Year of the Bible – Christmas – Week 1


Year of the Bible – Christmas 1

Since the full Year-of-the-Bible handouts conform with general confirmation instruction, daily devotionals are not available over Christmas. We encourage you to read the following passages in your daily studies.
Monday | Psalm 26-32 (23)
Tuesday | Genesis 4:1-8:12 (4:1-16)
Wednesday | Isaiah 9;1-13-5 (12:1-6)
Thursday | Mark 8:27-10:45 (10:13-27)
Friday | Luke 2:1-52 (2:21-35)
Saturday | Romans 1:1-2:29 (2:17-29)

Year of the Bible – 1 Peter 1:1 – 5:14

Year of the Bible - Season of Advent - 1 Peter 1



For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. – 1 Peter 1:23

1 Peter 1:1-5:14 (1:22-25)

Peter’s letter to the church, to new Christians scattered throughout the world, addresses them as “strangers in the world.” They had been regenerated, born anew, but they had to undergo suffering along with their newfound, glorious adoption into the family of God. Peter told them that God had a purpose in suffering: These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold . . . may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus is revealed. (1:7) Peter went on to explain that the sufferings of Christ had been predicted in the Bible. God’s way of destroying sin and evil is very different from man’s way. Only the Holy Spirit could reveal to us such a mystery. For some strange reason, sufferings are an instrument of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Peter urged them—and us—don’t conform your minds to the world, to its evil desires, but look to those things that God gives to protect and preserve while living in the world—look to the blood of the Lamb. If God’s Son suffered and was glorified, so also will all those who share in Christ be glorified. To that end, we Christians must separate ourselves from deceit and hypocrisy and crave God’s Word. We are to reflect upon our royal calling (2:9) and to distance ourselves from the ways of the evil world (Men will always think that our way of doing this is wrong and sinful – 2:11-12). Christians do not, because they are children of God, reject the authority of the world (governments, households, etc.). We must not seek methods and means of reprisal against evil. Justice will be done, for God will hear the prayers of the righteous and defend them (3:12). But God’s justice is sometimes quite slow because God patiently waits for men to repent—holding back punishment because He does not want to punish. And neither should we. So Christians should not be surprised when they experience “painful trials.” Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ . . .(4:12)

Questions – 1 Peter 1:1-5:14

  1. What does it mean to be a “stranger in the world?”
  2. If being a Christian, a child of God through faith, is so great, why do Christians experience tribulations?
  3. Why is there a relationship between Christians not taking justice into their own hands and Christians being obedient to governments?
  4. If God does not want to punish evil men, why does He punish?
  5. If God does punish evil men, why does He wait so long to do it?
  6. Why are we to be joyful when we experience painful trials on account of our faith?
Year of the Bible – Advent Week Three | Saturday | 1 Peter 1:1-5:14 – © John W. Fiene

Year of the Bible – Luke 1:26-38

Year of the Bible - Season of Advent - Luke 1




I am the Lord’s servant…May it be to me as you have said. – Luke 1:38

Luke 1:26-38
Paralleling the great story of the conception of John the Baptist, Luke takes us to Nazareth for even greater news. Gabriel appears a second time to a woman pledged in marriage, a woman pledged to a man of the house of David. At the words of the angel: The Lord is with you, Mary heard the unbelievable news that the Messiah was to be conceived within her womb. Wonder of wonders, He would reign over His father’s house and the house of Jacob (of all believers)—and His kingdom would never end. It would be eternal. Human reason cannot fathom or accept this announcement. It goes beyond laws of nature. It lies outside of the laws that govern creation and human life. But that is the point. Jesus was and always will be the Son of God, the eternal source of life, the Creator and Ruler of all things, visible and invisible. But that Creator, that Maker, that King of Kings and Lord of Lords would enter the womb of a woman and become a little, humble and lowly child. The Kingdom of God would be hidden to men’s eyes, but to the eyes of the humble ones, He would be seen and known as the Messiah. Mary’s lowliness came from knowing that she needed this Savior. She could not be righteous. Mary’s lowliness came from knowing that God had brought about this great deliverance through His mercy. God’s word of comfort to Mary is also of comfort to the lowly in faith who believe the Gospel: Nothing is impossible with God. (1:37)

Questions – Luke 1:26-38

  1. Where was Jesus conceived?
  2. Why was it important that Mary be a virgin?
  3. How was Jesus able to have the throne of David if he was not the natural son of Joseph?
  4. Why did Mary have to believe the incarnation by faith?
  5. Why is it not hard for us, as Christians, to believe that God could raise us from the dead?
Year of the Bible – Advent Week Three | Friday | Luke 1:26-38 – © John W. Fiene

Year of the Bible – Mark 5:37-8:21

Year of the Bible - Season of Advent - Mark 5


Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” – Mark 5:36 

Mark 5:37-8:21 (6:6b-13)
Jesus did not want anyone to know who He was. That may sound strange to us. If He were the Savior of the world, wouldn’t He want everyone to know about Him and His great miracles? Jesus did want men to believe in Him, but to believe in Him as a Savior from sin and eternal death, not merely as a Savior from human sickness and disease. In other words, people often got the wrong idea about who He was, so Jesus had to live a very humble and common life. Jesus came from Galilee and because He was so humble, the people of His hometown did not believe in Him. They had known Him as a common person from His youth. If someone were to be the Messiah, would He not be more glorious than Jesus had been? As a result of their unbelief, Jesus
could not do any miracles there . . . And he was amazed at their lack of faith (6:5). But that did not stop Jesus. He called his disciples and sent them out to destroy, through the preaching of His word, the power of Satan—to preach God’s grace, faith in God’s pardon. As He sent them, He commanded them to depend upon God’s Word to sustain them. He wanted them to anticipate the success of their preaching and rely upon God to provide for their daily needs. His preaching of the Gospel, the light of God shining in darkness, was the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies of Isaiah. Jesus did other SIGNS (miracles) to show that the favor of God rested upon Him: He feed five thousand people (and later, four thousand). He walked on water and controlled the forces of nature. He healed a deaf and mute man. These signs were intended to awaken faith and to lead men to trust in Him. Some did not. The Pharisees saw religion as an outward thing—acts and deeds of obedience, works of the law. They missed the more important part of a relationship with God: Faith, trust, reliance upon God and His Word. The SIGNS of God, therefore, did them no good. To give us an understanding of faith and how faith obtains God’s promises, we are privileged to study the story of the Syrophoenician woman (7:24-30). She did not come to Christ because she was worthy of His gifts—in fact, she saw herself as an unworthy dog at God’s table, begging for the scraps of His kindness. By faith she knew and trusted that Jesus was the sign of God’s will and desire to save her. As she trusted, trusted in His grace (in His righteousness as a gift to her through faith), she also received an answer to her prayers. It was to these types of persons that Jesus chose to reveal Himself. To the Pharisees, however, who were not approaching Jesus in the right way, Jesus refused to reveal Himself. “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.” (8:12)

Questions – Mark 5:37-8:21

  1. Why did Jesus not want His miracles to be widely known?
  2. Why did the people of Nazareth not believe in Jesus as the Messiah?
  3. Can you give examples today of people who follow Christ for the wrong reasons?
  4. How is the power of Satan destroyed?
  5. How are ministers of the Gospel supposed to earn their living?
  6. What kinds of signs did Jesus do to demonstrate that God was among men (Immanuel)?
  7. What is the purpose of a sign?
  8. How do you know that the Syrophoenician woman was coming to Jesus on the basis of His righteousness and not her own?
  9. What is faith and how does it realize God’s promises?
Year of the Bible – Advent Week Three | Thursday | Mark 5:37-8:21 – © John W. Fiene

Year of the Bible – Isaiah 4:2-5:30

Year of the Bible - Season of Advent - Isaiah 4



Then sheep will graze as in their own pasture; lambs will feed among the ruins of the rich. – Isaiah 5:17

Isaiah 4:2-5:30 (4:2-6)

Isaiah balances Law and Gospel in his proclamation to Israel. On the one hand, God, who had patiently sought the repentance of Israel, was going to destroy Israel for her proud arrogance, evil deeds, and stubborn unbelief. On the other hand, He was not going to forget her. A day would come when the “Branch”—a Messianic title—would appear to save her. Out of the stump of Jesse, the family of King David, a ruler would come and Zion would be cleansed of her sins. Then, Isaiah said, God’s judgment would purify the faith of Israel. The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire.(4:4) When the Messiah appeared, Isaiah promised, He would live and dwell among His people, protecting them from the storms of life. Then five woes—verdicts of condemnation— were pronounced by Isaiah against Israel: Woe to those who add house to house; Woe to those who rise early . . . to run after their drinks . . . Woe to those who draw sin with corks of deceit . . . Woe to those who call evil good and good evil . . . Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes. Isaiah presents us with the two-fold way that God judges evil: He declares condemnations upon evil men at the same time that He keeps and preserves the righteous from harm. But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will show himself holy by his righteousness. Then sheep will graze as in their own pasture; lambs will feed among the ruins of the rich. (5:16,17)

Questions – Isaiah 4:2-5:30

  1. What two great doctrines does Isaiah clearly distinguish and present?
  2. Which of these two doctrines promises to us that a Savior would be sent into the world to deliver us?
  3. What is the metaphoric name that Isaiah gives to the Savior and what does it mean?
  4. Why are we comforted when God issues judgments against our enemies?
  5. What is meant by the image of a lamb feeding among the ruins of the rich?
Year of the Bible – Advent Week Three | Wednesday |  Isaiah 4:2-5:30 – © John W. Fiene

Year of the Bible – Genesis 2:4-25

Year of the Bible - Season of Advent - Genesis 2




And they felt no shame. – Genesis 2:25

Genesis 2:4-25 (2:4-9, 15-25)

The telling of stories in the Hebrew Bible is circular – it usually tells the big story, then turns back and tells parts of the larger story in smaller stories, giving us greater detail. Beginning with 2:4, God, speaking through Moses, tells us how Adam and Eve were made, it tells us about the Garden of Eden and man’s purpose in being placed there, and it tells the story of the creation of woman from man – of Eve from Adam. Although the story is simple, it speaks theological volumes when we break it down into parts. How God went about forming man into His image is more clearly related. God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being. In every step, every action, God recalls how man is the image of God. We look to our own bodies for an example of what God is – just as we are “alive”, so God is a living being. As we “exist”, though we once did not exist, so God always has existed, always lived, always had qualities and attributes that were essentially and connected to His “being.” The text goes on to tell us that God “planted” a garden. Here now we see that God takes creation and cultivates it. God is a steward, a creator, but also a gardener, one who takes and produces fruit by giving care and attention to what he has cultivated. So also, being made in the image of God, we are to be stewards, cultivators of the earth, makers of gardens (that is, we have been given jobs, “vocations,” to which God has called us to do His work). We are to produce fruit through our stewardship. This is a reflection of God Himself, for He is the gardener that desires to produce the fruits of good works in us, works according to the commandments and flowing out of a love for God. Furthermore, the text tells us that there were rivers that flowed out of Eden. The changes that have come upon the earth in the flood probably wiped out all evidence of the Garden of Eden, but it was the source of four great rivers. This was the womb of mankind. And in that Garden God put two trees, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life. Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat of one of those trees. Was God tempting man? Was God putting a stumbling block in front of man? A little closer look will reveal that God was actually giving Adam and Eve a device for knowing IF or WHEN they had sinned, a knowledge they would only need to have should they have sinned. In the beginning, pure innocence was enough. Innocence knows God and Truth without knowing evil, much like children can be innocent about sin, but at the same time know what IS good and right. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (representing the Law) was placed in the Garden of Eden should Adam and Eve fall into sin. God placed that tree in the garden and attached His command of Law to it so that sin, should it happen, would be compelled to violate the Law’s prohibition. In other words, had Adam and Eve sinned they would have eaten of the Tree and this would become the means for knowing that they had sinned. The original state of man, living in righteousness, innocence and blessedness was as natural as life itself. But since it was lost and this loss is passed down to the nature of all mankind, it was necessary for God to send His Son into the world as our Savior from guilt and the condemnation of the Law. God wants us to live in innocence once again. But how can this come to be? What was the promise?

Questions – Genesis 2:4-25

  1. What do we mean when we say the Bible tells stories in circles?
  2. Who wrote the Book of Genesis?
  3. What is meant when we say that man was made in the image of God?
  4. What does God want to do to us, like a farmer tending a garden?
  5. What did God forbid Adam and Eve to do?
  6. For what reason did God give them the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?
  7. What is the ideal “state” that God would have us be in, something we see in little children? Explain.
Year of the Bible – Advent Week Three | Tuesday | Genesis 2:4-25 – © John W. Fiene

Year of the Bible – Psalms 7-13

Year of the Bible - Season of Advent - Psalms 7-13




For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face. – Psalm 11:7

Psalms 7-13 (8)  

Psalm 8, a Messianic Psalm, marvels at the mysterious way that God goes about asserting His rule and power. In light of the wonders of what He made and rules, the psalmist ponders over the Messiah humbling Himself and entering our world with the lowly vesture of a man.

In Psalm 9 we are struck by the contrasting image (in comparison to Psalm 8) of the Lord as the ruler of nations who judges the world in righteousness, who powerfully delivers all who are persecuted for righteousness.

Psalm 10 The secret to prosperity, if we look at it from the perspective of the world, is to do evil. Goodness does not seem to pay. The wicked, who so often scorn God and His Word, seem to just get richer as they become more brutal. Oppressors seem to go unpunished. But not for long. God hears the cries of the oppressed and the meek and in time, He acts to defend the helpless who cry to Him. That is why this psalm praises Him while crying out for justice.

Psalm 11 Once again David cries out to God for protection and defense from his enemies. The wicked are like secret assassins, waiting in the shadows for a chance to kill, but God sees them because He rules the world from heaven. God knows the hearts of men and will treat them as they deserve.

Psalm 12 Desperation seems to overwhelm David. He looks for godly men around him and finds none. Flattery and deceit are in abundance, pride and arrogance abound. The only thing that is pure is the Word of God. David seems to make things seem very, very bad when he cries to God.

Psalm 13 David did the unthinkable. When things were so bad and nothing was going right for the king, David begins to praise God for His unfailing love. While in the throes of death, when his enemies seem to have completely won over him, David begins to praise God for His unfailing love.

Questions – Psalms 7-13 

  1. What is the mystery of the Messiah, according to Psalm 8?
  2. Does crime pay? Why or why not?
  3. Does God know everything?
  4. Is it OK for David to “push” God to act, knowing that God promises to act when truth and justice are taken from His people?
  5. Why should we praise God when things are bad?
Year of the Bible – Advent Week Three | Monday | Psalms 7-13  – © John W. Fiene

Year of the Bible – Colossians 1:1 – 4:18

Year of the Bible - Advent Week Two - Colossians 1



. . . clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience . . . and over all these virtues put on love. – Colossians 3:12,14

Colossians 1:1–4:18 (1:15–20)

The Apostle Paul wrote the epistle to the Colossians in such a way that it could serve as a primer for Christian faith. The Word of God had been brought to them and the Holy Spirit had worked faith in their hearts, a faith that grew as the Word was studied more. Paul stated the Gospel in simple terms: . . . he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (1:13) Paul then went on to explain the mystery of Christ: He is the image of the invisible God . . . the firstborn of creation . . . creator of all things visible and invisible . . . before all things . . . the firstborn from the dead . . . the fullness of God. Prior to the coming of faith, the Colossians had been enemies of God. But through faith they had been reconciled to God— through Christ’s “body.” For this Gospel, the Apostle told them, he had been suffering. And they would too, if they separated themselves from the world and its way of thinking. At first, hardly a word is spoken by Paul about Christian living. Christian living is a meaningless subject without first coming to grasp the nature of Christian faith. What Christ has done FOR us is always first and above what he does THROUGH us. When we were baptized into Christ, we received all that we needed for life and salvation (2:9). We passed from death into life. The threats and condemnation of the law were cancelled. Now no one is permitted to judge God’s children in matters of law. Only after grasping these wonders of the faith are we ready to apply ourselves to the subject of Christian living, which Paul does in chapter three and beyond. The Christian is to put the sinful nature to death, casting it off like a dirty garment. We are to put on holy qualities, as though they were our clothing—but these clothes are the clothes of Christ himself: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (3:12) And we are to pray, with devotion, watchfulness and thankfulness (4:2-4), paying careful attention to how we act and behave with “outsiders.”

Questions – Colossians 1:1 – 4:18

  1. What do we mean when we say that faith “grows?”    
  2. Are there degrees of salvation?
  3. List some of the mysteries of the person of Christ?
  4. What is our status with God prior to or apart from faith?
  5. When (or in what way) are we reconciled to God through Christ’s body?
  6. Explain the ordering of faith and life.
  7. Why is no one permitted to judge our choice of food and drink—and for that matter, any matter of law?
  8. What metaphor does Paul use to describe our rejection of evil and our choosing of goodness?
  9. What kinds of things should we pray for?
  10. Why are Christians especially cautious about their conduct and behavior when dealing with non-Christians?
Year of the Bible – Advent Week Two | Saturday | Colossians 1:1 – 4:18 – © John W. Fiene

Year of the Bible – Luke 1:1-25

Year of the Bible - Advent Week Two - Luke 1



The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.” – Luke 1:19

Luke 1:1-25 (1:5-25)

A good prelude to the story of Christmas is the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. In order for God to clearly demonstrate to men that He was intervening in time and history for our salvation, God withheld from Elizabeth the privilege of conceiving and bearing children. Both she and her husband were advanced in years and were childless. This grieved her greatly. While doing pastoral service to God in the temple (Zechariah was a priest), the angel Gabriel revealed to Zechariah that His wife would come to bear a child—a very special child because He would precede the Messiah and prepare Israel to recognize Him. Zechariah was filled with doubt because he looked at the natural limitations of his age and the age of his wife. But because God’s Word had spoken the promise, this wonder came to be according to the Word of God. Our hearts are moved by the joy that was stored in the heart of Elizabeth as she kept this matter silent for five months. She believed that this did not happen through human means alone. Elizabeth revealed herself to be a woman of the light when she said, The Lord has done this for me. (1:25)

Questions – Luke 1:1 – 1:25

  1. What was the “cross” of Zechariah and Elizabeth?      
  2. Why did God permit them to have this cross?
  3. What was different about the way that Zechariah received the promise of God and the way that Elizabeth received it?
Year of the Bible – Advent Week Two | Friday | Luke 1:1-25 – © John W. Fiene

Year of the Bible – Mark 3:1-5:36

Year of the Bible - Advent Week Two - Mark 3



. . . What shall we say the kingdom of God is like…It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant. – Mark 4:30-31

Mark 3:1-5:36 (3:20-30)

The person of Jesus, the Word of God, the second person of the Trinity, was the source and revealer of the Law of Moses. But strangely, when He came into the flesh, He did not “abide” by the Law, even though He lived under the Law and perfectly fulfilled it. That is to say, He did not abide by the Law in the way that men, filled with hatred and greed and ignorance, interpreted the law. Sinful man uses God’s law to judge and punish others. But God uses the law to lead us to see the threat of condemnation before us SO THAT WE MIGHT NOT TRY TO JUSTIFY OURSELVES BY WORKS OF THE LAW. His ultimate goal and intention, however, is not our judgment and condemnation, but our forgiveness through Christ, who through faith becomes our life and salvation. This perspective radically changes the way that we interpret the Bible and live our lives. That is why Jesus says that love fulfills the Law. Thus, when Jesus gathered His Church out of the world and called men into service to God (3:13ff), He gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Gospel, the gift of teaching and preaching a rightful division and distinction between Law and Gospel. This preaching of the Gospel is the means, the act, by which evil is destroyed and the Kingdom of God comes to exert its power and influence in the hearts of men (cf. The Parable of the Sower). This Gospel is not an outwardly significant or powerful thing. It is something small that grows into greatness (The mustard seed). It is the small seed of the Gospel, revealed in the preaching of the Apostles. Christianity eventually became a great world religion, dominating and standing above all other religions on earth. This outward form of Christianity, however, is not to be equated with the real Kingdom of God. The real Kingdom of God is lowly and humble, hidden in men’s hearts and God’s heart. Seldom is it seen as being great in men’s eyes. It will not always be recognized and appreciated by those around us. Only in heaven will we come to see the full extent of the grandeur and power of this little seed – the righteousness of Christ.

Questions – Mark 3:1 – 5:36

  1. Why did Jesus appear to be a breaker of the Mosaic Law?
  2. Why are there different ways of interpreting the Bible?
  3. What is the key that opens up the true sense of God in the Scriptures?
  4. What is the seed that must be sown in the hearts of men?
  5. What is ironic about the Kingdom of God – seen in the story of the Mustard Seed?
Year of the Bible – Advent Week Two | Thursday | Mark 3:1-5:36 – © John W. Fiene