Tuesday, March 20, 2018

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?

Monday, March 19, 2018

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?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Hope Rising: Laying It All Down

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 Hope Rising and talked about "Laying It All Down". If you missed it, you can listen to it here.
  1. What's the ideal dream job for you?
  2. Read Mark 14:3 in the New Testament of the Bible. What is your initial reaction when you read of the woman breaking the jar and pouring the perfume over Jesus' head?
  3. Have you ever been down to your "last four quarters" and you decided to give it away? If so, how did it make you feel? If not, do you think you could ever get to the place where you could give it away? Why or why not?
  4. What prevents you from laying it all down sometimes? Why?
  5. Do you think you would have done the same thing as Mary and poured the perfume over Jesus' head? Why or why not?
  6. Do you realize we can't taken anything with us after we die? Does reminding yourself of this help you not hold it so tightly? Why or why not?
  7. Have you invited anyone to Easter services yet?
  8. Weekly Check In Question:  What could we be praying for you this week? (Is there something good we could celebrate with you, or a challenge you need God's help with?)

March 18 - Isaiah 33 & 34

Today's reading in our daily plan is Isaiah 33 - 34. 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?)
  • Isaiah starts the passage with a prayer to God to have mercy on the people of Israel.
  • Israel has rejected God multiple times, resulting in emptiness, confusion and desperation. God says that He will step in and set things straight.
  • Vivid pictures are used to show what God does to the people that openly reject Him. Edom is the nation that is referenced several times and this name represents the nations that are against God and the nations that follow Satan. 
  • When the people wholeheartedly decide to look to God, He will make the decisions, resulting in protection and rest. Imagery is used as to what a God-filled life would look like.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Hurt and pain are imminent when people live life on their own terms but when God steps in, He sets the standard for how one can live a fruitful life.
  • God displays incredible amounts of mercy to people that are constantly neglecting Him, but in the end, He is still a just God. This means that in the end, the people that are constantly pursuing evil will get what they had coming to them (justice).
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • You may feel hurt and desperate like the people of Israel did, but God is always willing to help you figure out your next steps. Ask him to show you what step you can take today to pursue the life He wants you to experience. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

March 17 - Isaiah 31 & 32

Today's reading in our daily plan is Isaiah 31 - 32. 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?)
  • God is not happy with the people of Israel for relying on Egypt and putting their faith in what they might be able to offer. God rebuttals with the fact that the Israelites should be seeking help from Him instead.
  • Isaiah is making the claim that a king will rise up and bring peace, healing, and understanding to the people under Him.
  • A warning is sent out that destruction will come to the people of Israel and that waste will be laid upon it until the day that the Holy Sprit comes and restores everything.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Even though Israel was a nation turning towards evil, God still promised that a king (Jesus) would come and set the path straight, bringing healing for all of the people.
  • God sent out the warning of destruction because the people were turning away from God and consistently acting in complacency with their faith. Despite all of this, God sent out the promise that the Spirit of God will restore what has been ruined.
  • God desperately wants us to seek Him in everything we do. He promises that he is so much stronger and mightier than any other alternative.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • It’s easy to get stuck in habits of solely trusting in ourselves and/or putting too much reliance on other people or things for our own fulfillment. We need to lay down our messes and worries to God on a daily basis so that we can find true peace and contentment. 
  • You may have some things in your life that you regret or count as unforgiveable mistakes, but Jesus (the king referred to in the passage) has come to set your life straight and bring goodness.

Friday, March 16, 2018

March 16 - 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.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

This Weekend @ Verve!

Would you be willing to give away your most prized possession? What makes it so hard to lay it all down?

This weekend at Verve, we are continuing the series, Hope Rising, as we take a look at someone who wasn't afraid to lay it all down at Jesus' feet.