Thursday, February 27, 2020

This Weekend @ Verve!

Who you are today isn't who you are supposed to be forever. Keep moving forward into who you are becoming.

This weekend at Verve, we continue the series, No Barriers!

February 27 - Luke 13

Today's reading in our daily plan is Luke 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?)
  • As the chapter opens, Jesus is asked if bad things, like the gruesome massacre of the Galileans, happened because they were evil. Jesus emphatically says no. Bad things happen because we live in a world that's messed up by sin, and we're all victims.
  • Jesus also teaches that his followers are like a fig tree. After planting and fertilizing, the tree should bear fruit. (See Galatians 5:22-23 for more on what "fruit" Jesus might be referring to.)
  • Jesus heals a woman, on the Sabbath, which was forbidden by religious law at the time. The religious leaders become very angry, but Jesus calls them out on their hypocrisy. He reminds them that even they offer their donkeys water on the Sabbath. So, how much more would God the Father want to provide healing for his children on the Sabbath?
  • Some of the Pharisees warn Jesus that Herod plans to kill him. He, once again, responds by predicting his death and resurrection.
  • Jesus shares parables (stories) about the kingdom of God. He says that God's kingdom is like a mustard seed and yeast. A mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds but it grows fast and furious, and can take over a garden or field quickly. Yeast is used in bread as a rising agent. It only takes a tiny pinch of yeast to work it's way through an entire loaf of bread. 
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Jesus teaches that God does not cause bad things to happen to us. Some of us will live to 100, while others will die of disease before age 40. Neither outcome is a reflection of our faith or our sinfulness. We live in a broken world that ultimately ends in death for all. However, we can control the choices we make. He tells us that we need to repent and stay on the narrow path to God.
  • The religious leaders implemented rules that kept people from God (see verses 10-17) but Jesus' mission was to help people come to God.
  • Just as yeast and mustard seeds grow quickly and permeate everything around them, God should permeate everything we say and do. 
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Many people think they are on the narrow path to God. It's easy to "like" Jesus, but it's another thing to "follow" him. Are you bearing fruit like the fig tree? Are you consistently trying to share about the kingdom of God with others? Do you consistently choose to turn away from sin and toward God? Make that choice right now. Repent (turn away from sin) and determine to live your life for him today, and every day. 
  • Does your life help spread God's kingdom like a mustard seed? Do you desire to live for Jesus with your whole being? Can you honestly say that God's love permeates everything you do? If not, ask for God's help today. He wants to help you live a transformed life and help transform others. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

February 26 - Luke 12

Today's reading in our daily plan is Luke 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?)
  • In the last chapter of Luke, we saw Jesus warns Pharisees because of their hypocritical lifestyle. Jesus continues to drive this point home in today's chapter when he refers to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees as a yeast. Yeast is a fungus that grows rapidly under the right conditions. Jesus also reminds the disciples that nothing is hidden from God. 
  • Jesus goes on to encourage the crowd not to fear rejection or death.  He knows they will face persecution for their belief. They may face a hostile world, but loving God and standing up for what really matters. And just like God cares for a simple bird, he will care for them in time of trouble.
  • The Bible talks about money more than almost any other subject, and this chapter is no exception. Jesus is asked to settle a financial dispute, but instead reminds that greed is dangerous and will not lead us where we really want to go.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • God knows us inside and out. He knows our thoughts, our secrets, and our heart. Nothing can be hidden from him. He also knows our worries and our fears, and he cares for us and knows what we need.
  • God wants us to choose what we care about most. If we are to follow him whole-heartedly, nothing else can come first. Not money, family, or even life on this earth. We must let go to pursue Jesus. 
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Honesty time: Is God the number one priority in your life?
  • The question is not do you believe in God? or Do you go to church? Even the Pharisees did these things and were told they would not enter the kingdom of God. The question is whether God is your ultimate priority and comes first for you in everything. Your family is important, but does God even come before them? Your job really matters, but is God an even higher priority? Do you obey God with your money? Your sexuality? In the way you treat other people? Remember, it's an honest moment. So: Is God central in your life?

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

February 25 - Luke 11

Today's reading in our daily plan is Luke 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?)
  • The chapter opens with what a lot of people call "the Lord's Prayer." Jesus teaches his followers how to pray and assures them that God is a good father who wants to give them good things.
  • When Jesus casts a demon from a man, they claim his power must come from Beelzebub (another name for Satan). Jesus points out that it would be absurd for Satan to work against himself. Why would the devil cast himself out?  He reminds them once again that he is doing the work of God the father, and the miracles are evidence of God's promised redemption. 
  • In verses 29-32, Jesus is angry that the people beg for a miraculous sign. He has done countless miracles among them, yet the people following him around still doubt his power.
  • Jesus then turns to the image of light. Why would anyone light a lamp and then hide it? He shares that light can only do good when it is seen. 
  • When Jesus has dinner at the Pharisee's house, in verses 37-54, the Pharisees get upset because Jesus doesn't go through the ceremonial religious washing before the meal. Jesus explains to them that God isn't concerned with the outside of us, but the inside. What matters is our hearts, and our hearts need to be about loving God and loving people.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • When Jesus teaches about prayer he is not giving us magic words or a magic formula. The idea isn't that we pray the exact words of the example prayer he provides, but that those are the kinds of things we should pray for. And when Jesus says, "Ask and it will be given to you," he's not saying that God is a magic genie here to do our bidding. He won't answer yes to every request because he is a good father who loves to give good gifts to his kids, but is also too wise (and too loving) to give them something they may want but isn't for the best.
  • Jesus says, "He who is not with me is against me." This makes it clear that we cannot follow him apathetically, nor can we choose a "moderate" position when it comes to loving God. We must make a choice. Are we on God's side, or are we the opposition? As Bob Dylan said, "Gotta Serve Somebody." 
  • Jesus compares the eye to a lamp. The eye is a metaphor for our heart and soul. We need to be careful of the things we let into our heart. Is it full of light, or are there pieces of darkness hiding?
  • Jesus harshly criticizes the Pharisees at the end of the chapter. They all have one thing in common. They all deal with the sin of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the act of pretending to be something you aren't. The Pharisees cared deeply about their external appearance, and wanted to create the illusion that they were holy and righteous, but they didn't actually love God.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Just like the people who watched Jesus miraculously cast a demon out of a man, we must make a decision. We must take sides. Are we going to go with God? Or are we going to go the other direction? We all serve somebody. Who do you choose to serve?
  • If you are a Christ follower, do you let your light shine, or are you afraid of letting people know what you believe? Jesus reminds us that a hidden light is pointless. You have a great hope in God. Don't be afraid to spread his light.
  • Are you more focused on the inside or the outside? Do you spend more time worrying about how your life appears to others or about really loving God? Do you spend more time thinking about the impression you make on others or on how you can better love others? What practical steps can you take to make your life more about the inside than the outside?

Monday, February 24, 2020

February 24 - Luke 10

Today's reading in our daily plan is Luke 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?)
  • The chapter opens with Jesus appointing 72 other followers, in addition to the 12 disciples, to go and share the gospel message from town to town. He gives detailed instructions about what to do. He also reminds them that a rejection from the people is not personal; it is a rejection of God himself.
  • In verse 17, the 72 people return to share stories of their travel. They are amazed at the power they were given by Jesus.  They were able to heal people and drive out demons. Jesus sees that this power has gone to their heads a little bit. So, he warns them not to focus on power, but instead, be grateful for the opportunity to spend eternity in God's kingdom. 
  • Jesus shares the story of a Jewish man who is traveling and gets robbed and beaten. He is left by the side of the road to die. A priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan all pass by. However, the only one that helped the man was the Samaritan. This would have been shocking to the Jews as Samaritans were hated, considered evil,  and nicknamed "dogs." Not only did the Samaritan care for the man, he went above and beyond what was necessary, paying all of his expenses. 
  • The chapter closes with Jesus visiting a small village. A young woman by the name of Martha invited him in. Martha was preoccupied with cooking and cleaning the house to make it perfect for Jesus.  However, her sister Mary sat in the living room and listened to Jesus speak. Martha reprimands her sister publicly for not lifting a hand and helping around the house.  Jesus corrects Martha telling her that she is focusing on the wrong things, and that Mary will be rewarded for putting God first.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • When people start following Jesus, Jesus sends them out to do ministry. Everyone who follows Jesus is called to serve people and do ministry.
  • When we share Jesus with others and they do not accept the message, we cannot take it personally. They are not rejecting us, but Jesus who sent us. But when our friends do come to God, we should respond like Jesus and rejoice that they've come home into God's kingdom.
  • The parable of the Good Samaritan reminds us that we need to love God with everything that we have, and everything we are. And, we need to love everyone, even our enemies.  And finally, that love is a verb. It takes action. The Good Samaritan's love met the practical needs of his "neighbor."
  • We can become so busy with our daily to-do list that we can't be bothered to stop and spend time with Jesus daily. He reminds us that spending time focusing on him is more important than a clean house or errands completed.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Where are you currently serving as a volunteer in ministry? Even if you're somewhat new in following Jesus, you are still called to serve. If you'd like to start volunteering at Verve, you can sign up online.
  • At Verve we talk about being "guerrilla lovers." The idea is that we need to ambush people with God's love, like the Good Samaritan did. Who has God put in your path that you can show some love to in the next 24 hours? Someone at work, in your neighborhood, at your school? What is a practical need you can meet in his or her life?

Sunday, February 23, 2020

No Barriers: God Wants to Partner with You

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 No Barriers and talked about God Wants to Partner with YouIf you missed it, you can listen to it here.
  1. What do you wish someone taught you a long time ago?
  2. If someone asked you, "What's the purpose of life?" or "What's the purpose of your life?" what would you answer? How have you come to that answer?
  3. We learned this week that God partners with ordinary people to break through the barriers between Him and other people. When have you seen this happen?
  4. Read Acts 8:26-29 in the New Testament of the Bible.
    • What desert road might God be asking you to go down?
    • Whose chariot might God be asking you to get near?
    • In other words, who has God put in your life that He wants you to share the good news with?
  5. Is it difficult for you to be obedient to what God is asking you to do? Why or why not?
  6. Who is somebody in your life who probably feels like God is not for them? How can you allow God to use you to show this person differently?
  7. 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?)

February 23 - Proverbs 8

Today's reading in our daily plan is Proverbs 8. 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 author of this proverb writes from a first-person perspective of “wisdom.” It’s interesting to think of wisdom as a person calling out to us, giving us the chance to converse with her. 
  • The voice of wisdom tells us that her fruit is better than fine gold. Then she says she walks in the way of righteousness. 
  • In verse 22, wisdom says, “the Lord brought me forth as the first of his works... appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began.”
  • Wisdom closes by telling us whoever finds her, finds life. But whoever fails to find her harms themselves.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • It’s sobering (and kind of cool) to think that God created wisdom before any other part of creation. 
  • We have this opportunity to seek and to interact with this “first of creation.”
  • Wisdom is more than a magic formula to money, success or fame. Wisdom is the comfort of knowing what is the right move when maybe no one else does. 
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Do you seek after wisdom like a long lost friend? Do you value a “relationship” with wisdom?
  • In what areas of your life right now do you need more wisdom? Ask God to help you find His wisdom in those areas.