Tuesday, March 26, 2019

March 26 - Acts 8

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 8. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • Stephen's speech and death started a great persecution of the believers. So, everyone was scattered, except for the apostles. But, as they say, good things can come out of bad circumstances. Jesus had already commanded them in Acts 1:8 to leave Jerusalem and share the message with the world. The act of persecution is simply what propelled the church forward.
  • One infamous religious leader was named Saul. He was personally dragging men and women from their homes into jail.
  • A man by the name of Philip decided that he would go to Samaria to preach the gospel. This would have broken down great racial and religious barriers because the Jews and Samaritans hated each other (think Jets and Sharks). As a result of his efforts, many people came to faith in Jesus.
  • Although the Samaritans had accepted Jesus and were baptized in water, we learn that they had not received the Holy Spirit (vs.14). So, Peter and John came down from Jerusalem to pray with them that they might receive the Spirit. We saw the Holy Spirit descend this way in Acts 2:1-13, as the ability to speak in another tongue, or language. Simon the sorcerer is in such awe of this great visible gift that he offers money to replicate it! Peter warns him that God's gifts are not for sale and that he should repent greatly for thinking such things in his heart.
  • The chapter closes with Philip following the Holy Spirits direction to go down to Gaza. It is there he tells an Ethiopian eunuch the "good news about Jesus." The Ethiopians' response is to ask to be baptized. We see that baptism is a part of the good news and is the natural response for someone who believes in Jesus. Amazingly, after he is baptized in water, Philip vanishes before the eunuchs eyes and is transported by the Spirit to Azotus. 
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Throughout this chapter we see the priority of sharing Jesus with people, with all people, at every possible opportunity. God desires for us to break down all barriers- religious, racial, and socio-economic to bring people to him.
  • The central character of this chapter and this book is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God's presence inside his followers to guide and empower them. In this chapter, we see the Samaritans receive the Holy Spirit and we see Philip guided by the Holy Spirit. For us to live the life God has for us, we need to be utterly reliant on the direction of the Holy Spirit. 
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Is your priority sharing Jesus with people? If not, ask God for help with that. And ask God to give you an opportunity to gently, and gracefully share Jesus with someone this week.
  • Are you relying on the Holy Spirit? Have you received the Holy Spirit? Just as you made a choice to accept the gift of God's love and forgiveness, we must also choose to accept the gift of the Holy Spirit's power. The Christian life is not meant to be lived in our own power. In fact, it can't be. Ask God to help you to be aware of his presence in your life and to rely on his power to overcome temptation and to embrace the opportunities he gives you. How do you think you can rely on the Holy Spirit more today?

Monday, March 25, 2019

March 25 - Acts 7

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 7. 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?)
  • Stephen was seized by the Jewish religious leaders for supposedly speaking against Moses and God. When asked if the accusations were true, he responded with a history lesson of the most important Jewish people from the Old Testament. Here is a recap of that history:
    • Abraham was chosen to leave his people and follow God. He was told his descendents would become a great nation, be enslaved and then freed. Abraham believed God and had a son, Isaac, who had a son named Jacob.
    • Jacob had twelve sons, one of whom was Joseph. Joseph made his brothers jealous, so they sold him into slavery. Joseph became a slave in Egypt and eventually worked his way up to being the highest ranking leader under Pharaoh. Then a famine hit, which forced Jacob and his sons to travel to Egypt, where Joseph took care of them.
    • Long after Joseph’s death, a new Pharaoh became ruler and enslaved Abraham’s descendents. Moses was saved from infanticide and grew up in an Egyptian household. Later, he fled to the desert after committing murder. Years later, God appeared to him and sent him back to Egypt to set his people free from slavery.
    • Moses took God’s people out of Egypt as God sent plagues and parted the Red Sea. Moses told the people that “God will send you a prophet like me from your own people,” which was a reference to Jesus. God gave them the Ten Commandments, but people didn’t obey. God had them make a large tent called the Tabernacle to be used for worship.
    • After Moses, a man named Joshua led the people into Israel.
    • Years later, David became King of Israel and wanted to make a Temple for God. But God chose David’s son, Solomon, to build the Temple.
  • Stephen took great care to point out that, initially, Moses was rejected by the Jewish people, like Jesus was. He was sent to deliver them from Egypt and they didn't want his help, just like those listening didn't want Jesus' help. The Israelites refused to obey Moses in the desert, and the Jews were refusing to obey Jesus then. He warned them of their hard hearts that resist the Holy Spirit. It is those words that filled them with hatred and ultimately got Stephen killed.

    SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
    • As Stephen started his speech the religious leaders would have been nodding their heads in approval. They knew all of the stories he was sharing. But then, Stephen announced that they had resisted God by murdering Jesus. The religious leaders and other Jews turned into a mob and killed Stephen by stoning- throwing big, heavy stones at him until he died from the trauma. Stephen knew this would be their reaction, but he chose to die than not follow Jesus. We need to do the same. We need to be committed to follow Jesus wherever it leads.
    NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
    • Where is Jesus leading you, or what is he leading you to do that you'd rather not? What has been your excuse for not doing what you know you need to? Commit right now to doing God's will, even if it will be difficult, and even if you may not like the consequences.

    Sunday, March 24, 2019


    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 MadeIf you missed it, you can listen to it here.

    1. Is there a mafia movie (or the mob museum) that you like? What do you like about it? What do you think people find interesting about the mafia?
    2. This week we had Michael Franzese speak at Verve. Franzese went from a mafia boss to a committed follower of Jesus. It all started with just a Bible in solitary confinement in prison. Reading the Bible was a central piece of his transformation.

    1. 3. Jesus said, in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they have life, and have it to the full."
      • The "thief" is Satan, who is trying to destroy your life. Jesus said the way he does that is through lying to you, "there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). Satan is trying to ruin your life by getting you to believe lies.
      • It's hard to see in ourselves, but can you see any lies you have believed? Maybe lies about God? Or about yourself? What's an example of one?
      4. Jesus said, in John 8:32, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
      • Why do you think knowing the truth is a key to our freedom?
      5. God tells us that changing the way we think is the key to our transformation in Romans 12:2, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."
      • When most people try to change, do you believe they focus on trying to change the way they think or changing the way they act?
      • Why do you think changing the way we act doesn't tend to work?
      6. The key to changing our mind, and experiencing transformation, is reading the Bible. Check out 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
      • Have you experienced the Bible ("Scripture") helping you to transform by teaching or rebuking or correcting and training you?
      7. What would help you to make reading and learning the Bible more of a priority in your life? We might all say we want to read the Bible more, but what would help you to actually do it?

      8. What can we pray for each other this week?

    March 24 - Ezekiel 28

    Today's reading in our daily plan is Ezekiel 28. 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 series of prophecies continue against the city of Tyre continues. As stated in previous chapters, Tyre was a powerful but proud trading city that gloated when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians (the reason being Jerusalem was a competitor to their trading business). In this chapter, the prophecy puts its focus on the prince of Tyre. The prince of Tyre is described as a self-absorbed and prideful man that placed his happiness in all of the riches he had acquired. Because the prince of Tyre's heart was in an evil place, God says that he will be destroyed and that all of the beauty of Tyre will fall with it.
    • Starting in verse 11, the attention shifts to the king of Tyre rather than the prince of Tyre. The king of Tyre is in reference to Satan. The prince of Tyre, an actual human man was ruling over Tyre in a real physical sense but the king of Tyre, Satan, was ruling over Tyre in a spiritual sense. God recognizes that Satan before his downfall was a great and perfect being but that pride ruined him.
    • The chapter concludes with a hopeful look to the future when Israel stops living in Babylonian captivity and gathers together once again to live in peace.
    SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
    • There are several parallels between the prince of Tyre and the king of Tyre. Both are pride and the rejection of God as the ultimate leader. Satan was originally a powerful being created by God and recognized as beautiful but because Satan eventually viewed himself as higher than God, he was cast out of heaven and labeled as "profane" rather than "beautiful". In the same way, the prince of Tyre relied on his own strength and was eventually judged because of his self-centered pride.
    NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

    Do you deal with pride? Do you find yourself relying too much on your own strength and willpower? God desires for you to lean on him when life is good and when life is tough. He desires to have an active relationship with you because He loves you and knows that His strength is never failing. Take some time pray to Him and ask for His strength.

    Saturday, March 23, 2019

    March 23 - Ezekiel 27

    Today's reading in our daily plan is Ezekiel 27. 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 chapter continues a series of prophesies against the city of Tyre. Tyre was a mercantile city located on the coast of the Mediterranean sea. They were one of the most powerful cities in regards to trade and had a large control over the seas. As explained in the previous chapter, Tyre was excited when Jerusalem was destroyed because Jerusalem was one of their competitors in the trading business.
    • Tyre is symbolically compared to a beautiful ship with an experienced crew carrying luxurious goods. A list of all the nations and cities that relied on Tyre for trade is then laid out. Tyre is described as glorious and rich but the prophecy explains Tyre's bitter end when it will be lost at sea and destroyed with all of its crew and riches inside.
    SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
    • Tyre was a very proud city. They were the center of trade to dozens of cities and nations but they were also self-absorbed, self-reliant and materialistic. They never recognized God for their success or acknowledged God in the slightest. They attributed all of their success to themselves and were consumed by their greed. When Jerusalem fell, instead of grieving they gloated. Because of all of these things combined and the fact that Tyre was never set on repenting, God decided to end them. Tyre was a representation of human achievement but a reminder that separated God, all will eventually come to an end.
    NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

    What's important to you? What do you value most? Where and what do you spend your time on? Finding these answers can help figure out where your relationship with God stands. God wants your focus on Him because He knows that your best life is lived with Him. If you solely rely on you and put continued focus towards selfish things, then sooner or later, it will end in disappointment.

    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!