Thursday, July 20, 2017

This Weekend @ Verve!

A lot of crazy people have claimed that God has told them a lot of crazy things.

Can you really know when God is telling you to do something? How can you hear him over the noise of everyday life? And how can you follow his voice to a bigger and better life?

Be at Verve this Sunday morning or Monday night for the finale of Ghost Stories. You'll learn what steps you can take to hear God's voice and what he wants for your life.

July 20 - Colossians 3

Today's reading in our daily plan is Colossians 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?)
  • Paul begins the chapter by encouraging us to set our hearts and minds on God. It is so easy to be distracted by the demands of this world, but Paul says no to all of that and so should we.
  • Paul then warns to let go of the sin in our life that is separating us from God. The list is lengthy and covers everything from anger, lust and greed, to sexual immorality and lying. These behaviors anger God and only tear us away from him.
  • Instead, we should allow God's love to renew us and fill us with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, peace, and gratefulness. 
  • Paul also makes it clear in verse 11 that we are all equal before God. He doesn't see race, gender, language, rich or poor. God only sees our hearts and his grace is offered to everyone.
  • Paul then closes with some commands for husbands, wives, children, and slaves .We have discussed this in detail in 2 previous posts. Please read more on the subject in the post on Ephesians 5 and the situation of slavery in our post about Ephesians 6.
  • Paul closes with a very powerful message. He reminds us that everything we do should be done for God and not for men. 
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • The world is full of distractions: 60-hour work weeks, carpool for kids, soccer practice, limitless technology, family chaos, un-ending to-do lists, and so on. But, what would life look like if we focused our thoughts on Jesus instead? Our thoughts determine our choices and our actions and Paul knew this. So, truly setting our hearts and minds on things above will literally change the whole scope of our lives. It may not change the fact that you still need to go to the grocery store and pay the energy bill, but it will change the attitude in which you do it. Remember verse 17, "Whatever you do....do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus."
  • Letting go of our old behaviors and attitudes and replacing them with new ones is not something that happens overnight. It requires a deliberate daily choice to turn away from our sin that is not like Christ, in order to be filled with those characteristics that really express who God is, living in us. Everyday that we turn our hearts and minds to Jesus, he will help us along this journey. Remember, we are not the ones changing our lives. We are simply leaving our lives in God's hands so that he may do the changing.
  • We so often compartmentalize our lives. We view our jobs as worldly, and going to church as spiritual. We view cooking dinner as a boring necessity, and prayer as Godly. But that's not true, as verses 23 and 24 make clear. Paul says that whatever you do, you are doing for God. Everything in your life, from dinner with friends, to cleaning the house, going to work, and even changing the oil in your car should all be done well, to the glory of God. They are all spiritual acts because they are being done for God as an act of worship. 
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What has your heart? What holds your attention? The Bible says that Jesus should have your heart and your mind. But does he really? We can become so pre-occupied with work, kids, spouses, and bills and never bother to offer our feelings or our thoughts to Jesus. Don't leave him out of the equation of your day. Allow him to journey along-side of you.
  • What old ways do you need to put to death? (See examples in verses 5-9.) What Christ-like characteristics can you exchange them for? (See examples in verses 12-14.) It starts with a choice, so make the choice right now to actually do this, and spend some time praying -- ask God to give you the strength to live up to your new commitment. Also share your decision with a trusted friend who can pray for you and provide accountability.
  • How does knowing that everything we do is unto God and for God change your day? Does it change how you wake up in the morning, or maybe how you handle the stress of the day? Nothing you do in your day is mundane to God. All of it matters because you matter to God. Walk in that encouragement today.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

July 19 - Colossians 2

Today's reading in our daily plan is Colossians 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 begins this chapter by reminding the reader that the purpose of his letter is to encourage and unite the church.
  • He continues his warnings from the previous chapter. He encourages the recipient to not be deceived by intellectual-sounding arguments and philosophies that don’t come from and focus on Jesus. He explains that philosophies based on human tradition and thinking are opposed to God's way of thinking. 
  • Paul compares physical circumcision to spiritual circumcision. Circumcision was a requirement for all Jewish men as a sign of a relationship with God. Paul explains that this is no longer necessary because Jesus' death and resurrection was the final circumcision, so to speak. Jesus "cuts away" our sin and makes us spiritually alive. He cancelled the law when he triumphed on the cross. We are buried with Jesus when we are baptized.
  • In verse nine Paul says that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lived in bodily form.” This means exactly what it sounds like: Jesus was fully God. But, while on earth, He was also fully human. Only God could live a perfect life, and only the sacrifice of a perfect human life can take away our sin. Jesus was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for us.
  • Paul then asks the Colossians why they are following the rules and laws of the world. When we give our sin to Jesus, we die with him and also to the rules of this world. He is concerned that the Colossians are getting caught up in Jewish laws and bizarre cults, such as worshipping angels instead of Jesus. 
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • The world teaches a philosophy that says, "whatever works for me is okay." However, the Bible says we must live our lives according to Jesus and what He taught, rather than what feels right to us, or what we've been taught, or what most people believe. People will try to tell you that Bible is an archaic book, that it's not relevant for today. These are hollow arguments. Don't give in.
  • Paul writes that harsh self-discipline based on human teaching is powerless to control our behavior. Why? Well, though they seem honorable, the focus is on self and not on God, and so neglects the condition of our heart. Christianity is not about rules and self-help, but rather an intimate relationship with an eternal God who desires to give you a new heart. That love will, in turn, lead to new behavior.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What philosophies do you live by? How can you expose what principles they are based on? Paul said that he takes every thought captive and makes it obedient to Christ 
  • (see 2 Corinthians 10:5). It is vitally important that each and every Christ-follower scrutinize the philosophies they live by to make sure they are built on Jesus. An honest pursuit of Jesus and the Truth will make us wiser and more like that which we pursue.
  • Is your strategy for improvement based on a self-imposed self-disciplined form of self-help? Or do you realize that you can't really help yourself, and so instead you need to turn to and rely moment-by-moment on God? Talk to God about your approach and see if maybe there's a better way.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

July 18 - Colossians 1

Today's reading in our daily plan is Colossians 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?)
  • The book of Colossians is another letter written by Paul while he was in jail. It was sent to the church in the city of Colosse, which is now part of modern-day Turkey, situated on a major trade route. Many religions and cultures converged here because of this trade route. As a result, Colosse became a breeding ground for cults. New variations of the gospel were popping up all over. Paul writes this letter to warn the church and encourage them to stay grounded in their faith.
  • Paul knows he is going to confront some hard issues in the Colossians church, but he begins by complimenting them. He is thankful for their faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ and is grateful that the church is growing. He reminds them of the darkness they were rescued from. 
  • Paul then explains the supremacy of Christ, starting in verse 15. He explains that Jesus is God and we have reconciliation with God through Jesus’ sacrifice. The idea that Jesus is God can be difficult to accept since he was also human. But Paul shows that Jesus is God by explaining that everything was created by Him and also that he is the head of the church.
  • Verses 21-23 remind us that we used to be separated from God because of our sins. But Jesus' death removed them and we are now reconciled to God through Jesus if we put our faith in Jesus and if we continue in that faith. Because of all the cults the Colossians were facing, Paul makes it crystal clear that "This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven." He did not want there to be any confusion as to what the gospel message was.
  • In the final section of chapter 1 Paul explains that, in light of this amazing gospel, he pours all of the energy God gives him into sharing it with everyone.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Jesus is supreme. Nothing is above Jesus. He is over any person who has ever lived,  any philosophy anyone has ever had, and over every living creature and everything in our lives. Nothing compares to Jesus. Our lives won't really make sense until Jesus is supreme in them.
  • The gospel message is simple. We have sinned against God and separated ourselves from him. But, God in his love and mercy responded to our sin by allowing his son Jesus to die for us so we can be reconciled back to God. If we accept this truth and put our faith in Jesus we will spend our lives and eternity with God in heaven.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What is supreme in your life? What is pouring into you, and what is pouring out of you? Most of us have lived our entire lives for lesser things - personal achievements, money, thrills, material possessions, a boyfriend or a girlfriend, or even a spouse or a child. Sadly, sometimes even as followers of Jesus, we still continue to chase lesser pursuits. Can you let go of those things in your life that are standing in the way of your relationship with Jesus? Can you push them aside, realizing that Jesus is supreme?
  • Choose today to not live for lesser things, but for the ultimate thing - Jesus.  Let God pour into you so that you may pour your life into sharing Jesus with others. Maybe it would help to read a book about Jesus. The Jesus I Never Knew and Who Is This Man? are great options.

Monday, July 17, 2017

July 17 - 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 16, 2017

His Purity - To Help Us Be Holy

We provide questions each week based on the theme of our service for our Micro Groups to use. If you're not in a Verve Micro Group, feel free to use them on your own.

This week we continued our series called Ghost Stories and talked about "His Purity - To Help Us Be Holy". If you missed it, you can listen to it here.

  1. Who's is someone you would be pretty intimidated to meet in person? Why?
  2. In the Bible, when people met God they were intimidated. For instance:
    • "Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty" (Isaiah 6:5).
    • "At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God" (Exodus 3:6).
    • The reason people are afraid when the see God is because God is holy. God's holiness means he is perfect and set apart. 
    • Why do you think that leads to fear in people who meet him?
  3. Not only is God being holy mean he is sinless, it also means that he is separate from anything sinful. That's a problem, because we are sinful. The Bible says in Isaiah 59:2, "Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have his his face from you."
    • That is, obviously, a problem. And that's why Jesus came and died for us. His death takes away our sin, so we can be with God and have a relationship with Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21, "For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ."
    • How does it make you feel realizing that it is only through Jesus' death that you can overcome your separation from God and have a relationship with him?
  4. Faith in Jesus' death takes our sins away, making us holy in God's sight. So our sin has been taken off our 'record', but we should also want to actually be holy, to stop sinning. We are commanded that. 1 Peter 1:15-16, "But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy."
    • Why do you think it's so important for people who love God and claim Jesus to live holy lives?
  5. What makes it hard to live a holy life?
  6. God gives us the Holy Spirit to help us be holy. God comes into our lives to help us to not sin. How could you do better at staying focused on the Holy Spirit's presence in your life and living in God's power?
  7. Weekly Prayer Question:  What could we be praying for you this week? (Is this there something good we could celebrate with you, or a challenge you need God's help with?)

July 16 - Job 25

Today's reading in our daily plan is Job 25. 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 Bildad finally gives a short response to Job. This is the last of the responses we hear from Job’s three companions.
  • Bildad actually gave no direct response to Job’s discourse. Instead, Bildad repeats what had already been said earlier by Eliphaz.
  • Bildad is kind enough to refer to all humankind as “maggots.” Bildad had a very poor image of human beings, an image that God does not share. Bildad essentially saw humankind as worthless while God sees us as worth enough to die for. 
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Our fellow humans do not always know best. Bildad spoke with confidence, and he thought he knew what God was like. However, he was wrong. God loves people and wants others to follow him.
  • We need to make sure that our image of God is defined by what the Bible says about him, not what culture (or even people around us) may say about him.
  • To do this, we need to spend regular time reading the Bible and grow our faith through regularly attending church.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

  • Could you find an additional 10, 15, or 30 minutes each week to spend more time in the Bible? Or could you make church a more regular part of your life, maybe by attending more weekends per month, or by volunteering? The more we immerse ourselves in God's word and his mission, the more clearly we'll be able to understand him in the midst of situations that might be confusing to people who don't know God.