Thursday, January 17, 2019

This Weekend @ Verve!

It's really easy to live an isolated life because doing life with others can be messy and it takes time, but is that really how to live your best life? Maybe there is something to being in community with others. This weekend at Verve, join us for another Life Hack!

January 17 - Mark 13

Today's reading in our daily plan is Mark 13. 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?)
  • Many Bible scholars believe that there are two interpretations of this passage:
  1. Jesus was referring to a literal event that happened in 70 AD, when the Roman Empire squashed an Israeli uprising, resulting in the destruction of the Temple
  2. He was also speaking of when he will come back to earth someday. The Bible teaches that Jesus is coming again, this time not as a human, but as God and in power, to end the world as we know it.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • People try to use these prophecies to figure out when Jesus will return and the end will come, but Jesus makes it clear in verses 32-35 that we cannot know.  Instead, Jesus says that we are to live our lives in a state of alert readiness.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • If you knew Jesus were coming back tomorrow, how would you live today? Would you change anything? And if so, what?  Jesus teaches us that we need to live with that kind of attitude everyday. We should live in holiness and purity. When Jesus shows up, wouldn't you hate to be in the middle of sinning? We should also try to help other people know Jesus so they can go to Heaven with him when he returns. When Jesus shows up, wouldn't you hate for your friends to ask why you never shared your faith with them?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

January 16 - Mark 12

Today's reading in our daily plan is Mark 12. 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 chapter opens with Jesus sharing another parable.  The land owner represents God, and the vineyard is his kingdom. The tenants were the religious leaders, and the servants that came to collect payment represent all of God's prophets that came before Jesus, including John the Baptist (whom we just saw beheaded a few chapters ago). Throughout the Old Testament, God repeatedly sent prophets to tell people truth and point people back to God, but they were usually ignored and mistreated.
  • In today's passage, Jesus predicts his own death. Furthermore, Jesus speaks of God's coming wrath on those who kill his son. This angered the religious leaders because they realized he was referring to them. They were still determined to reject this truth and, ironically, plotted to kill him as he had just predicted.
  • Throughout this chapter we see the religious leaders trying to catch Jesus "in his words." An example of this is his discussion with the Sadducees.  The Sadducees, another religious sect, didn't believe heaven existed.  They thought they could prove this through a discussion on marriage.  However, Jesus surprises them by explaining that marriage is an earthly event that doesn't exist in heaven. 
  • Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is. He states that it is to Love God with your whole life -- heart, soul, and mind. And the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Once again, in verses 38-40, we see Jesus warning his followers against the trappings of the religious leaders. He makes it clear that they love the fame of being noticed, not God.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Over the centuries, humanity has continually treated God's prophets and God's Son poorly. But God, in his love and grace,  has never given up on his creation.
  • If we say that we believe in Jesus, then we must follow his greatest commandments- love God and love people.
  • Jesus is looking for people who love God enough to sacrifice for him. The rich people gave exorbitantly, but it came out of their excess.  The poor widow gave only a few coins, but it was all she had. This was true sacrifice and Jesus commended her.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • How are you doing at loving God and loving people? What is a practical step you could take to be better? Maybe it's more private prayer time with God. Maybe it's helping your neighbor bring the groceries in the house. Let God guide you today on how you can honor him.
  • When you give to God, is it out of your excess or a true sacrifice? God is looking for followers who will make financial sacrifices for him. Is that you?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

January 15 - Mark 11

Today's reading in our daily plan is Mark 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?)
  • As Jesus entered Jerusalem the people were excited and welcomed him with shouts of praise. But this was a very short-lived acceptance because Jesus wasn't the type of Messiah they were hoping for. They wanted a political leader who would overthrow the government; they weren't looking for a spiritual leader. Furthermore, the crowd was easily manipulated by the Pharisees, who were religious leaders of the day.
  • Back then, it was customary for people who worshipped God to offer an animal sacrifice when they entered the temple. Corrupt business and religious leaders took advantage of this practice by telling worshippers that the animals they brought with them were unacceptable for sacrifice. They would then sell them another animal at an exorbitant price. It was all a sham to make money, so Jesus responds with righteous indignation and drives them out of the temple.
  • Jesus reminds the disciples, through the example of a withered fig tree, that they can do anything through prayer in Him. 

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Jesus didn't meet the qualifications for Messiah the Israelites had in mind, especially when he takes unexpected action and casts people out of the temple because they were hindering the ability of others to get to God. Even today, people have specific ideas about who Jesus should be and what he should do. They have a difficult time accepting when the reality doesn't meet their expectations.
  • Jesus wants us to do great things with our lives. We need to ask Him to help us not let doubt get in the way. We need to pray, believing that God will answer. 
  • Just as God has forgiven us for all of our sins, so we must forgive those who hurt us. 
  • Jesus was very intense when he saw barriers on the path toward God. We need to be just as serious about eliminating those barriers that prevent us, or others, from seeing God for who he really is.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What thoughts do you have about Jesus that may not be accurate? Is there some way God is not living up to your expectations? Continue reading the bible daily to gain a more full and accurate understanding of who God is.
  • Are you struggling with doubt? Have you given up praying for something? Don't! Keep praying today that the Lord will come through. And, if you have someone in your life who you haven't forgiven for hurting you, give that bitterness and anger to God today. 
  • What roadblocks are keeping you from getting close to God? How could you cast them out of your life? When (and how) will you do that?

Monday, January 14, 2019

January 14 - Mark 10

Today's reading in our daily plan is Mark 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?)
  • Mark 10 begins with Jesus sharing God's original plan for marriage. He quotes Genesis 2:24 when he states that marriage is a gift between one man and one woman committed to each other for a lifetime. This idea was counter-cultural then, as evident by the disciples' reaction, and still is today. There are all kinds of reasons why it's easier to settle for something less than God's ideal, but we need to trust that God knows best and stay true to his Word. 
  • Back then it was believed that wealthy people were blessed with their riches by God. Some still believe that today. So the disciples were shocked when Jesus said it was hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. They asked, "Who then can be saved?" and Jesus explains that it is impossible for man to save himself. Only God can do the impossible and save us. This happens not through our effort, but through God reaching down to us.
  • The disciples argue over who is the greatest of them all.  Jesus reminds them again that the goal is not power and authority, but service to others.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Marriage is a gift from God not to be taken lightly. Just as God is committed to a relationship with us and will never give up on us, we should never give up on the partner that God has given us for life on earth.
  • It may be hard to believe, but, in Jesus' time children were considered trash, literally! If a child was born and you didn't want it, you could take the newborn to the garbage dump and leave it there to die. But Jesus says no to these travesties.  Instead he welcomed children with open arms, which would have been shocking to everyone. (If you want to learn more about God's attitude towards children, watch this message from a Verve series called God For The Rest of Us).
  • The rich man in verses 17-31 shows that he thinks following rules is enough to gain eternal life. But Jesus wanted more. He wanted the rich man's heart. And Jesus could see the young man loved money more than he loved God. This is why Jesus tested him to give it all away and follow Him.  Sadly, the man couldn't do it and simply walked away sad.
  • Jesus gives us a clear promise in verses 29-30 that whatever we give up for him will be given back 100 times over in this life and in the life to come. 
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Are you married and struggling? Pray today that God gives you the strength to love  unconditionally just as Jesus loves you.
  • Are you unmarried and looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right?  Pray for wisdom to find someone who can partner with you in faith and commitment to Jesus and one another.
  • Is there something more important to you than God? Is there something you don't feel like you could ever give up? Perhaps, like the man in this story, it's money. The Bible calls loving something above God idolatry, and it keeps us from him. How can you put God above all else this week? What practical steps could you take to make God the most valuable thing in your life? 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

January 13 - Ezekiel 5

Today's reading in our daily plan is Ezekiel 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?)
  • In today’s chapter, God instructs Ezekiel to shave his head and his beard. Shaving represented mourning, humiliation and repentance. After Ezekiel shaved, he was to divide his hair into three bundles and each would represent the coming destruction of the people of Israel in different ways. One third would die inside the city of Jerusalem, one third would be killed by enemies outside the city, and one third would die “scattered in the wind” (see verse 12).
  • Ezekiel was also to take a few of his hairs and protect them inside his robe to symbolize the small remnant of faithful people whom God would protect. But even within this group, there were those who had faith that was not genuine and they too would be judged and destroyed by God.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Jerusalem was the center of God’s nation and was intended to have a good influence on the countries around it, but instead the people of Israel allowed themselves to be shaped by their neighbors. The people turned their back on God who had taken them out of slavery in Egypt and placed them in a prosperous and powerful position.
  • Hypocrisy is nothing new and God knows what is true in people’s hearts. Going through the motions, performing the right actions, and saying the right words are not what make faith genuine. Genuine faith doesn’t mean never having doubts or anger, but it does mean always turning to God and being honest with him about how you feel rather than looking for comfort outside God.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • One of the sins that brought God’s judgement to the people of Israel was that they defiled the Temple which was God’s sanctuary. In the New Testament, we learn that God now makes his home within us. Our body is God’s temple. We defile God’s temple today by allowing gossiping, bitterness, love of money, lying, or any other wrong actions or attitudes to be a part of our life. Take a moment and talk to God; ask him to help you become aware of a part of your heart that needs cleaning. Be open with a trusted friend and ask them to help you maintain accountability in improving this part of your life.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

January 12 - Ezekiel 4

Today's reading in our daily plan is Ezekiel 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?)
  • Today’s passage is the vision that God gave Ezekiel to show the people of Israel and Judah what the coming attack on Jerusalem would be like. Ezekiel was instructed to draw a replica of the city of Jerusalem and build an actual wall around with enemies camped outside with ramps and weapons. He was then instructed to spend over a year lying on his side, looking directly at this model of the city. Each day that he lay on his side was to represent one year of the sins of the people. He did not have to lie on his side all day because he was also given other tasks to do during this time.
  • The bread that Ezekiel was to live on during this time was to be made with ingredients that were seldom used except in times of scarcity and cooked over a fire made with human feces. This was an illustration of the famine that would also fall on the people and how they would eat food that was unclean (according to the laws God gave them) during their exile. Ezekiel was a priest and was careful to keep faithful to God’s laws concerning food and pleaded with God that he may not have to eat the unclean bread. God agreed and allowed Ezekiel to keep the bread from being cooked in a way that would defile it.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • People learn and retain information in many different ways: some are auditory learners, some are visual learners, and some learn best through movement. God wanted all of his people to hear and understand that the judgement that was coming to the people of Israel was a direct result of their sin. Many prophets delivered God’s words in speeches and proclamations to the people, but God also used vivid visual portrayals like the one in today’s chapter to help even more of his people gain knowledge.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • How do you listen to God in your life? Do you hear God most clearly when reading the Bible daily? Or in the sounds of nature? Or sitting quietly in prayer? God desires to be in relationship with you, to listen when you speak to him and for you to hear when he speaks to your heart. He knows how you were designed and the unique qualities of your individuality. Today, take a moment and ask God to speak to you in a way that brings you closer to him.