Bible Readings for January 24-30

Matthew 16

Jesus’ generation sought signs to prove he was the Messiah sent from God. What does our generation seek to prove God’s presence or value today?

Why do you think Peter went so quickly from saying that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God, to saying things that caused Jesus to call him Satan?

What actions demonstrate our commitment to denying ourselves and taking up our crosses?

Matthew 17

How are you listening to Jesus today?

What does it take to have faith “like a grain of mustard seed”?

Matthew 18

What aspects of a child demonstrate a kingdom mindset? Does this describe you?

What do you need to get rid of that is creating for you a temptation to sin, even if getting rid of it might been seen as very drastic?

How often are you willing to forgive someone who sins against you? What does it take to forgive without limit?

Matthew 19

Who are the people we push away from Jesus rather than encouraging them to come to him? How can we draw them to him?

Would your possessions have prevented you from seeking eternal life if you had been the rich man who came to Jesus? Why?

Matthew 20

Why is it human nature to resent those whom we feel like get more than they deserve? How can we reverse this trend?

In what ways do you assume you should receive a select place upon your arrival in heaven?

Prayer for the week: “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”

Get a full 2021 Reading List HERE.

Bible Readings for January 10-16

Matthew 6

Jesus mentions several practices (or spiritual disciplines) in this chapter that help us grow in our faith. Which of these disciplines do you regularly practice? How have they strengthened your faith?

In a world that provides plenty of fuel for a fire of anxiety, how do you heed Jesus’ words to not be anxious about anything?

Matthew 7

How are you putting the words of Jesus–both the words found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and the words of the gospels–into practice? What looks different in your life because you do what he says to do?

Matthew 8

What does this chapter tell you about the power Jesus possesses?

Matthew 9

How long did it take for you to decide to follow Jesus? What sort of person would cause you to simply get up and follow them, like Matthew did Jesus?

Are you praying for workers to be sent into the Lord’s harvest?

Matthew 10

How do you think you would have reacted to Jesus sending you out like “sheep amongst wolves?” In what ways do people continue to be afraid to rely on Jesus in the midst of trouble?

Get a full 2021 Reading List HERE.

Matthew 5.3-12 – November 2, 2020

Matthew 5.3–12

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  (Matthew 5.3–12, NIV)

“I like it because I strive to be a peacemaker and pure in heart.”

Thought Questions:

What do you think the people listening to Jesus were thinking when they heard him describe those who were part of the kingdom of heaven? In what ways did these groups NOT fit people’s expectations?

Which of these beatitudes connects the most with you? Why is this the case?

Why is it hard for us to seek a reward in heaven versus rewards here on this earth?

Matthew 13.44-46 – September 13, 2020

Matthew 13:44–46

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. 

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.  (Matthew 13:44–46, NIV)

What do you value more than all of your possessions?

Thought Questions:

What do we understand about the kingdom of heaven when we discover a man sold everything he had to “purchase” it? How does a life of giving up everything compare to what are people often willing to give up to follow Jesus?

In what ways has seeking the kingdom of heaven cost you everything?

When you trade in everything you have for the kingdom of heaven, what do you have left?

Matthew 8:14–17 – September 6, 2020

Matthew 8:14–17

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.
16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 

“He took up our infirmities
and bore our diseases.” 

(Matthew 8:14–17, NIV)

Jesus does not just care if we trust him or “do all the right things,” he cares about us and our illness and hurts.

Thought Questions:

What do you think prompted Jesus to heal Peter’s mother-in-law? How do you think Peter and his family responded?

One of the key things Jesus did during his earthly ministry is heal people. Why do you think healing others was so important to him? How do you think Jesus compared healing others with the need to follow him?

How do you feel knowing that Jesus cares about not just your spiritual health, but also your physical health?

Matthew 6.16-18 – August 23, 2020

Matthew 6:16–18

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  (Matthew 6:16–18 , NIV)

 

Praying. Reading Scripture. Both are spiritual disciplines we are accustomed to hearing about, as well as practicing. Fasting, we we could do without it. Yet fasting may create a more recognized focus on God and his provisions than any other discipline we can undertake.

Thought Questions:

What experience or teaching have you had/heard about fasting? Why do you think it is lesser known–and lesser practiced–today?

As with many of the spiritual disciplines that Jesus talks about, fasting is to be done without putting on a big show. Why is this the case and in what ways might fasting be one of the easier disciplines to do without everyone knowing about it?

Why is fasting one of the best spiritual disciplines to practice in order to understand our dependence on God?

Matthew 13.1-23 – August 15, 2020

Matthew 13:1–23

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables: 

“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’  

16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” 
 (Matthew 13:1–23 , NIV)

 

Jesus used parables to make his message crystal clear to those who understood. Those who did not understand him and his role found such stories challenging.

Thought Questions:

Why do you think Jesus used an example of sowing as the basis for this parable?

Do you wish Jesus taught in more parables or less? Why do you find this to be the case?

Which of the four soils do you most relate to? In what ways do you see yourself as healthy soil and how can you be more receptive to the word of God?

Matthew 7.7-12 – August 3, 2020

Matthew 7:7–12

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
 (Matthew 7:7–12 , NIV)

Ask.

Seek.

Knock.

Thought Questions:

In what ways do we hear these instructions and think: surely it is not as easy as that? In what ways is it NOT as easy as that?

Think of the best gift you have ever received. Now, knowing those good gifts, how well do you understand that God gives even better gifts to his children? Why do we at times assume God is not a giver of good gifts, but someone who wants us to fail?

How do you want to be treated by others? How can you treat others in the same ways today?

Matthew 7.24-29 – June 13, 2020

Matthew 7:24–29

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.  (Matthew 7:24–29, NIV)

Sing along! The wise man built his house upon the rock…

Thought Questions:

At what point do you become knowledgable enough to live out the words of God you have learned? In what ways do we sometimes want to know more before we begin to do more? Why do you think this is our tendency?

What challenges–rain, winds, storms–have you faced in your life and how has God proven to be your foundation?

How have you worked on building your foundation today?

Matthew 12.9-14 – June 5, 2020

Matthew 12:9–14

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.
 (Matthew 12:9–14, NIV)

After a while you begin to see a pattern: Jesus breaks the “rules” set up to maintain holiness (i.e., the Sabbath laws), to act towards others in. … holiness.

Thought Questions:

How do you think the man with the shriveled hand felt being a pawn for the Pharisees’ trap? How do the Pharisee’s actions serve to further humiliate this man who was already seen as “not worthy of the Lord’s honor?” [Individuals who suffered from some disability would have been considered inferior not just in day-to-day life, but also accursed by God or at the very least, outside of God’s favor.]

Why is it too often so easy for people to value stuff and rules above human lives?

What good things can you do for someone in need or who has been rejected regardless of the perception or expectations of others?