Friday, April 23, 2021

April 23 - Acts 28

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 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?)
  • Paul and his companions experience a shipwreck while sailing from Crete to Italy, where Paul is expected to stand trial before Caesar. All the passengers on the ship made it safely to shore, just as Paul had predicted (see Acts 27:22).
  • The island they land on is named Malta. The people were very kind and welcoming.
  • The leader of the island, Publius, has a father who is very sick. Paul prays for healing and God answers. When word gets out about this miracle, everyone on the island who is sick comes to see Paul for healing as well.
  • After 3 months on the island, Paul and his companions finally sail to Italy and make it to Rome. 
  • Paul is on house arrest for 2 years, but he still takes the opportunity to share about Jesus, explain Christianity, and answer the Jews' question about this new "sect." 

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • As the book of Acts comes to a close, we have watched Paul's patient journey from Jerusalem to Rome. Paul never gave up faith that God would come through on his promise to make it to Rome. Now we get to see that promise fulfilled in today's reading. We also get to see his deep faith in action one more time, when he is bitten by a viper. Paul didn't fear the snake because he trusted God and knew if God wanted him in Rome, he was going to Rome, and not even a deadly snake bite could prevent that.
  • The chapter ends with God's promise fulfilled, but perhaps not the way Paul expected. Paul is in Rome, but he is on house arrest. Yet we see Paul make the best of it: although he cannot go to the synagogue and share about Jesus anymore, he asks the people to come to him. And they do. Paul continued to preach boldly about Jesus for the next two years.
  • Sometimes it can be difficult to believe God is going to come through on his promises; we can become negative and bitter when everything is going wrong. We should instead live by Paul's example and be patient on the journey, because life with Jesus is a journey and it may not look the way we'd hoped. It may even include a few snake bites on the way. But God will always see us through if we fully trust and rely on him.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Paul finally made it to Rome but was still in a difficult situation. However, he didn't use that as an excuse to sit around and do nothing. He still used his gift of preaching to make a difference in people's lives. We need to do the same. God desires for us to serve others by using our gifts, even during the hard times. Do you have any areas of your life that you feel God has gifted you that you aren't using? Pray that God will give you opportunities to share with others what he has done in your life.
Here's a helpful video from a great resource called BibleProject that reviews and summarizes Acts chapters 13 through 28:  (If the video below doesn't appear, click here.)

Thursday, April 22, 2021

April 22 - Acts 27

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 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?)
  • Paul, as a prisoner, is put on a ship that sails from the Israeli coast to the southwest corner of modern Turkey.
  • There the Centurion takes him on another ship heading for Italy, but the heavy winds require them to reroute to the island of Crete.
  • After being blown out into the open sea, eventually they shipwreck off an island named Malta.  

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Though the ship was at the mercy of the weather, we find out it was more at the mercy of God.  Even in the midst of this difficulty, God was ultimately in control, seeing to it that Paul and all of those sailing with him would survive so that Paul could stand trial before Caesar.  
  • God had promised Paul over two years ago that he would get to share the gospel in Rome. It seemed like it would never happen, especially with the ship lost at sea. But in one of Paul's darkest hours, God sent an angel to encourage him and assure him that God had not forgotten his promise. God never forgets his promises.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • In what ways could you be an encouragement to people going through difficult times?  Are there ways that you could provide for their needs or give them a chance to escape for a while?  
  • It may seem like God's promises will never happen, but our timeline is not God's timeline. Be patient and keep your heart and mind open for the people that God brings into your life.  When life is tough ask God for encouragement so that you might be able to encourage others going through similar tough times.  

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

April 21 - Acts 26

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 26. 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 25, Paul gave a defense to the governor Festus. When Festus cannot find any valid reason that he should be imprisoned, he brings in King Agrippa for a second opinion. This chapter is the story of Paul's defense to the king.
  • Paul's defense is his personal story and the radical transformation of his life on that Damascus road from a strict Pharisee to a follower of Jesus.
  • Festus responds with outrage to Paul's belief that Jesus is the way to God, whereas King Agrippa was intrigued. 
  • Interestingly, both rulers agree that Paul had done nothing wrong and should be set free. But they can't release him because he had appealed all the way to Caesar.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Paul used his personal story as a defense of his faith. He was not afraid to share Jesus even in the most hostile of environments. Paul understood that he was not responsible for the audience's response to his message, he was only responsible to share it. Maybe you have cynical or skeptical people in your life. Don't allow their hostility toward God and church to keep you from sharing what God has done for you.
  • King Agrippa and Festus responded in completely different ways to the same message. When King Agrippa asked if Paul could quickly persuade him to become a Christian, Paul replied by saying, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” In other words, Paul desired for everyone in the room to come to know Christ, regardless of how long it might take them to arrive at that decision. Everybody is at a different point in their spiritual journey, and it's important that we meet them where they are and help lead them to God at their own pace.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • If you have given your life to God, have you ever told someone your personal journey to Christ? Look for opportunities today and this week to tell a friend what God has done in your life. It may feel a little nerve-wracking or weird at first, but your story could help someone along in their spiritual journey.
  • How can you come alongside somebody you know to help guide them on their spiritual journey? If you know somebody who has shown interest in God or church but is still uncomfortable about the idea, could you invite them to come to Verve with you? What opportunities do you have to find out more about their spiritual journey and tell them about yours? Whether it takes a "short time or long," commit to invest in the spiritual journey of somebody you know and help guide them closer to God.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

April 20 - 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.

 

Monday, April 19, 2021

April 19 - 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.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

April 18 - Genesis 32

Today's reading in our daily plan is Genesis 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?)
  • The first part of this chapter shows Jacob trying to make amends to his brother Esau for his trickery. Jacob sends a message to his brother that he was coming back home and Esau comes to meet him with 400 men. That’s rather intimidating. So, Jacob was understandably afraid and sends out some rather impressive gifts to his brother hoping it would make him accept Jacob back. We’ll find out how that goes in the next chapter.
  • Then we read about Jacob wrestling with God. During this wrestling match, Jacob showed how strong he was. Then as was common for his forefathers, God changes Jacob’s name, to Israel.
  • Jacob’s name change is why the nation of Israel has its name today. Israel means “you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” At least Jacob got a pretty cool name.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?) 
  • God told Jacob to go back to his family. This had to really cause Jacob to worry because he knew his brother previously wanted to kill him. But Jacob obeyed and trusted God to protect him. 

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Have you felt that God wanted you to do something that you don’t feel prepared for? Are you going to trust God to provide for you and obey him? Just about every time God tells someone to do something in the Bible it’s outside of their comfort zone. That’s because God wants us to have to rely on him, not on ourselves.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

April 17 - Genesis 31

Today's reading in our daily plan is Genesis 31. 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?)

  • Jacob informed Rachel and Leah that God had told him to take his family and leave Laban (Rachel’s father). 
  • When he heard about them leaving, Laban chased down Jacob and his family. Laban accused Jacob of stealing from him but Jacob checked him in front of everyone. Jacob told Laban he abused their relationship and Jacob’s love for his wife and cheated him.
  • In the end, Laban and Jacob made an agreement to go their separate ways.
  • Notice how Jacob was a faithful worker even though he was being cheated. Jacob understood working hard and he did his best to honor God. God honored Jacob’s faithfulness to him and protected Jacob from his father-in-law.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)

  • Jacob had been a very good worker for Laban even though Laban had cheated him by changing his wages 10 times. We should always do the right thing and serve to the best of our abilities, no matter what type of integrity (or lack thereof) our bosses have.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?) 

  • Do you act honorably even if those around you or over you don’t? Remember that as followers of Jesus we live our lives to honor God first and that God promises to take care of his children. Where might this apply to your life this week?