Bible Study Notes
Romans 8 Life in the Spirit (Good News version)
Reading first then study notes.
8 There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit, which brings us life in union with Christ Jesus, has set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 What the Law could not do, because human nature was weak, God did. He condemned sin in human nature by sending his own Son, who came with a nature like our sinful nature, to do away with sin. 4 God did this so that the righteous demands of the Law might be fully satisfied in us who live according to the Spirit, and not according to human nature. 5 Those who live as their human nature tells them to, have their minds controlled by what human nature wants. Those who live as the Spirit tells them to, have their minds controlled by what the Spirit wants. 6 To be controlled by human nature results in death; to be controlled by the Spirit results in life and peace. 7 And so people become enemies of God when they are controlled by their human nature; for they do not obey God's law, and in fact they cannot obey it. 8 Those who obey their human nature cannot please God.
9 But you do not live as your human nature tells you to; instead, you live as the Spirit tells you to—if, in fact, God's Spirit lives in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ lives in you, the Spirit is life for you because you have been put right with God, even though your bodies are going to die because of sin. 11 If the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from death, lives in you, then he who raised Christ from death will also give life to your mortal bodies by the presence of his Spirit in you.
12 So then, my friends, we have an obligation, but it is not to live as our human nature wants us to. 13 For if you live according to your human nature, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death your sinful actions, you will live. 14 Those who are led by God's Spirit are God's children. 15 For the Spirit that God has given you does not make you slaves and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God's children, and by the Spirit's power we cry out to God, “Father! my Father!” 16 God's Spirit joins himself to our spirits to declare that we are God's children. 17 Since we are his children, we will possess the blessings he keeps for his people, and we will also possess with Christ what God has kept for him; for if we share Christ's suffering, we will also share his glory.
The Future Glory
18 I consider that what we suffer at this present time cannot be compared at all with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. 19 All of creation waits with eager longing for God to reveal his children. 20 For creation was condemned to lose its purpose, not of its own will, but because God willed it to be so. Yet there was the hope 21 that creation itself would one day be set free from its slavery to decay and would share the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 For we know that up to the present time all of creation groans with pain, like the pain of childbirth. 23 But it is not just creation alone which groans; we who have the Spirit as the first of God's gifts also groan within ourselves as we wait for God to make us his children and set our whole being free. 24 For it was by hope that we were saved; but if we see what we hope for, then it is not really hope. For who of us hopes for something we see? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27 And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will.
28 We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. 29 Those whom God had already chosen he also set apart to become like his Son, so that the Son would be the first among many believers. 30 And so those whom God set apart, he called; and those he called, he put right with himself, and he shared his glory with them.
God's Love in Christ Jesus
31 In view of all this, what can we say? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 Certainly not God, who did not even keep back his own Son, but offered him for us all! He gave us his Son—will he not also freely give us all things? 33 Who will accuse God's chosen people? God himself declares them not guilty! 34 Who, then, will condemn them? Not Christ Jesus, who died, or rather, who was raised to life and is at the right side of God, pleading with him for us! 35 Who, then, can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death? 36 As the scripture says,
“For your sake we are in danger of death at all times;
we are treated like sheep that are going to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 38 For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, 39 neither the world above nor the world below—there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8 Bible Study. No condemnation and No separation.
Romans 8 is a much-loved chapter of the Bible. Many theologians claim Romans 8 to be their favourite chapter of the Bible. Why? Because it is a chapter that helps us understand the doctrine of eternal security. It is also well loved by regular Christians who would not claim to be Bible scholars but love to read the word of God.
Read Verses 1-17. Every Christian has struggles. We all have bad days and weeks. We all suffer difficult times and maybe feel God is far away. Think of a time when God seemed far away, how did you feel? What did you do? How did you cope?
We tend to think of St Paul as having everything sorted, but he didn’t. He has tough times. He struggled and at the end of Chapter 7 he is struggling with sin and law and what we seem to do even when we don’t want to do it. Human nature! What kind of things do you see as human nature and so can’t be easily controlled?
What or who enables us to change, to control our behaviour?
Romans 8 opens with these words: “There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.” These words are for those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Saviour, even though our human nature causes us to struggle.
Read v18-30. These verses are about hope. What does hope mean to you? V 28 reminds us that all things work for good for God’s people. Have you experienced this? Do we remember the good things as much as the bad ones? Can you see God’s purpose being worked out in your life? What might help?
Read V31-39 Mercy and Grace.
There are many wonderful truths in Romans 8. The beginning and ending of the chapter help the reader understand the context and content of the rest of the other verses. Paul starts by saying there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. This shows God’s mercy: Him not giving us what we deserve. It ends with the fact that we also cannot be separated from His love. This is God’s grace: Him giving us what we do not deserve. Jesus accepted our punishment on the cross. In Christ we are justified in God’s sight by faith in the finished work of Jesus V 33 and 34.
How have you experienced God’s mercy and grace? Do you feel deserving of God’s love?
No Separation from the Love of Christ.
Verse 35 asks the question, “Who, then, can separate us from the love of Christ?” The answer, of course, is no one. Paul continues to say that no created thing is able to separate us; neither, hardship, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger or death? Why? Because we are more than conquerors in Christ! We have complete victory V 37.
Beyond the natural things that can happen to a human, Paul lists things completely out of our control to show just how secure we are in Christ. He says that he is convinced that death and life are no match for God’s love. Angels, principalities and powers have no authority over those who are in Christ. The present and future as well as all creation are things which cannot separate us from the love of Christ. Have you ever felt separated from God? Why might that have been?
I used to have a poster that said…. If you feel far away from God, guess who moved. I also think we could add, sometimes waiting For God’s timing makes us feel distant.
The final five verses of Romans 8 show us that we can enjoy the grace of God through Jesus Christ. This grace is not temporary but eternal. Those who are alive in Christ Jesus have the eternal security that they will never be separated from the love of Christ. That is a certainty we can be helped and encouraged by.
Is it any wonder that this book and chapter in the Bible is so well loved? It is an encouraging and heart-warming reminder that we have such a loving Heavenly Father. He is merciful and gracious to everyone. For those that are in Christ Jesus, not only are we free from the condemnation that we deserve, but we can also be sure that because of the grace of God we will never be separated from the love of Christ.
On the copy of Romans 8 some verses are in bold print. These are the verses that are most popular and are often quoted by Christians. The version we use for study is the Good News, you might recognise some of these quotes more easily in another version.
Ascension Bible Study
Readings first then the study.
Acts 1:1-9 Dear Theophilus: In my first book I wrote about all the things that Jesus did and taught from the time he began his work 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven. Before he was taken up, he gave instructions by the power of the Holy Spirit to the men he had chosen as his apostles. 3 For forty days after his death he appeared to them many times in ways that proved beyond doubt that he was alive. They saw him, and he talked with them about the Kingdom of God. 4 And when they came together, he gave them this order: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift I told you about, the gift my Father promised. 5 John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 6 When the apostles met together with Jesus, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time give the Kingdom back to Israel?” 7 Jesus said to them, “The times and occasions are set by my Father's own authority, and it is not for you to know when they will be. 8 But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After saying this, he was taken up to heaven as they watched him, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
Mark 16: 19 After the Lord Jesus had talked with them, he was taken up to heaven and sat at the right side of God.
Luke 24: 50-54 Then he led them out of the city as far as Bethany, where he raised his hands and blessed them. 51 As he was blessing them, he departed from them and was taken up into heaven. 52 They worshiped him and went back into Jerusalem, filled with great joy, 53 and spent all their time in the Temple giving thanks to God.
John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
2 Corinthians 5:21 Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.
Hebrews 9:28 Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.
John 17:4 I have shown your glory on earth; I have finished the work you gave me to do.
Hebrews 1:3 He reflects the brightness of God's glory and is the exact likeness of God's own being, sustaining the universe with his powerful word. After achieving forgiveness for the sins of all human beings, he sat down in heaven at the right side of God, the Supreme Power.
Hebrews 10:12 Christ, however, offered one sacrifice for sins, an offering that is effective forever, and then he sat down at the right side of God.
Jude 24 & 25 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to bring you faultless and joyful before his glorious presence 25 to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, might, and authority, from all ages past, and now, and forever and ever! Amen.
John 14:1-7 “Do not be worried and upset,” Jesus told them. “Believe in God and believe also in me. 2 There are many rooms in my Father’s house, and I am going to prepare a place for you. I would not tell you this if it were not so. 3 And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am. 4 You know the way that leads to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; so how can we know the way to get there?” 6 Jesus answered him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me. 7 Now that you have known me,” he said to them, “you will know my Father also, and from now on you do know him and you have seen him.”
John 7:35b At that time the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not been raised to glory.
John16:7 But I am telling you the truth: it is better for you that I go away, because if I do not go, the Helper will not come to you. But if I do go away, then I will send him to you.
John 14:12 I am telling you the truth: those who believe in me will do what I do, yes, they will do even greater things, because I am going to the Father.
Mark 16:19 & 20 After the Lord Jesus had talked with them, he was taken up to heaven and sat at the right side of God. 20 The disciples went and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and proved that their preaching was true by the miracles that were performed.
Matthew 18:19 & 20 “And I tell you more: whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”
Matthew 28:19 Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20 and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”
Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.” 6 Let us be bold, then, and say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”
Acts 1:9-11 After saying this, he was taken up to heaven as they watched him, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They still had their eyes fixed on the sky as he went away, when two men dressed in white suddenly stood beside them 11 and said, “Galileans, why are you standing there looking up at the sky? This Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way that you saw him go to heaven.”
The Ascension of Jesus
Read Acts 1:1-9
There are three main scriptures which give us the historical record of the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. These are Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51 and Acts 1:9; and it is clear from these statements that our Saviour, who was crucified, who died and was buried and who rose again – ascended! This He did forty days after He rose again from the dead. The doctrine of the ascension of our Lord is often neglected. Why might that be? All the other events in the life of our Lord would lose their significance without the fact of His ascension.
Every real Christian is a living proof of an ascended Lord! Why?
We are saved by an ascended Lord; we are kept, moment by moment, by an ascended Lord; we live in constant fellowship with an ascended Lord; we are represented before the Father by our Great Advocate, an ascended Lord; and the fact that our ascended Lord is with the Father is the guarantee of our life. How important the truth and the reality of His ascension are! Can you offer any examples of how the ascended Lord has been with you, been your advocate, kept you moment by moment?
There are seven reasons why our Lord’s ascension was necessary.
1. The Ascension of the Lord Jesus was necessary because His earthly mission was completed.
He came to do His Father’s will. What was Jesus’ mission? Read John 1:29; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 9:26. He prayed John 17:4 He declared it was finished from the cross. When the work was actually finished, He ascended and sat down with God. Hebrews 1:3 and 10:12. In your opinion is Jesus’ work finished? Why/Why not?
2. The Ascension of the Lord Jesus was necessary in order that He might take up His priestly office.
It was only His earthly work that was finished His heavenly work had not yet started. It was necessary for Him to ascend in order that He might begin this work, His priestly work. As our great High Priest, He now stands in the presence of God as our Advocate and our Mediator. By Him alone we have access to the Father, John 14:6. He intercedes for us. Because He is our living ascended Lord, He keeps us from falling, Jude 24 & 25.
3. The Ascension of the Lord Jesus was necessary in order that He might prepare our Heavenly Home.
John 14:1-7. At His ascension the Bridegroom went to prepare a place for His Bride. He has been engaged in that work of preparation for 2000 years. Heaven is our ultimate home, where Christ our forerunner has gone, His people will also go! What does this passage mean to you?
4. The Ascension of the Lord Jesus was necessary before He could send the Holy Spirit.
When John the Baptist speaks of Jesus in Matthew 3 he says Jesus will baptise with the Holy Spirit. But this promise could not be fulfilled until the Lord Jesus ascended, John 7:35b and John 16:7. The Christian life is the life of the Lord Jesus in us by the power of the Holy Spirit, and this could only be made possible by the ascension of the Lord. Why is the Holy Spirit so important? What does the Holy Spirit do?
5. The Ascension of the Lord Jesus was necessary in order that greater things might be done.
John 14:12. His earthly body was local; His mystical body, the Church, is universal. While He walked the earth, He ministered in only one place at a time. He was localised by an earthly body; but because He ascended and poured out His Spirit and gave gifts to men, He is now able to work through millions of human bodies Mark 16:19-20. What are some of these greater things? What have Christians been able to do? What else can we be doing?
6. The Ascension of the Lord Jesus was necessary in order that every Christian, everywhere, might enjoy His continual Presence.
Matthew 18:19&20; Matthew 28:19&20 and Hebrews 13:5-6 could only be possible if He ascended. How wonderful! God is with us in everything: joys, sorrows, trials and in our death. How do you feel God’s presence? (Eric Liddle: When I run, I feel His presence)
7. The Ascension of the Lord Jesus is necessary in order that we might have a pledge of His sure and certain return.
He said, “If I go…I will come back” John 14:2-3. Acts 1:9-11. He has gone…and we can be quite sure that He will come again! How do you feel about this return?
Ascension is not a major celebration in the church, Pentecost is often seen as far more important, and yet we have seen in this study that without Ascension there is no Pentecost. Just as Jesus had to become human to save us, He needed to return to glory to continue His work through us.
Lent 2022 Bible Studies.
The Rich Young Ruler. Week 4.
Read Mark 10: 17 – 22
The man in the story has no backstory and no name. So, let’s call him Theophilus, which means ‘God lover’, because he has been obedient to God from his youth.
What is in a name? Why were you given your name? What does it mean? If you could choose a name for yourself, what would it be? What about some of Jesus names, what did they mean?
How does it feel to think of yourself by the name ‘Theophilus’, God lover? Does it make you feel differently about the challenges of your own spiritual journey? What currently fills your life? It might be helpful to dig deeper on this while out walking or in the garden, as the rhythm of your steps and changing surroundings echo your mind’s movement through the days of your week.
Perhaps there are activities or times in the day which feel precious to you, but where God is not at the forefront. Perhaps you have a talent or skill which you use regularly and routinely without even thinking about it. How might God be calling you to further the Kingdom with this time or talent?
In works of art which were inspired by this story, Jesus is often represented as reaching out to the young man as he stands a little way off and he does not accept the invitation. Both characters are often represented as sad.
The Icon I have given you was commissioned in 2015. What might the young ruler be thinking? What might Jesus be thinking? What strikes you in this Icon?
The Danger for any of us is that we put other things before God, in this case wealth. Read Deuteronomy 8:11-20, this is a warning about forgetting God, about putting other things before Him. The young ruler would have known these verses.
What things do we put before God? When have we forgotten God, maybe not on purpose but because we were wrapped up in other things. Deuteronomy reminds us of our good housing, more than enough food, lots of possessions. In recent days, because of the Ukraine situation, many have asked the question; if we had minutes to pack a bag and leave our home, what would we take? Where would we go?
In the icon Jesus has one hand as a blessing and one open, a loving invitation to the young ruler, here, take my hand, come with me to paradise. God has that open invitation to us and everyone always. What stops people from accepting that invitation?
The Young ruler is dressed in a wealthy manner and is obviously rich. Being rich is not intrinsically bad, what matters is how it is used, how others are treated, if it becomes the center of life and people want more and more and more, whatever the cost to others. How we use what we have matters. Why?
The gold background of icons represents God, kingship over everyone and everything. Here the Young ruler and Jesus are surrounded by God’s presence. DO you realise you are surrounded by God’s presence every day? How does that feel? Are we stopping God’s presence from being with us but our behaviour, our priorities? This young ruler maybe rich and struggling to prioritise God but he still is loved by God, surrounded by God and reached out for by Jesus. The same is true for us.
We are never beyond the saving grace of Jesus, but each of us will be asked to prioritise Him, to give up some things and take on others. It is not our job to judge that process in others, only in ourselves, because it is about us and God as individuals and each of us is called to a different form of service.
Mark 10:17-22. The Rich Young Ruler.
17 As Jesus was starting on his way again, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not accuse anyone falsely; do not cheat; respect your father and your mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” the man said, “ever since I was young, I have obeyed all these commandments.”
21 Jesus looked straight at him with love and said, “You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” 22 When the man heard this, gloom spread over his face, and he went away sad, because he was very rich.
Deuteronomy 8: 11-20. Warnings against Forgetting the Lord
11 “Make certain that you do not forget the Lord your God; do not fail to obey any of his laws that I am giving you today. 12 When you have all you want to eat and have built good houses to live in 13 and when your cattle and sheep, your silver and gold, and all your other possessions have increased, 14 be sure that you do not become proud and forget the Lord your God who rescued you from Egypt, where you were slaves. 15 He led you through that vast and terrifying desert where there were poisonous snakes and scorpions. In that dry and waterless land he made water flow out of solid rock for you. 16 In the desert he gave you manna to eat, food that your ancestors had never eaten. He sent hardships on you to test you, so that in the end he could bless you with good things. 17 So then, you must never think that you have made yourselves wealthy by your own power and strength. 18 Remember that it is the Lord your God who gives you the power to become rich. He does this because he is still faithful today to the covenant that he made with your ancestors. 19 Never forget the Lord your God or turn to other gods to worship and serve them. If you do, then I warn you today that you will certainly be destroyed. 20 If you do not obey the Lord, then you will be destroyed just like those nations that he is going to destroy as you advance.
Week 3. Balaam’s Donkey – Hearing through life’s obstacles.
Read Numbers 22:22-35. The reading is at the end of the Study.
Balaam was a ‘spiritual’ man, not a worshipper in the God of Israel as such, but a man open to spiritual things and therefore available to hear God’s voice.
Do we ever write people off and assume they can’t hear God because of their beliefs, lifestyle, opinions or circumstances?
In the Bible, the donkey is the symbol of humble servanthood. A donkey carried Mary to Bethlehem, and a donkey carried Jesus into Jerusalem. Donkeys get us where we need to go.
Which ‘donkeys’ are you thankful for at the moment – things or people which have carried you, helping you get where you need to go?
The donkey was aware of the Angel of the Lord long before Balaam was. Balaam was on a God-sanctioned mission, yet the road got blocked and the donkey ended up taking him on a detour.
What can we learn from nature about hearing God and being aware of God’s presence? Have you had to detour lately? Have you ended up somewhere you didn’t want to be?
Balaam had prayed about whether to go to Balak, yet when he did what he believed was right, the road got blocked and he ended up in pain, the donkey jamming his foot against the wall.
Have you ever done the right thing yet ended up getting hurt because of it?
Balaam kept going, despite the blockages, but ended up collapsing when his donkey subsided in the face of an impassable obstacle.
Have you ever run out of resources while trying to do your best for God?
Balaam’s response to detour, pain and collapse was rage – rage that caused him to act violently. He was in pain, so he lashed out and caused pain to another.
When anger rises in you, what are you most likely to do?
In the end, the donkey spoke. The humble, unassuming, ordinary, standard-issue mode of transport became a source of revelation. Fr Richard Rohr often says: ‘God comes to us disguised as our life.’
What is your life saying to you at the moment?
The donkey challenged Balaam to remember what he already knew. As he reminded himself of deep-held truth, he was suddenly able to see God.
What do you know you know? What aspect of God’s character or faithfulness in your life can you call to mind today?
Balaam finally understood that all three blockages were in fact the presence of God (‘the Angel of the Lord’ is often thought to be a foreshadowing of Jesus, of God’s presence in a form humans can cope with). Somewhat confusingly, God had invited him on a journey, then blocked his way.
As you look back over the roadway of your life, when has God blocked the way and what have you learnt in those times?
Balaam and His Donkey. Numbers 22:22-35.
22 God was angry that Balaam was going, and as Balaam was riding along on his donkey, accompanied by his two servants, the angel of the Lord stood in the road to bar his way. 23 When the donkey saw the angel standing there holding a sword, it left the road and turned into the fields. Balaam beat the donkey and brought it back onto the road. 24 Then the angel stood where the road narrowed between two vineyards and had a stone wall on each side. 25 When the donkey saw the angel, it moved over against the wall and crushed Balaam's foot against it. Again Balaam beat the donkey. 26 Once more the angel moved ahead; he stood in a narrow place where there was no room at all to pass on either side. 27 This time, when the donkey saw the angel, it lay down. Balaam lost his temper and began to beat the donkey with his stick. 28 Then the Lord gave the donkey the power of speech, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you? Why have you beaten me these three times?”
29 Balaam answered, “Because you have made a fool of me! If I had a sword, I would kill you.”
30 The donkey replied, “Am I not the same donkey on which you have ridden all your life? Have I ever treated you like this before?”
“No,” he answered.
31 Then the Lord let Balaam see the angel standing there with his sword; and Balaam threw himself face downward on the ground. 32 The angel demanded, “Why have you beaten your donkey three times like this? I have come to bar your way, because you should not be making this journey. 33 But your donkey saw me and turned aside three times. If it hadn't, I would have killed you and spared the donkey.”
34 Balaam replied, “I have sinned. I did not know that you were standing in the road to oppose me; but now if you think it is wrong for me to go on, I will return home.”
35 But the angel said, “Go on with these men, but say only what I tell you to say.” So Balaam went on with them.
Week 2. The readings for this study are at the end of the study.
Responding To God. Lent Bible Study. Week 2.
God chooses by different criteria from ours: Read Judges 6:11-18 The Call of Gideon.
Whatever else we know about calling and vocation from the Bible, it’s clear that God has a different way of picking the people for big missions. Repeatedly it isn’t strong, talented and famous people who get asked to do great deeds, but those who consider themselves (and are often considered by others) to be insignificant, lacking in talent & self-confidence. Often those chosen are reluctant to step forward or find it hard to summon up the courage to say yes. If we look at prophets and judges, most of them try to find excuses:
‘I’m too young’ (Jeremiah) ‘I don’t have the talent - ask someone else!’ (Moses)
‘I’m not from the right kind of background’ (Amos) ‘I’m a sinner!’ (Isaiah)
It‘s easy for us to be overwhelmed by a sense of our own limitations. We think that God can only be well served by the especially talented, those who are strongest and most gifted, but God has different ideas. What do you see as your limitations? Let’s see what happens when God calls and doesn’t see those limitations.
At a time of national catastrophe, Gideon is threshing wheat in secret for fear of the Midian oppressors of his people. An angel appears to him and says, ‘God is with you, O mighty warrior!” Gideon is not impressed and replies, “…If God is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about? The fact is, God has nothing to do with us, he has turned us over to Midian.” Gideon is not afraid to ask awkward questions. He knows that God has helped Israel in the past, but there seems to be little proof of God’s involvement now. Gideon’s questions express his doubt, but also his longing for God to act, to be the God he longs to believe in. We can be the same! God makes His choice clear in V 14. Even this direct invitation doesn’t convince Gideon. He thinks God must have made a mistake, he can’t possibly be the right choice, V15. God is not put off by Gideon’s hesitations, V16, and promises to be with him. So it is with us!
What are your excuses? Why do you think God hasn’t or won’t call you?
The call of Mary: a similar story. Read Luke 1:26-38
God’s invitation to Mary to be the mother of the Messiah is similar to the story of Gideon. She is also living under foreign oppression and also receives an unexpected greeting, “Hail, most highly favoured!”. Like Gideon before her, Mary doesn’t recognise herself by this description and asks questions of the angel. She wants to know how this will be possible, the biological facts just don’t add up! Mary has often been presented to female believers as a model of unquestioning obedience, but she also knows how to ask awkward questions: “But how?” She goes on asking these questions at other times in her life when she is asked to grow in faith and trust. Like Gideon, she doesn’t go down without a fight. Eg: At Cana she doesn’t take no for an answer, instructing the servants, “Do whatever he tells you”, even when Jesus appears to have rejected her plea for help. Mary is also doubtful of God’s choice, effectively asking, “How can someone like me be of any use?” Have you ever asked that question? What happened?
God’s invitation to everyone is about God’s grace, not our talent:
• Gideon and Mary are not superhuman beings, but God’s grace shines through their/our human weakness.
• What God requires of us is our willingness to be open to grace in faith and trust
• Cooperating with God is not a performance related activity, it’s a question of letting God be God in our lives.
God doesn’t change! However incapable we may feel ourselves to be, God’s power is greater than our inadequacy.
God recognises our desire for close relationship, a desire to serve, even when that desire isn’t always matched by performance. “I, the Lord, do not change, therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not lost”. [Malachi 3:6]
Responding to God’s invitation is a daily task. It’s a question of finding God in the ordinary. That’s partly what makes it so challenging; we persist in looking in the wrong direction for God’s action in our lives and overlook what seems to us to be trivial and unimportant.
Julian of Norwich writes, “He wills that we know that He takes heed not only of noble things and great, but also of little and small, low and simple…. for He wills that we know that the least thing shall not be forgotten”. [Revelations of Divine Love, 32]
This is the ‘God of little things’, who is to be found in the small details of our lives, not just in the dramatic highlights. The German theologian, Karl Rahner, writes of the need for Christians to have “confidence that ordinary daily life is the stuff of authentic life and real Christianity”. He goes on to say that the life of Jesus is lived out “within the framework of everyday living and The first thing that we should learn from Jesus is to be fully human!” [Karl Rahner, ‘On the Theology of Worship’, 121]
God doesn’t invite us to be superhuman, but fully ordinary human. This means learning to accept and love ourselves as God accepts and loves us. It means taking our life as seriously as God takes it and treasuring ourselves as God treasures us. Rather than wishing we had someone else’s talents, we must learn to acknowledge and be grateful for who God has called us to be.
Judges 6:11-18 11 Then the Lord's angel came to the village of Ophrah and sat under the oak tree that belonged to Joash, a man of the clan of Abiezer. His son Gideon was threshing some wheat secretly in a wine press, so that the Midianites would not see him. 12 The Lord's angel appeared to him there and said, “The Lord is with you, brave and mighty man!”
13 Gideon said to him, “If I may ask, sir, why has all this happened to us if the Lord is with us? What happened to all the wonderful things that our fathers told us the Lord used to do—how he brought them out of Egypt? The Lord has abandoned us and left us to the mercy of the Midianites.”
14 Then the Lord ordered him, “Go with all your great strength and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I myself am sending you.”
15 Gideon replied, “But Lord, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least important member of my family.”
16 The Lord answered, “You can do it because I will help you. You will crush the Midianites as easily as if they were only one man.”
17 Gideon replied, “If you are pleased with me, give me some proof that you are really the Lord. 18 Please do not leave until I bring you an offering of food.” He said, “I will stay until you come back.”
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy God sent the angel Gabriel to a town in Galilee named Nazareth. 27 He had a message for a young woman promised in marriage to a man named Joseph, who was a descendant of King David. Her name was Mary. 28 The angel came to her and said, “Peace be with you! The Lord is with you and has greatly blessed you!”
29 Mary was deeply troubled by the angel's message, and she wondered what his words meant. 30 The angel said to her, “Don't be afraid, Mary; God has been gracious to you. 31 You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, 33 and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end!”
34 Mary said to the angel, “I am a virgin. How, then, can this be?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God's power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God. 36 Remember your relative Elizabeth. It is said that she cannot have children, but she herself is now six months pregnant, even though she is very old. 37 For there is nothing that God cannot do.”
38 “I am the Lord's servant,” said Mary; “may it happen to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.
Week 1. The readings for this study are at the end of the study.
An Invitation to Breakfast with Jesus
Read Luke 5:1-11
Peter the Apostle, also known as Simon Peter, is one of the best-known characters of the New Testament. At the time of Jesus’ ministry, Peter lived in Capernaum at the northwest end of the Sea of Galilee where he and his brother Andrew were in partnership as fishermen with two other brothers, James and John both sons of Zebedee (Luke 5.10). What does Jesus ask them to do? How do they react?
Peter was the passionate type of person, often speaking and acting before thinking. He could be hasty or rash (Luke 22.33&34), even capable of anger and denial (John 18.15-18,25-27). He served as spokesman for the group of disciples and whenever the disciples are listed, Peter is invariably mentioned first.
What about God’s invitations to us? How did/do we respond? Peter’s initial response portrayed in Luke 5 and his re-integration in John 21 are rich in significance and full of hope for us. Luke’s account of Peter’s calling gives us an insight in the journey that led Peter to say yes to following Jesus.
• First, with the healing of his mother-in-law in his own house, Peter experiences Jesus’ healing ministry (Luke 4: 38-39).
• Second, Peter hears Jesus teaching the crowd with authority (Luke 5: 1-3).
• Thirdly, Peter witnesses the power of Jesus over nature resulting in a miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5: 4-6).
• Fourth, Peter becomes aware of his brokenness (sinful condition) and is afraid (Luke 5: 8-9).
• Finally, Peter hears the reassuring words of Jesus “do not be afraid, from now on you will fish for people” (Luke 5:10).
Think back to your journey of coming to faith and of working out your vocation and calling up to now. What do you share with Peter’s story? What is different?
Rather than having a clear route map for our journey, we often have to go step by step. At times, we make choices that best reflect what we understand of God through His guidance which can come through prayer, study and teaching. At other times we seem to be “pushed” by his direct hand. At all times we seek to take the next step in faith and trust. Can you recall a time you were “pushed” by God?
Might God presently be leading you to take a “next step”? What do you think it is?
Remember Jesus’ words for Peter: “do not be afraid, from now on you will be….” Allow those words to penetrate your mind and heart. Peter was far from being perfect. He had doubts, unbelief and had serious flaws. But Jesus never gave up on Peter and Jesus never gives up on us.
One of Peter’s bitter failures took place just after Jesus’ arrest. That evening, Peter became afraid (again!) and feared for his life. To save his skin, he denied, on three occasions, of ever knowing Jesus (John 18: 15-18, 25-27). When fears grip us, we are all capable of similar failures. These failures can be difficult to face, but the story of Peter’s re-instatement gives us great hope.
Jesus orchestrates a familiar scene that brings Peter back to where it all started: a beach, a boat, a night of unsuccessful fishing and a miraculous catch. After recognising Jesus, Peter and the others are invited to breakfast. Jesus does not rush things, nor does he hush it up. He meets Peter’s spiritual and physical needs and creates the right conditions for a real conversation to take place.
What spiritual milestones does Jesus want to remind you of right now?
When you are at a low point, what do you most need to hear from Jesus?
Having breakfast with Jesus means allowing God, through His Spirit, to lead you back to those spiritual milestones of the past. Maybe, like Peter, God will remind you when you first responded to His invitation; or maybe He will bring back those lessons and breakthroughs of the past that you need to remember.
How did your story with Jesus begin?
What did you see more clearly then?
What have you learned along the way?
Go to Jesus and let him minister to you, go to Jesus and let him re-direct you. Incline your ear to listen and your heart to see God’s purpose and love.
Jesus said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Insert your name instead of Simon, son of John. What is your response?
God, show me what you are doing in my life at the present time and how I can cooperate with you, AMEN
Luke 5:1-11. Jesus Calls the First Disciples
5 One day Jesus was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret while the people pushed their way up to him to listen to the word of God. 2 He saw two boats pulled up on the beach; the fishermen had left them and were washing the nets. 3 Jesus got into one of the boats—it belonged to Simon—and asked him to push off a little from the shore. Jesus sat in the boat and taught the crowd. 4 When he finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Push the boat out further to the deep water, and you and your partners let down your nets for a catch.” 5 “Master,” Simon answered, “we worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 They let them down and caught such a large number of fish that the nets were about to break. 7 So they motioned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came and filled both boats so full of fish that the boats were about to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw what had happened, he fell on his knees before Jesus and said, “Go away from me, Lord! I am a sinful man!” 9 He and the others with him were all amazed at the large number of fish they had caught. 10 The same was true of Simon's partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Jesus said to Simon, “Don't be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11 They pulled the boats up on the beach, left everything, and followed Jesus.
Luke 22:33&34. Rash and Hasty
33 Peter answered, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you and to die with you!” 34 “I tell you, Peter,” Jesus said, “the rooster will not crow tonight until you have said three times that you do not know me.”
John 18:15-18, 25-27. Anger and Denial
15 Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. That other disciple was well known to the High Priest, so he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the High Priest's house, 16 while Peter stayed outside by the gate. Then the other disciple went back out, spoke to the girl at the gate, and brought Peter inside. 17 The girl at the gate said to Peter, “Aren't you also one of the disciples of that man?”
“No, I am not,” answered Peter.
18 It was cold, so the servants and guards had built a charcoal fire and were standing around it, warming themselves. So Peter went over and stood with them, warming himself. 25 Peter was still standing there keeping himself warm. So the others said to him, “Aren't you also one of the disciples of that man?”
But Peter denied it. “No, I am not,” he said.
26 One of the High Priest's slaves, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, spoke up. “Didn't I see you with him in the garden?” he asked.
27 Again Peter said “No”—and at once a rooster crowed.
Luke 4:38&39. Peter’s Mother in law healed.
38 Jesus left the synagogue and went to Simon's home. Simon's mother-in-law was sick with a high fever, and they spoke to Jesus about her. 39 He went and stood at her bedside and ordered the fever to leave her. The fever left her, and she got up at once and began to wait on them.
John 21:4-12, 14-19. Jesus and Peter.
As the sun was rising, Jesus stood at the water's edge, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then he asked them, “Young men, haven't you caught anything?”
“Not a thing,” they answered.
6 He said to them, “Throw your net out on the right side of the boat, and you will catch some.” So they threw the net out and could not pull it back in, because they had caught so many fish. 7 The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Peter heard that it was the Lord, he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken his clothes off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples came to shore in the boat, pulling the net full of fish. They were not very far from land, about a hundred yards away. 9 When they stepped ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there with fish on it and some bread. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”
11 Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net ashore full of big fish, a hundred and fifty-three in all; even though there were so many, still the net did not tear. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 So Jesus went over, took the bread, and gave it to them; he did the same with the fish.
15 After they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Take care of my lambs.” 16 A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 A third time Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter became sad because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” and so he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!”
Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep. 18 I am telling you the truth: when you were young, you used to get ready and go anywhere you wanted to; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you up and take you where you don't want to go.” 19 (In saying this, Jesus was indicating the way in which Peter would die and bring glory to God.) Then Jesus said to him, “Follow me!”
Bible Study for the season of Advent.
Study 5. A Journey To Safety.
13 When they (the Magi) had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’ 16 When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’ 19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.’ 21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
Try and answer these questions. It might help to jot down what you are thinking.
1. This seems an odd story for an Advent Study, why is it included?
2. List the people and places mentioned in the passage. Do any of them ring a bell for you?
3. Why is it important that prophecies were fulfilled in these stories?
4. Matthew was writing mainly for his Jewish audience. What would make this story or Christmas more relevant to our community?
5. How does the presence of Jesus within our community bring both peace and problem?
6. What signs of hope or promise can you see in this passage, and how can you apply this to your life and the life of your friends, colleagues or neighbours?
7. What difference will this passage make to the way you welcome the Christ child this Advent and Christmas?
You might want to say a short prayer to finish, thanking God that Joseph listened to God took Jesus to safety; and to ask God to help you recognise how to share Jesus with others around you this Christmas.
Study 4. A Song of Praise.
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!’ 46 And Mary said: ’My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants for ever, just as he promised our ancestors.’ 56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
Try and answer these questions. It might help to jot down what you are thinking.
1. What is the first thing that strikes you in this passage?
2. Go back through the text carefully and identify all the characters in the passage; how they are described and how they get blessed.
3. How is Mary’s song a true reflection (or not) on what God is doing in our society today?
4. What encouragements and challenges do you see in Mary's song for the work of the church in our community?
5. What might you personally take out of this reflection as you continue to make your Christian journey through the season of Advent?
6. This song of Mary’s is called the Magnificat, have you ever written a poem, a thought or song about God. Why not try writing something about God and what He has done for you.
You might want to say a short prayer to finish, thanking God for Family and to ask God to help you recognise all that He has done for you.
Study 3. Doing The Right Thing.
Matthew 1:18 – 25
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: his mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ 22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophets: 23 ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Try and answer these questions. It might help to jot down what you are thinking.
1. What jumps off the page at you?
2. What does the passage tell us about Mary, Joseph and their relationship with each other and their relationship with God?
3. How do you think Joseph and Mary regarded the “the prophets” and is our attitude any different to theirs? If so, how and why?
4. What might the message “God with us” have meant in practical terms for Joseph and family?
5. What might the message “God be with us” mean for us today?
6. How will you welcome the Christ Child?
7. We meet another angel of the Lord who comes in a dream, have you ever had any dreams you think might have come from God? What made you think this?
8. Do we respect Joseph enough in the Christmas Story? Why might that be?
9. Joseph wants to do the right thing; how hard do you find it to do the right thing? Why might that b the case?
You might want to say a short prayer to finish, thanking God for Joseph and to ask Him to help you recognise when He is speaking to you.
Study 2 An Angelic Visit.
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’ 34 ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ 35 The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.’ 38 ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.
Try and answer these questions. It might help to jot down what you are thinking.
1 What is the first thing that strikes you in this passage?
2. What does this passage tell us about Jesus?
3. Name all the relationships you recognise in this passage.
4. Reflect on the importance of relationships in your own life and how these relationships have developed and then note down how God has worked through those relationships.
5. Describe the emotions of Mary we see in this passage.
6. What kind of emotions would you expect if God were to speak to you in such a direct way? What would you do as a result of experiencing those emotions?
7. Can you think of a time when God spoke to you? What happened?
8. What do you think about Angels? Does God still use them today?
8. What difference will this passage make to your approach to Christmas?
You might want to say a short prayer to finish, thanking God for Mary and to ask Him to help you listen to Him each day.
Study 1. Preparing The Way.
1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way’ – 3 ‘a voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”’ 4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt round his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: ‘After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’
Try and answer these questions. It might help to jot down what you are thinking.
1.What stands out of this reading to you?
2. What do you think are the characteristics of John the Baptist’s ministry?
3. What role did John The Baptist have in the Bible?
4. What does this particular passage tell us about Jesus?
5. How might you recognise a modern-day John the Baptist? Any suggestions of someone you know who is a bit like him?
6. Where might you recognise a prophetic word being spoken today?
7. Where and how would you hear the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking today?
8. How might our reflections help us to prepare for a more meaningful celebration of Christ's coming this year?
You might want to say a short prayer to finish, thanking God for John The Baptist and to ask Him to help you prepare meaningfully for Christmas.
Bible Readings for the month of lockdown.
There is short reading for each day and then we are asked to write down something we have learned. Something to give thanks for and something or someone to pray for then spend a few moments in prayer. The Archbishop of Canterbury has asked us all to make this a month of prayer.
Philippians Chapter 1
5th November Verses 1-11 Thanksgiving and Prayer
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons[a]:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Write down something you have learned. Something to give thanks for and something or someone to pray for. Spend a few moments in prayer.
6th November Verses12-18 Preach Christ Always
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[b] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[c] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Write down something you have learned. Something to give thanks for and something or someone to pray for. Spend a few moments in prayer.
7th November Verses 19-26 To Live is Christ
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[d] 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
Write down something you have learned. Something to give thanks for and something or someone to pray for. Spend a few moments in prayer.
8th November Verses 27-30 Conduct Ourselves Worthily
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[e] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
Philippians Chapter 2
9th November Verses 1-11 Imitating Christ’s Humility
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
10th November Verses 12-18 Shining Like Stars
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
11th November Verses 19-30 Timothy and Epaphroditus
19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.
25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad, and I may have less anxiety. 29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honour people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me
Write down something you have learned. Something to give thanks for and something or someone to pray for. Spend a few moments in prayer. You may wish to especially remember those who died in the World Wars and all major conflicts as you pray and pray for peace.
Philippians Chapter 3
12th November Verses 1-11 No Confidence in the Flesh
Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
13th November Verses 12-21 Press on To the Goal
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body
Philippians Chapter 4
14th November Verses 1-7 Exhortation
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
15th November Verses 8 and 9 Think Good Things
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
16th November Verses 10-13 Rejoice and Contentment
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
17th November Verses 14-23 Sharing Together and Greetings
14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
21 Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings. 22 All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
James Chapter 1
18th November Verses 1-18 Trials and Temptations
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wildflower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.
19th November Verses 19-27 Listening and Doing
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James Chapter 2
20th November Verses 1-13 Favouritism is Forbidden
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
21st November Verses 14-26 Faith and Deeds
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
James Chapter 3
22nd November Verses 1-12 Taming the Tongue
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and saltwater flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
23rd November Verses 13-18 Two Kinds of Wisdom
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
James Chapter 4
24th November Verses 1-12 Submit Yourself to God
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us[b]? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but shows favour to the humble.”
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
11 Brothers and sisters do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbour?
25th November Verses 13-17 Boasting is Wrong
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
James Chapter 5
26th November Verses 1-6 Warning to Rich Oppressors
5 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.
27th November Verses 7-12 Patience in Suffering
7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.
28th November Verse 13-20 The Prayer of Faith
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
Isaiah Chapter 52
29th November Verses 7-10 Your God Reigns
7 How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
together they shout for joy.
When the LORD returns to Zion,
they will see it with their own eyes.
9 Burst into songs of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the LORD has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The LORD will lay bare his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
the salvation of our God.
John Chapter 1
30th November Verses 35-42 The Calling (St Andrew’s Day)
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”
They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”
So, they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter)
Luke Chapter 1
1st December Verses 26-38 The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Write down something you have learned. Something to give thanks for and something or someone to pray for. Spend a few moments in prayer. As we enter December out thoughts turn to Advent and preparing for the coming of Christ.
2nd December Verses 39-45 Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!
Ruth. Bible Study Chapter 1. May 2020
Ruth is in the Old Testament; it comes between Judges and 1 Samuel. It is the 8th book in the Bible.
The book of Ruth is one of the stories read at Passover. Its importance in the Old Testament are the promises made and kept by God and His people. There are foreshadows of the redemption to come and it ties into the genealogy of Jesus which has gentiles within it.
Read chapter 1
Verses 1-5: Setting the Scene. This takes place before Israel has a king and is ruled by judges. Famine was a fairly regular occurrence. People moved to try and get a better life. There were rules about marrying into other tribes, but it was a common practice.
Have you ever been forced to move or to leave your home?
Have circumstances meant you have had to move for work or family?
How did this affect your relationship with your family and with God?
Verses 6-9: Go back to your family. Naomi still has faith in God even after her bereavements but choses to go home to Bethlehem.
Why did she decide to go back to her home?
What things have prompted you to move back home?
What might make you move nearer home if you have not done so before?
Even in her grief Naomi cares for her daughters in law. What an example for us.
Verses 10 -13: Bitterness and blame. Naomi desires her daughters in Law to find another family, to have children, to continue their line. She also blames the events on loss of God’s favour.
When things go wrong for you who do you blame?
Are you still bitter about things in your past, if so, why/why not?
Do you think God is responsible for our illnesses, bereavements etc?
Do you think God stands along side us in all circumstances?
Are there any Bible verses or stories that help you with this?
Naomi is both bitter with God but also prays His blessing on the two younger women. Do we ever feel like this and hold this contradictory view of God…..I am angry with you but please bless us????? Why might this be?
Verses 14-18: The choice to stay or Go. Ruth and Orpah have a choice, without their husbands they are not part of the Israelite community, they have their own communities and gods, so they must choose.
What choice would you make? Stay with your own kind or risk going elsewhere knowing you might not fit in?
What are some difficult choices you have made in your life?
Was God part of the decision?
Did your faith help you? If so how?
Ruth makes a decision and an allegiance. She declares faith in Naomi’s God, that means if Naomi dies she will be totally alone unless she marries again. Naomi knows she has lost her argument and allows Ruth to make her own decision.
What can we learn about allowing people to make their own decisions?
How can/should we advise people who ask for our help in making decisions?
Verses 19-22. Naomi returns with Ruth by her side. Naomi choses a new name for herself that means bitter. Marah.
Do we ever feel like changing our name?
Do we want people to identify us as something different?
The term Christian name came from converts changing their name from one which reflected their old life to a new name that reflected their Christian life.
If you could be known by another name what would it be?
Do you know the meaning of your name?
Did you choose names for children based on their meanings?
If you don’t know the meaning of your name/s why not look them up.
Chapter 1 overview questions
Naomi is returning to her family home with nothing, she feels that God has condemned her.
Why do you think she feels like this?
Have you ever felt condemned by God? Or even abandoned by God?
How did you deal with that?
Is it reasonable to feel that way?
Is it reasonable to be angry with God?
Whichever way you answer, explain your answer to yourself or someone else you are in contact with. Talking over our reasons helps put things in perspective.
This story happens because of bereavement.
What experience of bereavement do you have?
How did you cope?
Were you able to pray, to talk to God, to talk with others about your feelings?
Who helped you?
Were you given any advice that helped or has stuck with you?
Were there any Bible passages that helped?
Immigration is a hot topic. Here a girl leaves her land to go and live in another.
What problems does that present?
Should we be free to go and live anywhere?
Should we respect and help those who chose to go and live elsewhere?
Can you think why someone may risk their life to travel to another land?
What about refugees?
The Israelites were commanded to treat “aliens and strangers” with respect as they too are children of God. Leviticus 19:34. They were not very good at that.
How good are we at treating aliens and strangers properly?
What is our view on how we treat aliens and strangers, and is that a Christian response?
So Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem and the Harvest is just beginning……………
Being a Good Neighbour. Bible Study Notes.
The Bible shows that there are two great commandments. The first commandment is to love God with all our being. The second commandment is to love our neighbours as ourselves. So how do we show that we love our neighbours?
Read Luke 10: 25-37 the parable of The Good Samaritan
All of us, at one time or another, have been in need of someone else's help. Can you think of a time when you needed help? Sometimes we are too proud to ask for help, why might that be? Regardless of our status in life, we are to look out for the needs of others. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a lesson about being a good neighbour.
How much importance does God place on being a good neighbour? Can you think of any examples in the Bible?
Read Matthew 22:37-40 and Romans 13:9-10
Loving your neighbour as yourself is the second great commandment. Christ says when dealing with people, we need to stop and think how we would want to be treated, then treat them that way. How do you like to be treated? Do you treat people the same?
What should motivate us to be a good neighbour?
Read 1 John 3:17 and Luke 10:33
A person must have compassion if he or she wants to be able to genuinely help others. Human beings have a natural compassion, but too often we learn to shut our eyes and hearts to the needs around us. Would you call yourself compassionate? If yes, Why? If not, why not? We need to ask God to give us His love and the deeper compassion that comes through His Holy Spirit.
Who specifically is our neighbour?
Read Deuteronomy 10:17-19 and Matthew 5:43-48
Anyone and everyone is our neighbour. Friends, strangers and enemies alike, we are to treat them all the way we want to be treated.
What lessons can we learn from the parable of the “Good Samaritan”?
1.The Samaritan saw someone in need and had compassion. He could have easily continued on his way like the other two people did, but he stopped when he saw the man in need.
2.The Samaritan temporarily put his needs on hold so he could assist this man who needed help now. The Samaritan sacrificed his time and money to help this stranger.
3.The Samaritan quietly departed after he helped and did not make a scene about the good deed that he had done.
What state of mind is needed to be a good neighbour?
Read Philippians 2:3-4
Humility is also needed to be a good neighbour. We can't be selfish. We need to think about others and their needs. If our minds are focused on others and not just ourselves, we will be able to help others when we come across something they need.
What else is required of us to be a good neighbour?
Proverbs 3:28. Matthew 5:14-16. 1 John 3:18. James 1:27.
In order to be a good neighbour, we must take action. We must not only see the needs of others; we must act on those needs.
Is there anything that a good neighbour shouldn't do?
Leviticus 19:18 and Proverbs 3:29
God doesn't want us to think evil about our fellow man. We're not to try to get even, hold grudges or try to cause bad things to happen to anyone. God doesn't even want us to be glad when something bad happens to our enemy (Proverbs 24:17). Remember, we would not want to be treated that way!
What does God say will happen to those who help others in this life?
Read Proverbs 19:17 and Luke 6:38
God takes notice of those who help others. He says that when we give to others, we will be "repaid," though that is not our motivation for serving. Blessings won't always come immediately, but in time God will make sure good things will happen to us. The more sincere and wholehearted we are about helping others; the more blessings will follow us (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).
What does God say will ultimately happen to those who love their neighbours as themselves?
Read Luke 14:12-14 and Matthew 25:31-40
Applying this to our lives now.
God wants us to be good neighbours, and we can start today! Pay attention to what is going on around you. We might not be able to chat with folk as we would have but we can still put messages in our windows, pray for people, use the phone or the post! The more you know people, the more you can help them. Make it a daily habit to treat others the way you want to be treated.
Set a goal today to do a good deed each day. These deeds can be simple, like offering encouraging words, phoning someone, offering a prayer. You will find that, as you look for opportunities to help others, the opportunities will come more easily. And you will find that, the better neighbour you become, the more blessings you will receive. You have God's Word on that!
Session 1 What Does Lent Mean?
For you? For The Church? For Jesus?
Read Luke 4:1-13 (Also in Matthew 4:1-11 and Mark 1:12-13)
What do you know about the significance of 40? Any examples?
Church word is Quadragesima, 40 days not including Sundays
Called Lent from Anglo Saxon word Lencten meaning lengthen, getting longer
Formalised as a Christian practice at Council of Nicaea in 325, Christianity now a legal world religion. St Athanasius and Cyril of Jerusalem taught on Lent.
Begins with Shrove Tuesday, to shrive or be shriven is to seek confession and be forgiven by doing penance, linked to fasting or to eating simple foods thus eating up the fats etc before lent in the form of pancakes. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday came from this. Symbolic of a simpler life.
The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday. What happens on that day? Why?
Words from Genesis 3:19 are used: From dust you came to dust you shall return. What do you think this means?
God puts a prohibition on one tree, one type of food Genesis 2:16-17, humans ignore that because it looks good for food, it is attractive to the eye and it is desirable for Wisdom. The Jewish faith has the Day of Atonement, the time when all sins are confessed, repented of and are made right with God by sacrifice.
Sackcloth and Ashes were a form of repentance, also used in mourning and grieving 2 Kings 19:1-3, Jeremiah 6:26 and an act of submission 1 Kings 20:31-32.
Lent is a moveable feast because Easter is. Easter is chosen by the first full moon of the spring in the Jewish Calendar, just as Passover is, which is why Jesus celebrated the Passover just before His arrest and Crucifixion and why we link Maundy Thursday with the new meal of Communion as well as acknowledge its ties to Passover.
Lent is a replication of Jesus in the Desert, time to prepare, reflect, fast, a denial of self and self-ego.
Eating is a normal experience, to go without food means something is wrong. Fasting is used as a way of clearing one’s mind, giving more openness to God and His spirit, heightens spiritual experiences such as visions and dreams. Fasting is an act of humility, a self-denial, can be linked to weeping and mourning.
The Old Testament has proclamations about fasting 1 Kings 21:9, Isaiah 58:5, Jeremiah 36:9, Johah3:5, Ezra 8:21, 2 Chronicles 20:3. Sanctify a fast Joel 1:14 & 2:15 and to keep a fast 2 Samuel 12:16. It also ties in the Humbling of the soul Leviticus 16:29-31 and self-denial Psalm 35:13, Isaiah 56:3-5.
Fasting was for: Grief and Mourning, Repentance and Forgiveness, An Aid to Prayer, To Experience the Presence of God and An Act of Ceremonial Worship.
Lent can be described as a Spiritual Spring, a time for cleaning out, to be revived and reenergised in faith. Lent gives a time of more freedom from Earthly things to concentrate on more Godly things. A time to recall our Baptism and prepare people for baptism. Confession, Repentance, Forgiveness and Change.
What does Lent mean for you?
Session 2 Why Does Lent Matter?
What does Lent mean for you? (Follow up on last week’s question)
Read Hebrews 10
What does this passage tell us about the human condition? Sacrifices of animals cannot rid us of sin so what has to happen? What does God do to rectify the problem?
A once for all sacrifice is made in Jesus, what do we have to do?
Lent offers us the chance to examine and strengthen our faith through prayer, study and penance. What do you do to observe Lent? Have you changed how you observe Lent over the years? What about penance?
We can give up something we rely on other than faith, God’s word and prayer. We can give up food, or activities, Social Media, TV, anything that may benefit us and cause us to think and examine our priorities.
Lent is not about giving something up for six and a half weeks and making a fuss about it, it is about strengthening your bond with God, listening, learning, recognising, being sorry and changing. Remember the longer you do something the easier it becomes. What are some habits you would like to break or change?
Lent is a time to practice getting out of ourselves, our bad habits and strive for Heaven. We are all saints in the making, do you believe that? Lent offers a chance to heal and change.
The church realised that marking time, rhythms and seasons is how people live and move forward and so it developed its own seasons within the year that mark time and change. As each year passes, we are reminded of the importance of our life and relationship with God, of the key basics and teachings of our faith. We are in the Season of Lent, what other church seasons do you know?
Lent is a tradition, why do we have Traditions? Some people resent tradition and want rid of it, why? Why is Lent a tradition worth keeping and observing? Many Christians don’t understand that throughout human history God has used feast, fast and festivals to bless His people.
Once we realise that we can’t do things in our own strength and offer them to God we find His grace and love to carry us through. As we move toward Easter we recall Jesus death and resurrection, His carrying of the cross through the streets, His carrying of our sin and sorrow so that He knows exactly what each one of us will experience so that we never face pain and suffering alone.
Any spiritual discipline can be taken and emptied of its purpose of connecting us physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally to our God. If we are doing Lent as a public display of our own piety, then we are doing it wrong. Think about Jesus’ encouragement that when we fast, we put oil on, wash our faces, Matthew 6:17. We are not trying to distort our bodies we’re trying to change our souls.
Part of what we’re doing in Lent is giving up something that we desire in our heart so that we might begin, in a small way, to get our mind around Christ giving up His life for us.
What we work on in Lent isn’t just over when Easter comes. We are meant to be changed in a more permanent way as we strive to grow in virtue, love, and holiness. The journey to who we are meant to be doesn’t end when Lent ends. Each moment, each day is a chance to build and change or to begin again if we need to. God is a God of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th,…..infinite chances.
Lent offers us a serious opportunity to make Christ our treasure and to strive to understand and grow in our knowledge of Him and our relationship with Him. “We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” Hebrews 10:19.
Why does Lent matter to you?
Session 3 The Symbols of Lent.
Why does Lent Matter to you? (Follow up on last week’s question)
The Bible and our faith are full of symbolism. What is symbolism and why is it important?
Read John 10:1-21. What is the symbolism in this passage? How might it link to Lent and Easter?
Violet/Purple – The seasonal colour for Lent. The colour of mourning, humility, suffering. Associated with noble birth as it was expensive to colour garments in purple. Purple cloth often draped over crosses, statues etc during Passiontide, or removed completely to concentrate on the act of salvation. Christ was given a purple robe which is then cast lots for so as not to damage it. John 19:2-3.
Ashes – Ash Wednesday. From dust you came to dust you shall return Genesis 3:19. Mortality, vulnerability, purification, penance, forgiveness, sorrow. Dying to Sin, rising to new life at Easter.
Stones – Turn the stones into bread Matthew 4:3. Desert, barren, austerity, dry, rigor, misery, sadness, hard, unforgiving. Bread – Life giving, staple food, nourishing.
Fish – Ichthus: Jesus Christ God’s Son Saviour. Secret Sign. I will make you fishers of Men Matthew 4:19. Fish eaten on a Friday, not a fatty food given up for Lent. You did not eat warm blooded creatures on Friday in penance for Jesus death on Good Friday. Fish was a staple poor person’s food, fasting often meant a strict diet without fats and meat, originally on both Wednesday and Friday.
Money Bag – Judas holder of the common purse and giver of alms money to the poor and himself? John 12:6. Given a bag of money to betray Jesus Matthew 26:15. Giving to the poor was expected and encouraged Luke 12:33.
Incense – Prayer, fragrances, worship, sounds all rising up to God Psalm 141:2. Incense also made churches smell better when full of dirty, unwashed, smelly people.
Pretzels – No fat so a good food for the Lent Fast. Arms across the heart as a child ready for prayer, 7th Century Monks. 13th/14th Century used to hunt at Easter time, given out on Good Friday, three holes became associated with the Trinity.
Thorns – Crown, mockery of kingship. Denotes sin, sorrow and hardship. As part of a rose it denotes pleasure and pain. Paul refers to thorn in the flesh 2 Corinthians 12:6-7. Suffering, persecution, loneliness.
Cross – Instrument of torture and death. Visible deterrent. Crucifix reminds of suffering and death, empty Cross of victory, salvation, the defeat of death, resurrection. Genesis 3:18 the cursed ground now has thorns and thistles which impede human use of the land.
What do symbols mean to you? How do thy help your faith? Do you know any symbols not covered here that might help others?
Jesous Christos Theos Huios Sotor
Jesus Christ God Son Saviour
Session 4 The Sorrow and Joy of Lent
What do symbols mean to/for you? (Follow up on last weeks question)
Read Romans 8:18-39 What is the key message for you from these verses?
What have been the most memorable joyful experiences in your life?
What have been the most memorable sad and difficult experiences in your life?
Why do we need both?
Within Christianity these experiences are often referred to as Mountain Top and Valley experiences. Why do you think that is? Can you think of any Mountain or Valley experiences in the Bible?
Julian of Norwich wrote about the need for both, that there was “profit for the Soul” through experiencing ups and downs. She also spoke of the opposites of pain and delight and how God is there at all times even if we cannot see Him at the time, we often see God’s presence later on, when we look back and reflect. Romans 8:28 Nothing can separate us…. Is that true for you?
Is it true, in your experience, that the higher we rise the harder we fall? Some of life’s most testing times in faith come after: Baptism, Confirmation, Calling, and in life after birth, exam success, new job, new home etc.
For many centuries the church suggested that times of darkness were as a result of sin and times of joy and success were because of our good faith. God was painted as one who rewarded good and punished bad. Is that your experience or understanding? Julian was one of many deeply spiritual people who stood against this idea. This did not make them popular with a church and a noble led state that used reward and punishment of God to control the masses.
God’s love is constant, it is not more when we are good or less when we are bad. The image of God as father can be unhelpful in promoting this idea. Why?
The way spiritual people such as Julian experienced this was to “practice the presence of God” What do you think that means? Do we need practice? How do we know? Is God’s presence always evident to us? How can we remind ourselves that God is always there and that His presence is not conditional on our being good or bad.
“When you find it hard to pray…..pray your hardest” why? Is this good advice?
How do we deal with the difficult times, the feelings of failure in life? Faith not feelings….what does that mean? How does that apply to us? Have you ever felt abandoned, completely alone? What happened? Matthew 27:46 and Psalm 22:2. Jesus cry from the cross as He took on himself the Sin of the world.
What about our feelings and emotions in worship? Are they good? Are they helpful? Why do we have emotions? Why do we cry and laugh?
The term “The Wrath of God” is used in many hymns, in books, in theology. What is meant by this? What about your wrath, your anger…do you get angry with God? About what? Why? Is it justified? The language of human emotion is all we have when we speak of God. Our human understanding means we can never fully understand God, that is why He is God and we have faith.
Think about a time of Sorrow and of Joy, what did you learn?
Session 5 The Heart of Lent
What did you learn about sorrow and joy? (Follow up from last week)
Read Exodus 3:1-17, The story of Moses and the Burning Bush. What strikes you about this story? God makes Himself known to Moses, why does God make Himself known to any of us?
The Burning Bush is a famous Bible story of a burning that does not consume, a symbol that God and His creation cannot be tamed. God is both life giving and dangerous just as fire is. Fire burns away the dross, the banal theologies and triteness and gets to the heart, the purity of the matter.
TS Elliot reminds us in “Four Quartets” that we have a choice, we can either be cleansed by God’s fire or consumed by the worlds fire. What do you think that means? Have you been consumed by the world’s fire? What did you do about it?
Within this passage God’s name is revealed. Moses needs something concrete, a name, a credential to give him gravitas so he could do what God calls him to do.
Names are important, in the past knowing a person’s name meant you had power over someone. God is not a puppet, so God giving His name is a big risk for God. BUT in order to save His people it is risk He is willing to take. God give’s Moses and us His name YHWH, Hebrew meaning “to be and being” often translated to us as “I am who I am” Please notice that we would usually write YAHWEH but in Hebrew and as respect for God the vowels are removed. This ties into the 10 Commandments of not creating a graven image by writing God’s name in full. Images and names restrict God to human form and therefore take away His power and authority.
If we move forward to Jesus in Mark 4:41, the disciples ask Who is He that the winds and waves obey Him? I wonder if you ask that question, just who is Jesus? In Mark 6:48-51 Jesus walks on the water, the disciples ask who He is and He declares himself I AM, in other words He is identifying with the God of the Burning Bush. On the cross in Mark 15:34 Jesus says “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” This can be translated as YHWH, YHWH or I AM, I AM why have you forsaken me? God’s presence has gone?
Have you ever felt deserted by God? What did you do? Has it really gone? For Jesus it is the complete vulnerability that brings redemption. Cross – Death – Resurrection – Ascension – Pentecost and the fire of the spirit that comes down upon the Disciples.
Just think of the figure on the Emmaus Road, who we know is the Risen Christ, He is elusive, mysterious, vulnerable but YHWH, Luke 24:13-35, revealed in the breaking of bread.
What is our response? On Maundy Thursday we strip our altar and our church back to the bare minimum, a recognition of bearing ourselves before God, cutting away the dross that cloaks and obscures us from God and His mystery.
What is your response to God this lent? Are you willing to let the I AM burn away the dross? The risen Christ send the power of the Holy Spirit into your life? Are you willing to let your heart be open to God?
If Moses had not turned to look things would have been different. We need to turn and look at what God is doing every day and see what part we have to play.
What is the heart of Lent for you?
Further reading: Daniel 3, Song of Songs 8:5-7, Luke 12: 22-34, Hebrews 12.
Session 6 From Lent to Holy Week
Think back to this last week. What is the heart of Lent for you?
Read John 12:12-19
This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy week. Holy week recounts the story of Jesus final days and His Crucifixion. Christians remember the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Jesus rode on a donkey and was welcomed by cheering crowds who threw down their cloaks in the road and waved palm branches shouting ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!’ (John 12:13). Palm crosses are given to worshippers during the service. What does your palm cross mean to you? What do you do with that Palm Cross through the year?
Monday: Jesus and the money changers, read Matthew 21:11-13. Why is Jesus angry with these people? What are they doing wrong? Is this more to do with attitude that action?
Tuesday: Jesus is questioned by religious leaders, Matthew 21:23-27. Jesus authority is questioned. What is your view on Jesus authority?
Wednesday: Judas betrays Jesus, read Matthew 26:14-16. What do you think of Judas and what he did? Do you understand his actions in any way? Why did he do this?
Thursday: Jesus eats the Last Supper with the Disciples and predicts Peter’s denial, read Matthew 26:17-35. What is special about the Last Supper for you? We call this day Maundy Thursday what does that mean? Maundy means Commandment, what commandment did Jesus give to us? How do you think Peter felt about Jesus telling him he would betray Jesus? How would you feel? Have you ever denied knowing Jesus? If you have why?
Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, read Matthew 26: 36-46. Jesus found it hard to pray, when do you find it hard to pray? Does it help to know that Jesus found it difficult as well? What can we learn from His experience?
In the garden Jesus is arrested, read Matthew 26: 47-56, the disciples do try and stand up for Him at first, but He stops them, why? Why does Jesus allow Himself to be arrested? What would you have done if you had been there?
Jesus is put in front of the Sanhedrin, an assembly and court of the Jews, read Matthew 26: 57-68. What are they trying to do? They even bring in false witnesses. Why is getting rid of Jesus so important? How do you feel when someone challenges your point of view, your strongly held opinions? Do you want to remove the issue rather than listen, think and weigh up another view? Faith is key to our belief, but it should not be blind faith, we should understand why we believe what we do. How can we do that?
Outside this court Peter is challenged about knowing Jesus, read Matthew 26:69-75. What if that had been you? How would you react? Why do you think Peter reacted like this? What was Peter afraid of? What are you afraid of when people ask about your faith?
Which of the events of Holy Week resonates most with you and why?
Further reading: I have used mainly Matthew’s gospel for this study to make it easier to find and refer to. You can also find these events in other gospels. Mark chapter 14. Luke chapter 22. John chapters 13 and 18. There is a lot of reading in this study and a lot of difficult questions, but it is worth it.