12 Weeks in Mark

You are invited to join me and my church (Lynn Haven UMC) for our 2020 Bible study series. Each study will focus on one section of the Bible, with up to five readings per week at your own pace. We have just finished 12 weeks in Genesis, and our 12 week study of the gospel of Mark starts today!

This study is open to anyone, anywhere – and what better time than if you are quarantined for Covid19! Sign up for the weekly emails and every Sunday I will email the reading plan, Bible study materials, and links to related content. For this study, we also have access to video lectures with Dr. Brad Johnson, a professor at Asbury Theological seminary. There’s also a Facebook discussion group you can join.

Click here to join us! https://mylhumc.net/grow-in-christ/

I look forward to this time of study and engagement with you! Mindy

Genesis Week 8 – From Jacob to Israel

Thank you for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Genesis 32 – 35
□ 32:1-21 – Jacob prepares to meet Esau
□ 32:22-32 – Jacob wrestles with God
□ 33 – Jacob meets Esau
□ 34 – The tragedy of Dinah
□ 35 – Jacob returns to Bethel

Main Topic – From Jacob to Israel
In the previous section of Genesis we saw that Jacob went into exile in the land of Laban and experienced the pain and drama of being deceived. During these twenty years of exile, God has been working in Jacob’s heart. In this section of Genesis, Jacob faces his greatest fears in reconciling with his brother Esau. Jacob wrestles with God, is given a new name, and finds a remarkable picture of the grace and forgiveness of God in his reconciliation with Esau.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1. Jacob prepares to meet Esau (Gen 32) – Jacob is obedient to God’s call to return home (Gen 31:3) but he is gripped with fear. He brings this fear before God in prayer. What characteristics and promises of God strengthen Jacob and enable him to cast his fear upon God?

2. Presents for Esau (Gen 32) – Jacob sends a lavish present to Esau. What is it? Why does he send it? The language of “appease him with a present so he will accept me” is often used of sacrifices made before God. How do these gifts reflect the reality of repentance in Jacob’s life?

3. Wrestling with God (Gen 32) – We see a dramatic event in Jacob’s life here. Arguably the turning point for Jacob is the confession of his weakness, his acknowledgement that he is a cheater. Why is this significant? What new name is he given? What message for Jacob is there in this new name?

4. Jacob meets Esau (Gen 33) – Though Esau had been deeply wronged and formerly wanted to kill Jacob, we see a remarkable change in him. How does Esau react to Jacob? How is this story similar to the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15)? Why is this story of grace and reconciliation so important for Jacob, and for us?

5. The tragedy of Dinah (Gen 34) – Nothing good happens in this terrible story from Shechem. Jacob is failing as a father. Consider his response to the events in 34:5-7, 30-31. How would you describe his response and parenting? Where is his focus? Consider 34:13, 25-30. What do the sons of Jacob do? What are the consequences of this, especially as seen in Gen 49:5-7?

Genesis Week 7 – Lessons From Deception

Thank you for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Readings this week:
Genesis 26:34-31:55
□ 26:34-27:40 – Jacob and the blessing
□ 27:41-28:22 – Jacob flees and his dream
□ 29:1-30 – Jacob at Laban’s
□ 29:31-30:43 – Jacob’s household
□ 31 – Jacob leaves Laban

Main Topic – Lessons from Deception
In the previous section of Genesis, we saw God’s promises passed from Abraham to Isaac. Now the story follows Isaac’s son Jacob. Jacob’s name means “the deceiver” and the Bible does not downplay his manipulative, con-man like character. Isaac the elderly father is tricked, and he passes on the covenant blessings to Jacob not Esau. Jacob – willing to lie, cheat, and steal – would flunk anyone’s morality test. Watch in this section as he pays dearly for his trickery and is himself deceived and cheated by his uncle Laban. Jacob will spend 20 years in personal exile – during which time he builds a family and learns many lessons. His character is changed through this hardship and repentance, and he returns from exile ready for a remarkable reconciliation with his brother and God himself.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1. The Stolen Blessing (Gen 27) – Consider the story of Jacob and Rebekah’s deception. While the deception is successful, by the end of the chapter it is clear that everybody loses. Note the consequences for each family member: Isaac, Esau, Jacob, and Rebekah.

2. Jacob’s Dream and Vow (Gen 28) – Jacob is exiled as a consequence of his sin. Where does he go? What is his dream about? What does God tell him? How is this a continuation of the covenant promises? What vow does he make?

3. Jacob’s Marriage and Children (Gen 29-30) – In an ironic twist, Jacob is now deceived by Laban and manipulated by his wives. How does the story of his wives unfold? Describe how Jacob is now suffering through the deception and manipulation of others. What might God be teaching Jacob?

4. Jacob’s Flocks (Gen 30) – An odd story about striped and spotted lambs and mating techniques… What do we learn about Jacob in this story? What do we learn about God? How does Jacob experience God’s grace in spite of Laban’s manipulations here?

5. Jacob Flees from Laban (Gen 31) – How are Jacob’s old habits evident as he flees Laban? How do we see Jacob’s growing faith? Does Jacob recognize that God has been blessing him? Note the reconciliation between Jacob and Laban. What broken relationship still needs to be reconciled for Jacob?

Bible Reading Plan for 2018

My dear 5x5x5 readers… Some 300+ of you started with us last January on the journey through the New Testament.  I hope many of you are finishing Revelation with us in this next week!  (Revelation puts a whole different spin on the Christmas season, right?!)

I confess, we had two reasons for doing a church-wide reading plan:

(1) To consistently remind you that Bible reading is a priority for all believers, it is not an extra thing super-Christians do in their spare time!  Our goal is for you to become self-feeding – no longer eating only baby food on a spoon served by your pastoral staff – but a thriving adult who eats well and eats regularly.  A church where the majority of the people are reading and studying the Bible daily will be a healthy, growing community and we pray that will be true of us!

(2) To help you get started in the discipline of daily Bible reading.  It’s one thing to know it’s important, it’s another thing altogether to carve out the time and mental energy to actually do it.  I pray that the 10-15 minutes a day you spent reading your Bible in 2017 was richly rewarded.  I pray you will continue with this habit for the rest of your life.

Several of you have asked what the reading plan is for 2018.  I am going to make three recommendations, pick one:

(a) Through the Psalms in 90 Days. (click to download 90DaysInPsalms )
I skipped many of the Psalms when I read through the OT in 2016, so now I’m going to read them.  As you read ask, “What is the character of God revealed in this Psalm?”  Give each Psalm a title in the margin of your Bible, instead of just a number.  Highlight song lyrics you recognize – after all, the Psalms were the hymnal of the ancient church.

(b) Bible Chapter Checklist (click to download BibleChapterChecklist )
Start somewhere, anywhere that looks interesting.  Read one chapter a day.  No fair rereading a book before you have read them all.  If you keep at it, you will finish the whole Bible in 3 years.  Psalm readers, you can do this too… and if you read the NT in 2017 then look how far you have come already!

(c) Explore the You Version Bible App.  If you prefer to read electronically, then explore the many reading plans available in this app.  Just pick one and keep reading!

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
– Joshua 1:8

5x5x5 Bible Reading – Revelation

Dear 5x5x5 readers,

We have come at last to the end, The Book of Revelation is the last book in the Bible and the last we will read on our journey through the New Testament in a year.  Congratulations to all who are still reading with us!

Revelation is clearly one of the most complicated and neglected books in the Bible.  We know that it is important, but we cannot figure out what to do with all the symbolism and strange events, and we end up ignoring it completely.  Consider whom it was written to and why, and perhaps that will give us a start.  The consensus is that the Apostle John wrote Revelation while in exile on the island of Patmos (a Mediterranean Alcatraz of sorts!)  He wrote it around 90 AD, some 60 years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the birth of the church at Pentecost.  Churches across the Roman empire remained small, scattered, and persecuted.  Jerusalem had been destroyed.  It was undoubtedly difficult for Christians to persevere, there was doubt, conflict, and disappointment that Christ had not yet returned and set things right in the world.

To these little, persecuted, frustrated church communities John writes the letter of Revelation.  The book is firmly rooted in the historical context of the Roman Empire.  As you read, work to identify broad themes.  Who is God?  How is He working in human history?  Who is Jesus Christ?  What happens to evil in the world?  Is there any hope?  Where does real power lie?  What is the end of the story?  Try not too get too caught up in figuring out the sequence of events, or what various symbols mean – much of it remains a mystery and many commentaries have been written on such things with no agreement.  Remember that Revelation was not written to give us a precise timeline of history, but rather to offer hope and encouragement.

(update) For those who asked for a commentary recommendation – I am reading and loving Revelation by Leon Morris, 2009, part of the Tyndale New Testament commentary series.  It is written for a pastoral/ministry audience (not an academic one) and is very balanced.  It is also firmly rooted in the historical context of the original audience, so many of the symbols they would have understood are explained.  Dispensationalists would not like it.

“To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be praise and honor and glory and power forever.” – Revelation 5:13

5x5x5 Bible Reading – Gospel of John

Dear 5x5x5 Readers,

Today we started reading in the Gospel of John.  John’s gospel is entirely different in vocabulary, style, and purpose than Matthew, Mark, or Luke.  Remember this, the gospels were not intended as biographies.  Each Gospel writer selected from a much larger pool of information the material which would serve his purpose.  John was not primarily interested in relating the events of Jesus’ life, and he leaves out a great many details that are covered in the other gospels.  He presumes his readers are already familiar with Jesus.

John introduces Jesus as the adult Son of God.  John is focused on explaining the profound meaning of Jesus’ teachings and actions.  John selected stories from approximately twenty days in Jesus’ life, and arranged them to reveal to us a Messiah with a mission.  As you read watch for:
– The “Seven Signs” or miracles John shares and consider what they reveal about the identity of Jesus.
– The “I am” statements of Jesus and consider what they reveal about His identity.
John is telling each story for a reason – he is explaining who Jesus is and what His mission was.

Enjoy!

5x5x5 Bible Reading – 1 Peter

Dear 5x5x5 Bible readers,  Welcome to 1st Peter this week!  You know Peter – a fisherman, one of Jesus’ three closest disciples, the one who walked on water, also the one who denied knowing Jesus – Peter, the rock, who became the leader of the church in Jerusalem after Pentecost.  Peter writes this letter from Rome, late in his life, to Christians who are enduring hardships and persecution across the Roman empire.

1st Peter is a letter of encouragement, speaking into the lives of those who are suffering.  Important themes in 1 Peter are:
– the identity of a believer (reborn into a new family, exiles and sojourners, a royal priesthood, and a chosen people),
– a call to holiness and good character in keeping with the standards of their new family,
– persevering through suffering,
– a living and eternal hope,
– submission and humility, and
– the coming judgment.

I’m actually teaching 1st Peter this fall at The River, and it is such a rich text – full of encouragement in suffering, and reminders of our identity and our future.  As the world seems a bit crazy these days, and many are suffering, the words of Peter are timely.  Be encouraged.