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?

 

Psalm 40.16

 

August 2013, Number 246

 

Week I. Read Psalm 40.16 noting the word Lord. Who is the Lord? On this read Deuteronomy 26.5-11 and John 20.28 noting the word Lord in each passage. What kind of a God is this lord? On this read Isaiah 43.10 noting the words witnesses, before and after. But what about all of the other religions? On this read 1 Corinthians 8.4-7 noting the words idols, real, so-called, accustomed and defiled. What does this misapprehension tell us about ourselves? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.4 noting the word blinded. How severe is this blindness? Can we get rid of it on our own? On this read Romans 7.24 and Colossians 1.13 noting the word deliver in both verses. How does this deliverance take place? On this read Romans 9.18 noting the words whomever, mercy and hardens. But isn’t this wrong to factor us out of our own enlightenment? On this read John 15.5 noting the words vine, branches, apart and nothing. How do you live with is demotion?

 

Week II. Read again Psalm 40.16 noting this time the word great. What makes God great? On this read Job 38.1-11 noting all the references to creation. How significant is this? On this read Romans 1.25 noting the words creature and Creator. Why is this contrast so stark? Aren’t we in some sense creators too? On this read Isaiah 55.8-9 noting the words not, neither and higher. Does this passage trivialize whatever similarities there may be between God and his creation? On this read Acts 17.28 noting the line in whom we have our being. Is this line reserved exclusively for God, or can it also be said of us regarding God – namely, that God’s being resides in us? On this read John 5.26 noting the phrase life in himself. Isn’t this clearly something we don’t have? On this read Psalm 104.29 noting the words takest and breath. Read also Psalm 39.4-6 noting the words fleeting, nothing, mere and shadow. Read also James 4.14 noting the word mist. Is it therefore impossible for us to measure up to, or exceed, God’s creative greatness?

 

Week III. Reread Psalm 40.16 noting again the word great. Is God’s only greatness in his creativity? On this read Exodus 34.6 noting the words abounding and love. Now do we also overflow with this sort of love? On this read Romans 1.31 noting the word ruthless, 2 Timothy 3.2-4 noting the word abusive, and Mark 7.21 noting the word foolishness. If not, how does God show this remarkable love to us? On this read 1 John 4.10 noting the words love, expiation and sins. Why is this display of love such a strong showing? On this read Romans 8.4 noting the word just and Colossians 2.14 noting the word legal. On this just punishment for our sins, see Matthew 25.41 noting the line the eternal fire prepared for the devil. Note also the actual word punishment in 2 Thessalonians 1.9, the word torment in Luke 16.23 and 28, and the word torture in Revelation 9.5. So whatever would remove this horror would be loving indeed, wouldn’t you agree?

 

Week IV. Read Psalm 40.16 one last time noting again the word great. But how does the sacrifice or expiation of Jesus on the cross save us from this horror? On this read Galatians 3.13 noting the play between the two occurrences of the word curse. But how does the curse on Jesus take away our curse? On this read 2 Corinthians 8.9 noting the play, back and forth, between the words rich and poor. But how does the poverty of Jesus make us rich? On this read 1 Peter 2.24 noting the line bore our sins in his body on the tree. Now just how does this substitution work? The willing impoverishment of Jesus was when he was punished in our place. This makes us rich by eliminating any need for us being punished for the sins which Jesus already was punished for – even though we were the ones who actually committed those sins. So, as 1 Corinthians 1.30 puts it, the righteousness of Christ becomes our righteousness even though we aren’t righteous because we were the ones who sinned – and continue to do so. Now does that seem fair to you? If not, is that a problem? Why not? On this read Romans 5.8 noting the key word while.

 

 

Colossians 2.5

 

September 2013, Number 247

 

Week I. Read Colossians 2.5 noting the word absent. What’s the point about this absence? On this read Colossians 2.1 noting the line all those who have not seen my face. So this absence is about Paul having no physical presence among the Colossians (see also 1 Corinthians 5.3). But why is this an issue? On this read 1 Corinthians 12.12-13 noting the phrase one body, and 12.26-27 noting the words together and members. These verses seem to suggest that the church is a physical assembly of believing, baptized people. So with Paul being absent in body, it raises the question of whether or not he is still a member of the church, which is the body of Christ, when he’s not there with them in the flesh. On this importance of his physical presence, see Acts 20.37-38, noting the words wept, sorrowing and face. And read also Romans 1.8-13 noting the words thank, always, coming, long, impart, mutually and often. For another witness to the physicality of the church, read 1 Corinthians 11.29 noting the line discerning the body.

 

Week II. Read again Colossians 2.5 noting this time the line yet I am with you in spirit. But how is this possible if the church is physical? And what is this spirit, anyway? On this read 1 Corinthians 2.6-16, noting the words doomed, secret, eye, depths, comprehends, truths, discerned and mind. What we see here is a realm beyond the physical that links physical creatures together when they aren’t bodily present or together with one another. This spiritual dimension, however, doesn’t oppose the physical. All it does is go beyond it to establish a more stable basis for the church – which makes it immune to any and all physical absence. On this read 1 Thessalonians 3.6-13, noting first the spiritual words faith, remember, if, before, hearts, holiness and saints – setting them over against the more physical words long, see, face, supply and way. On the superiority of the spiritual over the physical, see 1 Corinthians 1.10-13 noting the contrast between the two lines, united in the same mind and quarreling among you. Therefore it is clear that being together doesn’t guarantee togetherness.

 

Week III. Reread Colossians 2.5 noting this time the line firmness of your faith in Christ. What does this line say about the church? Is it that the church is grounded in faith in Christ regardless of physical absence and separation? On this read Ephesians 4.11-16 noting the words doctrine and together. So can the church exist when people share the same understanding of Christ even though apart? Can it exist when they are separated by different institutions, provided that they share that same, proper understanding of Christ? On this non-physical view of the church, read Acts 20.28-30 noting the words church and draw. Here we see that being physically together results in destruction – being ripped apart by fierce wolves and their false doctrine. According to Acts 20. 27 it is the whole counsel of God that makes the church, and not just being together physically. Read also 2 Timothy 4.3-4 noting the words people, sound, myths and wander. Here again we see that people together don’t make the church – but only sound doctrine. People gathered together around false myths don’t constitute a church by their sheer togetherness! Do you then see how far-a-field a church would be that insists on affirming diversity of opinion for its own well-being and togetherness?

 

Week IV. Read Colossians 2.5 one last time noting the word Christ. How did he do on keeping everyone together physically? On this read John 7.43, 9.16 and 10.19 noting the word division. Why didn’t Jesus unite everyone? Was he against unity? On this read Matthew 11.6 and John 6.61 noting the word offense. Now what caused these offenses over Jesus which resulted in the divisions regarding him? On this read John 3.19 noting the line men loved darkness. Why would we do that? On this read Mark 7.20-23, noting the words defiles, heart and wickedness. Can these defilements be washed away so that physical togetherness will finally be enough for there to be a church? On this read Romans 7.18-25 noting the words evil, do, law, war, wretched, death, flesh and serve. Note also Romans 6.6 on how only death breaks our slavery to sin. Do you agree? If so, why?

Psalm 119.19

October 2013, Number 248

 

Week I. Read Psalm 119.19 noting the line I am a sojourner on earth. What does this mean? On this read Deuteronomy 10.19 noting the reference to Egypt. What does that suggest? On this read Joshua 5.9, noting the word reproach. And what was the reproach suffered in Egypt? On this read Exodus 6.9 noting the line broken spirit and… cruel bondage. How was this bondage so cruel? On this read Exodus 1.11-13 noting the line afflict them… with heavy burdens…. and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick. What does this say about the earth? On this read Genesis 3.17-19 noting the words cursed, toil, thorns, sweat and till. Does this mean that paradise is now inhospitable? On this read Job 14.1 noting the line that life is of few days and full of trouble. What else is bothersome? On this read Exodus 23.28-29 noting the hornets and wild beasts. Note also the scorpions in 1 Kings 12.11 and the poisonous snakes in Number 21.6. As Isaiah 11.8 makes clear, this world is not a place where it is safe yet for babies to play with snakes (asp and adders) – or wild dogs for that matter, as in Jeremiah 15.3. What do you think of that?

Week II. Read again Psalm 119.19 noting same word sojourner. So are we sojourners here because of the inhospitality of nature? Or are there other problems too? On this read Psalm 14.3, noting the words all, corrupt, none and good. Read as well Psalm 116.11, noting the line men are all a vain hope. How so? On this read Psalm 12.2, noting the words every, lies, double and heart. So is that why we’re all sojourners – due to nature and people being unwelcoming as they are? On this read Psalm 39.5 noting the words nothing and breath. Does that mean that this world is not the place for us? Is that why we are so flimsy and ephemeral – merely a breath? On this read Psalm 42.1 noting the words soul, longs and God. Is it ever said in the Bible anywhere that we should also long for people and nature? Why isn’t that the case?

Week III. Reread Psalm 119.19 noting again that word sojourner. So if we don’t belong here, where do we belong? On this read Philippians 3.20 noting the line our commonwealth is in heaven. Does this mean that heaven is our real home? On this read John 14.2 noting the word house. Note also Luke 9.58 about Jesus having nowhere in this world to lay his head. Why is heaven a better home? On this read Revelation 21.4 noting the absence of death and pain. Without those culprits plaguing us – death and pain – life clearly would be much better in heaven. Note also Romans 6.7 about being freed from sin. That also is a big plus. No wonder Hebrews 11.13-16 calls heaven a better country, and Hebrews 13.14 says that’s because it is a lasting city. Do you agree?

Week IV. Read Colossians 2.5 one last time noting again that word sojourner. So as sojourners, how do we get into heaven? On this read John 14.2-3 noting the two words prepare and take. How does Jesus prepare a home for us? On this read 1 John 2.1-2 noting the words advocate and expiation. What do these words mean? On this read Romans 5.9 noting the words wrath and blood. So by dying in our place for our sins, or being punished instead of us – being our expiation, or sacrifice – Christ becomes our advocate and reconciles God, or satisfies his anger, so that we won’t be blocked from going to heaven. On this point read Romans 5.1-2 noting the words peace, access, grace and sharing. None of this can be assumed in any way as coming to us easily. No, Luke 16.16 says no one goes to heaven except by violence – that is, through the death of Jesus on the cross and the reconciling of God. But how does Christ take us to heaven? On this read Ephesians 2.8 noting the words faith and gift, and John 6.44 noting the word draws. So we need to move from unbelief to belief – but God gets that going – not us – as John 15.16 and Romans 9.16 say. But then, after that, we are to ratify what God has done to us – by following John 14.1 and believing in Jesus. Galatians 5.25 also calls us to walk in the spirit by living righteously, after we have ratified God’s call by believing in Jesus. Is this whole scenario, your joy, then, as Galatians 6.14 says it be should? Why or why not?

 

 

Hebrews 13.16

November 2013, Number 249

Week I. Read Hebrews 13.16 noting the phrase such sacrifices. What are these? On this read the same verse noting the word share. Why is sharing a sacrifice and not something we can do easily? On this read Luke 12.18 noting the word store. Why do we feel that we need to stock-pile goods for ourselves when we already have enough? On this read Exodus 16.19-21 noting the words no, leave, morning, foul and angry. Could it be that we don’t trust that God will provide for us in the days ahead? If so, why do we think that way? On this read Deuteronomy 8.17 noting the words my, power, might, gotten and wealth. Why don’t we readily give the credit to God? On this read Psalm 42.10 noting the question Where is your God? So if God can’t be seen, does that mean he doesn’t exist? Perhaps for unbelief, but not for faith. On this see Hebrews 11.1 noting the line that faith is the conviction of things not seen. Read also 2 Corinthians 4.18 noting again the word unseen. Is the invisibility of God a problem for you? If so, how so?

Week II. Read again Hebrews 13.16 noting the word neglect. Why would a believer be negligent with this sharing? On this read Romans 7.19 noting the words want and do, good and evil. Does that mean we are hopelessly disabled by our sinfulness? On this read 1 John 5.2-5 noting the words obey, keep, burdensome, victory, overcome and faith. And how does faith help us ward off this negligence? On this read John 1.12-13 noting the sequence from belief to being children of God. How does faith bring this about? On this read 2 Corinthians 5.14-17 noting the words control, live, human, creation, old and new. What does this new creation look like? On this read Galatians 2.20 noting the words crucified, no, I and me. What’s the result of this new life? On this read Philippians 4.11-13 noting the words learned, content, do and all. In this new life, how do we assess the good things we are able finally to do? On this read 1 Corinthians 1.30 noting the words God, made, Jesus, our and righteousness. But how can this be if we are the ones actually doing the good deeds? On this read John 15.5 noting the image of the vine and the dependent branches. Are you convinced? Explain.

Week III. Reread Hebrews 13.16 noting this time the phrase pleasing to God. Why is God pleased if we make sacrifices in order to share with others? On this read Matthew 22.36-40 noting the words great, law, love, God, neighbor, all and depends. What does it mean that we are not to be focused on ourselves in this twofold admonition? On this read Luke 9.23 noting the words deny, daily and follow. Why are we factored out like this? On this read John 3.19 noting the words judgment, loved, darkness and evil. How fixed is this judgment against us? On this read Romans 7.18 noting the words nothing, dwells and good. So if it is difficult for us to sacrifice in order to share with others, are we not to worry – since we don’t matter? How does that make you feel? Explain.

Week IV. Read Hebrews 13.16 one last time noting the word share. What are we to share with others? On this read Luke 3.11 noting the words coats and food. What would prevent one from sharing food and clothes? On this read Matthew 6.25 noting the word anxious. What’s the cause of this anxiety? On this read Matthew 6.19 noting the words rust and consume, thieves and steal. How is one to get over this fear? On this read Luke 12.15 noting the words life, consists and possessions. What then does life consist in? On this read Luke 12.21 noting the expression rich toward God. But what is that like? On this read Galatians 5.22-23 noting the fruit of the Spirit. What is this fruit? On this read Matthew 6.20 noting the line treasures in heaven. Why is this fruit so valuable? On the fruit of faithfulness, read Romans 3.25 noting the phrase received by faith. See also Romans 5.1 and the phrase justified by faith. Because such faith in Christ opens up heaven for the believer, it is valuable. All the rest of the fruit of the Spirit reinforces faith and so is valuable for the same reason. Do you agree? 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?