Readings

  • Luke 1:26-56
  • John 1:1-14
  • 1 John 1:1-5

Prayer

Pray… and thank God that nothing is impossible with Him. Pray that you will understand what this means to live as a Christian and that you will continue to lean on this great truth throughout your life.

Day 243 – Jesus’ Conception

John the Baptist’s conception & birth

 

  • Today’s events in Luke occur alongside the readings that we looked at yesterday. Elizabeth is six months pregnant with John at the moment the angel appeared to Mary.
  • From the famous words, often said at Christmas Eve services around the country, of Luke 1, describe the way that Mary heard that she was going to have a baby. What was her response? Was it a good response?
  • Mary would have been a young teenager, perhaps 13 or 14 years old. That’s about your age… or even younger! She was “betrothed” to Joseph – this is like an engagement that you can’t break. They weren’t married, and hadn’t slept together. Imagine being in her situation as you read the words of Luke.
  • Who did Mary go to visit after the visit from the angel? What encouraged both women whilst they were with each other? Do you think an unborn baby could feel “joy”?
  • How did Mary praise God? This song is now known as the “Magnificat” and is often played in churches, although more regularly in Catholic services.
  • Mary was just a simple, young, unmarried girl from the country. God used her in an amazing way. Using the words of the song she sings, how can you tell she understand that what was happening was bigger than “just her”?
  • Catholics put great emphasis on the importance of Mary. They consider her one of the greatest saints and give her a status of “mother of God”. Whilst Mary indeed played an important part in Jesus’ appearance on earth, you should guard against putting too much emphasis on her. We pray to Jesus, not Mary. Jesus saves – not Mary. The scriptures never puts Mary on such a platform, and nor should you.
  • The opening verses of John’s gospel are among some of the most wonderful of the whole New Testament. You’ll know them, for we read them on Day 1, but read them again carefully. What do the opening words remind us of?
  • Why is Jesus referred to as the “Word”?
  • What does John 1:1 tell us about the Trinity? How does it describe one God in three Persons?
  • All things (except God) were created by Jesus, through Him and for Him. Jesus has always been. Always remember that as you read the account of the Gospels and see Jesus interacting with the world and being rejected by the people, that He himself made them all.
  • John 1:9-13 tells us that not everyone will accept Him – not then, and not now. Does this comfort you or distress you? What wonderful news is there for those who do “believe in His name”?

 

Oh what verses we read today! Probably some of the most famous of all in Luke (apart from those of his birth, which we’ll read soon!) and those wonderful words that John opens his gospel with, which proclaim just how great Jesus is.

 

Whilst many didn’t spot it at the time, Jesus is the person that the Old Testament scriptures have been talking about all the way through, and here we are, about to read about him. This is such a pivotal moment in the history of mankind, and mankind’s relationship with God. That sounds like I’m overblowing it. I’m not! I’m really not!

 

You’re going to read stuff over the next couple of weeks that you know well. Don’t let that be a barrier to you drinking in the enormity of what it is to know that our God came to the world to become our Saviour. It’s *huge*.

 

You’re allowed to have a massive grin on your face as you think about it. You should! Jesus is utterly awesome and all we need, and we’re going to find out all about him as we feast on the message of the gospel writers. Onwards!

 Readings

  • None… unless you need to catch up!

Prayer

Pray… for something that is on your mind today.

Day 242 – Day Off

 

 

Take a look at this link: https://www.bible-history.com/old-testament/quicksummary.html

 

I don’t know how much of the Old Testament you would have known about before you started, but you’ve pretty much covered all of it in the last 240 days.

 

Look through the summary on this page. I bet for each section of the summary, you could talk knowledgeably about what happened. How God acted, what the people did, and where they were.

 

I really hope that that is so encouraging for you! You deserve a massive pat on the back for your hard work so far this year. You’re read the Old Testament!

 

This week is a great week because we meet Jesus in the flesh for the first time. I hope that excites you!

 

I know that not everyone watches the introduction videos I’ve posted, but you’re missing out if so! Take a look at the one for Luke to help frame the next couple of weeks of reading. I’ll post the videos for the other gospels along the way too.

 

Enjoy!

 

 Readings

  • Luke 1:1-25
  • Luke 1:57-80
  • Malachi 4:5-6

Prayer

Pray… that as we look at the birth of John the Baptist today, we will remember not only him, but who he prepared the way for.

Day 241 – Jesus’ Predecessor

John the Baptist’s conception & birth

 

  • Of all the Gospels, Luke’s begins at the earliest moment, his conception (i.e. how his mother became pregnant), and then birth, of John the Baptist. We’re starting with Luke today, but we’ll spend the next couple of months digging into all four gospel accounts in detail.
  • Who was Zacharias, and what was he doing when he heard the news that he was about to become a dad?
  • Why do you think he had a hard time believing the news that the angel gave him? You might have several good reasons! How long do you think Zacharias had been praying for a child?
  • How was Zacharias affected because of his initial disbelief? Do you think this was unfair, or was it part of the way the angel demonstrated the validity of the promise?
  • Zacharias had probably been praying for a child for a very long time. Have you been praying for something for a long time? If it hasn’t happened, do you continue in faithful prayer? Is there something you have stopped praying for because you were disheartened?
  • The second section of Luke 1 we read today gives us a view of John’s birth and the days immediately afterwards. Why did his parents name him “John”? Notice that in verse 62, Zacharias’ relatives signed to him – presumably this meant that he was deaf as well as mute!
  • What truths about John and his ministry did Zacharias prophecy about in his song?
  • Imagine you were not able to hear or speak for several months, and then had that restriction taken away from you instantly, like Zacharias. How would you react, and what would you say (or sing)?
  • John was a fulfilment of the promise in Malachi 4. How? Moses wasn’t Elijah himself, of course, but someone who came demonstrating the “spirit and power of Elijah”. Jesus refers to John being the man Malachi prophesied about in Matthew 11:13.

 

 

It’s important to read these words, and indeed all those in the New Testament, in light not just of the Old Testament, but of the 400 years of “quietness” that occurred between Malachi, yesterday’s reading, and the Gospels that we begin today.

 

Make sure you’re aware of this – it’s a long time! 400 years between day 240 and 241!

 

People would have been expecting a “messiah” of some type for many hundreds of years, and things in the world would have been much different from the days of Nehemiah and Ezra. The Jewish people would have been spread around, different denominations of Judaism would have evolved, and the influence of the Persian, Greek and Roman cultures would have dominated and influences their way of life. I would highly recommend doing some reading about this period of time – it will help you to understand the world that John (and then Jesus) would come and speak into. Perhaps your study bible has an overview which you could check out?

 Readings

  • Malachi 2:7… to the end of the Old Testament!

Prayer

Pray… that as the Israelites set their sights on the promised Messiah to come, that we will set our sights (and hearts) on Jesus, thanking God that He has come – and will come again!

Day 240 – Malachi

The final Old Testament prophet (400+ years before Christ) & prophecies of Christ

 

  • Malachi is a rich book, with an interesting backdrop. Shame we’re only reading half of it! Let’s set the scene again. It’s 100 years after Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem. The temple has been built, as have the walls. But, to the frustration of many of the people, life was hard. God hadn’t “dwelt” in the new temple like He had in Solomon’s. The new temple and city were inferior to the ones previously. Judah was a reasonably insignificant 25 square miles of territory, with only around 150,000 people in it. They had no king and were no longer an independent nation. It was a time where the people longed to hear God speak and act, but didn’t, meaning that they lived by faith rather than sight. They were under almost constant oppression from their neighbours. In this situation, a culture of cynicism and frustration grew.
  • Malachi 2 tells us that the people have made God weary with their words. What were the people complaining about? Verses 13-14 have one example, and give us God’s response through Malachi.
  • The last verse of Malachi 2 has the people challenging God about His justice. In the third chapter, who does God say would come? We know that this messenger will be John the Baptist, and the “person to come” will be Christ. He will “come to the temple” (so God will indeed “dwell” there!).
  • What does Malachi say that the “person to come” (i.e. Jesus) will do in Malachi 3:2-5? Be very clear on this – the passage talks of “purifying” some people (verse 3), and judging others (verse 5). The justice that the people called for will certainly come through Jesus.
  • Malachi 4 talks of the “sun of righteousness” in verse 3. Christians throughout the ages have understood this to be another prophecy of Jesus. Malachi 4:5 encourages the people that it will be a “great and awesome” day. Never was a truer word spoken!

 

 

I’ve not gone into great detail with today’s passages, as I don’t want to detract from Jesus. We’ve been looking at His handiwork throughout the Old Testament as we’ve read through it, all the way from Genesis 1:1. Now, finally, we are about to usher in the time when He came to earth in physical form. 240 days of reading through God’s salvation plan has brought us to the brink of the greatest news humanity has ever heard. The Israelites had to wait 400 more years – happily, we just have to wait until tomorrow!

 

Well done on a great achievement in reading thus far. Now let’s read on to hear more about what Christ has achieved for us, which (unlike these bible readings) we could never have accomplished for ourselves…

 Readings

  • Nehemiah 8
  • Nehemiah 9
  • Deuteronomy 31:9-13

Prayer

Pray… and give thanks for God for guiding us to our last days in the Old Testament. Use Nehemiah 9 as a structure for things to thank God for.

Day 239 – ezra

Ezra reads the Law to the people & the benefits of bible reading

 

  • Today we conclude the historical story of the people of Israel, God’s chosen people. We’ve got one more reading from the Old Testament tomorrow, which focuses on Malachi, who speaks about life after the exile, and prophecies the future coming of Christ, but the biblical history – all of the acts of the Israelites and how God looked after them – finishes today. Well done on reaching this moment. You have all worked so hard to get here! I hope it has been enriching for you to find out all about the amazing story of the Jewish nation.
  • What did Ezra do before all the people in Nehemiah 8? Why did he do it? The passage from Deuteronomy may help.
  • Verses 2, 3, 7 and 8 all emphasise something similar. What is it? Why is understanding, clarity and explanation so important? Do you think our studies through the Old Testament this year have brought clarity and understanding? Do you have any more questions? Do you seek to get them answered?
  • What is the attitude of the people to this (let’s be honest, very long!) church service?
  • Nehemiah 9 is a prayer of acknowledgment of God’s love for His people, a confession of all the historical sin of the people, and a commitment, in the form of a new covenant, to walk with God from that day. Read it carefully. As you do, think back to the time we studied the events mentioned, and try and remember what we learned together then. Do you think the people now will do better than their ancestors?
  • Look at how much time the people spent with God in Nehemiah 9:3. Have you ever spent quality (and I mean extended and focused) time with God, beyond the usual 25 minutes of bible reading, or the occasional prayer? How do you think it would help you if you did? Would it be time well spent? What’s stopping you?
  • Which was your favourite moment of Israel’s history? Which story do you think changed your understanding of God the most (i.e. in His character, or love, or forgiveness, or anger)?

 

 

We’re finishing a story in the Old Testament which is true history. Every year there are more discoveries made to back up the historical accuracy of biblical records.

 

This is more than just a story though. Think about what you can see of God in the Old Testament. You might have been awed by His creation, and the discussions of His majesty in Job. You may love the beauty in the way the Psalms proclaim Him in song. You may have marvelled at his repeated forgiveness and patience. You may have been troubled at the war and the bloodshed found in Joshua. You might have struggled to know where He was in the Kings!

 

We see so much of God, don’t we? Stuff we can grapple with, and things that are just beyond our comprehension.

 

We’ve seen Jesus in the Old Testament too, haven’t we? The New Testament says that the whole of the Old Testament proclaims His name. Soon, we’ll be reading about his incarnation (that means appearance) in the flesh – the event that all these Old Testament stories were waiting for and guiding us to. I hope our time in the Old Testament gives you such a wonderfully deep and rich background to the familiar gospel stories we’re soon to read!

 

 Readings

  • Nehemiah 5
  • Nehemiah 6
  • Zechariah 8:7-15

Prayer

Pray… that you will not be deceived by those around you who try and trick you away from God’s work or following Him in your heart.

Day 238 – Nehemiah #3

Nehemiah experiences opposition & needs strong hands to continue

 

  • As the work continued on the wall, Nehemiah had to deal with a problem that occured. The problem is described in the first 5 verses of Nehemiah 5, and Nehemiah’s resolution to the problem can be found between Nehemiah 5:6-13.
  • What was the problem? What (apart from possibly a bad harvest) were some of the causes of the problem?
  • Why was Nehemiah so angry? Was Nehemiah blameless himself? Look at verse 10 to help you.
  • What did the leaders agree to do? How did Nehemiah set a good example and act honourably in Nehemiah 5:14-19?
  • Sanballat (and friends), whose unhelpful deeds we have read about before, were up to their tricks again in Nehemiah 6. What was their tactic this time? Why did Nehemiah not meet up with them? It doesn’t say in the passage, but what might he have been afraid of
  • Sanballat was undeterred! In his open letter (i.e. a letter which was shared with anyone who wanted to read it), what did he write? What lies and false accusations can you spot, especially in Nehemiah 6:6?
  • Nehemiah visited a man named Shemaiah in Nehemiah 6:10 onwards. What did Nehemiah find out about this man after meeting with him?
  • We’ve just read how Nehemiah dealt with three tactics used by his enemies (luring him away from work, spreading false rumours, and planting false advisers). He was able to identify these distractions and avoid them. What things do you think may be distracting you from your service to God? Can you spot them? More to the point, can you deal with them?

 

 

There are many distractions, good and bad, that can cause our eyes to be taken off a life lived for God. Have a think about one good thing that gets in the way of your faith, and one bad thing, and pray about both, asking God for the wisdom to spot issues and the strength to deal with them.

 Readings

  • Nehemiah 3
  • Nehemiah 4
  • Proverbs 25:28

Prayer

Pray… that through these studies you will have the tools to equip yourself to do God’s work in this world.

Day 237 – Nehemiah #2

Rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls & walls as a symbol of emotional control

 

Don’t worry about the specifics of every name and gate in chapter 3.

 

  • In our readings today and tomorrow we’ll read about events that occurred as the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt. Unsurprisingly, things weren’t always easy, and like the temple, there was plenty of opposition.
  • You might have skim read Nehemiah 3 a little, reading about each man and the bit of the wall that he built. That’s OK – to a point. The details are there for a reason though. Think about why we read these details. What does it say about the willingness of people to work? What about the scale of the job? What about the organisational abilities of those who oversaw the work, like Nehemiah? Can you think of anything else you can understand from thinking about this chapter as a whole?
  • What do you think some of the people chatted about as they worked next to each other?
  • Nehemiah mentioned that people did what they did as part of their service to God. What would God be able to write about you about your service to Him? What things are you doing, and where, to build up God’s kingdom?
  • Moving into Nehemiah 4, we see there was opposition. Sanballat and Tobiah were “greatly enraged” at the work. Sanballat was governor of Samaria, and whilst we don’t know what Tobiah did, we know he was an Ammonite, an historic enemies of the Israelites. How did they act in Nehemiah 4:1-3?
  • The mocking stepped up a level to potential violence in Nehemiah 4:8 onwards. How did Nehemiah react? What were the spirits like of the workers in verses 10 and 11?
  • As work resumed, in Nehemiah 4:15 onwards, how were the people described? What were they prepared for?

 

 

You might not know but since Chris arrived, the Eureka motto has been “sword and trowel”. This is taken from Nehemiah 4:17, which we read today. We aim to use Eureka to “equip you with the tools for you to use to protect yourself from the enemy and to serve God”. Do you feel equipped? Are there ways we could equip you better?

 

The passage in Proverbs likens a city with no walls to a man with no self control. Building up your walls, and making sure they stay repaired, is an important part of preparing yourself for being godly men and women. Equip yourself – and let us help you – to stand firm with Christ.

 

I thought I’d post a video today, just for fun, with catchy song as we’re nearing the end of the Old Testament. It’s ace. Watch it (and ignore the odd starting bit about carrots).

 

 

 Readings

  • Nehemiah 1
  • Nehemiah 2
  • Matthew 6:7-8

Prayer

Pray… for a specific situation where you know things are not right, even if it doesn’t personally affect you.

Day 236 – Nehemiah

The third return of people from captivity to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls & prayer

 

  • Today we begin our final week in the Old Testament! What a journey we have been on!
  • So, who is Nehemiah? Find out, in Nehemiah 1, where he is currently living (you may recognise it from the story of Esther) and what his job is. Find out, if you don’t already know, what sort of things Nehemiah would have had to do as part of his job.
  • The events of this book are roughly around 13 years after the arrival of Ezra back in Jerusalem. What did Nehemiah do when he first heard about the state of Jerusalem? When you hear bad news, is your usual response similar to Nehemiah’s?
  • Nehemiah wasn’t personally affected by the broken walls; before he heard the news, he was presumably in no rush to leave Susa. Is your heart broken when you hear of things against your Christian brothers and sisters? What about for war, or poverty, or non-Christian law? Can I encourage you to pray this week for situations that go beyond your own personal life?
  • What does Nehemiah pray for in Nehemiah 1?
  • In Nehemiah 2, Nehemiah spoje to the king, asking for help. Four months hd passed since he first heard the news about the walls. In the time that he spent waiting for a good opportunity to speak to the king, what do you think Nehemiah might have been doing to prepare for the conversation? What did he do just before he speaks to the king?
  • How did the king react? What did Jeremiah ask for in Nehemiah 2:7, and why do you think they might have been important? How does verse 10 back this up?
  • What was the first thing Nehemiah did when he arrived in Jerusalem?
  • What good leadership skills can you see in the way Nehemiah acted and spoke in these early days? Think about his worldly characteristics, as well as his godly ones.

 

Well, the people are continuing to build their lives back again in the Promised Land and Nehemiah has the tough job of starting the rather huge job of rebuilding the walls. Like Ezra with the temple, he will face challenges, both with keeping his own morale up, and from external sources, which we’ll read about tomorrow.

 

Nehemiah, and Ezra too, must have sometimes wondered whether it was all just too much! Sometimes it’s like that for us too. Are you behind in your reading plan at the moment? You may be a little overwhelmed with the job of keeping up, like Nehemiah might have felt as he surveyed the rubble of the walls. You might think of other challenges in your Christian life which are similarly challenging, such as sharing your faith with your unconvinced friends, or dealing with the challenges of lockdown.

 

Notice what Nehemiah does. He starts with prayer. When you have a challenge in front of you, let me encourage that to always be your starting point!

 

Then, in Nehemiah 2, he’s brave. He stands up in front of the king, putting himself on the front line. That would have been tough. It *is* tough. But Nehemiah was confident it was the right thing, and stood up and trusted in God.

 

Thirdly, as he surveyed the broken walls, his heart was filled with the importance of the task in front of him. Do you long for God’s name to be proclaimed amongst your friends? Standing up for God usually happens not because of a technical understanding of our jobs as Christians, but through a genuine desire to bring God into people’s lives. Do you have that desire? If you struggle with that, make that an area for personal prayer.

 

Finally, when he was challenged, he came to God. At the end of today’s readings, Nehemiah was mocked, but instead of fighting back, he relied on knowing that working for God was more important than a couple of guys giving him a hard time. What makes you give up? How can you give God the higher place and trust in Him during these moments?

 Readings

  • Ezra 7
  • Ezra 8:21-36
  • Ezra 9:1-11

Prayer

Pray… that as the letter that Ezra writes in today’s passages encouraged the people who read it, that you too will be encouraged by what you read and think about today.

Day 234 – Ezra

The second return of people from captivity to rebuild the people’s spiritual lives

 

  • Today’s readings continue to tell us about the way that the (increasingly numerous) people returning from exile continued to set up the framework of the spiritual, social and physical structures in the land of Israel again. In other words, we’re reading about how they got on with rebuilding their lives, aiming to bring it in line with God’s Law.
  • Today, we meet the person Ezra for the first time. From his mini genealogy in Ezra 9, who is he the very great grandson of?
  • Spend a moment thinking about what Aaron person did, and what important job he had as a priest; a job that Ezra was to continue. Ezra led the second group of people returning from exile, and clearly was a well known leader.
  • Ezra 7:10 is a verse worth highlighting. It shows us a key reason why Ezra made it easy for God to use him. Have you seen the film “Facing The Giants”? There’s a scene where a football coach is wondering where God is in the midst of his troubles. He’s reminded of two farmers waiting for rain, but only one of them trusted enough to prepare his fields for when the rain eventually came. Ezra is “preparing his field” too, by studying God’s Word, so that he was ready for God to use him. Look at the action words in this verse. It doesn’t happen by magic!
  • How are you preparing yourself for God’s work? These studies are a great start, but how better equipped do you feel now? Are you soaking in the great messages we’re reading?
  • What wonderful and encouraging words did the letter from the king say? How would this have encouraged the people?
  • Notice that the words we read in Ezra 8 and 9 were written in first person whereas chapter 7 isn’t. It’s difficult to say who wrote this book, and Ezra clearly wrote some of it… but not all of it!
  • What sin, discussed in Ezra 9, have many of the people committed over the years of exile? Based on the 70 years time-frame, I can imagine that the number of foreign people around them was high, so it’s unsurprising that this might have been a temptation that they faced.
  • Describe Ezra’s reaction and the way he prayed. Read to the end of Ezra 9 if you would like to know what happened to the marriages!

 

 

As Ezra prayed, some of the people gathered around him and heard his prayer. What must they have been thinking as he prayed? When we’re in church, what do you think when you here prayers? Which ones stand out particularly to you?

 

It’s important to note something about the problems about intermarriage in Ezra 9. God’s concern was not (and still is not) concerned about keeping the Jews ethnically pure, or something like that. We too, should have no concerns about marrying someone from another race or ethnic background. The issue that concerned God was that people were abandoning their faith and worshipping false gods, or getting involved in evil practises which God forbade. This is the reason God required them to only marry other Jews, not for racial segregation.