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. 

July 12 - Philippians 2

Today's reading in our daily plan is Philippians 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 starts today’s chapter by encouraging his readers to think like Jesus, who came to earth to serve people and give Himself for them. This means that we should be humble, consider others as more important than yourself, and always try to meet their needs.
  • In verse 12 Paul tells us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” This doesn’t contradict the Bible's teaching that we receive salvation as a free unearned gift from God (such as what Paul wrote elsewhere in Ephesians 2:8-10) but applies to another aspect of salvation.
  • There are three parts to God’s salvation in the life of the Christ follower: 
  1. God saves us from our sin by grace (called "justification")
  2. God works with us making us more like Jesus (called "sanctification") 
  3. God brings us to heaven to spend the rest of eternity with him (called "glorification")
  • In this verse Paul is telling us to partner with God in the work of becoming more like Jesus, and that we need to be serious about it.
  • In the last section Paul talks about two men: Timothy and Epaphroditus. Paul mentions Timothy often in his letters, saying Timothy is "like a son" to him. He wrote at least two letters to Timothy and we’ll read them later this year. Epaphroditus isn’t mentioned anywhere else in the bible but he sure gets complimented here. Paul says to honor men like him because he almost died for the work of Christ.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Our attitude needs to be the same as Jesus. We should lower ourselves to the place of a humble servant, complaining or arguing about nothing (verse 14). If we do that, God will lift us up, and we will shine like stars to people who don't know God (verses 15-16).
  • There is coming a day when, regardless of what they believe or say now, everyone will bow to Jesus and acknowledge that He is Lord.
  • Our main focus should be on God and becoming more like Jesus.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What attitudes do you need to change? Where are you self-centered and not humble? What do you tend to complain or argue about? Ask God and some trusted friends to help you.
  • What "strategies" have you implemented in your life to working out your salvation so you become increasingly more like Jesus? What should you?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

July 11 - Philippians 1

Today's reading in our daily plan is Philippians 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?)
  • Philippians is another letter written by Paul, while he was in prison, to a church he started. The recipients of this letter were in Philippi, which is on the north coast of the Aegean Sea in modern Greece.
  • Paul begins by addressing the recipients of the letter and his appreciation and prayers for them (verses 1-11). Here are some definitions to help:
    • Saint/holy person - Someone who has given their life to Jesus. Through Jesus’ death on the cross we can be freed from sin and made holy by God, which makes us "saints". Paul used the word "saint" like we use the word "Christian".
    • Overseer/elder/bishop - a designated leader in a church. Paul appointed them in the churches he started (see Acts 14:23).
    • Deacon - a designated leader who served the needs of the people in a church. The first to be deacons where those in Acts 6:1-6.
  • Paul is in prison, but he is not complaining. He rejoices that God is able to use his circumstances to help more people know about Jesus.
  • Paul was able to have this attitude because he understood the truth about life: "to live is Christ and to die is gain" (verse 21). The idea is that what life is really about is being close to Jesus and living with and for Him, and when we die it only gets better because we'll be with Jesus in an even more significant and intimate way.
  • Paul ends this chapter by urging everyone to fully live their lives for God, and in a way that represents Him well. He also says that we need to have total unity with other believers.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • When our focus is on Jesus, and we live for Him, we can have joy even in the worst of circumstances. The way we evaluate our situation will not be based on our circumstances, but on how God might be able to use them for His purposes.
  • Jesus Christ is not just someone we believe in, or put our trust in. We are supposed to center our lives on Him. He is what we live for. When we do that, everything else will start to "fit".

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What’s your reaction to Paul’s outlook on life? Do find it hard to believe? Challenging? Or maybe exciting? How would your life be different if you lived this out? What things are keeping you from living every moment to get closer to God? Paul said that for him to die would be gain. If you were to die today, do you feel like you would be losing or gaining?
  • Consider memorizing verse 21, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."