Today’s Reading: 2 Peter.
Highlights: Peter tells us the reason for this letter: He knows he is soon to die and says “I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things” (1:15). The letter warns about the need to keep growing: “add to your faith….” (1:5), the dangers of false teachers in chapter 2, and a specific false teaching concerning the second coming of Jesus in chapter 3.
Note the last words of admonition Peter writes: “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (3:18). Why is it so important that we keep growing? How do we keep growing? In your answer consider 1:5-10 and 2:20-22.
Today’s Reading: 1 Peter
Highlights: 1 Peter begins with the exclamation “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1:3) and goes on to talk about the “living hope” we have through Jesus, especially the promise of heaven when our time on earth is over.
Till then, how should we live? The book tells us how we are to conduct ourselves in our time on earth. It reminds us of the need to be holy and says that we will face persecution but that we should not be surprised or ashamed if that happens. Trials make us stronger. At least 3 times (2:11, 3:1, 3:15, 16) he tells us these times of trial are opportunities to set an example before unbelievers and lead them to God. The book also tells us that in suffering patiently we are following the example of Jesus (2:21, 3:18, 4:1, 4:13).
Peter describes Christians as “aliens and strangers in the world” (2:11) in this world. If we are committed to holiness we will be different from those who are not Christians. What are some specific areas where Christian behavior will be in high contrast to the lives of those who do not know God? (See 2:11, 2:13-14, 3:1-4, 3:9, etc).
Part of our reading today was the book of Jude – the next to last book in the Bible. Looking at that it hit me again that we are about done with this reading through the Bible effort. Its kind of like the feeling you get reading a great book that you really enjoy and you slow down and read one page a day because you don’t want it to end!
We appreciate so much those who have participated in our journey this year – especially those who regularly made comments. It was not easy but the effort was worth it as we have gained a better understanding of the Bible story as a whole.
As James (in today’s reading) told us to say “If the Lord wills” we will do this again in 2015. We will announce this near the end of next year and try to get a stronger following than we had in 2013.
For 2014 this space will be used as a blog to review the teaching at the Lakeshore church in Jacksonville. We will have recaps of the Sunday and Wednesday teachings, as well as anything else urgent or inspirational that comes along. Everyone is invited to join us in these online studies.
Like what we have done this year, this will be an opportunity to study the Bible together – an online Bible study that we can all participate in everyday of the week. Once again the key to really making it worthwhile will be participation so we invite everyone to join us.
Today’s Reading: James and Jude
Highlights: It is a common opinion that James and Jude were the physical brothers of Jesus who had been unbelievers at first, but came to believe in all Jesus claimed after the resurrection.
Jude is about false teachers. He tells his audience to “earnestly contend for the faith” (verse 3). The book gives illustrations from the Old Testament: the children of Israel, Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain, Baalam, Korah, and angels as examples of some who rejected God and were judged by God. The letter closes by urging the readers to remain strong in the faith and in the love of God.
James begins with the startling command, count it all JOY when you face various trials. Some of the topics dealt with in the book are our attitude toward trials and temptations, praying for wisdom, being doers not just hearers of the word, faith without works is dead, misuse of the tongue, being prejudiced, procrastination, selfish ambitions, dangers that come with material wealth and patience. James is a very practical book.
Note how James defines true religion in 1:26-27. What is the emphasis of his definition? How is it different from how some would define “true religion”? Why is it so important to emphasize this aspect of our relationship with God?
Text: 2 Timothy.
Highlights: This is Paul’s second (and final) letter to Timothy. The letter has a sense of final farewell to it. Paul knows his time of death is near (4:6-8). He knows it might be His last chance to offer guidance to Timothy.
His message to Timothy is one of urging him to remain true to the great and wonderful life giving gospel and to his calling as a preacher. Paul begins by expressing his thanks for Timothy and mentions that he prays for him day and night. As you read note the theme of suffering. Paul suffered (1:12, 3:10-11) and says all who live godly will likewise suffer persecution. It will especially be difficult for those like Timothy who labor in ministry. He tells him to “preach the word” (4:2). He orders him to remain true to the “holy scriptures” which are inspired by God and able to make us wise unto salvation (3:10-17).
Paul warns Timothy that preaching will not be easy. Sometimes people “turn their ears from the truth” (4:3-4) and they can always find a preacher who will say what they like to hear. As a preacher Timothy must be committed to teaching God’s word when it is popular and when it is not.
For those who are not preachers, what do these instructions to Timothy teach us about the way we should listen to God’s word?
Text: The Book of Titus
Highlights: Like Timothy, Titus was an evangelist, or preacher. Paul says “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished….” (1:5). The first thing he mentions is the appointment of elders along with their qualifications. He says elders are needed in order to guard against the influence of false teachers.
The book emphasizes the need for holiness and good works. It mentions the responsibilities of older men, older women, young women and young men, and again, servants and citizens. To all Christians the message is that God has called us to live holy lives and set a good example. At least 6 times it mentions the need to be people of “good works”.
Chapter 3:2 says that we are to “show true humility toward all men”. What does that mean? What do the next few verses (3:3-6) tell us about WHY we should do this?
Today’s Reading: 1 Timothy
Highlights: The next 3 days we read Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, men who served as preachers or evangelists at Ephesus and Crete.
The reason for writing 1 Timothy is stated in 3:15 – “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God”. Therefore the book contains various instructions about how things are to be done in a church (qualifications of elders and deacons in chapter 3 for example). There is also much about Timothy’s personal responsibilities in being a preacher – near the beginning and then again at the end Paul tells Timothy to fight the good fight (1:18 and 6:12). It also contains good, practical lessons for all us – for example, at the end of chapter 6 he talks about the dangers of money.
At the end of chapter 1 Paul magnifies the greatness of the gospel by telling how God had showed him mercy by forgiving him and calling him to be an apostle. He says God did this to “display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1Timothy 1:16). So, Paul’s salvation is an example to us! How does the example of Paul encourage you concerning your own salvation?
Today’s Text: Philippians
Highlights: Paul’s deep affection for the Christians in Philippi is obvious as you read this letter. He wants to see them again. He appreciates them for having helped him by sending Him gifts. He has sent his fellow workers to them to see how they are doing. Paul is in prison and his physical well being is at risk, but his main concern is glorifying God every day he is alive where ever he is. He is not afraid to die, in fact he says to depart and be with the Lord is far better than living on in the flesh (1:21-23)
His letter is an effort to insure the Philippians are remaining faithful to God and not being sidetracked by false teachers (ch. 3) or internal disunity (2:3-4; 2:15; 4:2). Twice he reminds them to “rejoice in the Lord” (3:1 and 4:4). Chapter 4 contains the well known promise of the “peace which surpasses all understanding”.
Question: In chapter 3 Paul describes faithful Christians as those “who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh”. What does it mean to “have no confidence in the flesh”?
Today’s Reading: Letter to the Ephesians
Highlights: The theme of Ephesians is the greatness of God’s plan that found fulfillment in Jesus death and the establishment of the church. The phrase “in Christ” or “in Him” or “in Whom” (referring to Jesus) occurs 21 times in the first three chapters. In Christ we have been adopted (1:5) forgiven (1:7) we have an inheritance (1:11). Note how chapters 2 and 3 make it clear that the inclusion of Gentiles was always a part of God’s plan: “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (3:6). Ephesians 3:10 says “the manifold wisdom of God (is) made known by the church”.
Similar to Colossians, the second half of the book (chapters 4-6) is very practical. He talks about things like forgiving, unity, morality, marriage, being a parent, being a child, being a slave or master (again), and finally a warning about the need to ‘put on the whole armor of God” and resist the attacks of Satan.
Chapter 4 begins with Paul begging the Ephesians to, “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called….”. What do those words mean to you?
Today’s Reading: Colossians, Philemon
Highlights: Though chained in Rome Paul continues to work by writing letters to instruct and encourage Christians in the churches he planted. These letters continue to instruct and comfort us today!
Paul’s concern for the Colossians is stated in 2:4: “Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words.” The deception threatening the Colossians seems to be a philosophical approach to Religion that mixed Greek philosophy and wisdom and Judaism. He points them back to Jesus. Note as you read how JESUS is the theme of the letter. We are perfect in Christ (1:28). He is all we need! In Him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Chapters 3 and 4 contain very practical instructions about how to live the Christian life.
Philemon is one of the most unique books in the Bible. Onesimus was a runaway slave from Colossae who Paul had converted in Rome. In Colossians 4:9 Paul called him “a faithful and beloved brother”. Paul sent him back to his master (Philemon) with this letter explaining how he had become a Christian and begging Philemon to accept him as a brother!
Question: Slavery was common in the Roman empire and the New Testament says a lot about Christian slaves and masters. Does it surprise you that Paul sent Onesimus back to his owner? What do we learn from that?