Tag Archive: Bible study


What Are You Reading? (May 2015)

This month, we have for you a review of the book Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard from Vicar Dan Petrak, as well as some online Bible study resources.

Dan Petrak, Vicar

Killing JesusKilling Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

I recently finished reading Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. This book is one of a series written by O’Reilly and Dugard to bring a factual and detailed description to the death of Jesus of Nazareth. The authors employ historical context and events surrounding the various political, social, economic and religious influences of the day. Jesus’ life and death are accurately depicted from the perspectives of the Romans, Jews, and Jesus’ disciples to help the reader understand the interactions of the Jewish and Roman cultures two thousand years ago. The book’s title points to the death of Jesus on the cross, but it also describes life, ministry, crucifixion and his rising from the grave.

O’Reilly (a Roman Catholic) attempts to tell the story in an objective manner and cites all his sources throughout the book. His intent is not to preach or teach the Gospel, but the life and words of Jesus deliver the message of the Gospel and the reader learns the reason for Jesus’ life and his once for all sacrifice on the cross. Parts of all the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are all cited as well as other historical documents from the time period.  I most enjoyed the specific details describing what life would have been like living as a poor Jew two thousand years ago.  The style is easy to read and it seems to bridge the gap between the historical Jesus and the events surrounding his miraculous life.  I believe Christians and non-Christians would enjoy this book and it compels the reader to wrestle with who Jesus is and what does his life, death and resurrection mean to each of us. ~Dan

Online Bible Study Resources:

1 Thessalonians Bible Study by Pastor Joe Meyer (5 sessions)

First Thessalonians provides a glimpse into the future—a future that holds no tears, sickness or death. Even though the Thessalonians faced extreme persecution, Paul encouraged them to live and walk in a manner that honored God—a life that should ultimately be motivated by the hope of the return of Jesus Christ.

Knowing and Defending Your Faith by Pastor Joe Meyer (3 sessions with printable discussion guides)

In this study, Pastor Meyer digs deep into God’s Word and discusses how to talk to others about your faith in Jesus.

The Last Days by Pastor Joe Meyer (5 sessions with printable study guides)

Have you ever wondered about the Anti-Christ or what our world will be like before the Second Coming? In this study, Pastor Meyer explores the End Times, or Last Days, through a study of God’s Word for Biblical understanding of that incredible event that will happen very soon. In Revelation 22:7, Jesus said, “Behold I am coming soon” …and so He will.

What book, author, or study recommendations do you have to share with others?

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Chp 7- The Battle Begins (Bible Study)

Walls of Jericho

Chapter 7 Summary

Israel had spent the last 40 years on a road to nowhere. A lot can change in 40 years. All of the people who were slaves in Egypt had died, except for two, Joshua and Caleb. Moses had died too. Joshua had been his right-hand man, and he was Israel’s new leader. The wilderness of disobedience and defeat was behind them now, and a new generation camped at Canaan’s edge.

A lot had changed during the wilderness years, but God had not. The promise He’d made to Abraham over 600 years before was about to turn into reality. The LORD spoke to Joshua saying, “Be strong and courageous, for I am with you.  Be careful to obey my law.”  Joshua listened well. He had spied out the land as a young man and trusted God to give it to them as He’d promised.  Now he sent two spies into Jericho to appraise the land.  They were hidden in the house of Rahab, a prostitute who protected them from the king of Jericho.  She boldly confessed her faith in the LORD as the one true God who had given the land to Israel.  The spies responded to her faith by agreeing to save her whole family when they attacked Jericho.

This new generation of Israelites had heard the stories about crossing the Red Sea on dry land; now, their first steps into the Promised Land were taken across another patch of dry land when God parted the Jordan River – another highway leading into God’s promise.

When they reached Jericho, the military strategy was unorthodox.  The priests marched the Ark of the Covenant around Jericho’s walls each day for six days.  On the seventh day, they marched around the city seven times. Their parade concluded with the sound of trumpets and shouts as they completed a seventh circle around the city.  Amazingly, the walls of Jericho collapsed!  Jericho was destroyed and Rahab and her family were saved.

The land of Canaan was a place of conquest and victory for Israel. When Israel obeyed, God faithfully delivered her enemies into her hands.  When they failed to trust Him, they missed out on the fulfillment of those promises. Even the temporary defeat at Ai caused by disobedience was later turned to victory when the people followed God’s command.  In the annihilation of entire cities we see God’s holy intolerance of sin. In the account of Gibeon we see God’s mercy extended to a people who were willing to follow the true God. After taking the entire region by force, Joshua divided up the land by tribe as Israel’s inheritance.

The chapter closes with Joshua’s final words as he recounts the stories of God’s faithfulness and deliverance. God will keep His promises. He will also let us choose whether or not we will participate in the blessings of His promises. These stories of God’s people are our stories too, and like Joshua we must, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” Joshua stated he and his “household [would] serve the LORD.”  Which will you choose?

Before we move on to the study I want to share with you something I put in the weekly reflection concerning some of the disturbing images of chapter 7.

I have to be upfront with you before we get going on this blog topic today. Reading through the accounts of Joshua and Chapter 7 of the Story make me uncomfortable and a bit troubled. There is a lot of death, killing and utter destruction. I would really love to tell you that I have figured out ways of making myself comfortable with this or explain it away, but Christians can not avoid these pieces or simply just make them symbolic pictures.

After struggling with this topic for some time I have concluded that I am not supposed to be comfortable with this. It is true that the Bible contains graphic stories of sin, evil, and death. But it also includes the overarching grand narrative of love, redemption and grace. It showcases a God who asks us to not criticize him about his acts of justice, but instead come alongside him and grieve over a world that has misused the gift of freedom and has picked evil instead of good. When that does occur, God acts in righteousness, and the world discovers that consequences exist for evil behavior. The Prophet Isaiah speaks to this when he says:

“At night my soul longs for you, indeed, my spirit within me seeks you diligently; for when the earth experiences your judgements the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:9)

As you read these difficult stories, join me in lamenting the horrific acts and the justice that demanded God to act in punishment. In the same way we can also see the wonderful picture of love and faithfulness that the Old Testament highlights as God’s foremost characteristic.

On to the study…

Rahab, A Woman of Flaws and Faith

When the story of Joshua opens, the Israelites are outside of the Promised Land while the Canaanites are inside the Promised Land.  For God’s divine plan to move forward, the Israelites need to take up residence in the land while the Canaanite inhabitants must be removed from the land.  This is but one of many ironies in the book of Joshua.

The character of Rahab is another prime example of irony in the Joshua narrative.  She is the quintessential Canaanite!  Yet she has more faith than the nation of Israel had while they wandered in the wilderness for the last 40 years!

I.  Rahab’s Vantage Point- Joshua 2

For the second time, God was ready to hand over the land of the Canaanites to the Israelites. Joshua was leading a whole new generation, who had not lived through the miraculous deliverance that their fathers had experienced.  But the stories from their history, and their own experiences of the power of the One True God, had given courage to the Israelite soldiers.  It had also “melted the hearts” of all the cultures around them. Rahab could see the coming doom. She knew that the God of the Israelites was the “God of Heaven above and on the earth below”.  She had realized that before the Israelite spies appeared on her doorstep.

Discover Rahab’s vantage point from Joshua 2. Read Joshua 2

1. Why did Rahab have so much information about the Israelites and the attitude of the Canaanites?

 

2. What two events particularly persuaded Rahab to believe in God?

 

3. Describe the morale of the Canaanites.

 

4. What actions put Rahab on the side of the Israelite invaders? (v. 4-6)

Rahab’s lie:  While it is not God’s ideal that we lie “our sin in Adam has created an ethical mess from which we sometimes can’t (don’t) extricate ourselves” (Howard). Is there ever a time when a lie has been okay in your life? How do you know?

v. 11

v. 12-13

v. 15-16

5. What was the promise that the spies had made to Rahab from Joshua 2: 12-21.

 

6. What was their promise to her? (v. 14)

 

7. What was Rahab’s situation now?  Did she have anything to lose by making an agreement with the spies?

 

8. Who would ultimately have to guarantee this promise? (v. 12)

II. Joshua’s Vantage Point- Joshua 1:3—6

The spies and Joshua were relying on the information of a Canaanite prostitute. Her help was invaluable, not only because she protected them but because of her description of the poor morale among the Canaanites in Jericho.  She risked her life and the lives of her family on her beliefs.  But Rahab was not the only one who made a courageous decision. Joshua was following orders and he was under no obligation to honor the spies’ verbal contract with a prostitute who belonged to ‘the enemy’!

  • Read God’s instructions in Deuteronomy 7:1-2 and 20:16-19.

1. What had God specifically commanded Joshua to do to the people they would conquer?

 

2. Were they allowed to make any agreements or contracts with the people of Canaan?

  • Review the mission that God had given Joshua from Joshua 1.

3. What state of mind did God want Joshua and the Israelites to have?

 

4. What was God’s repeated promise to Joshua?

  • Joshua led the Israelites into battle.  Joshua 3—6

5. How did the Israelites cross the Jordan river?  (3:16)

 

6. How many soldiers approached Jericho? (4:13)

 

7. What was necessary before the Israelites could enter the land?   Why? (5:5-8)

  • Discover how Joshua viewed Rahab.  Joshua 6:17-19.

8. What were Joshua’s instructions about Rahab and her household?

 

9. Why could Joshua’s order to rescue Rahab and her family be considered courageous?

 

10. What do you think Joshua meant when he said “But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them” Joshua 6:18.

When Rahab confessed “for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:11), she effectively identified herself with the Israelites.  She demonstrated through her actions that she no was no longer a Canaanite at heart. We have no knowledge of how Joshua came to the conclusion that Rahab should be rescued and saved from destruction.  We do know however, that God promised to be with Joshua. God knew Rahab’s heart.  He accepted her as one of the “treasures” that were devoted to Him. In fact, Rahab carried the most precious treasure of all; she is one of Jesus’ ancestors! God wanted Rahab to be saved.

 

III. Our vantage point.

1.  What is your unique vantage point in life?

 

2.  Discuss how these insights that have helped you see the wisdom of following Christ.

 

3.  What does the salvation of her family tell us about God’s kindness to Rahab?

 

4.  Family is usually highly treasured.  Do you think God cares about your family as much as you do?  Why?

 

5.  How can we devote ourselves and our family to God?

Key Question:  How do you need to “change sides” in your life to join forces with others in God’s Kingdom?

For Additional Reflection:

Read the full account of the Fall of Jericho and the events that followed from Joshua, chapters 3—7.  Note the various times and ways that Joshua and the Israelites worshiped God:

Was God intimately involved with them, or withdrawn?

Is there a subject in Chapter 7 that you wanted to talk about? What questions came to your mind when you read the chapter?

This week we will finish out the book of Genesis which has been packed full of people with a past, a people who struggled through difficult situations, a people who were by far not perfect. Genesis can be a very challenging book, especially for non-believers. We can give them a pass on their non-belief because they have not signed on to this. But as believers we hear from Jesus who spoke of Adam and Eve as real people in history. Jesus died and rose again, so anything that he says, I am on board with. On with the study…

We start the story off with another group of people that are flawed beyond imagination. Generation after generation you would think people would change based upon events of the past. But…nothing changes.

Read Genesis 37:2-5

What do we learn about Jacob (Israel), in these short passages? He has not learned anything. His battle with his brother, Esau, was started because his mother favored him over Esau. That situation we studied last week and we know that it was a bad situation all around. God was still able to redeem the bad and make good come from it. Jacob came before his brother Esau and was humbled. These life circumstances still taught him nothing against favoritism. Jacob loved Joseph and Benjamin more than his other sons because they came from his favorite wife (again extending from the problems with the multiple wives situation).

Have you ever been the favored one in a relationship? Have you ever been on the other side of that having to see someone else get favored? What did it feel like? Keep those in mind as we move forward with the story.

Read Genesis 37:12-36

Joseph’s brothers know exactly how to deal with the problem, “Kill our brother!!” Why? Because Dad sent him out to see how they were doing? Nope. There’s more to the story.

Joseph was Jacob’s youngest at this time, and his very, very favorite son. The other sons were not only older, but Joseph had been born of Jacob’s favorite beloved wife.

The dysfunctional family problem became obvious by Jacob’s words and actions. He gave Joseph a beautiful cloak to wear, demonstrating his affection. Apparently none of the other sons had received such gifts. Israel obviously was not an observant father when it came to his other, hard-working sons. Joseph wasn’t in line to inherit anything other than the typical son’s share, so what else enraged his brothers?

They called Joseph “the dreamer” because he had experienced dreams that indicated that his parents and brothers would bow down to him. Being a typical teenager, he pretty much bragged about this dream in front of all the family. This was probably in part to find help in deciphering the dream, but having not questioned his father in private, we have to assume that he was not totally humble concerning this dream that would turn out to be God’s message concerning the future.

His brothers’ rage was so intense that they plotted his murder, even to the point of telling his loving father that an animal had killed the boy. That certainly tells us something of the brothers’ faith in God and respect for their father, and what it tells us is not good.

Judah was the oldest, but it was brother Reuben who convinced the others to just toss Joseph into a nearby cistern. I guess that’s a step in the right direction, though apparently this would also have led to the boy’s death. At the sight of an approaching caravan, Judah stepped in and persuaded his brothers to sell Joseph to traveling traders rather than kill him. Joseph was on his way to Egypt to be sold as a slave. The picture of the map at the top of this post will help give you a good idea of the journey that Joseph went on.

How would you react in Josephs situation? Was Joseph completely innocent in the situation?

Many would curse God and give up their faith, or sit down and give up, or do everything they could to mess up their new master’s plans. often times we think Joseph is innocent. But think about him as the younger brother and his approach to his older brothers.

Read Genesis 39:1-20

The next time we see Joseph he is in Egypt as he was sold to a man named Potiphar. Joseph remained faithful to God and tried to be the best slave in the household.

Could you do what Joseph did? He was sold into slavery out of hatred by his brothers. This could have left him bitter and angry at the world, refusing to do anything.

There is a story within the story of Potiphars wifes lie concerning Joseph’s supposed attack.  Potiphar was the captain of the guard. He could have had Joseph executed for what his wife charged Joseph had done, but he did not. There is a real possibility that Potiphar knew that his wife was not exactly faithful, but to save face and not publicly imply that she was a liar, he had to do something to punish Joseph–thus the prison sentence instead of death.

This is the second time that Joseph’s world fell apart.

Was there anything positive that came from Joseph’s time in Potiphar’s household?

We tend to focus on the negative things that happen to us instead of the great things that could be going on. How can we start to focus on the positive things in our lives?

How do you think you would have handled life in such difficult circumstances?

Read Genesis 40

Even in prison, Joseph was the best worker of them all. He rose to a position of authority again! After interpreting the dreams of the Pharaoh’s servants, the one who lived forgot all about Joseph for two more years of jail time, remembering him only when the pharaoh’s priests and advisers could not interpret his own dreams.

While we attribute our dreams to pizza and beer overload, the Egyptians put great stock in dreams (http://www.fruitofthenile.com/dreams.htm).  When a dream projected an obvious vision, the pharaoh was greatly concerned. Interpreting the dream therefore raised Joseph’s reputation to a great level in the leader’s eyes.

Read Genesis 41:14-16

Pharaoh called Joseph out of prison to interpret his dreams. This was good news and bad news for the Pharaoh; there was going to be great growth for the next seven years, but this would be followed up with bad news that the land would be seven years in drought and famine.

Read Genesis 41:39-41

God’s plan for Joseph (unknown to him) was rapidly coming to a climax as the dream was fulfilled in famine and plenty. It’s amazing that this event was even happening to Joseph at all. He was an outsider, a slave, an inmate…but now he was the no. 2 man in all of Egypt. Amazing!

Joseph used his talents given to him by God to put things in order according to the plenty and famine.

What kind of leadership skills do you think Joseph used to make all of this happen? What can we learn from him when leading others?

Read Genesis 42:1-8

The famine not only hit the land of Egypt, it also affected Joseph’s brothers and family living over in the land of Shechem. Jacob knew that without help from Egypt his family would perish.

So, Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy grain, and there begins a story worthy of any Hollywood masterpiece.  Ten brothers were sent. Joseph, of course, did not even know of Benjamin’s existence.

Why do you think that Josephs brothers did not know him?

Was it their assumption that he was long dead, or at least a lowly slave in some unknown place? Was it the long time that had passed and aged them all? Or, did God blind them to recognizing their brother? Was it all of these, or something else?

Perhaps it was Joseph’s make-up. He was wearing the facial makeup that we have become familiar with from the drawings in history books and movies, as well as an Egyptian high official’s clothing.

Why did Joseph torture (figuratively) his brothers with demands, imprisonment, and accusations that were of a death penalty nature?

During the meal, when Joseph gave Benjamin five times the portion of the other guests, it was an almost unbelievable honor for the young man. To give a guest in Egypt three times as much as others was considered the highest honor.

After tears shed away from the dining room, “Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph! Is my father still living?’ But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.”

Why were they terrified and he overcome with joy?

Here is the vast difference between Joseph and his brothers. They had lived their lives in terror of being found out; of their great sin being revealed. When they realized who had been tormenting them, they did not react with joy, but terror. The one they had tried to kill was not only alive, but second in power only to the Pharaoh in Egypt. Joseph had lived a life without malice or revenge in his heart. He had lived a life devoted to God, knowing that everything happened for a reason and that God’s plan would be revealed.

In chapter 50 of Genesis, Gods purpose in Josephs life is revealed. We find out why he could live a life of joy after being victimized as a youth. He summarized what he had been trying to explain to his brothers for years since their arrival in Egypt. He said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good….”    God can use any life for His glory; He can heal any life for His story; He can guide any life on His own path.

Before we close I wanted to point out one character in this story other than Joseph. I wanted to highlight Jacob.

Read Genesis 37:32-35

Jacob refused to be comforted by anyone. Has grief ever hit you so hard that you refused to be comforted? What did that event do to shape your life?

This event shaped Jacob throughout the rest of his life. Take a look at what he says when the brothers try to take Benjamin with them to Egypt…

Read Genesis 43:1-11

The exchange that Jacob has with his other sons is interesting. You can tell he did not want to let Benjamin go. He questions and questions and finally agrees. The oldest son identifies that if he doesn’t come back home with Benjamin his father will lay his head down and die. One more bad event was going to throw him over the edge.

Jacob was deeply affected when he thought Joseph was dead. Do you think he ever got over it? Did he allow this pain to divide his relationship with his other children? When we have a bad event that occurs in our life do we allow that to consume us and every other relationship around us?

If we look at how Jacob responded to tragedy vs. the way Joseph responded, what can we learn?  What is the one or two points of the Joseph story that continue to build up your faith?

We are left with a question at the end of Genesis. Though Joseph is highly respected; a man of great power in Egypt, he feels he has to assure his brothers (probably relatives, since his “brothers” would have been ancient) “…God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”  Were the Israelites already being eyed as potential slave labor? Could they not leave of their own accord?  Or, did God reveal to Joseph that the time would come when only God’s power could rescue them from a foreign land? Or, was it an instruction to wait for God’s timing before leaving the land that had rescued them from starvation?

What are your thoughts about the great patriarchs, and Joseph, as we leave Genesis behind and meet Gods reluctant hero in a time four hundred years after Josephs family entered Egypt?

Please let me know if there is something that you want to look at in the text and we can do that. Thanks for reading and following today.

Be blessed and be a blessing!

Intro- Questions to Consider

“The Bible is like a pool, shallow enough that a little child can come and get a drink without fear of drowning. So deep that scholars can swim in it and never touch the bottom.” -Martin Luther

I have had a lot of experience going through the Bible. Through all my interaction with the Bible, several things have jumped out at me. One in particular is the fact that the Bible can be very intimidating. New and old Christians alike can be intimidated by this collection of books for several reasons:

  1. People don’t know what to do with the labels applied to the Bible such as inerrant, infallible, inspired, etc.
  2. People often don’t know which translation to read
  3. People don’t seem to know where to start
  4. People get bored by the lists of genealogies and aren’t sure why that stuff matters
  5. People are confused about which parts to read literally and which to take figuratively
  6. People aren’t sure which laws or teachings apply to us today (Old Testament vs New Testament)
  7. People aren’t sure how to interpret various passages
  8. People sometimes have doubts about its validity and relevance today
  9. People are confused by “apparent” contradictions that often discourages them

For the longest time the best way people have dealt with this, is to simply not read the Bible at all and avoid any problems. But, if the Bible is a significant part of our faith then we should be reading it.

So…it’s time that we take our fear and intimidation and cast to the side and we must seek to understand the Bible together.

Over the course of 31 weeks we are going to take a deeper look at the Bible as we read through “The Story.” Let’s understand how this collection of scrolls came into our hands. Let’s take some of the mystery out of the Bible and make it a little less intimidating for people to read.

Before we start our Bible study time together next week, I want to leave you with six questions to consider whenever you are reading your Bible:

  1. Is there an example to follow?
  2. Is there a sin to avoid?
  3. Is there a promise to take to heart?
  4. Is there a command to obey?
  5. Is there a verse to memorize?
  6. Is there a challenge in which to respond?

As we study the Bible together you can go back to these questions if you are ever in a place that doesn’t seem to have a purpose. As you read always keep in mind PEER.

Prepare

Expect to encounter God

Exalt

Respond

Let me know if you have any questions about this study, as it will be different from the rest of the stuff being posted on the blog. I look forward to our journey together through God’s revealed Word.

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