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 11.26

January 2014, Number 251

Week I. Read Acts 11.26 noting the word Christians. What were they called before? On this read Acts 9.2 noting the line belonging to the Way. What way is this? On this read Acts 16.17 noting the line the way of salvation. And by whom does this salvation come? On this read Acts 4.10-12 noting the words Jesus, no, other and name. Why is this? On this read 1 Peter 1.18-19 noting the line ransomed from [your] futile ways. What made the previous way of Judaism futile? On this read Hebrews 9.23-26 noting the words necessary, heavenly, better and repeatedly. How is the sacrifice of Jesus better? On this read again 1 Peter 1.18-19 noting the line without blemish or spot. What makes him so pure? On this read Colossians 2.9 noting the words fullness, deity and dwells. How does the death of Jesus save us? On this read Ephesians 2.8-10 noting the words grace, faith, works and walk. And what does it save us from? On this read Romans 5.9 and John 3.36 noting in both the word wrath. Is that salvation worth having? Why? See Luke 16:23, 28.

Week II. Read again Acts 11.26 noting the same word Christians. Why is it misleading if we don’t call believers and followers of Jesus Christians? On this read 1 Corinthians 1.11-16 noting the names Paul, Apollos, Cephas and Christ. How does this confusion come about? On this read again 1 Corinthians 1.13 noting this time the word baptized. Why would you think that Christianity was about whoever baptized you? On this read Romans 6.3 noting the link between baptism and Christ. How could this be missed? On this read Titus 3.3-7 noting the word washing. If that washing were to be stressed in isolation from the rest of the reading, then the emphasis could easily fall on the person doing the actual washing – Paul, Apollos, Cephas or Jesus. But that would be a clear distortion. How then does it take root? On this read Galatians 1.6 noting the words quickly and deserting. On this rootless faith, see Matthew 13.21. Read also Romans 5.3-5 on how to make faith more substantial.

Week III. Reread Acts 11.26 noting again the word Christians. Why should we use this name for ourselves? On this read Colossians 1.18 noting the words head and pre-eminent. How can Jesus be the head of the church if we make up its membership? On this read Hebrews 12.2 noting the words pioneer and perfecter. What is it that Jesus can do for the church that we can’t muster on our own? On this read Philippians 3.12-15 noting the play on words between the two phrases my own and his won. We cannot make Christ our Savior if he had not first made us his children for salvation. Because his act must go before any of ours, he has to be the leader of the church – even if we don’t see him sitting in on our many meetings and putting offerings in the plate on Sunday morning. On this pre-eminence, read Matthew 16.15-18 noting the words rock, build and church. In what way is Jesus the rock? On this read Psalm 62.2, Isaiah 26.4 and 1 Corinthians 10.4, noting the same word rock in all three verses. So who is Jesus?

Week IV. Read Acts 11.26 one last time noting again the same word Christians. Why is Christ linked to the head of the church? On this read Galatians 5.16-17 noting the words Spirit and flesh. Why is there this opposition between these two? On this read Matthew 26.41 noting the words flesh and weak. Therefore Christ stands against the waywardness of the flesh in the church as the Spirit of the church or its leader and head. How does the church go wayward? On this read Ephesians 4.11-16 noting the words building, equip, mature, measure, tossed, doctrine, deceitful, head and knit. What we need from Christ, then, is help to stop us from changing the doctrine or true teachings of the church. Why would any of us want to do such a thing? On the read John 3.19 noting the words loved, darkness, deeds and evil. How does Christ, as head of the church, help us through this mess? On this read Ephesians 5.1-11 noting how all these words drive toward the word expose at the end. For help with this difficult work of exposing the darkness, read Matthew 11.28-30. Does that help?

 

Ecclesiastes 11.7

February 2014, Number 252

 

Week I. Read Ecclesiastes 11.7 noting the phrase light is sweet. Why wouldn’t it be? On this read John 3.19 noting the line men loved the darkness rather than the light. And why is this? On this read John 3.19 again, noting this time the last phrase because their deeds were evil. And why does evil resist the light? On this read Ephesians 5.12-13 noting the words expose, visible and light. What does it mean that darkness becomes light when it is exposed? On this read Ephesians 5.8 noting the play between the two sets of words once and now, darkness and light. Read also Colossians 1.13 noting the words transferred, darkness and Son. So how does this transformation take place? On this read Luke 11.33-36 noting the words eye, lamp, lighting, bright and sound. Now if Luther is right and the eye stands for doctrine, or proper Christian teaching (LW 27:37), how then do we move from darkness to light? On this read 2 Timothy 4.3 noting the line endure sound teaching. Is that the key? On this read also Luke 11.28 noting the progression between the three words hear, keep and blessed. So if enduring or keeping sound doctrine is the key, why is that the case?

Week II. Read again Ecclesiastes 11.7 noting just the word light. What is this light? If Luther is right and it is the book of Ecclesiastes itself (LW 15.174), then what are some examples of this light? On this matter, first read Ecclesiastes 1.1-3 noting two phrases all is vanity and under the sun. (For the same coupling of phrases, read Ecclesiastes 1.14.) Now regarding vanity, read Ecclesiastes 1.8 noting the words weariness and satisfied. And read also Ecclesiastes 2.16 noting the line that the wise man dies just like the fool; Ecclesiastes 4.1 regarding the tears of the oppressed; and Ecclesiastes 9.3 that the hearts of men are full of evil. Why then is everything vanity? Because the vain life on earth, as Ecclesiastes 9.9 says, isn’t fulfilling. It leaves us feeling empty or in despair as Ecclesiastes 2.20 says; and we don’t know what’s good for us as Ecclesiastes 6.12 says.

Week III. Reread Ecclesiastes 11.7 noting again the word light. Now if this vanity is true for what’s under the sun, is there any hope for what’s above the sun, in heaven? On this read Ecclesiastes 5.2 noting the line for God is in heaven, and you upon earth. So what comes from God in heaven? Is it vanity too? On this read Ecclesiastes 8.15 noting the only good of eating and working which God gives. How does this goodness come to us? On this read Ecclesiastes 12.2 noting the line remember also your Creator, and Ecclesiastes 12.13 noting the line fear God and keep his commandments. Where does this memory and fear come from? On this read Ecclesiastes 3.11 noting the words eternity and minds. Why is God so gracious in expanding our horizons to include the eternal? On this read Ecclesiastes 3.15 noting the line God seeks what is driven away. And why is that? On this read Ecclesiastes 7.29 noting the line God made man upright. How does that explain God’s largesse?

Week IV. Read Ecclesiastes 11.7 one last time noting again the same word light. Now what if we don’t honor God’s gifts and commands to us? What then? On this read Ecclesiastes 8.12-13 noting the words fear and well. Read also Ecclesiastes 2.26 noting the words pleases and sinner. Does that mean we’ll be left with only vanity if we falter? If so, what does that mean for us? On this read Ecclesiastes 7.3 noting the line by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad. Now if Luther is right and this means we should “stick it out” (LW 15:110), then wouldn’t there be hope? For then we would be able to fight against our corruption and once again fear God as we should and live righteous lives. On this read Ecclesiastes 5.10 noting the warning against loving money and wealth. So while there is nothing new under the sun, as Ecclesiastes 1.9 says, Isaiah 43.19 and 2 Corinthians 5.17 show us a newness that comes to us from God himself – which is above the sun, and lifts us out of vanity. Read then Colossians 3.2: Set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth – a fitting epigram for the Book of Ecclesiastes!

 

1 Thessalonians 4.6

March 2014, Number 253

Week I. Read 1 Thessalonians 4.6 noting the line the Lord is an avenger in all things. What does this mean? On this read 1 Corinthians 6.9-10 noting the line will not inherit the kingdom of God. What if that happens? Where do we go instead? On this read Luke 16.22-28 noting the double use of the phrase place of torment. What will be so tormenting about this hellish place? On this read Mark 9.48 noting the words worm and fire. How bad is that? On this read Revelation 9.1-6 noting the words bottomless, furnace, scorpions, torture and death. Is anyone able to tough that out? On this read Matthew 25.30 noting the words weep and gnash. What makes this place so terrifying? On this read Revelation 20.9-10 noting the words devil, lake and fire. How do you suppose the devil will act in hell? On this read Revelation 12.12 noting the words great, wrath and woe. Is Jesus behind this? On this read John 5.25-29 noting the words granted and execute, and the phrase resurrection of judgment.

Week II. Read again 1 Thessalonians 4.6 noting again the line the Lord is an avenger in all things. Why is God this way? On this read Matthew 3.12 noting the words chaff and burn. What makes a person chaff? On this read Hebrews 3.17 noting the word provoked. What caused this provocation? On this read Number 14.20-35 noting the words proof, hearkened, despised, murmur and faithlessness. Why do these infractions provoke God to anger? On this read Psalm 99.4-9 noting the correlation between the words lover, justice, worship and holy. Does that mean that God won’t graciously overlook our misdeeds? On this read Exodus 34.7 noting the line by no means clear the guilty. But doesn’t God’s love make him blind to our faults? On this read Psalm 64.5 noting the last line who can see us. Read also Job 28.24 noting the line he… sees everything, and Psalm 139.7 noting the rhetorical question whither shall I flee from thy presence? What difference does it make that God misses nothing of what we think, say or do?

Week III. Reread 1 Thessalonians 4.6 noting again the line the Lord is an avenger in all things. How shall we live with this threat? On this read 1 Thessalonians 4.6 noting the other line that no man transgress. But are there any other options? On this read Job 9.20 noting the line I am innocent… How would this help? On this read Psalm 15.1-2 noting the correlation between the words dwell and blamelessly. But what if we aren’t innocent and blameless? Are there any other options? On this read John 3.19 noting the words love and darkness. How would this hiding help? On this read Proverbs 22.3 noting the words danger and hides. What’s wrong with this general rule? On this read Isaiah 55.9 noting the word higher. Because of this, normal ways of protecting ourselves fails when it comes to God. So are they any other options? On this read Genesis 4.13 noting the words greater and bear. Will this complaint and near defiance do any good?

Week IV. Read 1 Thessalonians 4.6 one last time noting again the same line the Lord is an avenger in all things. What if none of our options work? What then? On this read 1 Samuel 2.25 noting Eli’s question about finding help or mediation and intercession. For an answer to this question read 1 Timothy 2.5-6 noting the word mediator, and 1 John 2.1 noting the word advocate. How does this help us against the vengeance of God? On this read Romans 5.9 noting the words blood, saves, wrath and God. How does his blood do this? On this read 1 Peter 2.24 noting the line he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree. This means Jesus was punished in our place for our sins when he suffered and died on the cross. But how does this help? On this read Hebrews 9.24 noting the line Christ has entered… into heaven… to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. So Christ uses his sacrifice to bring about the forgiveness from God for our sins. How great is that?

 

Psalm 118:18

April 2014, Number 254

Week I. Read Psalm 118.18 noting the word death. What death is this that we escape? On this read Hebrews 9.27 noting the phrase die once. So if we don’t escape our physical death on earth, what is the other death about that God does rescue us from? On this read Revelation 20.6 noting the category of second death. If this is the death that believers in God escape, what is it like? On this read Matthew 25.41 noting the category eternal fire. If this death is hell, what is it like? On this read Luke 16.23 and 28 noting the line place of torment. What sort of torment is this? On this read 2 Thessalonians 1.9 noting the line exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might. What is that like? On this read James 1.17 noting the words every, good and gift. What is it like to be without this goodness? On this read Mark 7.21 noting the word defiles. What makes such defilement so repulsive? On this read Philippians 4.7-11 noting the words peace and content. Because we long for such tranquility, and defilement keeps it from us, we are repulsed. Do you agree? If not, why not? 

Week II. Read again Psalm 118.18 noting again the same word, death. If this second death is so repulsive because of the defilement it’s based upon, why does it threaten us? On this read Hebrews 12.11 noting the words painful and peaceful. How can the one lead to the other? Note the word trained in that same verse. How does what’s painful train us for a peaceful life? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.14-15 noting the words love, controls, convinced, died and themselves. Why do we have to die to ourselves if we are going to help others out? On this read 2 Timothy 3.2-5 noting the words lover, self, proud and inhuman. How bad is this? On this read Ephesians 2.2 noting the line we were by nature children of wrath. What does this wrath include? On this read Galatians 5.19-21 noting the words licentiousness, enmity, strife, anger and carousing. How are we going to be at peace if we are like that – with all the strife, enmity and carousing? Only if we deny ourselves. Right? Do you agree? Why or why not?

Week III. Reread Psalm 118.18 noting the line chastened me sorely. What is this like? On this read Luke 22.31 noting the word sift. What is that like? On this read 1 Corinthians 11:19 noting the words recognize and genuine. Read also Hebrews 4.12 noting the line piercing to the division of soul and spirit. Why do we need to be sorted out in this rough way? On this read John 3.19 noting the words darkness and evil. Why do we employ these methods? On this read 1 Timothy 4.1-2 noting the words deceitful and liars. How is this to be overcome? On this read again Hebrews 4.12 noting this time the words word and sword. How does the word break through our deceit? On this read Jeremiah 23.29 noting the words hammer, breaks and rock. What does it feel like when the word hammers us? On this read Luke 11.28 noting the words hear and keep. These short, punchy words – and many others like them – leave us no wiggle-room. They shove us toward righteousness. Is there any other way to get there? Explain.

Week IV. Read Psalm 118.18 one last time noting again the same line chastened me sorely. Why is the word sorely added? On this read Hosea 6.1 noting the words torn and heal. Why does God have to hurt us, tear us, if he’s going to heal us? On this read Romans 7.13 noting the line sinful beyond measure. Because of this severe degradation, all that will work on us is to be chastised sorely. What’s an example of this? On this read Acts 9.1-19 noting the words murder, suddenly, fell, told, sight, drank, must and suffer. How rough was Jesus with Paul? On this read John 6.44 noting the word draws. How rough is that? What if it is through a small knot hole, rather than through a wide open gate? On this read Matthew 7.14 noting the words narrow and few. Why are there so few being dragged through the knot hole? On this read 1 Corinthians 4:10-13 noting the words fools, refuse and off-scouring. Are there any other tough requirements? Try out the word hate in Luke 14:26? 

 

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?

 

 

Proverbs 12.10

December 2013, Number 250

Week I. Read Proverbs 12.10 noting the word cruel. Why would anyone want to be cruel to animals? On this read Philippines 2.4 noting the line look… to the interests of others. Read also the verse before it, Philippians 2.3, noting the words others and better. While these two verses apply primarily to people, aren’t there also implications for animals and wild life? And wouldn’t they be that we should be kind to animals and beasts – instead of abusing them because we think that we’re of more value than they are? Would the same cruelty then extend to children? On this read Ephesians 6.4 about not provoking your children to anger. Why is that? On this read the same verse again and note the contrast with the idea of raising our children in the… instruction of the Lord. So rather than tearing down weaker creatures, like our children, we should instead direct them to more fulfilling lives of service to others. And all of this hinges on our attitude towards them. Is that enough, then, to help us take care of animals, rather than harm them? If so, how so?

Week II. Read again Proverbs 12.10 noting the same word cruel, but this time along with the joining word mercy. Now, just how are we able to think we’re being merciful when we’re actually being mean to animals? On this read Isaiah 5.20 noting the switch of goodness for evil. If that were to happen, then we could be mean even while thinking we’re nice. How could that switching of evil for goodness come about? On this read John 3.19 noting the line men loved darkness rather than light. Read also Romans 3.23 noting the phrase fall short. How bad is this fall? On this read Romans 7.18 noting the phrase nothing good. Read also Ephesians 2.3 noting the expression children of wrath, and the expression no soundness in Isaiah 1.6. Are people untrustworthy, then? On this read John 2.24 and Luke 18.9 noting the words trust and trusted. So saying that we are being merciful doesn’t mean that we are. Is that why we’re told in Mark 10.18 that God alone is good?

Week III. Reread Proverbs 12.10 noting this time the word beast. Why are animals and beasts good? On this read Genesis 1.20-25 noting the words creatures, birds, beasts, all and good. What does it mean that all the animals were created good by God? On this read Matthew 10.29 noting the words sparrows, one, fall and will. Read also Genesis 3.14 noting the phrase cursed… above all wild animals. Does that mean only the snake is sinful? On this read Matthew 28.19 noting the words all and nations. Is this only about people? Is that why we don’t baptize our pets and domestic animals? Are people worse off then than the animals? On this read Jonah 1.3 noting the words but and flee. Read with it Jonah 1.17 and 2.10 about the obedient fish, and Jonah 4.7 about the obedient worm. Read also Numbers 22.21-35 noting the obedience of Balaam’s donkey in contrast to his own rebellion. Note also the colt, the foal of an ass, on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem in Matthew 21.1-7. How are all of these animals so obedient? Are they sinful?

Week IV. Read Proverbs 12.10 one last time noting again the word beast. What does it say about us if we mistreat our animals? Is that some sort of judgment against us? On this read again Proverbs 12.10 noting the words righteous and regard. How is this so? On this read Matthew 25.40 noting the word least. While this clearly refers to people, one cannot help but think it might also cover other lower living creatures as well. On this read Genesis 7.1-16 noting all of the animals taken on the ark. Why are there so many more animals on the ark than people? But also note that after the flood many animals were burned up as offerings to God in Genesis 8.20-22. What does this say about the value of animals? It says that they are valuable in quite different ways to God. First, they sustain life for the humans, and so they must be preserved on the ark. In Genesis 9.4 we are told animals are to be food for us. But they also are to be used for sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise to God. Do these combined uses seem odd to you?