Friday, August 23, 2019

August 23 - Matthew 24

Today's reading in our daily plan is Matthew 24. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • As Jesus is leaving the temple and heading out to stay the night on a nearby hill called the Mount of Olives, his disciples mention how magnificent the temple looks. Jesus then talks about how the temple will be destroyed and what would happens after. There are three common ways to interpret this passage:
    • As a teaching about when Jesus comes back to earth.
    • As a prophecy loosely describing the events that took place in Jerusalem in 70 AD when the Roman Empire squashed an Israeli uprising, resulting in the destruction of the Temple, or...
    • As a prophecy literally describing details of the time when Jesus will return, combining themes from two other books in the Bible called Daniel and Revelation.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Regardless of interpretation, we’re given an application at the end of the passage. Jesus says to “keep watch, because you do not know on what day our Lord will come.” He continues by describing a servant who was put in charge of the master’s household while he was away. If the servant throws parties and is harsh with the other servants, the surprise return of the master will prove devastating. But if the servant takes care of the household well, a surprise return from the master will be welcome.
  • The same is true for us when it comes to following Jesus. Jesus is going to come back. We don't know whether it will be in our lifetime or not, but we should be ready. And even if it isn't in our lifetime, we know we will die but don't know when, so we should be ready for that. When either happens, will we be living for and honoring God?
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Do you live with an awareness that the end could come any day? Jesus says we should. If you did, how would it change how you live? Is there anything you would start doing that you're currently not? Is there anything you would stop doing that you currently are? Take a minute to pray about this and ask God to help you live in a state of readiness.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

This Weekend @ Verve!

We can grow to know God in ways we never could imagine when we have spiritual relationships. Who do you connect with regularly that helps you know God better?

Invite a friend and join us for part 2 of the series, Better Together!

August 22 - Matthew 23

Today's reading in our daily plan is Matthew 23. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • In this chapter Jesus confronts the Pharisees. He starts by telling a crowd of people that they should follow the teachings of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, but to not imitate what they do -- in other words, do as they say, not as they do. These religious leaders didn’t practice what they preached. Jesus said that everything these men did was for others to see.
  • Jesus mentions "phylacteries." These were little boxes of Bible verses the Pharisees wore on their head and arms to try to make it look like they were extra righteous. 
  • Jesus gives the crowd a quick lesson about status in the kingdom of God by saying, “the greatest among you will be your servant.” 
  • Jesus calls the Pharisees some harsh names, explaining (in verse 13) that instead of bringing people to God, as they were supposed to, they were keeping people from him.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Jesus made it clear that merely “looking the part” doesn’t get us anything with God. Jesus wants people to genuinely follow him. How do we overcome the temptation to appear as though we are perfect? Part of it is playing for an audience of one. We should only be concerned with what God thinks, not trying to impress other people. Another aspect is to practice our good deeds in secret (as Jesus teaches in Matthew, chapter six). We need to try and make sure others don't know about the good we do, so we're not tempted to do it so they'll know it.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • If you've been following the reading plan, you've probably noticed that this theme of hypocrisy has been coming up often in Jesus' teaching. He is really serious about making sure people have a genuine faith from the heart, not a manufactured faith to impress others. Are you serious about having a genuine faith? Where do you see yourself trying to impress others instead of truly living for God? Talk to God about this and ask him for help.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

August 21 - Matthew 22

Today's reading in our daily plan is Matthew 22. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • Jesus tells a parable about a king who prepares a wedding reception. The idea is that everyone is invited into the Kingdom of God (and, later, Heaven) but only those who prepare themselves will get in. In the parable a man is ejected because of his clothes, which probably signifies that he chose to have faith in himself (by wearing his own clothes) instead of having faith in God (by donning the wedding clothes).
  • A group of religious leaders, Sadducees, try to trap Jesus with a difficult question (in verses 23-33) about details of the resurrection. Jesus answers their question and then proves from the bible that their disbelief in resurrection is wrong.
  • The Pharisees try to trap Jesus with a couple of tough questions, including asking him to state the  greatest commandment (verses 34-40). Jesus says the greatest commandments are to love God and love people, and that if you truly do that, you will live out every commandment.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • In this chapter we learn that life is about saying yes to God's invitation through faith, and then living a life of loving God and loving people.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Jesus says we are to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. What do you think all that means? Certainly, Jesus is telling us that our love for God can't just be a little bit of fondness or faith. Jesus is calling for passion. Do you feel like you love God in that way? What could you do today, and this week, to grow your heart for God?
  • Jesus also says we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. What would it look like for you to love others as much as you love yourself? What would it mean for how you use your time? How you spend your money? How you treat people? So, what will you do to start loving people the way Jesus is asking you to love people?

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

August 20 - Matthew 21

Today's reading in our daily plan is Matthew 21. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • In the second section, Jesus calls the people exchanging money and selling animals in the temple area a "den of robbers." They were selling animals for sacrifice at ridiculously high prices, taking advantage of people who were just trying to come and worship God. The place they were doing it in was the area of the temple where Gentiles (non-Jews) could come to learn about God. Obviously their seeking God could have been hindered by the big business that was happening there.
  • In verse 22 Jesus says, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” This doesn't mean that we get to trump the will of God with our prayers. When you consider this verse in light of other verses in the Bible about God answering prayer, we find that our prayers will be answered when they are in accordance with God's will. Of course, the more our hearts grow for God, the more we will want what God wants.
  • In the "parable of the two sons" (verses 28-32) Jesus makes the point that it's not your words, but your actions that count. Someone can say all the right things about God and faith, but it's the person who actually lives by faith in God who "enters the Kingdom of God."
  • The "parable of the tenants" is a metaphor describing how God has sent prophets to turn his people around back to him. However, the people didn't listen, so God finally sent his son... but they didn't listen to him either.
  • In verse 44 Jesus says, “He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” Jesus is the cornerstone of the kingdom of God. In verse 43 he tells the Pharisees that this kingdom is being taken from them and given to others. And in verse 45 it says the chief priests and the Pharisees “knew he was talking about them.” So verse 44 is directed to the religious elite and is probably about how they approach the kingdom of God. If they fight against it they will be defeated by Jesus, and if they ignore it they will be judged by Jesus.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • This chapter is filled with people who thought they were right with God and doing the right thing. The guys selling in the temple, the Pharisees who taught people religion, and the landowners in Jesus' parable. The problem is that none of them were actually right with God or doing the right thing. It's easy to be deceived, and to deceive others, especially when our approach to God is a religion based on "doing" rather than a relationship based on love.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • It’s easy for us to scoff at the religious leaders in the Bible but we can be just like them. God wants a relationship with us and not some mindless, heartless following of rules that make us appear "right." Take a serious look at where you are with God. What really motivates you to read the bible, pray, or go to church? Do you do the right things because they're the right things, or because of love for God and people? Take some time today to ask God to help you to check your heart.

Monday, August 19, 2019

August 19 - Matthew 20

Today's reading in our daily plan is Matthew 20. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • Jesus uses a story about day laborers to convey a truth about the kingdom of God. His conclusion that "the last will be first and the first will be last” means that values in the kingdom of God are different than the values of the world.
  • The mother of two disciples asks Jesus to elevate her sons to authoritative and honored positions in Jesus’ kingdom. He responds by saying that it's His Father who decides these things, and then prophesies that James and John will suffer like Jesus is going to.
  • The other disciples become indignant with the two brothers when they hear the conversation. Jesus uses this moment to share a key characteristic of his followers: the greatest among them are those who serve others. He contrasts this value with the world’s way of thinking when he says, “the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them… not so with you.” Leadership in the kingdom of God is different. Jesus uses himself as an example (verse 28) to show that leadership means serving.
  • Two blind men start shouting when they hear Jesus nearby. Jesus asks them directly what they want, and they tell him they want to see. Immediately they receive sight and follow Jesus.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • In this chapter we learn some important principles about God's kingdom. 
    • It doesn't work according to the world's rules. 
    • It's available to anyone who, like the blind men, call out to Jesus for mercy. 
    • You can't earn your way into it, or earn anything from God once you're in it. 
    • It lives by the rules of grace, not like a typical job where you get paid for what you do. 
    • And the way to the top is not through powering and bossing others around, but by being a servant to all.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Consider how you think about things and live your life. Does your approach go more with the ways of this world, or the ways of God's Kingdom? It's easy to live the world's way, since we've done it so long and are surrounded by it every day. But we need to choose to fully live according to God's Kingdom. Part of that is making the choice to do so.
  • A second step is to learn the Bible (by reading it, discussing it, listening to sermons, etc.) so it starts to shape your thinking. A third step is to start to identify what (in your thinking and in this world) doesn't fit with God's Kingdom and reject those ideas. Ask God to help you with this!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Better Together: We Grow Better Together

We provide questions each week based on the theme of our service for our Verve Groups to use. If you're not in a Verve Group, feel free to use them on your own.
This week we started the series called Better Together and talked about We Grow Better TogetherIf you missed it, you can listen to it here.
  1. What is something important a grandparent or older mentor taught you?
  2. Do you enjoy being around other people? If so, why? If not, do you understand the importance of living life in community with others?
  3. In what ways have you seen the benefits of doing life in community with other people?
  4. What benefits can you name for doing life in isolation? Do you feel like living in community outweighs living in isolation? Why or why not?
  5. Name a friend you can fully disclose anything to and ask for advice. Why is it important to you to have a friend in your life like this?
  6. Read 1 Corinthians 10:13 in the New Testament of the Bible. Do you struggle with thinking your temptations are unlike anyone else? How does it help to know you are not alone in your temptations?
  7. In your life currently, do you think you are living in community well or do you need to take some steps to do life with people and reap the benefits of life being Better Together?
  8. Weekly Check In Question:  What could we be praying for you this week? (Is there something good we could celebrate with you, or a challenge you need God's help with?)