Living By the Book: May 21-25

This week we’re going to focus generally on observation, interpretation and application. In short, observation answers the question: what do I see? Interpretation answers the question: what does it mean? Application answers the question: what does it mean for me? (not to me)

Also, I have another post with Helps, in case you get stuck. Here’s the link: Helps

Monday, May 21


Scripture: Mark 1:1-8

Scripture Reading Skill: Observation

Questions to answer:

  1. Who are the people involved?
  2. Where are they?
  3. What are they doing?

Tuesday, May 22


Scripture: Mark 1:9-11

Scripture Reading Skill: Observation and Interpretation

Questions to answer:

  1. Who are the people involved?
  2. Where are they?
  3. What are they doing?
  4. What is the significance of the Jesus being baptized, the Spirit descending and the Father speaking?

Wednesday, May 23


Scripture: Mark 1:9-11

Scripture Reading Skill: Application

Questions to answer. Try to figure these out before looking at answers I have provided. Pray and ask God to give you discernment.

  1. Why are people baptized?
  2. Why was Jesus baptized?
  3. What does it mean for me that Jesus was baptized?
  4. Why was God the Father so pleased with Jesus for being baptized?
  5. How does this change how you think about your own baptism?

Thursday, May 24


Scripture: Mark 1:12-13

Scripture Reading Skill: Observation and Interpretation

Questions to answer.

  1. Who are the people involved?
  2. Where are they?
  3. What are they doing?
  4. What word(s) stand out to you?

Friday, May 25


Scripture: Mark 1:12-13

Scripture Reading Skill: Application

Questions to answer.

  1. How does the fact that Jesus was tempted impact your thinking about your own temptations?
  2. What do you make of the Spirit driving Jesus into the wilderness?
  3. Why do you think Mark (and the other Gospels) include this event in Jesus’ life.
  4. What temptations do you need to give to God today?
  5. How does God minister to you in your temptations?

 

What God’s Word Says About…

When I am…and life is not so good

Afraid: 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God gave us a spirit, not of fear, but of power and love and self control.

Insecure: Philippians 1:6, “And I’m sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Hopeless: Romans 5:3, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Lonely: Isaiah 43:2-3, “When you pass through the waters I will be with you, and through the rivers they shall not overwhelm, when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume, for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Worried: Matthew 6:25, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Jesus)

Angry: Ephesians 4:26-27, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”

Tempted: 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Grieving: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by our God.”

Doubting: Psalm 91:1-2, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Depressed: Habakkuk 3:17-19, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the field yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stall; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

Discouraged: John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Condemned: Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Prideful: Jeremiah 9:23-24, “Thus says the Lord: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches. But let him who boasts, boast in this, that he understand knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight declares the Lord.

Impatient: Psalm 27:14, “Wait on the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage. Wait for the Lord.”

Unforgiving: Ephesians 4:29, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Restless: John 15:4, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”

Complaining: 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Confused: James 1:5-6, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given him.”

Tested: James 1:2-4, “Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know the the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

When I am…and life is so good

Loved: John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son that whoever believes would not perish but have everlasting life.”

Forgiven: Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

Joyful: Psalm 136:1, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.”

Content: Philippians 4:12-13, “I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Thankful:  Ephesians 5:20, “Giving thanks always, and for everything to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Seeking God: Psalm 34:8-9, “O, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”

 

 

Helps: May 28-June 1

Monday, May 28


Scripture: Mark 1:14-15

You’ve got this one…

Tuesday, May 29


Scripture: Mark 1:16-20

 

Questions to answer:

  1. What are the key words (words that jump out to you)? So these are the key words/phrases that caught my attention: “I will make you become”; immediately (2x); they left their father. I think there’s something rich in the phrase “I will make you become.” Jesus doesn’t magically make them fishers of men. No. He makes them become fishers of men–it involves both an action and a process. I love that.
  2. How does your understanding of this text relate to your own call to salvation?

Wednesday, May 30


Scripture: Mark 1:21-28

Questions to answer. How many questions can you write from this passage? Now try to find the answers.

  1. Where is Capernaum?
  2. What day is the Sabbath?
  3. What were the synagogues used for?
  4. Why did Jesus teach in a synagogue?
  5. What does astonished mean?
  6. What was the difference between the way Jesus taught and the scribes taught?
  7. What is an unclean spirit.
  8. Was he loud when he cried out?
  9. Why did he say “us?” Who was the “us?”
  10. How did he know who Jesus was?
  11. Why did Jesus tell him to be silent?
  12. Why did Jesus rebuke “him” when the man said it was “us?”
  13. What does “The Holy One of God?” mean. Why is it in all caps?
  14. How did the man convulse?
  15. Was it a mad cry (like a spoiled kid not getting his way) or a defeated cry (like a cry of submission)?
  16. Why were they so amazed? Was this unusual? Could the scribes not do this?
  17. How did his fame spread? Word of mouth?

Map of Israel in New Testament Times with Roads

Thursday, May 31


Scripture: Mark 1:29-34

Scripture Reading Skill: Reading Repeatedly

Read the passage in your translation. Now read it in another translation. Next, listen to it. (I’m serious!) Read it out loud. You got this one!

Friday, June 1


Scripture: Mark 1:35-39

Scripture Reading Skill: Do what Jesus did here. Read it and do what he did. Wow! Prayer is an incredible gift from God.  Enjoy your time with the Lord.

Living By the Book May 28-June 1

This week we’re going to hone our observation skills. Much of reading Scripture is asking the right questions. If you ask good questions you will discover great answers. Let’s jump in.

As in last week, Helps are available. You should see a link to the right side of this page called Helps May 28-June 1.

Monday, May 28


Scripture: Mark 1:14-15

Scripture Reading Skill: Review from last week

Questions to answer:

  1. Who are the people involved?
  2. Where are they?
  3. What are they doing?
  4. When did it happen?

Tuesday, May 29


Scripture: Mark 1:16-20

Scripture Reading Skill: Readiness. According to Arnold and Beyer (NT Scholars), if you’re going to make the most of reading Scripture 3 conditions have to be present: Are you regenerate (born again)? Do you have an open heart to receive what you read? Are you intellectually and emotionally capable of understanding what you read?

In light of these realities, ask God to search your heart. If you struggle to understand Scripture (as many do), ask for his help. He delights in those who delight in His Word.

Questions to answer:

  1. What are the key words (words that jump out to you)?
  2. How does your understanding of this text relate to your own call to salvation?

Wednesday, May 30


Scripture: Mark 1:21-28

Scripture Reading Skill: Reading Thoughtfully. Thoughtful reading is study. According to Hendricks, “When you come to the Bible, put your thinking cap on. Apply the same mental disciple that you would to any subject in which you take a vital interest.” For this section, and throughout the book of Mark, I find it helpful to have a map. For some reason, if I can spatially plot where Jesus is going, it sticks in my head. There is one for your use on the Helps page for this week.

Questions to answer. How many questions can you write from this passage? Now try to find the answers.

Thursday, May 31


Scripture: Mark 1:29-34

Scripture Reading Skill: Reading Repeatedly

Read the passage in your translation. Now read it in another translation. Next, listen to it. (I’m serious!) Read it out loud.

Friday, June 1


Scripture: Mark 1:35-39

Scripture Reading Skill: Do what Jesus did here. Read it and do what he did. Wow! Prayer is an incredible gift from God.

 

 

Helps: May 25-21

Monday, May 21


Scripture: Mark 1:1-8

I’m assuming you could answer these questions. And great job on getting day one!

Tuesday, May 22


Scripture: Mark 1:9-11

Scripture Reading Skill: Observation and Interpretation

Questions to answer:

  1. Who are the people involved?
  2. Where are they?
  3. What are they doing?
  4. What is the significance of the Jesus being baptized, the Spirit descending and the Father speaking? This is evidence of the Trinity. Notice that the Son is being baptized and the Spirit and the Father are participating in this event. This is Jesus’ inauguration into public ministry and the entire Godhead is involved. This should speak volumes about the unalterable unity of the Trinity and the gracious plan of God to save humanity from our sins.

Wednesday, May 23


Scripture: Mark 1:9-11

Scripture Reading Skill: Application

Questions to answer. Try to figure these out before looking at answers I have provided. Pray and ask God to give you discernment.

  1. Why are people baptized? To show what Christ has done for them by saving them.
  2. Why was Jesus baptized? As an example–he never sinned.
  3. What does it mean for me that Jesus was baptized? He lowered himself, identifying as a sinner. This predicts the crucifixion.
  4. Why was God the Father so pleased with Jesus for being baptized?  Jesus, the majesty one, became Jesus, the humiliated one–already.
  5. How does this change how you think about your own baptism?  My humiliation (over my sin) as I go into the waters pales in comparison to a sinless Jesus who was baptized for sins he never committed.

Thursday, May 24


Scripture: Mark 1:12-13

Scripture Reading Skill: Observation and Interpretation

Questions to answer.

  1. Who are the people involved?
  2. Where are they?
  3. What are they doing?
  4. What word(s) stand out to you?
    1. Immediately–the high of the baptism led to the low of the wilderness. Does this happen with us?
    2. the Spirit drove–The Trinity is still involved and Jesus, as a human, is responding to the Spirit. He really did empty Himself of divine privileges. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Friday, May 25


Scripture: Mark 1:12-13

Scripture Reading Skill: Application

Questions to answer.

  1. How does the fact that Jesus was tempted impact your thinking about your own temptations? You answer this for yourself
  2. What do you make of the Spirit driving Jesus into the wilderness? See above
  3. Why do you think Mark (and the other Gospels) include this event in Jesus’ life. To show us that Jesus faced every temptation we would but without sin.
  4. What temptations do you need to give to God today?
  5. How does God minister to you in your temptations?

 

Singing in the Cave

Singing comes natural when life is good, the bills are paid, the family is well and the future looks bright. However, when the news isn’t good, singing often escapes us. David taught us in Psalm 57 to sing in the cave. Running for his life, with his enemies camped all around him, he wrote:

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. (Psalm 57:1, ESV)

Before David sang, he cried out to God. His singing never glossed over his fear, never ignored his dilemma. When you’re in the cave, there’s no need to pretend life is good. Problems are problems. Hurts are hurts. Bad news is bad news. A troubling diagnosis is a troubling diagnosis. David calls his enemies lions, fiery beasts with spears for teeth and swords for a tongue!

But he doesn’t stay there.

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! (Psalm 57:7, ESV)

This is the same Psalm! David is still sitting in the same cave. Saul is still pursuing him. None of that has changed. When you’re in the cave, you will have to will what you do not feel. David reflects on the character of God (he wills to see God in spite of his circumstances) and as a result reflects the character of God (he feels God’s presence).

What is your song? When life unravels, what fills your mind? Your house? Your car? Beginning today we will release songs we have recorded here at Grace. Savor them. Memorize them. Sing them!

Here’s one we sang recently at Grace. Worship. Enjoy.

 

The Christmas Present for Myself

This year I bought a Christmas present for Trent–well it was really for both of us. I bought Tiles. Most likely you’ve heard of them–small square pieces of plastic embedded with a chip that allows them to be tracked. Trent occasionally (that could be an understatement) loses his wallet. He now has a small tile in it. I often (that could be an understatement) lose my keys. I now have a tile hanging on my keychain. The tiles serve one purpose–to keep me from having to waste time looking for things. I spent way too much time looking for my keys–wasted time.

We tend only to seek what we’ve lost.

Yet Psalm 105 says we should do otherwise:

 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones! (Psalm 105: 1-6, ESV)

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. Why are we instructed to seek who we already have? Because we are constantly tempted to make other pursuits and people the object of our seeking. The word seek literally means “to frequent a place.” We tend to seek our favorite restaurants, people and pastimes. Scripture is replete with commands to seek the Lord. Why?

John Piper says, “His face — the brightness of his personal character — is hidden behind the curtain of our carnal desires. This condition is always ready to overtake us. That is why we are told to “seek his presence continually.” God calls us to enjoy continual consciousness of his supreme greatness and beauty and worth.”

How do we practically do this? Psalm 105 gives five ways: give thanks to Him; call upon Him; sing to Him; glory in Him; remember what He has done.

So this week, Psalm 57:4 is my memory verse: “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.” Will you join me in memorizing Psalm 57:4 this week. I am bound and determined to worry none and seek always.

If you missed Sunday’s sermon, here goes: (https://www.facebook.com/1828113320739340/videos/1962061687344502/)

 

Prank Called by Worry

Worry is like an unwanted sales call, an untimely bill, an annoying interruption in cell service. It doesn’t seek permission, doesn’t give advance warning, and stays longer than you want. It cares not for whatever else has filled your day and will take all your brain and heart space.

How do you close the door when worry knocks? How do you hang up the phone when worry calls?

Micah gives an answer in 7:7, “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”

I said this Sunday and it bears repeating: there must be “but as for me” times in your life. Some will be bigger than others. However, if you’ve determined that worry has to be gone, that it is a sin you are no longer willing to tolerate (I have), then I’ll share with you what I’m doing.

I’m memorizing Micah 7:7. Sounds simple I know. Just yesterday, worry called–interrupted an otherwise pleasant drive down Highway 70. And when it did, I answered with Micah 7:7. I prayed out loud, “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” Worry left.

I’m not trying to be trite or dismissive. I’m simply saying that worry is no match for God’s word–and that I’ve got to learn how to answer worry’s call. I’m not sure I can ever avoid worry’s calls–perhaps one day they will come less and less. I do know how to answer them.

Will you join me? Answer worry with God’s Word.

Making 2018 a Game-Changing Year

Another year is in the books. A new year awaits. The inevitable allure of New Year’s resolutions entices us to think about how we are going to be better, do better, get better. I went looking for facts about setting goals. Here’s what I found and why I think you should set goals for 2018…and that God will honor you for doing it.

Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University, discovered that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals simply by writing them down. If she is right (and I think she is), how should you go about it?

I recommend setting goals in 5 different areas of your life: health, spiritual, financial, relational and work. You may choose to do more or less depending on your age and stage in life. Think through 2018 and what you could realistically accomplish in these areas.

I also recommend looking at goals in two ways: process and outcome. For example, you may have a goal to lose 20 pounds. That’s an outcome goal. Your process goals might involve how often you exercise or how you eat. Both kinds of goals are necessary to achieve results.

I also like what Matt Mayberry (Entrepreneur.com) suggested. He called it a game-changer goal. Obviously this is a life-changing goal and shouldn’t be considered lightly. He recommends a full-blown action plan for a game-changing goal. I would add prayer and community. I’m convinced that game-changing goals cannot be accomplished without God’s and others’ help. Take your game-changing goal to your Life Group, your family, your close friends. Ask them to keep you accountable.

I’m excited to see how God is going to grow you in 2018!

Making Sense of Senselessness

Words seem insufficient in response to Sunday night’s shooting in Las Vegas. Still we want to make sense of senselessness. We want to make the inhumane, humane. In the absence of explanation, I’ll speak to response. How do we think? What do we do?

How do we think?

  1. There is no excuse for senseless violence. Any kind. Anywhere. Since the shooter killed himself we will never fully know why he did what he did. Investigators will try to put the pieces of the puzzle together and find answers. Whatever they discover, we must hold fast to the reality that senseless violence of any kind is reprehensible.
  2. Words kill like weapons. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus raised slander to the level of slaying. Words don’t just hurt, they kill. When 70,000 fans boo a bad kicker in a football game, something in that kid dies. When politicians and journalists throw verbal daggers at one another, someone dies. Whoever said sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me was denying reality.
  3. Enough is enough.  We are becoming desensitized. Push notifications bombard phones. Cable news reports violence all day, every day. Video games turn killing into competition. Music celebrates murder. Even too much news of the Las Vegas tragedy can desensitize. Overexposure deadens the conscience.

What do we do?

  1. If you see something, say something. Yes, this is Homeland Security’s slogan, but it belonged to Christianity long before the government trademarked it. Don’t tolerate any form of bigotry, hatred, or violence. Jesus called us salt and light. Salt and light do the same thing: they reveal. Salt is a cook’s friend–when the right amount is put in a recipe, it reveals the flavor of the food. No one has ever said, “The salt in this casserole tastes good.” Light is a photographer’s best friend. People don’t look at a portrait and say, “I love how the light is coming in from the front.” Rather they talk about the subject of the photograph. As salt and light we flavor the world without drawing attention to ourselves–rather we reveal Christ.
  2. Choose your words carefully. James 1:19 says, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” His statement is both counterintuitive and countercultural. Our culture is quick to anger, quick to speak and slow to hear. Proverbs 18:21 adds, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Peter wrote, “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.” (1 Peter 3:10)
  3. Filter what comes inExamine your intake of violence. How much do you see or hear in a given day? Resolve to reduce it. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.” What goes in will come out. Kevin DeYoung writes, “Having a conscience is one mark of being a sentient human being. Scripture sometimes speaks of people “who do not know their right hand from their left” (Jonah 4:11), or of “children, who . . . have no knowledge of good or evil” (Deut. 1:39). Knowing right from wrong is what makes us functioning adults. To have a malfunctioning conscience is to be less than human.”

Perhaps in DeYoung’s statement lies the explanation for the shooter’s capacity to cowardly and mercilessly kill 59 people: he was less than human. Something happened to his conscience. Scripture says our conscience can be seared (1 Timothy 4:2) or defiled. Titus 1:15 says, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.”

Only Jesus can clean us up and clear our consciences. John said, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Only Jesus can turn senselessness into salvation and make the inhumane, humane.