Saturday, July 31, 2010

Proverbs 9

1 Wisdom has built her house;
she has hewn out its seven pillars.

2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; 

she has also set her table.

3 She has sent out her maids, and she calls 

from the highest point of the city.

4 "Let all who are simple come in here!" 

she says to those who lack judgment.

5 "Come, eat my food 

and drink the wine I have mixed.

6 Leave your simple ways and you will live; 

walk in the way of understanding.

7 "Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; 

whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.

8 Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; 

rebuke a wise man and he will love you.

9 Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; 

teach a righteous man and he will add to his

10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, 

and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

11 For through me your days will be many, 

and years will be added to your life.

12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; 

if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer."

13 The woman Folly is loud; 

she is undisciplined and without knowledge.

14 She sits at the door of her house,

 on a seat at the highest point of the city,

15 calling out to those who pass by, 

who go straight on their way.

16 "Let all who are simple come in here!" 

she says to those who lack judgment.

17 "Stolen water is sweet; 

food eaten in secret is delicious!"

18 But little do they know that the dead are there, 

that her guests are in the depths of the grave.

Questions to consider:
  • Contrasts the banquets of Wisdom and Folly. Whom do each call? What do they offer? With what results?
  • Distinguish the responses of the scoffer and the wise man.
  • How does this picture summarize the teachings of chapters 1-8?
  • What is your attitude toward reproof and instruction? Why?
  • To what extent do you have wisdom and insight according to the definitions of verse 10?
Possibilities for prayer:

I think that the imagery of wisdom as someone who is prepared and organized is helpful in understanding what wisdom can look like in our own lives. Of course, this doesn’t mean that anyone who lacks certain organizational skills is necessarily unwise, but it’s still a helpful image. How can we be living lives that exhibit wisdom, that show its good work in us? Let’s ask God for ideas on ways that we can be

Friday, July 30, 2010

Proverbs 8:18-36

18 With me are riches and honor, 

enduring wealth and prosperity.

19 My fruit is better than fine gold; 

what I yield surpasses choice silver.

20 I walk in the way of righteousness, 

along the paths of justice,

21 bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me 

and making their treasuries full.

22 "The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works,

before his deeds of old;

23 I was formed long ages ago, 

at the very beginning, when the world came to be.

24 When there were no oceans, I was given birth, 

when there were no springs abounding with water;

25 before the mountains were settled in place, 

before the hills, I was given birth,

26 before he made the world or its fields 

or any of the dust of the earth.

27 I was there when he set the heavens in place, 

when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,

28 when he established the clouds above 

and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,

29 when he gave the sea its boundary 

so the waters would not overstep his command, 

and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.

30 Then I was constantly at his side. 

I was filled with delight day after day, 

rejoicing always in his presence,

31 rejoicing in his whole world 

and delighting in humankind.

32 "Now then, my children, listen to me; 

blessed are those who keep my ways.

33 Listen to my instruction and be wise; 

do not disregard it.

34 Blessed are those who listen to me, 

watching daily at my doors, 

waiting at my doorway.

35 For those who find me find life 

and receive favor from the LORD.

36 But those who fail to find me harm themselves; 

all who hate me love death."

Questions to consider:

  • What are wisdom’s (a) identity and (b) authority in the world? In creation?
  • List different attitudes toward wisdom. What results from each attitude?
  • In what areas do you need to keep wisdom’s ways today? Why?

Possibilities for prayer:

Something that has been reiterated many times thus far in our study of Proverbs is the value of wisdom. Here we see that those find wisdom find LIFE and favor from the Lord. It’d be hard to argue that those are not things we want in our lives. Today, let’s ask God to help us seek and find wisdom, that we might find life and favor from God.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Proverbs 8:1-17

1 Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?

2 At the highest point along the way, 

where the paths meet, she takes her stand;

3 beside the gate leading into the city, 

at the entrance, she cries aloud:

4 "To you, O people, I call out; 

I raise my voice to all humankind.

5 You who are simple, gain prudence; 

you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.

6 Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say; 

I open my lips to speak what is right.

7 My mouth speaks what is true, 

for my lips detest wickedness.

8 All the words of my mouth are just; 

none of them is crooked or perverse.

9 To the discerning all of them are right; 

they are upright to those who have found knowledge.

10 Choose my instruction instead of silver, 

knowledge rather than choice gold,

11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies, 

and nothing you desire can compare with her.

12 "I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; 

I possess knowledge and discretion.

13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil; 

I hate pride and arrogance, 

evil behavior and perverse speech.

14 Counsel and sound judgment are mine; 

I have insight, I have power.

15 By me kings reign 

and rulers issue decrees that are just;

16 by me princes govern, 

and nobles—all who rule on earth.

17 I love those who love me, 

and those who seek me find me.

Questions to consider:
  • To whom does wisdom appeal?
  • What is involved in the fear of the Lord?
  • Contrast the harlot and wisdom concerning their (a) relationship and approach to men, (b) place and time, (c) what they offer, (d) words, and (e) character.

Possibilities for prayer:

I really like verse 6. It’s a pretty simple call--listen, because the things that wisdom has to offer are trustworthy. But we’re not going to be able to hear those things without taking the time to listen. We don’t just inherently know. And what does it mean to listen to or for wisdom? In this passage, wisdom is personified, which may at first seem a little confusing. But for us, gaining wisdom is really about asking God for it, and then, well, listening to Him as He offers it. Today, let’s ask that our ears (and our hearts) would be open to hearing and receiving the wisdom that God wants to share with us.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Proverbs 7

1 My son, keep my words
and store up my commands within you.

2 Keep my commands and you will live; 

guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.

3 Bind them on your fingers; 

write them on the tablet of your heart.

4 Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," 

and to insight, "You are my relative."

5 They will keep you from the adulterous woman, 

from the wayward woman with her seductive words.

6 At the window of my house 

I looked down through the lattice.

7 I saw among the simple, 

I noticed among the young men, 

a youth who had no sense.

8 He was going down the street near her corner, 

walking along in the direction of her house

9 at twilight, as the day was fading, 

as the dark of night set in.

10 Then out came a woman to meet him, 

dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.

11 (She is unruly and defiant, 

her feet never stay at home;

12 now in the street, now in the squares, 

at every corner she lurks.)

13 She took hold of him and kissed him 

and with a brazen face she said:

14 "Today I fulfilled my vows, 

and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.

15 So I came out to meet you; 

I looked for you and have found you!

16 I have covered my bed 

with colored linens from Egypt.

17 I have perfumed my bed 

with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.

18 Come, let's drink deep of love till morning; 

let's enjoy ourselves with love!

19 My husband is not at home; 

he has gone on a long journey.

20 He took his purse filled with money 

and will not be home till full moon."

21 With persuasive words she led him astray; 

she seduced him with her smooth talk.

22 All at once he followed her 

like an ox going to the slaughter, 

like a deer stepping into a noose

23 till an arrow pierces his liver, 

like a bird darting into a snare, 

little knowing it will cost him his life.

24 Now then, my sons, listen to me; 

pay attention to what I say.

25 Do not let your heart turn to her ways 

or stray into her paths.

26 Many are the victims she has brought down; 

her slain are a mighty throng.

27 Her house is a highway to the grave, 

leading down to the chambers of death.

Questions to consider:
  • What experience does wisdom relate?
  • Characterize the young man and the harlot (explain the metaphors).
  • Which of these characteristics are a part of your life? What can you do today to become wise in these areas?
  • Upon what pretense does the harlot invite the young man?
  • Contrast the ends of wisdom and the harlot.

Possibilities for prayer:

It seems to me that one helpful way of looking at this passage is to think of the adulterous woman to which the writer refers as anything in our lives that tempts us and is sinful. Everything that is written does not have to explicitly refer to committing adultery, and the advice does not have to be solely for avoiding an adulterous woman. Today, let’s ask God for the grace to resist the temptations in our lives, and to “store up [God’s] commands” within us.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Proverbs 6:20-35

20 My son, keep your father's command
and do not forsake your mother's teaching.

21 Bind them always on your heart; 

fasten them around your neck.

22 When you walk, they will guide you; 

when you sleep, they will watch over you; 

when you awake, they will speak to you.

23 For this command is a lamp, 

this teaching is a light, 

and correction and instruction 

are the way to life,

24 keeping you from your neighbor's wife, 

from the smooth talk of a wayward woman.

25 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty 

or let her captivate you with her eyes.

26 For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, 

but another man's wife preys on your very life.

27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap 

without his clothes being burned?

28 Can a man walk on hot coals 

without his feet being scorched?

29 So is he who sleeps with another man's wife; 

no one who touches her will go unpunished.

30 People do not despise a thief if he steals 

to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.

31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, 

though it costs him all the wealth of his house.

32 But a man who commits adultery has no sense; 

whoever does so destroys himself.

33 Blows and disgrace are his lot, 

and his shame will never be wiped away.

34 For jealousy arouses a husband's fury, 

and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.

35 He will not accept any compensation; 

he will refuse a bribe, however great it is.

Questions to consider:
  • Relate God’s commandments to (a) wisdom, (b) light and (c) life.
  • What are the consequences for the man who commits adultery?
  • What progression can you see in verses 25 to 35?
  • How is a man who commits adultery like a thief? Unlike a thief (relate to the wronged)?
  • Describe the relationship you are to have with wisdom?

Possibilities for prayer:

The message of verse 23 is a message that we can all stand to hear regularly. It is important for us to take to heart the things that God says to us--even when those include correction and instruction, because, as Solomon writes, correction and instruction are the way to life. Today let’s ask God for the ability accept instruction and correction gracefully and with appreciation--since it is, after all, the way to life!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Proverbs 6:1-19

1 My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,
if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,

2 you have been trapped by what you said, 

ensnared by the words of your mouth.

3 So do this, my son, to free yourself, 

since you have fallen into your neighbor's hands: 

Go—to the point of exhaustion—

and give your neighbor no rest!

4 Allow no sleep to your eyes, 

no slumber to your eyelids.

5 Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, 

like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; 

consider its ways and be wise!

7 It has no commander, 

no overseer or ruler,

8 yet it stores its provisions in summer

 and gathers its food at harvest.

9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard? 

When will you get up from your sleep?

10 A little sleep, a little slumber, 

a little folding of the hands to rest—

11 and poverty will come on you like a thief 

and scarcity like an armed man.

12 Troublemakers and villains, 

who go about with corrupt mouths,

13 who wink maliciously with their eyes, 

signal with their feet 

and motion with their fingers,

14 who plot evil with deceit in their hearts— 

they always stir up dissension.

15 Therefore disaster will overtake them in an instant; 

they will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.

16 There are six things the LORD hates, 

seven that are detestable to him:

17 haughty eyes, 

a lying tongue, 

hands that shed innocent blood,

18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, 

feet that are quick to rush into evil,

19 a false witness who pours out lies 

and a person who stirs up dissension in the community.

Questions to consider:
  • Compare 6:1-5 with Exodus 22:25-27. In what modern situations are similar personal commitments a problem for you?
  • Characterize the ant.
  • In what ways are the man who has become surety, the sluggard, and the wicked man foolish?
  • What things in you does the Lord hate? What can you do to get rid of today?

Possibilities for prayer:

Verses 16-19 are rather helpful in recognizing things that God doesn’t like. In fact, we get a pretty clear list of what those things are! It doesn’t really seem that any of the things in the list are surprising, but one item in the list of things that God detests does stand out to me: “a person who stirs up dissension in the community.” As a community, we should be striving to create a healthy one, without dissension. This doesn’t necessarily mean that every person agrees with every thing, but it does mean that we strive to create space for everyone to have a voice. We should be working to be the opposite of those who stir up dissension. Today, let’s ask God be creating hearts of peace-making within us, that we would be able to create peace our community instead of dissent.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Proverbs 5

1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
listen well to my words of insight,

2 that you may maintain discretion 

and your lips may preserve knowledge.

3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, 

and her speech is smoother than oil;

4 but in the end she is bitter as gall, 

sharp as a double-edged sword.

5 Her feet go down to death; 

her steps lead straight to the grave.

6 She gives no thought to the way of life; 

her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.

7 Now then, my sons, listen to me; 

do not turn aside from what I say.

8 Keep to a path far from her,

 do not go near the door of her house,

9 lest you give your best strength to others 

and your years to one who is cruel,

10 lest strangers feast on your wealth 

and your toil enrich another man's house.

11 At the end of your life you will groan, 

when your flesh and body are spent.

12 You will say, "How I hated discipline! 

How my heart spurned correction!

13 I would not obey my teachers 

or listen to my instructors.

14 I have come to the brink of utter ruin 

in the midst of the whole assembly."

15 Drink water from your own cistern, 

running water from your own well.

16 Should your springs overflow in the streets, 

your streams of water in the public squares?

17 Let them be yours alone, 

never to be shared with strangers.

18 May your fountain be blessed, 

and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.

19 A loving doe, a graceful deer— 

may her breasts satisfy you always, 

may you ever be captivated by her love.

20 Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? 

Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife?

21 For a man's ways are in full view of the LORD, 

and he examines all his paths.

22 The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; 

the cords of his sin hold him fast.

23 He will die for lack of discipline, 

led astray by his own great folly.

Questions to consider:

  • Describe the adulteress.
  • Why should you keep away from her?
  • List the personal and public results for the adulterer?
  • What do verses 15-21 reveal about God’s plan for sex and love?
  • How can you be wise in your relationship with the other sex?
  • Relate discipline to wisdom concerning sex.

Possibilities for prayer:

Verse 21 makes quite clear that God sees all of our activities-- even the things that we are able to keep hidden from those closest to us. Today, let’s ask God to break any chains keeping us tied to sinful activities in our lives. God already knows the things that have us bound, and He wants us to experience freedom from them. So let’s ask for it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Proverbs 4

1 Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding.

2 I give you sound learning, 

so do not forsake my teaching.

3 For I too was a son to my father, 

still tender, and cherished by my mother.

4 Then he taught me, and he said to me, 

"Take hold of my words with all your heart; 

keep my commands, and you will live.

5 Get wisdom, get understanding; 

do not forget my words or turn away from them.

6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; 

love her, and she will watch over you.

7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. 

Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

8 Cherish her, and she will exalt you; 

embrace her, and she will honor you.

9 She will give you a garland to grace your head 

and present you with a glorious crown."

10 Listen, my son, accept what I say, 

and the years of your life will be many.

11 I instruct you in the way of wisdom 

and lead you along straight paths.

12 When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; 

when you run, you will not stumble.

13 Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; 

guard it well, for it is your life.

14 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked 

or walk in the way of evildoers.

15 Avoid it, do not travel on it; 

turn from it and go on your way.

16 For they cannot rest until they do evil; 

they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble.

17 They eat the bread of wickedness 

and drink the wine of violence.

18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, 

shining ever brighter till the full light of day.

19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; 

they do not know what makes them stumble.

20 My son, pay attention to what I say; 

turn your ear to my words.

21 Do not let them out of your sight, 

keep them within your heart;

22 for they are life to those who find them 

and health to one's whole body.

23 Above all else, guard your heart, 

for everything you do flows from it.

24 Keep your mouth free of perversity; 

keep corrupt talk far from your lips.

25 Let your eyes look straight ahead; 

fix your gaze directly before you.

26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet 

and be steadfast in all your ways.

27 Do not turn to the right or the left; 

keep your foot from evil.

Questions to consider:
  • How does this autobiographical insertion reinforce the previous statements about wisdom?
  • What do you want most from life?
  • How do the Old Testament writers regard longevity of life?
  • Contrast the righteous and the wicked. How can you avoid evil?
  • In what ways does wisdom give you freedom?
  • Why must your heart be disciplined by wisdom?
Possibilities for prayer:

I really like verses 26 and 27. Not only are we to be careful in the paths we choose, but we should be resolute in following the path carefully chosen. Of course, this ties in closely with all that we’ve been learning about wisdom--the gaining of wisdom and knowledge will allow us to come to a good conclusion at the end of careful consideration. Let’s ask God for confidence in the paths we choose after careful and prayerful thought.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Proverbs 3:21-35

21 My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, 

preserve sound judgment and discretion;

22 they will be life for you, 

an ornament to grace your neck.

23 Then you will go on your way in safety, 

and your foot will not stumble.

24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid; 

when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

25 Have no fear of sudden disaster 

or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,

26 for the LORD will be at your side 

and will keep your foot from being snared.

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, 

when it is in your power to act.

28 Do not say to your neighbor, 

"Come back tomorrow and I'll give it to you"— 

when you already have it with you.

29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor, 

who lives trustfully near you.

30 Do not accuse anyone for no reason— 

when they have done you no harm.

31 Do not envy the violent 

or choose any of their ways.

32 For the LORD detests the perverse 

but takes the upright into his confidence.

33 The LORD's curse is on the house of the wicked, 

but he blesses the home of the righteous.

34 He mocks proud mockers 

but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.

35 The wise inherit honor, 

but fools get only shame.

Questions to consider:
  • How do you respond to the Lord’s discipline to make you wise?
  • In what ways is the Lord’s wisdom revealed?
  • What is the Lord’s attitude toward the types of people in verses 32-35?
  • How can you fulfill verse 27 today?
  • How can you be in the Lord’s confidence?

Possibilities for prayer:

This chunk of chapter 3 gives us several imperatives--things that we are to (or more often here, are NOT to) do. These imperatives are followed by several types of people of whom God is not incredibly fond--suggesting that failing to adhere to the aforementioned imperatives plops us into one or more of those groups...which is a place we do not want to be. Today, let’s ask God to be shaping us into the people that He wants us to be, people He will be pleased and proud to call children. Let’s continue to ask for the wisdom that will allow and encourage us to make decisions that respond favorably to the imperatives listed here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Proverbs 3:1-20

1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,

2 for they will prolong your life many years 

and bring you peace and prosperity.

3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; 

bind them around your neck, 

write them on the tablet of your heart.

4 Then you will win favor and a good name 

in the sight of God and humankind.

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart 

and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways submit to him, 

and he will make your paths straight.

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; 

fear the LORD and shun evil.

8 This will bring health to your body 

and nourishment to your bones.

9 Honor the LORD with your wealth, 

with the firstfruits of all your crops;

10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, 

and your vats will brim over with new wine.

11 My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline, 

and do not resent his rebuke,

12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves, 

as a father the son he delights in.

13 Blessed are those who find wisdom, 

those who gain understanding,

14 for she is more profitable than silver 

and yields better returns than gold.

15 She is more precious than rubies; 

nothing you desire can compare with her.

16 Long life is in her right hand; 

in her left hand are riches and honor.

17 Her ways are pleasant ways, 

and all her paths are peace.

18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; 

those who hold her fast will be blessed.

19 By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations, 

by understanding he set the heavens in place;

20 by his knowledge the deeps were divided, 

and the clouds let drop the dew.

Questions to consider:
  • List the imperatives.
  • What results for those who keep wisdom’s commands?
  • How is wisdom related to daily living?
  • List the personal and public manifestations of wisdom.
  • What are the effects of wisdom and direction in your life? In what ways do they heal and refresh you?

Possibilities for prayer:

Verses 5 and 6 of this chapter probably seem familiar to most of us who have grown up in the church. But sometimes with really familiar passages, we lose the true, deep meaning because we’ve heard them so many times. Today, let’s think about what it would really look like to trust God with our WHOLE hearts and to submit to him in EVERYTHING. Let’s take some time to pray a prayer of trust and submission right now, handing everything in our lives over to God, who is worthy of that trust.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Proverbs 2

1 My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,

2 turning your ear to wisdom 

and applying your heart to understanding—

3 indeed, if you call out for insight 

and cry aloud for understanding,

4 and if you look for it as for silver 

and search for it as for hidden treasure,

5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD 

and find the knowledge of God.

6 For the LORD gives wisdom; 

from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

7 He holds success in store for the upright, 

he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,

8 for he guards the course of the just 

and protects the way of his faithful ones.

9 Then you will understand what is right and just 

and fair—every good path.

10 For wisdom will enter your heart, 

and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

11 Discretion will protect you, 

and understanding will guard you.

12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, 

from men whose words are perverse,

13 who have left the straight paths 

to walk in dark ways,

14 who delight in doing wrong 

and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,

15 whose paths are crooked 

and who are devious in their ways.

16 Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, 

from the wayward woman with her seductive words,

17 who has left the partner of her youth 

and ignored the covenant she made before God.

18 Surely her house leads down to death 

and her paths to the spirits of the dead.

19 None who go to her return 

or attain the paths of life.

20 Thus you will walk in the ways of the just 

and keep to the paths of the righteous.

21 For the upright will live in the land, 

and the blameless will remain in it;

22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land, 

and the unfaithful will be torn from it.

Questions to consider:

  • What is (a) God’s and (b) your part in your understanding of wisdom?
  • Relate wisdom and silver
  • Who is the source of wisdom?
  • How do righteousness, justice, and equity relate to wisdom?
  • What are the benefits of possessing wisdom?
  • What is your attitude toward wisdom?
  • Why do you need wisdom today?

Possibilities for prayer:

Solomon seems to suggest here that we need to “cry aloud” for wisdom--which means crying out to God, the source of wisdom--in order to receive it. Solomon also gives lots of reasons why wisdom is an excellent thing to have. Today, let’s take some time to cry aloud for insight and understanding, for wisdom, from God. Let’s seek after this great gift as though, as Solomon writes, it was a hidden treasure, and embrace the good things that wisdom from God brings into life.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Proverbs 1:20-34

20 Wisdom calls aloud in the street,
she raises her voice in the public squares;

21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, 

in the gateways of the city she makes her speech:

22 "How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? 

How long will mockers delight in mockery 

and fools hate knowledge?

23 If you had responded to my rebuke, 

I would have poured out my heart to you 

and made my thoughts known to you.

24 But since you rejected me when I called 

and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand,

25 since you ignored all my advice 

and would not accept my rebuke,

26 I in turn will laugh at your disaster; 

I will mock when calamity overtakes you-

27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm, 

when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, 

when distress and trouble overwhelm you.

28 "Then they will call to me but I will not answer; 

they will look for me but will not find me.

29 Since they hated knowledge 

and did not choose to fear the LORD,

30 since they would not accept my advice 

and spurned my rebuke,

31 they will eat the fruit of their ways 

and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.

32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, 

and the complacency of fools will destroy them;

33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety 

and be at ease, without fear of harm."

Questions to consider:
  • Where does personified wisdom cry?
  • What three classes of people pay no attention?
  • What are the consequences of ignoring wisdom?
  • What are the results of heeding wisdom?
  • How are knowledge and the fear of the Lord related?
  • List the specific wisdom and instruction that you need to know for today’s situations.

Possibilities for prayer:

Solomon’s personification of wisdom creates some rather powerful imagery. The rejection of wisdom seems to lead to calamity, and when that strikes, people call out for wisdom, for knowledge and guidance--but it might be too late. Today, let’s ask to be people who cry out for wisdom each and every day. Let’s not wait until we are unable to figure a “way out” on our own, but instead be seeking God’s wisdom for our daily decisions. Let’s ask God to allow us to be people who are “at ease, without fear of harm.”

Monday, July 19, 2010

Proverbs 1:1-19

1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

2 for attaining wisdom and discipline; 

for understanding words of insight;

3 for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, 

doing what is right and just and fair;

4 for giving prudence to the simple, 

knowledge and discretion to the young-

5 let the wise listen and add to their learning, 

and let the discerning get guidance-

6 for understanding proverbs and parables, 

the sayings and riddles of the wise.

7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, 

but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

8 Listen, my son, to your father's instruction
and do not forsake your mother's teaching.

9 They will be a garland to grace your head 

and a chain to adorn your neck.

10 My son, if sinners entice you, 

do not give in to them.

11 If they say, "Come along with us; 

let's lie in wait for someone's blood, 

let's waylay some harmless soul;

12 let's swallow them alive, like the grave, 

and whole, like those who go down to the pit;

13 we will get all sorts of valuable things 

and fill our houses with plunder;

14 throw in your lot with us, 

and we will share a common purse"-

15 my son, do not go along with them, 

do not set foot on their paths;

16 for their feet rush into sin, 

they are swift to shed blood.

17 How useless to spread a net 

in full view of all the birds!

18 These men lie in wait for their own blood; 

they waylay only themselves!

19 Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain; 

it takes away the lives of those who get it.

Questions to consider:
  • What is Solomon’s purpose in writing? Who is his audience?
  • What is the basis of wisdom?
  • Why is parental instruction important?
  • What is paradoxical about the principle in verses 18-19?

Possibilities for prayer:

Solomon writes that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. This fear does not necessarily have to be fear as it is traditionally understood, since we are often told not to fear because God is with us. But this fear is about a deep and intense respect and honor for God, who is the source of all good things. Today, let’s ask for an increased understanding of what the “fear of the Lord” is, and for an ever-expanding amount of respect and honor for who God is.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

2 Corinthians 13

1 This will be my third visit to you. "Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses." 2 I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, 3 since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. 4 For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him in our dealing with you.
5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 6 And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. 7 Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored. 10 This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.
11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All God's people here send their greetings.
14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Questions to consider:
  • How will Paul act toward the Corinthians when comes?
  • Summarize the way Paul further develops the concepts of weakness and strength (power) in this passage?
  • What is Paul’s concern in challenging the Corinthians to examine themselves?
  • How can you conduct your life so that you can claim to do nothing against “the truth?”
  • How do you use your authority?
Possibilities for prayer:

Paul shows us what real authority is about--building up, not tearing down. In each of our lives, we are in positions of authority of various kinds, whether it be due to age, position, prestige, or the like, and it is important that we use that authority for good, for the building up of the people that we lead. Today, let’s ask God for wisdom to use our authority well. Let’s also pray for the people in authority over us, that they would use such authority to build up the people around them, to encourage them instead of demean them.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

2 Corinthians 12:11-21

11 I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the "super-apostles," even though I am nothing. 12 I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles. 13 How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!
14 Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less? 16 Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery! 17 Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not walk in the same footsteps by the same Spirit?
19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening. 20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.

Questions to consider:
  • Why has Paul spent so much time acting the ironic fool?
  • To whom has Paul’s defense been directed?
  • For what reasons will Paul continue his former policy concerning his support while at Corinth?
  • Can you think through possible relationships with friends and family when you could “gladly spend” for their benefit?
  • What are the reasons for Paul’s apprehension regarding his forthcoming visit to the Corinthians?
Possibilities for prayer:

Paul expresses concern over the state in which he might find the Corinthian church upon his next visit--that, despite being Jesus followers, they might be involved in various sins without repentance. Today, let’s repent of the sins in our lives that do not match up with our identity as followers of Christ. Let’s strive to be a community free of the sins Paul mentions, and ask God for the strength to resist those temptations.

Friday, July 16, 2010

2 Corinthians 12:1-10

1I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. 5I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.

7To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Questions to consider:

  • To what extent do you expose yourself to others? Why?
  • In one statement explain why Paul can be content with personal weaknesses, insults, hardship, etc.
  • How does Paul describe the meaning of strength? How and when can weakness be strength?
  • How can you be content with your weaknesses?

Possibilities for prayer:

Paul seems to transform the idea of weaknesses in this passage. Rather than seeing them as so much a problem, he orients his perspective in way such that they are ways for Paul to give more glory to God. If, despite his weaknesses and failings, Paul is able to succeed, he declares it a testament to God’s power in his life. Today, let’s ask God to reorient our understanding of what it means to have weaknesses, and let’s praise God for the demonstration of His power that each success in our lives demonstrates.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

2 Corinthians 11:16-33

16I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. 17In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. 18Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. 19You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! 20In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. 21To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!

What anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. 23Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

30If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. 32In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.

Questions to consider:

  • Summarize the kind of people who have been boasting to the Corinthians. Of what have they been boasting?
  • How have some of the Corinthians responded to the boasting?
  • What is ironical about Paul’s weakness?
  • Relate Paul’s physical and mental suffering In what similar ways are you identified with the church?

Possibilities for prayer:

Paul pretty clearly explains the various circumstances--trials and tribulations--that he had experienced as a result of being a Jesus follower. And despite all that he had endured, he remained strong in Christ. Let’s be asking for the qualities that were necessary for Paul to remain strong: patience, courage, and a firm trust in God.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

2 Corinthians 11:7-15

7Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? 8I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. 9And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so. 10As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine. 11Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. 13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

Questions to consider:

  • How have you been deceived by Satan recently?
  • What can you do to guard against his deception today?

Possibilities for prayer:

Paul wants the Corinthian church to be aware that there are people who pretend to be something that they are not, and Satan does the same thing. Let’s today ask God to give us eyes to see those that are “masquerading” as apostles of Christ, and that we’d have the wisdom and courage to withstand their deception.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

2 Corinthians 11:1-6

1I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that. 2I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. 3But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. 5But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those "super-apostles." 6I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.

Questions to consider:

  • What does it mean for Paul to be "jealous" for the Corinthian church? What does "godly jealousy" look like?
  • What fear does Paul have for this community?
  • What does Paul mean when he says that the church "puts up with" the different encounters they have?
  • Who are the "super apostles"?
  • Do you feel that you lack training?

Possibilities for prayer:

We may, like Paul notes, often feel like we aren't trained in sharing Jesus with others. But if we are in relationship with God, then we needn't let our lack of "training" be a hindrance to our openness about who Jesus is in our lives. Today, let's ask for confidence that comes from God to share the reality of who and what He is in our lives with the people around us. Let's pray against feelings of inferiority, and seek God's inspiration and encouragement to be bold about Him.

Monday, July 12, 2010

2 Corinthians 10

1By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am "timid" when face to face with you, but "bold" when away! 2I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. 3For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 6And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
7You are looking only on the surface of things. If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as he. 8For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it. 9I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. 10For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing." 11Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.
12We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. 13We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you. 14We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. 15Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, 16so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in another man's territory. 17But, "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."18For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

Questions to consider:
  • What does it mean to be “timid” for Paul? To be bold?
  • What does Paul mean when he says “belongs to Christ?”
  • Have you ever gone too far in your boasting? What were the circumstances?
  • What does boasting in the Lord look like?
  • Who are the people who are “approved?”

Possibilities for prayer:

Paul seems to be dealing with issues of humility here--he reminds the Corinthian church that we should not be commending ourselves, but should be commended by God. Today let’s ask for more of God’s humility, for the ability to live our lives in ways that seek God’s approval as opposed to our own, or the approval of others around us.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

2 Corinthians 9

1 There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord's people. 2 For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. 3 But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:
"They have scattered abroad their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever."
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, people will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Questions to consider:
  • Find the principles of giving in this section and paraphrase them.
  • In what ways are these principles presently a reality in your daily experience?
  • What does this passage teach you about God’s character and role in the area of giving?
  • What initiates thanksgiving to God?
  • What do you learn about relating to others on the basis of what Paul assumes in his relationship with the Corinthians?

Possibilities for prayer:

Again we see Paul pointing out that giving is meant to be done joyfully, not grudgingly. He’s also careful to remind the Corinthian church that God is a provider--that He will make sure our needs are met. Let’s ask to be more faithful with what we have been given, and to trust that God will provide for our needs. Let’s thank God for the provisions He has given us, and to change our hearts so that we are cheerful in what we give, and that such giving is generous--in both financial and other senses.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

2 Corinthians 8:16-24

16 Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. 17 For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. 18 And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. 19 What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 20 We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. 21 For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of others.
22 In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. 24 Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.

Questions to consider:
  • What is Paul’s main concern in administering such a large fund?
  • Why does Paul take such precautions to appear blameless?
  • To what extents are you blameless in your personal accounts?
  • What do you see in the relationship between Paul and Titus throughout this letter that you desire in your relationships with Christians in your group?

Possibilities for prayer:

Paul seems to have concern not only for doing things in a way that is right not only in the eyes of God, but also in the eyes of others around. We should consider the way in which we live our lives as well. Of course, of highest priority is making decisions that are pleasing to God, but we want to do our best to live lives that are above reproach by the rest of the world as well. Today, let’s ask God to show us ways where we can live as examples of right lives--not for our own glory but for God’s.

Friday, July 9, 2010

2 Corinthians 8:1-15

1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord's people. 5 And they went beyond our expectations; having given themselves first of all to the Lord, they gave themselves by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: "The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little."

Questions to consider:
  • How have Paul’s remarks in Chapter 7 set the tone for this matter here?
  • What is the motivation for giving? Why should commands to give be unnecessary?
  • To what extent do you carry out your plans for giving? Why?
  • What principles could improve your approach to giving?

Possibilities for prayer:

Paul not only commends the Corinthian church for their previous generosity, but encourages them to continue in that mode of thinking. He seems to indicate that when it comes to giving, it is more about the attitude than the amount--we should be giving joyfully from whatever we have rather than grudgingly. Let’s ask God to give us the desire to give freely to the work that He is doing, here in our community, in our city, and in our world. Ask God to change your heart so that giving might be a joy and privilege instead of a pain and obligation.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

2 Corinthians 7:5-16

5 For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.
8 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— 9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. 12 So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. 13 By all this we are encouraged.
In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. 14 I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. 15 And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. 16 I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.

Questions to consider:
  • Compare and contrast comfort and suffering.
  • To what extent does your grief about yourself and your sin make you repent?
  • How has God specifically comforted you through another person?
  • How can you specifically comfort others this week at work, school, etc?

Possibilities for prayer:

Paul contrasts the sorrow of the world with Godly sorrow. It’s pretty exciting that Godly sorrow can bring about such good things--repentance, salvation, and an absence of regret. I think it’s really important that Paul points out that he wasn’t glad that the Corinthian church was made to feel sorrow in response to his previous letter, but that he was glad about the results that those feelings of sorrow elicited. The results of our own sorrow can be a good indication of whether it’s fruitful Godly sorrow, or the sorrow of the world. Today, let’s think about the things in our lives about which we are meant to be sorrowful. But let’s not stop there, let’s repent to God for those sins, rejoice in Him and with Him for the salvation we are granted, and praise Him for the absence of regret to which we are entitled when we truly repent.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

2 Corinthians 6:11-7:4

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.
14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
"I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people."
17 Therefore, 
 "Come out from them 
 and be separate, 
 says the Lord. 
 Touch no unclean thing, 
 and I will receive you."
18 And, 
 "I will be a Father to you, 
 and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
1 Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

2 Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. 4 I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.

Questions to consider:
  • What is Paul’s desire for the Corinthian Christians? What does he expect of them?
  • Explain why Paul warns against permanent relationships with unbelievers.
  • What does this principle reveal about the character of God?
  • Why is it difficult to please God while united improperly to an unbeliever?

Possibilities for prayer:

I like how Paul writes that we should be “perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” This idea seems a bit counter-cultural--in a society that encourages us to test the boundaries, to see just how far we can go without being “bad” or “wrong,” we, as Jesus followers are encouraged to change our orientation all together. It should no longer be about “how far is too far” but rather, “how can revere God and bring Him glory--make Him proud?” Today, let’s ask God to reorient our lives around Him, and to give us desires that show reverence.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10

20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
1 As God's co-workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. 2 For he says,
"In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you."
I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.

3 We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Questions to consider:
  • Describe Paul’s actions which commend him as (a) an ambassador and (b) a servant of God?
  • How does one become the righteousness of God? What is the paradox involved?
  • What trials have you experienced recently? To what extent have you endured?

Possibilities for prayer:

Ambassadors play a pretty important role in international relations. The person who serves as a nation’s ambassador is the person who represents that country and all it stands for--the nation itself might be judged based upon the words and deeds of the ambassador. In much the same way, we have an important role in conveying who Christ is and what He is all about as we serve as ambassadors for Christ. We should take note of our words and deeds, because we are representing Jesus to people around us, many of whom likely do not know Him. Today, let’s thank God for trusting us enough to be His ambassadors, and ask for the wisdom to do and say things well--that we might reflect just a little bit of the greatness, glory, and love that God is all about.

Monday, July 5, 2010

2 Corinthians 5:11-19

11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade people. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are "out of our mind," as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Questions to consider:
  • How does the fact of being known by God substantiate Paul’s boldness?
  • What has changed the way Paul regards (a) people and (b) Christ?
  • How does Paul regard people now that he is associated with Jesus?
  • What is the new creation?

Possibilities for prayer:

What does it mean for you to be a new creation? When we accept Christ, our physical selves don’t change--we don’t get new hair color, eye color--but what’s important, our inner selves, does change. We are made new through Christ’s sacrifice. We are called to live new lives, lives that diligently seek after the heart of God. Today, let’s ask God to be able to see the “newness” in our lives with clear and open eyes, and to be better able to appreciate the change the has been wrought in our hearts through Christ. Let’s pray that God would give us the boldness to act out this new direction and transformation in our lives.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive what is due them for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Questions to consider:
  • Describe how what is rooted in time is affects what is eternal.
  • What objective or truth about life has completely grasped Paul and affected his attitudes and actions?
  • What will you do to be of good courage today?
Possibilities for prayer:

Paul challenges us to look at things with an eternal perspective--while life here on earth may become incredibly challenging, we should cling to the knowledge that we are not ruled by the here and now because we have eternity ahead of us; an eternity that is good because it comes from God. Of course, practically, always having an “eternal mindset,” particularly in the midst of the often frequent storms of this life, can be quite difficult. So let’s pray into that. Ask God for a reorientation in the way you view everyday occurrences, to see them with “eternal” eyes rather than ones focused only on what is in front of you. And let’s ask God to give us an understanding of how insignificant our earthly troubles are when considered in the grand scheme of eternity.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

2 Corinthians 4:1-15

1 Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
13 It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Questions to consider:
  • Describe the ministry Paul has been given. How has he received it?
  • Contrast the message of the gospel with the messengers who present it.
  • Why do you think God chooses this way to present himself?
  • How does Paul view thanksgiving in verse 15?

Possibilities for prayer:

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
Sometimes, Paul has these beautiful poetic metaphors. He seems to be suggesting that God uses frail, limited, inconsequential us to reveal himself to the world so that the world can know that it’s not actually us but God’s power at work in us that does these great things. Today, let’s thank God for the privilege of being able to spread His goodness to the world, and for the strength and courage to do it well.

Friday, July 2, 2010

2 Corinthians 3:7-18

7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Questions to consider:
  • What should characterize your attitude if you are personally involved in the dispensation of the spirit?
  • To what extent are you being changed daily? How? Why?

Possibilities for prayer:

“Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
What a beautiful statement! There is something beautiful about the realization that being a Jesus follower is not about a bunch of rules within which we are constrained, forced to lead boring and staid lives. Instead, we are given FREEDOM to experience the love, power, and glory of Jesus. Today, let’s thank God for and celebrate the freedom that exists with His spirit, and ask for it to be even more present in our lives.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

2 Corinthians 2:12-3:6

12 Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, 13 I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia.
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ's triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.
1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
4 Such confidence we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Questions to consider:
  • How is Paul’s ministry influenced by fellow Christians?
  • What has God done through you recently?
  • What facts sufficiently qualify Paul to be a minister of God’s word?
  • In what way are these facts the basis for confidence?

Possibilities for prayer:

Paul reminds the Corinthian church that their competence is found in Christ rather than in themselves...a reminder that we can all use every now and again. Let’s ask God to be growing humility within us, that we would, as Paul writes, “not claim anything for ourselves,” but instead give credit where credit is due: at the feet of Christ.