Whether you’re the captain who chooses or the neglected last person, we all know the importance of choosing the right team for victory. In a world of credentials and qualifications, the team that Jesus picked seemed like unlikely candidates to build His church and change the world. But they did. God used nobodies to tell everybody about Somebody. And we’ve seen this in our New Testament reading plan in Acts, which tells the story of the “men who have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:7).
Written by Luke, Acts provides a glimpse into the life of the early church and the ministry of the Apostles. In his gospel, Luke wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach, and in Acts, he continues his thought and writes about all that Jesus continued to do and to teach through the Spirit-filled Apostles.
Acts provides an accurate historical record of early Christianity. It gives us a clear picture regarding the growth and persecution of the church, the content and model of apostolic preaching and leadership, and the life of fellowship among Christians in the church. Acts records the spread of early Christianity from AD 30-62. Acts 1:8 is a theme verse and provides an outline for the entire book:
“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.”
- Ministry in Jerusalem: chapters 1-7 (AD 30-33)
- Ministry in Judea and Samaria: chapters 8-12 (AD 33-44)
- Ministry to the end of the earth: chapters 13-28 (AD 44-62)
With this outline we are able to see that the gospel spread through promise, persecution, and passion.
In one of His post-resurrection appearances to the apostles, Jesus gave his disciples a promise:
“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high’” (Luke 24:45-49).
This promise is repeated in Acts 1 and fulfilled in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples. They received power (the Greek is Dunamis, from which the English word “dynamite” derives) to testify as eye-witnesses of their resurrected Lord and to testify of the gospel, just as Jesus promised. Jesus declared that He would build His church (Matthew 16:18), and we see how this began with the 120 believers (Acts 1:15) and quickly spread to thousands through the preaching of the apostles and the care of the church (Acts 2:41; 4:4). The rise and spread of the church was promised and fulfilled by the head of the church, Jesus Christ. We can be confident in His promises.
Persecution: Judea and Samaria
Just as the gospel spread quickly, persecution arose strongly. Like a swarm of bees that come buzzing out of a knocked-down beehive, the church and the gospel were propelled by persecution. This was expected by the church, considering their Lord had recently been beaten and crucified, and that He previously warned them about the persecution that was to come. This persecution was of the enemy, Satan and his demons, and came mostly through the Jewish religious leaders. However, God amazingly used the enemy’s plans of persecution for His greater purposes.
“And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1).
The persecution in Jerusalem from the Jews propelled the gospel to be spread to the Gentiles. The church scattered after the death of Stephen, and so did the gospel message. The Samaritans (half-Jews) heard the gospel (Acts 8); Saul the Pharisee was converted and became the apostle Paul, and took the gospel to both Israel and the Gentiles (Acts 9); the Gentiles heard the gospel as Peter preached to Cornelius, the first Gentile convert (Acts 10); “a great number who believed turned to the Lord” in the region of Antioch, where the believers were first called “Christians” (Acts 11), and the church continued to grow through the martyrdom of James and the imprisonment of Peter (Acts 12). Israel was to be a blessing to the world (Genesis 12:1-3), and they ironically did through the persecution of their own Messiah and His message. The gospel expanded from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria, from the Jews to the Gentiles.
Passion: The Ends of the Earth
If anyone has a “radical” testimony, it’s the Apostle Paul. His hatred for Christians and reputation for killing them changed to his love for all people and desire for them to be saved by the gospel. Through his leadership and missionary work, the gospel was taken to the ends of the earth.
“For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Acts 13:47)
- 1st missionary journey spreads gospel to Asia (13-14).
- Jerusalem council confirms and defends the salvation and inclusion of Gentiles (15).
- 2nd missionary journey spreads gospel to Europe (16-18).
- 3rd missionary journey and beyond spreads the gospel to Rome (19-28).
Not only was Paul passionate about spreading the gospel and planting churches, but he would revisit churches and write letters to them to encourage them in their faith. This resulted in many New Testament epistles that were written to churches and leaders, for which Acts provides valuable background information. Paul responded to God’s call on his life, and the world has never been the same.
As you read the book of Acts, remember that God can use you to spread the message of the gospel. In Acts, it spread through a promise, persecution and passion, and it can do the same through your life. Pastor Greg Laurie provides great application from the book of Acts:
“As we look at the people God used in Scripture and in contemporary history, we see that God has always gone out of His way to find individuals who didn’t look as though they would amount to much. This is great news because it gives you and me assurance that God can use us just as surely and as powerfully as He used those men and women.”[i]
[i] Laurie, Greg. The Upside Down Church (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1999). 27.
This past weekend, 370 students learned that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Rather, as the earth revolves around the sun, so our lives should revolve around the greatest commandments in Scripture, given by the Son:
“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
Valentine’s Day weekend provided the perfect occasion to talk about love. Sure, there were a few roses and valentines, and we even helped the guys out with some godly pickup lines, but this sure wasn’t a couples’ retreat. We were focused on our relationship with the Lord. Our goal was to learn about loving God and loving others.
By speaking on loving God with all of your heart, Pastor Casey Kendall focused our attention to the right place by saying, “It’s not about finding the right one, but it’s about realizing you are found by the right One.” Regarding the soul, Pastor Chuck Lindsey reminded us, “The only thing God wants is you. And that will never change.” And to help us connect our heart with our head, Chad Williams said, “Loving God with all your mind is cultivating a mind that thinks God’s thoughts after Him as revealed in His Word.”
The camp was closed out with Pastor Jason Powell and his wife, Mary Powell, sharing about loving your neighbor—the one neighbor you’ll always be closest too: your future spouse. In a contrasted world of fairy tales and rampant sexual sin, they explained what a godly relationship should look like. By hearing them sing love songs from Tangled, share funny and embarrassing stories, be real about victories and struggles in dating, and express the joys of marriage God’s way, Pastor Jason and Mary Powell taught us that the best way to find and love the right person is to start being the right person now—by waiting and loving the Lord. Despite the pressures and pleasures of sexual sin, when we truly love God the way we should, we’ll be in the right place to pursue the right person, in the right way and at the right time.
Everyone except the weather knew that it was Winter Camp. But even though there wasn’t any snow, we still had a blast on the zip line, leap of faith, and spreading the love in the Zombie Run. As always, we had a ton of fun at Amateur Hour. The girls came in like a wrecking ball and smashed the boys’ proverbial snowman. And as expected, we had great memories as we connected with others in our cabin groups. Not only did we grow in our faith, but we also had a ton of fun!
Student retreats are pivotal in the lives of today’s youth. They provide a time to get away and gain some undistracted perspective; they connect students with their peers; they cultivate an environment for students to draw near to God through multiple Bible studies and intimate worship. They are unlike anything else. Here are a few responses from REVOLVE:
“Church camp has always and will always be the best weekends of my life. I learned so much this weekend, and it’s soooo awesome to be able to just enjoy and fellowship with other teenagers like myself, who have their hearts in the same place as me. Even though I just got back an hour ago, I miss it LIKE CRAZY!” – Sabrina
“I had an awesome weekend at church camp! Nothing greater than getting away from the world and just focusing on the Lord, and getting to know people from all different backgrounds.” – Carlos
“Camp has been such a great experience. I can’t even describe how renewed I feel! I know leaving that mountain and coming back to the real world will be a struggle, but I know I can keep my commitments with the help of my Lord and my friends to keep me accountable. I’m so thankful for this opportunity that was given to me; it’s one that I will never forget!” – Jazmine
We praise God for such a great camp! Would you pray that our youth would continue to grow in their faith? Would you pray that their lives would revolve around loving God and loving others?
Camp is almost here! Here are a few reminders on what to bring, and the times that you need to come to camp and go home!
You are reading this letter because you decided to make a spiritual investment in your life by going to Activate High School Winter Camp! The theme for this camp is REVOLVE, based on Matthew 22:37-40, “You shall love the Lord your God. . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (NKJV)
Love God. Love others. Everything in life REVOLVES around this. And at this year’s Winter Camp, we’ll learn how to make this commandment the greatest priority of our lives! As we have a great time on the mountain this weekend, we pray that this begins to occur in the lives of everyone at camp!
We have an awesome weekend lined up, with special guest music PRESS PLAY along with worship from the Activate Worship Band. Get ready to hear the Word, because we will hear life-changing messages from Pastors Casey Kendall and Jason Powell. We hope you are ready for an incredible weekend with Jesus! Here are some logistics that you need to know:
• Balances are due on Wednesday, February 12. If you haven’t turned them in, please do so A.S.A.P. and also turn in your release form because you can’t go to camp without it.
• You must provide your own transportation to and from camp! (See the map below). Depending on the weather, please keep in mind that snow chains may be required.
• Check-in: Friday, February 14 from 4pm – 5:30pm. Dinner will start at 6:00pm (you may check in later if necessary).
• Check-out: Sunday, February 16 from 12pm – 1pm.
• A few things you will need for the weekend: a Bible, sleeping bag or bedding, towels for bathing, toiletries, heavy jacket, shoes, flashlight, and cash for the snack bar.
• When choosing your clothes, keep in mind the dress code, and dress modestly.
• Contact phone number FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY: 951.840.0848
Our prayer and desire is to serve you at this camp, and we promise that you are going to have a blast! You are going to meet new people, build stronger friendships, and make lasting memories. But most importantly, you are going learn about the most important thing in life: to love God and to love others! Get ready for REVOLVE at Activate High School Winter Camp 2014!
God bless you,
Pastor Jason Powell and the High School Staff
The way things work in the Kingdom of God are drastically different than the kingdoms of this world. And we see this in the Gospel of Mark, as Jesus is the selfless servant and the sacrificial Savior.
The Gospel of Mark is a fast-paced account of the life and ministry of Jesus. As a summary of the Apostle Peter’s preaching, Mark presents Jesus as the powerful Son of God and the suffering servant. This was the first gospel, written in AD 55 in Rome to the Roman church.
In the first half of the book (chapters 1-8), we see the Servant’s service demonstrated through His ministry (1-2), His message (3-6), and His miracles (6-8). In the second half of the book (8-16), we see the Savior’s sacrifice.
And somewhere in the middle is the theme verse that culminates both of these truths of Jesus as servant and Savior:
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
The Selfless Servant
In the context of this passage (10:35-45), James and John did what all of us tend to do: try to be more important than others. They didn’t just want to be great, they wanted to be the greatest. They asked to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus when He reigns in glory, but they didn’t know what they were asking for. Apparently, the other ten disciples were mad that they would even bring this up (v.41). They were like a bunch of guys competing against each other in a sport.
But as the selfless servant, Jesus redirects their request, and teaches them about serving others. C.J. Mahaney writes, “What I find especially fascinating and instructive in His next words is that Jesus does not categorically criticize or forbid the desire and ambition to be great. Instead, He clearly redirects that ambition, redefines it, and purifies it.”[i]
Jesus teaches the disciples that true greatness is found in serving others. Instead of being self-serving for the purpose self-glorification, Jesus demonstrates that true and lasting greatness consists of serving others for their good and God’s glory. And how does Jesus teach this truth? Through His words (His teaching) and His works (His sacrifice).
As our example of a servant, Jesus points to Himself, declaring that He did not come to be served, but to serve. Jesus was a selfless Servant, and so should we.
The Sacrificial Savior
It’s been said that man’s greatest need is God’s greatest deed. And that would be the forgiveness of sins. As the greatest servant of all, Jesus serves our greatest need by giving His life as a ransom.
A ransom was the price that was paid to deliver someone from some type of bondage or captivity, such as a slave or prisoner. And as those enslaved to sin and condemned to death, Jesus paid for our deliverance by providing Himself as the ransom. It’s been famously said, “He paid a debt He did not owe because owed a debt we could not pay.
Jesus served us. He met our every need. This should cause use to want to serve Him and to meet the needs of others.
When you think of the Gospel of Mark, think of the selfless servant and sacrificial savior who loves you and came to serve you.
[i] Mahaney, C.J. Humility: True Greatness (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2005). 43
“You shall love the Lord your God…You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
Jesus tells us that the most important thing in life is for us to love God and to love others. Everything REVOLVES around this. And at this year’s High School Winter Camp, we’ll learn how to make this commandment the greatest priority of our lives! You’ll grow in your faith through great teaching and awesome worship, and you’ll have tons of fun with friends through snowball fights, inner tubing, and camp activities. You don’t want to miss this opportunity to get away from the business of life and have an awesome time in the snowy mountains!
When: February 14 – 16, 2014
Where: Calvary Chapel Christian Camp (32355 Green Valley Lake Rd. Green Valley Lake, CA 92341)
Registration: You can register at any of our services, on the Patio on Sunday mornings and nights, or online by clicking HERE.
Fundraising Opportunities: We have several ways that you can raise money for camp. You can do drink sales on Sunday morning and sell car wash tickets. Please see us at the info booth after one of our services.
Check out some of the pictures from last Winter Camp to see what it’s all about!
The New Year brings many things: a healthy reflection on the past year, fun with family and friends as we count down to midnight, a fresh start to a new year, and of course, those famous New Year’s resolutions. Many resolutions change each year, but here at Activate, we are resolved to keep doing what we’ve been doing: encouraging and equipping students to know God and to make Him known.
As we look back and reflect on 2013, we remember how the Lord did a great work through our SWAT Trips to Haiti, Anaheim, and Philadelphia. We remember the excitement of our “Greater” Winter Camp and “Exchanged” Summer Camp, and all that we learned in these studies after camp. We had a ton of fun and fellowship at all of our events and activities. We saw hundreds of students make professions of faith at two Uprising events. And we remember how the Lord did a great work through our Bible studies on Wednesday nights and SWAT on Friday nights. It was truly a great year and we praise God for what He did.
But we’re also looking forward to all that the Lord is going to do in 2014. To start the year off right, we are going to read through the entire New Testament as a ministry. We will start reading the gospel of Mark on January 6 (click here for the schedule) on January 8, we will begin our new Bible study in the book of 1 Thessalonians, themed “Pandemic: Christianity Gone Viral.” And registration has already started for REVOLVE, our high school Winter Camp. Get involved and be part of all that the Lord is doing at Activate in 2014!
Get involved and be part of all that the Lord is going to do at Activate in 2014!
Join Activate as we read through the entire New Testament in 2014!
As a ministry, it’s our desire to read the Word together so we can develop daily devotions with the Lord, grow in community by encouraging each other with what we read, and to learn more about who God is and how we are to live.
The structure is simple: read one chapter on every weekday. On the weekends, you can reflect on your reading or meditate on another passage; or if you miss a day, you can catch up!
We will start the New Testament reading plan on Monday, January 6. Make sure you save the graphics, and pick up a printed schedule to keep in your Bible!
As you read one chapter each day, here are some tips on how to draw close to the Lord through Bible reading:
- Pray. Ask that the Lord would minister to your heart and give you understanding as you read.
- Read slowly. The goal isn’t to rush through a chapter, but to draw close to the Lord.
- Read thoughtfully. What is the author trying to communicate to his first-century audience?
- Summarize. Think about the main point of the chapter. Consider how it relates to the rest of Scripture.
- Ask questions. Is there a command to follow? A promise to trust in? A truth about God?
- Clarify. For further understanding, use a study Bible, commentary, or ask a leader a question.
- Apply. Think of how you can personally apply the passage to your life.
- Pray. Thank the Lord and pray that you’d live out His Word through the Holy Spirit.
- Share. Consider how you would share the meaning of the chapter with someone else.
Here are some resources to help you dive deeper or answer questions about your daily reading:
Start is the perfect Bible for new believers or believers who want to learn more about their faith. Ideal for introducing new believers to the Bible, Start focuses on basic discipleship with articles and devotions on subjects including prayer, Bible study, church involvement, sharing your faith,
and discovering God’s will. Core biblical themes are introduced at basic levels of theological sophistication and presented in very simple language.
With 12,000 clear, concise study notes, the ESV Student Study Bible provides numerous new features—including nearly 900 “Did You Know?” facts, 120 new Bible character profiles, and 15 new topical articles. It also features a new glossary of key terms, more than 80 full-color maps and illustrations, an extensive concordance, and 80,000 cross-references. These and many other features make it the most comprehensive, colorful, and content-rich student Bible available today. Suited to high school and college students, the ESV Student Study Bible is also a versatile resource for anyone engaged in serious study of God’s Word.
Apologetics Study Bible for Students, Ed. by Sean McDowell
Like the acclaimed Apologetics Study Bible that has sold 115,000+ copies, the Apologetics Study Bible for Students will anchor younger Christians in the truths of Scripture by equipping them with thoughtful and practical responses for whenever the core issues of their faith and life are challenged.
A Popular Survey of the Net Testament by Norman Geisler
A Popular Survey of the New Testament is designed to help Christians enrich their understanding of New Testament people and events. Illustrated throughout with color photos, charts, and maps, and written in an easy, informal style, this survey is accessible and enjoyable to Christians of all backgrounds.
The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur
The MacArthur Bible Commentary treats every passage of the OT and NT phrase by phrase, with hundreds of word studies as sidebars throughout.
This reliable travel companion perfect for writings thoughts and passing notes has a cardboard bound cover with rounded corners acid free paper a bookmark an elastic closure and an expandable inner pocket that contains the Moleskine history.