Sunday, December 8, 2019

December 8 - Zechariah 10

Today's reading in our daily plan is Zechariah 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?)
  • God is the one who provides what is needed for everyone. Putting faith and trust in idols, dreams, or fortune-tellers only provide false hope.
  • He also tells us there are those who have influence and use their positions of power to take advantage of others, and he promises they will be punished harshly for it while his compassion will be for those who are oppressed.
  • The cornerstone and tent peg (see verse 4) refer to Jesus. He will come to restore the people, give them strength, and they will have joy and happiness again. There will be difficult times to go through (see verse 11) but peace & security will eventually be delivered and those who were scattered near and far will be gathered together again.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • God is the source of all blessings. He doesn’t promise freedom from adversity, but he does promise that he will always offer relief in the security and comfort of his love.
  • At times you will feel distressed, annoyed, and confused. It’s especially important at those times to remind yourself that the Bible tells us many times that one day the instability will end and his promises will be fulfilled. It may not be on our timeline, but God always keeps his word and that should be an encouragement to pray to him.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Are you wading in a sea of trouble today? Or perhaps it’s more like you’re drowning in a flood of anxiety. Life just sucks sometimes, and it’s okay to tell God how you honestly feel.
  • Take a moment right now and be honest with God. Tell him what is disappointing and overwhelming you today. Express your frustration. Most importantly, ask him to equip you with his compassion.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

December 7 - Zechariah 9

Today's reading in our daily plan is Zechariah 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?)
  • Today’s chapter begins with a promise from God that all of Israel’s enemies will be punished and the people will never be oppressed again.
  • God instructs the people to rejoice and be happy in the promise of the freedom that would be found in Jesus. In verse 9, God tells how the king (meaning Jesus) would come riding on a donkey and later in the New Testament, the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) tells how Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem in precisely that manner.
  • There are promises of peace and freedom found by believing that God can and will provide power and protection through Jesus Christ.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • God loves to provide and take care of those who love and trust in him, but sometimes God’s timing doesn’t match up with our timing.
  • God talks to those who are holding fast to hope (verse 10) in this chapter and vows that their trust in Him will bring them a thriving life. But God understood that hope required patience, and he encouraged those who put their faith in him to also put their faith in his timeline.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Waiting is hard. And how often in life have you finally attained what you waited for only to find you’re still missing a feeling of fulfillment? God promises that if you put your trust in him, he will provide and take care of you, but it may not be an instantaneous change in your life.
  • Take a moment and talk to God. Be honest with him if you’re having doubts in his promises to provide and care for you. And take another moment to be still and listen to what he says to you. 
  • You can also bring your doubts to Verve. We believe asking questions is a good thing, and our church is a safe placed for you to approach God at your own pace.

Friday, December 6, 2019

December 6 - Revelation 7

Today's reading in our daily plan is Revelation 7. 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 number 12 was the number of tribes of Israel (in the Old Testament) who comprised God's people. It's also the number of disciples Jesus had. It is likely that the numbers reported in this chapter are not literal, but symbolic. The repeated use of the number 12 (times 12) probably represents all of God's "redeemed" people (those who were brought into relationship with God through their faith).
  • The people in Heaven wear "white robes" (verse 13). The white robes represent the purity of those in Heaven. Only perfect people, without any sin, can get into heaven.
  • In verse 14, we read of a "great tribulation" people in Heaven had experienced (seemingly on earth). A note in The NIV Student Bible says, "Bible interpreters have proposed many theories to explain “the great tribulation,” a time of great persecution for Christians. Some believe it will occur in the future, around the time of Christ’s return. Others believe John was referring to persecutions against the church occurring in his own day. Regardless, John stresses the overarching promise that the time of tribulation does not last forever. One day the faithful will no longer hunger or thirst and will never again have reason to cry (verses 16-17)."

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • The white robes represent the purity of those in Heaven. Only perfect people, without any sin, can get into heaven. The problem is that we have all sinned and none of us are perfect. This is why God sent Jesus, and why Jesus died for us. In verse 14, we read that the reason the people in heaven have white robes is because they have been washed "in the blood of the Lamb." The blood Jesus shed on the cross takes our sin away and makes us pure. Without Jesus' sacrifice, and without our embracing it personally, we cannot be made right with God and cannot get into Heaven.
  • We get a quick glimpse of heaven in this chapter. We will never hunger or thirst, God will shield us from the scorching heat, we will be led to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Best of all, God will be there and we will always be in his presence. Sounds like the kind of place we would want to spend eternity!

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Have you embraced Jesus' sacrifice for you and put your faith in him? If not, what's holding you back? If so, how does it make you feel knowing that your sins have been removed and you can get into heaven? And, speaking of heaven, how do you feel that you have a perfect eternity with God awaiting you?
  • Spend some time thanking God for all of this.
  • And -- think about people you know who don't know Jesus in a personal way. They need to put their faith in him, and God has put them in your life to help that happen. Who could you invite to church in hopes that eventually they'll come to faith, and be in heaven? The Christmas season is one of the times people are most open to going to church. Invite some people this week!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

This Weekend @ Verve!

When you experience something amazing, you want others to experience it too. What if an invitation had the power to change your friend's life?

Join us this weekend at Verve for part 2 of the series, Just Ask: What's the Worst that Could Happen?

December 5 - Revelation 6

Today's reading in our daily plan is Revelation 6. 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 lamb (who we were introduced to in Revelation 5, and who represents Jesus) breaks six of the seven seals, one at a time. Each results in an event or time period happening. These events fall into three categories:
    • The four horsemen of the apocalypse. Yes, this is where that saying comes from. The horse and riders correspond to events or time periods characterized by conquest, war, plague, and death. They may or may not represent God’s direct action on earth; or they could even represent the activities of humanity.
    • Martyrs. Those who have been killed for the word of God appear in heaven, calling out to God for judgment on their persecutors.
    • General catastrophe. Some think these events represent God’s judgment on the people of the earth, while others think this is the fulfillment of the destruction of the temple (as predicted in Matthew 24), and others feel this represents political upheaval.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Due to the nature of the writing in this chapter (and many to follow in Revelation), several different interpretations are plausible. Some of the more popular views on their timing is that these are events that have happened in the past, events that will be fulfilled in the future, they have been in the process of being fulfilled for a long time, or that they're not actual events at all, but instead symbolic of spiritual realities.
  • Although this strange vision is confusing and makes you wonder, the assurance we have is that God (who is love) is in control, knows what he is doing, and holds the future in his hands.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • In verse 9 we read about people who had been killed because they refused to deny their testimony and faith in Jesus. That may sound like something from the past, but Christians are still being killed today for their faith. In fact, thousands of Christians around the world are killed every year for their faith in countries like Indonesia, China, Nigeria, and Rwanda. If you are a follower of Jesus, these are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Take some time to pray for them -- that God will strengthen and comfort them as they face persecution and possibly martyrdom.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

December 4 - Revelation 5

Today's reading in our daily plan is Revelation 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?)
  • John’s vision of heaven continues as God presents a scroll with seven seals.
  • Scrolls were made of thin layers of papyrus, which is a reed-like plant that commonly grows along the banks of the Nile River. Thin, inch-wide strips were aligned and woven to create a durable writing surface. These were often rolled up for transportation or storage and important ones would have several wax seals. Only the proper person, in the presence of witnesses, could open the document.
  • No one is worthy of opening the scroll until a lamb comes forward. The lamb looks as if it has been slain. This creature symbolizes Jesus after his crucifixion and is worshiped by everyone in heaven as well as everything on earth. 

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • In the Old Testament, a lamb could be sacrificed in place of people who deserved punishment for their sins, in this way removing their sins. (This would be called an "atoning sacrifice.") In the New Testament, in John 1:29, John the Baptist points people to Jesus, saying, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!" Here in Revelation, we again see that Jesus is our lamb who was sacrificed for our sins so we could be free of condemnation.
  • A lamb who looks as if it had been slain would seem to be an object of pity, but it is clear to everyone in this scene from Revelation that this lamb is an object of worship. Everyone falls down in reverence and declares only he is worthy.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • When is the last time you thanked Jesus for being your atoning sacrifice? How often do you think about how bad a situation your sin had put you in, and that it's only because of Jesus and his willingness to die for you that your destiny could be changed?
  • When is the last time you really worshipped Jesus? He is worthy of your worship. When you go to church and sing, it's not just singing songs, the idea is that we would worship Jesus from our hearts. When you pray on your own, Jesus deserves you to worship him with all you are. In the rest of your life, you need to worship Jesus with all you have.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

December 3 - Revelation 4

Today's reading in our daily plan is Revelation 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?)
  • We now move past the letters to the seven churches and to some visions John experiences.
  • In John's vision of heaven, God is at the center. He sits on a throne encircled by a rainbow, twenty-four elders, and a sea of glass. From the throne comes lightning and earthquakes.
  • Again we see the number seven, the number that represents completion.
  • There are four weird creatures, parts of which may have held special meaning for people in that day (kind of like the American eagle or British lion in our times).
  • During the time John witnesses this scene, every person and creature is worshipping God. The elders are bowing down and the eye-covered creatures never stop declaring that God is holy.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • In the presence of God, everyone keeps repeating that God is holy. God's holiness is his purity and perfection. God's holiness has great significance for our life.
    • God's holiness should make us realize how desperately we need his grace. A theologian named R.C. Sproul wrote, "When we understand the character of God, when we grasp something of His holiness, then we begin to understand the radical character of our sin and hopelessness. Helpless sinners can survive only by grace. Our strength is futile in itself; we are spiritually impotent without the assistance of a merciful God."
    • God's holiness should lead us towards living holy lives. In fact, in the Bible we are called to live holy lives. (See 1 Peter 1:15-16.) We need to seek God's help in becoming more and more like him, living each day with less sin and more purity.
    • God's holiness should lead us to worship. Because God is holy, he deserves worship. In fact, God is the only one who is holy and the only one who should be worshipped. And we should join everyone surrounding God in John's vision and worship him.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Do you understand God's holiness? Are you amazed by it? Does it lead you to realize your desperate need for grace? Does it make you want to leave sin behind and live out God's holiness in your own life? Does it make you want to worship God now, and eternally in heaven? It should. If it does, take some time to worship God right now. And if it doesn't, take some time to ask God to change your thinking and your heart.