Friday, October 23, 2020

October 23 - John 4

Today's reading in our daily plan is John 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?)
  • What Jesus does in this chapter would have been considered shocking.
    • The Jews and Samaritans hated each other, and Jewish people would not go into Samaria. In fact, they would travel days out of their way to avoid the region of Samaria. Yet Jesus, a Jew, heads straight into Samaria.
    • Most Jewish men would not speak to women who were not their wives. Yet Jesus has a personal conversation with a woman.
    • Most religious leaders would not interact with anyone considered sinful. Yet Jesus spends time with this woman who was considered very immoral.
  • The woman tries to avoid letting the conversation get personal, and tries to engage Jesus in a common religious debate of the time, but Jesus helps her to realize that this is personal and that God's truth is not something to be debated but applied to our lives.
  • This woman, who had very likely been trying to avoid the people of her town (because of her reputation for being sexually immoral) goes running to those people to make sure they get a chance to meet Jesus. And they do! Because of the woman inviting them to meet Jesus, many of them put their faith in him.
  • After his time in Samaria, Jesus headed north back to the region of Galilee. Upon arrival he heals a man’s son without ever coming in contact with the boy.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Jesus shows us that God is for everyone, and he didn't let cultural barriers keep him from his mission. No matter your background and no matter your sin, God is for you. And Jesus would not let any barrier keep him from pursuing you. And just like this woman takes the incredible discovery she made in Jesus and invites everyone to come meet him as well, we need to do the same.
  • Instead of focusing on debating truth and being right, we need to focus on applying truth to our lives and being righteous.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • God is for everyone and won't let any barrier keep him from pursuing them. God gave us his mission, and we need to realize God is for everyone we meet. We need to make sure no barriers keep us from helping them connect to Jesus. What is stopping you from talking to people about Jesus and/or inviting them to church? Who do you need to make sure meets Jesus?
  • Which of God's truths have you treated as an intellectual matter instead of a personal one? How do you need to apply that truth to your life?

Thursday, October 22, 2020

October 22 - John 3

Today's reading in our daily plan is John 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?)
  • The first half of this chapter is a conversation between Jesus and a guy named Nicodemus. Nic was part of two groups that opposed Jesus: the Pharisees and the Jewish leadership. But he was curious about Jesus, so he decided to talk with him one-on-one. Because of his position he was afraid to meet with him during the day and opted instead to use the cover of night.
  • During their conversation, Jesus explains (in verses 3-8) that people must be "born again." The idea is that we have to, in effect, start life over. It happens through God and His Spirit's work in our lives, and takes place when someone chooses to follow Jesus. (This death to our old life and rebirth in new life is symbolized in the act of baptism.)
  • Jesus also makes it clear (in verses 10-18) that he came to earth to save people from perishing and to give them eternal life. This happens when Jesus is "lifted up" so people see and put their faith in him.
  • Jesus also tells Nic (in verses 19-21) that we each have a choice: to love "the light" and live in the truth or to choose evil and remain in the darkness.
  • In the second half of the chapter we revisit John (the Baptist). In verse 30 he makes a profound statement: "He must become greater; I must become less."

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • At some point we all must make the choice, for ourselves, to be born again. To put an end to my old life lived in darkness, with myself at the center, and to start a new life lived in the light, where I try to lift up Jesus and make him greater in our lives while we become less.
  • Those are decisions we make initially but must make again every day.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • In what area(s) of your life are you choosing to live in the darkness instead of in the light of truth? Is there something you would be embarrassed to talk to God about? Are there secrets in your life you would prefer to keep secret? You will only be free when you move into the light. Confess to God, and talk to a trusted friend, and start to move towards the light and freedom in that area.
  • What might it look like for you to make more of Jesus and less of yourself today? How about: at work? With your friends? With your family? At church?

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

October 21 - John 2

Today's reading in our daily plan is John 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?)
  • Jesus turned water into wine for his first miracle. John says this was when the disciples first put their faith in Jesus.
  • Jesus made a ton of wine for the party. Also, notice the master of the banquet says this wine is far better than what they had before without Jesus.
  • In the second story we see Jesus "clear the temple." There were vendors who were taking advantage of the people who had come to worship God. Jesus does not tolerate this, forcefully removing them from the temple.
  • In verse 18 the Jewish leaders question Jesus about his authority to do this. Jesus answers with a somewhat cryptic statement, which John explains (in verses 21-22) is about his resurrection. The answer is hard for the Jews to hear because it expressed Jesus as superior to their religious worship.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Jesus' first miracle was to turn something religious (the water for ceremonial washing) into something alive (wine is actually alive) and festive. This was probably no coincidence. Jesus came to take stale religion and make it come alive by making it about a relationship with God rather than just ceremonial practices and traditions.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Where is your faith right now? Is it waning? Is it about religion? About the "ceremonies" of showing up at church and maybe giving a little money to the offering and reading your Bible once in awhile? OR is it about a living relationship with God? Does having Jesus make your life way better than what it was without him? Ask Jesus to "clear you" of anything that needs to be removed from your life, anything that is holding you back from a life-giving relationship with God, and to turn the "ceremonial" water of your life into life-filled "wine".

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

October 20 - John 1

Today's reading in our daily plan is 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?)
  • This book is the fourth "gospel." In the bible, gospels are the books that go through the life and ministry of Jesus (Matthew, Mark and Luke are the other gospels). The book of "John" was written by John, the disciple of Jesus. This is a different John than the one we see in this chapter (who is commonly referred to as "John the Baptist" or "John the Baptizer").
  • In the first five verses, we learn that Jesus (who is nicknamed the "Word") had always existed, in Heaven, with God, and that He was (and is) God.
  • In verse 14 we see that God took the extraordinary step of becoming human. He "became flesh" and moved to where we live.
  • In this chapter, Jesus is called by seven significant names: The Word (verses 1 and 14), The Light (verses 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9), the Lamb of God (29 and 36), Messiah (verse 41), Son of God (49), King of Israel (49) and Son of Man (51). Together these titles help us understand the amazing and utterly unique identity of Jesus.
  • Throughout this chapter we also read about John the Baptist, who was chosen by God to prepare people for Jesus and to point people to Jesus.
  • Jesus had many followers throughout his ministry, but there are twelve who he chooses to be his key ministry apprentices (these twelve are sometimes referred to as disciples or as "the apostles"). In the last two sections of this chapter we see the first of the twelve being introduced to and choosing to follow Jesus.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Jesus is and always was God. He was always with God. The Bible reveals that God is one. There is one God. But this one God exists in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. And all three have always existed in perfect relationship. This is significant for us because we were created in God's image, which means we were created for relationships. And it's significant because it means that God didn't create us and doesn't want us because he's lonely. He's not desperate for friends. God made us and wants us because he loves us!
  • Notice the reaction of every person who meets Jesus in this chapter. They all immediately invite other people to meet Jesus. John the Baptist points the crowds to Jesus. Andrew invites Peter to meet Jesus. Philip invites Nathanael to meet Jesus. If you meet Jesus, you know that everyone needs to know Jesus, so you invite people to meet Jesus.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • God wants you. He has all the relationships he needs within himself. He doesn't need you. But he wants you, because he loves you. How does that make you feel? The thought should be overwhelming. A perfect God loves and wants imperfect you! Spend some time meditating on this, and perhaps talking to or thanking God for it. And: What should this thought do to your self-image?
  • Who are you inviting to come meet Jesus? Someone who knows Jesus cannot be selfish with him. We need to do everything we can to get everyone to Jesus. So, who are you inviting to come meet Jesus? Who have you invited to check out church this week? Who could you invite?

Monday, October 19, 2020

October 19 - Philemon

Today's reading in our daily plan is Philemon. 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're reading Paul’s letter to a slave owner named Philemon. One of his slaves, Onesimus, had run away. While he was free, Onesimus connected with Paul and gave his life to Jesus. Onesimus then decided to return to Philemon, and Paul writes this letter to encourage Philemon to welcome back his slave lovingly and gently. In this letter, Paul shows his mastery of persuasion and diplomacy, and uses it for a good cause: Onesimus’ life.
  • Philemon has a right to be angry and hold a grudge, but Paul appeals to him to forgive.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • We need to use our abilities for good causes (rather than just for our own good and gain). What cause has God put you in a position to influence?
  • As Christians, there may be times when we have the right to be angry and hold a grudge, but our allegiance to God and His love at work in our lives calls us to something higher and better, forgiveness. When we forgive we are not saying what the other person did was okay; we are just releasing our right to be angry about it.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Who do you need to forgive? How could God help you to do that? What benefit would forgiving have on you?
  • Today is our final day with Paul. Take some time to reflect on his life and letters. What things did Paul write about most frequently? What fears do you think he had? What have you learned about Paul that has challenged you? Encouraged you? What attitudes, character traits, or skills of Paul’s do you see in yourself, and how can you use them to benefit God’s kingdom?
Here's a helpful video from a great resource called BibleProject that reviews and summarizes the book of Philemon:

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Questions: Dignity

We provide questions each week based on the topic 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 our series called The Separation Of Church And Hate by talking about Dignity.
  • Who in your life has made you feel really special? What did feeling special do for you?
  • Is there a time when you were made to feel worthless, or worth less? What happened? What did feeling worth less do to you?
  • In the message this week on dignity, Vince said, “We Christians believe that every single person is created in the image of God.”
    • Why is that significant?
  • Vince also said, “We Christians believe that every single person is someone Jesus died for.”
    • Why is that significant?
  • This week we were challenged to do three things.
  • First, act with dignity. Who, or what group, do you struggle to treat with, and speak about with, dignity? Why do you think that’s so? How could you change?
  • Second, identify your prejudices – thinking of prejudices as having a preconceived opinion about someone. It may be difficult to admit, but would you share with us some of the prejudices you’ve identified in yourself?
  • Third, do something. God tells his people to give value to, to serve, and to honor the vulnerable and those who are viewed as worth less. What are some opportunities you might have this week to do that?

October 18 - Proverbs 24

Today's reading in our daily plan is Proverbs 24. 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?)
  • Verse 10 tells us that our true colors show when we experience difficult situations. 
  • Quite a few verses in this chapter warn against hanging out with evil people who scheme about bringing others down. 
  • We’re also told not to take joy in the downfall of our enemies. 
  • Another recurring theme is that of defending truth, and standing up for what is right.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Hard times are an opportunity to grow closer to God. In fact, sometimes God uses difficult circumstances to remind us of His goodness. 
  • If we find ourselves spending a lot of time with people who talk poorly about others, we should replace those relationships with more meaningful and God-honoring ones.
  • Even when it's inconvenient or unpopular, standing up for God should be our priority.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Have hard times pushed you away from God because you focus more on your control, stress level or own decisions? Take time right now to ask God to help you see him in this situation, and to redirect your thoughts to him and his goodness.
  • Do your friends constantly talk about other people in a derogatory way? See if you can replace that conversation with words that build people up. If that doesn't work, find new friends who will build up you -- and others -- in all conversations.