Friday, March 22, 2019

March 22 - Acts 6

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 6. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • The number of believers was increasing at such an alarming rate that the 12 disciples couldn't keep up. Ministering to people's needs was becoming complicated and time consuming. So the 12 disciples, not wanting to neglect preaching, appointed 7 men to take on the first recorded social ministry in the New Testament. Verse 3 says the seven leaders were chosen because of their godly wisdom and Holy Spirit filled life.
  • One of the seven leaders selected was Stephen. He was a man filled with God's great power and  he was performing miracles and wonders just like the disciples. This angered the Sanhedrin. So, just like the apostles, he was brought into court and questioned about Christianity.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • The ministry of the church is not to be done by the pastors. As we see in this chapter, God calls some leaders to preach, but, he calls others, like the seven, to social ministry- to take care of the poor, the widowed, and the orphan. Both are valid ways of ministering, and the church must do both.
  • Stephen, filled with God's love, was chosen to care for these widows and to deal with the cultural tension that existed between the Greeks and the Hebrews. He was willing to serve, even if it wasn't glorious work.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • God has called you to minister! Perhaps your destiny isn't to preach in front of thousands, but  God still has an important ministry for you to do in his church. Maybe you are to help feed the homeless in town or tutor a struggling child.  Maybe you could lead a Verve Group and help people grow closer to God. God wants us to use our gifts and talents to serve others. So ... where is God calling you to serve? And what is keeping you from saying yes?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

This Weekend @ Verve!

Michael Franzese will be joining us this weekend at Verve to share his impactful story of crime, getting caught, being locked in solitary confinement and how that changed his life. Come check him out and invite anyone you know who would LOVE to hear from a real-life mobster!

March 21 - Acts 5

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 5. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • We learned in the last chapter that the believers were sharing all of their possessions, including the profits from selling their property. In this chapter Ananias and Sapphire sell a piece of property. They decided to keep some money back for themselves and take the rest to the disciples. God strikes them dead. The reason God did this wasn't because they kept some money. The problem was that they lied. They misrepresented themselves in order to look super spiritual. They pretended to give 100% when they clearly had not. This is why Peter asked them, "after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal?" 
  • The disciples were performing many miracles. This filled the religious leaders with jealousy, so they had Peter and John arrested. Amazingly, an angel came in the night and freed them from prison and told them to go and preach about Jesus in the temple. They obeyed so the next day the officers arrested them again.  Peter reminded them that they were all eyewitnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and that they would never stop speaking about him. So, the Sanhedrin decided to have them whipped and sent them on their way with strict orders not to speak in Jesus' name, knowing that they wouldn't listen. 

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Ever watch the news long enough to feel good about yourself? After watching people on TV arrested for murder, terrorism, rape, money laundering, and so on, we shake our heads and think, "Man, I'd never do that. That's crazy." It's easy to think of all those news stories as the "big" sins. But God reminds us in the story of Ananias and Sapphira that lying is super serious. God hates sin and expects us to live authentic lives. 
  • Ananias and Sapphira also remind us that, ultimately, God is in charge of our life. As an American, you may have the right to life, but it is God who gives us the gift of life. Our life belongs to God and he has the right to take it from us, whether we lied or not.  Every day we spend alive is a gift from God.
  • One wise man in the Sanhedrin had things right: he shared that if the disciples were speaking about Jesus out of human effort, their efforts would fail, and all the followers would soon fall away. But, if Jesus was really of God, nothing would be able to stop them. We are living proof today that this is true. 12 disciples walking with Jesus 2,000 years ago are now responsible for millions of Jesus followers around the globe today. 
  • The early Christians told people about Jesus even if it meant they were tortured or killed for it. Often, we won't share about him because we're afraid of a little embarrassment. We need to have the attitude of the early church and tell people about Jesus no matter what the circumstance.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Ananias and Sapphira die because they lied and tried to appear to be something they're not. Where do you find yourself trying to give a better impression than reality? Commit to a life of authenticity, knowing that God loves you for who you are, so you don't have to be anything different from that.
  • What is stopping you from sharing Jesus with people? Find an opportunity this week to overcome your resistance and say something (it can be short and sweet) about Jesus or your faith, or to invite someone to church this week.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

March 20 - Acts 4

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 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?)
  • After healing the crippled beggar and preaching about Jesus (in chapter 3), Peter and John were arrested by the religious leaders. When questioned about their preaching, Peter boldly proclaimed the power of Jesus and asks if an act of kindness should be considered a crime. The accusers had no way to respond because the former cripple was standing right there! This is exactly what Jesus said would happen in Mark 13:11
  • In verse 13, we see people amazed at the courage of Peter and John. Why? Because they were ordinary, uneducated men who were speaking with great boldness and strength. But how? People realized the only explanation could be Jesus.
  • Peter and John are released under the stipulation they never speak the name of Jesus again. They inform the courts that they cannot do such a thing. They have a responsibility to obey God over men. 
  • After being released from the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish council (similar to the Supreme Court), the apostles gathered with other Christians to pray for more boldness and for more signs and wonders to be done in Jesus' name. God hears their prayers and the whole building is shaken, and they are all filled with the Holy Spirit, just like in Acts 1. This was a sign of God's presence. 
  • The chapter closes with another snapshot of the early church. We see they were united and cared about each other as much as themselves, even to the point of sharing their money and possessions. As a result, no one was needy.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Peter and John were bold and unafraid because they knew the resurrection of Jesus to be true. They could not help but speak about what they had seen and heard. They were eyewitnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus and could not keep this hope to themselves. Like them, we need to be as bold as love.
  • In addition to the truth of Jesus' resurrection, they also understood the power of the Holy Spirit.  They understood that it was a tangible gift that convicts, teaches, directs, and guides us in every moment.
  • God hears our prayers. When we pray with boldness, God answers with boldness. He may not shake a building, but, he hears our hearts and is sure to answer.
  • God wants us to view our church as our family and to care about each other, even to the point of  sacrifice. Can you imagine a church where no one went hungry or cold or lonely?
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Do you believe in the power of the resurrection like Peter and John did? What is keeping you from being bold for God? Lack of confidence? Fear of rejection? Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill you with power as these first Christians did and God will give you more boldness. Then look for an opportunity this week to be bold, in love, with love, for Jesus.
  • Do you think of your church as family? What could you do to love them more and be more united with them? Is there anyone who is in need who you could make a sacrifice for?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

March 19 - Acts 3

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 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?)
  • Peter and John miraculously heal a crippled beggar, in the name of Jesus. He is so grateful that he enters the temple with them praising God.
  • People from all over town knew this beggar, so his healing creates quite a stir. A crowd formed around Peter, who reminded them that this man was healed through the power of Jesus, not his own strength. He then preaches to them a bold message explaining that they were responsible for disowning and killing the author of life. However, Peter assures them that God raised him from the dead.
  • He implores the people to turn away from their sin and turn toward God so that their sins may be wiped out.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  •  It's easy to think of Peter and John as superhuman Christians. No, they were just Christians who understood they could do nothing significant in their own strength, so they looked to Jesus and relied on the power of the Holy Spirit to minister to others.
  • Everyone found out about Peter and John's act of compassion toward the beggar. Love is contagious. That's why, at Verve, we talk about being "guerrilla lovers." We want to ambush people with God's love, knowing it can spark a revolution.
  • Peter had bombastic, abrasive and sometimes fearful personality that seemed to always get him in trouble. But after the resurrection of Jesus and the day of Pentecost Peter becomes a different man. We see a bold man, unafraid of what people think of him. This is unlike the man who cut off a soldier's ear and denied Jesus 3 times before his crucifixion. This is the power of the cross, the resurrection, and the Holy Spirit in a believer's life.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Are you in awe at the boldness of Peter and John? Do you wish you had the strength they did? If you know Jesus, you do. You just might not have tapped into it yet. Spend some time in prayer and in God's Word so he can strengthen you to stand boldly for him.
  • What hurting person has God put in your path? We may come up with grand plans for changing the world, but often it's as simple as loving the person God puts in front of you today, as Peter and John did. Who can you ambush with love today?
  • Do you have any character/personality traits that got you into trouble in the past? Is there any way that those “flaws” could be used to serve God? How can you allow God to transform those traits in your life for his glory?

Monday, March 18, 2019

March 18 - Acts 2

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 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?)
  • In Acts 1, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would arrive to fill the believers. The Holy Spirit is the invisible presence of God given to believers to empower them to live for God and carry out his mission.
  • In this chapter we see that promise fulfilled. People from all around the world were in Jerusalem celebrating Pentecost, a Jewish harvest festival. The Holy Spirit filled the believers, giving them the ability to speak in other (foreign) languages. This was essential because every believer in the world, all 120 of them, spoke just one language. This gift of "tongues" allowed them to communicate in all languages, drawing crowds from all over in amazement. 
  • Peter explains to the visitors what they are seeing and hearing. He quotes the prophet Joel who prophesied that God would pour his spirit out in the last days (Joel 2:28-31). He shares the message that Jesus died and resurrected from the dead for them. Twice he reminds them that they were eyewitnesses of both Jesus's miracles and his resurrection. They felt convicted by what they heard and asked him what they should do. Peter tells them to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. By doing this in faith, God will then give them the gift of the Holy Spirit. He explains that this same response will apply to everyone who ever says yes to God's call. In all, over 3,000 people came to Jesus that day.
  • Verses 42-47 give us the first picture of the new church.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • The way you say yes to God's offer of Jesus is by repenting and being baptized. Repenting means to turn away from your old life and turn towards God. Baptism is when a person is lowered under water, symbolizing the death of their old life, and raised out of the water, symbolizing their new life with God.
  • As a result, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come as a gift to all believers. This still holds true for us today. The Holy Spirit should be an active presence in our lives if we are living for Christ.
  • The believers who made up the first church devoted themselves to four things that we should as well:
    1. Teaching: Learning about Jesus and the life he has for us. This is why attending church every week is helpful for us. In addition, we should be reading the Bible as well. 
    2. Fellowship: Sharing time with others in a way that encourages following Jesus. One of the key ways we do this at Verve is through Verve Groups.
    3. The breaking of bread: Remembering Jesus by taking communion (see Luke 22:17-19) or just having meals together.
    4. Prayer: Talking with God.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Have you repented and been baptized? Have you made a decision to turn away from your old life and a direction which takes you away from God and to turn and move towards God? Have you been baptized (immersed in water because of your faith and as a response to the call of God)? If not, let us know at the Velcro Bar if you'd like to be baptized. We're doing baptisms soon!
  • Do you live your life with the power of the Holy Spirit? Do you recognize the great gift Jesus left for us? You are not alone. If the Holy Spirit could give the disciples the strength to speak a language they didn't know, think of what he can do with your life if you just release it to him.
  • Which of these do you need to focus more on: Devoting yourself to teaching, or to fellowship, or the breaking of bread, or prayer? Commit to it today, knowing that the Holy Spirit will give you strength to stand by your commitment.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Made: Kingpin

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 Made and talked about KingpinIf you missed it, you can listen to it here.
  1. You are a superhero. What is your power?
  2. Why do you think Jesus invited anyone to be His follower and not just certain people?
  3. Name some things that you gravitate towards the same thing over and over again.
  4. Read Luke 9:23 in the New Testament of the Bible. What does it mean to you to, "take up your cross daily?"
  5. How have you experienced the uncomfortableness of the unwritten code? 
  6. What has your excuse been for not giving Jesus the time, attention, and energy He desires from us?
  7. Have you ever thought of the church as God's family before? Why or why not?
  8. What's the next step you need to take to make God the Kingpin in your life?
  9. 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?)