MONTHLY ARCHIVES: July 2016

Strength Under Control

Posted on July 26, 2016 by Karah

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Mull over this quote to begin your time with God today:

“Our identity rests in God’s relentless tenderness for us revealed in Jesus Christ.”
—Brennan Manning

Read Matthew 5:5 in your Bible. Underline what this verse says will happen to those who are gentle.

“The gentle are blessed, for they will inherit the earth.”

—Matthew 5:5

In today’s world, gentleness is often considered a weakness. But in today’s Scripture passage, the word gentle carries the connotation of strength under control. Think through these questions:

Think of what you know about Jesus and the way He interacted with people during His earthly ministry. How did He display strength under control?

Think about the most gentle Christian you know. How do you see that person submitting his or her life to the Holy Spirit’s control? Explain.

Matthew 5:5 pictures believers who have submitted every part of their lives to Jesus’ control. Their lives are characterized by humility, courteousness, self-control, and a tender, compassionate nature. Does that describe you? Why or why not?

Who is in control of your strength? How do you know? Explain.

Respond

Consider how your understanding of gentleness has changed since studying it today.

In what ways are you still struggling to submit every part of your life to the lordship of Jesus? In your journal, make a list of reasons He deserves full control of your strength, then spend some time in prayer, asking Him to help you thoroughly submit to Him.

How has Jesus been gentle toward you? Ask God to help you recall all the times He has been mercifully gentle with you. Praise Him for each instance. Be specific in your praise!

Behind the Story

A gentle person is not a weak person, but rather a person whose strength is harnessed and focused. The term describes those who are powerful, but who have the maturity and grace to use their power for constructive rather than destructive purposes. Matthew 5:5 also echoes Psalm 37:11 in which the gentle are those who stubbornly trust God and surrender to His authority even when they cannot make sense of their circumstances.

The Point

Kingdom citizens are gentle and focused on Christ.


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Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Posted on July 19, 2016 by Karah

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List the blessings in your life—from obvious ones to hardships that have turned to blessings. Ask God to open your eyes to His blessings as you study His Word today.

Read Matthew 5:3-4 in your Bible. Read verses 3-4 again carefully, then complete the list below.

“The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted.” —Matthew 5:3-4

Blessed are _________________________________

Because ___________________________________

Blessed are _________________________________

Because ___________________________________

Known as the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-11 describes what it means to be a citizen in God’s kingdom. These verses describe the character of true believers.

Consider this quote from Stuart Weber:

“The beginning of repentance is the recognition of one’s spiritual bankruptcy—one’s inability to become righteous on one’s own.”

Ask yourself:

What does it mean to be spiritually bankrupt?

How does verse 3 illustrate spiritual bankruptcy?

Look at verse 4. Believers recognize their sinfulness and their inability to do anything about it. This brings them to a place of repentance. How does verse 4 demonstrate that?

Respond

Have you ever recognized your own spiritual bankruptcy? Journal about that experience. Write Jesus a thank-you for rescuing you from your spiritual poverty.

Today’s verses describe the recognition of sinfulness and repentance that leads to salvation, but as a believer, you know that you still sometimes sin. Ask God to reveal any sin in your life today so that you can confess it and enjoy restored fellowship with God.

For further study, consider doing a group Bible study on the Sermon on the Mount. Try “Sermon on the Mount” by Jen Wilkin (LifeWay Christian Resources, 2014).

Behind the Story

The Gospel of Matthew is filled with moments of instruction from Jesus to His disciples, including the Sermon on the Mount. The first part of this teaching (vv. 3-11) is commonly called the Beatitudes and focuses on characteristics of true Christ-followers. Although each of these characteristics seem to be able to stand alone, they are meant to be understood together. The Beatitudes build on each other, like individual bricks to make a wall. Jesus began the Beatitudes by focusing on the hearts of Christ-followers, followed by describing characteristics of their relationship with God and with others.

The Point

Because kingdom citizens realize they can’t save themselves, they mourn and repent of their sin.


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A Whole Heart

Posted on July 5, 2016 by Karah

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Prepare your heart by listening to the song “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” by Jadon Lavik (I Have Decided to Follow Jesus [Single], 2011).

Think about a homework assignment, chore, or task you recently completed halfheartedly. What words might describe how you worked? Why did you put so little effort into it? Journal a few thoughts.

With that in mind, read Luke 9:57-62 in your Bible.

“But Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’” —Luke 9:62

Ask yourself:

After reading these verses, can a true disciple live a life characterized by halfhearted faith? Explain your answer.

What does wholehearted commitment to Christ look like?

Look at the excuses the people gave in this passage for not wholeheartedly committing to Jesus. What excuses do you give for halfhearted commitment? What things do you allow to get in the way of obedience?

Why is it important to understand that faith in Jesus is more than just a simple statement of belief? What do your actions and the way you live your life have to do with it? Explain.

Respond

Following Jesus is much bigger than marking off an item on a checklist or going to a weekly event at church. Jesus wants control of every part of your life.

Evaluate your life. In what ways does your life demonstrate a wholehearted commitment to Jesus? If the Holy Spirit reveals areas marked by a lack of commitment or obedience, confess them immediately. Admit to Jesus once again how much you need Him in every area of your life.

What steps will you take this week to follow your commitment with action? List two or three in the comments below.

The way you live out your faith is a witness to those around you. When people see that you truly believe Jesus deserves your wholehearted commitment, they will want to know more about the Savior you serve. Ask Jesus to remind you of this truth daily.

For further study, read Mark 8:34-38; Luke 14:25-33; Galatians 2:19-21; and Philippians 3:7-11.

Behind the Story

It may seem harsh that Jesus would tell a potential disciple to “let the dead bury their own dead.” But it’s most likely that this man’s father had not died yet. After all, would he be sitting around having a conversation with Jesus if his father was waiting to be buried? Ultimately, this man was procrastinating on following Jesus until a much later date.

The Point

Jesus calls His followers to wholehearted commitment


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