Saturday, February 16, 2019

February 16 - Ezekiel 17

Today's reading in our daily plan is Ezekiel 17. 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?)
  • Ezekiel speaks a God-given riddle to the captive Israelites and then explains what the meaning of the riddle is. God describes a large, powerful eagle that breaks off the top of a tree and plants the seeds in fertile soil, allowing the new tree to grow. A second eagle also appears and does nothing to benefit the young tree but the young tree, nevertheless, begins to turn towards the second eagle, hoping for some better care so it could become an even stronger tree.
  • Ezekiel goes on to explain the riddle. The first eagle represents Babylon and the seeds and tree represent King Zedekiah's, (the king of Jerusalem) children. The king of Babylon made a treaty with King Zedekiah and put him under oath, so that Zedekiah would not try to rebel after Jerusalem was taken captive. Zedekiah broke his oath anyway and asked for help from Egypt, also known as the second eagle depicted in the riddle.
  • God reveals that Ezekiel will not be successful with his attempts in creating an alliance with Egypt because Zedekiah broke his covenant with Babylon.
  • God ends the chapter by explaining that he will find a small, tender stem from a tree and grow it into something that will be mighty and attract birds of all kinds to nest in it.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • A lot is covered in this chapter but the main lesson that can be taken away is that God values promises and takes them seriously. Babylon was destined by God to take Jerusalem captive. This was Israel's punishment for their continued sin and total neglect of God. At first, the King of Babylon was very kind to Jerusalem and King Zedekiah. He made a covenant with him so Zedekiah would not rebel, but unfortunately, King Zedekiah immediately broke the covenant and went to Egypt for help. God did not appreciate this and Zedekiah was punished for breaking his promise. 
  • The small, tender stem that God said he would grow into a large tree at the end of the chapter was foreshadowing Jesus and the salvation that He would bring to everyone. The two prior eagles (Babylon and Egypt) were not going to be Israel's savior and restore it to greatness; God would be the Savior instead.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

How is your relationship with God? Do you have a relationship with God? Do you want a relationship with God? Israel was a severely broken nation who constantly turned away from God. God did punish them for their sin but He didn't leave it that way. He sent Jesus so that everyone on earth might be saved and could have a relationship with Him if they desired. Pray to God and spend some time with Him.




Friday, February 15, 2019

February 15 - Luke 5

Today's reading in our daily plan is Luke 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?)
  • The chapter opens with Jesus speaking to crowds of people along Lake Gennesaret. After he finishes speaking, he encourages Simon the fisherman to put his nets out into deep water to catch fish.  Simon responds somewhat reluctantly, because they had been fishing all day but had caught nothing. Though Jesus' instruction defies common sense, Simon follows it. This results in the nets overflowing with fish and convinces Simon to leave his vocation to follow Jesus.
  • As Jesus continues his journey with the new disciples, we see him healing people along the way. These miracles cause news to spread about him, and he found it difficult to be alone. 
  • One of the most interesting healings in Luke is that of a young paralyzed man.  The story in verses 17-26 show that it was his friends' determination and their faith that moved Jesus to forgive and heal the helpless man. 
  • In verse 27 we meet a tax collector, Levi. Tax collectors were known for being greedy and stealing money. But Jesus reached out and asked Levi to follow him.
  • At the end of the chapter, Jesus teaches a parable (a story with a spiritual truth) about wine skins.  Jesus was attempting to explain that he was starting something new that could not be contained by the old way of doing things. 

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • If we look at the cast of characters that Jesus was hanging out with, we will mostly see people that nobody cared about (blue collar workers, government officials, sick people). But Jesus is making it clear that he came for everyone, not just the religious or the elite.
  • The story of the paralyzed young man is a great reminder that often an individual comes to Christ because of the persistence and encouragement of friends and family. 

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Do you believe God is for you? Do you think you're too ordinary for God's love? Do you think you've screwed up to many times? Luke 5 reminds us that God is for the rest of us -- the imperfect, the screw-ups, the losers. If you have a hard time accepting that truth, talk to God about it today.
  • Do you have friends that need Jesus? Are you persistent in sharing God's love with them? Do you encourage them to come to church with you?  Commit to doing whatever it takes to get your friends to Jesus. Inviting them to Verve is a great place to start.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

This Weekend @ Verve!

All conflict should lead to growth when handled correctly, but too often conflict results in a broken relationship. 

This weekend at Verve, join us for part 2 of the series, It’s Complicated! 

February 14 - Luke 4

Today's reading in our daily plan is Luke 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?)
  • The first few chapters of Luke move quickly through the first 30 years of Jesus' life. Now, the pace slows down and Luke gives us the opportunity to peer into the details of Jesus' daily ministry over the next two years.
  • The chapter opens with Jesus entering the desert alone for 40 days of prayer. It is here that the devil meets him face to face in an effort to tempt him to give up.  But Jesus withstands the lies of temptation by quoting truths from the Bible. 
  • After the temptation, Jesus goes to visit his hometown of Nazareth. It is here in the synagogue that we see him reveal who he is by quoting the prophet Isaiah.
  • Jesus confronts the cynicism about his up-bringing and points out that the great prophets Elijah and Elisha were also rejected in their hometowns. As a result, they could only perform miracles  in foreign cities. This angered the mob because they believed they were God's uniquely chosen people. By mentioning that the prophets had to go to non-Jewish cities, Jesus was showing that God's message was for all people, not just a "chosen" few. 
  • Jesus performed many miracles upon leaving Nazareth, just as he said he would. The people loved him everywhere he went and would beg him to stay. But he tells them he must go and  preach the good news everywhere.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Jesus was able to withstand the devil's temptation because of one very important weapon: God's Word. Just like Jesus, we can resist temptation by remembering and knowing God's truth when we are in trouble.
  • Satan also used scripture. He twisted it to meet his needs. This story is also a warning to understand God's Word in it's entire context. We cannot pick and choose certain scriptures as we please. This is what the devil did, and it is a dangerous game.
  • The Savior of the World doesn't look the way we want him to. He didn't grow up in a Summerlin mansion and attend Bishop Gorman High School.  His father wasn't a CEO and his mother wasn't a Stepford Wife. He never got accepted to Harvard and he wasn't exceptional at any particular skill. The thought that someone from "the wrong side of the tracks," living on food stamps in a one bedroom apartment for a family of six kids, could be the Messiah was upsetting and offensive to the religious elite. Jesus' family background made it clear that God came for all people.
  • Jesus will always go where he is invited, in the past, and even today. Despite the brawl that ensued in Nazareth, people in many other cities were begging Jesus to heal them.  They believed in their hearts that he could help them and he did. 

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What are some of the temptations you struggle with repeatedly? You need to know God's truth to help you with your struggles. Think about those areas of life and commit to memorizing a few Bible verses you can remember when tempted. You can find verses by going to www.biblegateway.com and typing some key words into the search engine. Or you can even Google it: for instance, "bible verses about anger" or "bible verses about lust" or "bible verses about drunkenness." 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

February 13 - Luke 3

Today's reading in our daily plan is Luke 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?)
  • We were previously introduced to John the Baptist in Luke 1.  The angel Gabriel came to the priest Zechariah and foretold his birth and ministry to bring Israel back to God.  It is now many years later, and chapter 3 gives us a glimpse into John's ministry. He is preaching repentance (turning away from sin) and the forgiveness of sins, just as the angel and scripture predicted (see Isaiah 40:3-5).  He prepares people for Jesus' arrival and sets the stage for Jesus' ministry. John even baptizes Jesus. 
  • Many people in the crowd believed that their religious heritage was enough, which explains the comment about Abraham in verse 8. However, John informs them that it isn't enough to be born Jewish. One must repent, believe, and "produce fruit" as well. Producing fruit means to share what you have with others. Don't cheat, lie, or be greedy. Be content with what you have. John was telling them that a life filled with God should look different. 
  • Many people began to wonder if John was the Messiah. But he made it clear that he too was unworthy and was only preparing the way for Jesus. 
  • John was a very strong preacher and even rebuked the king's lifestyle.  This landed him in prison.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • John's role in life was to preach and direct people to Jesus. But the truth is, all of us are to direct attention to Jesus. We all have a unique role to play on this earth, and you don't need to be a preacher to play your part.
  • Jesus didn't need to be baptized, but did so anyway, as an example for us to follow.
  • It is a very good thing for us to repent of our ways and believe in Jesus. But, if a person truly turns around and turns to God it will be evident in their lives. They will produce fruit. Fruit refers to godly character traits in our lives (see Galatians 5:22-23) and the positive impact we make in this world for God.
  • Jesus came for all people for all time.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Life is so busy going to work, taking care of the kids, and running errands that we often forget why we're here. You have special gifts and unique abilities that can help point others to God. How are you utilizing those gifts? Is your life truly pointing toward him? How are you showing God's love today? What can you do to share God in a better way?
  • Have you been baptized? If you believe in Jesus and accept him as the forgiver and leader of your life, it's time to follow Jesus' example and do it. If you're interested, email us at info@vivalaverve.org.
  • Have you turned to God? Do you believe in him? If so, is there fruit to show for it?  If not, what needs to change? Take some time to talk to God today about your struggles.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

February 12 - Luke 2

Today's reading in our daily plan is Luke 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?)
  • Because of a census, Mary and Joseph had to travel with Mary about to give birth. They were probably upset and perhaps even questioned if God was paying attention to their plight. But God was in control and was using these events to pave the way for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, which is where he had promised the Savior would be born (in Micah 5:2).
  • Of all the important and powerful people in the world to whom God could have made the birth announcement of his son, he chooses blue-collar shepherds.
  • Joseph and Mary offered a sacrifice to God, thanking him for the birth. The sacrifice they offered was one reserved for the poor, who couldn't afford the proper sacrifice (see Leviticus 12:6-8).
  • The story of Jesus at age 12 in the temple is the only glimpse we get of Jesus between his birth and when he begins his public ministry at around the age of 30.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • In this chapter we see that God does not give preferential treatment to the rich and powerful. In fact, he seems to favor the poor and powerless. We, too, should value and seek to bless those who are poor and powerless.
  • When the shepherds find out about the birth of the Savior, they immediately go and tell everyone they can. It's imperative for everyone to find out that Jesus came for us.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What is a practical way you could value and bless the poor and powerless this week? When will you do it?
  • Who could you tell this week that Jesus came for them? What is the most loving and effective way you could share it? When will you do it?

Monday, February 11, 2019

February 11 - Luke 1

Today's reading in our daily plan is Luke 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 Luke was written by a doctor and historian named Luke. Many scholars, including archeologist William Ramsey, consider Luke to be one of the most accurate historians in history. Luke's goal was to gather information to write a thorough account of Jesus' life. This book was specifically addressed to a person named Theophilus, a guy whose name means "lover of knowledge." It is unclear whether this is a real person or a play on words to those who seek to know more about Christ.
  • The book opens with an angel appearing to the priest Zechariah. Gabriel informs Zechariah that his wife will become pregnant with a son whom they should name John. John's job will be to prepare the world for the Messiah. However, Zechariah has a hard time believing the angel because his wife is old and infertile. The angel reprimands Zechariah for his disbelief and strikes him mute until the birth of his son. Five months later, Elizabeth finds out she's pregnant and declares that God has taken away her disgrace. Back then, not having children was considered humiliating and a curse from God. 
  • We then see the angel Gabriel go visit a young woman named Mary. The angel tells Mary, who is a virgin and engaged to a man named Joseph, that she has been chosen to give birth to the Son of God. She accepts this responsibility and says she is the Lord's servant. This does not mean she was perfect. The Bible tells us that, other than Jesus, no one is perfect (see Romans 3:23). However, Mary shows an amazing willingness to submit to and serve God.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • The angel Gabriel appeared to two different people with good news.  However, it is interesting to compare their reactions. Zechariah, a religious priest, could not believe the angel's message. However, Mary, a young girl of no importance, not only believed the angel, but considered herself blessed to be able to serve. Mary knew this would make her life very difficult. But instead of responding negatively like Zechariah, she chose joy, showing us that God works best through regular people.
  • Jesus was born of a woman and was fully human. This means he can relate to us. But Jesus was also born of the Holy Spirit, and therefore fully God. This means he can save us and help us in every way we need help.
  • Like Mary, we need to have the attitude that we are the Lord's servants and are willing to do what he says and follow his plan. It may induce fear, but God's message is to not be afraid, and that he will help us and bring the plan to life through his Holy Spirit.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Every day we have the opportunity to be like Zechariah or Mary. God wants to work through us in both big and small ways every day, but we can easily miss them if we're not looking or listening. Who do you choose to be like today?
    • Are you like Zechariah? When God asks you to do something are you grumpy and unbelieving? Do you do it, but do it begrudgingly? Do you have faith that he will come through?
    • Or do you respond like Mary? Do you thank God for both the challenges and the blessings he sends your way? Do you thank God for the opportunity to serve, even if it's difficult? 
  • If you were like Mary and willing to submit to and serve God however he wanted, what do you think he'd ask you to do? Is it possible he's already asked you to do something that you're not doing because of fear? Just like the angel Gabriel, God tells you not to fear, because his Holy Spirit will help you to do what he's asked you to do. So, be like Mary, and do it!