Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mark 1: Buckle Up!

Of all the gospels, Mark's is the most fast-paced.  Jesus appears on the scene in chapter 1, and is preaching 15 verses into this book.  Mark repeatedly uses the breathless phrasing of "immediately" or "at once" in his transitions between stories.  If you're looking for a story with a lot of "get up and go," Mark is the gospel for you!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Philemon: Text and Subtext

I love the little book of Philemon!  In it, we get a glimpse of Paul's relationship with some of the early Christians, as well as his knack for bringing his strong personality to bear on them through his writing.  We also learn a little about the dynamics of household slavery in the first century.  (Plus, in a single session's reading, you can knock off 1/27th of the New Testament!)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Psalm 38: Looking to the Lord

Psalm 38 sounds like it was written by David in the throes of a serious physical ailment which he took to be a punishment from the Lord for his sins.  Rather than stubbornly digging in his heels in rebellion or angrily proclaiming his innocence, David instead admits his guilt and pleads for mercy.  "I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin" (vs. 18).  How much trouble could we save ourselves (and our loved ones) if we took this same approach?  Rather than prolonging his suffering or making more trouble for himself, David's penitent response clears his heart and makes room for the Lord's cleansing Spirit to flow through and bring him restoration, both physical and spiritual.  This psalm can be a model for our own contrition!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Titus 3: The Gospel in a Nutshell

Have you ever wondered just what is "the gospel?"  There are many places in the Bible that give hints or descriptions of the "good news" (the literal translation of "gospel").  One of those scriptures is Titus 3:3-7.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Titus 2: Priorities

In his letters, Paul is often concerned with the reputation of the early church.  Will the followers of Jesus Christ be known abroad for their gentleness and love - or for upsetting the social order and causing chaos?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Titus 1: Titus in Crete

Although Paul's final letter was most likely II Timothy, Paul's epistles are not arranged chronologically in the New Testament.  (Bonus points to whoever can tell me, in the comments, how Paul's letters are arranged!)  Thus, we pick up in a fresh letter to another disciple of Paul: Titus.

II Timothy 4: Famous Last Words

It is widely believed that II Timothy is Paul's final letter, which would make today's chapter his last words.  They are a mix of personal greetings and public sentiments, bittersweet good-byes and bold challenges.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

II Timothy 2: Remember

"Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David - that is my gospel." (vs. 8)

Psalm 37: More Than Meets The Eye

It is a common lament: Why do the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper?  Or, as we may put it in a more modern expression: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Friday, September 19, 2014

II Timothy 1: Before the Beginning?

"Join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Jesus Christ before the beginning of time..." (II Timothy 1:8-9)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I Timothy 5: Good Advice

Paul's instructions to Timothy about the leadership of a church continue in chapter 5 as he dispenses good advice regarding widows, elders...and wine!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I Timothy 4: Timothy's "To Do" List

Paul's advice to Timothy reaches a crescendo in chapter four.  He is determined to encourage Timothy in his mission of leadership service to the church.

Monday, September 15, 2014

I Timothy 3: What Leadership Looks Like

In I Timothy 3, Paul addresses the necessary qualifications for church leadership - what sort of person ought elders and deacons to be?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Psalm 36: The Good, the Bad, and the Almighty

Psalm 36 is yet another appeal to God for His judgment upon the wicked in conjunction with deliverance for the righteous.

Friday, September 12, 2014

I Timothy 2: Living in (Biblical) Tension

Do you demand complete clarity in your Bible?  Do you insist everything is a clear matter of black-or-white when it comes to biblical teaching?  If so, you may have difficulty reconciling various passages of scripture that approach some issues differently!  While I agree that the vast majority of scripture is quite plain and straightforward, there do exist areas of tension that arise naturally from the context of the verses in question.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Timothy 1: Dear Timothy...

As we transition into Paul's personal letters, we see a shift from his messages to congregations and groups toward a focus on speaking intimately to specific individuals.  Timothy, Paul's partner in the gospel and "son in the faith," is in Ephesus on Paul's instructions (vs. 3) while the older apostle is in Macedonia.  Both are carrying out their ministry, keeping the other in prayer.  Paul writes this letter to encourage Timothy and give further directions about leadership in the Church.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

II Thessalonians 3: Christianity Is A No Idling Zone

In addition to being interested in the end-times, several in the Thessalonian church seemed to have a problem with idleness.  Paul warns them that such a lifestyle is not appropriate for believers. Rather than being dependent on others for their bread, everyone should work for their own food.  In fact, Paul even coins a new phrase: "Anyone unwilling to work should not eat."  This may sound harsh to twenty-first century American ears, but Paul is concerned for the integrity and respectability of the Church of Jesus Christ.  It is not a place for busybodies or freeloaders.  Independent living ought to be the goal for everyone.

Christianity is a "No Idling Zone!"

II Thessalonians 2: All About The Antichrist

The Thessalonian church was very interested in the end-times.  They wanted to know what to expect - and when.  In fact, some were concerned that they had already missed the return of Jesus!  Paul sets their mind at ease by explaining a few details that they (and all of us) should know about the end.

Monday, September 8, 2014

II Thessalonians 1: Made Worthy

As Paul begins his second letter to the Thessalonian church, he acknowledges their afflictions and persecutions.  But he also highlights the reason they are undergoing such troubles.  It is for their benefit, so that they may be made worthy.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Psalm 35: Vindication

Vindicate \ˈvin-də-ˌkāt\: To show that someone should not be blamed for a crime, mistake; to show that someone is not guilty.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Thursday, September 4, 2014

I Thessalonians 5: Finding God's Will

After sharing some powerful thoughts about the Return of Christ, Paul concludes his letter to the Thessalonians.  Along the way, he shares three powerful verses that encapsulate God's will for His children.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I Thessalonians 4: The Shape of the Christian Life

I Thessalonians 4 contains some very practical teaching on how Christians should live.  Paul includes several instructions about what a life pleasing to God looks like.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I Thessalonians 3: What Hath Persecution Wrought?

In I Thessalonians 3, Paul reveals that he was concerned about the Thessalonians.  He feared that - because he had been rushed out of town during a time of persecution - the Thessalonians' faith would waver and diminish.  How would this young church fare after its planters had suffered persecution and fled?

Monday, September 1, 2014

I Thessalonians 2: Models of Ministry

Paul spends a great deal of time reminiscing about his ministry in I Thessalonians 2.  He recalls the time when he first came to Thessalonica after being expelled from Philippi.  He reminds the Thessalonians of how he conducted himself among them, for he was always proclaiming the gospel to them - even when he was not preaching.