Memory Verse of The Week

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) 


Wayne Wilson  
Today's Scripture: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV  
Theme: Meeting together with other believers is how we grow in love and good works.  
It is said that we become like those we hang out with. If we always watch news that affirms our personal opinions, talk to people who agree with everything we believe, and avoid seeking to be challenged to get better, then how do we grow?  
Having received the hope of forgiveness and a restored, right relationship with God through Christ Jesus, and having become certain of a future in a loving relationship with God, the Christians of the early church were encouraged to meet with each other regularly. Some were in the habit of going back to their previous routines and gatherings after having heard the Good News of Christ and receiving reconciliation. This is a neglectful practice. You can’t grow and be strengthened in your faith if you go back to the old ways for support. Jesus followers were to be encouraged—and challenged when necessary—to focus their lives on the way of love and of serving others. It is far too easy to get drawn back into a life centered on self and personal ambition and lose the focus of Christ-like service. 
Followers of Jesus challenge and encourage one another when they meet together. To “stir up” one another is to have intense discussions, motivating one another toward love and good deeds while remaining loving and encouraging. When we meet with one another, we may need to embrace some challenging conversations as well as urge each other to focus our hearts on love and actions of caring, loving service. We should be doing, not just hearing and knowing. 
Make It Personal: How are you being challenged toward a heart of love and acts of good will and service? Who challenges you? When are you being encouraged? Have you blended back into the ways of the world or is your way of living recognizably like that of Jesus the Christ? Certainly, after COVID-19, as the world begins to open back up, coming to in-person services at The Cove is one way to be reconnected, challenged, and encouraged. Another way is to volunteer on a serving team or find a Life Group that challenges you to be better and to love always.  
Pray: God, help me to get connected with other Jesus followers who are also focused on living for You. Help me to find those You know will challenge and encourage me in loving ways. Amen.  
Weekly Memory Verse: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) 
Read: Acts 2:42; Romans 13:12; Hebrews 3:13 

Read:  Acts 2:42;  Romans 13:12;  Hebrews 3:13 

Kimberly Lawrence 
Today’s Scripture: Weekly Memory Verse: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8, ESV 
Theme: Jesus promised the Spirit to empower us and to fulfill His mission 

Early in my faith journey, the Holy Spirit was the most difficult concept for me to internalize and accept. Not because I was suspicious or lacked faith about the presence of God in that Person of the Trinity, but because I felt a bit intimidated about whether I was truly experiencing Him in any way. My finite mind understood an all-knowing, all-powerful and omnipotent Creator, the one true God. It could also comprehend the idea of His Son, sent to earth in human form and in His likeness, so that I could come to know God more intimately and that Jesus willingly became the holiest of sacrifices for my sins. Not that those aren’t profoundly complex and spiritual revelations, but I could internalize them.  
Enter, the Holy Spirit. The Trinity. God, three in One. Not seen but felt and heard. I could talk to God in my prayers. I could envision Jesus as He walked the earth: healing, teaching, suffering and sacrificing. In my mind, the Holy Spirit commanded an even greater depth of spirituality…and that was intimidating to me. I wasn’t sure how to differentiate the Holy Spirit from my own conscience, not to mention how to respond to the “tug” I wasn’t sure I was feeling. Or was it just my feelings? My own doubts and limitations were keeping me from experiencing God in this way, yet I couldn’t “water down” God’s presence just so I could understand it better.  
The Bible is clear about the Trinity and the Spirit: At the moment Jesus was baptized and He came up out of the water, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended on Him like a dove (Matthew 3:16). At that same moment, the voice of the Father God resounded from Heaven. The Spirit empowered Jesus’ public ministry and God promises He will do the same for each of us.  
Envision a compass for a moment. It’s a tool that, when used properly, keeps us on the path to our desired destination. However, if we intentionally and continually veer off, this device won’t force us back on course. We must refer to it throughout a journey, trust its inner workings to provide the guidance to keep our path straight, and take the action of stepping in the direction it points.  
God often speaks to us by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit to our spirits (Romans 8:14-16). He calls us to fulfill His mission - to be fishers of men - and He will fully equip us to complete the task. The tools He provides through the Holy Spirit are what transform us into a new creation, reflecting the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). God speaks to us, prepares, and outfits us as He shows us His way. It is this life change that gives us our testimony and that testimony is what helps us fulfill His mission.  
Make It Personal: When you pray, do you find that you do most of the talking? A healthy prayer life also includes listening, much like a conversation between two interested parties. It’s not a monologue. Take the time this week to avoid praying like an auctioneer, and instead, ask the Holy Spirit to intervene. Try praying and asking the Spirit to open your eyes as you study the Bible, then do your devotion and rest in God’s presence for a few moments. Invite the Holy Spirit to wash over you, with expectation and without distraction. Invite Him to speak and guide your prayers and your day.  
Pray: Holy Spirit, I welcome You into my heart. I want to feel Your presence in an undeniable way. I want to be led by You. Help me to simply be patient, to wait, and to listen expectantly. Amen  
Weekly Memory Verse: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) 
Read: John 14:15-17, 25-26; Romans 8:14-16; Galatians 5:22-23 

Read:  John 14:15-17, 25-26;  Romans 8:14-16;  Galatians 5:22-23 

Wayne Wilson  
Today's Scripture: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, ESV  
 Theme: The church is not a place or time; it is a called-out assembly of God’s people.  
Are you a football fan, baseball fan, or soccer fan? What’s your team? How identified with that team or those fans are you? I have some friends who are Carolina Panther fans. Their basement entertainment room is Panther blue. They attend games at the stadium to be with other fans and to see their team play. They are “part” of the fan club.  
Just as the human body has many different parts, it is still one body. The parts are unified as parts of a whole (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). Unity of a diverse people, various nationalities, different statuses of life (rich or poor, slave or free in those times), comes from the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God is the One in Whom, by Whom, and with Whom we have new life. The moment we believe in Jesus as the Christ and accept the spiritual restoration offered in Him, we receive the Spirit who gives this new unity. We are first and foremost one with Christ, baptized in the Spirit, and now identify with each other in this unity above any race or status.  
My friends do not go to the Panthers stadium to be general fans but are specifically Panthers fans, who go to the stadium to be with other Panthers fans. Just, so the church is not a place to go to be Christians. Rather, the church is a gathering of those already unified in Christ. The church is not a location or building as much as a gathering of people who are followers of the Christ.  
Make It Personal: I wonder if it would be possible to eliminate the phrase “go to church.” It’s really a very inaccurate statement. It is far better to say we are “gathering with the church”. We might say to others, “I fellowship with the church at The Cove Church” or “I gather with part of the church called The Cove Church.”  
Pray: God, thank You for reaching out and getting ahold of my life through Jesus the Christ. I am so very grateful for all the other people, all over the world, who You have also found and have been reconciled with You. We are all part of One Spirit through Christ. We all are Your people, and I am honored and humbled to be part of that one huge family. Amen. 
Weekly Memory Verse: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) 
Read: Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:13-18; Colossians 3:11 

Read:  Galatians 3:28;  Ephesians 2:13-18;  Colossians 3:11 

Kimberly Lawrence 
Today’s Scripture: “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:41-42, ESV 
If you were to ask a sampling of people, Christians and non-Christians, to describe the church today, what do you think you’d hear? I would expect you’d get some responses about how the church helps those in need, how their kids enjoy a children’s ministry, or maybe how they like a particular pastor, the band, or the casual, “come as you are” approach to worship. I would also expect you’d hear some less complimentary descriptions. Things like, churches are full of hypocrites, they even fight with each other, they don’t “practice what they preach,” and all they want is your money.  
In a world where divisiveness permeates every aspect of our culture, the church is not immune. It’s easy to see our differences and even our shortcomings, isn’t it? When we allow a worldly influence to divert our focus to things other than the core of what God calls us to do, we have fragmented our ministry and diluted our message about the goodness of God.  
There is power in unity. Commitment to the greater whole is what makes armies, countries, sports teams, and yes, churches, powerful. Our own pledge of allegiance acknowledges that our strength is found as “one nation, under God, indivisible...” The same applies to Jesus followers and the church of God. Mark 3:25 (ESV) states, "And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” Now, perhaps more than ever, we need to unite as the powerful force God calls His church to be.  
How do we unite? We do so by following God’s Word, studying Jesus’ ministry, and serving the “whole” over our personal interests. We do so by fellowshipping with other believers and spending time in prayer and active worship with them. We do so by serving others and committing to love everyone, just as Jesus did. Finally, we do so by seeking unity over division at every opportunity.  

I don’t know about you, but when I read certain stories of the Bible that refer to God’s army, I want to be on that team! When Elisha was surrounded by the Syrians in 2 Kings 6, God provided an army full of horses and chariots of fire all around to protect him—powerful, united, commanding! When the Syrians came, Elisha prayed to the Lord, who struck them with blindness and diverted them to Samaria instead. When they arrived, the King of Israel asked if he should strike them down. My human nature says “YES! Strike down my enemies!” But, Elishia said no. “You shall not strike them down. ...You shall set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master” (2 Kings 6:22, ESV). There is also power in mercy. 
Make It Personal: In a world full of adversaries and ongoing contention, it is more important than ever that God’s people come together as a united force. We need not apologize for the power that exists in our unity. We need to channel it for what God has called us to do in His Name: love, worship, pray, minister, and care.  
Are you creating good “PR” for God’s people? Do you consistently demonstrate love, fellowship, prayer, and the study of God’s Word? Are you coming together as part of God’s family or are you a “lone ranger”? 
Pray: God, I want to be part of the movement and momentum that changes this world for the better. I want to lead others to You through my commitment to prayer, fellowship, worship, and service. Help me recognize areas of my life that I need to reprioritize or resolve in order for You to use me more. Thank You for Your promise to protect and provide for me as I follow You. Amen 
Weekly Memory Verse: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) 
Read: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34; 1 Peter 3:8; Isaiah 41:10  

Read: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34; 1 Peter 3:8; Isaiah 41:10  

Carey Madding 
Today's Scripture: “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:38-39, ESV 
Theme: The birth of the Church is a fulfillment of His plan for the world and for your life. 
My parents bought a rambling, run-down house with five acres when I was an eighth grader. It smelled bad. I think I remember a dead mouse. And it was oh so tiny: three small bedrooms and one bath for a family of six. They had big plans: an addition with a primary bedroom and bath, a laundry room, plus a back entrance, and carport. They also knew what paint, carpet, and new windows could do. They unified it all by covering the peeling siding with brick. Before Pinterest, they tried to describe it, but no way could I envision it. I was disgusted and remember begging them not to buy that house! 
The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost is described in Leviticus, chapter 23. It is one of the three times the Jewish male was commanded to come into Jerusalem and worship at the temple. Not only the Israelites living in Judah or Israel, but Jews from all over the known world returned. This was a major festival, and Jerusalem was packed. The first fruits of the barley (seven weeks prior) are now followed by the first fruits offerings of the wheat and other produce. Another requirement of the feast and the harvest was that the gleaners in the field were to leave the corners of the wheat and not harvest it cleanly, so that the poor, the strangers, and the sojourners in the land would be provided for (Leviticus 23:22). We know that Ruth took advantage of this law, as we read in Ruth, chapter 2. But frankly, it’s still kind of a vague feast to me! 
Like my parents, God planned far ahead. The Israelites didn’t understand fully, even as they were obeying. The Jews of Jesus’ day saw it as a command to gather. It wasn’t obvious, but the feasts pointed to Jesus and the New Covenant He would bring. They are yet another set of prophesies pointing to the Messiah.  
Because God had a plan, Jesus was slain as our Passover Lamb and rose on the Sunday of the First Fruits Feast. He was seen for 40 days, teaching His disciples and preparing them for the next season, then He ascended. As the disciples (along with all Jews) came into Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks, they naturally assembled together. Fifty days from His Resurrection (Pentecost), as Jesus is seated by the Father in heaven, the Spirit is poured out in that upper room. Tradition says it is the same “upper room” where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper. Certainly, they were gathered in prayer in an upper room.  
Thanks be to God for gathering praying believers; for pouring out the Spirit to guide us; for so many people being in Jerusalem to hear the public preaching of the Gospel; for the birth of the Church. Thanks be to God that the first fruits of a spiritual harvest began as 3000 people accepted Jesus, because of the empowering and presence of the Spirit.  
Thanks be to God for fulfilling the promises of Jesus to send His Spirit (John 14:16-17) and fulfilling the prophecies of Joel (Acts 2:14-21). Thanks be to God that we are not left alone, but that believers are filled with His presence every day and empowered to speak, to comfort, to minister, and to heal the nations.  
Make It Personal: The Spirit is God's gift and “down payment” when He purchased you. You received this gift of God at salvation. But you can choose to ignore the Spirit and walk your own path. Search your heart: are you listening to the Spirit? Or would you prefer less “input” it if disagrees with your own plans? Do you desire more of God?  
Pray: Lord, thank You for Your Spirit who lives in me. Thank You for this gift, this Teacher, and Comforter. Thank You for leading and guiding me in Your paths. I ask You to fill me with Your Spirit. Help me to hear and obey, to listen for His nudge and direction. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen. 
Weekly Memory Verse: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) 
Read: Acts 2:1-21; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Leviticus 23:15-22 

Read:  Acts 2:1-21;  Ezekiel 36:25-27; Leviticus 23:15-22 


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