 4)

2 Samuel 7:1-29

  • What did David want to do? (v. 5)
  • What promise was made to David? (v. 16)

2 Samuel 11:1-12:25

  • How did David first try to conceal his sin with Bathsheba? (vv. 6-8)
  • What did David try next? (v. 13)
  • What final measure did David take? (v. 15)
  • Who was instrumental in causing David to realize his sin? (12:1, 7)

2 Samuel 13:1-39

  • Who was Tamar? (v. 1)
  • What did Absalom do after avenging Tamar? (vv. 34, 38)

2 Samuel 15:1-37

  • How did Absalom win the people’s affections? (vv. 1-6)
  • What was David’s response to Absalom’s play for the throne? (v. 14)
  • What was the condition and demeanor of David and the people who left Jerusalem (v. 30)

2 Samuel 16:15-23

  • What act of defiance did Absalom perform once in Jerusalem? (v. 22)

2 Samuel 18:1-33

  • What was David’s request of those who pursued Absalom? (v. 5)
  • What allowed for Absalom to be apprehended? (v. 9)
  • What was done with Absalom’s body? (v. 17)

2 Samuel 24:1-25

  • What reason did David give for the choice he made from God’s three options? (v. 14)
  • Why did David insist on buying Araunah’s threshing floor and oxen? (v. 24)

1 Kings 1:1-2:12

  • Who made a play for David’s throne? (v. 5)
  • Who helped Bathsheba secure Solomon’s place as king? (v. 11)
  • What was the state of the kingdom when Solomon began to reign? (2:12)

Meditation Thoughts:

  • David’s victory over Goliath has become the iconic underdog story.  It’s actually about reliance on God.  David collected stones to hurl at the giant.  What “stones” do I have and am hurling at the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in my life?
  • David refused to kill Saul when both the opportunity and seeming justification presented themselves.  Am I too quick to avenge personal affronts?  Are their higher spiritual principles at play that should be honored first?
  • David’s pursuit of Bathsheba and efforts to cover his sinned were fueled by his blind selfishness.  To what in my own life have I been blind?  Step back—figuratively—from your own life and try to make a very objective assessment.  Have I also been blind, like David?
  • David refused Araunah’s gift of all the provisions for an altar and sacrifice and instead insisted on paying.  David said he would not give to God as an offering anything that carried no cost.  What about our own offerings to God, what cost do they carry?

Memory Verse:

“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7)