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Bible Studies For Life
February 14, 2021
MAINTAINING FOCUS ON GOD
Daniel the prophet was a young man when Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem, beginning the long years of Babylonian captivity. Carried off with the brightest and best to Babylon, Daniel and his friends rose to prominence by serving faithfully in the king’s court without compromising their dedication to the King of Kings (see Dan. 1:8). Now as an old man, the faithful prophet of God turns his attention to God’s people, to God’s holy city, and to God’s promise to bring His people home.
In Daniel 9, the prophet once again “turned his face unto the Lord God” in supplication. In his prayer, the prophet of God reminds us that even in the midst of long and difficult days, we can keep our focus on Him.
Daniel’s preparation (vv. 1-3). Praying was nothing new to Daniel. Afterall, the infraction that sent him to the lions’ den in chapter 6 was his unwavering devotion to daily prayer (Dan. 6:10), which was his custom. But here, the specific prayer was prompted by Daniel’s study of God’s word—specifically Jeremiah—that indicated the Babylonian captivity (in which he had always been a part) would last 70 years (for example, see Jer. 25:11 and 29:10). More significantly, based on Daniel’s own reckoning, that 70 years was about to wrap up! Prompted by God’s word, Daniel prepared to speak with God. His personal preparation involved giving God his undivided attention; speaking to Him through pleadings and petitions; fasting from food and other outside distractions; and humbling himself with the traditional display of wearing sackcloth and streaking his head and face with ashes (v. 3). For reflection: How often do we allow the reading of God’s word to prompt us to pray for the fulfillment of it, whether good or bad?
Daniel’s contrition (vv. 4-7). Have you ever said the same thing in six different ways, just to get your point across? That’s how I view verses 5 and 6. After acknowledging the greatness of God (v. 4), Daniel made a confession on behalf of his people. These common expressions of sinfulness do have shades of meaning:
- Sinned: missed the mark
- Done wrong: committed crooked deeds
- Acted wickedly: done evil things
- Rebelled: defied authority
- Turned away: departed from; avoided
- Have not listened: refused to hear or to heed
Beyond this, two emphases are present. First, the people knew the commands and ordinances of God, and understood the role of God’s prophets. Second, these confessions are all in the past tense. The people had been sinning against God and rebelling against His law for generations!
Daniel then admits that while God deserves righteousness from His people, His people can offer nothing but public shame and mourning. Furthermore, all are guilty, from the holy city to the land of Judah, to the entire nation…and beyond. Wherever God’s people were dispersed, they owed Him contrition and repentance (v. 7). For reflection: We are pretty good at confessing our own sin while pointing out the sin of others. But how much time do we spend in “national” confession? Notice what Isaiah declared in Is. 6:5.
Daniel’s passion (vv. 17-19). These verses reveal another key to staying focused on God: passion. When Jacob wrestled with the Lord (see Gen. 32:22 ff), he refused to release Him until God blessed him. With much the same passion, Daniel pointed out the ruins left in Israel over the previous seventy years, and begged God to remember His promise and allow His people to return. The series of exclamations in verse 19 are indeed imperatives in the Hebrew; demands issued by the prophet, not out of anger or arrogance, but rather out of respect for the righteous character of God. For reflection: At what point do we have the authority to demand that God answer prayer? At what point do we cross the line and become insubordinate?
February 21, 2021
CONNECTING TO CHRIST’S BODY
1 Corinthians 12:12-24
The human body is a miraculous thing. Dozens of organs wrapped up in 22 square feet of skin, energized by 1.5 gallons of blood coursing through more than 600,000 miles of tiny vessels, pumped by a single muscle (the heart) and totally controlled by a single organ (the brain). Yet we somehow manage to make it through 72 years of life (or more)…when everything functions properly.
In this week’s text, the apostle Paul uses the analogy of a human body when speaking about the church. For this reason, the church is referred to as “the body of Christ.” Like the human body, the body of Christ is incredibly complex. Yet when everything functions properly, it is a beautiful and miraculous thing. Three principles help keep the body of Christ vibrant and healthy.
Unity (vv. 12-13). The phrases of verse 12 are awkwardly worded, but the thought, taken as a whole, is very clear. While a body has many distinguishable parts, it still represents a single, living organism. So it is with the body of Christ, the church. What is that factor that unifies the various members of His body? His Holy Spirit. Let me paraphrase verse 13 in my own words: “For we were all immersed into the body of Christ by His Holy Spirit, regardless of our backgrounds, and we all partook of the same Spirit.” This union is both real and mystical. Just as water baptism serves as the believer’s initiation to the local church body, Spirit baptism joins us to the mystical body. The depiction of drinking of the Spirit (v. 13) likely alludes to the other ordinance of the church, the Lord’s Supper. Jesus frequently likened the Spirit to both a drink and a spring in His teaching (see John 4:13-14; John 7:37-39). For reflection: Why do you think Paul mentioned “whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free” in this context? How would you apply this in today’s church?
Diversity (vv. 14-18). Once Paul established the cardinal rule—there is one body—he turned his discussion to the significance of its many parts. He begins by addressing the envy and jealousies that often creep into the membership. Notice how he focuses on what we might think of as the lesser or humblest parts of the human body. Clumsy feet might envy elegant hands, but they are no less vital to the body’s function. Folded ears might envy sparkling eyes, but again, they are no less vital to the body’s function. Anyone who has lost a foot or his hearing would attest to that! Two key ideas are presented. First, the value of each member is attributed to his function in the body as a whole. The whole body can only function as each member functions within it (vv. 16-17). Second, the placement of the members (and their spiritual giftedness) is a sovereign act of the holy God who saved us; not to establish some status within the membership, but rather to equip the whole body for the work of ministry (v. 18). For reflection: Are local churches guilty of assigning status to its members? Does James 2:1-9 have anything to say about this?
Necessity (vv. 19-24). In verse 20, Paul reiterates the two main points he has made so far: 1) there is one body; and 2) the one body is made up of individual parts. Since the health of the one body is dependent upon the proper working of its individual parts, petty squabbles about the status of certain body parts must stop. The phrasing of verses 22-24 is again awkward. But the general gist is that human body parts that are small and not particularly attractive (e.g.: heart or brain) are extremely important! What’s more, those less noticeable body parts are often covered up by clothing to protect them. The very fact that they are covered by both skin and clothing indicates their value to the health and wellbeing of the body. For reflection: What important functions do members of your church play that are often “covered up” or go unmentioned? What do you think would happen if those members suddenly stopped functioning?
February 28, 2021
JOINING GOD’S WORK
Anyone who has tried to grow citrus knows that a lot of work goes into it (even in Florida!). After planting two or three varieties of oranges, tangerines, and lemons, only to see them all wither and die, I came to the conclusion that I could buy a truck load of fruit at the grocery store for the money I sank into the citrus business!
Unfortunately, fruit for God’s kingdom (whether in the form of Christian converts, Christian character, or Christian conduct) cannot be bought. It must be borne in the lives of God’s people. As Jesus prepared His disciples for their future mission apart from Him, He reminded them that bearing fruit was not an option, but an expectation. In these verses, three key principles stand out.
Preparation (vv. 1-3). By this time, Jesus was leading His disciples out of the Upper Room and toward Gethsemane. Perhaps seizing on the image of the vines growing near the garden, Jesus announced that He Himself was the true vine (v. 1), as opposed to the nation of Israel, which had been alluded to as a vine in the Old Testament (see Is. 5:1-7; Ps. 80:8-16; Jer. 2:21 et al.). Here, three components of fruit-bearing are addressed. First, the vine (Christ) is the rooted source of sustenance allowing the production of branches which ultimately bear the fruit. The quality of the fruit depends on the quality of the vine. Hence, a vinedresser is employed to keep things in shape. In this scenario, Jesus suggested that God the Father is the vinedresser overseeing Him and the production of spiritual fruit (v. 1). The final component in the metaphor are the branches. These are disciples. Those who produce no fruit are evidently not drawing the spiritual vitality that Christ offers, and are removed. Those who do produce fruit are further shaped (“purged” or “cleansed”) by the Father, enabling them to produce even more fruit. In verse 3, Jesus assures the disciples that through the word of God, they are prepared to bear fruit. For reflection: Do you believe the non-bearing branches talked about here are saved people who drift away from Christ? Or people associated with the church who have never been truly saved? Why?
Continuation (vv. 4-6). The word “remain” is mentioned five times in these two verses. The word itself is translated to stay or abide. The form it takes indicates a continual abiding; what one commentator called a “faithful persistence.” There is absolute dependence here; the branch is the conduit through which the vine works in order to bear fruit. Verse 4 states a negative: believers who are disconnected from Christ simply cannot bear fruit. But verse 5 gives the positive: those who remain “in Christ” will bear much fruit…and do so continually. Verse 6 is a dire warning: those who are not attached to Christ have shown themselves to be lifeless and therefore useless. The image of burning is certainly indicative of the judgement that awaits all who reject Christ (see Matt. 13:40 ff). For reflection: Compare this passage with Matthew 13:37-43. What additional information did Jesus provide in the Matthew text?
Multiplication (vv. 7-8). At first reading, verse 7 seems out of place. But the image of the vine seamlessly attached to the branch, and the branch vitally extending the vine’s nourishment all the way to the fruit indicates a further blessing: answered prayer. Why? Because the faithful follower of Christ will be moved to pray for those things prompted by Christ. And God is glorified by giving those things to His children that flow through His Son (v. 8). When the relationship is right between God and His children, there are two important results: an abundance of fruit for God’s kingdom, and an unmistakable testimony for Christ. For reflection: What kinds of spiritual fruit are being produced among the members of your church? What are some things that are helping “fruit production?” What might be hindering it?
March 7, 2021
THE NATURE OF GOD
John 14:8-11, 16-20, 23-26
The doctrine of the trinity is easy to state: There is one true God who exists in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All three Persons are co-equal, co-eternal, and co-essent. But what is easy to state can be tough to understand and even more difficult to explain! You may have heard the doctrine explained with an object lesson, like an egg. There’s the shell, the yolk, and the white. Three distinct parts, but all egg. Or the parts of an apple (skin, core, fruit) or water (ice, liquid, steam). But none of these simple illustrations captures the concept very well. Regardless of the difficulties in understanding the trinity, one God in three persons is Bible truth. And like electricity, we don’t have to understand how it all works to enjoy its benefits.
In John 14, Jesus is giving comfort and encouragement to His disciples just prior to His arrest and crucifixion. While the word “trinity” is not used, the concept is clearly taught.
The Son reveals the Father (vv. 8-11). Jesus’ reference to the Father in verses 6 and 7, is followed by the assertion that the disciples had actually “seen” Him. Philip’s interruption (v. 8) is genuine. Like the prophets of old, he was anxious to see some physical manifestation of God’s presence. To me, the reply of Jesus in verse 9 is more an expression of disappointment than a rebuke. After spending three years with the disciples, they still didn’t grasp the reality that Jesus—in His character, words, miracles, and ministry—revealed His deity. This He pointed out explicitly in verse 10: the Father and Son share the same essence (“I am in the Father…the Father is in Me”). Hence the words of Jesus and His works reveal the Father who lives (continually abides) in Him. In verse 11, Jesus made the same concession He made to the unbelieving Jews; if they could not accept His testimony, then at least they should consider His miraculous works (see John 10:37-38). For reflection: Why do you think the disciples had such a hard time accepting the deity of Christ? Do you think miraculous works today would convince the lost that Jesus is God in the flesh?
The Father sends the Spirit (vv. 16-20). While the truths of these verses are intermingled, some distinct teachings are present. First, the Holy Spirit is a counselor (v. 16). The word can mean advocate, helper, or intercessor, and in this case means all three…and more! “Another” implies of the same kind. (Interestingly, the same role is applied to Jesus Himself in 1 John 2:1). Second, He will abide with them forever. This is in contrast to the fact that Jesus, the Incarnate One, would be soon departing (v. 19). Third, He is the Spirit of truth, just as both Jesus and the word of God given by the Father are truth (v. 17; see John 14:6; 17:17). Fourth, those who do not know God, cannot receive the Holy Spirit (v. 17; see also 1 Cor. 2:14). Fifth, while the Spirit is with them already, He will be in them. Some see this as a future indwelling. (I believe the Spirit indwelt believers in the Old Testament as well as the New…but that’s a different lesson!). Regardless, the coming of the Spirit mentioned here marked a new movement of God and a special empowerment of the church (see Acts 2). Sixth, by His resurrection, He guarantees those who are in Him are filled by the life-giving Spirit shared with the Father and Son. For reflection: Can you think of anywhere else in Scripture where the believer is more intimately connected to all three Persons of the trinity?
The Spirit honors the Son (vv. 23-26). This section brings the discourse full circle, back to Christ. Notice the believer’s connection with the godhead is relational. God’s love is connected to the believer’s obedience to the word of God, which is revealed by the Son of God. The Holy Spirit here, is more than a Helper; He is an indweller (v. 23), a teacher, and a reminder of everything Christ taught (v. 26). And so He remains today! For reflection: Can you think of times when in conversation or teaching, that the Holy Spirit reminded you of the Bible truth you needed at that very moment?
During her 30 years as Florida Baptists’ director of communications, Barbara ventured across the state — and to Cuba and Haiti — to report on Baptist witness and, amid natural disaster, Baptist compassion.
Barbara and her husband, Dick, are currently enjoying spending time with their first grandchild, Finley, along with Finley’s parents Ashford and Chantal and Barbara and Dick’s daughter, Addie.
Keila earned a B.S. in Communications from Florida International University in Miami. She writes news and stories about Florida Baptist churches, creates and posts social content to the FBC’s social media channels, and is a Baptist Press contributor.
When she’s not working, Keila enjoys bike rides and spending time with her family.
Barbara, a member at Eau Gallie First BC, Melbourne, and a graduate of Florida State University, B.S., Speech Pathology/Audiology, taught Pre-K/VPK for many years. While living and serving in Maine, she wrote articles for the NEW ENGLAND BAPTIST, and currently writes for the Brevard Baptist Association’s newsletter, THE BRIDGE. She loves serving alongside her husband Mike (Associational Mission Strategist, Brevard Baptist Association), spending time with their three grandchildren, sewing and reading.
David Moore has been writing and editing for newspapers and magazines in Florida for more than 20 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. A proud member of First Baptist Church of Ocala, David serves in the worship, deacon and NextGen ministries. He and his wife Beth have three children.
Jessica received her B.S. in Biblical Studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She contributes to Florida Baptist Conv, Biblical Woman, Baptist Press, The Devotional for Women, and Daily Devotional Bible for Women. Her greatest joy is serving beside her husband who is the Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church.
Brandi is a writer and editor for N2 Publishing, a community magazine that honors God. She and her family attend Fishhawk Fellowship Church and are a Host Family for Safe Families for Children, Bethany Christian Services. Her background is in Healthcare Management, Policies & Procedures.