Sunday, May 9, 2021

May 9 - Genesis 38

Today's reading in our daily plan is Genesis 38. 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?)

  • Judah is one of the sons Leah bore for Jacob, which we read about back in Genesis chapter 29:35.
  • Next, you may be thrown off with God “putting people to death.” But life is a gift God gives to people, and God has the right to take it away. Just like parents who give their child a BB gun and tell him if he misuses it they will take it away from him, God warns that He can take life away from people who misuse it. Why God chooses to do this at times and not at others is often a mystery. And we definitely see God taking this kind of action more in the Old Testament times. We’re not sure what “evil” Er did in God’s eyes. God killed Onan because he was refusing to take his brother’s widow, Tamar, and provide a better life for her. This may sound harsh of God but God was looking after Tamar. We have to understand that in that time and in their culture a woman had a very difficult time taking care of herself when her husband died. God made it clear that he wanted families to take care of widows and not to cast them aside as if they didn’t matter. It may be difficult to understand but God was looking after Tamar who was innocent.
  • Next, Judah clearly had a night when he chose to disobey God. During this night he unknowingly slept with his daughter-in-law. We’re not fully sure why Tamar was out that night. We don’t know if she was trying to marry Judah’s youngest son or what. But that night Tamar became pregnant by Judah. Again, a really messed-up situation.
  • When Tamar started showing she was pregnant she was accused of being a prostitute. The people told Judah about it and he commanded that she be put to death. Then he found out the whole truth, that it was his child (remember when he slept with Tamar he thought she was a prostitute). When Judah heard all this he declared that Tamar was the one who was better than he was. Judah was convicted of his sin. After this Judah obviously took care of Tamar but never slept with her again.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)

  • This chapter feels more like an episode of Jerry Springer, but the Bible is full of real people and real life, and so things get messy.
  • We learn in this chapter that when we go outside of God's will and choose to disobey Him, our lives will get messy and we are likely to hurt other people as well.
  • We also learn that what’s done in secret will be found out. Often we do things thinking no one will ever find out. The truth is that our “secret” sins always impact our lives and those around us and will come out.

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

  • Where have you been choosing to disobey God and live outside His will? Is there any sin you’ve been hiding? Ask God to forgive you for it today. And find someone you can trust that you can talk to about it to keep you accountable with whatever you’re struggling with. One great way to do this is by joining a Verve Group.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

May 8 - Genesis 37

Today's reading in our daily plan is Genesis 37. 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 we start reading about a guy named Joseph. Joseph was loved by his father but hated by his brothers because of the extra attention his father gave him.
  • To make matters worse Joseph kept having dreams that his family was bowing down before him. And he was dumb enough to keep telling his brothers (who hated him) about these dreams.
  • Eventually, tired of putting up with Joseph, his brothers sell him into slavery, but tell their father he was killed by wild animals.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)

  • This is really messed up. I mean I've heard of people not liking their siblings but selling them into slavery seems a bit extreme. Have you ever let your anger and resentment get the best of you and done something too extreme because of it?

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

  • What changes could you make in your life so anger doesn't play a large part in it, and so you don't make resentment-driven decisions you later regret? Maybe starting each day off by praying? Maybe reminding yourself every day of the sins God forgave in you? Maybe talking to God about what you're upset about? What would be a good strategy for you?

Friday, May 7, 2021

May 7 - Romans 10

Today's reading in our daily plan is Romans 10. 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?)
  • Paul begins this chapter by explaining that the Israelites were zealous for God, but instead of accepting the righteousness (right standing with God) that he was offering them through faith in Jesus, they were trying to establish their own righteousness through their own good works. Paul explains that we can't be good enough on our own -- it is always a losing proposition.
  • We learn that the offer God makes is available to everyone, not just an elite few. 
  • Before people can believe the good news they must hear the good news (verse 14). It is incumbent on those of us who believe to share the good news with people so they can have the opportunity to believe (verse 15).

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • We get to choose whether we will approach God through trying or through trusting. Here are some distinctions:
    • Trying says, "I obey; therefore I'm accepted." Trusting says, "I'm accepted; therefore I obey."
    • Trying has fear and insecurity as the motivation. Trusting has grateful joy as the motivation.
    • People who are trying get angry with God when circumstances go wrong because they think they deserve a comfortable life from God. People who trust struggle when circumstances go wrong, but they know God is still in control and things will ultimately be okay.
    • The person who tries spends most of their prayer time telling God what they want. The person who trusts spends much of their prayer time thanking and praising God.
    • People who try have their identity and self-worth based on how they perform, and will often be either proud or self-loathing, and can look down on others. People who trust have their identity and self-worth centered on Jesus, which allows them to avoid pride and self-loathing and looking down on others.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Are you trying to be good enough, or are you trusting Jesus to make you good enough? In the list above, which "side" better describes you? As Paul says about the Israelites, the "trying" approach is actually a rejection of God. If you are trying to be good enough, you are rejecting the offer God has made you through Jesus. Choose a life of grace. A life of faith. A life of trusting. It is the only way of approaching God that works for him, and will work for you.
  • Are you sharing the good news of God's grace offer to us with others? Who could you share it with? Who could you invite to church so they can hear the good news?

Thursday, May 6, 2021

May 6 - Romans 9

Today's reading in our daily plan is Romans 9. 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?)

  • At this point in his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul begins to address the legacy of the promises God made to the Jews. Before diving into this subject we must remember one thing: Paul has made it clear that people become right with God through faith in Jesus, who on the cross satisfied the requirements of the law in their place.
  • Paul goes on to explain how blessed the Jews are. Their past is full of blessings from God that no other people group on the planet enjoyed. But when God opened his blessings to the whole world, many Jews refused to follow Jesus, choosing instead to live in the past. 
  • Paul explains that being a child of God depends on God’s mercy. 
  • The idea of verses 20-23 is that God knows everything, even the future.


SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)

  • In the opening paragraph, Paul says he wants so badly for other people to know God's love and go to Heaven that he would be willing to be separated from God and go to hell to make it happen. Wow. Everyone who has experienced God's grace and a relationship with him should have a passion for others to experience it as well.
  • In verse 32 we learn that the reason the Israelites were losing their place as God's people is because they pursued him through works rather than through faith. Many Christians do the same. We feel like our status with God is based on how well we're performing and how little we're sinning. That is the opposite of Christianity. Our relationship with God is based solely on grace; on accepting what Jesus did on the cross for us and God making us right with him as a gift we don't deserve.


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

  • How passionate are you about other people coming to know Jesus? How could you increase your passion? What friend are you trying to show God's love to, and looking for opportunities to tell about Jesus? Who have you invited to church lately?

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

May 5 - Romans 8

Today's reading in our daily plan is Romans 8. 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 Romans 7 we learned that the law doesn't save us or help us overcome temptation, but is  there to reveal how sinful we actually are. We learn in this chapter that if we believe in Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins, we are not condemned; we are no longer slaves to sin and death.
  • Paul also shows us that there is another law, the law of the Spirit. The Spirit is God's presence inside of us, giving us life and peace.
  • Since God gave Jesus for us and gave the Holy Spirit to us, we have an obligation to avoid what we once desired. Instead we now start desiring God.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Those who say yes to Jesus are not condemned for their sin any longer. They are free from the law of sin and have been given the power of the Holy Spirit. We have a power available to us so we can live life in a different and better way than was ever possible.
  • The Spirit of God inside of us helps us in our relationship with God, and helps us to pray when we are weak and don't know what or how to pray.
  • Nothing is able to separate us from the love of God.
  • We can have hope, even in the worst of times and in a messed up world, because we know God will make things right eventually, and because we know there is life after this life.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Are you living by your power, or by the Holy Spirit's power? What do you think it would look like for you to live in the power of God's Spirit? How could you access God's power? What could remind you to do that in moments of temptation? Spend some time thinking through this and asking God to help you.
  • Whatever tough things you're going through, or difficult times you will go through, remember that having God and a perfect future with him in Heaven is important, and nothing can separate you from the love of God. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

May 4 - Romans 7

Today's reading in our daily plan is Romans 7. 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?)
  • This chapter focuses on our relationship to the law. Paul is referring to the law that God gave Moses after bringing the Israelites out of Egypt (see the first 20 chapters of Exodus). The law includes the Ten Commandments.
  • Paul writes that our relationship to the law is similar to the laws of marriage. You are married to your spouse until he or she dies. Similarly, we were married to the law until the death of Jesus. His death has freed us from sin. We no longer follow the law out of obligation or to earn God's acceptance, but, instead, out of gratitude for the gift of grace.
  • The law is holy and good and exists to point out our sin and evil, but it doesn't help us to overcome it. The law should make us aware of our need to be saved, and God provides the saving we need through Jesus (see verses 24-25).
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Most people believe the way to be right with God and get into Heaven is by being "a good person" and doing "good deeds" but the Bible teaches that we absolutely cannot ever be good enough on our own. The only way to salvation and God is through Jesus and his sacrifice. As a result, our effort at living a "good life" is not an attempt to earn our way into heaven, but instead to thank God for the gift and sacrifice of Jesus.
  • Paul shares his struggle of trying to overcome sin. He describes it almost like there's a civil war inside of him - one side wanting to live for God and another side pulling him toward sin. We can all relate. Paul discovered that the solution wasn't to defeat sin through his own willpower, but rather to experience victory through Jesus.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • How do you approach God? Are you trying to do the right things and not do the wrong things so you can be acceptable to Him? Or have you put your faith in Jesus and now live a life of gratitude where everything you do is a "thank you" to God? There is far more freedom and power in living a life of gratitude!
  • In your battle to overcome temptation and sin, are you gritting your teeth and trying to say no through your determination and willpower? Or are you focused on Jesus and getting closer to him so you can have his power available to you? Ask God to help you to rely not on your power but on His power.

Monday, May 3, 2021

May 3 - Romans 6

Today's reading in our daily plan is Romans 6. 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?)
  • Jewish believers, who had lived under a strict law for thousands of years, were learning what grace was and was not. As a result, some people thought it was okay to keep sinning after becoming a follower of Jesus. Paul emphatically answers no. Yes, God's grace is big, but we are to offer ourselves to God instead of sin. 
  • Paul refers to baptism to explain why we should no longer accept sin in our lives. Baptism is when a person is lowered underwater and then raised out of it. This is a symbol of dying with Christ and being raised to new life in him. Death and sin had no hold on Jesus. And when we give our lives to God, sin no longer holds us. 
  • If we love Jesus, we cannot let sin rule our lives. Sin leads to death, but following God leads to eternal life.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • We are all slaves. Yep, that's right. Just like the Bob Dylan songs says, it doesn't matter who you are but "you're gonna have to serve somebody." You can either serve sin which leads to destruction and death, or you can serve God. The choice is yours.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Baptism is for people who have put their faith in Jesus and want to live with and for God. It is a beginning point, not an ending point. Have you been baptized? If you believe in Jesus, you need to be. To learn more about baptism, listen to the message we did on it here
  • What is your attitude about sin? Is it something you do when you feel like it? Do you even think about it? Do you avoid sin, but miss the things you used to do? We need to have the right perspective on sin. It is an unloving action toward God, ourselves, and other people. It is a choice to go against God's plan for my life. It is a decision to distance myself from intimacy with God and people. That's why we need to say no to sin, and instead live according to God's plan of love for our lives.