Saturday, 21 October 2017

A Miraculous Escape - 31 Days in Acts

Today we come to Acts ch.12 with one of my favourite Bible stories.

It has a girl called Rhoda in it (which was the name of my friend at school many years ago who died when she was 17 years old but she was a Christian so one day I'll see her again) and some very natural and unnatural behaviour.

At the start of the chapter we are back learning more about Peter having been looking at the friendship between Barnabas & Saul at the end of chapter 11 in We All Need to be Encouragers.

Verses 1- 4 tell us that the time is just before Passover and there has been another christian martyr James one of the original 12 disciples who was the brother of John.  James was put to death by King Herod and now Herod has decided to go after Peter as well because the Jews were happy with his killing of James.

Herod arrests Peter and puts him in jail under many guards until after Passover time.

But when that time comes in verses 5 - 11 Peter is no longer in prison as the prayers of the church have been answered in a miraculous way while Peter was asleep

Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. 

        First an angel appears.
              Then a light shone.
                    And No-one unlocked the chains.

The angel tells Peter to get dressed and to follow him.
Peter obeys but doesn't feel like the events are real.

10 When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.

They pass 2 guard posts and no-one stops them or apparently even sees them because we all know they would have tried to stop them if they had seen them.  This makes me think back to when the light shone in chapter 9  on the Damascus Road and then Saul was blinded for three days.

Then the gate opened and the angel disappeared.

Only God can orchestrate a Miraculous Escape.

Peter was now safely away from the prison and no-one was chasing him.

Then Peter realises that God has set him free.

Peter now makes a surprise visit to a prayer meeting in verses 12 - 17 but because he had been in prison he may not have been aware of this prayer meeting even though it was specifically for him.

He comes to the house of the Mother of John Mark and this is were we meet Rhoda.
She opens the gate to him and recognises him so runs to tell the others inside praying that Peter is there but in her joy, haste and excitement she forgets to open the gate.

I see myself in Rhoda, I know I probably would have done the same thing.  Such a human thing to do in the excitement of the moment.

So the prayer meeting is interrupted with good news and the people there don't believe it at first.  Now we mustn't think badly of them because again we are all human and in a moment like that the surprise of it all could be rather unbelievable and most of us would have probably spoken quickly in much the same way.  Some people may say this showed unbelief but I think it was just plain surprise.

With more knocking the people see it is Peter and when he quickly explains what happened he tells then to inform James and the rest of the believers and he leaves them.

I really like verse 17 because again I think we see something of human nature once more.

17 But motioning to them with his hand to keep silent, he declared to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. 

This could mean that he didn't want them to be noisy and draw the attention of anyone nearby so that he would be discovered or it could mean that he didn't want them all talking and asking questions and being so excited they didn't listen to him properly.
In a way I think I would go with the second thought here.  I think it was more like you need to be quiet and listen to the great thing God has just done for me, because it is important that in our excitement or joy or hurt or worry or any other human feeling, we still see how God is working and keep our focus on Him.

We need to keep focused on God in our excitement or our fear.

To finish we need to have a quick look at verses 18 - 24 because although a great miracle had happened in Peter's life there was another life that was effected and that was the life of Herod.  The King had to blame someone when he now had no idea where Peter had gone so he took the lives of the guards.  Later he was exalted by the people and they were referring to him as a god while he relished in the attention and God took his life for that offence of taking glory when glory is only due to God. 

23 Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.

The world may see things from one perspective but God sees them from His perspective and He will continue to work.

24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.

I'm trying to read and write about the Book of Acts for 31 Days so please come back and join me for some notes & some thoughts each day. 

As the month goes on each Day's Link will be added in 

Friday, 20 October 2017

We All Need to be Encouragers - 31 Days in Acts

Have you got a good memory?

If you have been reading these 31 Days in Acts blog posts with me you should remember that we met a person called Barnabas before, in fact we met him twice.

    Which chapters did we meet him in?

    What does the name Barnabas mean?

    What is his other name? 

    What did he do that meant he was already included by Luke in this book about the Apostles and the Work of the Holy Spirit?

The Answers:
  • Ch. 4   Because of a Lie   and  Ch. 9   Changing Lives & Communities
  • Son of Encouragement
  • Jonas
  • He sold a piece of land and gave all the money to the church.  ch. 4
  • He vouched for Saul after his conversion.  ch. 9

Now today we meet up with him again in Acts ch. 11 v. 19 - 30

Do we need to know what role he had within the church?
Yes because it is interesting to know the facts and relationships but no it's not necessary to know every little bit about a person.
So far we do not see that he had a specific role as a leader or apostle or evangelist but he was able to vouch for Saul and have the other believers change their minds about Saul so they must have respected Barnabas.

There is one thing I do think is important for us to know about him and that his name means the son of Encouragement (Acts ch. 4 v 36) and in the Bible a person's name is important and reflects the character - in other words it appears that he was an encourager in the church.

This is a very important role in the church body as we all need encouragement and most people are so bad at encouraging each other.

Verse 19 tells us that so far the believers, who had left Jerusalem due to persecution, had gone to many other places but were only telling other Jews the good news about Jesus.

Now we saw in yesterday's blog post It's Not about Us, It's All about God that Peter was led to go and share with some Roman gentiles so obviously God did not mean that only Jews were to hear the Gospel.  Now again here we see that now the news was spreading to further places and some Greeks were becoming believers.

Barnabas is the one then chosen to go to Antioch to see what is happening there and we are told that he was glad to see what was happening and I think that meant he was also encouraged by this.

We also have a further description of him in verses 23 & 24

 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.

so now we know straight from the scriptures that Barnabas was indeed an encourager as his name had suggested but also he was

  • a good man
  • full of the Holy Spirit 
  • a man of faith

What did Barnabas encourage them to do?   To keep on walking with the Lord.

Then we see that he stays in Antioch for a year to teach the people but not on his own because he goes to find Saul and bring him to Antioch with him.  This may not only be encouragement for the believers in Antioch but also more encouragement for Saul as Barnabas shows his respect and confidence in him and also gives him the opportunity to teach and share his own experience.

We often think of Saul as being the great writer and speaker but a lot of the confidence and ease of speaking to others comes with practice and gaining more knowledge too.

A very well-know verse is found in in this passage where we are told that the believers were first called Christians in Antioch but maybe because of this we tend to forget about Barnabas and Saul working together and encouraging the believers.

We would all benefit from having a friend like Barnabas who would encourage us and help us learn to be encouragers too.

We would all benefit from having a friend like Barnabas who would encourage us and help us learn to be encouragers too.

I'm trying to read and write about the Book of Acts for 31 Days so please come back and join me for some notes & some thoughts each day. 

As the month goes on each Day's Link will be added in 

Thursday, 19 October 2017

It's Not about Us, it's all about God! - 31 Days in Acts

After the last 3 days on chapter 9 we now move to a whole new chapter in just 1 day.

We are still seeing the work God was doing through Peter but yet another city is involved this time.

Yesterday we left Peter in Joppa after 2 miracles, he had remained for a while as a guest of a man called Simon.

Now at the start of chapter 10 we meet another man called Cornelius who was a Roman Centurion, and some things about him immediately jumped out at me as I read the first paragraph.

He was  (from verse 2)

  • a devout man
  • a man who feared God
  • a man who shared his feelings with the whole family and servants
  • a charitable man
  • a man who believed in prayer

This is a man who because of the qualities written about him would have no doubt earned people's respect and love.

God spoke to him and told him to send for Peter giving directions about where Peter was and Cornelius did not question what he was told to do but acted on it straight away (see verse 7)

Now the focus of our story goes back to Peter in Joppa and it is the day after the event we just read about Cornelius.

Peter goes up to the rooftop to pray and sees a vision from God where something like a large sheet comes down to the space in front of him bringing us to verses 12 - 16

12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”
15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” 16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again. 

We do not know how long Peter thought about the vision but The Holy Spirit then tells him that 3 men are there to talk to him and he must go down and talk with them not doubting anything about why they have come there.

Peter obeys immediately, hears about Cornelius' invitation and the following day he leaves with the men to go to Caesarea even though he does not know why Cornelius wants to see him

In verses 24 - 33 Peter arrives in Caesarea and  meets Cornelius.

We notice two things here
  • Cornelius acts in a worshipful way towards Peter
  • Peter does not accept worship for himself

Cornelius knows Peter is a man of God but Peter does not want acknowledgement and I think Peter is like this because he truly is a man of God and hence all honour must go to God and he requires none for himself.

When we pray for someone and we see the answer to that prayer it is nothing to do with us it is all to do with God, there is no need for anyone to know that we have prayed because that draws attention to the person and not to God.

It's not about us, it's all about God!

It was not right culturally for Jews to visit non-Jews like this but Peter knew this invitation was from God and not just from Cornelius.  So now he wants to know what God and Cornelius require of him.  Just a simple answer from Cornelius ends in verse 33 with

33 So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.

Now Peter is ready to teach the whole household what they do not yet know and that results in a brief summary of the life of Jesus.

which ends with the message of salvation - this is what the invitation was all about.

The Holy Spirit was at work among them all while Peter spoke and they were saved, baptised in the Holy spirit and baptised in water.

The man (Peter) who was sent by God to speak to these Gentiles was not the important person he was simply the person who trusted in God and was obedient allowing God to use him.  All the work is done by God not by man.

It's not about us, it's all about God!

I'm trying to read and write about the Book of Acts for 31 Days so please come back and join me for some notes & some thoughts each day. 

As the month goes on each Day's Link will be added in 

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Death & Life - 31 Days in Acts

Today is the 18th day of 31 Days in Acts and it is our third day in       chapter 9.

Previously we had seen the dramatic change in Saul as he went from Darkness to Light and also the effect that change had on the lives of people and communities 

Now we leave Saul and go back to reading about Peter in
Acts 9 v 32 - 43

We start in verses 32 - 35 with a short but powerful story of a miracle that is not often preached on or even remembered:

32 Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country, that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda. 33 There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.” Then he arose immediately. 35 So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.

Peter must have been travelling a long distance when it states "all parts of the country" and it appears that he was visiting many of the believers in their various towns and cities.

We don't have a lot of details about this meeting of Peter and Aeneas so I have to think that the details were not important but the miracle and the people were.  The man's name is mentioned twice and Peter knew his name.  He spoke briefly to him, Aeneas obviously immediately believed what he was told and it was clear that Jesus was the healer and not Peter.
Then we know that the people in this town of Lydda plus another town saw the evidence of the miracle and believed.

The work of the Lord did not go unnoticed.

 Going on to verses 36 - 43 we meet another believer called Tabitha or Dorcas.

The names Tabitha and Dorcas share the same meaning of Beauty & Grace, with Tabitha being the Hebrew name and Dorcas the Greek name.

In this account of another miracle we have somewhat more detail.
We learn that Tabitha lived in Joppa which was near Lydda and the people there asked for Peter to come to them quickly after her death.
She was a kind, caring person and had made garments for many of the widows.
This time Peter wants the room quiet and after he prays he speaks to Tabitha and says

 “Tabitha, arise.”  

She opens her eyes, sees Peter and sits up.  A life back from death.

Then in verses 42 & 43 we are told

42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord. 43 So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner.

Again the news of this miracle spread quickly and many believed .

The work of the Lord did not go unnoticed.

The work of the Lord does not go unnoticed today.

In this passage we had health restored and life restored by the work of the Holy Spirit through Peter.  Today God still works miracles in our lives and the greatest of all is the miracle of new life in Jesus with eternal life so no need to fear death.

The work of The Lord does not go unnoticed.

I'm trying to read and write about the Book of Acts for 31 Days so please come back and join me for some notes & some thoughts each day. 

As the month goes on each Day's Link will be added in 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Changing Lives & Communities - 31 Days in Acts

Still in chapter 9 for Day 17 of 31 Days in Acts in the passage from verse 20 to 31

What stands out to us today?

Certain words stand out in Verses 20-22

Still in Damascus the first thing he did after he had learned from the other disciples was to get out and preach the Gospel.

Those who heard knew who he was but what he was now doing did not match up to what they had heard about him.

As he preached he grew stronger in his faith.

The Jews could not understand because he was standing up for Jesus and proving who Jesus really was.

He had done an about turn in his beliefs and was not scared to show this.

A Certain group of people & their actions stand out in Verses 23-25

The Jews plotted and watched 
It was the Jews versus the disciples here because as the Jews tried to find the opportunity to take Saul and kill him, Saul and the disciples made their plans and he escaped the clutch of the Jews.
God's hand was obviously at work in the safety of Saul and the ideas of the disciples.
I feel like both sides were cunning in this event one for evil and one for good but we don't use the word cunning in a good way normally so perhaps I should say the Jews were cunning but the disciples were canny having or showing shrewdness and good judgement  -  remember I'm a Northern Ireland girl!).

A Certain person & his actions stand out in Verses 26-30
This is not our first mention of Barnabas because we were introduced to him by his other name Jonas in Acts ch.4 v 36  which linked in with the story of Ananias Because of a Lie.

Saul had escaped to Jerusalem but the disciples there did not accept him thinking of what he had been like.  Barnabas however stood as a reference for him and gave a good report of his preaching.

With a good recommendation from Barnabas, Saul was now part of the fellowship in Jerusalem and was proclaiming the gospel until again evil was purposed against him.  The disciples in Jerusalem did the same as those in Damascus, they got him out of the city.

Obviously Saul after having had one type of influence when we meet him at first, now had the opposite type of influence.

Result in Verse  31
The church was growing in a large area and peace was evident there.

A great example of the power of the Gospel to change lives & communities.

I'm trying to read and write about the Book of Acts for 31 Days so please come back and join me for some notes & some thoughts each day. 

As the month goes on each Day's Link will be added in 

Monday, 16 October 2017

Darkness! Now the True Light! - 31 Days in Acts

We are in our 16th day and continuing on from the story of Saul we looked at yesterday in Acts ch. 9

Yesterday we had Important Questions and Simple Answers
and today we have more questions and more answers.

Verses 10-16 introduce us to another person who heard the Lord speak to him - Ananias.

This time questions and answers are from both sides in this conversation and in a way it feels like it was a comfortable conversation between friends with no surprise and no question of who Ananias was hearing from, he knew it was the Lord.

Although bad news had gone around about Saul here was a good recommendation from Jesus in verses 15 & 16 because He knew the potential in Saul for the spread of the Gospel and the growth of the church.

Looking back to verses 8 & 9 it is clear that Saul after meeting with the Lord was left sightless so he was in darkness and remained that way for 3 days.  No distraction, so presumably he had all that time to think on who he had heard from and what was said.

But verses 17 & 18 make the difference.

Ananias goes straight away as the Lord directed him to the exact house, finds Saul and tells him who sent him and the reason why he was sent and the darkness Saul was in disappears and he experiences the true light and the cleansing of his sin.

 No doubt, no hesitation, just action on the part of Ananias 
and also 
no doubt, just acceptance on the part of Saul.

Our last verse for today is verse 19 which is often overlooked in this passage but should not be as it shows us something very important that Saul did.

"So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus."

Saul spent time with the disciples before anything else.
Yes the first thing he did was to stay with the people who were already believers and he could learn from them.

Saul may have had this dramatic & dynamic conversion and was now a believer but he also needed to know more about Jesus and become a disciple.

Discipleship is the next step after conversion to ensure the spread of the Good News.

Conversion and Discipleship lead to growth.

I'm trying to read and write about the Book of Acts for 31 Days so please come back and join me for some notes & some thoughts each day. 

As the month goes on each Day's Link will be added in 

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Important Questions, Simple Answers - 31 Days in Acts

This is Sunday and our 15th day of 31 Days in Acts.

Today we are considering a short portion Acts ch. 9 v. 1-9

At the end of chapter 7 there was a mention of a young man called Saul standing in the background with the cloaks of the men who were stoning Stephen.

Then we have a mention of Saul in chapter 8 at the start of it and we see he plays a big part  in the scattering of the believers to various other places - Good out of Evil.

Today we are back to Saul who is still angry, very angry at the believers.  He wants to go out from Jerusalem and hunt down believers in Damascus and bring them back to face some sort of charges.

When he gets near to Damascus he does not find believers, instead Jesus finds him first.
He is stopped by a bright light and hears these words spoken by Jesus

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

and he answers with a question

which is maybe the most important question to ask at this time.

Notably Saul used the word Lord which means that he was in awe and respect of the person behind the voice.

When Jesus replies

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."

we do not see or hear any disbelief from Saul, just another question

“Lord, what do You want me to do?”

and Jesus gives a simple command

“Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Although there is no explanation or hint of what may be to come, Saul obeys the Lord.

We should follow Saul's example because the Lord is the one who is the bringer of truth and the one we should respect and obey.

When we truly have met with Jesus we should follow Saul's example.

I'm trying to read and write about the Book of Acts for 31 Days so please come back and join me for some notes & some thoughts each day. 

As the month goes on each Day's Link will be added in