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: John 1:35-42.

The Gospel of John opens with the testimony of John the Baptist regarding Jesus. This is the second time that John calls Jesus “the Lamb of God,” a clear reference to what Jesus has come into the world to do. Hearing this, two of John’s disciples immediately follow after Jesus, and John does not protest. How does John teach us the importance of humility as pastors? What does it mean to point to Jesus in an age that loves attention? Consider also the words of the Baptist in John 3:25-30 and what they mean for us who stand in the public eye.

When Jesus sees the two disciples of John following him, he turns to them and speaks for the first time in the Gospel of John. What are you seeking? People have many reasons for following after Jesus. Why is it important to stop and examine our motives regarding faith? How might someone follow Jesus for the wrong reasons? What are the consequences of seeking Jesus in the wrong way? Compare John 6 and the reasons why the crowds followed Jesus as well as the reasons why they stopped following him.

Andrew is introduced as one of those two disciples, but also as the brother of Simon Peter. By the time John wrote this Gospel, Peter was obviously well known to those who heard this Gospel, but Andrew was not. Indeed, Andrew does not appear much in the New Testament at all, but he carried out his work faithfully regardless. How does Andrew teach us what it means to be content in God when we labor in obscurity? What is the danger of seeking to be remembered simply for its own sake, rather than for what we have done for God? What does Isaiah 56:1-5 mean for us whose names will be forgotten in the world?

When Andrew began to follow after Jesus, he immediately went to his brother Peter and told him about Jesus. Here is the Messiah, the one for whom we have waited for so long. What does Andrew teach us about the mission of the Church? How should we approach sharing the Gospel? As Andrew first told the Gospel to his own brother, how should that shape our own approach to mission work in the world? How does the example of men like Philip in Acts 8, who proclaimed the Word even while fleeing from persecution, move us today?

St. Andrew’s Day occurs at or near the beginning of the liturgical year in the Christian West. Since Advent is also a time of expectation, especially of the end of all things, what can we learn from Andrew as time runs quickly away? What should our priorities be in these latter days? What does it mean to follow Jesus as we wait for his sudden return? Why does Paul exhort us to encourage one another as the day draws near in 1 Thessalonians 4-5?

Click here for the reading: Romans 10:8-18.

Paul wrestles with a question which causes a scandal: why did Israel to whom the promises came fail to believe? Here in the middle of answering this question in Romans 9-11, Paul lays out what Israel failed to understand. Righteousness is a matter of faith alone. Why was Israel hardened in this way? In what ways are we in danger of becoming hardened in the same way, even as we hear the Gospel like Israel did? Read also Deuteronomy 30, which Paul quotes in this chapter to make his point. What was Moses warning Israel against in that passage?

The Gospel is not confusing or hard to understand. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe with your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. As the heart stands for our inmost self and the mouth stands for our outward expression, faith is a matter of the whole man. In what ways, verbal and nonverbal, do we confess our faith in Christ? Why is this confession, outward and inward, so important for a living faith? In a time when we consider matters of the heart to be private, why is the Gospel meant to be public? Compare Matthew 16:13-20 and the confession of Peter to this passage.

As Acts 22:21-22 shows us, the Jews especially took offense that the promises of God were being given to the Gentiles. Paul reaffirms here that the Gospel is meant for all, Jew and Greek alike. All who call on his name will be saved, without exception, without distinction. What does this mean for the mission of the Church? Since Paul felt a strong desire that his own people might be saved, what does this mean for proclaiming the message to our own people as well? Consider also Acts 10 and Peter’s change of heart regarding Cornelius.

Yet no one can be saved if they have not heard the Gospel! No one can hear it if no one proclaims that life-giving message! Preaching is central to the mission of the Church, in a way that no other activity can be. How does this reality shape our understanding of preaching? How does it encourage us for the task? Since the word for “beautiful” can also mean “timely” or “seasonable,” how is preaching connected to God’s providence? How does Paul emphasize preaching also in passages like 2 Timothy 4:1-5?

Preaching is not an easy task, as the apostles like Andrew who died because of the word they proclaimed knew well. The prophets of old proclaimed a word which fell on deaf and angry ears. We live in the end of the ages, when the love of many will grow cold. How does this passage prepare us for difficult times, especially as the end of all things grows closer by the day? How can we find comfort in knowing that preaching is part of God’s will even when we suffer for it? How does the Lord’s reply to Jeremiah complaint in Jeremiah 15:10-21 apply even to our own day?

Click here for the reading: Ezekiel 3:16-21.

It has been seven days since Ezekiel saw the overwhelming glory of the Lord. He has had time to reflect on what the Lord has sent him to do. Yet it seems that in the bitterness of his spirit, Ezekiel sits hesitating of what is to come. Why does the Lord remind him of his call? How might the experience of the former prophets make him pause? What things make us hesitate from carrying out our own calling from the Lord? Compare also the complaints of Jeremiah to the Lord, especially in Jeremiah 20.

Ezekiel is set as the watchman of Israel. As a watchman, he must warn the people of coming dangers, letting them know what he sees and hears. Yet the approaching enemy of Israel is not something earthly, but the Lord himself! Why is the Lord opposed to his people? In what ways do we make God into our enemy? Why should we not forget that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God? Why should we also remember God’s wrath in these days? Consider also the words of Christ in Matthew 10:28 about the fear of the Lord.

The charge laid upon Ezekiel is simple, yet a difficult one. The wicked man who continues in his wickedness or the righteous man who falls from his righteousness must both be warned of the coming judgment. If Ezekiel fails in this, the judgment will still come, but for him as well! Why should we also heed this word given to Ezekiel? How is God’s call like a yoke laid upon us? How do we act as watchmen for the Church even in what we do, rather than just what we say? How do Paul’s requirements for pastors in 1 Timothy 3 relate to this passage?

On the other hand, when Ezekiel listens to the Lord and warns against evil, he delivers his soul from judgment. This is true even if the wicked man refuses to listen to that word and dies in his sin. Why does God’s judgment of pastors focus on their message? Why is it so easy to turn away from speaking the truth, especially on difficult topics? What does James mean that not many should become teachers in James 3?

Andrew, who we remember today, also suffered much for the sake of God. Tradition holds that he became a martyr by being crucified on an X-shaped cross. Suffering is part of the call of being Israel’s watchman, as Ezekiel knew while living in exile in Babylon. How do the examples of Andrew and Ezekiel teach us what it means to be faithful to God? What sort of temptations exist in our day that might lead us away from our call, even within our churches? Consider also the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:24-25 and what they mean for us in living as the watchmen of Israel.

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.

Click here for the reading: Romans 13:11-14.

The reading from Romans 13 comes in the midst of Paul describing what it means to be a Christian in light of all that was said in the first eleven chapters. Here, however, Paul gives us another reason for living as Christians. The time of the end comes ever closer with each passing day. Why should the nearness of Christ’s return shape our daily lives? How does the season of Advent teach us about this? In the light of a passage like 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, what should we encourage one another to do?

Paul warns us that the hour has already come to wake up from sleep. The day is fast approaching, and the night is almost gone. Why is a danger to be spiritually asleep? How do we fall spiritually asleep? Are there dangers in the present time that threaten to lull us to sleep that former generations did not know? What kind of dangers threaten Christians that do not threaten the world in the same way? Consider Psalm 141 and what it means to call on the Lord in view of the coming dawn.

The central focus of this passage is a call to lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Paul then spells out in specific detail what that means for us, not leaving it up to us to determine for ourselves. What does it mean to walk properly or decently as a Christian? In what ways do Christians fall into the sins which Paul lists? Why is it important to talk about the works of darkness in concrete examples, rather than leaving it up to our imagination? Compare the longer list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21. Why do these things prevent us from inheriting the kingdom of God?

Clothe yourself with Christ, Paul says, and make no provision for the flesh. What does Paul mean by the flesh and its desires? What does it mean to make provision for the flesh, especially in the light of Christ’s return? How do we avoid making such provision? What does it mean to put on Christ, especially in terms of resisting evil desires? In Genesis 4:6-7, the Lord warns Cain to resist the sin crouching at his door. How do the negative examples of Scripture teach us about the dangers of evil desire?

Paul immediately follows this section with a long exhortation about bearing with the failings of the weak. We should build one another up and not please ourselves. How is passing a sinful judgment on one another opposed to putting on Christ? Why does Paul call for us to wake up as the body of Christ and not merely to wake up as individuals? Why should we put off even what is legitimate and not please ourselves? Based on 1 Corinthians 8-9, how can we become disqualified in these issues?