Bible Reading Plan
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Weekends: Read any passages of your choice or catch up if you’ve fallen behind 🙂
 
 
 
 
 
 
How To Soul Journal
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Journal Entries
Every weekday you will find a journal entry here from someone different in our church family. 
 
Click the scripture title and scroll down to see a comments section where you can ask questions, share insights and post your own SOUL Journal entry for the day!
 

Ephesians 4

 

Scripture

Ephesians 4:32

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Observation – What does it say?

The Apostle Paul gives some of the most practical instructions in this passage. Jesus has given us a new life where we have put off our old sinful nature and are learning to put on the new nature, which is created to be like God, righteous and holy. In other words, a true Christ-follower will stop sinning and learn to live a good life like Jesus did. So Paul lists several practical examples/instructions of what it looks like for us to put on this new nature. And, it’s lumped together with these instructions that Paul tells the Ephesian Christ-followers to be kind, compassionate and to forgive. Not just forgiving like they’ve witnessed other people forgive, but forgiving in the same way that Jesus forgave them.

Understanding – What does it mean?

Jesus told a story in Matthew 18 when asked, “How many times should I forgive my brother or sister?”  

To sum it up, a servant who owed the king 10 bags of gold begged him for mercy because he couldn’t pay. The king had mercy and cancelled the debt completely. Leaving the king, the man found his fellow servant who owed him 100 pieces of silver. His fellow servant couldn’t pay it. And rather than showing mercy like the king showed him, he had his fellow servant thrown in prison until he could repay the debt. The king found out and reprimanded the servant for not showing mercy as he had been shown mercy, and handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he could repay his debt.

God expects those who have received his forgiveness to extend that same forgiveness to others.

Earlier in the chapter, Paul says that the Gentile unbelievers had “lost all sensitivity” and “given themselves over to every kind of impurity.” What he was referring to is sensitivity to the Holy Spirit who, among other things, acts as the Christ-follower’s conscience. When you are about to sin the Holy Spirit will bring conviction, a warning you sense in your spirit not to go through with the sin. But if you ignore his voice repeatedly over time and keep sinning anyway, you dull your sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Just like we learn to tune out unwanted noise, we learn to tune out his voice. Then, when faced with temptation we don’t even really hear the warning anymore. Some of us have lost sensitivity to the Holy Spirit because we have ignored his nudging us to forgive.

Regardless of how bad we’ve been hurt or wronged, it doesn’t compare to how bad we’ve hurt and wronged God. And regardless of how bad we’ve been hurt or wronged, we are still called to forgive.

Life Application

Consider who I need to forgive.
 
Holy Spirit, restore any lost sensitivity to your voice. Speak to me right now and bring to mind anyone I need to forgive.  Even if I think I’ve forgiven them, show me any bitterness, resentment or offense I’m still carrying toward them… (wait and listen for a moment). God, you forgave me completely for all my wrongs. I didn’t deserve it but you forgave anyway. As hard as it is, I choose to forgive them now, just like you forgave me. Please remove all the pain and resentment in my heart and replace it with your love for them. Amen.
 
– Levi Thompson
 
To check out the discussion or to join in click here.


Ephesians 3

 

 
 
Scripture
 
Ephesians‬ ‭3:16-19‬ 

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

‭‭Observation-What does it say?

In this chapter, Paul is reminding the Ephesians of sound doctrine regarding who they are in Christ and the work Christ has done in their lives, including his own life in verses 7-9. He ends this chapter with a prayer for the Ephesians.

Understanding-What does it mean?

Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus highlights God’s covenant with His church and how it is only by His power, His grace and His love that they will be filled to overflowing to do the works Christ has called them to do. 

In the verses I chose above, the Apostle Paul prays specific things over the maturing church in Ephesus in his letter to them. 

First, he acknowledges that it is through the riches of Christ and power of the Holy Spirit alone that their inner being is strengthened. 2. That their power in Him would not only be grasped for themselves personally, but also together with the whole church in community (vs. 18). 3. That they would be filled up and take hold of God’s undeniable and deep love for them.

Life Application

The love God has for us, His church, His bride, is very deep and surpasses knowledge. Just as Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus to grasp this love, I pray the same over our church as well.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans‬ ‭8:35-39‬ ‭‬‬

There will always be one specific God encounter moment that I reference back to that reminds me of His great love for me and that was the time when I was sick and God took me alone to be with Him to restore me (during a hospital stay). He did this by pouring His love into me and proving His faithfulness over me, assuring me that He would never leave me or forsake me. No condemnation or judgment, just love. Another example would be in the context and picture of my marriage. Going away recently for the marriage retreat with my husband, being alone with him, spending time with him, and getting to know him again deepened my love for him and I was able to grasp his deep love for me as well. I will always reference that weekend when things get tough in our marriage. 

What is your God encounter moment? What moment in time do you reference back to when the struggles, trials and temptations of life hit and try to take us away from our calling and God’s will for our life? Paul briefly explained his in verses 7-13 in this chapter, as he was encouraging the church not to be discouraged by his suffering for them.

Dear Lord, thank You for Your great love for us and how nothing can separate us from Your love. I pray over our church. I pray that You will deposit specific God encounter moments that we can reference back to to remember Your great and immense love for us…A love that won’t let go and a love that will continue to sustain us here on earth. Thank You Jesus for all You do to work in and through us as we submit to Your love. Amen.

 
To check out the discussion or to join in, click here.
 
-Michelle Gaddi


Ephesians 2

 

Scripture

Ephesians 2:7

“So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.”

‭‭Observation-What does it say?

Paul is writing to the Ephesians, reminding them all about who they were before Jesus Christ. They were dead in their sins. They were dead spiritually and therefore unable to have a relationship with God. They were defiled and unfit for God’s holy presence, living according to their own selfish lusts. By their very nature, they were subject to God’s wrath, and were doomed for eternal destruction. But God, who is rich in mercy, grace, and love, provided a way for all mankind to be saved from His wrath. He gave us His only son, Jesus. 

Understanding-What does it mean?

What story or legacy is my life leaving behind? Is it one that will bring glory and honor to God?

One thing that stuck out to me this past weekend at the marriage getaway was an illustration that Pastor Parker gave about how our marriages were in God’s trophy case. Occasionally, God will take those marriages out of that trophy case, dust them off, and boast about them. Imagine that?! Our God using our marriages or our individual life stories to boast about to others, to tell the wonderful story of how we  were once without Him in our lives. How we were once lost, sinful, and on the road to destruction. But then He found us. He transformed our lives to what it is now. Imagine the smile it brings to Him. Imagine the glory and honor it brings Him when the people we do life with see the transformation within us, because only God is the One who can change a sinful, prideful, and lowly man like me, and change me to the man I have become. Praise be to Jesus!

“Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” Colossians‬ ‭3:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” ‭Titus‬ ‭3:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Life Application

Share with someone today something that God has transformed in you.

Father God thank You for loving me while I was still a sinner. Thank You for Your grace, mercy, and the countless times You have forgiven me. May Your Holy Spirit abide in me today. Help me to live a life that is honoring to You. Help me to live my life today in a way that can point to Your amazing grace, mercy, and love. May the life I live and the legacy I leave behind be a great example that You can use to bring glory and honor to Your name for generations to come. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

 
To check out the discussion or to join in, click here.
 
-Moses Gaddi


Ephesians 1

 

Scripture

Ephesians 1:3
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

 

Observation

Paul writes to the church of Ephesus and praises God for the spiritual blessing that are theirs (ours) in Heaven through Jesus Christ; these being: predestination, holiness, adoption, redemption, grace, forgiveness, revelation and inheritance; all guaranteed by the seal of the promised Holy Spirit. He then prays that the church may be given the wisdom and knowledge to fully understand the power of God that is at work within them (us) – the very same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of the Father with all authority.

 

Understanding

“Our thanks are due God for all temporal blessings; they are more than we deserve. But our thanks ought to go to God in thunders and hallelujahs for spiritual blessings. A new heart is better than a new coat. To feed on Christ is better than to have the best earthly food. To be an heir of God is better than being the heir of the greatest nobleman. To have God as our portion is blessed, infinitely more blessed than to own broad acres of land. God has blessed us with spiritual blessings. These are the rarest, the richest, the most enduring of all blessings; they are priceless in value.
                                                                                                                                                                               Charles Spurgeon

Life Application

I pray to have a heavenly value system, where my wealth is measured in the economy and commodities of Heaven; and to have my peace, joy and hope founded upon the same. Only then will I be able to praise, worship and trust in God though I lose every earthly accommodation.  
 
To check out the discussion or to join in, click here
-Gary Parker


Galatians 6

 

Scripture

Galatians 6:9-10

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Observation

As we continue through Galatians, I’m reminded of something that struck me from yesterday’s message…

The person of faith does not pass on the chance to help family.

  • It doesn’t matter if you’re outnumbered and it seems like you don’t have what it takes.
  • It doesn’t matter if you’ll have to convince your spouse/family to get on board.
  • It doesn’t matter if you’ve had conflict with that person in the past.
  • It doesn’t matter if they’re in trouble because of their own poor decisions.

As Levi shared yesterday, Abraham set aside the excuses and the comforts in order to protect his family…despite it being Lot’s own choice that brought him to the situation he was in, despite their past conflict, despite being outnumbered – going out with 318 household members against an ARMY (Genesis 14).

God blesses us so that we can be a blessing.

Understanding

Yesterday, I was convicted on the matter of my own blood-born family. But in reading today’s passage, I’m equally convicted on the matter of doing good to “the family of believers” to which I belong – our church.

In our Grow group, we discussed how often times it’s easy to “do good” to people at our work or when we are out and about…but somehow more difficult when it comes to our own family. We often have more patience, consideration, forgiveness and kindness to show strangers, colleagues, employees, etc. than we do our own flesh and blood or towards the church family where God has placed us. Why do you think that is?

In searching my own heart on this matter, I think – for me, at least – it is because we have less of a backstory and context with those we don’t know as well. We only see the parts of their story that they are willing to make known…which is probably closer to a highlight reel or filtered view.  And, perhaps with less backstory comes less judgement.  And, with less judgement come more grace.  In some ways, it’s almost as if the less we know, the more compassion we are able to give. 

Proverbs 3:27 (NLT)

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them.

I think where it’s easy to get hung up is…WHO decides “who deserves it”? Newsflash! It’s not us. J We are called to see people through God’s eyes, have His heart for them and His compassion for them, give to others out of the abundance that He has given us.

Life Application

Dear God, may I see the world through your eyes! May we see the opportunities throughout today and this week to do good to others in Your name.  Lord, help me to remember that I was once lost yet received the greatest gift – salvation through Christ; and may I live in such a way that brings others to that same saving grace.  Until then, may I partner with you to “plant” and “water” as often as possible, that the harvest may come.  In your precious and holy name, Amen.

To check out the discussion or to join in click here.

– Rei



Galatians 5

 

Scripture

Galatians 5:2

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.

Observation – What does it say?

Some had begun to spread a teaching within the Galatian church that contradicted the gospel. They were essentially saying that Christ’s work on the cross wasn’t enough for us to be justified before God and that it was necessary to also follow certain laws – namely the command of circumcision.

The Apostle Paul wrote with tons of emotion and frustration that this group of Christians he loved so much was being led astray from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Understanding – What does it mean?

Christ ceases to be of any value to us the moment we attempt to make ourselves acceptable to God on the basis of our works!

Either Christ is everything to us or nothing. Either his death and resurrection is sufficient for our salvation or it’s not.  I think we can look at it this way: When something is of no value to us we throw it away. When we attempt to appeal to God for his favor and acceptance on the basis of a our good behavior, it’s as though we are taking Jesus’ work on the cross and throwing it in the trash. Christ is of no value to us if we try to pull out the, “I’m a good person so I’m just hoping God has a spot for me in heaven,” card. I heard someone say once, “If your works couldn’t save you, what makes you think they can sustain you?” This is what the Galatians were doing. They came to God through faith in Christ, but then were later trying to add their works to what Christ had done.

Paul concludes this thought by saying, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” The only thing at all that counts before God is faith! Believing Jesus’ work is enough for us is the way to pleasing God, and allowing that faith to express itself in love toward God and others.
 
But didn’t Jesus tell his disciples to store up treasure in heaven? Didn’t he say we will be rewarded for what we’ve done? Confused? Paul here is talking about salvation. Salvation and eternity in heaven is only achieved through faith in Christ. Rewards for our good works are completely separate from the reward of salvation. 
 

Life Application

Maybe God’s question for us isn’t, “Will you try harder?” but “Will you believe more?”

God, for the sake of your son Jesus Christ, please have mercy on us and forgive us for ever thinking we could add to what you’ve done. Jesus, you are enough. Our righteousness before you is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). We all have fallen short and are desperate for your grace. May we put our hope in Christ and not in any ‘works’ for our salvation. And fill us with faith that expresses itself in love. Amen.
 
– Levi Thompson
 
To check out the discussion or to join in click here.


Galatians 4

 

Scripture

Galatians 4:6-7

“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “ Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

Observation-What does it say?

Paul continues to admonish the church in Galatia, that righteousness comes through faith in Christ alone. It is not by works or upholding the law, but rather, the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. It’s a transformation that occurs from the inside out. 

Understanding-What does it mean? 

It’s about Christ’s sufficiency, not our self sufficiency.

The last 2 chapters of Galatians basically spoke on the sufficiency of Christ that enables us to live for Him because we are unable to do it on our own. In this chapter, we are reminded that we are adopted as His children.  We are no longer slaves to our former selves or sin nature, but rather God’s adopted child, made new and clean in His sight, just as Jesus was. In addition to the benefits of being part of His family, we also inherited His Holy Spirit as a deposit into our hearts. We were given His Holy Spirit and are being molded into Christ’s image not by our own efforts, but His.

“Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

 
Life Application

God alone is good. His grace and power is sufficient. It is our weakness (or dependence on Him), that makes us strong. 

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

 
Even Jesus corrected a man who called him good teacher in Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:9.  He told him that no one was good but God alone. That proved Jesus’ complete dependency on the Father to carry out His will on Earth.
 
Dear Jesus, I confess that I am weak. Weak against the fleshly battles that wage war in my mind and heart…weak against the temptations that the evil one throws at me…weak against my striving to be righteous and perfect. I’m so grateful that You are the strong One in this relationship and that I can run to You for anything. I thank You that as I depend on Your Holy Spirit, run to Your Word daily and get counsel/prayer from Your children that I am made strong. I thank You that You do the bulk of the work in this relationship as I choose to submit to You daily. I am desperate and in need of You Jesus not just for salvation, but to sustain me until You take me home. To You be the glory alone and forever. Amen.
 
To check out the discussion or to join in, click here.
 
-Michelle Gaddi


Galatians 3

 

Scripture

Galatians 3:3

“How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”

‭‭Observation-What does it say?

Paul writes to the the believers in Galatia, reminding them that it is not through their works, but through their faith in Jesus Christ that brings them salvation. Paul reminds them that it was Abraham’s faith, and not his works, that accounted Him as righteous before God-(vs. 6). Paul implores the people of Galatia to let go of the old Jewish belief of being made holy by trying to keep and observe the law. Instead, Paul encourages them to return to the true foundation of their faith…their faith in Christ Jesus alone.

Understanding-What does it mean?

Allow the works in my life to flow freely from my relationship with Jesus/The Holy Spirit. 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Too many times in life we get caught up trying to be holy, and worst of all we try doing it on our own will power. What we end up doing is living a life based on “jumping through spiritual hoops”, or checking off our “Christian things-to-do-list” in order for us to feel like we are holy or feel like better Christ followers. And what usually ends up happening when we try to accomplish these things? We end up failing or we just simply run out of steam to do them anymore. I mean, why even try if we are just going to fail or burn out anyway? Are we forgetting the fact that we are already redeemed as holy because of our faith in Jesus?

Enter The Holy Spirit. As Christ Followers, are we forgetting that Jesus left us His Holy Spirit when he ascended into Heaven? Life as a Christ Follower is hard enough. Why try to live it on our own?  Why not use the things that God gives us to help us along life’s journeys? We have His Holy Spirit and His people. So let’s start out by opening up our relationship to His Holy Spirit. Allow our love for the One who saved us (by His grace), be the driving force that causes us to be obedient to Him. Let our faith and love for Him be the one that changes our mindset from “things I have to do”, to “things I want to do”. 

Life Application

God has equipped me with all the tools I need in life. It’s time I start using them.

Father God I come to You today with a humble heart to ask You for Your forgiveness. Forgive me for the pride that I may have for thinking I can do life without you. Forgive me Lord for ever thinking that it is my good works that can bring me salvation. Forgive me for any selfish ambition behind them. May Your Holy Spirit remove those thoughts. Allow Your Spirit to transform me to do things for You freely out of the love I have for You, because of the love You have for me. In Your Holy name I pray, Amen.

 
To check out the discussion or to join in, click here.
 
-Moses Gaddi


Galatians 2

 

Scripture

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Observation

14 years after receiving his commission to be an apostle to the gentiles, Paul visits with the leaders of the Jerusalem church, not to have his apostleship approved but to confirm that all were in agreement as to their respective calling and mission fields. Peter later meets Paul in Antioch where Paul challenges him concerning his hypocrisy when, during a visit by representatives of the Jerusalem church, Peter began to separate himself from gentile believers and insist that they follow Jewish dietary customs and rituals as a requirement of their faith. Paul reminds Peter of the central truth of the gospel, that salvation is by grace through faith alone and that no one will be justified by works.

Understanding

I remember being arrested by Galatians 2:20 and realizing that it’s truth was my only hope, considering how absolutely depraved my human heart is and how totally hopeless it is to try to produce anything good from that fallen condition. Scripture says that my human heart is deceitful above all things and that, as surely as sparks from a fire fly upward, so is my human heart inclined to evil all the time. This being so, how utterly futile and foolish is it for me to try to be righteous on my own merits. Can a fresh water spring produce salt water, or can a fig tree produce olives? I remember coming to the understanding that my only hope to live a life that was pleasing to God and that showed my love and gratitude for His saving a wretch like me is to reckon the old man as dead in order to allow Christ’s resurrection life to animate me. I need to stop trying to be righteous and realize that I already am righteous by virtue of being “In Christ” and to let His righteousness be revealed in me. My daily challenge is not to try to live a righteous life by my own effort but to live a life that is so crucified (dead) to the flesh that the life of the indwelling Holy Spirit is free to produce the fruit of righteousness in and through me. Christ clearly informs me of the impossibility of me, as merely a branch, ever producing fruit on my own and that my only hope is in abiding in the True Vine that can and does produce fruit through me. In recognizing this truth, I am free to focus on the one thing that God requires of me, that is to lay down my life, my will, my self, and my ego in order to allow Him to move in and through me.

Life Application

Truth be told, I am not very good at this. I have a very strong ego and my flesh constantly wants to come back from the dead and re-take the throne of my life. I want to be right; I want things to be done my way; I want to make the decisions and determine the direction for my life – a life that the Bible says is no longer my own; I was bought with a price. I need strive to be in such constant and intimate fellowship with God the Spirit that I can sense His conviction and discern His voice warning me when I am walking in my own will and relying on my own resources to do that which only He can do through me and to be whom He has already made me. My efforts need to be focused not on struggling but on surrendering.
 
To check out the discussion or to join in, click here
-Gary Parker   
 


Galatians 1

 

Scripture

Galatians 1:10

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Observation                                      

Paul is speaking/writing to the churches of Galatia.  He reasserts appointment, character and mission.  He calls out the Galatians for “deserting the one who called [them] to live in the grace of Christ and…turning to a different gospel” (vs 6). He simplifies this choice of who to desert and who to follow to this question – who are they seeking approval from – man or God?

Understanding

This question has been a grounding force in my life.  I’ve spent a majority of my life feeling like I haven’t “fit in.”  And, honestly, the times that I have had the thought “I’m finally fitting in,” I’ve been quickly reminded that that’s not my mission.  But if, as we approach life situations, we ask ourselves this one simple question – who am I seeking approval from in this situation? – chances are we will not veer far from His will.

Also of note, this verse brings clarity to the fact that the approval of man and that of God are NOT synonymous.  Paul’s statement “If I were trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” indicates to me that we can’t do both.  We can serve God OR we can serve the world…but we can’t do both.    

Life Application

Dear Lord, may I stay on mission! May I remember to serve YOU, not man…seek YOUR approval, not that of the world.  And may I find joy, confidence and peace in doing so.

Amen.

To check out the discussion or to join in click here.

– Rei