Click here for the reading: John 1:19-28.

Jesus came in a time of high expectations, since the Jews are actively wondering when the Christ will appear. They even wonder if John, whose baptism is clearly a sign of the coming Christ, is the one they have been waiting for. Do we live in a similar spirit of expectation? What things are we waiting for in these days? What examples do we see of Christians misunderstanding what is happening? On the other hand, why do we sometimes lack this spirit of expectation? Why is waiting the vast majority of our experience as Christians, as seen in Psalm 62?

John’s confession of the truth is both positive and negative. While he denies that he is the Christ, he affirms at the same time that he is preparing the way of the Lord, as Isaiah said. What does it mean to confess rightly? What is the relationship between confession of the truth and our life? In what ways are we tempted to separate the two of them, and what are the consequences? Consider the example of Peter in Matthew 16, both in his confession and how he fails to fully understand who Jesus is.

Isaiah prophesied the coming of John, because he is the voice crying in the wilderness by his own confession. His message is equally clear: make the way of the Lord straight, because He is near! Why is confession of the truth not only a private matter? Why should confession of the truth result in a clear proclamation? How do we help or hinder this proclamation by how we live out that confession? How does the Lord speak of this relationship in passages like Amos 5?

This group sent to question John are not satisfied with his answers. Some of them were Pharisees, deeply interested in the reason why John was baptizing indiscriminately. Who are the Pharisees, and what distinguishes them from other groups like the Sadducees? Why would the Pharisees be interested in questions of authority in light of their history? How does this attitude fight against rightly confessing the truth, and in what ways do we run the risk of falling into it ourselves? Compare the seven woes of Jesus toward the Pharisees in Matthew 23 with the confession of John here.

Advent is a season of expectation, and it points as John did to the coming Christ. As this season comes to an end, John reminds us of the importance of looking to Christ. Jesus once appeared suddenly in His temple, and He will come again just as suddenly at the end of all things. Why is a right confession so important in these last days? In what ways do we struggle with indifference in our time, even among well meaning Christians? How can we be prepared for the coming of Christ? How does the situation of Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22 relate to our own time?

Click here for the reading: Philippians 4:4-7.

Paul, writing while suffering in prison, commands the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord! Nor is this meant as a passing remark, because he repeats the command again in the same sentence. Being a Christian brings with it joy in the Lord, so that the two are always together. What things do Christians face that threaten to steal their joy from them? How should a Christian approach the trials of life that distinguishes them from worldly attempts at joy? What can we learn about joy from the Psalms, especially ones like Psalm 96?

Reasonableness, or gentleness, is set in contrast to violence in 1 Timothy 3:3, quarreling and speaking evil in Titus 3:2, and injustice in 1 Peter 2:18. It describes the Christian who is peaceable, kind, and fair to all those around him. Why is Christian virtue a public matter and not a private affair? Why is this virtue especially important in how a Christian interacts with the world? In what specific ways does reasonableness or gentleness show itself in the life of a Christian? How do we see this at work in Christ Himself, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:1?

Anxiety regarding the future is a constant danger, because no one knows what will be except God Himself. Yet constant fear about what could be is deadly to faith, because it loses sight of God. What does anxiety make us forget with regard to the Lord? What are some examples of things in the world which cause anxiety even in Christians, especially in our present situation? How does God specifically calm those fears? Why is the nearness of the Lord’s return a reason to not be afraid? Compare what Christ has to say regarding anxiety in Matthew 6:25-34.

Prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving, not gloom or fear, should fill a Christian’s days. The Lord commands us to pray and to call on His name, because He is our help and our shield. Why do Christians forget to pray? How does prayer speak to the trials of life? What sort of practical advice would you give to Christians regarding prayer, especially if they do not have a habit of prayer? What is the difference between thanksgiving and making requests? Why should both be a part of prayer? How does Jesus describe the practice of prayer in Matthew 6, and how does He teach us by His own example?

Above all, being a Christian means possessing a peace beyond all understanding, a peace which lives even in the worst of circumstances. It is the joy of the martyrs, the calmness of the suffering saints, looking for something far better than this world has to offer. How does a Christian find such peace, especially when dealing with terrible situations? How should a Christian approach pain and suffering? What is the difference between Stoic indifference and Christian peace? What is the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the peace of God, as seen in John 14?

Click here for the reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-19.

No issue in the book of Deuteronomy is more prominent than regulations regarding worship. Israel, now on the cusp of entering the promised land, must guard themselves carefully, lest they be led astray. With Moses nearing death, the people must learn to distinguish between true and false prophets of the Lord. Why does the Lord speak through men, when it seems so easy to say anything about God? How should a Christian answer those who say that even the Bible is simply the word of men and not of God? Compare 2 Peter 1:16-21 in regard to the question of inspiration.

Moses declares to Israel that the Lord will raise up a prophet like him from among them. It is the Lord who does this, not the prophet himself. Where a false prophet comes on his own authority, the true prophet comes on God’s authority, and in many cases in the Old Testament, comes reluctantly at God’s command. Why is order important within the Church, especially regarding her messengers? What is the relationship between a desire to be an overseer and the order of the church? On the other hand, what are the limits of this human order when a man is clearly not speaking for God? Consider the call of the prophets, like Isaiah 6, and their response to God.

Part of the need for Moses acting as prophet was the fear the people expressed at hearing the voice of God at Horeb. Seeing the glory of God descended upon the mountain and hearing the voice like a trumpet was too much for them to bear. What about the Lord makes them so fearful, even when He had come to save? Why does God give such careful detail about His worship to a people who cannot bear to hear His voice? How does God deal with this issue in our own time? Why did the Lord cover Moses in the rock in Exodus 33?

Moses warns those who refuse to listen to the Lord that they will have to answer for it in the great judgment day. It is not a small thing to ignore the true messengers of God! What are specific reasons why people might refuse to listen to God’s messengers, also in our day? Why is it crucial for pastors to be certain of God’s will when declaring the Word to His people? How does Paul address these questions in 1 Timothy 4?

As Peter clearly declares in Acts 3, Jesus is the prophet like Moses in a way unlike any other prophet. We are called to listen to Him, as the Father declared at His Transfiguration. How does the destruction of Jerusalem prove the truth of this passage? Why is it a danger for us to ignore or explain away the clear word of the Lord? According to Romans 11, why is the partial hardening of Israel a warning for us who have been grafted into the tree of salvation?

Click here for the reading: Matthew 11:2-10.

John the Baptist, even while in prison, hears people talking about the miracles of Jesus. Though Jesus taught with authority and not like the scribes, yet it is what he does that attracts the most attention. Jesus even answers John’s question sent through his disciples with miracles rather than simply words. Why are miracles so important to the message of the Gospel? What is their purpose, even for us who only hear about them thousands of years later? Since Revelation 13 shows us that false miracles are possible, how do we know which are genuine? Compare the words of Jesus in John 10:37-38 regarding the purpose of true miracles.

Jesus finishes his answer to John by saying, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” In what ways are people offended by Jesus? Do we try to soften Jesus’ words and actions in order to make him more palatable? What are some common examples of this? How does Jesus respond to grumbling in John 6? How should that inform our own response to those offended by Him?

After the disciples leave, Jesus questions those following Him about John. Who is he? What was his purpose? John, after all, is in prison now, and his time has come to an end. What does Jesus mean by “a reed shaken by the wind”? Do we see examples of this in our lives? How do we avoid that behavior? What does he mean by “a man dressed in soft clothing”? How do we avoid that problem as well? Why do these not describe John the Baptist, and why is that important when considering his message? Consider the example of the sons of Josiah in Jeremiah 22 and what it means to be righteous in God’s eyes.

John is a prophet, and indeed he is more than a prophet. He exceeds the prophets of old, because he prepares the way of the Lord directly. The other prophets only spoke of His coming and longed for His day, but John pointed to Him with his own hand. Why is it important to understand who John is? Why is it important to rightly understand the mission of any of the prophets, apostles, or even pastors of the Church? What is at risk if it is misunderstood? How does Ephesians 4:1-16 help us understand the work of those whom God has sent?

Among those born of women, there has arisen no one greater than John, but the least in the kingdom is greater than he. The old has given way to the new, and the new is greater by far. In what ways do we who live in the time of the New Testament exceed those who lived in the time of the Old? What does that mean for how we approach the Old Testament? How does Paul in 2 Corinthians 3 clarify the greater glory of the ministry of the Spirit?

Click here for the reading: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.

Paul addresses the divisions among the Corinthians with authority, but also as their spiritual father. Many regarded him as an inferior teacher and thus as someone whose teachings could also be ignored. How does the spirit of division show itself today? Why is factionalism a threat to the Gospel? How should we approach such division, and how should we not approach it? What is at the root of such division in the body of Christ? Why does Paul list divisions among the works of the flesh in Galatians 6?

The primary issue in this passage is how some of the Corinthians regarded Paul. Since he was not as impressive as some of the other teachers, some turned away from what he had taught them. After all, these other teachers were much more compelling! However, Paul reminds them that it doesn’t matter what they think about him. What matters is that he is a servant of God. Since the world constantly pressures us to conform, what does it look like to care more about what God thinks about us? On the other hand, how can this reality be used to justify bad practices or attitudes? Consider the example of the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1 and how they show what it means to fear God above all things.

The value of a steward is not dependent on his skill or his knowledge, but rather on his conduct. Should he prove unfaithful or negligent, then even the most talented steward is worthless to his master. Paul is therefore not a people-pleaser, because they are not his master! What are specific ways that show we care most about what others think? What are specific ways that show we care most about remaining faithful? How does 1 Peter 2-3 address the question of faithful conduct?

Even if Paul were to stand before the judgment of men, he is not aware of anything against him. This does not acquit him before the judgment of God, but Paul is blameless before the world. What is the difference between being blameless and being sinless? Why is blamelessness a requirement of those who desire to be pastors? Why ought all Christians be blameless before the judgment of the world? What else do we learn about being blameless in passages like Psalm 15?

Just as Advent looks toward the coming of the Lord in judgment, Paul reminds the Corinthians that the Lord will reveal the truth of our hearts on that day. God will judge each according to what he has done and will give to each his commendation or his condemnation. Why should we not always judge a man’s faithfulness by what we see? Why is factionalism based on appearances rather than truth? In what ways do we engage in premature judgment, especially on the actions of fellow Christians? How do Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 relate to this passage?

Click here for the reading: Isaiah 40:1-11.

Isaiah 40 marks a major turning point in the book. Hezekiah in the previous chapter has misunderstood the seriousness of what is about to happen. Israel is about to be taken away into exile. It seems contrary to God’s former promises to take away His people in this way. Are there times in our days when God seems to act contrary to Himself? How do we find comfort in the promises of God when He seems to be opposed to us or opposed to His own Word? What does Paul mean in Romans 8 when he says all things work together for good?

The threefold message of comfort speaks to Israel’s situation. It was not an accident of history that brought about the exile, but it was the just judgment for the sin of God’s people. Yet now that time of judgment comes to an end. Why do people think of themselves as victims in times of hardship? Why does this lead them to misapply God’s promises of comfort? How should we understand hard times in the light of God’s Word? Compare the words of Jeremiah 23 and the dangers of a false message of peace.

A voice cries out to prepare a way for the coming of the Lord. Note here that the image does not have God’s people in view, as if the highway being prepared was for them. Rather, God Himself is on the move, and all flesh will see the glory of what He has come to do for His people. Why does Isaiah focus on what God is doing when speaking of His glory rather than on His people? Why do we give God glory? Do we sometimes inadvertently try to take that glory for ourselves? How do the Gospel writers apply this passage in Matthew 3 or Luke 3, and why do they use it there?

As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:30, grass is a perfect picture of the transitory nature of this world. The grass which seems so green and lush withers as winter approaches. Flowers too, for all their beauty, disappear in a moment. Why do people treat the things of this world as if they were lasting? Where do people turn in times of trouble? Consider the book of Ecclesiastes. What is the ultimate message of the Preacher in the face of the vanity of life?

Isaiah describes the power and the glory of the Lord as a message of good news. As the rest of Isaiah 40 declares, our living God can do what idols and false gods cannot. The Lord laid the foundations of the world. Who is like Him? Since people usually associate Advent with the coming of Christmas, why is it important to talk about who God is and what He can do rather than simply what He has done? How can we see God’s glory in our own time? How does God speak to Israel about his glory in other passages like Ezekiel 36?

Click here for the reading: Luke 21:25-36.

Jesus speaks of the coming destruction of the temple, warning those who hear Him to pay attention so that they would not be caught by surprise. It will be a time of great distress, heralding the beginning of the times of the Gentiles. Why should we be watchful, especially in a season like Advent? How might we be lulled to sleep in our present time, especially in ways that past generations did not know? How do the letters of Revelation 2-3, especially the letter to the church in Sardis, speak to our own situation and what it means to be watchful?

When the Son of Man comes, the world will be caught up in fear. Jesus speaks of this coming in judgment in the Old Testament language of riding on a cloud, such as Isaiah 19:1, Jeremiah 4:13, or Ezekiel 30:3. Yet the coming judgment will be a time of joy, because God’s redemption is coming near. Why does the Lord give these signs to His disciples? What is the sign given to us of His coming on the Last Day? Consider Matthew 24:36-44 and if those in the days of Noah had any sign.

When understood within the context of the destruction of Jerusalem, the confusion surrounding Matthew 21:29-33 disappears. Jesus speaks of the coming of summer, the times of the Gentiles, and not the winter, the end of all things. The fall of the city came within a generation of these words being spoken. Yet how do these words help us to understand the Last Day as well? How do these words of Christ regarding His promises and his words give us comfort in difficult situations in our lives?

The coming of the Son of Man calls for vigilance, because it will come suddenly like a trap. Drunkenness and anxiety lead to laxity. Seeking earthly pleasures make us blind to the reality of what is about to come. What kind of distractions do we struggle with? Are there things of this world which often lead astray that we do not pay attention to or do not regard as distractions? What makes these especially dangerous for us as Christians? Compare the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21 and consider what makes them dangerous for the Christian.

Christ commands His disciples to stay awake and to pray for the strength to escape the coming things and to stand before Him on that day. In what ways do we stay awake for the coming of the Lord? What does it mean to have strength to escape the things which are coming, since the Last Day will come like a trap suddenly? What does it mean to have strength to stand before Christ, and how do we find this strength? What can we learn from the parables of Matthew 25 about being ready for the coming of Christ on the Last Day?

Click here for the reading: Romans 15:4-13.

This passage from Romans 15 forms the conclusion of the larger section beginning in chapter 14. Paul exhorts his hearers to not cause a fellow Christian to stumble by their actions and to bear with the failings of the weak, just as Christ did not please Himself. What are common ways that we cause one another to stumble? What does Paul mean by bearing with the weak in these matters? Why is this important to consider as we await the coming of Christ? Consider the parallel passage in 1 Corinthians 8 and what it means to have the mind of Christ.

Having just cited Psalm 69 to prove his point, Paul reminds us that the Scriptures are written for our instruction so that we may have hope. How are we instructed by the Scriptures? Why is it a danger to treat this instruction merely as information? Why does this instruction give us hope, especially when dealing with the sins of others? In what ways does Paul describe the purpose of Scripture in passages like 2 Timothy 3:16-17?

Paul prays that his hearers would find the harmony they had been lacking, a harmony which could only come from God. The Lord who speaks through the Scriptures would grant them this harmony through Jesus Christ. What is the ultimate goal of harmony in the Church? What does false harmony look like, and what are its goals? How do we find this harmony in Christ, who has welcomed us? Compare 1 John 3:11-24 and what it means to love not in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.

Christ, after all, became a servant in order to confirm the ancient promises and to lead the Gentiles to glorify God. His goal in doing so was not a divided congregation, bickering with one another and looking down on one another, but a united body of Jews and Gentiles united in one voice. Paul cites four passages from all over the Old Testament to prove this point. Why should we emphasize with Paul that Christ came first to the house of Israel? What does this coming show about the nature of God? What makes us as the Gentiles rejoice, and what does this show about the nature of God? Why is this a fitting conclusion to the problem of disunity in the Church? How does Paul address this question in Ephesians 2?

Advent looks forward in hope to the time when God will fulfill all of His promises and bring an end to all divisions and hostilities. Why do we sing praises to God’s name now? How will those praises change on the Last Day? How does this reality lead us to bear with one another while we wait in hope? Why is the song of Revelation 5 a new song, and how do we find unity in the Lamb who was slain?

Click here for the reading: Malachi 4:1-6.

Malachi speaks to a people who, though they had seen the promises of God fulfilled when He brought them back from exile, had fallen back into the same sins of their fathers. What made it worse, however, was that they thought they were still serving God! How do we fall into a similar trap? In what ways do people believe that they are serving God when they are in fact sinning against Him? Why does Malachi point to the coming Day of the Lord as a warning against such hypocrisy? Compare the seven woes of Matthew 23 and the attitude of the Pharisees in Jesus’ own time.

The great Day of the Lord is coming when a burning sun of righteousness will arise. Those who are wicked will be consumed by the fire of that day, but those who are righteous will rejoice in its purifying heat. What is the Day of the Lord to which Malachi refers? Is it only one day, or is there more than one? Why is that Day a terror for the wicked, but a delight for the righteous? Consider passages like Revelation 6:12-17 and how people react to the coming of that Day.

Moses received the Law at Horeb from the Lord, and it is precisely this Law which Israel has forgotten yet again. Again and again, God reminds His people of the words given at Sinai as a way of calling them back from their sins. Why does Malachi remind them of this in the face of the coming Day of the Lord? How is repentance sometimes a call to return to something forgotten? How is repentance sometimes a call to do something new? How do passages like Matthew 3:1-12 help us understand what it means to repent?

The Lord promises to send Elijah before the great Day of the Lord comes, and Jesus clearly says that John the Baptist is the fulfillment of this prophecy in Matthew 17:10-13. The coming of Elijah serves as a final call to repentance after which no more will come. When and why did God strike Israel with a decree of destruction? Why should we take the warnings of God against sin seriously? At what point will it be too late to turn back? What can be learned from the example of Josiah and the judgment of God in 2 Kings 23?

The words of Malachi are especially appropriate in the season of Advent, since they look forward to the coming Day when God will act on behalf of His people. On that day the righteous will rejoice like a calf set loose from its pen, because the Lord keeps His promises. Why is this passage a fitting conclusion to the Old Testament? How does it inform our understanding of the New Testament as a whole? How does it teach us about the coming Last Day? In what ways does it resemble the words of Revelation 22?

Click here for the reading: Matthew 21:1-9.

Jesus riding into Jerusalem is a high point in salvation history. He who was born king now claims His kingdom. The promised Son of David enters into the City of David as the fulfillment of God’s promises long ago. Though David had many sons, in what ways did they fall short of the promise God made to David in 2 Samuel 7? How did even the good kings, such as Hezekiah or Josiah, fail? How can we find comfort in Jesus coming to claim His father David’s throne? Consider Psalm 2 and the promise of a King who would rule over the nations.

Before He enters the city, however, Jesus gives explicit instructions to His disciples. “Go and find a donkey tied with her colt and bring them to me.” While Jesus did this to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah, it also showed them a glimpse of His divinity. He knew what they would find and exactly how everything would happen, down to seemingly insignificant details. How else does Jesus show His divine nature even before His ascension? Why are these signs of His divinity important for us? What do they say about the kingdom He has come to claim? Compare the signs Samuel predicted for Saul in 1 Samuel 10 as proof that God had anointed him king over Israel. Why are they so specific? What does that say about Jesus making specific predictions?

Matthew states that Jesus fulfills Zechariah 9:9 as He rides into the city. In that chapter of Zechariah, the Lord declares that the enemies of Israel will be brought down. Damascus, Tyre, Sidon, Philistia, Greece—all of them would be defeated when the Lord saved His people. Jerusalem would no longer be at war, because the Lord’s victory would be complete. How does Jesus riding into Jerusalem fulfill these promises of peace? How does He give us hope in political and worldly terms, especially in the midst of our enemies? Consider passages like Psalm 46 or Psalm 18 which describe the Lord as a warrior defending His people.

The crowds which greet Jesus spread their cloaks, just as the followers of Jehu greeted him as king in 2 Kings 9:13. They even recognized that Jesus was the fulfillment of Psalm 118, since they quoted it in their joy. Yet they failed to understand who Jesus is. “Who is this?” they ask. “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” A prophet, not a king. How could they get so much right and still be so wrong? In what ways do we run the risk of misunderstanding who Jesus is? How does John 1 help us to understand this?

Between this passage and the beginning of Christ’s passion in Matthew 26, Jesus becomes increasingly confrontational. The parables speak about casting out. Jesus openly argues with the Jews who plot to kill Him. He proclaims woes against them and speaks about the end of the temple and the end of all things. How is Jesus entering Jerusalem the tipping point? Why does rejecting Jesus now carry so high a price? Why does Advent carry a sense of urgency different from the rest of the year? Consider John 19:15 and its consequences for us.