Saturday, April 29, 2017

April 29 - Job 2

Today's reading in our daily plan is Job 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?)
  • Satan is given another opportunity to destroy Job's faith in God. God willingly allows Satan to test Job--proving once again that Job's faith is relentless and strong.
  • Satan tests Job a second time. This time through physical suffering. Job is struck by disease and illness.
  • Job's wife encourages Job to curse God and let go of his integrity. But, Job continues to refuse.
  • Job's three friends--Eliphaz, Bildad, and Shuhitep--visit Job and have great sympathy for him. 
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Job says, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" Meaning: trusting God is needed at all times, not just when things are going well.
  • Physical suffering can often cause a person's faith to flounder. However, Job is an example that even physical suffering shouldn't rattle our faith. Instead, we should continue to trust God.
  • When tragedy or difficulty hit, it is good to have a community of people to sympathize and comfort you.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • If you were in Job's shoes, how do you think you would respond?
  • God allows us to go through physical suffering to test and strengthen our faith. Will you continue to trust God even when physical suffering is real?
  • Community is vital when we go through difficult times. We encourage everyone at Verve to be in a Verve Group because of this.

    Friday, April 28, 2017

    April 28 - Romans 4

    Today's reading in our daily plan is Romans 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 chapter focuses on a man named Abraham. Paul was attempting to trace the readers' Jewish heritage way back before Moses and the Old Testament law. 
    • Paul demonstrates through the example of Abraham and David that a person is made right with God by faith, not works. And he is able to show through Old Testament scripture (verses 7-8) that the concept of faith over works was not a new idea, but one that had been around for generations.
    • As we saw in the previous chapter, it was a Jewish custom for sons to be circumcised 7 days after birth, as a symbol of belief in God. The Jews believed this put them in an exclusive club. However, Paul bursts their bubble by pointing out that Abraham was considered right with God because of his faith, and before his circumcision. This means there is no members-only club; God is for everyone

    SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
    • Abraham was made right with God not because he was a good person, or did good things, or didn't sin too much, but as a gift because of his faith. This same offer is made to everyone. You are not so good you don't need God, and not so bad you can't be accepted by God. The issue isn't our goodness or badness, but whether we will accept the gift of Jesus given to us and put our faith in God. 
    • Once we put our faith in God, we need to live by faith every day.
    • God is for everyone, not just the people who already have him or are trying to live for him.

    NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
    • Have you said yes to God and the free gift of Jesus Christ?  If not, what's holding you back?
    • Abraham had faith that God would deliver on the promise to lead him to a habitable land, give him a child, and make his descendants into a nation. It wasn't always easy for him, and he didn't even get to see all of this happen in his lifetime... yet he still lived by faith. Where are you finding it difficult to live by faith? Where is it difficult for you to trust God that he'll deliver on his promises?
    • What steps could you take to increase your faith? Maybe you could remember what God has done for you in the past? Or read stories in the Bible of God's faithfulness? Or pray about it? And ask a friend for support? Take those steps!

    Thursday, April 27, 2017

    This Weekend @ Verve!

    We all have areas of our lives we wish we could change. What's the one thing you keep trying to change about yourself, only to end up back in the same rut? What's the one thing that keeps you from feeling whole?

    This weekend at Verve, part 3 of Rehab For The Rest Of Us is all about how you can take the next steps in your spiritual journey that will finally lead you to wholeness. Be there Sunday morning or Monday night!

    April 27 - Romans 3

    Today's reading in our daily plan is Romans 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 this chapter by addressing some questions he had been receiving.  The issue basically boils down to: If God is perfect, and we never will be, then why not keep sinning? Paul explains that a just God must condemn sin, and that continuing to do evil when we know what is right will reap God's punishment.
    • Paul lists six Old Testament quotes that all express the sinfulness of humanity. He explains that the laws of the Old Testament were not meant to make us "good" before God, but to make us aware of sin. Without the law, we would not know what sin was.
    • Verse 26 teaches us that God is just. And just like a just judge must punish crimes in court, a just God must punish sins committed. But God's grace is so great that he didn't want to see us suffer, so he sent Jesus to the cross as a "sacrifice of atonement" (verse 25), which means he took our sin on himself. Thus God can justify us (to be "justified" means it's "just-as-if-I'd" never sinned).

    SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
    • Many believe they will go to Heaven because they are "good people." They feel like they're less sinful than others, so they'll get in. But everyone has sinned, and even one sin would keep a person out of Heaven. The reality is, we're all way more sinful than we realize or want to admit. We will not be made right with God or get into Heaven based on our good works. It is only through putting our faith in Jesus and accepting what he did on the cross to take away our sins.
    • Once we say yes to God's love offer of taking away our sins through the death of Jesus, we should strive to live like Jesus and avoid sin. Not because we need to "follow the rules," but because we love God and are grateful to Jesus. Think of it this way: If you were facing the death penalty and someone came in and took the death penalty in your place, would you leave the jail and go back to your old life of crime? Or, would you be so overwhelmed with gratitude that you seized all you could out of your second chance at life?  

    NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
    • Will you get into Heaven when you die? And if so, why? Do you understand that you are not good enough, even if you are better than most? It is only through faith in Jesus and his sacrifice that you can have a relationship with God and go to Heaven. So have you truly put your faith in Jesus? If not, what's stopping you? If so, when did you do that? And is there evidence of that in your life?

    Wednesday, April 26, 2017

    April 26 - Romans 2

    Today's reading in our daily plan is Romans 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 by calling out the readers for their hypocrisy. He points out that they judge other people's sins when they are living the same way as those they condemn. He reminds them that only God's judgment is based on truth; our judgment of others may make us feel better about ourselves, but it does nothing to absolve us of our sin.
    • Paul then gives another harsh criticism to Jewish teachers: Teaching others about the law and what God desires does not make one right with God. We must actually live out His teachings.
    • Circumcision was and is a procedure in the Jewish culture, symbolizing being "set apart" for God. But we learn here that being from the right lineage, or doing the ceremony when you are a child, is not what matters to God. God is looking for people who have truly given their hearts to Him.

    SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
    • No one can follow God's law perfectly, and because God is righteous, he must judge those who do not follow the law perfectly. That means all of us will be judged! Sounds depressing, right? Well, hold on and keep reading. There is hope for all of us in chapter 3.
    • Paul reminds us that God is kind and patient; He patiently waits for us to turn to him. And when we do, God will give us eternal life. But, if we are self-seeking, God will punish us.
    • We may think that we are right with God because we have Christians parents, or because we grew up in a place of faith, or because we go to church. But that's not enough. God is looking for our hearts. 
    • Christians will sometimes look down on people they consider more sinful, but it is only God's place to judge. 

    NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
    • Where is your faith? Have you given your heart to God? If not, what will it take to get there?
    • No one is perfect, not even you! So, do you still judge others for their sin? If so, know that the only sin we're to pay attention to and feel responsible for is our own. Deal with your sin, and don't worry about the sin of other people. 

    Tuesday, April 25, 2017

    April 25 - Romans 1

    Today's reading in our daily plan is Romans 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 Romans was written by Paul. His intended readers were the thousands of people living in Rome. His purpose was to write a clear and concise explanation of the Christian faith to a city that was the center of world power at the time.
    • Paul makes it clear that "righteousness," a term for being made right with God, comes not from living a "good life" but only through faith in Jesus.
    • Paul then explains that without God we are depraved, or immoral, people. Verse 21 says that we may know about God, but it doesn't mean we know Him. God gives us free will to choose whether we want to follow the truth or not. If our decision is no, verse 24 tells us that God will give us over to our sinful desires and worshipping idols. Idols are anything we value more than God.
    • In verses 26-31, Paul lists sins of those who have turned away from God.

    SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
    • The general path humans take is to turn away from the one true God and toward sin, thus making something else god. This path is self-destructive, and we don't want to take it.
    • Romans 1 talks about God's wrath against sin. We see all throughout the Bible that God is love. But God hates sin. And God's hatred of sin is loving because sin destroys us and the lives and relationships of the people God loves. So, the most loving thing God can do is hate the presence of sin in our lives.

    NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
    • What path are you on? Are you seeking truth or trying to run from it? What is it that you're looking to for ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment? Whatever it is, that is what you worship. So is it God? Or a person? Or money? Or your job? Or physical fitness? Decide today to make God the god of your life, and to worship Him alone.
    • What sin is in your life? In turning away from God, what sins have you turned to? Decide today to turn away from that sin and back to God. Ask God to help you, and consider confiding in a trusted friend who can support you.

    Monday, April 24, 2017

    April 24 - Acts 28

    Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 28. 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 and his companions experience a shipwreck while sailing from Crete to Italy, where Paul is expected to stand trial before Caesar. All the passengers on the ship made it safely to shore, just as Paul had predicted (see Acts 27:22).
    • The island they land on is named Malta. The people were very kind and welcoming.
    • The leader of the island, Publius, has a father who is very sick. Paul prays for healing and God answers. When word gets out about this miracle, everyone on the island who is sick comes to see Paul for healing as well.
    • After 3 months on the island, Paul and his companions finally sail to Italy and make it to Rome. 
    • Paul is on house arrest for 2 years, but he still takes the opportunity to share about Jesus, explain Christianity, and answer the Jews' question about this new "sect." 

    SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
    • As the book of Acts comes to a close, we have watched Paul's patient journey from Jerusalem to Rome. Paul never gave up faith that God would come through on his promise to make it to Rome. Now we get to see that promise fulfilled in today's reading. We also get to see his deep faith in action one more time, when he is bitten by a viper. Paul didn't fear the snake because he trusted God and knew if God wanted him in Rome, he was going to Rome, and not even a deadly snake bite could prevent that.
    • The chapter ends with God's promise fulfilled, but perhaps not the way Paul expected. Paul is in Rome, but he is on house arrest. Yet we see Paul make the best of it: although he cannot go to the synagogue and share about Jesus anymore, he asks the people to come to him. And they do. Paul continued to preach boldly about Jesus for the next two years.
    • Sometimes it can be difficult to believe God is going to come through on his promises; we can become negative and bitter when everything is going wrong. We should instead live by Paul's example and be patient on the journey, because life with Jesus is a journey and it may not look the way we'd hoped. It may even include a few snake bites on the way. But God will always see us through if we fully trust and rely on him.

    NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
    • Paul finally made it to Rome, but was still in a difficult situation. However, he didn't use that as an excuse to sit around and do nothing. He still used his gift of preaching to make a difference in people's lives. We need to do the same. God desires for us to serve others by using our gifts, even during the hard times. Do you have any areas of your life that you feel God has gifted you that you aren't using? Pray that God will give you opportunities to share with others what he has done in your life.