Wednesday, August 12, 2020

August 12 - Matthew 15

Today's reading in our daily plan is Matthew 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?)
  • This chapter starts with religious leaders challenging Jesus. The religious leaders ask Jesus why he lets his followers break the traditions of the elders. Jesus responds with two points:
    1. The religious leaders disobey God’s commands for the sake of their traditions, and,
    2. They aren’t really concerned about God.
  • After giving an answer to the religious elite, Jesus tells everyone that it’s not what goes into the mouth that makes a person unclean but what comes out. The religious leaders were focused on religious traditions such as what people ate, but Jesus says it's the evil that comes out of our hearts that matters, and that can separate us from God.
  • Next, Jesus interacts with a Canaanite woman (not an Israelite). She begs Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus tells her that his mission was to the people of Israel. But this didn’t stop the faith of the woman. She isn't demanding or forceful. She simply knows that Jesus can and will heal her daughter, which makes her persistent in the face of resistance. Jesus heals her daughter, revealing that his mission was not truly only to the people of Israel. Perhaps by telling her that, he was testing the persistence of her faith.
  • The chapter ends with Jesus miraculously feeding four thousand people (not including the women and children who would have been there, but wouldn't have been counted). After healing those who were sick or had a lifelong ailment, Jesus provides sustenance so that the people can make it home. Jesus has great compassion on those who come to him. 
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • In this chapter one group (the religious leaders) approach Jesus demanding an answer, and they receive correction. A woman approaches Jesus humbly asking for a miracle for her daughter and she receives it. A group approaches Jesus seeking healing for the sick, and he gives not only healing, but a miraculous supply of food as well. How we approach Jesus, and why we approach him, are critical and significant factors in how he responds to us.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What do you want from Jesus? More faith? Healing from a hurt in your life? A miracle for someone you love? Are you asking him for it? And how are you approaching him? With a humble heart? Or demanding because you believe it's something you deserve? Why don't you make today a day of humbly asking Jesus for something important you really want?

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

August 11 - Matthew 14

Today's reading in our daily plan is Matthew 14. 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 starts off with tragedy: Jesus’ cousin, John, is killed as a prisoner. Jesus hears of this and tries to go be alone, but can't get away from crowds of people who don't know (or don't care) that he's grieving. Jesus has compassion on the crowds and heals their sick. Then he takes it a step further by miraculously feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish.
  • The reading ends with Jesus walking on water. What kind of person walks on a lake in the middle of a stormy night? A confident and daring person, that's who! Jesus went from grieving the unjust loss of his cousin to triumphing over the forces of nature. Then Jesus invites Peter to join him and gives him the power to do the impossible.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Did you notice how Jesus fed all the people? He first took what the disciples had to offer. Then he gave God thanks and broke it into pieces. He then gave it back to the disciples, who gave to the people what they received. God can work through our lives in a similar way. When we give ourselves to Jesus, he blesses/breaks us and sends us to “feed” the crowds. When we give of ourselves to others it may seem that we’re not going to have enough to make a difference, but God shows up and accomplishes the work. Jesus is asking us to trust him, especially when it doesn’t add up.
  • Peter was a normal person (just like you) but was able to do something abnormal (walk on water!) because of his relationship with Jesus, and because he was willing to get out of the boat. If we have a relationship with Jesus and are willing to follow him wherever he calls us (even if it's scary), we can do things that people normally can't do.
  • Notice that Peter was having no problem walking on the water when he was focused on Jesus. It was when he "saw the wind" that he became afraid and started to drown. In the same way, the object of our focus is critical. If we lock eyes with Jesus, we can do things we could never do on our own. But if we stare at what makes us afraid, we will start to sink.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • God wants to use your life in a big way. So... is there something he's asking you to give to him (a dream, some of your resources, an ability) that he wants to help you use to "feed the crowds"? If so, what's keeping you from giving it to him?
  • Or is God calling you to get out of the boat, but you're too afraid to follow him? If so, what are you afraid of? Know that Jesus will keep you from sinking, and with his help you can get out of your comfort zone and go where he is leading. Spend some time asking God what he wants from you, where he's leading you, and then focus on Jesus and ask him to help you to do it.

Monday, August 10, 2020

August 10 - Matthew 13

Today's reading in our daily plan is Matthew 13. 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 several parables (stories with spiritual meanings) about the "kingdom of heaven" (made up of the people who decide to let God lead their lives) and about the various ways people hear about and respond to the message of God's kingdom of heaven. Each parable addresses a different aspect of this kingdom:
    • The Sower - A farmer spreads seeds in different places and they grow according to the soil in which they’re planted.
    • The Weeds - God is waiting for the final judgement, when he will decide who is "wheat" and who is "weeds."
    • The Mustard Seed and Yeast - God’s kingdom is not like a heavy-handed political movement. Rather, it works in subtle ways producing good things wherever it spreads.
    • The Hidden Treasure and Pearl - When someone discovers the gospel (the good news that, despite us, God still loves us and wants a relationship with us, and sent Jesus to die for us so we could have that relationship and live in His Kingdom) they should be so overjoyed that they're willing to give up anything and everything to get it, just like God gave up everything to get us.
    • The Net - This parable is akin to the one about weeds.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Again (as in Matthew 11), we see one of the major themes in this chapter is how we respond to Jesus and to his message of God's of love and his desire to lead our lives. Some people say no. Others say yes, but soon they get distracted, or life gets hard and they turn away from God. But there are others who are overwhelmed with joy at the unbelievable value of what they have discovered, and they give up whatever they have to to get it, and their lives end up producing an incredible "crop."
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • When you hear the good news that a perfect God loves very imperfect you with perfect love, died for you, wants a relationship with you, wants to lead you through life, and eventually bring you to perfect Heaven to be with Him forever... how do you respond? Are you too cynical to believe it? Does it just sound good, or does it set your heart on fire? Do you kind of want that, or are you willing to give up anything to have it? And if you haven't responded in an appropriately overwhelming way, what could you do to soften up your soil so the seed of God's message can really sink in? Have you asked God to help you with that?

Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Jesus You Never Knew: Jesus and a Naked Bloody Superfreak

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 continued the series called The Jesus You Never Knew and talked about Jesus & a Naked Bloody Superfreak.
  1. Where's the weirdest place you've ever slept?
  2. How do you judge others by their outward appearance?
  3. Read Mark 5:6-13 in the New Testament of the Bible. What can you take away and apply in your own life from that passage?
  4. Have you ever been able to look past someone's outward appearance and love them for who they are? If so, when? If not, why not?
  5. 1 John 3:16 in the New Testament of the Bible says, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us." How does that make you feel that Christ loved you so much, He was willing to die for you?
  6. What area of life are you getting defeated in right now?
  7. Why do you think so many people prefer other things over the presence of the Savior?
  8. What do you care more about than experiencing true joy?
  9. Do you fear the unknown? Why or why not?
  10. 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 9 - Psalms 86

Today's reading in our daily plan is Psalm 86. 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?)
  • King David is the author of this psalm. He is praising God for being merciful to him and forgiving his sins. David asks God to teach him his ways so that he can honor God with his life.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • The more we follow God, the more natural it is for us to be mindful of Him and His goodness. In the same way that it's good for us to communicate our love to people we care about, we should regularly express to God our feelings toward Him.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Do your prayers ever sound like David's? His prayers were full of passion for God because he had a very close relationship with him. How close are you with God? Do you ever ask God to teach you more about his ways so that you can honor him with your life? 
  • It’s easy to just "do religion," to follow rules that make us feel like we're doing the right things. Having a relationship with God like David did is much more work but way more satisfying. Ask God to show you if you’re just playing religion or if you have a genuine relationship with him. Then ask him how healthy your relationship is.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

August 8 - Psalms 84 and 85

Today's reading in our daily plan is Psalms 84 & 85. 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?)
  • Psalms 84 talks about going to church. It sounds simple and maybe even silly, but that’s what the writer is talking about. He’s praising God for the opportunity to go to a temple and worship him. The writer goes as far as to say he’d rather be a doorman in church than not be able to go. The writer loves God and loves being in his house.
  • In Psalm 85, the writer is asking God to turn back to his people again. Obviously, the people had rejected God once again and are asking for his favor again. It’s almost comical how frequently psalms like these come up, isn’t it? But if we were honest with ourselves we would have to admit we’re the same way.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • We can take for granted how easy it is for us to go to church. Being at church regularly connects us with other people who are taking steps closer to God, and keeps Him at the forefront of our weekly schedule.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Do you enjoy going to church like the writer of Psalm 84 does? It’s a great privilege to be able to go to church freely, even if that means experiencing it online. Some places in the world still have to sneak around to have church because they’ll be killed if anyone finds them.
  • Commit to attend church regularly. It's tempting to do something else, but the reality is that going to church is one hour of your week that can make a huge impact on how you mature and develop as a follower of Jesus.

Friday, August 7, 2020

August 7 - Matthew 12

Today's reading in our daily plan is Matthew 12. 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 is accused of breaking the Law by working on the Sabbath (verses 1-14). It’s obvious to Jesus that the Pharisees care more about the letter of the law than the spirit of the law, and he shows them this focus makes them value their own possessions (sheep, in this case) more than people.
  • Jesus defends himself from the accusation that he heals by the power of the devil (verses 22-37). He uses logic and analogies that the Pharisees conveniently ignore.
  • In this section Jesus utters a troubling sentence: “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” The exact meaning of Jesus' words are difficult to determine and have been debated -- but as long as you follow Jesus' commands to love God, love people, and share God’s love, you won’t have to worry about this.
  • Jesus says (verses 38-42) that the only sign he’ll give to these people is being in the heart of the earth three days and nights. This is a foreshadowing of the three days between Jesus' death and resurrection.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • The Pharisees had always looked good and been admired. Encountering Jesus revealed who they really were. A genuine encounter with Jesus always shows who a person really is. At that point, the person has a choice to make. Like the Pharisees, they can defend themselves and go on the offensive. Or they can see themselves for who they really are -- more sinful than they ever realized, and more loved than they ever dared to imagine -- and repent (have a change of heart that leads to a change of action) and put their faith in Jesus, who is the one who loves them and who died for their sins.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Would you say you've had a genuine encounter with Jesus? Has it revealed who you are at your depths? Has it led you to see the ugliness inside you? Has it led you to an appreciation for God's grace -- that he loves you anyway? How have you responded to your encounter with Jesus? Not just originally, but every day, as you should have a genuine encounter with Jesus every day. What is Jesus revealing about you today, and how will you respond?