Explore God's Word Daily


Explore God's Word Daily
A daily blog on Christianity.com

A look ahead

 

 

The stories of the first six chapters of Daniel are often taught in Sunday school and in sermons. The second half of the book is usually lef alone! We're going to work our way through it, but it's worth taking a moment to understand more about how to read this section of the Bible.

So today's study isn't really a study--it's a (hopefully) helpful introduction. 

A clear structure

Read Daniel 7 v 1

  • - What's curious about the timing here (look back to 5 v 30-31)?

In terms of time, chapter 7 is placed between chapters 4 and 5. In other words, having finished the events of chapters 1–6 we now rewind to read about Daniel’s dreams. Chapters 1 – 6 and 7 – 12 have been structured to form two overlapping sections.

Similar but different

Read verses 15-18

  • - What's happening to Daniel here?

These are much like what was going on in chapter 2 (it might be worth taking a cou- ple of minutes to read through it)—but now Daniel is the one who has the dreams. And he has to be told what they mean, rather than interpreting them himself.

There is also more about the political powers of the ancient world and how they relate to God. But the difference is that God doesn't intervene as obviously and directly as he does in the first six chapters. His people often suffer for faithfulness rather than being saved miraculously. Arrogant kings seem to prosper rather than being humbled.

The same theme

The theme of the book is still the same, however: God remains the true God so stay faithful to Him. And faithfulness often means suffering persecution, even death, while waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

Apocalyptic now

The content of the dreams is in symbolic language (technically it’s called “apoca- lyptic” writing), where the objects stand for certain things. Some of these are clearly interpreted for us—for example, look at 8 v 20.

We’re not familiar with this kind of writ- ing today. We need to remember that despite being a bit weird, it is simply a symbolic audio-visual display to Daniel; there’s nothing particularly mysterious about it. That’s not to say it’s all easy to understand, mind you— but the general idea is straightforward enough.

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PRAY

Pray for God's help in understanding and applying this section of His word during the next few weeks.

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This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

MORE BIBLE READING PLANS


Daniel: Staying Faithful

 

Welcome to the book of Daniel. After covering the first half in the last issue of Explore, we're diving back in halfway through.

So it's well worth reminding ourselves of the main themes of the book...

The book of Daniel is set in Babylon, where Daniel and his friends have been taken into exile.

Read Daniel 3 v 8-12, 6 v 10-14

  • - What challenges have Daniel and his friends faced?

Read 3 v 28-29, 6 v 26-27

  • - What have been some of the main lessons in living for God so far?

Read 2 v 46-47, 5 v 22-28

  • - What have been some of the main lessons about God Himself so far?

The book of Daniel is all about living faithfully for God in a pagan land. It is at a time when God's people are in exile and so God appears to have been defeated. But the main theme is: God remains the true God, so stay faithful to Him.

So the first six chapters see Daniel and his friends living faithfully for God, even when under pressure not to, and being rescued and vindicated for doing so. And we've seen pagan kings being brought to recognize God as the true God.

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TIME OUT

It's sometimes hard to see how Daniel's experience of the world can have much to do with ours. Most of us aren't Jewish, pining for a return to Israel. None of us are serving a Babylonian king while trying to live for God.

But in the New Testament, Peter describes Christians as "strangers in a world, scattered' throughout the earth (1 Peter 1 v 1). None of us are yet living in the ultimate land of heaven. All of us face the daily tension of living for God in a world which doesn't recognize or respect Him.

In fact, Daniel's world isn't so very different from our own!

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APPLY

  • - In your own life, where are the tensions between how everyone expects you to act, and how God tells you to act?

Peter says Christians have "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1 v 4)

  • - Is that what you're most looking forward to today?

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PRAY

Pray that as you spend the next few weeks in Daniel, the true God would be encouraging, equipping and challenging you to stay faithful to Him.

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This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

MORE BIBLE READING PLANS


Outsider in

 

 

As a widow, refugee and foreigner, Ruth is vulnerable to sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse. But she has come to take refuge under the wings of Israel's God. So what will she find among His people? Will this community be different in the way they treat an outsider?

Read Ruth 2 v 1-23

  • - What do we learn about Boaz's character?
  • - How does Naomi interpret the way in which Ruth is treated in Bethlehem (v 20)?
  • - Look at what people do, say, permit or avoid through the whole chapter. How does each show the LORD's kindness to Ruth and Naomi?

God's law

Read Deuteronomy 10 v 17-19 and 24 v 19-22

  • - How are these commands of God carried out when it comes to Ruth?

The time of the Judges was a time when God's law was ignored (Judges 21 v 25). But it seems that in Bethlehem, and in Boaz's house, God's law was loved.

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APPLY

Most people today, as then, see God's law as something that can be (and even should be) ignored.

Read James 1 v 25

  • - Why should we not only obey the law, but love it?

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God's kindness

A key theme of the book of Ruth is "loving kindness" (or "covenant love/loyalty")--the Hebrew word hesed. It describes loyalty to the obligations of a covenant or agreement, and the generous spirit that is willing to go beyond those obligations. This is the "kindness" for which Naomi praises God (v 20).

God is kind to Ruth and Naomi thorugh the kindness and obedience of His people. We are to show the same kindness towards others, especially the vulnerable. This creates an attractive community of kindness. God is revealed as a God who liberates and protects, and people of all nations come to Him for refuge.

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APPLY

  • - Who is vulnerable (materially, physically or emotionally) in your community?
  • - What could you do to show them the LORD's kindness?

Think of some specific ways you can show kindness this week. Pray that this would be an opportunity to show people the loving kindness of the LORD.

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This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

MORE BIBLE READING PLANS


Wings of refuge

 

 

Read Ruth 2 v 1-12

  • - How do the fortunes of Naomi and Ruth begin to change?

The writer doesn't explicitly tell us that God is at work. It does look as though Ruth is simply extremely fortunate. But in fact, we're seeing God's hidden hand blessing her--the LORD is, as Boaz wanted for all his workers (v 4), with her.

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APPLY

Ruth and Naomi don't know the outcome of these events. But from God's perspective, the outcome is certain. There are twists and turns, ups and downs, in the story, but we know where it's going and who's in control.

So what about our own lives? Most of the time, we can't see them from the viewpoint of the sovereign God. But we can apply what we learn from Ruth. We may laugh and cry at the ups and downs of our life story, but we can know where our life is going and who's in control.

  • - In which part of your life is this particularly reassuring today?

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Re-read verse 12

  • - How does Boaz describe God?
  • - In chapter 11 it seemed that Ruth was risking her own security and well-being to show loyalty to Naomi. But how does Boaz describe her actions at the end of the verse?
  • - So why was Ruth's decision, however costly and apparently risky, a wise one?

God's people

Look at how Boaz treats his workers, and how he treats Ruth.

  • - How does he reflect the character of the God who is a "refuge?"

It's wonderful to see that God works through His people to be a refuge for Ruth. He gives Boaz the privilege of being the way this vulnerable woman is cared for. 

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TIME OUT

Boaz's mother was a woman called Rahab (Matthew 1 v 5). Read her story in Joshua 2 v 1-21 and 6 v 15-25.

  • - What do you think Boaz learned about God and His character from his mother's story?
  • - How does this seem to be influencing his treatment of Ruth?

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PRAY

Use verse 12 to thank and praise God; to confess times when you have sought refuge elsewhere; and to ask God to open your eyes to see His loving, sovereign care of you.

.............................................

This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

MORE BIBLE READING PLANS


Decision time

 

 

Covenant

Read Ruth 1 v 11-18

  • - What do they decide? Does Ruth's choice surprise you?
  • - What would the Moabitess Ruth have to face by going to Israel with Naomi?

Seven times in chapter 1 God is called "the LORD," "Yahweh"--the name that reminds Israel of His covenant love and loyalty to them.

  • - How does Ruth show LORD-like covenant love towards Naomi?

By going with Naomi, Ruth faces continuing widowhood, prejudice as a foreigner, vulnerability to exploitation and violence, dependence on charity and the responsibility of caring for her downcast mother-in-law. Ruth shows love and loyalty to Naomi at great cost to herself. That's covenant love, shown most clearly as God gives up His own Son to death because He loves His people. 

Divine affliction

Read verses 19-22

  • - How does Naomi describe what has happened to her (v 20-21)?
  • - Who does Naomi blame her "misfortune" on? Is she right to do this, do you think?

"Bitter"..."empty"..."afflicted" ... These are the words that Naomi uses to describe her life on her return to Bethlehem. It's unclear whether she views this as God's judgment or unjust betrayal. Calling herself Mara ("bitter") might suggest that she resents God's action, but it could also describe her situation rather than her attitude. "The Lord has afflicted me" (v 21) means "The Lord has testified against me," suggesting she recognizes the justice of God's judgment. What is clear is that she sees her circumstances as the work of "the Almighty" God (v 21).

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APPLY

In times of hardship, despite believing that God controls everything that happens to us, we can fail to trust in His covenant love towards us, and despair over our circumstances. Or, because we know He's in charge, we can become resentful towards Him. We know God is God, but we forget that He is good.

Read Romans 5 v 1-5

  • - What should hardship produce in our lives?
  • - How can we ensure that hardship produces this good fruit in us? Think about the following:
    • - Something to remember (v 1)
    • - Someone to go to (v 2)
    • - Something to look forward to (v 2)
    • - Someone to depend on (v 5)

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This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

MORE BIBLE READING PLANS


Prodigal daughter

 

 

When have you found it difficult to trust God? Perhaps in deeply painful circumstances, when you simply can't fathom what good God is doing? Just like Naomi, then...

Read Ruth 1 v 3-13

  • - How did Naomi view the death of her husband and sons (see verse 13)?
  • - Why did she decide to return to Bethlehem (v 6)?
  • - Why did she believe it was better for her daughters-in-law to return to their non-Israelite homes (v 11-13)?
  • - What's right, and what's wrong, with Naomi's view of God at this point?

Right words

Naomi calls God "the LORD," or "Yahweh" in Hebrew; literally, "I AM" (see Exodus 3 v 14-15). It's the name by which God chose to reveal Himself to Israel, for ever linked with the covenant He had made with them (see Genesis 17 v 3-8; Exodus 19 v 3-6).

When Naomi uses God's covenant name, it should remind her that, as one of the people of Israel, she is God's treasured possession--proved by God in history when He miraculously rescued Israel from Egypt.

Wrong actions

But although Naomi still believes that God shows kindness--at least ot others (v 8-9)--she doesn't encourage her daughters-in-law to seek God's blessing in God's place (Israel). She sees the problems they will face in Bethlehem (v 11-13), but fails to trust that God can rescue them. Instead, she urges them to return to their pagan homes.

As for herself, Naomi believes that God is now against her (v 13), perhaps concluding that by leaving Israel and disobeying God, she has destroyed any hope of further blessing (compare Exodus 19 v 5).

And yet... like the prodigal son in Jesus' parable (Luke 15 v 11-24), Naomi returns to Bethlehem because of what she has heard about the LORD (v 6).

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TIME OUT

Read Psalm 77

This member of God's people feared that God had turned against him (v 7-9).

  • - What did he look back to (v 10-20)?

Read Romans 5 v 8; 8 v 32-39

  • - What can we look back to as God's people today?

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PRAY

Pray for prodigal children you know, who have wandered far from living faith in God. Pray that they'd return--and pray that God would use your actions and words to bring them back to life with Him.

.............................................

This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

MORE BIBLE READING PLANS


Ruth: Redemption song

 

 

The story of Ruth is set during the time of the book of Judges. It involves no famous events or great people. Even the setting--Bethlehem--was, back then, just an obscure farming community. But this story sows the seeds of Bethlehem's future royal connections and--later still--its fame as the birthplace of God's Messiah.

In this historic account, we'll see the hidden hand of God working in the lives of ordinary people: transforming bitterness into joy; liberating a community to reach out to an enemy; working out God's great plan to redeem people from all nations through His promised Savior-King.

As we'll discover, this small book contains some massive Bible truths...

Message

Read Ruth 1 v 1-2

  • - What period of Israel's history are we in (v 1)?

We're in "the land" God gave His people. But it's not a time of blessing--this was a period when God's people rejected Him, acting more and more like the nations around them. Now there was a famine...

  • - How did Elimelech respond to the famine? Why, do you think?

Read Deuteronomy 32 v 15-18, 23-24, 36-39

"Jeshurun" is another name for Israel.

  • - How should the people have understood this famine? How should they have responded?

Out of bounds

Read Deuteronomy 23 v 3-6

  • - What was the problem with going to Moab?

The Moabites worshipped the false God Chemosh--human sacrifices were made to him. And during this time of Judges, Moab oppressed Israel for 18 years (Judges 3 v 12-14). It's not surprising that God commanded Israel as He did here.

Elimelech means "God is King," but he didn't act as if God is King. Bethlehem means "house of bread," but he looked elsewhere for material blessing--worse, he looked to Moab! Rather than following God's word and looking to God to help him through, Elimelech followed his own wisdom and looked to Moab.

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TIME OUT

  • - Where is the Christian's "house of bread" to be found?
  • - Elimelech turned away from God as bread-provider. What would it look like to be a spiritual Elimelech today?
  • - How are you tempted to do this? Is there anything you need to change?

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PRAY

Thank God that Jesus is everything you need. Ask Him to help you live by that truth.

.............................................

This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

MORE BIBLE READING PLANS


Real or fake 1

 

 

Little destroys a church faster than false teaching. Paul knew the Corinthian Christians were being fooled, misled and deceived by impostors. The danger is no less real for churches today. But how do you spot the real and the fake?

Paul gives us four marks of a real Christian minister. We'll see two today and two tomorrow.

Read 1 Corinthians 4 v 1-7

Message

  • - What have ministers been given (v 1)?
  • - What must they do with this (v 2)?

Read 2 v 1-2

  • - What is the "secret" ministers are to reveal to people?

Ministers are stewards of God's message. They are not owners; they've been entrusted with someone else's property. They are God's employees; and they work for Him. And reliability is what He wants, more than originality. 

  • - What mistake does Paul warn ministers against in 4 v 6.

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TIME OUT

  • - What might it be tempting for a minister to ignore Paul's warning verse 6?

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Here's the first mark of a true Christian minister: he preaches a cross-centered message. No less, and no more.

Opinion

  • - Whose judgment does Paul care about (v 4)?
  • - What is this judgment concerned with, and when will it happen (v 5)?
  • - What impact does this have on his view of other people's opinions of him (v 3)?

A true minister of Christ (and every true Christian, for that matter) lives to please Christ. It is His praise, and His judgment, that are all that matters. He knows the gospel message will not always be popular. He knows it will never score highly in opinion polls and focus groups.

But he is not ultimately answerable to the world, or even to his church, but to God, who has entrusted him with the message of the cross.

There is actually great freedom here, for all Christians. We know the identity of our ultimate judge. We know that with Him, there is "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8 v 1). And we know that He rewards our work for Him (1 Corinthians 3 v 14). So we are free from being driven and dictated to by other people's opinions.

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APPLY

  • - When do you most need to remember this truth for yourself?

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Here is the second mark of a true Christian minister: he cares only about God's judgment of him. No one else's.

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This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

MORE BIBLE READING PLANS


Grow up!

 

 

If the apostle Paul were commenting on your Christian maturity, how could he describe you?

Children

Read 1 Corinthians 3 v 1-4

  • - How does Paul describe the Corinthians (v 1-2)?
  • - What proves that they are like this (v 3-4)?

Paul is writing to them as children because they just don't seem ready for anything more. And this is their fault. They had had every opportunity to grow in Christ--Paul had lived among them and Peter (ie: Cephas) seems to have visited them (1 v 12). Paul is not asking, spiritually speaking, a three-year-old to hold an adult conversation; he is asking a 33-year-old to move on to proper food.

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APPLY

  • - Are you growing in Christian love, knowledge, obedience, godliness... in other words, Christian maturity?
  • - Looking back over the last couple of years, how have you been growing?
  • - Looking forward, in what areas do you need to "grow up?" What will you do in order to mature?

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The seed

Read verses 5-9

  • - What does Paul teach us about Christian ministry here?
  • - How is this reassuring? How is it humbling?

The building

Read verses 10-17

God is the one who directs the various workmen He employs, because the church is His. And a true church is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ (v 11). God owns the church; and God lives in the church (v 16-17).

  • - How will "church work" be judged (v 12-15)?

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APPLY

  • - How should this affect our attitude towards our local church?
  • - And towards our work for our church?

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All is yours

Read verses 18-23

  • - How is verse 21 a summary of Paul's argument through chapters 2 and 3?

A mature Christian realizes there's no need for division in a church; no need to seek reflected glory by backing a particular pastor or speaker or organization. Why? Because everything God has promised is already theirs, not through following Paul, Apollos or Cephas, but by belonging to Christ (v 22-23). While worldly wisdom tells us to put ourselves forward, godly wisdom urges us to enjoy all we have in Jesus, and exalt Him. Praise Him now for giving you real life, no fear of death, and a place in His world to come.

.............................................

This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

MORE BIBLE READING PLANS


Nothing except

 

 

Paul practiced what he preached... or rather, he preached what he wrote.

When I came

Read 1 Corinthians 2 v 1-5

In Paul's time, secular orators would come to Corinth, praise the city, tell of their achievements, and impress with their eloquence.

  • - How was Paul somewhat different (v 1, 3)?!
  • - What did Paul think was most important about his speaking (v 2)?
  • - Why did he not want to seem impressive himself (v 5)?

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APPLY

  • - How should we apply Paul's words here to our attitude to preachers today, do you think?
  • - How do these verses encourage our own efforts to tell people about Jesus?
  • - Imagine you found yourself moving to another community and looking for a new church. What should you look for most of all?

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A message of wisdom

Read verses 6-16

Paul has already said that hte message at the heart of Christianity seems "foolishness" (1 v 18). Yet, at the same time, it is a "message of wisdom" (2 v 6)!

  • - Who recognizes this (v 6)?
  • - Who doesn't? How do we know this (v 8)?
  • - So how can anyone see that trusting in the cross is true wisdom (v 10, 12)?

God's wisdom is a gift. And the ability to understand it is, too. People, including us, are by nature blind to the beauty of God's truth (v 14)--and so we need it to be revealed to us. Remembering this keeps us humble; and it reminds us that to the watching world, Christians will always seem odd.

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APPLY

  • - Do you ever ignore God's wisdom because the world says it is foolish? How?
  • - Do you find yourself listening to the world's wisdom even when you know God has said it is foolish? How?
  • - How do these verses encourage you to live more by God's wisdom, and less by the world's?

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PRAY

Thank God for revealing the message of His Son crucified to you, through the work of His Spirit.

Pray that you would be able to judge everything in line with the Spirit's guidance; and that you would not be too concerned with the judgment of the world (v 16).

.............................................

This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

MORE BIBLE READING PLANS


Multiplying divisions

 

 

Division causes conflict, suffering and sadness. Division in the church is even more tragic, since it goes against Christ's desire that His people enjoy "complete unity" (John 17 v 23). So how can a church stay united?

Know Christ

Read 1 Corinthians 1 v 10-16

  • - What do the Christians seem to have been arguing about (v 11-12)?
  • - What point do you think Paul is making in verse 13?

Corinthian culture exalted particular orators, and argued over which was best--not so different from celebrety culture today. This promotion of one personality over another had permeated the church, and it was obscuring the uniqueness of Christ, the only Person who had been "crucified for you" (v 13).

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TIME OUT

How does, or would, this mistake look in your church today?

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Accept foolishness

Read verses 17-25

  • - What is the gospel message about (v 17-18)?
  • - What are the two responses to this message (v 18)?

What the world rejects, the church exalts. The world did not, and does not, know that it needed God to become a man and bear our sins by dying the death of an outcast traitor. Yet this is the heart of Christianity! So if a church begins to peddle a message that pleases the world, of course the true gospel will be de-emphasized, compromised, even replaced.

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APPLY

  • - Do you expect the world to think you wise, or foolish?
  • - Are you prepared for people to be offended by what you believe about the cross?

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Remember Humility

Read verses 26-31

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TIME OUT

  • - What does your culture say are the most important qualities in someone?
  • - What does your culture say it is acceptable to boast about?

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In Corinth, status came from being known as wise, or powerful, or from a good family.

  • - What status did the church members have (v 26)?
  • - Why did God choose to make them His people (v 27-29)?
  • - So what is the only thing a Christian can say is great, ie: boast about (v 31)?

When your boasting is only about what someone else has done--how the Lord Jesus has died for you--it is hard to get proud and defensive and divisive

.............................................

This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

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Count your blessings

 

 

Paul will need to correct and challenge this church in many areas. But first he wants them to count their blessings. And what blessings they have as those who "call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v 2)!

Grace

Read 1 Corinthians 1 v 1-4

The church in Corinth had been founded by Paul. Since then, it had been full of problems. And, as we'll see, there was some dissent towards Paul himself.

  • - What is astonishing about what Paul is doing here?

Whatever challenges this church faces, or poses, the most important thing about its members is that they have received God's grace. Which is cause for great thanks!

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PRAY

Every true Christian, however much they are struggling, should prompt us to give thanks. Each congregatoin of Christians, however problematic, is a triumph of God's grace.

Pause now to praise God for Christians you know. Praise Him particularly for any Christins who have caused you any problems or heartache.

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Knowledge

Read verses 5-6

Corinth was a place that valued knowledge. Paul reminds these Christians that in Christ they have the richest knowledge possible. In Christ they have found the purpose of their lives, the way they can be forgiven, the way they can know God Himself. What better knowledge is there?

  • - Where does Paul say his claims about Christ are shown to be true (v 6)?

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APPLY

  • - How is your life a display of the truth of the gospel? Are there any ways you could display it more clearly?

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Certainty

Read verses 7-8

  • - What can Christians look forward to (v 7-8)?
  • - How can struggling Christians be certain they will reach this future (v 8a)?

Our eternal well-being rests in hands safer and more powerful than our own!

Fellowship

Read verse 9

  • - What has God called us into?

The Christian life is not about rituals, or rules: it's about relationship. God has given us the best He has--His Son.

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APPLY

Grace. Knowledge. Certainty. Fellowship. All these are yours as a Christian.

  • - How do these things make you feel? How do they remind you to focus on, and pray about, what you have been given, rather than on what you haven't?

.............................................

This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

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1 Corinthians: Problems

 

 

The church Paul had established in Corinth was young, full of life, and just as full of problems. As Paul st down to write to them, they were threatened with self-destruction.

How should Paul start? Which of the deadly issues would he tackle first? None...

Read 1 Corinthians 1 v 1-3

  • - Who does the church in Corinth belong to (v 2)?

Which means that God cares about their church--and yours and mine, too.

  • - What word does Paul next use to describe them (v 2)?

This word means "declared holy and righteous."

  • - Where is this made available (v 2)?

Christians, whatever their weaknesses, mistakes and challenges, don't need to labor under condemnation. Through faith in God's Son, Jesus' holiness and righteousness are given to us. If we are Christians, we are sactified. Not through the goodness of our efforts, but through the object of our faith--the Lord Jesus.

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APPLY

  • - God sees you as "sanctified in Christ Jesus." How should this affect the way you see yourself?

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  • - What are the Corinthian Christians "called to be" (v 2)?

They need to become set apart, pure, godly, in how they think and speak and live. But aren't they already sanctified?! Are Christians set apart, or not?!

God has declared Christians holy thorugh faith in Christ. Our status is "holy." But God also calls Christians to become holy, to have lives which more fully reflect Jesus Christ. We're to live more and more as the people God has made us to be.

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APPLY

  • - In what three areas so you most sturggle to live in a holy way?
  • - How will knowng you are already sanctified motivate you to live in a more holy way; and then comfort you when you fail to?

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  • - What two things does Paul say the Corinthian Christians enjoy (v 3)?

As we'll see, neither undeserved mercy nor friendship and calm were hallmarks of this congregation!

  • - So why do you think Paul begins by reminding them that these are the product of their relationship with God, through Christ?

With all the problems evident in Corinth, we might expect Paul to skip his opening encouragements. But the reason he doesn't is because of all the problems there. When we face difficulties as Christians, we need most of all to remember we are Christians: sanctified, called to be holy, enjoying grace and peace. Thank God that these things are true of you right now!

.............................................

This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

MORE BIBLE READING PLANS


Choosing his words carefully

 

 

While Elizabeth and Mary were speaking and singing about God's goodness, Elizabeth's husband Zechariah was literally speechless (verse 20). But the time was coming for his words to return. What would he use them to do?

A strange name

Read Luke 1 v 56-66

  • - How are the events of verses 59-64 an "undoing" of what had happened to Zechariah in the temple (v 11-22)?
  • - What was the crowd expecting Zechariah to name his baby?

In naming his son John, hte new father is shoing that he's now fully signed up to God's plan. He would rather follow God's lead than tradition's, or society's. Where once there was doubt and disbelief, now there is a deep confidence and trust in the turht of God's word.

  • - What does a tongue loosed by trusting in God's word do (v 64)

An amazing plan

Read verses 67-80

Zechariah's Spirit-directed praise outlines for us both what God is up to, and who He is doing it through.

  • - Pick out phrases which tell us what God was doing in Zechariah's day.
  • - How is He doing this (the "horn" symbolizes strength)(v 69)?
  • - In light of verses 31-32, who is being spoken of hear?

 

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APPLY

The "enemies" (v 74) Zechariah meant were probably the occupying Romans.

Read Luke 11 v 14-22

  • - Which ultimate enemy did Jesus, the one "in the house of his servant David" (v 69), come to defeat?

And so Zechariah finished by prophesying a much greater consequence of God's plan than a simple political rescue (v 78-79). God has come to bring the light of life to those "in the shadow of death."

.............................................

  • - What role will Zechariah's son, John, play in God's great plan (v 76-77)?
  • - What result would God's actions have for His poeple (v 74-75)?

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APPLY

We've seen the right response to seeing God's plan of salvation unfold is to praise God (v 64), to serve God freely, and to live a holy life ie: become like Him (v 75).

  • - How can you do each of these thing a little more today?

.............................................

 

PRAY

Choose a couple of phrases from Zechariah's wonderful song and use them to praise "the Most High."

.............................................

This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

MORE BIBLE READING PLANS


Part of the plan

 

 

There were no ante-natal or bith classes in first-century Israel. But the elderly mom-to-be Elizabeth and the pregnant teenager Mary did get together as they waited for their babies to be born. And it's the first time we see the effect on people of knowing that God's Son has come to this world

Elizabeth's words

Read Luke 1 v 39-45

  • - How does Elizabeth describe Mary and her child (v 42)?

Here, it seems "blessed" = to know the satisfaction fo being part of God's plan.

  • - Why does Elizabeth describe Mary in this way (v 43, 45)?

Notice that Elizabeth is "filled with the Holy Spirit" (v 41). Here we're seeing a godly, Spirit-filled response to the coming of God's son.

A baby's leap

  • - How does Elizabeth's baby react to teh arrival of Mary with Jesus (v 41)?
  • - Why did he react like this (v 44)?

John started his part in God's plan before he was even born! From the womb, he was pointing people to Jesus as the Lord and joy-giver.

Mary's song

Read verses 46-55

Mary's song is essentially in three parts. She speaks of what God has done for her as an individual (v 46-49); how God acts in the world (v 50-53); and what God is doing for His people (v 54-55).

  • - How do these three parts each help us see what Jesus "the Lord" has come to do?
  • - Who is Mary's song all about?
  • - How is Mary a picture of what a "blessed" life looks like?

Mary never points to herself; she repeatedly points away from herself, towards God. And Elizabeth understands that Mary is "blessed...among women" (v 42) because of "the child you will bear." Mary never sought nor encouraged praise of, or prayer to, herself. She encourages us to glorify and rejoice in the great God, who has broken into history in the person of her son.

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APPLY

  • - Is your greatest satisfaction in life found in knowing that you're part of God's plan?
  • - Is your greatest joy in life found in knowing Jesus as your Lord?

Pray that today the centre of your life, and the motivation for your actions, would not be a desire for power (v 52), nor gaining wealth (v 53), but knowing and serving "God my Savior" (v 47).

.............................................

This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

MORE BIBLE READING PLANS


God sent the angel Gabriel

 

 

Elizabeth had experienced a miracle: but her son was only the support act. He was to "make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (v 17). God was about to step onto the stage, and in the most unexpected way

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PRAY

It's said that "familiarity breeds contempt," and this can be the case with the Christmas story. Pray now that God would enable you to be struck by this story afresh, to see new truths in it, and to be moved to praise and love God more as you read about what He has done.

.............................................

Troubled

Read Luke 1 v 26-29

  • - What details does Luke tell us about Mary (v 26-27)?
  • - How did Mary react to the angel's words (v 28)? Why, do you think?

Visits from heaven are not comfortable experiences. Just as Zechariah found (v 12), and just as the shepherds would soon find (2 v 9), Mary doesn't find it easy to be caught up into God's plan.

Some Son!

Read verses 30-33

  • - How does the angel describe the son Marry wil carry?

Trusting

Read verses 34-38

  • - How does Mary's response to Gabriel in verse 34 show more faith than Zechariah's (v 18)?
  • - What details does the angel give her (v 35)?

There's a glimps here of the members of the Trinity working together to fulfil God's promises. The Father has sent Gabriel (v 26); the Spirit will cause Mary to fall pregnant; the one to be born will be "the Son of God" (v 35).

  • - Why would Elizabeth's experience (v 36-7) help Mary to trust the angel's words?

Mary was a young girl, probably aged about 13. In Israel, betrothal was binding, like marriage. A woman caught in adultery faced shame and possibly stoning.

  • - What is amazing about Mary's decision in verse 38?

Mary is a great example of faith in God's plan. Unlike Zechariah, she doesn't seem to doubt whether God's plan will happen, she simply wants to know how it will happen. And she turns her back on any prospect of a safe, secure life in order to be part of what God's doing in the world.

.............................................

APPLY

  • - How does what we see of God here encourage you today?
  • - How does Mary's attitude challenge you today?

.............................................

This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

MORE BIBLE READING PLANS


Once in a lifetime

 

 

Ever had a once-in-a-lifetime experience (apart from being born!)? Today we meet a man who did: and who found it was terrifying and more wonderful than he could believe. If so, you've got something in common with most Christians: and with a first century believer called Theophilus.

A couple's pain

Read Luke 1 v 5-7

  • - What are we told about Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth (v 5-6)?
  • - But despite his position and their godliness, what is missing from their lives (v 7)?

A priest's privilege

Read verses 8-10

Zechariah is here chosen to go into the Holy Place in teh temple in Jerusalem; the area of the temple where God dwelled. He'll only do this once in his whole life of serving as a priest. It's a great moment for this old man, the highlight of his career.

God's plan

Read verses 11-17

Zechariah gets more than he could possibly have imagined! When he goes into the Holy Place, an angel, a heavenly messenger, is standing there!

  • - How does Zechariah (understandably) react (v 12)?
  • - What is the angel's message (v 13)?
  • - What do we learn about their son's: 1) effect (v 14, 16)? 2) relationship with God (v 15)? 3) mission (v 17)?

Read verses 18-22

  • - How does Zechariah react to the angel's words (v 18)?
  • - What is the angel's message to him (v 19-20)?

Zechariah would have had plenty of time in the quietness of his head to realize that what God plans, happens: however unlikely or extraordinary it is.

A woman's pleasure

Read verses 23-25

  • - Why should what happens in verse 24 be no surprise to Elizabeth or Zechariah?
  • - How does Elizabeth respond (v 25)?

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TIME OUT

Luke's Gospel begins with God bringing life to a lifeless place: a living child in a barren womb. And it will end that way too: with a living man in a burial tomb. Turly, God is "the God who gives life to the dead" (Romans 4 v 17).

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APPLY

  • - When God answers a prayer of yours, do you respond as Elizabeth did? Anything you need to praise and thank God for right now?
  • - How does this episode increase your faith in God's prmoises about the future?

.............................................

This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

MORE BIBLE READING PLANS


Christmas: Certainty

 

Have you ever felt uncertain about whether the Christian faith really is true? Whether what you've heard about Christ can really be trusted?

If so, you've got something in common with most Christians: and with a first century believer called Theophilus.

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TIME OUT

  • - What kind of things make Christians doubt that the Gospels are true? 
  • - Why might we sometimes want a section of a Gospel not really to be true?
  • - Are there any parts of the Gospel stories you find hard to believe?

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Read Luke 1 v 1-4

Why Luke wrote

Luke is writing to Theophilus (v 3). It's probable that he was an actual person, although, because that name means "lover of God," it's possible that Luke had a more general initial audience in mind.

  • - What's Luke's purpose for writing his book to Theophilus?

What Luke wrote

  • - Luke says others have drawn up "an account" (v 1). What phrase does he use to describe what their "accounts" are talking about?

Luke's carefully drawing a link between what his Gospel will say has happened and what the Old Testament had promised would happen. As we read his Gospel, we should expect to see the Old Testament promises that God had made being "fulfilled" on every page.

  • - How does Luke know about any of these things (v 2)?
  • - Why does it matter to Theophilus, and to us, that Luke knew these kind of people?
  • - What had Luke been doing as he prepared to write his Gospel (v 3)?
  • - Why does it matter to Theophilus, and to us, that Luke went about his work in this way?

To put it in 21st-century language, Luke was a historian. This is what historians do. They listen to the eye-witnesses, carefully investigate, interview, and check things out: and then write down what actually happened in an orderly, easily understandable way, so that people can know with "certainty" (v 4) what really happened.

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APPLY

  • - How should these verses affect how we read the strange parts and the tough parts of Luke?
  • - Who do you kno who you could tell about Luke 1 v 1-4 this Christmas, so that they might be challenged by the historical nature of what Luke writes?

.............................................

This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

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If you had one wish...

 

If you only had one wish, what would it be? This question has been posed throughout the ages by many. Today, King David gives us his answer. And it's very different from how many people would answer it.

Privileges to be remembered

Read Psalm 27 v 1-6

  • - Why did David have good reasons to be afraid (v 2-3)?!
  • -Why does David not fear (v 1)?

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APPLY

  • - What difficulties or situations in your life are you tempted to think are too big for God to help you with and bring you through?
  • - Why does knowing that the LORD is your "salvation" (v 1) change your perspective on those things?
  • - How will you use verse 1 next time you feel afraid?

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  • - What is David's greatest wish (v 4)?

Today we often pray for safety, health, or general happiness. But look at what David prays for in verse 4. Notice how his joy is not based on circumstances, but on his relationship with the LORD. Such a close relationship becomes more  important to him than anything else in his life. And he knows that nothing can come between him and his God (v 5).

Problems still come

Read verses 7-12

  • - How many requests does David make of God?
  • - How does the focus of his requests differ from ours today?

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APPLY

  • - How is David's prayer life going to shape and encourage yours?

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David's enemies were not imagined or impotent. They were serious and life-threatening. Notice how such desperation leads David to express total dependence.

Perspective to maintain

Read verses 13-14

  • - How does the character of God help David when encountering hard times?

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PRAY

Pray for God to help you keep your focus on Him and His character as a comfort to you when you go through difficult times.

.............................................

APPLY

  • - Think of someone in your life who is experiencing a difficult time. Go to them and encourage them by telling them about the character of God, and explaining to them why that can comfort them. 

.............................................

This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

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A matter of conscience

 

A clear conscience before God is the most peaceful thing we can have in life.

Put your conscience to the test

Read Psalm 26 v 1-3

  • - What can David say he always does (v 3)?

Remember, our conscience is not the word of God. Our consciences need the Bible to tell us the truth about what is and is not sinful. Scripture is the great coach for our conscience.

.............................................

PRAY

Ask God to search you and show you where your conscience needs to be informed, transformed and convicted of sinfulness.

.............................................

It's worth remembering, too, that this is David speaking. And we've seen that he experienced countless difficulties from those who opposed God's plans for His king, His people and His world.

An obedient life is not the same as an easy life! Just because your obedience is good, it does not mean your quality of life goes with it. Living right does not mean you will have no more trials. Difficulty should be expected in a sinful world.

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APPLY

  • - When you pray, do you pray more that you will be godly as you face difficulties, or that God will remove your difficulties? Make it the first!

.............................................

Put others' counsel to the test

Read verses 4-5

  • - Who are the people David is refusing to be influenced by?
  • - How does he feel about "the assembly of evildoers"--those who aren't part of God's people? Does this surprise you?

God's people do not surround themselves with wicked advisors and friends. It is fine to love and witness to those who reject God, but we're being warned here that if we're to be able to say verse 1, we also need to copy David in verses 4-5. We need counsel which is not simply sensible sound, or kindly spoken--we need advice which points us to God and to His word.

Put your confession to the test

Read verses 6-12

In verse 6, David is keeping his standards as high as the priests who washed their hands publicly.

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APPLY

  • - Would your private life stand up to public scrutiny?
  • - Time to be searingly honest. What have you said, thought and done in the last week which means your unable to say verse 1 of yourself?

Ask for forgiveness. And ask God to change you so that you will be more blameless and trusting next week.

.............................................

This devotional is taken from Explore—a daily Bible-reading devotional from The Good Book Company which enables you to engage with Scripture and which will encourage, equip and inspire you to live for Christ. Explore features contributions from pastors such as Dr Timothy Keller, Mike McKinley and Tim Chester.

Click here and enter the code bstexplore61 when you check out to get the next quarter’s Explore for $5.84, a 10% discount.

Click here and enter bstexploresub when you check out to buy a year’s worth at 25% off—just $16.

Keep a record of what God is teaching you with "My Bible" at BibleStudyTools.com

MORE BIBLE READING PLANS