Sunday, September 15, 2019

September 15 - Amos 8

Today's reading in our daily plan is Amos 8. 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 merchants (versus 5-6) were keeping the special days God had asked them to, but then went right back to sinning against God and people by doing unethical things.
  • The people had been ignoring God's Word, so God makes a promise (verses 11-12) that He will stop speaking to them. They will need His wisdom and direction, but it will no longer be available.
  • Not having God's Word will lead the people (verses 13-14) to an emptiness they cannot fill.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • The merchants were hypocrites, honoring God with their "religion" but sinning against Him the rest of the time. Too many people today show up at church on Sunday, then live a life that doesn't honor God the rest of the week. We need to live the same all the time, and all the time live in a way that honors God. These verses from the New Testament book of Colossians should guide us:
    • "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Colossians 3:17).
    • "So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way" Colossians 1:10).
  • We have God's Word available to us - in a more black and white and easier to access way than the Israelites did way back in Amos' day - but too often we ignore it. We don't read our Bibles consistently, or we skip church services where God's Word is taught, or perhaps we do expose ourselves to God's Word but don't apply it to our lives. We need God's wisdom and direction and need to access it, being appreciative that it is so readily available.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

  • Do you live the same, do you live for God, whether it's Sunday morning at church, Monday morning at work, or Friday night with your friends? God deserves for you to live for Him every moment of every day AND it is the best life you can live.
  • You made a great decision when you took time to read the Bible today! Continue to make reading the Bible a daily habit. It will give you wisdom, direction, intimacy with God and ... it will change your life.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

September 14 - Amos 7

Today's reading in our daily plan is Amos 7. 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 begins with an interaction between God and Amos.
  • God tells Amos that he is going to torture Israel with locusts. Amos begs him not to, and God honors Amos' request.
  • Then God tells Amos that he is going to torment Israel by causing massive fires. Amos begs him not to, and God relents.
  • God uses the metaphor of a plumb line to tell Amos that he is going to judge Israel by his standards, not their own.
    • A plumb line is a tool used by carpenters and farmers to make sure their vertical cuts or digs are straight. The idea is that the plumb line does not change based on the whims of the person using it, in the same way that God sets the standard for the way of life the Israelites should follow.
  • A priest catches wind of Amos' prophecies, or messages from God, and warns the king of Israel that Amos is plotting against him. Instead of taking his messages as warnings from God, he thinks Amos is a guy with a vendetta against Israel.
  • The priest tells Amos to leave town, but Amos refuses. Instead, he responds by warning the priest and giving him even more warnings from God. 
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • In his defense against the priest's commands, Amos says in verse 14 that, "I am not a professional prophet." He was just a shepherd that was doing what God told him to.
  • When we see an opportunity to share our faith with someone else, or hear about a situation where we could show God's love, it's easy to get intimidated and think that it should be left to someone who is a "professional," like a pastor or someone who knows more of the Bible.
  • Like Amos, we can all share our spiritual journey with others and invite them to check out God
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

  • Who in your life could you share your faith with this week? Is there a coworker going through a difficult time, or a friend you've known for a while?
  • It could be as simple as saying, "Hey, I go to this church that is different. It's fun and cool, and I think you'd like it. Would you be up for checking it out with me this weekend?" You'll be surprised how favorabily people respond, and how much God can use that conversation to change their life.

Friday, September 13, 2019

September 13 - Hebrews 11

Today's reading in our daily plan is Hebrews 11. 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 of Hebrews has been called the “hall of faith.” We get to see a highlight reel of God’s people from the Old Testament. Here are some things we learn about faith in God from this chapter...
  • The first verse has a definition of faith: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Because of our faith we have certainty about the existence of God, that Jesus came for us and died to take away our sins, that we have relationship with God and a future with him because of Jesus.
  • Verse six says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Faith isn't just believing some facts about God, it also includes "earnestly" (passionately) seeking him. That's the kind of faith God rewards.
  • Verse 16 says, “they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Jesus’ followers are citizens of earthly countries, but long for and truly belong to a better "country". When loyalties between these two collide, God’s kingdom always wins their favor. They may sometimes have to endure persecution because of that loyalty.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Did you notice that every person in this chapter did something because of their faith? Faith led to action. And the action was risky, perhaps even crazy, but they did it because they trusted God and felt he was leading them to it.
  • Faith looks forward. We live out our faith now, but faith is always looking forward to our hope, our future home, and our reward. Speaking of Moses, verse 25 says, “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” Moses realized he could enjoy the pleasure of sin for a little while, or deny himself that pleasure and experience the eternal joy of knowing and being with God. He made that choice because his faith led him to look forward.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • How is your faith causing you to act? What risks are you taking, because of your faith, for God? Are you taking faith risks with your money? With sharing your faith? With serving? Is there something specific God is calling you to do? You can't play it safe and live by faith!
  • Does your faith cause you to look forward? Are you willing to say no to the pleasures of sin? Are you willing to endure ridicule or persecution for what you believe? The heroes of the faith in this chapter maintained their faith at all costs, because they knew God was worth it, and because they looked forward to their hope, future home, and reward. Does that also describe you? And, if not, how might looking forward help you to truly live for God now? And what might help you to keep your gaze fixed on your future?

Thursday, September 12, 2019

This Weekend @ Verve!

Are you living the life you want to live? Maybe there's just one area you wish was different. Change won't happen if we keep doing what we are currently doing. 

Join us this weekend at Verve as we continue in the series, Fight Club, and talk about The Fight for Your Mind!

September 12 - Hebrews 10

Today's reading in our daily plan is Hebrews 10. 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 section of this chapter picks back up the same theme of how superior Jesus and the new covenant are compared to the old covenant. In the past, priests had offered sacrifices "day after day," sacrifices that could "never take away sins" (verse 11). Jesus came and offered himself as the ultimate sacrifice, once and for all, and it truly took away people's sins. Therefore, our sins can be removed permanently, and no more sacrifices are necessary.
  • The focus changes in the second half of the chapter to encouragement to remain faithful to God. We're encouraged to draw near to God, knowing that we have forgiveness through Jesus' sacrifice and to hold on to the hope of the resurrection. We're also told to "spur one another" on to doing good deeds, and that Christians should make meeting together a priority.
  • We’re then warned to avoid deliberately sinning after we know the truth about Jesus. For those who consider Jesus’ sacrifice an excuse to live any way they want ("Because hey, I’m forgiven!") it will be a “dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Verse 14 says, "He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." This is a key principle to understand. If we sincerely put our faith in Jesus our sins are taken away and we are made perfect (in God's sight) instantly. But then we start "being made holy." That is a process. So we are "saved" completely and instantly. But we are "sanctified" (we become like Jesus and live without sin) little by little over time.
  • Believing in Jesus and having a relationship with God is serious. It's all encompassing. We need to stay faithful to God, and help others to do so as well.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • How is your "sanctification" going? Are you becoming more and more like Jesus? Less and less likely to sin? If you're in relationship with God, that should be what's happening. 
    • If it is, thank God for that. 
    • If it's not, why not? What's wrong? And what can you do about it?
  • How are you doing at meeting with other Christians (church services, Verve Group, etc.) and spurring them on to live the life God has for them, and allowing them to do the same in your life?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

September 11 - Hebrews 9

Today's reading in our daily plan is Hebrews 9. 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 ninth chapter of Hebrews picks up the same theme as the previous one; that the new covenant is superior to the old. (Remember the people who received this letter were Jews who had become Christians, and were feeling tempted to go back.)
  • The old covenant had an elaborate tabernacle (place of worship) and special ceremonies and animals sacrifices, but all of that didn't really change the person who sinned. It was all based on externals. In the new covenant we are cleansed from our sins by the blood Jesus shed as he died on the cross. It is all based on love, and it has the power to radically change the person who has been cleansed from their sin.
  • In the old and new covenants God requires blood to be shed for the forgiveness of sin. It's not that God is obsessed with blood or sacrifice. It's that sin leads to death -- our death. In order for us to be saved from God’s wrath, the debt of our sin must be paid. And since the result of sin is death, something has to die in our place. Jesus took our place, and that sacrifice changes everything for us.
  • Verse 27 says that, “man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” After death comes judgment.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • After death comes judgment. Sin must be judged and punished. We don't like that when it's our sin, but we agree with it in general. If you knew someone committed a horrific crime and got away with it, you would think that is wrong. So ... there will be death, and then judgment and punishment of sin. Unless you have said yes to Jesus as your substitute. If so, then your sin has already been judged and punished, in Jesus, on the cross.
  • Verse 28 says that Jesus is coming a second time, to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Those who have chosen him can know that he will come for us (whether it be before or after we die) and will "bring" our salvation.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Have you trusted Jesus as the substitute who, through his death, takes away your sin? If not, what you have to look forward to is judgment and punishment. That sounds really bad, because it is. But God loves you so much he gave you a way out. Why haven't you taken it?
  • If you have trusted Jesus as your substitute, what you have to look forward to is him coming for you. How awesome is that?! No matter what happens in this life you know Jesus is going to come for you, and that he will make everything right. How should that knowledge change the way you live today?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

September 10 - Hebrews 8

Today's reading in our daily plan is Hebrews 8. 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?)
  • A "covenant" is an agreement or vow between two parties, especially between God and people. In the Old Testament God established a covenant with people. Later Jesus came and ushered in a new covenant. This chapter compares and contrasts the two covenants, and shows why the second is far superior.
  • The first covenant emphasized obedience to rules and animal sacrifices to cover sin. (We learn in the New Testament that part of the reason God did this is to show people that they were incapable of following rules -- and therefore needed a Savior -- and to establish the idea of a sacrificial death taking the punishment for rule-breaking, to prepare the world for what Jesus would do for us on the cross.)
  • The second covenant centers on trust in Jesus and his sacrifice that takes away sin. While the first covenant pointed forward to Jesus, the second covenant actually takes away our sin through Jesus' sacrifice, and brings people into relationship with God.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Why does God focus so much on sin? Lots of reasons. One is that when we sin we are settling for less. God loves us and doesn't want our lives to be less than they could be. Another reason is that sin is rebellion against God. It's like our statement of independence from God. And it separates us from him in this life, and after this life. That is why Jesus dying for us is so important: it removes our sin and connects us to God. It's more than just a ticket to Heaven, it brings us into relationship with God so we can start to experience Heaven now.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • How do you feel when you realize you've sinned against God?
    • Does it hurt because you know sin pulls you away from God?
    • Do you have gratitude that your sin won't be counted against you because Jesus died for it?
  • And how do you think about being "saved"?
    • Like it's nice to know that you'll go to Heaven someday?
    • Or like it's overwhelming to think you get to have God everyday and to start experiencing real life with him now?
  • Take some time to pray about all this.