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?