Sunday, July 31

31 July - Psalms 82 and 83

Today we’re reading Psalms 82 and 83. Here are a couple quick thoughts:
  1. Psalm 82 talks about how God presides over all earthly rulers (“gods”). Ultimately no matter how “high” a person climbs on earth he will one day die and face the true God over all things. This should be a sobering thought for us all to remain humble.
  2. Psalm 83 starts by the writer reminding God that the enemies of the nation of Israel are plotting against them. The writer asks God to defeat them just as he had with other rulers who invaded Israel. He asks this so that the other nations will know that their God is the only living God.
Take an honest look inside yourself to see if you need to become more humble. It’s always better for us to realize we need to be humble and work on it instead of having to be humbled. In reading the Bible, it’s clear that God values humility in us. So we should make it a point to always remain humble.

Saturday, July 30

30 July - Psalms 80 and 81

We’re reading Psalms 80 and 81 today. Below are a couple thoughts about these chapters:
  1. Psalm 80 starts with acknowledging God’s sovereignty over all things. The writer asks God to rescue them from their enemies. Then he says that the people will return to God. This is a common theme in the nation of Israel but it’s also prevalent in our lives too if we’re honest.
  2. Psalm 81 reads like a reply from God. We’re not sure if it was the next Psalm the writer wrote or not but it would be a perfect reply. You can almost hear the pain in God’s reply; like a father wanting to help his child if the child will allow him.
How often our relationships with God resemble how the nation of Israel went back and forth with God. How is your relationship with God right now? Remember he really does want a relationship with you. And he never wants you to “earn” his love again. Just turn back to him.

Friday, July 29

29 July - Matthew 4

We’re reading Matthew chapter 4 together today. Here are a couple things to think about:
  1. Immediately after Jesus was baptized (see Matthew 3) the Spirit of God led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil himself. Notice that God didn’t tempt Jesus; elsewhere in the Bible we learn that God will not tempt anyone to do evil. However, God does allow us to be tempted to strengthen our faith and relationship with him. 
  2. Jesus began to preach after his time out in the desert. Did you notice that it was after God had provided an opportunity for Jesus to grow closer to him that Jesus started helping other people. Since Jesus is God he didn’t need to wait but he did. Perhaps it was to show us a pattern that God uses. Often it’s after times of great struggle we have the opportunity to help others in the same way but only after we’ve turn to God and grown closer to him.
  3. Then Jesus called four guys to follow him and become his disciples. They were common blue collar workers not the religious elite like some would have expected. Honestly, we have the same expectations of who God wants to use today don’t we? We always think we aren’t “special” enough to be used by God and maybe he should pick someone else. But God wants to use everyone to show other people his love.
Have you ever thought God was tempting you? Today we talked about how God doesn’t tempt anyone to do wrong. Next time think of it as an opportunity to grow closer to God. Have you ever went through some really tough times and thought, why would God allow you to go through them? Maybe God was preparing you so you could help other people. Do you ever feel like God wants to use you to do something for him but give him the excuse that you’re not “special” enough? Well stop! God does want to use you and through you he will help lots of other people in this world; if you will only allow him to. One way you can start is by volunteering to be on a Verve Serve Team. Go to the Velcro Bar and ask them how to get involved.

Thursday, July 28

28 July - Matthew 3

Today we’re reading Matthew 3 together. Below are a couple thoughts:
  1. This chapter opens by telling us about Jesus’ cousin, John. Many people know him as John the “Baptist” but it could be better translated as John the “Baptizer.” He was a wild man who wore clothes made of camel hair and ate bugs. He would be institutionalized if he was around today but he was an important part of preparing the way for Jesus’ life. He went around teaching people that they needed to turn from religion and to a relationship with God. The religious leaders didn’t care much for John and they didn’t for Jesus either (maybe it was a family trait?).
  2. Jesus came to be baptized by John and John tried to refuse because he felt unworthy. However, Jesus insisted. Jesus had no need to be baptized, he was perfect. He wanted to show us how important it was though. After Jesus came back up from the water God spoke from heaven; confirming Jesus was his son and said he was pleased with him.
Jesus’ cousin John was pretty crazy. Does it make you think differently of Jesus’ family? We all think our family is strange but I doubt many of us have family members who eat bugs. The Bible tells us that Jesus faced everything we face in life. We normally wouldn’t think Jesus could understand being seen as an outcast but he certainly was. In fact, Jesus one time said even his own people reject him. Have you ever felt like being baptized wasn’t that big of a deal? Jesus, God in human form, felt it was important enough to be baptized. So shouldn’t we think it’s a big deal too? Are you a follower of Jesus? If so, have you been baptized? If not, what are you waiting for? 

Wednesday, July 27

27 July - Matthew 2

We’re continuing Matthew today, chapter 2. Below are a few things to think about from this chapter:
  1. Matthew tells us how wise people from far away lands had been watching for a king to be born who would lead God’s people. When Jesus was born they saw the sign they’d been looking for a star in the night sky. They set out to find him and asked a local political leader, King Herod, where to find Jesus but he didn’t know. 
  2. When they finally found Jesus they bowed down and worshipped him and presented his parents with all sorts of gifts. Then an angel told Joseph to take his family to Egypt because King Herod would be trying to kill Jesus; because he was worried Jesus would take over his kingship. Joseph kept his family in Egypt until Herod died and then he returned to Nazareth. 
  3. All this drama in the beginning of Jesus life was crazy but it also answered a lot of the prophecies God gave to men hundreds of years before Jesus was born. God gave these prophecies so the Jewish people could identify their messiah without any doubts.
Did you know that people were watching for the birth of Jesus who didn’t even live in his area? And isn’t it awesome that God gave tons of proofs in advance for the Jewish people to know that Jesus was really sent from God? The sad part is that many of them ignored them because had different ideas of what Jesus would be like. Honestly, today we still have preconceived notions of how we expect God to act and so we miss out on a lot about God. Ask God to help you learn to know him for real; without any of your own thoughts or opinions projected onto him.

Tuesday, July 26

Losing My Religion

This weekend I preached at Verve and we continued our series “Losing My Religion” where we’re looking at how religion doesn’t work. I talked about “Why the Law Doesn’t Work”. If you missed it you can listen to it here

I explained that the Law is kind of like a list of guidelines God gave us to follow, like the 10 Commandments. However, over time man turned the Law into a religion. We talked about man’s tendency to be religious. But that's never what God wanted. God hates religion. God wants a relationship with us and provided his son Jesus Christ to be the bridge that restores us to him. It’s not about religion; it’s about faith in Christ. We can’t live up to the Law’s standards. We don’t have to either. God wants a relationship and all it takes is faith.

Sometimes we can all slip into following the law religiously without realizing it. We go to church, pray and read the Bible because we feel guilty if we don’t. That is a religion. Christianity is all about a relationship. We go to church, pray and read the Bible because we get to. It’s how we build our relationship with God. Are you going deeper in your relationship with God or being religious?

Spend some time this week thinking about your faith. Ask yourself why you believe what you believe. Ask God to help you to begin to take away the parts of you that are religious and grow in your relationship with him. If you don't believe in God then ask him to prove to you that he's real. 

26 July - Matthew 1

We start a new book of the Bible today. We’re starting the book of Matthew, chapter 1. Matthew is the first book of the New Testament. The author of this book was Matthew, who was a tax collector who left everything behind to follow Jesus and become one of his disciples. Let’s see what Matthew has to say in this first chapter:
  1. Matthew wrote his letter (known as the book of Matthew today) to a mainly Jewish audience. He started the letter by tracing the genealogy of Jesus back to Abraham. Most of us today could probably care less about how Jesus was connected to Abraham but for Matthew’s Jewish audience it certainly would have been significant. The reason the Jewish people would be concerned with the connection Jesus had with Abraham was because the Jewish people considered Abraham the forefather of their faith.
  2. Then Matthew describes one of the most important parts of Jesus coming to earth, the fact that he was born of a virgin. Which obviously isn’t possible by human standards but Jesus was God in human form and so it makes sense that he would be born in a different way. 
  3. We also learn how Joseph, Mary’s fiance (and “earthly” father of Jesus), had a difficult time accepting Mary’s word that she was pregnant by God. That would be a hard thing for any man to accept. But God sent an angel to tell Joseph it was true and Joseph took on his role in Jesus’ life. This would have to have been very difficult for Joseph to endure the “questions” of people around them about his wife and “son.” 
Does knowing how Jesus was connected to Abraham help connect some dots for you in the Bible? Is it difficult for you to believe Jesus was really born of a virgin? Do you understand how important it was that Jesus be born of a virgin? Does reading how Joseph naturally struggled with the “news” Mary shared with him make you see Joseph in a new light? Does it make you think less of him or see him as a normal guy like the rest of us? How about Joseph’s faith, does that inspire you to trust God more? What area is God asking for more faith in your life right now?

Monday, July 25

25 July - Colossians 4

Today we’re reading the final chapter in the book of Colossians, chapter 4. Let’s look at how Paul finished this book.
  1. Paul begins this final chapter with some very wise words. In fact, they’re words every follower of Jesus should be following. He told them to devote themselves to keeping open communication with God. Paul advised them to ask God for new opportunities to tell people about his love and to do so with clarity. Paul goes on to say they should be intentional when they interact with people far from God and their conversations should be full of grace. These are great words for us all to live by.
  2. Paul’s final instruction is for them to give this letter to another church (the church in Laodicea) for them to read and for them to read the letter Paul sent them as well. This is how Paul used his letters to teach all the churches he planted different things about how to have a relationship with God. Also, this practice of sharing the letters amongst the churches is what kept them around to be included in the Bible. 
How does Paul’s advice to the Colossians impact you? Does it convict you to be more intentional in growing your relationship with Jesus? Do you have a habit of doing the things he talked about already? We can all improve on these areas. How often do you pray? If you find it difficult to stay focused while praying then try writing your words out as your talk with God. Do you look for ways to share God’s love with other people? It may be intimidating but it shouldn’t be. Just share with them what God has done in your life. You don’t have to be a scholar to share your story with people. And make sure you show people the grace you want God to show you. 

Sunday, July 24

24 July - Psalms 78 and 79

We’re reading Psalms 78 and 79 together today in the Verve Bible Reading Plan. Here are a couple thoughts:
  1. Psalm 78 tells how the people of Israel went back in forth in their relationship with God; sometimes following him and other times rejecting him. But God was patient with them. The writer tells how the people eventually rebelled so much from God that he allowed them to be taken by their enemies. However, God rescued them again and restored the nation.
  2. Psalm 79 tells how other nations had invaded the nation of Israel and pleads for God to defend them. We can only guess this was during the time talked about in the previous chapter.
Does reading through the Old Testament about how God was patient with the nation of Israel encourage you that God will forgive your past mistakes as well? It should. The Bible continues to show how God wants to have a relationship with us and forgives us our mistakes if we will follow him. Are there any areas in your life right now that you need to give to God and ask for forgiveness? He’s ready to forgive if you turn to him.

Saturday, July 23

23 July - Proverbs 19

We’re back in Proverbs today, chapter 19. Here are a couple things to think about:
  1. Verse 2 holds some great advice. How many times do you hear someone who is very adamant about their side of an issue but they clearly don’t have very much knowledge to back up their opinion. They’re just regurgitating information they’ve heard from other people. One of the worst examples of this is someone who claims to be a Christian and berates other people for the way they’re mistakes. The people who do this clearly haven’t read how Jesus interacted with the same sorts of people because he always led with love and respected the person.
  2. There are a few verses that talk about how lazy people will suffer in life. The Bible warns against valuing money too much but it also encourages a good work ethic. 
  3. Verses 13 and 18 are sobering reminders to be a good father and husband. Men have more to do with how well their home life is than most are willing to accept. God calls men to step up to lead and love their families the way they deserve.
  4. The writer also reinforces what Jesus echoes later about caring for the poor in verse 17.
What verse has had the most impact on you today? Why? Is there some sort of action you need to take in response to it? If so, ask a close friend to help you see it through until the end.

Friday, July 22

22 July - Colossians 3

Today we’re reading Colossians 3. Below are a few things to think about:
  1. Paul beings this chapter by saying that if you’ve been given a new life by following Jesus you should set your thoughts on higher things. You should be growing in your relationship with God instead of focusing on things that are temporary. 
  2. He goes on to say that your new life shouldn’t look just like your old life. We need to do away with the things that were slowly destroying us and others around us.
  3. Paul plainly tells us the traits we should be showing in our new life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and above all love. He also tells us that everything we do, we do for Jesus as a “thank you” for giving us a second chance on life.
Do you see yourself as having a “new life” as a result of following Jesus? If not then you’re missing out on one of the best parts of having a relationship with God. We don’t have to be chained to our past. We’ve been given a second chance at living a full life. Does your “new life” look exactly the same as your “old life?” If so, ask God what needs to be changed to start growing closer to him. Last, does your life reflect the traits Paul listed that are evidence of our new life in Jesus? Choose just one of them to focus on this week.

Thursday, July 21

21 July - Colossians 2

We’re reading Colossians 2 together today in the Verve Bible Reading Plan. Check out the points below:
  1. Paul warns the Colossians not to be deceived by the false teachers like so many other churches were. It doesn’t appear there was a problem with this at the time but Paul was trying to make sure they were aware of what is going on so they wouldn’t get distracted from their faith in Jesus.
  2. He says when we were dead in our sins God made us alive with Jesus. Paul clearly articulates that it’s because of what Jesus did on the cross for us that we’re forgiven of our sins if we choose to follow him.
  3. Paul ends by reinforcing we’re made free in Jesus. So we shouldn’t enslave ourselves to various religious actions to try to gain favor with God. If we follow Jesus then God sees us as perfect.
Is there any religious act that distracts you from a real relationship with God? We can get so focused on doing a set of rituals that we miss the point of really connecting with God. God doesn’t want us to go through a series of motions that mean nothing to him. We’re only made right with God through Jesus. When is the last time you thank God for making a relationship with him so easy to understand? When was the last time you thank Jesus for the sacrifice he made to provide a way for your sins to be forgiven?

Wednesday, July 20

20 July - Colossians 1

Today we’re starting the book of Colossians, chapter 1. The apostle Paul wrote this book as well. Let’s take a look at what he has to say in chapter 1:
  1. One of the first things Paul talks about in this chapter is how Jesus is above all things. He goes on to say that we were once alienated from God because of our sins but Jesus made a way for us to reconnect with God. Paul very clearly says that once we choose to follow Jesus he takes away all our sins and we are “without blemish and free from accusation.” That’s great news for all of us.
  2. Paul then describes himself as a servant of God to everyone. He said he goes on in God’s energy not his own. Paul said he’s trying his best to see everyone perfect in Jesus.
How does this chapter make you feel? Do you ever feel horrible about something you’ve done in the past? Paul tells us if we’ve chosen to follow Jesus then God sees us as perfect, without any sin. So don’t dwell on your past mistakes; instead move forward in your new life in Jesus. Do you ever feel worn out from doing so much good or serving so much at church? If so, stop trying to do it in your own power. Ask God to give you his strength and energy like Paul talks about in this chapter. 

Tuesday, July 19

19 July - Philippians 4

Today we’re wrapping up Philippians with reading chapter 4 together. Below are a few thoughts:
  1. Paul begins this final chapter by encouraging his readers to stand firm in their faith in Jesus.
  2. He also tells them to rejoice in everything and to live in a way that other people will be drawn to them. He also tells them what to think about. 
  3. Do you protect your thoughts? Paul gave his readers a test to know what they should think about. Read each of these words and ask yourself do these words define the thoughts I allow to roam inside my mind? Are my thoughts: right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy?
  4. Paul ends with telling them his secret to being content in life. He said no matter how his life looks he can do anything God has for him through God’s strength. This is great for us to remember because we often try to do things out of our own strength and only involve God when we’re in trouble. However, Paul said he seeks God for his strength from the start.
We all need to be reminded to stand firm in our faith from time to time. How are you standing right now? Does your life draw people to ask questions about how you’re able to live in such peace? How’s your thought life? Do you protect what you allow yourself to think about? What types of thoughts occupy your mind most of the time? Ask God to help your thoughts line up with the words Paul recommends to his readers in this chapter. Last, do you try to do things on your own or do involve God in everything you do?

Monday, July 18

18 July - Philippians 3

We’re back in Philippians today, chapter 3. Let’s take a look at what Paul is writing his audience in this chapter:
  1. Paul begins this chapter by telling his audience to watch out for the people who are trying to teach them false things about how to follow God. Remember these “false teachers” were trying to add the Old Testament Laws to their faith in Jesus. Paul’s telling them this is not only unnecessary it’s wrong. In fact, Paul said if anyone should desire to add these action based “works” to the Christian faith it would be him because he has kept all of them since he was a child. However, Paul said that he considers all his “success” in religion worthless compared to knowing Jesus. Paul reinforced that it’s only through faith in Jesus that we can have a restored relationship with God. 
  2. Then Paul shows his humility. He said he doesn’t consider himself to be at the place he wants to be with God yet. He compares his faith to an olympic race and says he forgets what’s behind him and presses on towards the finish line.
  3. Finally, Paul tells them to set an example for others to be able to follow. He tells them not to get sidetracked by temporary things that society has to offer because our citizenship is in heaven. This is a unique lens to view the world in. To constantly remind yourself that you have permission to be different from others and that you don’t have to follow the crowd because you are a member of a different family is kind of liberating. Not that we withdraw or ignore others around us but we don’t have to seek their approval. We can live the lives we know please God and stop trying to please others.
Do you try to add “good deeds” to your faith in Jesus hoping to gain favor with God? It’s easy to want to do because then you can measure your “success.” Remember it’s simply faith in Jesus that restores your relationship with God. Does thinking of yourself as an alien in your community help you feel better about living a more pure life to please God? When we choose to follow Jesus he adopts us as one of his children. We’re then citizens in a place we’ve never seen but will one day. Live your life to make God smile.

Sunday, July 17

17 July - Psalms 76 and 77

We’re reading Psalms 76 and 77 together today. Below are a couple thoughts about these chapters:
  1. Psalm 76 is another one written by Asaph and once again it’s praising God for his power over all the rulers on earth. Asaph is also encouraging people to praise God because he defended them against their enemies.
  2. Psalm 77 is good for us to read because we can all identify with the first half where the writer is pouring his heart out to God and asking why he isn’t answering. Then the tone shifts. The writer recalls how God acted on his behalf before and he is comforted to know that God will act again in his timing.
Are you in a place right now where you desperately need God to show up? Continue to talk to him about it. He is listening and acting even when we don’t see it. 

Saturday, July 16

16 July - Psalms 74 and 75

We’re reading Psalms 74 and 75 together today. Here are a few things to think about:
  1. Psalm 74 is written by someone named Asaph and is obviously a lamenting song to God. The writer is retelling how invaders had come in and destroyed places where they worshiped God. He’s asking God to not be distant and to defend his people again. But in the end the Psalmist praises God for his power and asks God to show his strength again.
  2. Psalm 75 is also written by Asaph. This psalm talks about God stepping in at the “appointed time” and is most likely in response to God’s intervention after Psalm 74 was written.
Have you ever felt that God was far away and you needed him to step in on your behalf? Did it happen right away? Usually God’s timing isn’t exactly the same as ours but reading Psalm 74 and then Psalm 75 we see that God does intervene when he knows the time is right. His answers may be different from what we want but we have to accept that there are things we won’t fully understand right now. Ask God to help you be able to accept his answers, whatever they may be.

Friday, July 15

15 July - Philippians 2

Philippians 2 is where we are today in the Verve Bible Reading Plan. Below are a couple thoughts:
  1. Paul opens this chapter by telling his audience to always consider others better than themselves. He’s telling them to be humble. Humility is one of the best character traits we can have. As followers of Jesus we should strive to live our lives as he did. Paul reminds us that Jesus always showed humility and so should we. 
  2. Then Paul writes to “work out your salvation.” He’s not saying we can earn a right standing with God. Rather, Paul is saying as a response to God’s grace we should live our life trying to become more like him; as a result we will do good things because God has changed our hearts.
The topics Paul covered today are extremely important for us to take to heart today. Most people who are not involved in church have the perception that Christians are self-righteous. If followers of Jesus made it a point to try to be humble then this perception could be changed. How about you? Do you find it difficult to be humble? Would those closest to you say that you’re humble? If you’re really looking for an honest answer then ask them but be ready for a real response. Do you have evidence in your life that shows other people God’s love? 

Thursday, July 14

14 July - Philippians 1

Today we’re starting a new book; Philippians chapter 1. Paul wrote this letter to the church of Philippi while in prison around 62 A.D. Let’s get started:
  1. Paul begins this letter by expressing his gratitude for having the privilege to found the church of Philippi. He goes on to say that he prays regularly for them to increase in knowledge about God so they can discern the proper things to do.
  2. He also tells his audience not to worry about him being in prison because it has become a testimony for God to the people around him. Some have even become more bold in their faith because of Paul’s predicament. 
  3. Paul makes a statement in verse 21 that is very deep. He said, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Paul is saying that if he is released from prison he will go on preaching the message of Jesus’ love to people. However, if he dies in prison then it’s a “gain” for him because then he will be in heaven with Jesus. This is an astounding position to hold for someone who is suffering greatly for telling people about Jesus.
Has your relationship with God grown since you began doing the Verve Bible Reading Plan? Have you grown to a place where you feel you could have the same strength Paul is showing in this chapter? Could you keep your joy and say honestly if I get out I’ll commit the same “crime” (telling people about Jesus) again but if you die then you’re happy to? It’s a tough one but we should be so close to God that we can have this unique perspective in life as well. More than likely we will never face struggles like this on the same level as Paul but it still applies to every trial we face.

Wednesday, July 13

13 July - Ephesians 6

We’re finishing Ephesians today with chapter 6. Let’s see how Paul wraps this letter up:
  1. In the beginning of this chapter we read God’s instruction for children to obey their parents and this is the first commandment with a promise from God; if a child obeys their parents then they will enjoy a better and longer life. Right after parents are told to teach their children about God and not intentionally make their life hard.
  2. Then Paul has some words for slaves and slave owners which doesn’t directly apply as it did back then. However, if we parallel that with an employee and boss relationship it applies perfectly. As employees we’re to work to the best of our ability for our boss because we’re really working for God. A boss should treat their employees with respect. Paul didn’t write this to talk only about a job. Paul is showing us that we’re to do our best in everything in life because we can find joy in doing our best before God, who gives us the abilities we have.
  3. To close Paul writes about this spiritual war that’s going on in the world. Paul tells us that we should train and be well prepared to fight against evil. He isn’t trying to freak us out but he wants us to know that there are spiritual forces at work in and around us. Which isn’t a new idea. This is what causes us to struggle between doing good or evil. And this battle is why Paul encourages his audience to follow closely to God so they don’t get distracted.
Do you have a difficult time working for your boss? Focus on working for God instead of for a person. Have you ever felt like you had to fight to do what is right? Ask God to help you keep close to him so you can stand firm in your faith.

Tuesday, July 12

12 July - Ephesians 5

Today in the Verve Bible Reading Plan we’re reading Ephesians 5. Below are a couple things to think about from this chapter:
  1. Paul starts off with a great parallel from life. He tells us to “be imitators of God, as dearly loved children.” If you have kids then you get the picture Paul is painting here. When kids are young they imitate everything they see their parents do. They’re like little parrots repeating everything they hear their parents say. Paul is saying God adopts you as one of his children. So, we should walk around imitating what Jesus did in life. We should be Jesus parrots? (So . . . just thinking out loud here: we could have a parrot on our shoulder all day like pirates to remind us to be imitators of Jesus. Now that’s a way better idea than those WWJD bracelets!) Just kidding . . . kind of.
  2. We also read about how we were once living in darkness before following Jesus but afterwards  we are living in the light. Our lives should be a drastic change as dark to light. That’s not to say everyone has done a long list of bad things in their life. However, even if it’s just on the inside, everything should change for the better after deciding to follow Jesus.
  3. Paul tells us to make the most of every moment. This isn’t an invitation to hedonism. Rather Paul is saying that every moment of our life is a chance to grow closer to God and to love other people more.
  4. Paul ends this chapter with some great advice for couples but they’ve become some of the most misused verses in the Bible about marriage roles. These verses have been used by some people to put themselves over women and that’s not at all the point of what Paul wrote. The cliff note version of these closing verses is this: a husband and a wife should love each other like Jesus loves them. He lived and died for us and forgives us without end. Both spouses should love each other in the same way.
If you’ve decided to follow Jesus, have you also become an imitator of him? What areas in your life have changed as a result of you copying Jesus? What areas still need work? Do you live each day like it could be your last chance to show others love? If you’re married, are you loving your spouse like Jesus loves you?

Monday, July 11

11 July - Ephesians 4

We’re back in the book of Ephesians today, chapter 4. Let’s take a look at what Paul wrote:
  1. Paul starts this chapter off with a serious punch. He told his audience to live their lives in a manner that is worthy to be called one of God’s children. That’s a very sobering thought when we take time to think through it. God called us to be a member of his family and so we should live worthy of our new family name.
  2. Which leaves us with the question: how do we live lives that make Jesus proud to call us one of his own? Paul answers this question for us. We’re to be humble, gentle, patient, bear each others burdens and to try to keep the unity through peace. Paul goes on to say God gave us all different talents and we’re to use them to the best of our abilities to make the church function well and to help other people.
  3. Then Paul said after we decide to follow Jesus, God gives us a new life. In our old way of living we focused on satisfying ourselves but we’re to put that aside now and focus on loving God and others. We’re to be compassionate to each other and forgive others as Jesus forgave us.
We’ve talked about this previously but does reading that you’re considered a member of God’s family after you decide to follow Jesus make you feel differently? Does it help you see how much God cares for you? Does it make you want to live the life he wants for you in a way that makes him smile? Looking at your life right now; are you living a life worthy of being called a son or daughter of God? Remember that when we decide to follow Jesus it’s like getting a fresh start on life. Live your new life to the fullest. Love God and love people, and if you really do then you will turn the world upside down.

Sunday, July 10

10 July - Proverbs 18

Today we’re reading Proverbs 18 together. Below are a couple quick thoughts:
  1. There are quite a few verses in this chapter that address the words we speak. The writer warns us that our words can bring our downfall and even at times welcome physical violence. In verse 21 we read, the words we speak can bring life and death. That’s a pretty bold statement but it shows us how important our words are.
  2. In verse ten we’re reminded that God wants to be our safe place to find rest when times are tough.
  3. Verse 12 talks about humility which is one of God’s favorite character traits to find in us.
  4. We are also told that if we are wise we will seek out people around us who are discerning. 
Do you make it a practice to think before you speak or speak before you think? If we take the advice we find in the chapter to heart we will carefully choose our words before we speak. Are you going through a difficult time right now? Hopefully verse 10 will encourage you to find rest in God. Ask God to help you have humility and to be wise with your words. If we focus just on these two points (humility and wise words) we will save ourselves from a lot of pain in life.

Saturday, July 9

9 July - Psalm 73

We’re reading Psalm 73 today. Let’s take a look:
  1. The writer of this psalm opens by talking about how God cares for people who are pure in heart. Then he candidly writes about how he almost walked away from God because he wanted the “good life” more. 
  2. He describes how people around him seemed to have it all. However, on closer examination they didn’t care about anyone but themselves.  
  3. He tells how when he took time to seek God again he realized this wasn’t the way he wanted to live. Then he felt horrible for leaving God to follow after a worthless lifestyle that was only superficial. 
  4. The writer closes by saying that a relationship with God is the only thing that satisfies him.
We can all understand how the writer of this psalm felt when he wrote the words we read today because we’ve all been tempted to indulge in temporary pleasures. Are there any areas in your life right now that you’re compromising your relationship with God? First, ask God to forgive you for ignoring him and putting him second to other things. Now, what are the steps you need to take to grow closer to God again? Ask God to help you realize he’s the only source of true fulfillment in life.

Friday, July 8

8 July - Ephesians 3

Today we’re reading Ephesians 3 together in the Verve Bible Reading Plan. Below are a couple things to think about:
  1. Paul begins this chapter by describing himself as a “prisoner” of God for the Gentiles (non-Jews). Which sounds weird. What Paul is saying is that God called him to do something he never would have thought about doing. Paul was a very respected religious leader with a promising career teaching Jewish people but God called him to preach to non-Jews about Jesus. This certainly doesn’t sound like a career path Paul would have chosen but he was obedient to God.
  2. He then describes how God valued all people equally, Jews and non-Jews alike. Paul said this in response to Jewish people who claimed God valued the Jews over other people.
  3. Paul ends this chapter telling the Ephesians that he prays they will fully understand the love Jesus offers us.
Have you ever had to do something you really didn’t want to do? Have you ever felt like God wanted you to do something you didn’t want to do? Maybe it was that God wanted you to talk to that person no one ever talks to, make a career change, to forgive someone you don’t want to forgive, to be more generous with you money or serve at Verve? Ask God to show you what your next steps are in growing closer to him and to give you the strength to take them.

Thursday, July 7

7 July - Ephesians 2

We’re back in Ephesians today, chapter 2. Let’s see what’s going on today:
  1. Paul describes a detailed account of how we’re all dead in our sins before we decide to follow Jesus. However, by his unfathomable grace, God forgives us if we ask. Later Paul says we were once without hope, without God and “far away” but now God has brought us near to him. It’s mind blowing when we try to understand the depths of God’s love and grace he offers us.
  2. Then he says we were saved by Jesus in order to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. This should destroy any thoughts that your life has no purpose. Paul is telling you that if you choose to follow Jesus, God has a plan for your life.
  3. In the closing of this chapter Paul describes us as being two halves of a person but made whole by Jesus. It’s a beautiful description of God adopting us into his family. God chooses us as one of his own children.
Have you ever felt like two different people before? Like part of you is missing? The awesome news is that Jesus wants to make us whole. Have you ever felt like your life doesn’t matter, like you have no purpose? We read today that when we choose to follow Jesus our lives get direction and purpose. Have you described this great news with the people in your life? We should share God’s love with everyone we know.

Wednesday, July 6

6 July - Ephesians 1

Today we start a new book, Ephesians chapter 1. Paul is the author of this book as well and it’s written to a church in Ephesus. It was most likely written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome around 62 AD. Ephesus was the second largest city in the world during this time. The reoccurring theme in this book is that there should be unity among followers of Jesus. Let’s take a look at the first chapter.
  1. Paul begins this book by praising God for his ability to know all things and his grace he extends to everyone. The fact that God knows who will decide to follow him doesn’t mean that God would force a person to follow Jesus; that would go against everything else the Bible teaches us about how God respects our freedom of choice. It simply means, God is God and therefore knows all things. We wouldn’t really want to serve a God who wasn’t all knowing would we?
  2. Next, Paul tells his audience that he prays for them regularly. He prays God will help them to understand how to follow Jesus better. 
Does the knowledge that God knew if you would choose to follow him or not give you a greater sense of appreciation for Jesus’ sacrifice he made on the cross for you? Don’t get confused by the idea that God knows all things. His ability to know everything doesn’t change his character nor does it change our freedom to choose. Changing thoughts; do you pray regularly for anyone? Do you pray for those closest to you to know God better each day? Do you pray for your church and church leaders?

Tuesday, July 5

5 July - Galatians 6

Today we’re wrapping up Galatians with chapter 6. Below are a couple things to think about:
  1. Paul begins this chapter with reminding the Galatians they should watch out for each other spiritually. Often we can drift away from God in small increments that are difficult to recognize ourselves. This is why as Christians we should help keep each other accountable. However, this is not a license to be judgmental. We should help each other out of love not because we think we’re better than they are. 
  2. Also, did you notice that Paul didn’t say we should correct people who are not Christians? Paul never says we are to keep people who don’t follow Jesus accountable; it's not our job. This is something that turns a lot of people away from God. Often Christians feel the need to be the moral police in society but Jesus never tells us to do that. Our responsibility is for our own actions.
  3. Paul tells his audience “we reap what we sow.” This means that wherever we put our energy is where we will see results. This applies to our jobs and relationships in life. It also applies to our spiritual lives.
  4. Paul ends with saying we should never do things to blend in with others in order to avoid being criticized for being a Christian. 
Do you have people in your life that help keep you living the way Jesus wants you to live? If you do have someone like that in your life, do you try to help them too? Has anyone ever judged you and made you feel uncomfortable? Have you ever acted judgmentally towards someone far from God? If so you made them feel the same way you felt when someone judged you. This is why as followers of Jesus we’re called to love people not judge them. Last, where are you putting your energy? Are you putting your efforts in things that will hurt you or others? Or are you trying to build up your relationships with people and God? 

5 July - Galatians 6

Today we’re wrapping up Galatians with chapter 6. Below are a couple things to think about:
  1. Paul begins this chapter with reminding the Galatians they should watch out for each other spiritually. Often we can drift away from God in small increments that are difficult to recognize ourselves. This is why as Christians we should help keep each other accountable. However, this is not a license to be judgmental. We should help each other out of love not because we think we’re better than they are. 
  2. Also, did you notice that Paul didn’t say we should correct people who are not Christians? Paul never says we are to keep people who don’t follow Jesus accountable; it's not our job. This is something that turns a lot of people away from God. Often Christians feel the need to be the moral police in society but Jesus never tells us to do that. Our responsibility is for our own actions.
  3. Paul tells his audience “we reap what we sow.” This means that wherever we put our energy is where we will see results. This applies to our jobs and relationships in life. It also applies to our spiritual lives.
  4. Paul ends with saying we should never do things to blend in with others in order to avoid being criticized for being a Christian. 
Do you have people in your life that help keep you living the way Jesus wants you to live? If you do have someone like that in your life, do you try to help them too? Has anyone ever judged you and made you feel uncomfortable? Have you ever acted judgmentally towards someone far from God? If so you made them feel the same way you felt when someone judged you. This is why as followers of Jesus we’re called to love people not judge them. Last, where are you putting your energy? Are you putting your efforts in things that will hurt you or others? Or are you trying to build up your relationships with people and God? 

Monday, July 4

4 July - Galatians 5

Happy July 4th! Today we’re reading Galatians 5 together. Let’s take a look at it:
  1. Paul begins this chapter by very plainly saying that Jesus set us free so we could live in freedom. This is why Paul so strongly tells the Galatians not to return to the law (see Galatians 3 for more on this topic).
  2. Then Paul starts talking about circumcision and how if someone is circumcised they are obligated to obey the law again. Paul is referring to circumcision as the religious act that Jews perform. Remember Paul is talking to non-Jews who were deciding to take on forms of Jewish law (such as the act of circumcision) to gain favor with God. So Paul’s words do not apply to a medical practice today. Paul’s words in verse 6 do apply; “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
  3. In verse 14 Paul shows how the law regarding how we live with each other can be summed up in the following statement: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said the entire law can be summed up in two commands: “Love God and Love People.”
  4. Paul ends with saying we should live by the spirit. This may sound obscure but what he is saying is to live by following God and his guidance. 
Do you live in the freedom you’ve gained by following Jesus? Do you use that freedom to do whatever you want without regard to how it offends God or others? If so then ask for forgiveness of both God and whoever else you’ve offended. Does your life reflect the two commands Jesus gave us; Love God and Love People? A good test for that is to examine your life for each of the following; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Work on just one of these each day for the next 9 days.

Sunday, July 3

3 July - Psalms 71 and 72

Today we’re reading Psalms 71 and 72 together. Let’s take a look at these chapters:
  1. The writer of Psalm 71 describes how he has trusted God through out his life. He tells how his enemies are conspiring against him but he will always trust God. If we live our life following God and seen his provision for us; when times get tough we know we can still trust God. The writer of Psalm 71 is showing that in this chapter.
  2. Psalm 72 is written about Solomon and asks God to give him unique ability to rule God’s people well. History shows us that God honored Solomon’s request to be a great king for his people. Solomon didn’t seek his own glory but instead asked to be able to help people live better lives. God honored his selfless requests.
Have you seen God come through for you in your life? Does that help you be able to trust him more the next time you face a difficult time? Do you asks God for things that will make your life better or help you get more glory? Or do you ask God to help you be able to help other people more? 

Saturday, July 2

2 July - Psalms 69 and 70

We’re reading Psalms 69 and 70 today in the Verve Bible Reading Plan. Here are some things to think about:
  1. The writer of Psalm 69 is pouring his heart out to God and asking for his help. Apparently he is being continuously mocked for following God.
  2. Psalm 70 has the same tone of begging God to save them from their enemies. But the writer of both of these Psalms hold on strong to their faith in God.
Have you ever been mocked for following God or doing the right thing? Rest assured you’re not alone. We have to leave it in the hands of God knowing that he sees everything and will handle it as he sees fit. Ask God to help you strive hard to know him better no matter what is going on around you.

Friday, July 1

1 July - Galatians 4

Today we’re in chapter 4 of Galatians. There are some amazing things laid out in this chapter so let’s dive in:
  1. Paul opens by explaining that we all have made mistakes in the past and became slaves to our sins. However, if we’ve chosen to follow Jesus then God makes us a part of his family. We are then heirs of God. That’s a really mind blowing statement. Think about it; an heir is a prince or princess in their father’s kingdom. The heir isn’t king but is still royalty and has access to everything the king has simply by being his child. That’s what God makes us when we decide to follow Jesus. 
  2. In light of these ideas, Paul asks his readers how they could want to go back to living as slaves to their old life? He says he’s worried he may have wasted his time on them. Which sounds harsh but understandable when we think of all the horrible things Paul went through to tell people about Jesus in different cities.
  3. Paul tells his audience that the other teachers who had come to them (see Galatians 1) were only trying to win them over to themselves and gain a large following. Paul says it’s good to have passion if you’re being passionate for the right reasons. Following any person on earth is nothing to be passionate about. But we should be passionate about following Jesus.
  4. The end of this chapter Paul refers back to the story of Abraham. Which we have been talking about at Verve these last few weeks. Check out www.vivalaverve.org and listen to our Podcast to catch up on this story.
How awesome is it that God makes us a part of his family if we choose to follow him? It’s kind of hard to even fully understand. If we have a hard time with our self worth or self image this truth should really help us to see how much God values us. Are you living as an heir of God or are you still going back to life as a slave to sin? What sins are holding you back from walking in the freedom you have in Jesus? Ask God to help you with them.