Saturday, August 18, 2018

August 18 - Jeremiah 15

Today's reading in our daily plan is Jeremiah 15. 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?)

  • Today’s passage begins with God describing the destruction of Jerusalem and the anguish and pain the people of Israel will feel. In verse 4, God says the evil reign of Judah’s king, Manasseh, is the reason for this destruction (see 2 Kings 21:1-16; 2 Kings 23:26; and 2 Kings 24:3 for more details of Manasseh’s rule).
  • The second half of the passage is Jeremiah’s complaint to God that God was not helping him when he really needed it. Jeremiah cries out that he has done what he is supposed to be doing: following God’s commands and consuming God’s Word but he (Jeremiah) still does not understand why he suffers.
  • God assures Jeremiah that he will be cared for by God and must continue to serve God and influence the people of Israel for God. God promises protection, safety, and rescue to Jeremiah.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)

  • The people may have argued they should not be held responsible for Manasseh’s sins, but they were continuing what Manasseh began. If we follow corrupt leaders knowingly, we can’t excuse ourselves by blaming their bad example.
  • Jeremiah felt sorry for himself and was angry, hurt, and afraid; but he still turned to God and was honest with God about his feelings. God didn’t get angry at Jeremiah. Instead, God answered by rearranging Jeremiah’s priorities. God expects us to trust Him, no matter what, and He wants to have a relationship with us where we can be honest with Him and tell Him when we are having a hard time trusting Him.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

  • Do you feel like God has let you down? Are you angry at God? God wants you to share everything with Him. You can tell Him when you are upset or frustrated or sad. Today, pray to God and tell Him how you feel about a difficult situation in your life. Be honest with Him! Ask Him for wisdom and comfort.

Friday, August 17, 2018

August 17 - 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!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

This Weekend @ Verve!

Do you want a full life? Can you have a full or happy life regardless of your circumstances? 

This weekend at Verve, we are finishing out the series, Making Lemonade, as we discover admitting we can't do it on our own could be the secret to finding true happiness.

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.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

August 15 - Matthew 18

Today's reading in our daily plan is Matthew 18. 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 his disciples to be like children. One parallel is that a child has to rely on his/her parents. Likewise, we should rely on God.
  • In verses 6-9 Jesus talks about the severity of sin and causing others to stumble, saying that it's better to cut off your hands or feet than to be thrown into eternal fire. Jesus doesn't literally want people to amputate limbs, but does want them to know how destructive sin and its results are.
  • Jesus gives a pattern (verses 15-17) to follow when another Christ-follower sins against you. He says to show them their fault, just between the two of you. Then, if they won’t listen, get others involved to help with the situation. If they still refuse to listen, Jesus says to treat them as a "pagan or a tax collector." This may sound like Jesus is suggesting cutting those people off, but remember Jesus spent most of his time with pagans and tax collectors. He constantly loved them. So it would seem that Jesus isn't suggesting we disown this person, but rather that we no longer assume he/she is a Christian, and try to love and lead them to faith in Jesus.
  • In response to this teaching, Peter asks how many times we should forgive someone who sins against us. Jesus says, "seventy-seven times" (or seventy times seven). He is not being literal, but is suggesting that we forgive every time.
  • Jesus illustrates why we should forgive by telling a story about a servant who was forgiven of the great debt he owed his master, but was unwilling to have the same mercy on a fellow servant. The point is that we have been forgiven much by God, and should offer that same forgiveness to anyone who sins against us.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • What Jesus teaches in this chapter about seeking reconciliation, and that we need to offer forgiveness every time because we have been forgiven, combined with what Jesus taught earlier in Matthew 5:23-24, shows that we cannot remain bitter; we must always forgive. Being unwilling to forgive leads to bitterness, which causes more pain in the person who won't forgive. It’s a cycle that only brings more sin. Followers of Jesus must be people who break this cycle by offering grace. Sometimes the pain caused by others is so great that reconciliation doesn't seem possible. But understanding God's forgiveness of us, and seeking his strength, allows us to do what seems impossible.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Who do you need to seek reconciliation with? It may be a person you sinned against, and you need to ask for forgiveness. Or it may be a person who sinned against you, and you need to offer forgiveness. If you think you can't do it, you're right. But you and God, together, can. So spend some time meditating on God's forgiveness of your sin, and asking God to help change your heart and give you the strength to seek reconciliation. Get support and prayer from some close friends if you need to. And then go seek reconciliation.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

August 14 - Matthew 17

Today's reading in our daily plan is Matthew 17. 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 previous chapter, Jesus said, ”some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” The "Son of Man" was a name Jesus used to refer to himself.
  • In today’s reading we see Jesus bring Peter, James, and John with him up a mountain. On the mountain Jesus is "transfigured" before them, appearing brighter to the others. Then he somehow meets with Moses and Elijah, two important figures from Israel’s past. The significance is that God’s promises in the Law and Prophets, represented by Moses and Elijah, are fulfilled in Jesus.
  • After descending the mountain, Jesus is met by a man whose son suffers from seizures. Jesus’ followers attempt to heal the boy with no success. Jesus then casts out the demon, healing the boy. Jesus explains that even a small bit of faith, the size of a tiny mustard seed, can "move mountains."
  • The book of Mark also records this story of the disciples' failure to heal the boy, and Jesus coming to the rescue to heal him. Here in Matthew, this story features Jesus explaining that the disciples' efforts were unsuccessful because they lacked faith. In Mark's account, Jesus explains that they couldn't heal the boy because they didn't pray. Jesus must have said both things, and Matthew and Mark each focused on a different part of the answer Jesus gave.
  • The chapter concludes with Jesus providing an explanation to Peter as to why he should pay the Temple tax. Jesus explains that he technically isn’t required to pay the tax but he also doesn’t want to cause problems for the sake of causing problems.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Jesus is supreme. He is the fulfillment of everything God put in the Old Testament and the fulfillment of all things to come. He is above all. We need to make him supreme in our lives.
  • It's easy to think of faith as a very vague thing we feel, or maybe some ideas we believe, but faith acts. It takes action. In the case of trying to heal the boy, faith should have led to prayer. The disciples should have had faith that God (not they) could heal the boy, and then prayed so that they would be doing it God's power, not their own. But apparently, and incredulously, they tried to perform a healing without praying. It should seem absurd to us that the disciples tried to do something difficult and important without praying, but how often is that the case with us.
  • Think about what you do without praying. Your job? Volunteering at church? Having an important conversation with your spouse or child? Trying to show your co-workers the love of God, talk to them about Jesus, or invite them to church? We need to live with a real sense of our limitations, and of God's infinite power, and, in faith, pray for his help with whatever we're doing.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What will you be doing today? At home? At work? Other? Take time to pray through your day, asking God to help you with each task and interaction. And make it a habit. Start every day with faith, by praying through your day.

Monday, August 13, 2018

August 13 - Matthew 16

Today's reading in our daily plan is Matthew 16. 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?)
  • Today’s reading starts off with more challenges from the religious elite. The Pharisees and Sadducees demand that Jesus give them proof of his identity through a miraculous sign. Jesus responds by telling them he won't give one, except the "sign of Jonah." Jesus is foreshadowing being buried for three days (after his crucifixion), which is similar to Jonah being in the belly of a fish for three days before coming out alive.
  • Next, Jesus warns his followers about the “yeast” of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The disciples are confused, so Jesus explains that they need to guard themselves against the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
  • Jesus asks his followers who people say he is. Peter shares that Jesus is the Christ, or Messiah. (The "Messiah" is a person God had promised would come to save people.) This is the first time anyone identifies Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus validates Peter’s confession and then says, “On this rock I will build my church.” This is a bit confusing, but elsewhere (see, for instance, Ephesians 2:19-21 and 4:11-16), the Bible is very clear that the church is built on Jesus himself. So what Jesus must mean is that the church will be built on Jesus as the Messiah (which is what Peter had just identified).
  • Jesus explains that he is going to suffer and be killed. Peter gets upset and tells Jesus it won't happen. Jesus says, "Get behind me Satan," asserting that Peter doesn't have in mind the things of God. Jesus says that, in the same way that he is going to give up his life for others, his followers must be willing to give up their lives in service to others.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • In this chapter we see that what God thinks and wants is often not what we would expect. Just as the Pharisees demanded a miracle, we may demand that God do what we want. And just as Peter assumes he knows better than Jesus, we may assume we know better than God. It can be hard to accept the teaching of Jesus, especially when he's saying we need to lose our lives for him. Our goal should be to know God and live for him, and to know his word and live by it, even if it's not what we think or want.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • How can you know God's will, and make sure your thinking matches up with it no matter what?
    • One way is to read the Bible consistently so you're filling your mind with God's thinking, and so you can judge everything else by it.
    • Another way is to be in a Verve Group, so you have some friends who are helping you pursue and discern God's wisdom.