Wednesday, April 8, 2020

April 8 - Acts 18

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 18. 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 preaching in Athens, Paul goes west to the city of Corinth. There he meets Aquila and works with him as a tentmaker while preaching in the synagogue on the weekend. Paul almost gives up and leaves town because the Jews were being very abusive, so he decides to share about Jesus in people's homes. At this point, God gives Paul a vision that he needs to stay and God will keep him safe. Accordingly, Paul stays in Corinth for a year and a half, and just as God promised, he keeps him safe when the Jews try to throw him in jail.
  • Paul later sails for Ephesus with his new friends Priscilla and Aquila. While in Ephesus, he continues to preach in the synagogues. They beg him to stay but he continues on to Israel and then back to Antioch. This ends his second missionary journey.
  • Paul then sets out a third time to strengthen the churches throughout the region. At this point another apostle, Apollos, shows up in Ephesus. Apollos knew the scriptures and could speak with great depth about Jesus, but he only knew of the baptism of John. This means he had repented of his sin, believed in Jesus, and had been baptized in water as John the Baptist preached, but he had not been introduced to the Holy Spirit yet (see Acts 19:1-7). So, Priscilla and Aquila explained this in detail to him. He then went out debating the Jews publicly, proving that Jesus was the Savior.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Priscilla and Aquila are forced to leave their home in Rome, which must have been very difficult. But, as a result, they get to meet Paul, who helped strengthen their faith. 
  • Paul did all he could to help people know about Jesus and to advance God's Kingdom. We need to do the same. At one point we see Paul discouraged, so God speaks to him (verses 9-10) re-assuring him and building up his resolve. We need to learn to go to God when we're discouraged rather than feeling defeated.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What is a negative "event" in your life right now? How might God be able to use it for good? How can you seek the good in it and have a better attitude about it?
  • In what ways are you feeling discouraged or like you want to quit? What have you done with those feelings? Take them to God and seek his encouragement.
  • Are you doing all you can, like Paul and Apollos, to share Jesus? Both men were fearless and bold. They knew their God and they knew their scriptures. As a result, they could stand up to the toughest critic. Can you say the same thing about yourself? If you can't, make sure that you are spending time with God and in the Bible every day, so that you can be prepared to share Christ with the critics in your life.
  • Apollos realized that he didn't fully understand baptism when he was baptized. If you were baptized as a baby or child, but it was someone else's decision, not yours', perhaps you should get baptized but this time because you understand it and are making the decision for yourself.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Road: Part III

This is the week leading up to Easter. Every night at 7:00 pm, on our website and Facebook page we are posting a new episode of a study that examines Jesus' final days on earth and how it applies to us.

Here is Tuesday night's episode:

April 7 - Acts 17

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 17. 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 continues traveling and preaching in the Jewish synagogues on the Sabbath sharing about Christ. We see many Jews and Greeks came to faith. But, once again, some jealous Jews stir up trouble, drag Jason, his kind house host to prison, where he has to post bail. Verse 6 states that some of the people of Thessalonica exclaimed, "These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here…" Another translation of this verse is, "These men who have turned the world upside down have now come here…" (This is where Verve gets the third part of our mission statement -- we exist to "Love God. Love People. Turn the World Upside-Down.")
  • Paul and his friends then sneak to Berea in the middle of the night. The people of Berea examined the Scriptures along with Paul to see if the message of Jesus was true. The scriptures at that time would only have consisted of the Old Testament. There is a lot of information in the Old Testament that points toward Jesus, and so studying it led the Bereans to faith. Again Paul is run out of the city.
  • Paul then travels to Athens, and here is where things take a turn. So far in the book of Acts, we see Paul mostly speaking in the synagogue to fellow Jews. He had much in common with them and understood their culture and their faith. But the people of Athens were not Jewish. It was a city full of "spiritual" people, philosophers, intellectuals, and know-it-alls. Talking about the latest ideas was their favorite past time. Paul took some time to walk around the city and study their culture. When he finally speaks to them in the marketplace, he starts right where they're at. He didn't start with scripture or with Jesus. In fact, he didn't even mention Jesus. Instead, he started with their idol to an unknown God. Some people sneered at him when he finished speaking. But others asked to hear more, and a few even became believers.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Although it is still early in the church's history,  Christians were already being called people who "turned the world upside down." Because of God's empowering of the Holy Spirit, followers of Jesus were having an impact far beyond what they could on their own. He still gives believers that same power today.
  • The Bereans had a noble desire for truth. Leaving Judaism behind to follow Jesus often meant being disowned by family, persecution, and even death. But, they were determined to uncover the truth, no matter what it meant. We should strive for that same desire for truth.
  • Athens was a university town. All the best writers, poets, philosophers, and spiritual gurus gathered there. They desired to gain as much knowledge as they could. But, they cared about ideas more than truth. Paul was speaking to friends like ours and he leaves a great example of how to do it.
    • He learned about them and understood what they believed.
    • He met them where they were on their spiritual journey.
    • He didn't present deep biblical truths or overwhelm them with Jesus talk, he simply took them one step at a time. He recognized their idols and encouraged them that maybe God is bigger than gold or stone.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • God empowered the early church to turn the world upside-down and He empowers us to do the same today! Keep leaning on God and the power of the Holy Spirit to reach your friends for Christ.
  • Do you pursue the truth about God? Or are you content with what you already know? Are you ok believing, but not knowing why you believe? Maybe, like the Bereans, you need to examine the scriptures on a much deeper level.
  • When you think about sharing your faith, what comes to mind? Paul shows us that we don't need to make some grand speech or presentation; we are simply called to understand our friends, listen to them, and then help them take next steps. By listening, we can ask the right questions and help them eventually come to faith in Jesus. Is there someone in your life right now with whom God is asking you to take this approach?

Monday, April 6, 2020

The Road: Part II

This is the week leading up to Easter. Every night at 7:00 pm, on our website and Facebook page we are posting a new episode of a study that examines Jesus' final days on earth and how it applies to us.

Here is Monday night's episode:

April 6 - Acts 16

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 16. 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 the beginning of this chapter, Paul sets out with Silas and Luke. They go to the churches Paul had started on his last trip and meet a Jesus follower named Timothy. Paul invites Timothy to join them, but, because all the Jews knew his father was Greek, Paul decided to circumcise him… ouch. Paul wanted to make sure that the message of Jesus was received without any hindrances or objections, including circumcision.
  • In Philippi, they meet a group of women by the river on the Sabbath. Paul takes time to share the good news with them. As a result, a businesswoman named Lydia responds to the gospel and is baptized. She then invites them to stay in her home.
  • While there, Paul casts the evil spirit of fortune-telling out of a slave. As a result, the girl loses her ability to predict the future. This angers her slave owner, who can no longer make money off of her. The slave owner grabs Paul and Silas and drags them to the authorities. He accuses them of “throwing the city into an uproar by advocating different customs." The courts agreed to have Paul and Silas whipped and jailed. However, nothing could keep them down. With raw, bloody backs, feet in stocks behind bars, they worshipped God by singing loud enough for all the prisoners to hear. 
  • In verse 31 Paul tells the jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved -- you and your household.” This verse is not a promise that our being saved guarantees our family will be too. When we look at all of the Bible, we see that each person needs to make their own individual decision about Jesus. That's exactly what happened with the jailer and his family. Verses 33-34 tell us the entire family believed in God and were baptized.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Paul knew that the Jews would be upset that Timothy wasn't circumcised, because of their belief in the laws of Moses, and he didn’t want to offend anyone unnecessarily. As a church, we follow this same principle. We try to create an inoffensive atmosphere for people to hear the message. However, if the message of salvation through Jesus alone offends people, we cannot help that. That is a truth we cannot change. But, there is no need to offend people over inconsequential issues that have nothing to do with our faith and our eternal destiny. The same needs to be true in each of our lives individually.
  • What do you think it is about Jesus that led Paul and Silas to persevere through persecution and still worship God? We need to know Jesus so intimately that even when life goes bad we still worship him for his goodness.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Is there anything in your life that might offend some people and keep them from hearing the message you have to share with them about Jesus? Maybe it's a way you talk about something, or how you treat people. Perhaps it's the way you voice your opinions about politics, or look down on people for the way they eat or use their money. Make a commitment to have nothing in your life that can offend people and turn them off from hearing about Jesus from you.
  • Everyone in the Bible who put their faith in Jesus immediately got baptized. The longest we see anyone wait is a couple days! Do you believe in Jesus? If so, have you been baptized?  Listen to this message to learn more about what baptism is, and let one of the pastors at Verve know if you want to be baptized!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Road: Part One

This is the week leading up to Easter. Every night at 7:00 pm, on our website and Facebook page we are posting a new episode of a study that examines Jesus' final days on earth and how it applies to us.

Here is Sunday night's episode:

Group Questions for the Online Service April 5th

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 had an online service.
  1. Give us your top 5 unpopular opinion items. (example: Pineapple doesn't belong on pizza.)
  2. What items are you currently in short supply of at home?
  3. Vince talked about the Israelites standing at the Jordan River not knowing how they were going to get across even though 40 years earlier, God parted the Red Sea for them to cross on dry land. How can you relate to feeling this way today?
  4. How can you trust God in this moment of uncertainty?
  5. Read Joshua 4:1-3, 20-23 in the Old Testament of the Bible. What would your stones represent if you had a monument like Joshua's?
  6. What does God want you to do while you are home during this pandemic?
  7. Tell us how remembering what God has done in your past can give you hope for the future.
  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?)