Thursday, April 18, 2019

This Weekend @ Verve!

You're invited to celebrate Easter with us at any of our identical Easter services! You'll learn what to do when the ending isn't what you expected during our Endgame Easter! 

Go to www.easterforvegas.com for our service times! 

April 18 - Acts 25

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 25. 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 two years of imprisonment, Paul is back on trial with a new politician, Festus. The prosecution recycles the same unsubstantiated charges as before. This time Paul doesn’t defend himself but instead appeals to Caesar. (This appeal is similar to asking that a trial in the U.S. be raised to the Supreme Court.) Festus grants Paul’s request.
  • A few days later, Festus has King Agrippa as a guest and they discuss Paul’s situation. The problem is, Festus agrees Paul should stand trial in Rome... but there are no legitimate charges to bring. 

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Agrippa grew up geographically near Jesus, Peter and Paul, but he had no interest in them. And even though his homeland was Palestine and his capitol Jerusalem, his loyalties lied with Rome and the Emperor. Agrippa chose loyalty to government above his loyalty to God.
  • There will always be temptations to make something else more important than God, but he deserves and demands first place in our lives (Matthew 6:33).

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Do you feel any conflict between competing loyalties? Maybe like Agrippa, you put the badge of Democrat or Republican above God. Or maybe it's your career or even your family. Good things can become bad when we put them ahead of Jesus. What are you tempted to put in a higher place than God? Take a moment and talk to God about all this and ask him to help you give him your full loyalty.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

April 17 - Acts 24

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 24. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • At this point in the story, Paul was waiting around in the Governor’s palace for five days before the High Priest showed up with his lawyers to press charges. The case against Paul included rioting and desecration of the temple. Paul refutes this by saying the charges cannot be proven. He admits to being a follower of Jesus, but also makes the point that he believes in the law and prophets and hopes in God, just like his accusers. After the trial, Governor Felix decides not to make a decision until he hears from commander Lysias.
  • In the ensuing days, the Governor invites Paul on multiple occasions to speak to him about his faith. He is actually hoping Paul will bribe him to get out of jail, but Paul never does. Paul takes these opportunities to explain to Felix what it means to have faith in Christ. 
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Paul had to endure the difficult process of waiting. While he waited to see what God would do next in his life, he still served God in the here and now. He could have moped around a jail cell and begged God to rescue him. Instead, he spent his time sharing Jesus with the governor. On those days when he thought he would never leave prison, he reminded himself that God had promised him he would make it to Rome.
  • There was one particular time that Paul was sharing Jesus with Felix, and he became very afraid and sent Paul away. Sometimes, when God is trying to speak to us and get our attention, we may feel a sense of awareness of God that we never felt before. It can be scary at first. This is most likely what the governor was feeling, and he didn't know what to do. Instead of asking Paul for more insight, he sent him away.
  • We often find ourselves waiting for something we hope God will do in our lives. But what do we do while we wait? We should learn from Paul's example. Even if we hate where we are waiting, even while we hope for bigger or better places or opportunities, we need to serve God faithfully -- right here, right now. And in those moments of pain and patience, we can lean on God's promises and find encouragement in them.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Are you growing impatient? Are you waiting for that big moment? Most of life is spent in a million little moments that sweep by us on any given day. What are you doing with them? How are you serving God with those mini moments? Are there even more opportunities to serve God you may be missing out on, right now, while you wait? Be faithful to God where you are now, and he will be faithful in return.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

April 16 - Acts 23

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 23. 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?)
  • Paul, who just (in the previous chapter) gave a defense of his faith to an angry crowd is now in custody to the Roman commander. He was arrested for causing a public disturbance, and now he has to give his defense before the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish religious court. Looking around the courtroom, Paul realizes it is filled with both Pharisees and Sadducees.  These were two different Jewish sects that had major theological differences. Paul acknowledges that he grew up a Pharisee, thus pitting the two sides against each other. Their argument becomes so violent that Paul is removed from the courtroom. That night, God encourages Paul and tells him that he will be sending him to Rome to share his testimony.
  • It's not until the next morning that the Jews recognize what fools Paul made them look like. A group of 40 men decided to take revenge and ambush and kill him on his way back to court. Fortunately, Paul's nephew overhears this and reports it to Paul and the commander. The commander sets up a secret night transfer for Paul to Caesarea in order to save his life.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • God had big plans for Paul's life. Yet we see him suffer, struggle, and face great danger. Waiting. Patiently waiting. Painfully waiting. God had told Paul he would send him to Rome, but that plan wouldn't come to fruition until two years later. God rarely works on the same timeline as us. Paul probably struggled at times, wondering if God was still paying attention. Did God remember he was supposed to be in Rome? Did God remember he was in jail? God did, and he was working his plan behind the scenes, protecting him from death and setting up the next chapter in his life.
  • Just like Paul, God has a plan for your life. And the star of that plan is God, not you. And the goal of that plan is to bring glory to God. That plan will be far more fulfilling and exciting than any plan you could ever create for yourself. And just like Paul, God's plan may not exempt you from danger or hardship, but God will get you through. And just like Paul, God may put something in your heart that may not happen for a very long time. But God has not forgotten. If you listen closely, you will hear him speak to you and encourage your soul.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Do you sense that God has a plan for your life? Are you ready to commit to it, no matter what it is? How could you take a step into God's plan this week?

Monday, April 15, 2019

April 15 - Acts 22

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 22. 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 21, we saw that Paul traveled to Jerusalem and a mob formed against and attacked him. While Paul was being escorted to the barracks by Roman soldiers, he asked if he could stop and speak to the crowd in his defense.
  • Paul speaks to the mob in the hopes that he can connect with them. He accomplishes this in several ways:
  1. He speaks to them in Aramaic, a language they would understand
  2. He reminds them that he is just like them, a Jew brought up in Jerusalem, and trained in the law.
  3. He compliments their zeal for God.
  4. He reminds them that he also used to persecute Christians.
  • Paul continues his story of how Jesus blinded him on the road to Damascus. He shares how God chose him to be a mouthpiece and witness for him. 
  • Things were going well until Paul shared that he went to share Jesus with the Gentiles. The Jews hated them so much that they were ready to kill Paul over it.
  • In an interesting twist, Paul informs the commander that he is a Roman citizen, and by law cannot be beaten until proven guilty. So the commander releases Paul from prison and puts him on trial before the chief priests and the Sanhedrin, which was essentially the Jewish court system.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Paul saw an opportunity to share Jesus with people and he went for it. He used his personal testimony, which is a story of what God has done in a person's life. A person's experience is difficult to argue with and is easy to relate to. Your personal story can be very powerful and compelling in helping others to think about their stories.
  • Like Paul, when sharing our testimony, we should seek to connect with the person with whom we are sharing. What are some commonalities we have that we can use to "build a bridge"?
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Have you ever told anyone how you came to know Jesus and what God has done in your life? (Or, if you're not yet a Christian, have you ever listened to the stories of others to help develop your understanding?) Have you thought about what you would say if you had the chance? Think about that, and look for an opportunity this week to actually share it!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

I Want a Movie Life: Black Panther

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 concluded the series called I Want a Movie Life and talked about Black PantherIf you missed it, you can listen to it here.
  1. Do you have a "bucket list"? Have you completed anything on it?
  2. How has the church (not just Verve, but church as a whole) felt like it's in a bubble that's closed off to people outside of it? How do we break down that barrier to make people on the outside of the church feel welcome?
  3. Share how you have been blessed in your life. How can your blessing be a blessing to others?
  4. In the message this week, we talked about how a bucket holds water but a watering can holds water only to pour it back out. Are you more of a bucket or a watering can when it comes to sharing your blessing? Why?
  5. What's one way you could share your blessing this week with someone?
  6. Read Romans 9:1-4 in the New Testament of the Bible. Could you honestly say you would be willing to give up your salvation if it meant others would be able to have a relationship with God and go to heaven? Why or why not?
  7. Who are three people God has placed in your life to share God with?
  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?)

April 14 - Ezekiel 34

Today's reading in our daily plan is Ezekiel 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?)
  • This chapter opens with harsh words for the "shepherds of Israel." This is a metaphor for Israel's kings over the years, who had led the nation further and further away from God's will.
  • In verse 11, the tone becomes markedly more hopeful. God says that he himself will search and find his sheep. This is foreshadowing Jesus, who would come to earth hundreds of years later to bring hope to everyone who would listen. 
  • In verse 17, this animal analogy expands to include goats. God compares the selfish people of Israel to animals who trample others to try to get more food than they need. He uses this metaphor to warn people that, if they try to get ahead in life by putting down or taking from the less fortunate, they will miss out on the good things God wants for their lives.
  • The chapter concludes with God promising peace to his people. This will ultimately be fulfilled by Jesus. 
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Like the Israelites, in life we need to be careful not try to get ahead at the expense of others. Greed is still a powerful force, and when we give it what it wants, it ultimately leads to a life that is corrupt and far from God.
  • Unlike the Israelites who lived hundreds of years before Jesus was born, we are able to put our hope in Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

  • Is there an area of your life where greed is manifesting? Talk to God and ask him to help you start putting others ahead of yourself.
  • Take time some time to thank Jesus for being our Good Shepherd, and for making the ultimate sacrifice. Because of him, we have a "covenant of peace," as this chapter puts it.