Monday, November 18, 2019

November 18 - 1 John 1

Today's reading in our daily plan is 1 John 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?)
  • John wrote his "gospel" (the book of John) so people would believe in Jesus, but also wrote three letters we have in the Bible (including 1 John) to people who already believed. At the time of their writing (approximately AD 85-95), Christianity had gained a little importance and influence in the Roman world. There had become a temptation to merge Jesus’ teachings with other philosophies of the day. One popular philosophy was "Gnosticism." The Gnostics believed that people were body and spirit, and that sin resides only in the body, while the spirit concerns itself with the things of God. They believed that by acquiring knowledge (gnosis), one could transcend the mundane and enter the spiritual realm. Combining these principles with Christianity led to errant teachings that claimed sinful behavior with our body had no effect on spirituality, and also that Jesus could not have been God in bodily form. This letter of John's was written partially to combat some of these false teachings.
  • John starts out this letter by explaining that Jesus was someone "we have looked at and our hands have touched." He is attacking the false belief that Jesus didn't come to earth, or didn't have an actual body.
  • He goes on to say that "God is light; in him is no darkness at all."

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • John writes that if we say we have fellowship (or friendship) with God but "walk" in darkness, we are lying. The idea is that to know and have relationship with God will impact the way we think and act. If our lives aren't changing, we don't really have fellowship with God.
  • However, John explains that it won't mean that we never sin. In fact, he writes that if "we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves." So we will not be without sin, but we should have less and less sin in our lives if we are living in relationship with God.
  • What do we do about those sins we commit when we're in relationship with God (and shouldn't be committing sins)? John says that we need to confess those sins to God. When we do, God will forgive us and purify us.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Where are you at when it comes to living in light or darkness? Has your character changed since you've started "walking" with God? If not, there is a problem. How are you doing with your thought life? With handling your finances in a godly way? In loving others? How has your relationship with God transformed your life?
  • When you do sin, do you tend to cover it up, or open up and confess it to God? Maybe take some time right now to reflect back on your last week or so and recognize where your life has been marked by darkness rather than light, and confess those sins to God.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Shhh... It Happens: How to stay calm when it hits the fan: Growth Happens

We provide questions each week based on the theme of our service for our Verve Groups to use. If you're not in a Verve Group, feel free to use them on your own.
This week we continued the series called Shhh. It Happens: How to stay calm when it hits the fan and talked about Growth HappensIf you missed it, you can listen to it here.
  1. What's the best thing you've got going on in your life at the moment?
  2. Are you currently satisfied with where you are spiritually? Why or why not?
  3. Read Proverbs 11:28 in the Old Testament of the Bible. What things have you devoted your life to that felt like a dead stump? 
  4. Identify an area of your spiritual life that you are happy with the growth you've had. What is it and how did you get to this point?
  5. Our circumstances we experience can show areas we need to grow in. Based on the current circumstances in your life, where do they show you need to grow?
  6. Do you consider bad things happening to you a joy? Why or why not?
  7. Where would you like to be spiritually a year from now? What's one step you could take today to get closer to that goal?
  8. Weekly Check In Question:  What could we be praying for you this week? (Is there something good we could celebrate with you, or a challenge you need God's help with?)

November 17 - Zechariah 1

Today's reading in our daily plan is Zechariah 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?)
  • Today, in our weekend readings of the Old Testament, we start the book of Zechariah. Zechariah was written around 500 BC to the Israelites living in Jerusalem. They had recently been permitted to move back from Babylon. They were supposed to rebuild the temple - which was the center of worship of God at the time - but the work had been hard and had stalled. Zechariah encourages and challenges them. (If any of that sounds familiar, it's because Haggai wrote at the same time, to the same people, with the same purpose.) Zechariah includes a lot of visual imagery/symbolism and some prophecies about the coming Messiah, which are fulfilled later by Jesus.
  • Zechariah begins by sharing God's message, "Return to me, and I will return to you." There is a warning to the Israelites to not be like their ancestors.
  • The Israelites had been in captivity in Babylon as a result of their turning away from God and sinning against Him. In the vision of the man on the red horse, an angel complains that the people had been exiled from their homes long enough. God speaks "kind and comforting words" (verse 13) and proclaims (verse 16) that it is time for them to be released and to go home to live and rebuild the temple.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • In the New Testament, in Hebrews 12:1-13, we learn that God is a good Father and will sometimes use the bad things that happen to us to discipline us. Similar to a parent who might give their kid a "time out" to teach them not to lie, God wants to correct our wrong thinking and wrong behavior to lead us to a better life. It's not that God is lashing out to punish, remember he is a "compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love" (Exodus 34:6). He loves you and his desire is to speak "kind and comforting words" to you, and he is always calling you to return to him.
  • The Israelites were to return and their first priority was to rebuild the temple. Why? Because back then the temple was the center of worship, and God was to be their first priority. God deserves for us to put him first, and our lives will only work when we put him first.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

  • Have you been feeling like you're being "punished" by God? You're probably not. But if there is something in your life that you don't want, how might God want to use it to correct wrong thinking or wrong behavior in your life? How might he be using it to call you back to him?
  • Is God the first and top priority in your life? He is God - your Creator, Savior and Sustainer - and should be more than just an "add on" in your life. And if he is not your first and top priority, something else will be, which means you are really making that thing your god. The problem is that nothing else can be a good God for you and therefore your life won't quite work right. Take some time to pray, asking God to reveal what you have truly put first in your life. If it's not God, ask him to help you to change that.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

November 16 - Haggai 1 & 2

Today's reading in our daily plan is Haggai 1 & 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?)
  • Today we read the entire book of Haggai - it's only 2 chapters. Our last weekend reading was Zephaniah, who predicted that, if God's people didn't turn from their sin and back to God, they would be destroyed. Unfortunately, it happened. In 586 B.C., the armies of the nation of Babylon came in and destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and much of the city (Jerusalem). Many of the Israelites were taken captive. But in 538 B.C. the King of Babylon let the Israelites return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. They started, but faced opposition and became apathetic. They stopped rebuilding the temple. Haggai speaks to the people (in 520 B.C.) after fifteen years of not working on the temple, urging them to finish the work of rebuilding the temple for God.
  • In chapter one, God asks the people how they can live in luxury while God's house was lying in disrepair. The people were focused only on getting more for themselves but were discovering that more was never enough (1:5-6). They "expected much" (for God to bless them, for themselves to be happy in their new homes) but it was "turned out to be little" (see 1:9). Why? Because God was not blessing them (see 1:10-11).
  • The people respond to God's challenge and begin to focus on God's house. Because of that, God tells them "I am with you" (1:13).
  • Some time goes by between chapter one and chapter two. The people had returned to worshipping God, but were not yet really committed to doing the work of rebuilding the temple. God challenges them, "Be strong ... and work. For I am with you" (2:4).
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • The book of Haggai may seem a bit foreign to us, as it took place on the other side of the world and about 2,500 years ago. Yet the themes still apply directly to us today. God has asked us to prioritize giving our money and our time/work to Him, and God has promised to be with us and to bless us when we do.
  • There are numerous verses in which we're told that the first priority we should have with any money we bring in should be to give generously back to God, and that God will bless us if we do. (In fact, the Bible talks more about money and giving than any other topic.) Here's just one example:  "Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine" (Proverbs 3:9-10).
  • There are also numerous verses in which God tells us our first priority with our time and talents should be working for him and his purposes. Here's one, "God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another! ... Do it with all the strength and energy that God provides" (1 Peter 4:10-11). Here's one more, "Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically" (Romans 12:11).
  • The Israelites back in Haggai's time were focused on getting more and serving themselves. They couldn't understand why it was leaving them feeling empty. The same is true today. If we use our money and our time for ourselves no matter how much we get we will feel empty.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

  • Look at how you spend your money. How much goes to you and how much goes to God? God tells us everything we have comes from him, and asks us to give back to him generously, saying that generosity starts at 10%. Is that how you give to God? If not, are you "expecting much" but it's turning out "to be little"?
  • Look at how you spend your time and talents. How much goes to God? Are you working for Him? Do you have a volunteer position where you serve in the church? How else could you make God more of a priority with your time and talents?
  • God was upset that His people cared about their own homes but not his. He wanted them to prioritize his "house" over their own. What would it look like for you to live by that today?

Friday, November 15, 2019

November 15 - John 21

Today's reading in our daily plan is John 21. 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?)
  • Peter had, only a few days earlier, denied even knowing Jesus three times. This is Jesus and Peter's first real encounter since. Jesus asks Peter three times, “do you truly love me?” Peter had denied his friendship with Jesus three times, and perhaps Jesus is giving him the chance to make up for it.
  • After each question Peter responds affirmatively and then Jesus tells him to shepherd his flock. In this interaction Peter is reinstated as a leader in the Kingdom of God.
  • In verse 18, Jesus says something kind of cryptic about Peter's future. History tells us that Peter was eventually crucified (upside down) because of telling people about Jesus. Perhaps this is what Jesus is referring to.
  • The last verse John explains that no book could capture everything that happened in Jesus’ lifetime.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Peter had rejected Jesus, and deserves to be rejected by Jesus. But instead Jesus treats him with grace. He gives Peter the opposite of what he deserves, offering him unconditional love and a key leadership position in his movement. God's offer to us is grace as well.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Have you felt like things you have done make you deserve rejection by God, or as though God could never use your life? Know that just as Jesus forgave and restored Peter, he wants to do the same in your life. But you need to humbly go to him to receive this. Once you do, feel confident that you have been forgiven, and that God can use your life in a big way!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

This Weekend @ Verve!

 Even when it feels like you aren't as far along spiritually as you thought you would be, good things are happening in the midst of all the bad things you are going through.  

Join us this weekend at Verve for part 4 of the series, Shhh... It Happens!

November 14 - John 20

Today's reading in our daily plan is John 20. 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?)
  • Most scholars believe that when John refers to “the other disciple” (in verses 2-8), he is writing about himself.
  • After Mary Magdalene discovers Jesus is not the gardener he tells her, “do not hold on to me.” It could be that she wouldn't let go of Jesus because she was afraid he'd leave again. Or it might be that Jesus was trying to get Mary to focus, so he could send her to tell the disciples the news of his resurrection.
  • In verses 19-22 Jesus meets up with his disciples and tells them that he is sending them in the same way the Father had sent him. He then says, in verse 23, something that seems odd: "If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.“ Since the disciples were to continue Jesus' mission of telling everyone about God's offer of salvation, it could be that Jesus is referring to the forgiveness that comes from accepting the message. So, rephrasing Jesus’ words, it could be: “Those who receive your message will be forgiven; but those who don’t receive your message will not be forgiven.”
  • Thomas is not there when all the other disciples see Jesus risen from the dead. He expresses doubt over whether Jesus had truly risen. Jesus, in response, shows up for Thomas and gives him what he needs to believe.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • John ends this chapter by explaining that his purpose in writing was to help people come to faith in Jesus. That is God's desire for everyone. God sent Jesus because he loves the world and wants everyone to know him and to have real and eternal life through him.
  • In verse 21 Jesus gives us the same mission God gave him: "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." We now have the responsibility of helping people to know God and find life in him.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Where are you at with faith? Have you come to believe in Jesus? If not, what holds you back? What questions or doubts do you still have? And, like Thomas, have you voiced those concerns -- to God, and to some people who might be able to help you?
  • If you have come to faith, do you understand that your mission is to help other people come to faith? Have you accepted that mission? Who are a few people God has put in your life who don't believe, who you can show the love of God to and lead towards Jesus? Take some time to pray for them.