40 Days of Discipline


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40 Days of Discipline:  Day 7 – Bible Study

1Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.” The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” 12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: 16 “‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’— 18things known from long ago. 19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” (Acts 15:1 – 21, New International Version)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context:

Our passage is a bit long today, but that shouldn’t be a problem when we are considering Bible Study, right 😊?  As we consider today’s passage, we are reminded that biblical interpretation is an essential component of Bible study. Differing biblical interpretations can result in serious differences amongst believers and also between believers and non-believers. We encounter such a situation in today’s passage. 

Scripture Passage:

The passage is from Acts 15:1 – 21 (presented above) and embedded in the story is a very important role for the local church where biblical interpretation is concerned.  Please prayerfully read the passage and note how the local church functioned under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in interpreting Scripture. 

Questions:

  • What role did the local church play in addressing the clash of interpretations?
  • How do you see this role being displayed in your local church?    


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 6 – Bible Study

all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.  So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.  Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.  Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.  The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.  Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. (Nehemiah 8:1 – 9, New International Version)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context:

I hope you benefited from considering the questions about Bible Study posed yesterday.  Thank you very much for the comments! 

While technically the word church (translated from the Greek word ekklēsia) doesn’t feature in the Old Testament, there are similar words (e.g., the Hebrew word qāhāl, which means assembly), and there are lots of lessons from the Old Testament that can be applied to the church. 

The Old Testament story of Nehemiah leading the Children of Israel in the rebuilding the city wall in Jerusalem is a powerful story at many levels.  However, in keeping with our focus on the Discipline of Bible Study we will focus on the impact of the word of God on the assembly. 

Bible Passage:

Please prayerfully read Nehemiah 8:1 – 9 (presented above) and consider the question below.

Question:

How can we encourage and support the kind of passion for Scripture exhibited in the Nehemiah passage within our local churches?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 5 – Bible Study

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. (1 Timothy 4:13, New International Version)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context:

We will be doing something different this year as we consider each of the Disciplines.  We will use the first day of review for each Discipline to ask questions about how that Discipline is practiced in your local church or a local church you are considering.  As a practical matter, we associate with local churches for a variety of reasons including tradition, relationships, and convenience.  However, we know that the primary reasons should be based on biblical directives.  The questions are meant to sharpen our focus on biblical considerations.  Please note that you will not be expected to share your answers to the questions. 

After the first day review of a Discipline, we will revert to the historical format of considering thoughts from a selected passage of Scripture.  If this sounds a bit confusing don’t worry it will become clearer as we proceed.

Today we start our review of the Discipline of Bible Study.  Before considering some questions about your local church’s approach to Bible Study, this quote from a noted theologian, Thomas Oden in his book Systematic Theology, emphasizes the importance of the Bible to the church and the church to the Bible: “The Bible is the church’s book, lodged within the church for safekeeping and to provide continuing inspiration and instruction… It is the church (not the university) that has for centuries kept it, translated it, studied it, meditated upon it, and repeatedly looked to it for guidance.” 

Primary Questions:

  1. Does your local church consistently include Bible reading as an integral part of its worship service?
  2. Does your local church consistently have group Bible studies (e.g., small groups, weekly services, and Sunday School programs) and promote personal Bible study?
  3. Does your local church have a stated position on the authority of the Bible (e.g., views on inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility)?
  4. Are the leaders of your local church fully committed to Bible study?

Optional Secondary Questions (if you have the time):

  1. Does your local church provide instruction on appropriate approaches to interpreting the Bible?
  2. Does your local church provide guidance on appropriate English translations of the Bible (e.g., explanation of different approaches to Bible translations and preferred versions of translation)?

Your Feedback:

While you are not expected to share your answers to the questions above, we would still love to hear from you.  Based on your answers to the questions, what are your thoughts about the priority of Bible Study in local churches?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 3 – Group Bible Study

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  (Hebrews 10:19 – 25, New International Version)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context

Yesterday was another good day of insightful commentary.  Thanks to all who contributed.  Today we will conclude our group Bible study by looking at a third passage that focusses on the purpose of the local church.  Of course, we have only considered a small subset of biblical passages that refer to local church activities.    Over the next few weeks, we will go broader and deeper.

Bible Study Passage

After spending the last two days in the book of Acts, today we will review Hebrews 10:19-25 (presented above).  The author of Hebrews documents some important activities of a local church.

Questions:

  • Based on the passage, what are key activities that the local church should be engaged in?
  • Why are these activities important?

Sharing your thoughts could be a big help to someone else.  Please submit a comment.


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 2 – Group Bible Study

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”  This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.  So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.  (Acts 6:1 -7, New International Version)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context

We got off to a great start yesterday with the valuable comments that were shared about the activities of the local church documented in Acts chapter 2.  We are going to stay in the book of Acts and observe another presentation of the early church in action.  Our primary objective is to foster critical thinking about what activities our local churches should be engaged in.

Bible Study Passage

Our passage today is from Acts 6:1 – 7 (presented above).  Unlike the situation in Acts 2 where everything was going very well, in this instance the local church encounters a problem.  The church’s response provides some key insights into the expected role of local churches.

Question:

What are key activities of the church exhibited in the passage that you believe should be evident in today’s local church?

Sharing your thoughts could be a big help to someone else.  Please submit your response to the question.


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 1 – Group Bible Study

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42–47, New International Version)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context

There are many reasons why people associate with local churches.  Ideally the reasons align with Scripture, but unfortunately that is not always the case.  In fact, it is easy to be led by tradition, relationships or convenience instead of the Bible.  Over the next three days we will examine passages of Scripture about the church and attempt to extract the key activities of the local church that are evident in the passages.  The primary objective is to illuminate activities that we should be expecting and engaging in as we involve ourselves in a local church.

Bible Study Passage

Our first passage is from Acts 2:42-47 (provided above).  It provides a window into the activities of the church shortly after the day of Pentecost.

Please prayerfully read the passage above and consider the question below.

Question:

What are key activities of the church exhibited in the passage that you believe should be evident in today’s local church?

Sharing your thoughts could be a big help to someone else.  Please submit a comment.


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 7 – Bible Study

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23 – 24)

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

The survey results are in from our Bible study poll.  70% of our respondents consistently participate in Bible studies, 20% rarely participate and 10% occasionally participate.  Thanks for the honest feedback!  Let’s all prayerfully consider how we can learn from each other to improve – all for God’s glory.

As we conclude our consideration of the Discipline of Bible Study, let’s focus on an important but sometimes overlooked role that Bible study plays.  Most of us will have encountered individuals who are excellent at accomplishing tasks but the way they get things done leaves a lot to be desired.  Examples exist in our work environment, in public life and yes, even in the church.  We are likely guilty ourselves at times. 

God is not only concerned about what gets done but how things get done.  His standards for the way we must execute our tasks for Him are very high, and Bible study keeps us in tune with His standards.

Request

Can you share a circumstance where your awareness of God’s standards impacted your attitude in carrying out a challenging task? 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 6 – Bible Study

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

Yesterday, we explored how important Bible study is to us getting direction from God even if we don’t get direction for specific tasks.  Today we will turn our attention to the topic of diligence in study.  While frequency of Bible Study is crucial, what also matters is how we study.  We don’t all have to be seminary students, but we can all be diligent in our study. 

Have you ever wanted to know what path to choose and hoped that you could just open the Bible and find the answer?  This can be characterized as the “direction without diligence” approach, which is consistent with our microwave society.  I know I have been guilty of this approach. 

Of course, God can and does provide direction in a variety of manners, but our passage for today recommends the “boring” path of diligence.  How often do we miss out on God’s marching orders because we are not being diligent in Bible study? 

Please read the passage above and consider the question below.

Questions:

  • Do you study the Bible diligently (pray, take notes, review, seek help, put into practice, etc.)?
  • What are some of your most effective Bible Study practices?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 5 – Bible Study

1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”  (Acts 9:1 – 6)

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

A big thank you to all who participated in our warmup Bible Study last week.  We will now commence our review of 11 Disciplines, starting with Bible Study. As always, our aim is to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Disciplines in deepening our relationship with God. 

Our theme this year challenges us to test whether we are “pulling our weight” in advancing God’s kingdom.  How does Bible Study help us to pull our weight?  We will consider this question over the next three days. 

Our scripture passage for the day captures Saul’s conversion and his call to service as the apostle Paul.  Wouldn’t we all like to have that kind of specific/dramatic call (maybe without going blind temporarily 😊)?  Rarely do Christians experience that kind of specificity in calling through Bible Study but we know that the Bible is an essential direction setting tool (“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” – Psalm 119:105). 

Please answer the question below and click on the link to take a very quick poll. 

Question & Request

Question:  In what ways is Bible Study crucial to us determining what God wants us to do even if we might not get specific directions from our studies? 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 3 – Group Bible Study

1The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.  One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel.  Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”  But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.  Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”  “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”  Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.  A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”  Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.  10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”  Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  11 And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. 12 At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. 13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them. 14 Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’”  15 Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, 16 but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.”  Samuel answered, “Here I am.”  17 “What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.”  19 The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.  (1 Samuel 3)

 

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

We will conclude our Group Bible Study today.  So far, we have dealt with the Call and the Confusion.  Today we address Confirmation & Challenge.

From the passage above we see that with Eli’s help, Samuel’s confusion is ultimately eliminated and God speaks to him directly.  In verses 11 – 21, God confirms His grand mission and it doesn’t look good for Eli and his household.  Samuel gets confirmation that he will be a key actor in God’s mission and very early in his ministry he faces a major challenge where Eli is concerned.  Samuel demonstrates courage and delivers a difficult message to his mentor.

Questions:

  • Considering the work Samuel is being called to do, why is it important that he met this early challenge?
  • What lessons do we observe regarding obedience and God’s preparation of his servants?

Thanks to everyone who has been commenting!  Your comments make a big difference.