Wednesday, July 18, 2018

July 18 - Colossians 2

Today's reading in our daily plan is Colossians 2. 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?)
  • Paul begins this chapter by reminding the reader that the purpose of his letter is to encourage and unite the church.
  • He continues his warnings from the previous chapter. He encourages the recipient to not be deceived by intellectual-sounding arguments and philosophies that don’t come from and focus on Jesus. He explains that philosophies based on human tradition and thinking are opposed to God's way of thinking. 
  • Paul compares physical circumcision to spiritual circumcision. Circumcision was a requirement for all Jewish men as a sign of a relationship with God. Paul explains that this is no longer necessary because Jesus' death and resurrection was the final circumcision, so to speak. Jesus "cuts away" our sin and makes us spiritually alive. He cancelled the law when he triumphed on the cross. We are buried with Jesus when we are baptized.
  • In verse nine Paul says that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lived in bodily form.” This means exactly what it sounds like: Jesus was fully God. But, while on earth, He was also fully human. Only God could live a perfect life, and only the sacrifice of a perfect human life can take away our sin. Jesus was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for us.
  • Paul then asks the Colossians why they are following the rules and laws of the world. When we give our sin to Jesus, we die with him and also to the rules of this world. He is concerned that the Colossians are getting caught up in Jewish laws and bizarre cults, such as worshipping angels instead of Jesus. 
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • The world teaches a philosophy that says, "whatever works for me is okay." However, the Bible says we must live our lives according to Jesus and what He taught, rather than what feels right to us, or what we've been taught, or what most people believe. People will try to tell you that Bible is an archaic book, that it's not relevant for today. These are hollow arguments. Don't give in.
  • Paul writes that harsh self-discipline based on human teaching is powerless to control our behavior. Why? Well, though they seem honorable, the focus is on self and not on God, and so neglects the condition of our heart. Christianity is not about rules and self-help, but rather an intimate relationship with an eternal God who desires to give you a new heart. That love will, in turn, lead to new behavior.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What philosophies do you live by? How can you expose what principles they are based on? Paul said that he takes every thought captive and makes it obedient to Christ 
  • (see 2 Corinthians 10:5). It is vitally important that each and every Christ-follower scrutinize the philosophies they live by to make sure they are built on Jesus. An honest pursuit of Jesus and the Truth will make us wiser and more like that which we pursue.
  • Is your strategy for improvement based on a self-imposed self-disciplined form of self-help? Or do you realize that you can't really help yourself, and so instead you need to turn to and rely moment-by-moment on God? Talk to God about your approach and see if maybe there's a better way.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

July 17 - Colossians 1

Today's reading in our daily plan is Colossians 1. 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?)
  • The book of Colossians is another letter written by Paul while he was in jail. It was sent to the church in the city of Colosse, which is now part of modern-day Turkey, situated on a major trade route. Many religions and cultures converged here because of this trade route. As a result, Colosse became a breeding ground for cults. New variations of the gospel were popping up all over. Paul writes this letter to warn the church and encourage them to stay grounded in their faith.
  • Paul knows he is going to confront some hard issues in the Colossians church, but he begins by complimenting them. He is thankful for their faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ and is grateful that the church is growing. He reminds them of the darkness they were rescued from. 
  • Paul then explains the supremacy of Christ, starting in verse 15. He explains that Jesus is God and we have reconciliation with God through Jesus’ sacrifice. The idea that Jesus is God can be difficult to accept since he was also human. But Paul shows that Jesus is God by explaining that everything was created by Him and also that he is the head of the church.
  • Verses 21-23 remind us that we used to be separated from God because of our sins. But Jesus' death removed them and we are now reconciled to God through Jesus if we put our faith in Jesus and if we continue in that faith. Because of all the cults the Colossians were facing, Paul makes it crystal clear that "This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven." He did not want there to be any confusion as to what the gospel message was.
  • In the final section of chapter 1 Paul explains that, in light of this amazing gospel, he pours all of the energy God gives him into sharing it with everyone.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Jesus is supreme. Nothing is above Jesus. He is over any person who has ever lived,  any philosophy anyone has ever had, and over every living creature and everything in our lives. Nothing compares to Jesus. Our lives won't really make sense until Jesus is supreme in them.
  • The gospel message is simple. We have sinned against God and separated ourselves from him. But, God in his love and mercy responded to our sin by allowing his son Jesus to die for us so we can be reconciled back to God. If we accept this truth and put our faith in Jesus we will spend our lives and eternity with God in heaven.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What is supreme in your life? What is pouring into you, and what is pouring out of you? Most of us have lived our entire lives for lesser things - personal achievements, money, thrills, material possessions, a boyfriend or a girlfriend, or even a spouse or a child. Sadly, sometimes even as followers of Jesus, we still continue to chase lesser pursuits. Can you let go of those things in your life that are standing in the way of your relationship with Jesus? Can you push them aside, realizing that Jesus is supreme?
  • Choose today to not live for lesser things, but for the ultimate thing - Jesus.  Let God pour into you so that you may pour your life into sharing Jesus with others. Maybe it would help to read a book about Jesus. The Jesus I Never Knew and Who Is This Man? are great options.

Monday, July 16, 2018

July 16 - Philippians 4

Today's reading in our daily plan is Philippians 4. 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?)
  • Paul asks two women (whom we know nothing else about) to end their quarrel and mend their relationship, and asks the rest of the church to help these two ladies reconcile.
  • We're told that we can rejoice always, and choose to never be anxious about anything. Why? Because the "Lord is near" (verse 5) and invites us to talk to Him about everything (verse 6).
  • We're encouraged to discipline our minds to focus on positive things (verse 8) rather than the things that make us anxious.
  • Paul declares that he has learned the secret of being able to be content in any and every situation: knowing the Lord is near and talking to Him about everything.
  • Paul spends most of the conclusion of this letter thanking the Philippians for giving back to God by contributing financially to his ministry (verses 10-20).
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • We have the opportunity to live a very different kind of life. One marked by unity instead of division, by joy instead of sadness, by peace instead of anxiety, and contentment instead of dissatisfaction. You can live that life. But the key is not self-help, it's relying on God's help. This life comes not when we dwell on what we don't have, but when we talk to God about what we need, trusting Him, and we're thankful for what we have - mostly a relationship with God Himself, and we focus our thoughts on what is right, pure, etc.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Is your life characterized more by division, sadness, anxiety and dissatisfaction, or by unity, joy, peace, and contentment? Which would you rather? You have a choice. You are not a victim of your circumstances. The life we want comes when we make the decision and a daily effort to focus on God and what's right, rather than on what's wrong. So, make that decision right now. And think about what might help you to live out that decision moment-by-moment the rest of the day and this week.
  • If a "Bible letter" was written to you, would you be commended for generously giving back to God, as the Philippians were? Or are you ignoring God and His Kingdom when it comes to finances, and spending all your money on you? How can you get to a place where you give back to God generously as He repeatedly commands you to? How might the idea that God promises to meet all your needs help you?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

July 15 - Jeremiah 5

Today's reading in our daily plan is Jeremiah 5. 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?)

  • Today’s passage begins with God declaring that if there is one single person in Jerusalem who is truthful and fair, He would spare the city. (God made a similar statement in the past about another city called Sodom, see Genesis 18:32).
  • Jeremiah saw people who had not been taught about God’s ways and went to see their leaders who were supposed to teach and guide the people. But even the leaders who knew and understood God’s laws had turned away from Him and led the people into sin.
  • In verses 11-17, God says the people of Israel have been saying that God won’t do anything to them and the prophets are speaking God’s words. God declares that He will consume His people like a fire by bringing a “distant, mighty, and ancient” nation against them. (This would be the nation of Babylon, from the north).
  • God then declares that He will not annihilate His people completely and those that are left must tell others that they themselves turned away from the one true God to serve foreign gods and that is the reason God brought destruction to Israel.
  • God says that He will punish His people because they stopped coming to Him with respect and fear even though he created and controls the powers of nature like the boundaries of the ocean and sending the rain. His people denied the rights of the poor and refuse justice to the fatherless.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)

  • God’s mercy is made clear through His willingness to uphold Israel on the goodness of one person. His people continued to turn their backs on Him, each and every one of them, and that is the reason for His anger. God is the Creator, and His power is immeasurable, yet the people of Israel continued to look for security and comfort by serving “idols” (false gods).
  • We look to and trust our leaders for guidance and direction, but if they do not follow God, they will lead us astray.
  • This passage also shows us that God cares deeply for those who cannot protect themselves – those in distress and struggling. The Israelite’s lack of support for those who were unable to help themselves is another reason for God’s anger.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

  • Who are the defenseless people within your reach? Orphans, the poor, the homeless, and the lonely - these are the types of vulnerable and unprotected people that God wants us to treat fairly and with love. Today, can you give a cool bottle of water to a homeless person on the corner? Can you call and say hello to the person who is alone and feeling disconnected?
  • Check out the opportunity to serve God through Verve’s Marble Manor outreach, which reaches children in a public housing neighborhood here in Las Vegas.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

July 14 - Jeremiah 4

Today's reading in our daily plan is Jeremiah 4. 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 opens with God reminding the people of Israel that they can still turn from their sins and come back to God with “truth, justice, and righteousness” in their hearts. God wanted to use them to pour out His blessings on all nations. The people are encouraged to break the hardness of their hearts and surrender to God with humility before He brings destruction.
  • Verses 7-18 are God’s declaration with strong words of the coming  “devastation”, “ruin”, “horror” and “roars” that would happen to Israel. That devastation would come from the north and because Dan was located on the northern border of Israel, they would be the first to see the approaching armies.
  • Jeremiah tells of his own anguish for the Israelites and then tells in detail of the vision he received from God of the disaster. God warned that the destruction was inevitable but that He would preserve those who are faithful to Him.
  • The passage ends with Jeremiah asking why the people of Israel continue to make themselves appear rich and free from trouble by putting on gold jewelry and brightening their eyes with mascara when they will soon be in despair, crying out in pain.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)

  • God chose the people of Israel to be His channel to shower the world with His blessings but they continued to turn away from Him. He wants them to be close to Him and He offers them a multitude of chances for redemption before His justice is served.
  • God’s anger is never unprovoked. He loves His people and longs to have them wholeheartedly devoted to Him. After generations of Israelites turning away from God time and time again after He bestowed them with grace and security, God rightfully prepares to discipline them with authority. However, before punishment is rendered, He shows His unending love and mercy and declares multiple times that He will pardon His people if only they will authentically ask for forgiveness.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

  • Do you have old habits and hidden sins in your heart that need to be uprooted and rejected like weeds in a garden?  When your heart is hardened, the goodness of God’s will and His desires for you cannot take root in your life. Today, ask God several times throughout the day to tend to your heart and ready it for growth.

Friday, July 13, 2018

July 13 - Philippians 3

Today's reading in our daily plan is Philippians 3. 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?)
  • In the first line of this chapter Paul tells his readers to “rejoice in the Lord”. He’s encouraging them to find joy in Jesus. Jesus took our place on the cross, and that changes everything. His sacrifice for us, our knowing we are loved by Him and have hope because of Him, should be a consistent source of joy.
  • After talking about joy, Paul launches into a warning telling the Philippians to “watch out” for those “mutilators of the flesh.” He’s referring to a group of Jewish Christians who taught that in order to follow Jesus you must first get circumcised and then follow the Jewish law. Basically, they were saying Jesus was not enough. You need Jesus PLUS observance of the law. This is a great threat to genuine faith in Jesus. In fact, Paul wrote (the Bible book of) Galatians to address this issue.
  • Paul tells us (verse 20) that our true citizenship is in heaven. Therefore our minds should be focused on heavenly things, like Jesus and who He wants us to be. 
  • The Bible teaches us that Jesus is going to come again, this time not to live amongst us and die for our sins, but to bring the world as we know it to an end, and usher in a new time. We read here (verse 20) that we should be eagerly awaiting Jesus' return.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • We should have enduring joy in Jesus.
  • Seeking any kind of “credentials” to get us favor with God is a waste of time and actually counter-productive. Instead we should imitate Paul, who considered "everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” The idea is that rather than trying to be good enough for God, we should seek to know, love and have our faith in Jesus, who was good enough for us.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What in your life brings you joy? Where is Jesus in the mix of those things? What do you think rejoicing in the Lord looks like? What things suffocate your joy? What things stoke your joy in Jesus? Make a habit of focusing on Jesus and doing more of the things that make you joyful in Him.
  • When you do good things for God, do you feel like you're earning something from Him? If you  do bad things, do you feel like it threatens His love for you or your relationship with Him?  If you have put your faith in Jesus, your standing with God is based on Jesus' resume, not yours. Be thankful for that, and do good to show your gratitude.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

This weekend @ Verve!

How far are you willing to go to find happiness? When's the last time you helped someone who was in need? Maybe all we need to do is ask for new eyes to see people around us differently.

Join us this weekend at Verve for part three of the series, Looking Through My Jesus Shades.