Friday, June 24, 2005

Great People Of the Bible- Week #4- Joseph

I decided to post next weeks study a bit early just in case I don't make it to a computer while I am in Alaska. I hope this study is useful to you. Please feel free to use the comment section to post questions or other items.

JOSEPH (the guy with the coat)

Integrity amid impossible circumstances, that is that's the life of Joseph. Why not give up, when nothing works out? This character makes clear that nothing is left to chance.

As a youngster, Joseph was overconfident. His natural self-assurance, increased by being Jacobs favorite son and by knowing of God's designs on his life was unbearable by his ten older brothers, who eventually conspired against him. But this self-assurance, molded by pain and combined with a personal knowledge of God, allowed him to survive and prosper where most would have failed. He added quiet wisdom to his confidence and won the hearts of everyone he met, Potiphar, the warden, other prisoners, the king, and after many years, even those ten brothers.

Perhaps you can identify with one or more of these hardships Joseph experienced: he was betrayed and deserted by his family, exposed to sexual temptation, and punished for doing the right thing; he endured long imprisonment and was forgotten by those he helped. As you go through his story note Joseph's positive response that transformed each setback into a step forward. He didn't spend much time asking "Why?" His approach was, "What shall I do now?" Those who met Joseph were aware that wherever he went and whatever he did, God was with him.

Read Genesis Chapters 37 & 39

-How did Joseph come to be in Potiphar's house?
-What was Joseph's reputation in this Egyptian household?
-How did his responsibilities grow?
-Who was behind his success?
-Why would the temptation to please Potiphar's wife be very strong?
-What words would you use to describe the qualities that mark Joseph's character? His physical appearance?
-Against whom did Joseph refuse to sin? How was this a safeguard?
-When trapped, how did Joseph handle sexual temptation

Read 1 Corinthians 6:18 & James 4:7

-Why are we urged to "flee" in the one instance and "resist" in the other?
-What is the difference?

-What sacrifice did Joseph make to preserve his personal integrity?
-Imagine Joseph's feelings in prison. What new temptations would be found there?
-What made all the difference in Joseph's circumstances? (see verse 21)

Joseph is a great example of faithfulness in extreme circumstances. Remember that God will give you the strength to resist all temptation and turn them into blessings in your life.

Have a great week.

Next week = MOSES

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Great People Of the Bible- Week #3- Abraham & Sarah


In Abraham, God begins a covenant people who will bless the world. This promise would find its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Abraham and Sarah want to believe in God's purpose for them but they have some problems with how it works out in the present.

We all know that there are consequences to any action we take. What we do can set into motion a series of events that may continue long after we're gone. Unfortunately, when we are making a decision most of us think only of the immediate consequences. These are often misleading because they are short-lived.

Abraham was called by God and he had to decide weather he was going to pack up all he owned and follow God's call to an uncertain future or to stay put and live in the security of what he already knew. All he had to go on was God's promise to guide and bless him. Abraham could hardly have been expected to visualize how much of the future was resting on him, but his obedience affected the history of the world. His action set into motion the development of the nation that God would eventually use as his own when he came to this earth as a baby.

You probably don't know the long-term effects of most decisions you make, but God does. His plan is perfect and we should seek his council in all things.

Both Sarah and Abraham knew what it was like to wait. There probably isn't anything harder to do than to wait, whether we are expecting something good, something bad, or an unknown. One way we often cope with a long wait is to begin "helping" God get his plan into action. Sarah tried this approach. She was too old to expect to have a child of her own, so she thought God must have something else in mind. From Sarah's point of view this could only be done by giving Abraham a son by another woman (a common practice in that day). The plan seemed harmless enough and seemed to work-- at first. But as you read the story you are struck by how often it seems Sarah regretted her decision.

Another way we cope with a long wait is to gradually conclude that what we're waiting for is never going to happen. Sarah waited 90 years to have a baby! When God told her she would finally have one, she laughed. How could God possibly make this happen! When confronted about her laughter, she lied (as she had seen her husband do from time to time).

We find ourselves in these two characters. We can learn from their mistakes and their successes. May God bless you as you discover the greatness of Abraham and Sarah.

Read Genesis 12:1-13:4
-What challenge and promise did God give to Abraham (Abram)?
-Why would God's words be a special challenge for Sarah at her age?
-What kind of priority did Abraham establish for himself and his household in Canaan?
-How was their faith tested?
-What were the consequences to Sarah, Abraham, and Pharaoh as a result of this plan?
-How did the Lord intervene for all of them?

Read Genesis 15:1-6 & 16:1-6
-What suggestion did Sarah make to her husband?
-How cooperative was Abraham in the plan?
-What was missing in their discussion of her idea?
-After Hagar became pregnant, what happened to Sarah's relationship with her? To Sarah's own sense of self-esteem? To Sarah's communication with her husband?

Read Genesis 17:15-19
-What special reassurance did God give to Sarah? (Sarah means "princess")
-What do you think Abraham's laugh meant?

Read Genesis 18:1-15
-Why did Sarah laugh to herself as what she overheard?
-When do you think she realized who her guest was?
-What would it have taken for God's promise to be fulfilled?

Read Genesis 21:1-13
-How did God answer the question Sarah had asked in Genesis 18:13b?
-What was different about Sarah's laughter on this occasion? (Isaac means "laugher")

Read Hebrews 11:8-19
-What attitudes enabled Abraham and Sarah to live by Faith?
-What does it mean to be an alien and a stranger on earth?
-How would a commitment to these roles affect your daily life?

Have a great week everyone! I will be in Alaska next week but I will still post the study on Wednesday. Please pray for us as we are teaching VBS next week. Next weeks study = Joseph!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Great People Of the Bible- Week #2- Noah

Welcome to week #2 of our online Bible study. I pray God continues to bless us as we study His word.

I have found that it is difficult to print the study right from so what I recommend you do is copy and paste the study into word or another word processing program if you want to print it out.

Every "righteous man" in scripture is a person of faith. Noah models the kind of faith that shows itself in submission and obedience. The whole passage makes clear that a righteous God enforces righteousness and without God's deliverance, no descendant of Adam would escape the Creator's judgment.

The story of Noah's life involves not one, but two great and tragic floods. The world in Noah's day was flooded with evil. The number of those who remembered the God of creation, perfection, and love had dwindled to one. Of God's people, only Noah was left. God's response to the severe situation was a 120-year-long last chance, during which he had Noah build a graphic illustration of the message of his life. Nothing like a huge boat on dry land to make a point! For Noah, obedience meant a long-term commitment to a project.

Read Genesis 6:5-13

-What did God see when he looked at earth?
-In these verses what are the words and phrases which describe Noah?

Read Genesis 6:14-22

-What evidence do you find of God's affection and approval of Noah?In order to walk with someone (rather than have them walk with you) what do you have to do?
-Pretend you are Noah. In what ways would it have been hard to walk with God in the kind of world pictured in chapter six?
-In what ways would it have been helpful to walk with God in that world?

Read Genesis 7

-What are the words and phrases in chapter seven which add to our picture of what Noah did to "walk with God"?What would you have found especially hard about living on the ark?
-Who benefited by Noah's walk with God?
-In what ways do other people benefit because you walk with God?
-How is your walk with God today? What can be done to strengthen it? How can we be more like Noah? How can God help you do this?

Spend some time in prayer thanking God for his servant Noah. Thank him for the salvation that has been given to us first through the water of the flood and secondly through the water of baptism. Ask him to help you in your walk with him.

Please feel free to leave a comment if something strikes you or you have a question. Peace be with you all this week.

Next Week = Abraham & Sarah

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Great People Of the Bible- Week #1- Adam & Eve

Welcome to week #1 of our summer Bible study. Just a few short things in preparation. You can log on anytime 24 hours a day to see this study. Feel free to print it out if you want. Work on it at lunch, or in the morning or anytime you can set aside. You don't need to respond back to me with your answers to all the questions but feel free to make comments or ask questions in the comments section. This can get some discussion going each week. Check back throughout the week to see any insights that may have been posted. If you want to email me any questions or comments directly you can do so at or at

Adam & Eve
Like Adam and Eve, we know ourselves to rank somewhere between animals and angels. We are dust and also "living souls". We seek God as our source, but we shrink from him as our moral judge. What we remember only occasionally about ourselves stands out boldly in these early chapters of the Bible. Adam and Eve knew what it was like to live in paradise. They also felt the full force of sin. There are many things we can learn from the first great people of the Bible.

Read Genesis 1:26-31

  • What made Adam and Eve distinctly different from the rest of creation? In what ways do you think men and women reflect the "image of God"?
  • What responsibilities and privileges did God give that first man and woman?

Read Genesis 2:4-7, 15-25

  • What additional responsibilities and privileges were given to man in this more detailed account of man's creation? What limits did God set?
  • When God brought Adam and Eve together, what principles did he establish for marriage?
  • What ideas and hopes do you think God had for that first man and woman? How would you describe their relationship to God? To each other? To their environment?

Read Genesis 3:1-24

  • What insinuation about God did the serpent make to Eve?
  • What immediate effect did Eve's choice have on her and her husband? On their relationship with God?
  • What negative and positive predictions about the future did God make to Adam & Eve?
  • What role would the woman play in the fulfillment of God's promise
  • How did Adam respond to this message of hope? In light of the nature of God's judgment, what was significant about his responses?

Read Genesis 4:1-2, 25-26; 5:1-4

  • When Eve named her son Cain, how was she expressing her faith in God's promise of 3:15? Cain proved to be a bitter disappointment. Abel was the godly son, but Cain murdered him. How did Eve's response to Seth's birth show that her hope was still on God?
  • How can we experience a new beginning when we sin? Read 1 John 1:7-9, Psalm 103:3,12.
  • In what specific ways can Adam and Eve be examples of challenge and encouragement to us?
  • How do their experiences shape our experiences?

Spend some time in prayer and thank God for his love and his faithfulness. Tell him what is on your heart, he is there to listen and to answer. Ask God to bless us all as we study his word.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

". . .And also with you." or "of being a Jedi for Jesus?"

My family and I saw the final installment of the Star Wars series the day after it opened. That Friday was a half day at our parochial day school and as it happened there were more than a dozen little Lutheran students in the theater with us. When the first greeting, "May the Force be with you" came there was almost a collective response from the house, "and also with you."

This is not a critics corner review of the film but rather a short post about a few intriguing insights offered by Little Lutherans concerning the legend of Luke, Leia, Lando and the likes.

The one thing that is certainly with us all is the nature of sin and the pull of temptation. Why did Anakin turn to the dark side? That is a question that has been asked by more than one child whose first exposure to Star Wars was the Phantom Menace and a cute little boy flying around in a pod racer. The one thing in Revenge reminds us of, whether or not intended, is that one great difference between those who dwelling in darkness and the child of light is motive. The Sith's primary motive is self serving, the Jedi's primary motive is serving the greater good. This is not lost on Anikan, in fact he even recognizes it, yet self is that which he embraces in the end. It is a picture of original sin at its best. The desire for self that leads one to call good evil and evil good, day night and night day, the Jedi traitors and the Sith defenders. It is a battle waged in us daily and looking inside ourselves for the answer will only lead to darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. In the fast paced, action packed, fiery times of our lives we must look outside of ourselves, to He who exposes the darkness for what it is, He who is selflessness incarnate, Jesus Christ, "who came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many." (Mk. 10:45)

I doubt I'll be blogging on this again so a short epilogue to the saga.
This past Holy Week my son asked me if when Jesus came back to life he would be, "using His invisible mode." I knew immediately that he was thinking of the final scene in Return of the Jedi when Obi Wan, Yoda and Anakin make an appearance in "invisible mode." How does one respond? No. When Jesus came back to life on Easter Sunday His body was alive, healthy and seen by all of His disciples. Yet, Jesus is here today and on this holy week as every holy week he is present with us, but only those who have eyes of faith can see him, just like only Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker could see the other Jedi. So son, Jesus rose physically from the grave, he is present with us even now and those of us who are members of the "order", the church, can see Him even if it is in "invisible mode."

Great People of the Bible- A Preview

For our summer Bible study I would like to spend some time looking at the great people of the Bible. I will post a new study each Wednesday of the summer. You will need your Bible or you can look up the passages at Please feel free to comment on the study or ask questions in the comments section. We can also use the comment section for prayer requests. If you have a question or comment but do not want to post it you can email me at

What makes a person great? In many ways we see the greatness of people in what they have done. We make them role models, we try to imitate them. When you look at the great people of the Bible you see individuals who struggled with difficult family relationships, failure, illness, poverty, death, war, temptations, and loneliness. These are many of the same things we struggle with today. Sometimes they conquered, sometimes they failed, always they experienced God's faithfulness.

God uses ordinary people in significant and sometimes spectacular ways. He shaped their lives through trials and challenges. These great people can give us encouragement and hope for our lives today. We have the same resource they had-- faith in a great God.

Spend some time in the next week thinking about the great people in the Bible. Make a list of them and their accomplishments. Try to see how God used them and their situation to do great things even in the midst of sin.

Next week we will take a look at Adam and Eve. To prepare please read Genesis 1:26-31; 2:4-7, 15-25; 3:1-24; 4:1-2, 25-26; 5:1-4.

Please let me know if you have any questions. May God richly bless you as you take time to study His wonderful word.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Bible Study!

We have come to the end of our cycle of Wednesday evening Bible studies here at Bethany. For those who would like to continue study of the Word this summer, I will be posting some readings and some questions to ponder each week. Log on when you get a chance, comment when you feel led and lets stay connected to the Word. Look for the fist post later this week. I look forward to hearing from you. May God bless us as we begin this time together in cyberspace.

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