Tuesday, October 23, 2018

October 23 - John 4

Today's reading in our daily plan is John 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?)
  • What Jesus does in this chapter would have been considered shocking.
    • The Jews and Samaritans hated each other, and Jewish people would not go into Samaria. In fact, they would travel days out of their way to avoid the region of Samaria. Yet Jesus, a Jew, heads straight into Samaria.
    • Most Jewish men would not speak to women who were not their wives. Yet Jesus has a personal conversation with a woman.
    • Most religious leaders would not interact with anyone considered sinful. Yet Jesus spends time with this woman who was considered very immoral.
  • The woman tries to avoid letting the conversation get personal, and tries to engage Jesus in a common religious debate of the time, but Jesus helps her to realize that this is personal and that God's truth is not something to be debated but applied to our lives.
  • This woman, who had very likely been trying to avoid the people of her town (because of her reputation for being sexually immoral) goes running to those people to make sure they get a chance to meet Jesus. And they do! Because of the woman inviting them to meet Jesus, many of them put their faith in him.
  • After his time in Samaria, Jesus headed north back to the region of Galilee. Upon arrival he heals a man’s son without ever coming in contact with the boy.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Jesus shows us that God is for everyone, and he didn't let cultural barriers keep him from his mission. No matter your background and no matter your sin, God is for you. And Jesus would not let any barrier keep him from pursuing you. And just like this woman takes the incredible discovery she made in Jesus and invites everyone to come meet him as well, we need to do the same.
  • Instead of focusing on debating truth and being right, we need to focus on applying truth to our lives and being righteous.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • God is for everyone and won't let any barrier keep him from pursuing them. God gave us his mission, and we need to realize God is for everyone we meet. We need to make sure no barriers keep us from helping them connect to Jesus. What is stopping you from talking to people about Jesus and/or inviting them to church? Who do you need to make sure meets Jesus?
  • Which of God's truths have you treated as an intellectual matter instead of a personal one? How do you need to apply that truth to your life?

Monday, October 22, 2018

October 22 - John 3

Today's reading in our daily plan is John 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?)
  • The first half of this chapter is a conversation between Jesus and a guy named Nicodemus. Nic was part of two groups that opposed Jesus: the Pharisees and the Jewish leadership. But he was curious about Jesus, so he decided to talk with him one-on-one. Because of his position he was afraid to meet with him during the day and opted instead to use the cover of night.
  • During their conversation, Jesus explains (in verses 3-8) that people must be "born again." The idea is that we have to, in effect, start life over. It happens through God and His Spirit's work in our lives, and takes place when someone chooses to follow Jesus. (This death to our old life and rebirth in new life is symbolized in the act of baptism.)
  • Jesus also makes it clear (in verses 10-18) that he came to earth to save people from perishing and to give them eternal life. This happens when Jesus is "lifted up" so people see and put their faith in him.
  • Jesus also tells Nic (in verses 19-21) that we each have a choice: to love "the light" and live in the truth or to choose evil and remain in the darkness.
  • In the second half of the chapter we revisit John (the Baptist). In verse 30 he makes a profound statement: "He must become greater; I must become less."

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • At some point we all must make the choice, for ourselves, to be born again. To put an end to my old life lived in darkness, with myself at the center, and to start a new life lived in the light, where I try to lift up Jesus and make him greater in our lives while we become less.
  • Those are decisions we make initially, but must make again every day.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • In what area(s) of your life are you choosing to live in the darkness instead of in the light of truth? Is there something you would be embarrassed to talk to God about? Are there secrets in your life you would prefer to keep secret? You will only be free when you move into the light. Confess to God, and talk to a trusted friend, and start to move towards the light and freedom in that area.
  • What might it look like for you to make more of Jesus and less of yourself today? How about: at work? with your friends? with your family? at church?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Misfits: Help for Spiritual Misfits

We provide questions each week based on the theme of our service for our Verve Groups to use. If you're not in a Verve Group, feel free to use them on your own.
This week we concluded the series called Misfits and talked about "Help for Spiritual Misfits". If you missed it, you can listen to it here.
  1. What's your favorite TV show ending?
  2. In what ways do you feel like a spiritual misfit?
  3. In what was does faith come easy to you (or what aspects of faith come easy for you)?
  4. In what ways is faith challenging for you (or what aspects of faith are challenge for you)?
  5. In the message, Vince suggested that our spiritual struggles may actually be a sign that our relationship with God is real, and that we're growing. Do you agree with that? Why or why not?
  6. Jesus was once asked how we should pray. Look how he begins his answer in Matthew 6:7.
    • Why do you think God says not to talk on and on when you pray?
  7. Jesus then gave a model prayer, which is about 25 seconds long. 
    • Why do you think Jesus gave such a short prayer as the example prayer?
    • How does it encourage you?
  8. Some of us don't have lots of emotional "mushy" feelings for God, but in the message, Vince mentioned that the Bible never asks us to. Instead, we're told that loving God means we'll obey Him. Read John 14:15.
    • Why do you think real love shows itself in obedience?
  9. We still live in the "not yet." Things aren't the way we want, but we know resolution is coming. Does it help you to know that? Give you hope? Why or why not?
  10. Weekly Check In Question:  What could we be praying for you this week? (Is there something good we could celebrate with you, or a challenge you need God's help with?)

October 21 - Jeremiah 36

Today's reading in our daily plan is Jeremiah 36. 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?)
  • God instructed Jeremiah to write down every prophecy God had given him. God wanted all the people of Israel to hear the list and offer them another chance to repent. Jeremiah complied with the help of Baruch who transcribed Jeremiah’s dictations. 
  • Jeremiah was a prisoner at the time and so Baruch took the completed scroll and read the messages in Temple so that many people would hear them. From the Temple, word spread to the local officials who requested to hear the prophecies as well. Baruch read the scroll to the officials and it alarmed them so the officials informed King Jehoiakim who also read the scroll
  • As the scroll was being read to the king, he chopped off each piece and threw it into a fire without any fear of the prophecies. The king tried to arrest Baruch and Jeremiah but they were hidden by God.
  • After the original scroll was burned, God instructed Jeremiah to write everything again and to add that because King Jehoiakim burned the first scroll, he would have no heirs to the throne and his body would not be buried when he died.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Today’s chapter shows us again how much God longs to be in relationship with his people. God never stops giving us opportunities to ask for forgiveness and to turn to him. Our actions do carry consequences. The king did more than disbelieve the message from God to apologize and repent; he despised and destroyed the very paper it was written on. Because of this, the king was singled out for a specific punishment.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What problems are you ignoring in your life, hoping they will go away if you pretend they don’t exist? Financial concerns? An addiction? A toxic relationship? Problems won’t disappear just because we plug our ears and close our eyes to the warning signs. The good news is that God wants to help you overcome the barriers that keep you from the life you were meant to have. Today, ask a close friend whom you trust about any problem areas in your life that you are avoiding. Then talk to God and ask him to help you make wise choices.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

October 20 - Jeremiah 35

Today's reading in our daily plan is Jeremiah 35. 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 chapter involves the Recabites. The ancestors of the Recabites took a special vow of dedication to God 200 years prior to the time of this passage and the current Recabites continued to obey the vow to abstain from wine. God had Jeremiah tempt the Recabites with wine to demonstrate their commitment and dedication to God.
  • God then compares the Recabites to the other Israelites. The Recabites followed the vow of one ancestor named Jehonadab (see verse 14). God sent multiple prophets over many generations to instruct the people of Israel and call them to follow God but the Israelites refused time and time again.
  • The obedience of the Recabites in following the rules of their ancestral father was sharply contrasted to the Israelites disobedience to their heavenly father. Because of the difference in their actions, these two groups of people would receive different consequences. The Israelites would have disaster and destruction brought to their country and their people. The Recabites received a promise from God that their descendants would always serve God.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • God loves his people deeply and desires to be in close relationship with them, but as God watched the people of Israel, they continued to disobey him by choice and deceived themselves into thinking there would be no consequences for their decisions. God’s anger toward the Israelites was justified as they persisted to turn their backs on him for generations.
  • And God also blesses the Recabites for their obedience with a promise that the family name will always continue and will always follow God. God desires to spend forever with you and wants to bless the lives of those who walk with him.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What habits are you doing on autopilot? What parts of your life are you trying to manage and control on your own? It’s not always easy to trust God and to believe that he desires the best for us. Today, talk to God and ask him to help you see what areas you should hand over to him. Tell him your fears and your anger about giving up control, he is ready to listen.

Friday, October 19, 2018

October 19 - John 2

Today's reading in our daily plan is John 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?)
  • Jesus turned water into wine for his first miracle. John says this was when the disciples first put their faith in Jesus.
  • Jesus made a ton of wine for the party. Also, notice the master of the banquet says this wine is far better than what they had before without Jesus.
  • In the second story we see Jesus "clear the temple." There were vendors who were taking advantage of the people who had come to worship God. Jesus does not tolerate this, forcefully removing them from the temple.
  • In verse 18 the Jewish leaders question Jesus about his authority to do this. Jesus answers with a somewhat cryptic statement, which John explains (in verses 21-22) is about his resurrection. The answer is hard for the Jews to hear because it expressed Jesus as superior to their religious worship.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Jesus' first miracle was to turn something religious (the water for ceremonial washing) into something alive (wine is actually alive) and festive. This was probably no coincidence. Jesus came to take stale religion and make it come alive by making it about a relationship with God rather than just ceremonial practices and traditions.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Where is your faith right now? Is it waning? Is it about religion? About the "ceremonies" of showing up at church and maybe giving a little money to the offering and reading your Bible once in awhile? OR is it about a living relationship with God? Does having Jesus make your life way better than what it was without him? Ask Jesus to "clear you" of anything that needs to be removed from your life, anything that is holding you back from a life-giving relationship with God, and to turn the "ceremonial" water of your life into life-filled "wine".

Thursday, October 18, 2018

This Weekend @ Verve!

We all love a good ending. How frustrating is it when we're left hanging at the end of our favorite show? Sometimes life feels that way too. We feel like it's not all coming together, but maybe it just takes a little time. We are actually promised it will be made beautiful in the end.

Join us this weekend at Verve for the final week of the series, Misfits.