Tuesday, January 19, 2021

January 19 - Mark 13

Today's reading in our daily plan is Mark 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?)
  • Many Bible scholars believe that there are two interpretations of this passage:
  1. Jesus was referring to a literal event that happened in 70 AD, when the Roman Empire squashed an Israeli uprising, resulting in the destruction of the Temple
  2. He was also speaking of when he will come back to earth someday. The Bible teaches that Jesus is coming again, this time not as a human, but as God and in power, to end the world as we know it.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • People try to use these prophecies to figure out when Jesus will return and the end will come, but Jesus makes it clear in verses 32-35 that we cannot know.  Instead, Jesus says that we are to live our lives in a state of alert readiness.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • If you knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow, how would you live today? Would you change anything? And if so, what?  Jesus teaches us that we need to live with that kind of attitude every day. We should live in holiness and purity. When Jesus shows up, wouldn't you hate to be in the middle of sinning? We should also try to help other people know Jesus so they can go to Heaven with him when he returns. When Jesus shows up, wouldn't you hate for your friends to ask why you never shared your faith with them?

Monday, January 18, 2021

January 18 - Mark 12

Today's reading in our daily plan is Mark 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?)
  • The chapter opens with Jesus sharing another parable.  The land owner represents God, and the vineyard is his kingdom. The tenants were the religious leaders, and the servants that came to collect payment represent all of God's prophets that came before Jesus, including John the Baptist (whom we just saw beheaded a few chapters ago). Throughout the Old Testament, God repeatedly sent prophets to tell people truth and point people back to God, but they were usually ignored and mistreated.
  • In today's passage, Jesus predicts his own death. Furthermore, Jesus speaks of God's coming wrath on those who kill his son. This angered the religious leaders because they realized he was referring to them. They were still determined to reject this truth and, ironically, plotted to kill him as he had just predicted.
  • Throughout this chapter we see the religious leaders trying to catch Jesus "in his words." An example of this is his discussion with the Sadducees.  The Sadducees, another religious sect, didn't believe heaven existed.  They thought they could prove this through a discussion on marriage.  However, Jesus surprises them by explaining that marriage is an earthly event that doesn't exist in heaven. 
  • Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is. He states that it is to Love God with your whole life -- heart, soul, and mind. And the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Once again, in verses 38-40, we see Jesus warning his followers against the trappings of the religious leaders. He makes it clear that they love the fame of being noticed, not God.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Over the centuries, humanity has continually treated God's prophets and God's Son poorly. But God, in his love and grace,  has never given up on his creation.
  • If we say that we believe in Jesus, then we must follow his greatest commandments- love God and love people.
  • Jesus is looking for people who love God enough to sacrifice for him. The rich people gave exorbitantly, but it came out of their excess.  The poor widow gave only a few coins, but it was all she had. This was true sacrifice and Jesus commended her.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • How are you doing at loving God and loving people? What is a practical step you could take to be better? Maybe it's more private prayer time with God. Maybe it's helping your neighbor bring the groceries in the house. Let God guide you today on how you can honor him.
  • When you give to God, is it out of your excess or a true sacrifice? God is looking for followers who will make financial sacrifices for him. Is that you?

Sunday, January 17, 2021

January 17 - Genesis 6

Today's reading in our daily plan is Genesis 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?)

  • In the early lines of this chapter we read about the “sons of God” and their offspring, the “Nephilim.” What are these two groups? We’re not sure. Some scholars believe the “sons of God” are fallen angels and the “Nephilim” are the offspring of their union with humans. Other scholars admit they're uncertain. So we can’t know for sure but it seems obvious they were bigger and stronger than other humans, which is why they were called the “heroes of old.”  
  • As God watched the depravity on earth it broke his heart so much that he regretted creating us. He decided to wipe out everything he had created. But then God noticed Noah...
  • God gave Noah exact specifications for this boat and told Noah he would send him two of each type of animal and start the world over with Noah’s family. Talk about a serious (and weird-sounding!) message from God.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)

  • If the “sons of God” are indeed fallen angels, then it makes sense that God would be angry about them intermarrying with the human race. God created human beings in his own image and values us above everything else he created. So it’s logical that God would go to extreme ends to protect us and the “purity” of our kind. 
  • The obvious underlying principle in the life of Noah is to remain faithful to God even if everyone around you isn’t. That’s not always easy to do.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

  • Noah was a good man who wanted to follow God. God spoke to Noah telling him about the flood about to happen and to build a huge boat. The interesting thing is that, at this point, there had never been a flood -- or even rain. Noah must have been pretty confused, but he obeyed God.
  • The “story” retold in this chapter is one that a lot of people have difficulty believing, and it does seem unbelievable. But, assuming it’s true, what would you do? Would you obey God and do something that has never been done before? Imagine how much criticism Noah must have received when he told people it was about to rain? They had never seen rain so they must have thought Noah was crazy. Would you be obedient to God, even when everyone else laughed?
  • Is there something God is whispering that he wants you to do? Will you be obedient? Noah must have felt really uncomfortable and rather foolish for obeying God, but we still talk about him today. To live a full, note-worthy life, do whatever it is God's calling you to.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

January 16 - Genesis 5

Today's reading in our daily plan is Genesis 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?)

  • This chapter is kind of weird because it’s just an account of Adam’s lineage up to Noah. 
  • The interesting thing is how old everyone was. Adam lived to be 930. And in this chapter we read about Methuselah, who is the oldest man recorded in the Bible; he lived to be 969.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)

  • We’re not entirely sure why people lived so long but after the flood (which we'll read about next weekend) people stopped living so long. There are different theories. Perhaps the best is that God designed human beings to live forever, but humanity's tendency to sin resulted in drastically shorter lifespans.
  • Maybe you’re wondering why God didn’t allow people to continue to live so long. Perhaps God gave us a blessing by shortening our lifespans. Think about it: would you really want to live more than 900 years with all the pain and suffering in the world? Probably not.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

  • This should also be a reminder for us to do something positive with our life in the short time we’re here. God decided the main way he would positively change people’s lives and, ultimately, the world is by using those who follow him to do good. That’s why Jesus said we should live our lives to love God and love people. If we do that, we will turn the world upside down. How are you making a positive impact with your life? One of the best ways may be to volunteer at Verve. Helping other people experience the love of God is an awesome experience, and serving at Verve is an opportunity to do just that. 

Friday, January 15, 2021

January 15 - Mark 11

Today's reading in our daily plan is Mark 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?)
  • As Jesus entered Jerusalem the people were excited and welcomed him with shouts of praise. But this was a very short-lived acceptance because Jesus wasn't the type of Messiah they were hoping for. They wanted a political leader who would overthrow the government; they weren't looking for a spiritual leader. Furthermore, the crowd was easily manipulated by the Pharisees, who were religious leaders of the day.
  • Back then, it was customary for people who worshipped God to offer an animal sacrifice when they entered the temple. Corrupt business and religious leaders took advantage of this practice by telling worshippers that the animals they brought with them were unacceptable for sacrifice. They would then sell them another animal at an exorbitant price. It was all a sham to make money, so Jesus responds with righteous indignation and drives them out of the temple.
  • Jesus reminds the disciples, through the example of a withered fig tree, that they can do anything through prayer in Him. 

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Jesus didn't meet the qualifications for Messiah the Israelites had in mind, especially when he takes unexpected action and casts people out of the temple because they were hindering the ability of others to get to God. Even today, people have specific ideas about who Jesus should be and what he should do. They have a difficult time accepting when the reality doesn't meet their expectations.
  • Jesus wants us to do great things with our lives. We need to ask Him to help us not let doubt get in the way. We need to pray, believing that God will answer. 
  • Just as God has forgiven us for all of our sins, so we must forgive those who hurt us. 
  • Jesus was very intense when he saw barriers on the path toward God. We need to be just as serious about eliminating those barriers that prevent us, or others, from seeing God for who he really is.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What thoughts do you have about Jesus that may not be accurate? Is there some way God is not living up to your expectations? Continue reading the bible daily to gain a more full and accurate understanding of who God is.
  • Are you struggling with doubt? Have you given up praying for something? Don't! Keep praying today that the Lord will come through. And, if you have someone in your life who you haven't forgiven for hurting you, give that bitterness and anger to God today. 
  • What roadblocks are keeping you from getting close to God? How could you cast them out of your life? When (and how) will you do that?

Thursday, January 14, 2021

January 14 - Mark 10

Today's reading in our daily plan is Mark 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?)
  • Mark 10 begins with Jesus sharing God's original plan for marriage. He quotes Genesis 2:24 when he states that marriage is a gift between one man and one woman committed to each other for a lifetime. This idea was counter-cultural then, as evident by the disciples' reaction, and still is today. There are all kinds of reasons why it's easier to settle for something less than God's ideal, but we need to trust that God knows best and stay true to his Word. 
  • Back then it was believed that wealthy people were blessed with their riches by God. Some still believe that today. So the disciples were shocked when Jesus said it was hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. They asked, "Who then can be saved?" and Jesus explains that it is impossible for man to save himself. Only God can do the impossible and save us. This happens not through our effort, but through God reaching down to us.
  • The disciples argue over who is the greatest of them all.  Jesus reminds them again that the goal is not power and authority, but service to others.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Marriage is a gift from God not to be taken lightly. Just as God is committed to a relationship with us and will never give up on us, we should never give up on the partner that God has given us for life on earth.
  • It may be hard to believe, but, in Jesus' time children were considered trash, literally! If a child was born and you didn't want it, you could take the newborn to the garbage dump and leave it there to die. But Jesus says no to these travesties.  Instead he welcomed children with open arms, which would have been shocking to everyone. (If you want to learn more about God's attitude towards children, watch this message from a Verve series called God For The Rest of Us).
  • The rich man in verses 17-31 shows that he thinks following rules is enough to gain eternal life. But Jesus wanted more. He wanted the rich man's heart. And Jesus could see the young man loved money more than he loved God. This is why Jesus tested him to give it all away and follow Him.  Sadly, the man couldn't do it and simply walked away sad.
  • Jesus gives us a clear promise in verses 29-30 that whatever we give up for him will be given back 100 times over in this life and in the life to come. 
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Are you married and struggling? Pray today that God gives you the strength to love unconditionally just as Jesus loves you.
  • Are you unmarried and looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right?  Pray for wisdom to find someone who can partner with you in faith and commitment to Jesus and one another.
  • Is there something more important to you than God? Is there something you don't feel like you could ever give up? Perhaps, like the man in this story, it's money. The Bible calls loving something above God idolatry, and it keeps us from him. How can you put God above all else this week? What practical steps could you take to make God the most valuable thing in your life? 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

January 13 - Mark 9

Today's reading in our daily plan is Mark 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 chapter begins with Jesus taking three of his disciples up on a mountain top.  Jesus' appearance radically changes into a radiant, blinding white. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appear.  (They are central figures from the Old Testament and had been gone from the earth for hundreds of years!) To make things even more unusual, God literally speaks down from heaven and announces that Jesus is his son and they should listen to all he has to say. The disciples were in such great awe that they didn't want to leave the mountain. But Jesus tells them that they must and, once again, he forewarns them about his coming death and resurrection.
  • We see Jesus healing people again in this chapter. But what makes this story interesting is that some of the disciples had tried to heal the boy and couldn't. Jesus calls the disciples out on their inability to have faith and pray for him.
  • Jesus talks about the reality of hell in verses 42-50.  Although he does not literally mean for believers to cut off body parts, he is illustrating in a vivid manner that we should do whatever it takes to avoid hell.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Wouldn't it be nice if we could always stay on the mountain top? That's what Peter wanted.  He got a glimpse of Heaven and didn't want to go back down the mountain. After all, life was harder down there.  But there was work to be done.  If they had stayed on the mountain enjoying the view,  Jesus would never have died for our sins. And we would be lost without hope. 
  • Jesus is ultimate. He is God. Although great men like Moses and Elijah came before, they could not save the world. Our lives are meant to be lived for Jesus, and we need to listen to him.
  • We are reminded by the healing of the young boy that the question we should be asking Jesus is not "if," but "when." Jesus is able to help us if we believe.
  • Jesus tells us in verse 35 that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven are those that serve. This is counter-cultural to the American way of life. But Jesus teaches that we descend into greatness. Instead of seeking to be served, we should serve.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • The disciples lacked the ability to heal a young boy. Apparently it hadn't occurred to them to simply pray! It seems silly, but how often do we try to solve problems without praying? What is a difficult situation in your life that you haven't been praying about? Pray about it today! 
  • Take time today to think about those areas of your life that keep you from being close to God.  We all struggle with sin, but Jesus says to get serious about cutting it out of our lives. Be honest today about your struggles.  Are there any creative ways you could get rid of the temptations you face? Ask for Jesus' help today.
  • We often focus on me, myself, and I. But God wants us to focus on serving others first. What is a way you could serve someone today? Do it.