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?)

August 18 - Joel 2 & 3

Today's reading in our daily plan is Joel 2 & 3. 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?)
  • The first part of chapter 2 continues unpacking the calamity established in chapter 1. Hopelessness reigns as priests cry out to God.
  • In the second half of chapter 2, the tone shifts. God tells his people that they are going to be okay. He is going to more than make up for the damage and drought his people have suffered.
  • In chapter 3, God goes on to explain that the people of Israel will be restored and lifted up, while enemy nations will fall. The book of Joel started with anguish but ends with hope. 
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • The Israelites' extreme drought and locust infestations set the stage for God to show his power. The disasters reminded them that they need God.
  • When our lives are going smoothly, it's easy for us to forget just how much we need God. The dark times remind us of our constant need for his light.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

  • Are you in a dark time in life? Ask God to show you his goodness, and to teach you how to depend on him even more.
  • Is your life going pretty well? Don't lose sight of how much you need God. Thank him for the life he's allowed you to live, and ask him to reveal areas of your life where you can lean on him even more.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

August 17 - Joel 1

Today's reading in our daily plan is Joel 1. 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?)
  • The book of Joel opens with a panicked tone. A series of locust invasions, combined with a drought, has ravaged the land. The food supply is desolated, as are many items used for sacrifices in the Temple.
  • Amid the language dripping with fear, there is a seemingly odd instruction for priests to "dress themselves in burlap." Back then, wearing burlap was a sign of mourning.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • This chapter offers no hope. It is full of desperation and panic. Joel urges followers of God to cry out to him, but nothing seems to be working.
  • Just as Joel is brutally honest with God, we can open up to him about our pain. Life has plenty of ups and downs, and God is with us through all of it -- even if it's not clear how he is working.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Is there a painful part of your life you haven't talked to God about? Open up to him and be honest without worrying about saying the "right" things. He knows what you're dealing with, and he wants to journey with you through it.

Friday, August 16, 2019

August 16 - Matthew 19

Today's reading in our daily plan is Matthew 19. 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?)
  • Some Pharisees come to Jesus to get his perspective on the subject of divorce. Jesus concludes, “What God has joined together, let man not separate.” But the Pharisees want the conditions for legal divorce, so they ask why Moses permitted it. Jesus tells them it was because their hearts were hard and that’s not the way it should be. Then he adds that anyone who divorces for reasons other than cheating, and then proceeds to marry a different person, commits adultery. This shows us that a certificate of divorce doesn’t mean anything to God unless one spouse commits adultery. These words of Jesus may be difficult to stomach because we all know that, in marriage, people and situations change. However, if God tells us to remain married then he also plans to help us with it.
  • A group of children are brought to Jesus and he’s asked to pray for them. The disciples try to get the kids away but Jesus lets them come to him.
  • A wealthy young man asks Jesus what he must do to get eternal life. Jesus talks about the ten commandments and, after he hears that the man has kept all of them, he says, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The man turned away sad because he had great wealth. Jesus didn't make this demand of other rich people he met, but he knew that this particular man loved his money more than anything else, and it would stand in the way of his loving God.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Is God expecting us to remain married even though it may be horrible and painful? Yes and no. If spouses are willing to submit themselves to God and invite him into their marriage then God can turn that marriage in to something beautiful. If your spouse won’t submit to God, you must consistently go to God for healing and the power to continue following Jesus. If you’re divorced, God won’t reject you; go to Him for forgiveness and healing, and perhaps consider reconciliation with your spouse. Marriage is important to God and is an illustration of our relationship with him. If we trust God, there is hope for our marriages.
  • It's easy to let something else take God's place in our lives. Something else that we start to obsess over, look to for satisfaction, and do just about anything to get. However, nothing but God can be a good god for our lives. Anything else we live for is too small. That's part of the reason God insists that he be number one in our lives, and we move anything else out of our top spot.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • If your marriage is in a difficult place, instead of considering divorce as an option, commit to staying married and fully seek God's help. You may also want to consider marriage counseling. Let us know if you need a referral.
  • Do you ever feel the tension of possessions or wealth pulling you away from Jesus? What things vie for your attention and threaten to take Jesus’ rightful place in your life? What do you need to let go of? And what would it look like for you to truly let Jesus be first in your life? Tell God you want that, and ask him to help you make it a reality.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

This Weekend @ Verve!

Why is life Better Together? There's a reason we were designed to need community.

This weekend at Verve, we are starting a new series called, Better Together, so invite a friend to join you!