A few weeks ago, I was on vacation with my family.. Katie, Keeley, and I always go to New Smyrna Beach, Florida. It is paradise for us - the views are great, the sand is rock hard, and the food is as good as it gets. I never fail to cherish that week with my family as the memories are priceless. If you don’t have a rhythm of getting away, wherever that may be, with your family, I would highly recommend finding a way to get one. It’s one of the most important things that you can do as it helps you reset and rest.
MONDAY, AUGUST 8
Connect: Matthew 13
- What is represented in the Parable of the Soils?
- Who does the sower represent?
- What does the seed represent?
- What do the different soils represent?
- What do the stones, weeds, and thorns represent?
Of the soils (human hearts) represented in the Parable of the Soils. The fourth is notably different. This one understands and bears fruit. He accepts and confirms his life to the gospel. The presence of fruit, not its quantity, is what matters. Calvin says, “The fertility of that soil which yields a thirty-fold produce is small compared with that which yields a hundred-fold but Jesus classes together all kinds of soil which do not entirely disappoint the labors and expectations of the sower.” Mathew Henry writes: “ That which distinguished this good ground from the rest was in one word, fruitlessness. He does not say that this good ground has no stones in it, or no thorns; but there were none that prevailed to hinder its fruitfulness.” Stones or thorns may be found in the good soil of a believer’s heart, but these hindrances do not finally prevent him from bearing fruit. Despite your remaining sin, is your life bearing fruit for Christ?
TUESDAY, AUGUST 9
Connect: Isaiah 6
- What message was Isaiah required to carry to Israel?
- How long was he to continue to proclaim this message?
- Every time God’s word is proclaimed it changes all of those that hear it. No one ever remains unaffected by God’s word. To those who hear it positively, there is growth in grace. To those who reject it or are indifferent to it calluses are added to their souls and hearts. Their eyes become dimmer and their ears heavier. The mystery of the kingdom becomes more obscure. Ask God to open your ears to hear his voice and to clear your spiritual eyes so that your heart will understand his word.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 10
Connect: Acts 28
- What freedom was Paul given – 28:16,30?
- Whom did Paul call? What did he say the Romans thought of his case – 28:17,18?
- What reason did he give why he was in Rome – 28:19?
- What had the Jews heard about Paul, and why did they want to talk to him?
- Paul preached wherever he was (v31), no matter the condition – whether in chains (v20) or while a prisoner in his house (v30). He preached lovingly (v17-20, biblically (v23), and doctrinally (v 23 &31). He preached with immediacy (v17), with endurance (v23 & 30-31), and with boldness (v31). He preached to everyone (v 17 & 28). He preached Christ (v23) and desired for people to know him (v31). As we saw in yesterday’s passage, Isaiah was commanded to preach a message that no one would hear and yet he was faithful to preach anyway. Pray that God would give you the boldness and faithfulness of Paul and Isaiah to proclaim truth despite the challenges we face.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 11
Connect: Romans 11
- In 11:16, what is represented by the firstfruit, the lump, the root, and the branches?
- What does 11:17 say happened? What is represented by the branches broken off and the wild olive tree grafted in?
- Why were branches broken off and others grafted in?
- What makes people spiritually hard of hearing?
- Do you think you have always been a good listener when hearing the gospel? When did you listen more carefully? When are you harder of hearing? What made the difference?
- Are you in a relationship with someone who is hardened to the gospel? How would you assess that person’s condition based on the four types of soil?
- Paul explains that the hardening of the Jews has occurred so as to allow the Gentiles to come into the kingdom. Though there are many privileges in being a part of God’s family, we must never become conceited that we trust in Christ while others do not. Even withing churches Christians can tend to look down on other denominations. All of God’s people have been chosen from the foundation of the world, but it is not due to our own loveliness. Christins should therefore be the most humble of all people. If we find arrogance in ourselves, let us quickly repent.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 12
Connect: 2 Corinthians 3
- Define “sufficient.” What was the source of Paul’s sufficiency – 3:4-6?
- In what sense was Paul not sufficient but needed God? How is this true of us?
- In what specific area had God made Paul sufficient?
- The problem with the old covenant was unregenerate hearts. Many individual Israelites looked to the law not as a way of salvation but as something to obey to thank God for his grace. But the nation as a whole erred by looking to establish their own righteousness by it. If we try to merit righteousness by keeping the law, the law will kill us. But if we reject our own merit and obey out of gratitude for God’s grace, we show that the Spirit is at work in us.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 13
Connect: 2 Corinthians 4
- In 4:7, what is the treasure, and what are the earthen vessels?
- Is the power of the gospel in the message or in the messenger?
- In what sense did Paul bear or manifest the dying and the life of Jesus?
- God told Paul that he wanted to keep him weak because “My power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9). Paul’s weakness and suffering kept him dependent on God, and became a channel for God’s grace to others. Jesus asked that the cup of suffering pass him by. We are never to seek suffering, but when it comes could it be that God is allowing us to take someone else’s pain, that they may have the strength to serve? Such a thought comforted Paul; it may comfort us as well.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 14
Connect: Philippians 1
- What did Paul expect to result from his circumstances – 1:19?
- What did he believe would bring about this result?
- Was he certain whether he would live or die – 1:20? In either case, what did he expect and hope would be the most important outcome?
- What advantage did Paul believe there would be if he continued to live?
- What advantage did he see if he were to die?
- Jonathan Edwards once said that many of us live like the traveler who stops at a hotel along his way and enjoys it so much that he abandons his journey. The apostle Paul did not suffer this attachment. He was well aware of the blessed hope that awaited him. We can detect the tension though. He enjoyed the fellowship with the Christians at Philippi, and he knew it was necessary for him to remain and continue as their teacher. But what he really wanted was to see Jesus. He knew that death is not a tragedy for the believer. Have you come to the place where you understand that death is a great victory for those that follow Jesus? If you fear death and are a Christian, remeber that to live is Christ, but to die is gain.