Tuesday, January 23, 2018

January 23 - James 1

Today's reading in our daily plan is James 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?)
  • Read James 1:2 again. If you read it quickly, you might have overlooked a very innocent, but important word. It's the word "whenever." James said "whenever you face trials," not "if you face trials." Being a Christian doesn't mean you get an exemption from suffering.  We are all going to face difficult times and situations. No one is exempt. However, James gives us a different way to approach these problems: he says we should consider them pure joy. James is not asking us to ignore reality, but to instead view reality as a test that creates perseverance and growth. If you understand that God is in control, and this life is just a preamble, then earthly comfort means nothing compared to growth in faith. 
  • Have you ever wished you were wiser? God says in verse 5 to just ask. The key to wisdom is asking God and having faith that he can and will answer.  
  • We learn in verses 13-18 that temptation never comes from God, but instead, from our own evil desires. Although temptation isn't a sin, acting on that temptation is, and it ultimately leads to death. James is not referring to physical death, but instead to death of the heart and the soul. The word death originally referred to being "separated." Our sin separates us from God. We are tempted because we think we need something that we don't.  We need to trust that God gives us "every good and perfect gift" we need.
  • Our culture encourages us to "speak our minds" whenever we want and however we want. But God says to be careful what we speak and reminds us that anger gets us nowhere.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • The only way to grow in Christ Jesus is through tests of perseverance, which result in maturity.
  • We are reminded in verses 9-11 that wealth and riches aren't something that we can keep.  They will fade away.  You can't take it with you when you die.
  • We have no one to blame but ourselves for our temptations, and God can give us the strength to overcome them. God gives us all we need.
  • Every day this post has a "Now What" section, encouraging you to apply the day's reading to your life. Verses 19-26 shows why.  It's not enough to just read God's Word. We must do what it says or our faith is worthless. If we read the Bible but don't do it, we have deceived ourselves. "Now What" is the most important, but, often most ignored part.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What trials are you currently dealing with? How have you viewed them? Can you consider them pure joy? Ask God to help you have a long-term, God-centered perspective on them. What might God be trying to show you through this trial? How can you grow from this difficulty?
  • Are you facing a situation in which you could really use wisdom from the Lord? Ask him today and do not doubt that he hears you and will answer.
  • It's so easy to get caught up in making money to buy that new better thing we want. But God reminds us that it's all fleeting.  You can't take it with you, so why obsessed with getting it? What eternal thing could you invest that energy and money into?
  • What is a recurring temptation in your life? Do you see how it might be unhealthy?  Could God meet the need that you have? Ask God to help you see your temptations from this perspective.
  • If you have been reading the Bible daily, but not taking the time to do what it says, make a commitment to change that starting today. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

January 22 - Mark 16

Today's reading in our daily plan is Mark 16. 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?)
  • Jewish custom did not allow a body to be embalmed on the Sabbath, so the women had to come back two days later to do so. When they did, they found an angel waiting to tell them that Jesus had risen from the dead and that they needed to tell the disciples. Naturally, they were afraid.
  • Jesus rose from the dead. This is critical to Christianity because prophecies in the Old Testament predicted God's promised Messiah would rise from the dead, and Jesus himself had claimed he would rise from the dead (see Mark 8:31;10:33- 34). Jesus raising from the dead was the ultimate proof that he truly was who he said he was.
  • The book of Mark ends with Jesus' last command for his followers: "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." The disciples immediately followed.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Back in Jesus' time, women were considered second class citizens; there were no such things as equal rights. The fact that Jesus appeared first to women was a powerful statement by God to show that Jesus really did come for all people, not just the powerful or the elite.
  • The fact that Jesus lived after death means that life on earth is not all there is. And those who choose to follow Jesus in this life will follow Jesus in defeating death and living eternally in Heaven. That truth changes everything. It means this life is a preamble, that nothing that happens in this life is the be-all end-all. There is eternity in a perfect place awaiting those who follow Jesus.
  • It is fascinating to see the quick transformation of the disciples from fearful, denying human beings to bold speakers about God's love over a matter of days.  The only clear explanation for this can be the power of the resurrection.  Seeing was believing.  They had once feared for their lives by being associated with Jesus, but now they did not care what happened to themselves because they saw and understood it was not the end. The fear of death was gone.
  • Jesus' command to tell everyone in the world that he came for us was his last command, and the command we all need to follow.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Think about the things you get worked up and stressed over. These often show what we really care about. What do your worries say about your belief in life after death? If you believed in and focused on the fact that Jesus defeated this life and you have eternity in Heaven coming, would you worry like you do? 
  • We see the transformation of the disciples from men of fear to men who boldly shared the gospel. Have you allowed the power of the resurrection to transform your life in the same way? The disciples lived with the fear of death and beatings for speaking about God. However, we live in a privileged country where we do not have to fear those things. What is keeping you from sharing boldly? Fear of being made fun of? Fear of losing your friends? Your job? Whatever it is, give those fears up to Jesus and remember he is more powerful than your greatest fears combined.
  • Jesus makes it clear that our mission is to share the good news. Who is a person God has put in your life that you could share Jesus with, or invite to come to Verve with you? Have courage today to share with them.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

That's Gonna Leave a Mark: The Really Real Jesus

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 continued the series called That's Gonna Leave a Mark and talked about "The Really Real Jesus". If you missed it, you can listen to it here.
  1. Do you watch reality tv shows? Why or why not?
  2. Read Isaiah 29:13 in the Old Testament of the Bible. In your life, what are some ways you honor God with your lips but not with your heart?
  3. When have you settled for the fake version of something instead of the real thing? Did you like the fake version better than the real thing? Why or why not?
  4. Read Mark 2:1-5 & verses 10-12 in the Bible. Now read Mark 2:6-7. Which reaction would you have to Jesus healing the paralytic man? Why?
  5. Why do you go to church, read your Bible, and have Christian friends? 
  6. Are you content with religion and going through the motions? Why or why not?
  7. Have you seen God for who He really is? If so, how has it changed your life? If not, what's holding you back?
  8. 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?)

January 21 - Isaiah 10 & 11

Today's reading in our daily plan is  Isaiah 10 & 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?)
  • God uses Assyria to punish Israel. 
  • After using Assyria for his purpose, he then issues punishment against the Assyrians for their pride. 
  • After Israel's punishment, a "remnant" (small portion of those who have remained faithful to God) are assured that God will overcome the Assyrians and that they will again depend only on God. 
  • In Chapter 11 we see another prediction of Jesus. 
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • We start off Chapter 10 with God speaking through Isaiah specifically with a declaration of compassion for the poor, needy, and oppressed. 
  • Doing life without God has dire consequences. For the Israelites this means a God inspired invasion by Assyria. 
  • God tells us about the coming of Jesus and the character qualities that we can expect from him:  knowledge, wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, faithfulness, and fairness. Jesus will not judge a book by it's cover. He will judge the poor righteously and execute justice for the oppressed. He will also kill the wicked. 
  • It was probably hard for the people of Israel who still remained faithful to God to do so while their country was being invaded. Times of trouble seem to really put our faith to the test. It's also the time we need to cling to God the most. Maybe you are personally struggling with something that may have caused you to withdrawal from God instead of leaning into him. This is a great time to turn back to him and lean into him instead of away. Try praying (which is just a conversation with God like you would have with a friend) and asking God to give you strength and walk with you through this time of trouble
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Isaiah paints a pretty amazing picture of Jesus. With a resume like that, this is a guy we really want to get to know. A great way to get to know Jesus is by reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These are the biographies of Jesus' life.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

January 20 - Isaiah 8 & 9

Today's reading in our daily plan is Isaiah 8 & 9. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from these passages. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passages.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • In the opening of Chapter 8, Isaiah and his wife have a son. God tells them to name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz, (which means "swift to plunder and quick to spoil"). The name alone is a warning to the people who were not obeying God. Just as God had told King Ahaz in Isaiah 7 what was going to happen at the hands of Assyria, here we see it coming to fruition. 
  • The Lord is angry with the people as they have chosen to follow the human leaders in place of God. They still refuse to turn back to him and seek him out. 
  • God reminds Isaiah not to follow suit with the rest of the people who have turned against God,  but to trust in God and to be steadfast in his relationship with God. 
  • In Isaiah 9, we see another foreshadowing of Jesus, described here as: "A great light", "Wonderful Counselor", "Mighty God", "Everlasting Father", and "Prince of Peace".
  • Despite the promise of the coming savior (Jesus), people have still refused to turn back to God. He strengthens the enemies of Israel and Judah as a consequence of their pridefulness and arrogance.  
  • We see how angry God is at his unrepentant people as his hand is still raised to deliver punishment upon them at the end of Chapter 9. 

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Doing life without God not only angers him, but it also has consequences.
  • We see a reminder here for the people that they are to heed the word of God and seek him out, not to seek out mediums and psychics. 
  • We see a wonderful promise here of our coming savior (Jesus).

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Be mindful not to turn your back on God, but instead to pursue the relationship that God deeply wants with you. Make it a priority. Commit to reading the Bible. Surround yourself with others who like to do life with God, maybe join a Verve Group
  • Spend some time getting to know Jesus and his character by reading the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. 


Friday, January 19, 2018

January 19 - Mark 15

Today's reading in our daily plan is Mark 15. 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?)
  • Although Roman law allowed the Jews to have their own court system, the Sanhedrin, they could not impose the death penalty on anyone. This is why they chose to bring Jesus before the Roman governor.  He was the only person with the power to permanently get rid of Jesus. 
  • We see Jesus proclaim one final time, before Pilate, that he is the Son of God.
  • Jesus then goes through a trial, is beaten by soldiers, and is ultimately killed by public crucifixion. Through it all, he never complains or defends himself against his accusers.
  • At the moment of Jesus’ death, the curtain in the Temple was torn in half from top to bottom. This curtain was the barrier between the "Holy Place" and the "Most Holy Place." The Most Holy Place contained sacred articles of the Jewish religion and was off limits to everyone except the High Priest, who only went in once a year on the Day of Atonement. Entering this room was equivalent to meeting God face to face. In fact, before the priest entered the Most Holy Place, he would tie a rope around his ankle so that if he did something wrong and was struck dead by God, the body could be dragged out without anyone else having to enter the Most Holy Place. But when Jesus died, God literally rips the curtain open. This symbolized that, through Jesus' death, God had made a way for everyone to come into the presence of God. 

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • We see in this chapter that, even though Jesus is innocent, he does not jump to defend himself. So, to be like Jesus means to not be easily offended or quick to be defensive. 
  • Even Jesus cried out to God in his darkest moments.  And, just like us, he felt like God had forsaken him. However, we will see tomorrow in Chapter 16 that things are not always how they seem.
  • Because of Jesus' death, we can go to God directly with our thoughts, our hurts, and our prayers.
  • Jesus died a painful and humiliating death. He also took on the sins of the world, which was far worse for him than the physical pain and social humiliation of crucifixion.  He did all of that so you could have a relationship with God. 

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Do you find yourself becoming defensive if someone doesn't agree with you? Do you complain a lot that life isn't fair? Jesus calls us to a higher standard and asks us to let it go; to turn the other cheek, so to speak. Are you able to do that? If not, ask for God's help today.
  • It's okay to cry out to God when we are faced with a dark moment. But we must remember that he is there, even when it doesn't feel like it. 
  • Because of Jesus' sacrifice, we can approach God directly. Take time today to talk to God.
  • Do you really appreciate what the death of Jesus means for you, or is it something you take for granted? Take a few minutes to pray about it, asking God to fill your heart with gratitude for the sacrifice he made for you.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

This Weekend @ Verve!

How do you become an expert at identifying counterfeit money? Study real money and you will be able to spot a fake bill without hesitation.

This weekend at Verve, we are continuing the series, That's Gonna Leave a Mark, by learning about The Really Real Jesus.