Monthly Home Bible Study

The Reverend Ronald F. Marshall

Along with our other regular study of Scripture, let us join as a congregation in this home study. We will study alone then talk informally about the assigned verses together as we have opportunity. In this way we can "gather together around the Word" even though physically we will not be getting together (Acts 13.44).

We need to support each other in this difficult project. In 1851 Kierkegaard wrote that the Bible is "an extremely dangerous book.... [because] it is an imperious book... – it takes the whole man and may suddenly and radically change... life on a prodigious scale" (For Self-Examination). And in 1967 Thomas Merton wrote that "we all instinctively know that it is dangerous to become involved in the Bible" (Opening the Bible). Indeed this word "kills" us (Hosea 6.5) because we are "a rebellious people" (Isaiah 30.9)! As Lutherans, however, we are still to "abide in the womb of the Word" (Luther's Works 17.93) by constantly "ruminating on the Word" (LW 30.219) so that we may "become like the Word" (LW 29.155) by thinking "in the way Scripture does" (LW 25.261). Before you study, then, pray: "Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in Our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen" (quoted in R. F. Marshall, Making A New World: How Lutherans Read the Bible, 2003, p. 12).

Acts 28.6

January 2014, Number 263

 

Week I. Read Acts 28.6 noting the word changed. What was it that they changed their minds about? On this read Acts 28.4 noting the word murderer. Why did they think Paul was a murderer? On this read Acts 28.3 noting the words viper and hand. Why should this verse lead to that conclusion? On this read Genesis 9.5 noting the words lifeblood and reckoning. Was there any reason to suppose that Paul was a murderer, and that dying by snake bite was his reckoning? On this read Acts 7.58 and 9.1 noting the words stoned and murder. (Note that Saul’s name later is changed to Paul – Acts 13.9.) Why aren’t murderers shown any mercy? On this read again Acts 28.4 noting the word justice. Read as well Isaiah 61.8 noting the line I the Lord love justice. What does justice require? On this read Isaiah 1.17 noting the words correct, defend and plead. Read also Psalm 99.4 noting the word equity. Are there any exceptions to this even-handedness? On this read Numbers 35.9-12 noting the words cities, refuge, manslayer, intent, avenger and judgment. Do you think these cities were a good idea? Explain your answer.

Week II. Read again Acts 28.6 noting the line expecting him to… suddenly fall down dead. Is this the way God’s justice works? On this read Luke 13.5 noting the words unless and perish. Read also John 5.14 noting the line sin no more, that nothing worse befall you. So is there to be sudden recompense or not? On this read Acts 12.23 noting the words immediately and smote. Is that always the way it’s supposed to go? On this read Psalm 50.21 noting the words done, silent and now. What does this verse imply – that there isn’t always immediate, sudden recompense? Luther thought that when God “postpones” his punishment, it’s actually worse because when it finally comes, we think we’ve escaped only to find out, much to our chagrin, that the opposite is actually the case (Luther’s Works 28:159-60). Do you agree? On this delay read Habakkuk 2.3 noting the phrase if it seems slow. Read also on the passage of time, 2 Peter 3.8-9, noting the contrast between the words one and a thousand, and the phrase not slow… as some count slowness.

 

Week III. Reread Acts 28.6 noting the line waited a long time. Why did they wait so long before changing their minds – especially since they were expecting a sudden death? On this read Acts 28.5 noting the line shook off the creature into the fire. Was this unexpected? On this read Proverbs 23.29-35 noting the words wine and serpent. These words describe a relentless creature that blocks any shaking off. Because of that they may have been puzzled by what Paul was able to do – and had to wait and see what would come of it. On this strange ability of Paul’s, read Mark 16.17 noting the line pick up serpents and… it will not hurt them. Does this still pertain today? On this read Matthew 12:38-41 noting the line no sign shall be given… except the sign of Jonah. This goes against the signs in Mark 16. Read also Matthew 4.7 about not forcing God to rescue you, by recklessly endangering yourself. That also goes against Mark 16. But Mark 16 still is valid – but only for the first century mission in Jerusalem. Once the church spread outside of Jerusalem, Matthew 12 pertains – or so thought Luther (Sermons of Martin Luther, Lenker edition, 3:241-42). What do you think?

 

Week IV. Read Acts 28.6 one last time noting the word god. Why this flip-flop? On this read Acts 14.8-18 noting the words gods and nature. The analysis here is that the Lycaonians couldn’t grasp divine mediation through human agents. Instead they collapsed the one into the other – thereby identifying the two. Against this wrong-heading identification, read Romans 1.25 noting the words exchanged, worshipped and rather. How is this warded off? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.7 noting the words treasure, earthen, vessels, transcendent and belongs. How does that block idolatry? Are there any other ways to do so?

 

Proverbs 1.33

February 2015, Number 264

 

Week I. Read Proverbs 1.33 noting the phrase dread of evil. What is this? On this read Proverbs 1.19 noting the word violence. Read also Proverbs 1.24-32 noting the words calamity and complacence. Where do these horrors come from? On this read Proverbs 1.24-25 noting the words refused and ignored. Does this mean that God is punishing us with these horrors because we refused to listen to wisdom? On this read Proverbs 1.31 noting the words eat and sated. Does this mean instead that we punish ourselves by suffering the consequences of our own wicked behavior? On this read Proverbs 28.10 noting the line will fall into his own pit, as well as Psalm 57.6 noting the line they dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves. Does this mean that we are not immune from our own wickedness? On this read Proverbs 1.19 noting the line it takes away the life of its possessors. Why do we think we can escape this? On this read Proverbs 23.29-35 noting the words wine and hurt. How long will that solution last?

 

Week II. Read again Proverbs 1.33 noting that same phrase dread of evil. So do we only have ourselves to fear? On this read Proverbs 14.9 noting the line God scorns the wicked. So if God also punishes us, how does he do it? On this read Ezekiel 14.21 noting the words sword, famine, evil beasts, and pestilence. Read as well Numbers 11.1 noting the word fire; Numbers 16.31-32 noting the line the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up; Isaiah 30.30 noting the word hailstones; Ezekiel 13.13 noting the two words stormy wind; and Ezekiel 30.12 noting the two words dry up. Does God only punish by way of natural disasters? On this read Joshua 2.8-11 noting the words fear, hearts, melted, and courage. This psychological punishment is devastating and can happen invisibly, and at anytime and anyplace. And does God only punish because he is angry? On this read Hosea 6.1 noting the line he has torn that he may heal. Do you agree? Is there any other way for God to heal sinners?

 

Week III. Reread Proverbs 1.33 noting the word listens. Why would we not listen to God? On this read Psalm 81.8-11 noting the line Israel would have none of me. What does that mean? On this read Proverbs 1.24-31 noting the two lines none of my reproof and none of my counsel. Why wouldn’t one want God’s reproof and counsel – but instead refuse to listen to him? On this read Isaiah 30.9-11 noting the words smooth and illusions. Why do we have this aversion? On this read Luke 12.19 noting the word ease. Note also lazy gluttons in Titus 1.12. Why do we gravitate in this direction? On this read 2 Timothy 3.2-5 noting the two phrases lovers of self and lovers of pleasure. Love, then, can be good or bad depending on what we love. On this read 1 John 2.15-16 noting the contrast between loving God and loving the world – which includes pride and lust. Where does this bad love come from? On this read Mark 7.20-23 noting the word licentiousness. Do you agree?

 

Week IV. Read Proverbs 1.33 one last time noting the word ease. What is this ease like if not like being lazy? On this read John 14.27 noting the words peace and world. How is this godly peace different from the worldly ease criticized above as laziness? On this read John 16.33 noting the word tribulation and the line in me you may have peace. How is the awkward combination of peace and tribulation balanced? On this read Romans 5.1 noting the words peace, with and through. Does this include worldly peace? On this read Luke 12.49-53 noting the word fire, division and against. So how is this outer turmoil combined with this inner peace? On this read Romans 8.18 noting the line not worth comparing; and 2 Corinthians 4.17 noting the word slight and the line beyond all comparison. Is the balance even? On this read Hebrews 11.16 (and 13.14) noting the word better. This means that the inner peace outweighs the outer difficulties. Do you agree?

 

Romans 16.26

March 2015, Number 265

 

Week I. Read Romans 16.26 noting the line bring about the obedience of faith. How is this brought about? On this read Romans 16.25 noting the words preaching and mystery. Why is preaching needed? Isn’t knowledge enough? On this read Romans 10.14-11.6 noting the words heard, contrary and chosen. Why do not all who hear believe? It is because not all are chosen. But why are not all chosen who hear? On this read Romans 9.18 noting the words hardens and wills. And why would God do that? On this read Romans 9.20-24 noting the words answer, right, wrath and riches. Does this mean that a contrast is needed between the saved and damned in order to show the glories of salvation? If that’s so, why is it? On this read Romans 1.18 noting the words suppress and truth. So is this contrast needed for breaking up this suppression? On this read Romans 3.9 noting the line all men… are under the power of sin. So yes, this suppression needs pulverizing! On this read also Romans 7.9-11 noting the words revived, proved and killed. Do these words take care of the change that is needed?

 

Week II. Read again Romans 16.26 noting that same line bring about the obedience of faith. So how about the mystery noted in Romans 16.25 from last week? What is it? On this read Romans 11.25 noting the mystery regarding belief among God’s chosen people, Israel. That mystery has to do with their temporary hardening so that non-Jews may also believe. But it also has to do with there only being a remnant of Israel in Romans 9.27 who are saved. Read as well 2 Thessalonians 2.7 noting the mystery of lawlessness. This is about our persistent sinfulness – which is baffling in light of God’s many blessings. Next read Colossians 2.2-3 noting the mystery of Christ and his treasures of wisdom and knowledge. What are they? For one, read Romans 5.9 noting how the blood of Jesus saves us from God’s wrath. Read as well Colossians 2.14 noting that this blood saves us by canceling the bond with its legal demands which stand against us. Note also how this sacrifice of Christ is fragrant to God when offered up to him, in Ephesians 5.2. Is that enough mystery and wisdom? How so? On this read about the depths of God’s wisdom in Romans 11.33-36.

 

Week III. Reread Romans 16.26 noting the word command. Why is a command needed to get us to obey God? On this read Romans 2.5 noting the words hard and wrath. So we are stone-cold and recalcitrant! On this predicament read also Romans 3.11 noting the line no one seeks for God. Read as well Romans 3.18 noting the line there is no fear of God. How can this be disrupted? On the read Romans 1.24-32 noting the words gave-up, penalty, deserve and die. These hardships can change us. But what about the commands of God? Can they act like these hardships do? On this read Romans 7.13 noting the line working death in me. How much stronger change than that could be brought about by a commanding word?

 

Week IV. Read Romans 16.26 one last time noting the word faith. Why is faith rooted in obedience? On this read Romans 9.20-21 noting the words molder and potter. Because God is in charge is obedience all that is left for us? How far does this go? On this read Romans 12.19 noting the words vengeance, leave and repay. Why can’t we try to get even with our enemies? On this read Romans 15.1-3 noting the two references to pleasing ourselves. Those verses also block the satisfaction of trying to get even. On this matter read also Romans 13.1-2 noting the words resist, authority and God. These verses put us on our guard. They say that we can’t act like we’re running things. On this read Romans 12.11 noting the line serve the Lord. So that’s our calling – not being in charge. Read also Romans 13.14 noting the line against gratifying desires. This also curtails us. Read as well Romans 16. 20 noting the line God… will soon crush Satan under your feet. Rather than trusting in ourselves to get even, this work of God should be our hope. Do you agree? If so, why?

 

Exodus 4.10

April 2015, Number 266

Week I. Read Exodus 4.10 noting the word eloquent. What is eloquence, and why does it matter? On this read Exodus 4.14 noting the couple words speak well. Why does speaking well matter to Moses? On this read Proverbs 25.11 noting the words fitly, gold and silver. What makes fitly spoken words so valuable? On this read Exodus 9.7 noting the word hardened. Because people can be hard to get through to, do we think fitly spoken words can make a difference? On this read Proverbs 15.1 noting the words soft, wrath, harsh and anger. Is this the power Moses was looking for? On this read Proverbs 12.18 noting the words wise and healing. Do you think such wise words could have changed Pharaoh’s hard heart? On this read Jeremiah 13.23 noting the line can the leopard change his spots? So how powerful can words be? On this read James 3.6 noting the line the tongue is a fire. This is surely about destruction. But can it also do as much for good? On this read Proverbs 28.23 noting the words afterwards and more. Is this reassuring? If so, explain why.

Week II. Read again Exodus 4.10 noting that same word eloquence. Is there anything wrong about eloquence? On this read 1 Corinthians 1.17 noting the words eloquence and emptied. How can such a wonderful thing as eloquence empty the cross of its power? On this read 1 Corinthians 2.4-5 noting the words plausible and rest. What then would keep eloquence from pulling us away from God like this? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.7 noting the words earthen and belongs. So if this includes simple, plain, earthy speech, how does that break our illegitimate hold on God’s power? On this read Romans 9.20 noting the words who, answer and God. Does our eloquence make us think we have the right to contend with God for a better life for ourselves? On this read Romans 3.19 noting the line every mouth may be stopped. Does this mean we are wrong to think we can debate with God over what’s best for us? On this read Job 40:1-4 noting the words contend, argue, small and hand. Does that settle it? If so, how?

Week III. Reread Exodus 4.10 noting that same word eloquence. Is there anything else wrong with eloquence? On this read Psalm 55.21 noting the words speech, smoother, war and heart. Does this mean that fine speech can cover up the truth? On the read Isaiah 30.10, noting the words speak, smooth and illusions. How does something so refined end up being so bad? On this read Psalm 73.9 noting the words against, heaven and struts. How does this strutting go against God? On this read James 4.6 noting the contrast between the two sets of words oppose and proud, grace and humble. Is it impossible, then, for the eloquent to be humble? On this read Luke 18.9-13 noting the two lines trusted in themselves, and prayed thus with himself. Who would say that this Pharisee wasn’t well-educated, well-off, and well-spoken? Does that then finish off the dangers of the eloquent?

Week IV. Read Exodus 4.10 one last time noting that same word eloquence. What then is the alternative to eloquence? On this read Exodus 4.12 noting the line I will teach you what to say. Is that the only way around it? On this read Exodus 4.13-16 noting the words other and Aaron. Are there then just these two alternatives to eloquence? On this read Matthew 5.37 noting the line say simply Yes or No. Could it be that eloquence is of many words and the better way is of just a few words? On this read Ecclesiastes 5.2 noting the line let your words be few. Read also Proverbs 17.1 noting how being quiet can end strife. Add to this Proverbs 10.19 noting how restraining lips are prudent. So more speech isn’t better – even if it is eloquent. On this read Proverbs 26.4 noting the play between the words answer, fool, folly and like. Why isn’t the wise and eloquent person able to refute the fool without becoming foolish in the process? On this note the little words little and leaven in 1 Corinthians 5.6-7. Does that settle it? Explain your answer.

 

Romans 5.12

May 2014, Number 255  

Week I. Read Romans 5.12 noting the correlation between the two words death and sin. What does sin have to do with death? On this read Romans 6.23 noting the word wages. How is it that we are paid with death for the sins we commit? On this read Genesis 2.17 noting the words day and die. Why is death the punishment for sin? On this read 1 Corinthians 15.26 noting the category last enemy. What makes death our enemy and therefore a fitting punishment? On this read John 11.35-36 noting the words wept and loved. How does love bring about weeping? On this read Romans 13:10 noting the line love does no wrong to the neighbor. What does this imply? Well, when harm comes upon those we love, we are upset – and death is the worst harm that can come. So death is a robber that distresses those who lose loved ones. So saying that death was our punishment when we sinned was to dissuade us from sinning. Read also Hebrews 9.27 noting the correlation between death and judgment. That also makes death scary – for who wants a strict, permanent punishment? We would like to put that off as long as possible. Wouldn’t you agree?

Week II. Read again Romans 5.12 noting this time the word spread. What causes sin to spread throughout the world? On this read Ephesians 2.3 noting the phrase by nature. How would this spread sin around everywhere? On this read Jeremiah 13.23 noting the words change and accustomed. So is it impossible then for us to act contrary to our natures? What then? On this read Romans 7.18 noting the line I can will what is right but I cannot do it. What does this mean? On this read John 8.34 noting the words slave and sin. So if we’re enslaved to sin by nature, is that what spreads it all over? On this read Psalm 51.5 noting the words conceive and sin. This means sin is passed on genetically – it’s in our DNA. Was it always like this? On this read Genesis 1.26 noting the line in our image. How was this godly nature destroyed by a simple act of disobedience? Doesn’t nature trump action? On this read 1 Corinthians 5.6-8 noting the words little, leavens and whole. So the counter-intuitive can happen: a single misdeed can change us for the worst and permanently.

Week III. Reread Romans 5.12 noting again the same word spread. Following up on last week, could a single good deed then reverse our natures back to their original godly states? Or are we stuck? On this read Romans 7.24 noting the words deliver and me. This means that a change is possible, but it isn’t something that we can bring about. On this read Colossians 1.13 noting the words delivered and transferred. Why can’t we do this for ourselves? On this read Romans 5.9 noting the words saved and wrath. But still, shouldn’t we be able to do this? On this read 1 Peter 1.18-19 noting the line without blemish or spot. So because we are not pure, our actions cannot reverse our nature, in the way that Christ’s actions can. How does his purity managed this reversal? On this read 2 Corinthians 8.9 noting the interplay between rich and poor – that when the rich becomes poor, it enriches its own newly acquired poverty, so that it then can alter the un-enriched poor, that is, sinners enslaved to sin. Do you buy into this? If so, why?

Week IV. Read Romans 5.12 one last time noting the two words one man. Who is this man? On this read Romans 5.14 noting the line the transgression of Adam. Why did Adam’s sin affect us all? On this reread this same verse noting the words not and type. What made Adam of this unusual type? On this read Genesis 2.17 noting the word die, and 3.5 noting the word knowing, and 3.7 noting the word naked. How do these three words distinguish Adam as a different type of person? First note that he was immortal, second that he was obedient rather than being obsessed about knowledge, and third that he was without any shame regarding his human nature. But all of that is lost when he disobeys, is cursed, and expelled from Paradise. Then death settles in, knowledge becomes an obsession, and we suffer from shame over who we are. What does this mean? On this read Ephesians 2.3 noting the line children of wrath. Read as well 2 Peter 2.14 noting the line accursed children. On how to become children of God again, read John 1.12 and 3.5.

  

 

Zechariah 8.17

June 2014, Number 256

 

 

Week I. Read Zechariah 8.17 noting the word hate. What does God hate? On this read Zechariah 8.16 noting the words speak, judgments and peace. So God hates what goes against these three virtues – that is, lying, cheating and war. Are these three always bad, or are there exceptions to this rule? On this read Ecclesiastes 3.8 noting the line a time for war. Note as well verse 7 about a time for not speaking up – which isn’t quite like cheating, but close to it. And also note that in this litany there isn’t any time for lying. Is that because it is always wrong to lie? On this read Judges 2.1-6 noting the three occurrences of the word but. Read as well Matthew 2.1-12 noting the words bring and warned; and also 2 Corinthians 12.16 noting the words crafty and guile. So does this mean lying has a place in the godly life? On this read Exodus 20.16 noting the line against your neighbor. Does this allow for lying against your enemy? What do you think? If it does, what does it mean for the commandment against lying? Why does this matter for faith?

 Week II. Read again Zechariah 8.17 noting again the word hate. Why does God hate anything? If God is love (1 John 4.16), shouldn’t he always be loving and never hateful? On this read Jeremiah 12.7-13 noting the words against, hate, prey, trampled, heart, peace, thorns and nothing. Why does God have such disregard for his heritage when it acts so badly? Why doesn’t he just forgive them and leave it at that? On this read Revelation 3.19 noting the words love, reprove and chasten. How does such harshness follow from his divine love? On this read Hebrews 12.7-11 noting the words discipline, sons, illegitimate, subject, good, share, holiness, painful, yields and trained. So does God hate us when we’re bad for the sake of holiness? If so, why? On this read Psalm 99.2-5, noting the words great, exalted, terrible, holy, lover, justice, extol and worship. So just as God is love, so he is also holy. His love, then, is marked by the high standards of holiness and justice. Note Isaiah 61.8 – I the Lord love justice (see also Psalm 37.28; Micah 6.8; Luke 11.42). Therefore when we aren’t fair and pure there are consequences – which love can’t erase.

Week III. Reread Zechariah 8.17 noting again the same word hate. Following up on last week, what are some of those consequences? On this read Romans 2.5 noting the words storing-up and judgment. When does this take place? On this read Hebrews 9.27 noting the words die and judgment. So some of the consequences happen after we die. Is that it? On this read Luke 13.4-5 noting the words tower, fell, repent and perish. So our sins are also punished before we die as well. What are these short term, temporal punishments supposed to accomplish? On this read John 5.14 noting the interplay between sin and worse. So these punishments are about scaring us straight. But will that work? On this read Amos 4.6-11 noting the five occurrences of the word yet. These verses make it look like these punishments don’t work But on the other hand read 1 Corinthians 10.1-12 noting the words overthrown, warnings, idolaters, immorality, instruction and heed. So which one is it? Or is there a combination – the first example from Amos being the realistic one, and the other one what we are to perpetually hope for?

Week IV. Read Zechariah 8.17 one last time noting this time the little word for. Is this a motivational word? Does the word for reinforce the word not at the beginning of the verse? On this read Matthew 25.46 noting the split between eternal punishment and eternal life. Is that split behind the motivation in our little word for in Zechariah 8.17? Inasmuch as punishment follows from God’s hatred, that split is this verse’s background. Why do we need such severe motivation? On this read Jeremiah 17.9 noting the words all and desperately. How bad is that? Read also Romans 7.18 noting the word nothing and good. But if that is the case, how do any of us get enough traction to move in the right direction? On this read Colossians 1.13 noting the word transferred. Does that settle it? If so, how so? And what about the line received by faith in Romans 3.25? How does that figure in with this transference?

 

 

Matthew 9.12

 

July 2014, Number 257

 

Week I. Read Matthew 9.12 noting the word need. What is this need that Jesus speaks of here? On this read Matthew 9.5 noting the words forgiven and walk. Of these two needs, which is the most important? On this read John 6.68 noting the words you and eternal. So forgiveness matters more than physical healing – since forgiveness that leads to eternal life comes only from Christ Jesus. Why is that? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.16-18 noting the contrast between the words seen and unseen. Why is what’s unseen the most valuable? On this note, in that same reading, the contrast between what’s transient and eternal. Why does the eternal matter so much? On this read John 14.2-3 noting the word house. This place refers to our heavenly life after we die. Why is it so important? On this read Hebrews 11.16 noting the word better and Hebrews 13.14 noting the word lasting. Because of these two values, eternality surpasses the temporality of this life. Do you agree?

Week II. Read again Matthew 9.12 noting the same word need. Following up on last week, why would we want this long lasting, heavenly life? On this read Luke 16.19-31 noting the phrase place of torment. Read also Matthew 25.31-33 noting the contrasting words sheep and goats. What do these two readings mean when placed side by side? At the very least they mean that there is a forced option, and so, if you don’t go to heaven, you will be forced to go to hell. That “excluded middle” makes the wonders of heaven all the more attractive because of the option, which is a place of torment and therefore horrible. Because there is no third place of neutrality and blissful extinction, heaven gains value by not being hell – which is the only alternative to heaven. What does this mean? On this read 2 Timothy 4.1-2 noting the words preach, urgent and unfailing. And so these forced options make it very important for us who believe in the Bible to get its message out to all who do not know about it – but are nevertheless bound by its truths. How is that so? On this read Romans 1.20 noting the line they are without excuse. Do you agree?

Week III. Reread Matthew 9.12 noting this time the word sick. Why is it that the sick are the ones who feel their need for God, salvation and heaven? On this read Matthew 15.22-28 noting the words demon and even. Why was the mother willing to put up with this disrespect? Why was her daughter’s illness so riveting? On this read Job 2.4 noting the line all that a man has he will give for his life. Does this explain why the first assault from Satan didn’t faze Job, because it left his health intact (Job 2.3)? Does it also explain why this mother will ignore her own mistreatment in order to save her dying daughter? On this read 1 Corinthians 15.26 noting the words death and enemy. Is the Bible therefore opposed to accepting death as a natural part of life? Should we instead mourn over it and fight against it? On this read John 11.35 noting the line Jesus wept, and 1 John 3.8 noting the word destroy.

Week IV. Read Matthew 9.12 one last time noting again the word sick. Is it easy to admit that we are sick? On this read Revelation 3.17 noting the line I need nothing. How bad is this assessment? According to this same verse it is an absolutely false view of ourselves. Why are we so blind to our predicament? On this read John 9.39 noting the line those who see may become blind. How could blindness ever be a good? On this read Colossians 3.2 noting the contrasting words above and earth. Is it because earthly things distract us from heavenly values that we so desperately need to ignore them? Is that why we need to be blinded – to put an end to our distractions? On this read 2 Timothy 3.2-5 noting the words money, proud, conceit and pleasure. How are we absorbed by these things? On this read James 5.5 noting the line you have fattened your hearts. What does this mean? On this read Luke 12.19 noting the word ease, ample and merry. Is it that we are taken in by false joys and pleasures? On this read Hebrews 11.25 noting the word fleeting. Can you see through the insubstantiality of these earthly pleasures? If so, how so?

 

 

Proverbs 25.27

 

August 2014, Number 258

Week I. Read Proverbs 25.27 noting the word sparing. Why should we hold back on compliments? On this read Proverbs 28.23 noting the words rebukes and favor. How can this be? On this read Proverbs 27.17 noting the line iron sharpens iron. So when we are tough on each other, we help each other – we sharpen one another. In what ways? On this read Romans 5.3-4 noting the words endurance, character and hope. Now what’s so good about endurance? On this read Ecclesiastes 7.8 noting the contrast between patience and proud. If endurance produces patience, why is it better than being proud? On this read Proverbs 16.18 noting the words destruction and fall. How does patience keep us on our feet, when pride does not? On this read Psalm 62.1-12 noting the words waits, God, fortress, trust, men, air, confidence, riches, heart, power and love. Does this psalm cover the waterfront – and so too patience by extension? If waiting on God is having patience in him, then everything in our life with God hinges on enduring, waiting and being patient. Do you believe that? Why or why not?

Week II. Read again Proverbs 25.27 noting the word honey. Why is sweet honey too sweet for us? It’s because it doesn’t promote endurance, character and hope. Now what’s so great about character? (Last week we looked at endurance.) On character read Luke 8.15 noting the words good, honest and heart. Such a good-hearted person is someone of character. On such a person read 1 Peter 3.4 noting the words hidden, imperishable and gentle. What makes such a quiet, gentle person so durable? On this read Matthew 13.20-22 noting the words tribulation, falls, riches and chokes. This is a negative example – showing that a good person of character wouldn’t cave in under tribulation or be lead astray because of wealth. And that’s because suffering isn’t a deal-breaker, and prosperity isn’t satisfying. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Week III. Reread Proverbs 25.27 noting again that first word sparing. The third reason we should be sparing of compliments is because they do not make us hopeful. Now what’s so wonderful about being hopeful? On this read Romans 8.24-25 noting the words saves and seen. What makes hope so powerful if it’s based on the unseen alone? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.17-18 noting the words weight and eternal. What makes the eternal so weighty? On this read Revelation 21.2-4 noting the words tear, death, mourning and pain. Read also how sin comes to an end in Romans 6.7. Now what would such a deathless, sinless life be like? It would have the weight of eternity. But what is that like? On this read 1 Peter 1.6-9 noting the line rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. Here is the value added – exuberant, unending joy. Hope longs for this and seizes upon it through faith – and so hope is great and indispensable for human fulfillment. Where does this hope come from? On this read Colossians 1.3-5 noting the words faith, Jesus, love, hope and heaven. So faith in Christ Jesus is the only source for this hope. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Week IV. Read Proverbs 25.27 one last time noting the word words. Why do words matter so much? On this read Proverbs 25.11 noting the words fitly, gold and silver. Why are the most fitting words those free of many compliments – and how do they help us? On this read Isaiah 50.4 noting the words sustain and word. How can a word sustain us when we’re down and blue? On this read Isaiah 8.10 noting the line speak a word, but it will not stand. How can that be? It could be because no one follows up on it, or because it isn’t based in fact. What is a good word, then? On this read Isaiah 40.8 noting the words God and stand. So God makes the difference between good and bad words. On this read Isaiah 29.18-19 noting how the deaf will hear the words from the revelation of God. This is a powerful word that transforms us for the better. How shall we then treat it? On this read Isaiah 66.5 noting the word tremble. Does that sound right to you? Explain your answer.

 

 

 

Mark 9.24

 

September 2014, Number 259

Week I. Read Mark 9.24 noting the phrase help my unbelief. What does that mean? On this read Luke 17.5 noting the phrase increase our faith. But how do we help our unbelief by increasing our faith? On this read Hebrews 11.1 noting the word pairs, assurance and hope, conviction and unseen. Increasing these would bolster our faith – so must we then have a larger dose of the unseen and the only hoped for? On this read Romans 10.17 noting the correlation between heard and faith. Does stressing the heard word of God, accentuate the unseen? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.18 noting the correlation between the words unseen and eternal, and 1 Peter 1.25 noting the correlation between the word of God and what abides forever. But how do we carefully attend to God’s word? On this read John 6.44 noting the word draws. What is that like? On this read Romans 11.24 noting the line grafted contrary to nature. Note also the words delivered and transferred in Colossians 1.13. Do you think that increasing faith is coercive? Why or why not?

Week II. Read again Mark 9.24 noting the phrase help my unbelief. Now what about that coercion, mentioned last week? On this read Acts 9.3-22 noting the words flashed, fell, eyes, led, suffer and scales. So was Saul forced to believe? On this read Philippians 2.12 noting the line work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Did Saul struggle? Or was he closer to the gift in Ephesians 2.8 – coming down from heaven as James 1:17 says? Or did Saul draw near to God, so that God would draw near to him, as James 4.8 puts it? Did it have nothing to do with man’s will or exertion, as Romans 9.16 points out? Did God choose Saul, and not the other way around, as John 15.16 says? On all these matters, read Luke 1.26-38 noting the words troubled, afraid, favor, how, overshadow, Elizabeth, impossible, let and word. Are all of our concerns gathered up in this account of Mary’s faith? If so, how so? Where are the gifts and where are the struggles in her case?

Week III. Reread Mark 9.24 noting that same phrase help my unbelief. On coming to faith, read John 20.24-29 noting the words seen, see, finger, believe, faithless, answered and blessed. So did Thomas believe because he touched the risen Lord? If he did, it’s not mentioned here. If he did touch Jesus, no one thought it should be written down. So how do these three cases of coming to faith – Saul, Mary and Thomas – compare? One thing they have in common is Romans 10.9 and its line if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart,… you will be saved. All three of them are bold and forthright – no anonymous faith or private believing with any of them. But where did they get this nerve? On this read John 3.3-11 noting the words born, anew, kingdom, womb, water, Spirit, wind, know, how and understand. Note also the words believes and baptized in Mark 16.16. What sort of factor is the baptismal birthing? Does it combine gift and suffering into one event?

Week IV. Read Mark 9.24 one last time noting again help my unbelief. But will faith stay – once it’s here? On this read 1 Timothy 1.19 noting the words shipwreck and faith. How does this happen? In that same verse it says by rejecting conscience. It also says we must be engaged in the good warfare. On this collapse read Mathew 7.21-23 noting the contrast between says and does. This contrast has to do with James 2.26 that faith apart from works is dead; and with 2 Peter 1.5 about supplementing faith with virtue and knowledge. So faith that’s held in the heart but not acted upon in everyday life, withers away. Does this tie into the phrases provided we suffer in Romans 8.17; and receive glory from one another in John 5:44? Apparently. But what about miracles – do they lead to faith? On this read John 2.11 which says they do; and John 12.37 which says they do not. Where does that leave you? Apparently with some hope here, but no guarantees. So what about the guarantee in John 10.29? See 2 Timothy 2.13. Does that help?

 

Daniel 1.20

October 2014, Number 260

 

Week I. Read Daniel 1.20 noting the line in every matter of wisdom and understanding,… [they were] ten times better. Does this mean that Christians are smarter than everybody else? On this read 1 Kings 10.23-24 noting the words excelled, all and wisdom. Does this mean that Christians are not only the best Sunday school students, but also the best mathematicians and chemists? On this read 1 Corinthians 1.26-2.9 noting the words wise, worldly, standards, shame, lofty, plausible, secret and hidden. So are there different types of wisdom? On this read John 14.27 regarding peace, noting the line not as the world gives. Does this same alternative mode of peace also apply to wisdom? On this read 1 Corinthians 3.18-21 noting the words age, fool, folly, craftiness, futile and boast. See also James 3.13-17 noting the words works, meekness, devilish, peaceable, mercy, fruits and uncertainty. Ευπειθης, the word translated as open to reason in this verse, only occurs here in the New Testament. What kind of a restriction does it provide for godly wisdom? Does that help you?

Week II. Read again Daniel 1.20 noting the same line in every matter of wisdom,… [they were] ten times better. Following up on last week, what are the hallmarks of godly wisdom, if not math and chemistry? On this read Colossians 2.2-3 noting the words mystery, Christ and wisdom. What then is this wisdom of Christ? On this read John 16.7-11 on the Counselor, or Spirit of Christ (John 14.26, 15.26, 16.14), noting the two words sin and righteousness. On sin, read Mark 7.18-22 noting the words heart, evil, licentiousness and pride. If our hearts are so bad, are we like that overall? On this read Romans 7.18 noting the line nothing good dwells within me. Why is this so hard for us to accept? On this read Job 34.5 noting the word innocent. Read also Isaiah 64.6 noting the words righteous and polluted. These two passages show how corrupted our self-understanding is. On this read Jeremiah 17.9 noting the words heart and all. Do you agree?

Week III. Reread Daniel 1.20 noting that same phrase again in every matter of wisdom,… [they were] ten times better. Why doesn’t worldly wisdom understand our sinfulness? Why do we think we’re better off than God says we are? On this read 2 Timothy 3.2-4 noting the words money, pleasure, form and power. Why can’t we clean out this corruption? Why do we deny the power of our faith to help us out? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.4 noting the words god and blinded. On this god, read 1 John 5.19 noting the words world and evil one. Read as well Luke 4.5-6 noting the words all, kingdoms, delivered and will. So if we’re blinded by the devil –the god of this world – what comes of that? On this read John 8.44 noting the word lies. Is that it? Are we by nature liars about our sinfulness? Is that what our blindness does to us? What do you make of this?

Week IV. Read Daniel 1.20 one last time noting again the line in every matter of wisdom,… [they were] ten times better. Now what shall be done about this sinful predicament of ours? On this read 1 Corinthians 1.30 noting the words our and righteousness. How does Jesus become our righteousness? On this read 2 Corinthians 8.9 noting the play between the words rich and poor. When we become rich in this verse, then we are righteous. No longer does sin, failure and evil define us. In God’s eyes we are now righteous and pure. But note that we do not do this by ourselves. Jesus instead does it for us. On this read Colossians 2.13-14 noting the words alive, forgive, cancel, demands and nailing. Here we see what we need to be righteous: forgiveness. It’s what makes us alive before God. But this cannot come about without Jesus putting a stop to the demands of the divine which says that sinners must be punished. And he does this by being punished in our place – being nailed to the cross. This is the second piece of godly wisdom that can be found only in Christ. Do you think that it, together with the words about sin, makes for greater wisdom than can be found anywhere else about anything else? Why or why not?

 

 

James 4.12

November 2014, Number 261

 

Week I. Read James 4.12 noting the word one. What’s so important about there being only one true God? On this read Deuteronomy 6.4-5 noting the words Lord, one and love, as well as Matthew 4.9 noting the words worship, only and serve. So do many gods ruin our allegiance, loyalty and obedience then? On this read Matthew 6.24 noting the line no one can serve two masters. Why can’t we have divided loyalties? On this read Exodus 34.14 noting the line the Lord, whose name is Jealous. Because God disallows divided loyalties, is he petty? On this read Psalm 119.160 noting the line every one of thy righteous ordinances endures forever. How does that make multiple gods impossible? On this read Isaiah 44.6-8 noting the question Who is like me? Read also Isaiah 40.18 noting the words liken and compare. How does this asymmetry block polytheism? Is it the lack of celestial harmony? On this read 1 Corinthians 14.33 noting the word confusion. Does that settle it?

Week II. Read again James 4.12 noting the word judge. Who is this? On this read John 5.22 noting the words all, judgment and Son. What will Jesus judge about? On this read John 12.25 noting the two words hate and eternal. How stringent a judgment will this be? What will Jesus look for to see if we’ve done it? On this read Luke 9.23 noting the words daily and denial. Read also in this regard Galatians 6.14 noting the word I and crucified. And read as well Matthew 10.39 noting the words lose and life. What light do these last three verses shed on self-hatred? On this read John 3.30 noting the play between the two opposing words decrease and increase. Does that help focus the other verses? If not, read 2 Timothy 3.2-5 noting the contrasting lovers. What puts self, money, pleasure and religious form on the wrong side of love? What puts religious power and God on the right side? For a clue read 2 Corinthians 3.18 noting the words changed, likeness and degree. Does that help? IF so, how?

Week III. Reread James 4.12 noting that same word judge. What other matters will Jesus care about when he judges us? On this read Matthew 25.31-46 noting the words gave and least. Why is this a problem? On this read Philippians 2.3 noting the words selfishness and better. Why are we so selfish? On this read Mark 7.18-23 noting the word coveting. Why are we so defiled? On this read John 3.19 noting the words loved and darkness. What pushes us in this dire direction? On this read Jeremiah 17.9 noting the words desperately, corrupt and heart. Is this the mystery of evil or lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2.7? If so, is that where our inquiry must then stop? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.4 noting the words god, world and blinded. What could this verse add that has not already been said? On this read Luke 22.31 noting the word sift. How disruptive is this attack from outside on us? Why does it matter?

Week IV. Read James 4.12 one last time noting again the word judge. What else will Jesus want to know about us on Judgment Day? On this read Romans 10.9 noting the words heart and lips. What is this verse about? Is it about sincerity and courage? Why should that matter? On this read Mark 8.38 noting the words ashamed and glory. Anything else? Read also Hebrews 9.27-28 noting the phrase eagerly waiting. What does this prove? On this read Romans 12.2 noting the words conformed and world, as well as Colossians 3.2 noting the words set, mind and above. Anything else? Read also Romans 8.17 noting the words provided and suffer. Why is this important? On this read Luke 2.34 noting the word against, and John 15.18-19 noting the word hated. Finally read John 3.36 noting the words believe and obey. Why should obedience matter? On this read Isaiah 55.9 noting the word higher. That should settle it, don’t you think? Why or why not?

 

 

Genesis 3:24

December 2014, Number 262

 

Week I. Read Genesis 3.24 noting the word guard. Why does the entry to the tree of life in paradise have to be guarded? On this read Genesis 2.17 noting the words eat and die. Is this guard at the entry way, then, part of the punishment for disobeying God? If so, how so? On this read Deuteronomy 13.6-9 noting the line nor shall your eye pity him. This means no second chances – and so the entry must be shut, barred and guarded. Is this overly cruel and harsh? On this read Romans 11.22 noting the words severity and fallen. Read also Hebrews 9.27 noting the line die once, and after that comes judgment. Once warned, then, is apparently enough – then punishment kicks in with no exceptions. So if paradise is closed shut like this, is all hope then taken away? On this read 1 Peter 1.3-5 noting the words hope, heaven, guarded and faith. Here we see that the hope from paradise gives way to the hope that is in heaven. On this read Philippians 4:20-21 noting the words heaven and await.

Week II. Read again Genesis 3.24 noting the line a flaming sword which turned every way. Why are these theatrics used? On this read John 3.19 noting the words love and darkness. This defiant love won’t take no for an answer. Read also on this Hebrews 3.13 noting the words hardened, deceitfulness and sin. This verse also helps us see the defiance in sin. Read as well Genesis 32.26 noting the words not and unless. All sinners struggle with God like this – making demands of him. Why do we think we can prevail against the Almighty God – and force our way back into paradise? On this read John 12.28-29 noting the play between the two opposing words thundered and angel. So is it because God isn’t obvious that we feel free to struggle with him and push against his will and ways in the world? On this read Exodus 7.1-13 noting the words as, God, wonders, prove, same and listen. Why isn’t God clearer? On this read Romans 1.20 noting the word clearly, and 2 Corinthians 4.4 noting the word blinded. So whose fault is it that God isn’t obvious?

Week III. Reread Genesis 3.24 noting the line he drove man out. Were we forced out of paradise or did we want to get away ,any way, and explore new territories? On this read Genesis 3.8 noting the word hid. This looks like Adam and Eve liked being in paradise and didn’t want to leave – or at least not get caught, which would mean that they would have to leave. On this possibility, read Luke 12.19 noting the word ample and ease. Because of that proclivity in us, paradise would be a congenial place for Adam and Eve to live. So what was it like to be thrown out of paradise? On this read Matthew 25.1-13 noting the words behold, feast, shut and open. Here is a picture of excitement and disappointment, wisdom and foolishness, feasting and sorrow, welcoming and missing out. For another such picture, read Matthew 7.21-23 noting the words declare and depart. Why shouldn’t we be able to stay if we want to? On this read Hebrews 10.26-31 noting the words fearful, fury, worse, vengeance and repay. What requires this severity? On this read Romans 7.12 noting the line the law is holy… just and good – anything but forgiving. Does that explain it?

Week IV. Read Genesis 3.24 one last time noting the line the tree of life. What does this tree give? On this read Revelation 22.1-2 noting the words leaves and healing. What do these leaves heal? On this read Revelation 21.4 noting the words crying, pain and death. What kind of life is this where death and pain are all gone? On this read John 10.10 noting the word abundantly. What is this like? On this read John 5.26 noting the line life in himself. What does that mean? On this read Romans 6.9 noting the line death no longer has dominion. When that dominion is gone, life is made irrepressible and resilient. On this life, see John 17.3 noting the line this is eternal life [knowing] the only true God. Is this tree still in Eden? On this read John 11.25 noting the I am expression. Is Jesus its replacement?