Saturday, December 15, 2018

December 15 - Jeremiah 51

Today's reading in our daily plan is Jeremiah 51. 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 continues the prophecy of Babylon’s destruction from chapter 50 and begins with a message that Babylon will be “winnowed”. To winnow is to separate the wheat from its husk which is called “chaff”. When winnowers threw the mixture of wheat and chaff into the air, the wind blew away the worthless chaff while the wheat settled to the floor.
  • God promised that Babylon would be destroyed as punishment for everything Babylon would do to Israel. Even though Israel had turned their back on God, God promised he would not abandon his people.
  • Verses 15-19 discuss God’s greatness. His power, wisdom, and control over his creations are incomparable to anything human-made.
  • God would be judge, jury, and executioner against Babylon and Babylon would be emptied and ruined. The people of Israel who were exiled in Babylon were told not to panic when Babylon’s destruction began but that they must flee (see verses 46-50).
  • Because Jeremiah could not visit Babylon to deliver this message of destruction himself, he sent the message written on a scroll with a man Seraiah. After the scroll had been read aloud, it was also to be thrown into the river with a stone tied around it so that it would sink as a final visual of Babylon’s end.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • In this final message from Jeremiah, we see God’s sovereignty and his judgment. Babylon had been allowed to oppress the people of Israel, but Babylon itself would be judged. Although God brings good out of evil, he does not allow evil to remain unpunished. The wicked may succeed for a while but they will always be judged.
  • God’s timing is often different than our own. The timing of his plan doesn’t always make sense to us and it is not always easy to trust him. Israel was overtaken and the people held captive for decades. God promises that all actions will be examined and he will determine the consequences but he does not promise that it will happen immediately.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • The holiday season can feel like there’s not enough time in the day. Shopping, parties, cards, families, cooking, the to-do list never ends. It’s also a season that encourages asking for what you want and expecting it at a certain time. What are you asking for this year? Financial comfort? Relief from an addiction? A partner to do life with? Today, take one minute to talk to God. Be honest with him about what is in your heart: the things you are frustrated with, the hopes you have for a brighter future, or the fears that the future will never come. Read Psalm 27:14 and ask God to help you trust in his timing.

Friday, December 14, 2018

December 14 - Revelation 13

Today's reading in our daily plan is Revelation 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?)
  • In this chapter we see two new characters, both beasts, who have been the subject of much speculation and debate.
  • One comes out of the sea (verses 1-10) and has all sorts of weird features. The description of this beast is very similar to a vision in the Old Testament book of Daniel. There the animals represent political regimes, which could also be the case here. These symbols could point towards a powerful ruler who hates God and follows the devil.
  • The beast who comes from the land (verses 11-18) has a more mild appearance but a commanding voice. Some see this beast as representing a religion or religious figure that supports the first beast. In fact this “lamb” commands everyone to worship the other beast and goes as far as prohibiting economic freedoms for those who refuse.
  • The chapter ends by mentioning the number of the beast, 666. It's possible the initial recipients of this letter understood what this number represented, but since then a myriad of theories have been postulated. The truth is that we don't know and its meaning will remain a mystery.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • There's a lot we probably can't understand from this chapter, but it's pretty clear that there is and will be a lot to deceive, distract, and persecute Christians. As verse 10 says, "This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God's people."

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What tends to deceive or distract you from staying committed to the truth and following Jesus? Is it things related to politics? Religion? Materialism? Something else? And what can help you to continue in your patient endurance and faithfulness? What can you do today? Do it.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

This Weekend @ Verve!

What fears are you experiencing this season? Have you been overwhelmed with stress or maybe you need your dull routine to have real purpose? No matter where you are, you can be transformed When God Shows Up!

This weekend at Verve, we will see how People Are Transformed as we close the series, When God Shows Up!

December 13 - Revelation12

Today's reading in our daily plan is Revelation 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?)
  • Most Bible scholars believe that the woman giving birth to the male baby is meant to symbolize Mary giving birth to Jesus, and the dragon seeking to devour the baby is Satan. If you read the story of Jesus' birth in Matthew and Luke, you'll see that when Jesus was born the king gave an order to have all recently male born babies killed. Mary had to run for her -- and her newborn son's -- life. The (odd, scary) story here in Revelation 12 (especially verses 1-9 and 13-17) seems to parallel that.
  • A voice announces (in verses 10-12) that with the birth of this baby has come salvation and power and the kingdom of God.
  • The people who triumph (verse 11) over Satan are those who choose the "blood of the lamb" and do not "shrink from" their faith and their testimony about Jesus, even in the face of death.
  • In verse 12 we see that God's people will rejoice because of Jesus' ultimate victory, but still the earth will see the vengeance of Satan, whose time is short.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • A note in the NIV Study Bible says, "The view of Christ's birth in Revelation 12 gives a glimpse into the pattern of the entire book. John is fusing things seen with things normally not seen. In daily life, two parallel histories occur simultaneously: one on earth and one in heaven. Revelation, however, views them together. It parts the curtain, allowing a quick look behind the scenes at the cosmic impact of what happens on earth." The idea is that while we live here on earth we see and are aware of physical realities. But at the same time there is a spiritual reality we can't see and often go unaware of. There are spiritual forces at work in our lives (both for and against us) that we may have no idea about. But these spiritual realities, though unseen, are just as real as what we can see.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • How does it make you feel to know that there is a lot more going on than you can see? To know that there are evil spiritual forces seeking to ruin your life, and spiritual forces trying to protect you? And how should that change the way you view and live your life?
    • For instance, perhaps you argue a lot with your spouse. Maybe it can feel like he/she is the enemy. But now you know that you have a true enemy, and that enemy is trying to splinter your marriage. How does that change the way you think of your marriage? How should it change the way you live out your marriage? Have you been seeking God's help to overcome the spiritual forces that are working against you?
    • Or maybe there's something you know is wrong, but you do it because it can sometimes be fun. But now you realize that it's very likely a ploy of the enemy. It's bait he's putting on the hook, trying to reel you in and destroy your life. Does that make you think about it differently? Does it change the way you should go about trying to overcome this temptation?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

December 12 - Revelation 11

Today's reading in our daily plan is Revelation 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 opens with John being told to measure the temple. Revelation contains many references and symbols from the Old Testament. This measuring of the temple is reminiscent of a scene we find with an Old Testament prophet named Ezekiel.
  • In the second verse the worshippers of God are "measured," but some are not to be counted and instead are restricted to the outer court. This seems to represent people who claimed to love, believe in, and worship God, but that was not the true condition of their hearts.
  • The two witnesses that we meet in verse 3 seem reminiscent of two of Israel's prophets from the Old Testament:
    • Elijah, who in 1 Kings 17 “shut up the sky” so that Israel experienced a crushing drought.
    • Moses, who in Exodus 7-11 struck Egypt with plagues.
  • It doesn't really matter to us whether these witnesses are the actual prophets or just similar to them. Either way, they share the same mission: proclaim God’s word.
  • We see in this chapter that people who live in opposition to God may have a time where they feel like they can gloat, but in the end God will be victorious and what is right will be clear to all.
  • There are different time periods mentioned in verses 2, 3, and 14 of this chapter. We don't know how literal or figurative these numbers are, and what amount of time they may symbolize.
  • The chapter ends with another glimpse of worship in heaven. In this section there is a temple with an "ark of his covenant." In the Old Testament there was an ark of the covenant which provided a visible assurance that God was with his people and would keep his covenant with them. Here we see great power emanating from the ark, as displayed by the lightning, thunder, earthquake and hailstorm.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • The bible says that when we sin we become slaves to sin. We are in bondage to what we do, and on our own can't escape. But God, in his love, offers us a way out. We need to take that way out. Sin may seem appealing, and people may even revel in it for a time, but the life God has for us is better, and in the end we will want to be on his side.
  • In this chapter we get just a hint of the idea that there are people who seem to believe in and worship God (for instance, they go to church) but really don't. Jesus taught this many times. In the end, God will not judge by outward appearances, but by our hearts. If our hearts are not really for God, we will not fool him by pretending.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Are there sins you feel trapped in? Have you tried to stop, but can't do it? God can set you free. Ask him for help, and build habits into your life (like bible study and prayer) to help you connect with and get strength from him on a daily basis.
  • How is your heart towards God? If you have a sense that you may be going through the motions, perhaps in an attempt to impress, rather than really having a heart for him, talk to him about that. Confess it, and ask him to give you faith and passion for him.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

December 11 - Revelation 10

Today's reading in our daily plan is Revelation 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?)
  • This chapter is the start of an interlude in the series of judgments striking the earth.
  • A mighty angel comes down from heaven and shouts something that John isn’t allowed to record.
  • The angel gives John a scroll and instructs him to eat it. The scroll could represent the bible, the book of Revelation, or God’s words in general. A very similar scene of someone (a "prophet" who is being asked to speak for God) eating a scroll that represents God's Word has been played out before, in the Old Testament in Ezekiel 3:1-3, and another somewhat similar scene in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 15:16.
  • The scroll starts out tasting sweet to John, but then turned sour.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • John isn't allowed to write down what the mighty angel says. We are left to wonder. And the reality is that in the Christian life there is a lot we don't know. The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:12 that in this life we don't always see things clearly, and will have to wait for the time to come to have many of our questions answered. There is much that is shrouded in mystery, but it's encouraging to know that God knows, and that he is in control of that which is out of our control.
  • Ezekiel and Jeremiah and John were all told to eat the word of God. We need to do the same. We need to ingest the Bible into our minds, so we'll better know God and the life he has for us. There are times when it will taste sweet (like when you read about God's love) and there will be times when it will taste sour (like when you read about God's judgment in Revelation) but it is truth and we need to know all of it.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • How can you find answers for the questions you still have and the things you don't know about God and Christianity? And how can you encourage yourself to trust God and have peace about the things you'll never understand in this life?
  • How can "eating" God's Word help you to know what you don't currently know? How might it help you grow to a place where you trust God even when you don't know?
  • Congratulations on doing a great thing by reading the Bible today! Keep up the habit. There will be days when it seems sweet, and others when it seems sour, but it's all important.

Monday, December 10, 2018

December 10 - Revelation 9

Today's reading in our daily plan is Revelation 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 "star that had fallen from the sky to earth" (verse 1) may represent Satan. Passages like Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:12-15 (which refer specifically to the kings of Babylon and Tyre, but most Bible scholars believe they refer to the spiritual power behind those kings, Satan) reveal that Satan was an angel in heaven who because of ego decided to rebel and take over God's throne. His rebellion, of course, failed, and God cast him out of heaven. Interestingly, Satan wanted to be like God, and his first temptation (of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:1-5) is for them to be like God. He's been using the same temptation ever since.
  • Things get crazy as the floodgates of the abyss release armies of scorpion-like locusts. But instead of devouring plant life like a normal plague of locusts, these things attack and torture people. They could represent past or future armies that attack people other than those who were “sealed” in chapter seven. The majority of theologians believe the descriptions of these things is symbolic. But they could also point to Satan's activity in people's lives.
  • The leader of the locust hordes is called "Abaddon" or "Apollyon"; each of these mean "destroyer". Many believe this leader represents Satan.
  • After this, another horde of weird creatures is released on the earth to cause plagues of fire, smoke, and sulfur.
  • Near the end of the reading we get a hint at the reason for the trumpet judgments. In verse 20 it says that the those who weren’t killed by the plagues still refused to worship God and repent from their murders, magic arts, sexual immorality, and theft. (Magic arts could refer to drugs, poisons, or activities associated with idol worship, but not the illusions of modern magicians). Even though humanity’s lifestyles and beliefs do nothing to ease their torture, they still do not turn to God. This picture of mankind is quite bleak.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Satan is not a character from cartoons and movies, nor is he just a part of the story in the Bible. He is real and he is the enemy of your soul. He hates God, and so (because God loves you) there is nothing he enjoys more than wreaking havoc in your life. John 10:10 refers to Satan as a thief, and says that he wants to "steal, kill and destroy" your life.
  • Everything that occurs in this chapter may make it seem like God is absent from the picture here, but God is trying to get the attention of people who are defiant and want their own way in hopes that they will turn to him.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • It's been said that Satan probably has a strategy for how he will steal your soul away from God and destroy your life and future. What do you think it probably is? Knowing you, like you do, what do you think Satan would use to tempt you, distract you, and to get you to leave God behind and go in a different direction? And, if Satan has a strategy for how to get you away from God and destroy your life, shouldn't you spend some time developing a strategy for how you will stay close to God and preserve your life with him for now and for all eternity?