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 

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Good out of Evil - 31 Days in Acts

Yet again a new chapter  Acts ch 8 and the introduction of another believer who also had those 3 Characteristics of Service and was also very willing to speak out for Jesus just as Stephen was in yesterday's chapter.

verses 1-3
Here our attention is brought to Saul who is very active in persecuting the believers but he is not the focus of today's blog post.
Due to Saul and others this persecution led to many believers leaving Jerusalem and going elsewhere.

This meant that along with these believers would be The Holy Spirit, wisdom and good character worth respect.  If people respect you they are more willing to listen to what you have to say and also to trust your words.

verses 4-8
The believers, who were now scattered to many different places, were preaching God’s Word wherever they were.

Philip is mentioned here again; he had been one of the seven chosen in Acts ch. 6 with the 3 characteristics of being filled with the Spirit, of good reputation and wise.
He is the person we are looking at today and he is now in Samaria preaching about Jesus and doing miracles and the result was a city full of joy.

Do we know of any cities today about which we could ever imagine people saying they were full of joy?
People living in a city will have a different opinion of that city compared to visitors and I often remember when we lived just outside Brussels I would hear or read about tourists saying it was a dirty city.  I however didn't see it quite like that.
Different people will see things in different ways as we have already seen in a previous post here where there was 1 event but 2 viewpoints but to have a city described as full of joy must have meant that many people felt that way.

Philip and the Holy Spirit were responsible for the joy in that place.

What an impact on that city because the people heeded what Philip spoke to them.

Do we make an impact where we are?

Sometimes we will know believers have made an impact when we see joy-filled people but other times we will know believers have made an impact when we see opposition to them and attacks on them as has been seen in the last few chapters.

Let's go further in this chapter to see more of the impact Philip had.

verses 26-39
Philip doesn't just stay in one place.
Now we have the meeting with the man from Ethiopia.
Philip is led to meet the man at the exact right time and Philip does not waste any time when he gets there, no Philip gets straight to the point.
Does he know his time is limited?
Is he following the guidance of the Holy spirit?
Perhaps both but I certainly believe the second is true.
There is an urgency for him to know that this person understands what he is reading.
It's not just enough to read the Bible we all must understand the gospel from it.

The Ethiopian is a learned man but yet he is ready to accept that he can't understand without some help and this is why Philip was brought to this place.

What's the result then of Philip being in this particular place?
A man understands the Word of God, believes in the Gospel and gets Baptised.
Again the Gospel and the Holy Spirit have opened a man's eyes because a believer was willing to go and to talk and help him understand.

The Ethiopian was not going to remain there but was going back to his homeland and the understanding he now had was going to go with him.

 "he went on his way rejoicing."  

Yes those were the words written in verse 39 and rejoicing means he was full of joy just like the people in that city in Samaria.

What an impact there could be on another city and country because the Ethiopian heeded 
what Philip spoke to him.

verses 40
Philip's work was not done now because he was then taken off by the Holy Spirit to several other places where I am sure he acted and spoke in similar ways to this.

The Gospel and The Holy Spirit opens the eyes of people.

From the persecution of the believers at the start of this chapter to the rejoicing at the end of it we can see Good out of evil.

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, 13 October 2017

A Result of Hatred - 31 Days in Acts

Once again a new chapter  Acts ch 7 but continuing the story of Stephen which we started in yesterday's blog post about the 3 Characteristics of Service

Yesterday we saw how the church leaders recognised Stephen as having those 3 Characteristics that were necessary for service, then outsiders charging him with blasphemy and today we see how he reacts to the charge and the result of it all.

Usually when we are asked if something held against us is true or not we want to immediately speak in our defence to show how it is a false accusation and this will focus around ourselves. This was not the case here with Stephen, instead he started with God’s call on Abraham’s life and and then went on to Moses and further through the history of the Israelites to the prophets.

Stephen speaks out the gospel because the Gospel is the answer.
Through history, well-known passages of scripture he brings the thread throughout the lives of the Jewish race which ultimately leads to the sacrifice on Calvary.

Then he made an accusation about the mistreatment of the prophets and also the mistreatment of Jesus and the responsibility on the Jewish leaders for the death of Jesus.

Not surprisingly they were furious with him.

Then he maddened them even more because he stated that he saw Jesus standing by the Father in heaven.

Their response to this was to take him out of the city and stone him

His response was to ask forgiveness for them and their actions against him.

To make up the accusations of blasphemy (which was counted as a very serious sin) the Jewish leaders must have already hated Stephen and this could have been as a result of the characteristics pointed out in the previous chapter. They would not have been happy that he was respected, that he showed wisdom and that God was working through him.

So we see here how this hatred led to false accusations which led to Stephen pointing out their faults and evil actions against Jesus which led to their extreme anger which led to the murder of Stephen. Once something is set in motion it is hard to stop and can get out of hand very quickly with disastrous results.

Stephen speaks out the gospel.
Through history, with well-known passages of scripture he brings the thread throughout the lives of the Jewish race which ultimately leads to the sacrifice on Calvary.

This is proof of the necessity of those 3 Characteristics for Christian Service.

Join me tomorrow for more about the result of this response by the Jewish Leaders.

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, 12 October 2017

Wise & Respected Men - 31 Days in Acts

Starting a new chapter in Acts today for Day 12.

For the last few chapters the Book of Acts was centred around the actions of Peter & John with a prison sentence, anger towards them and of course and angel and a wise man (and no I am not suddenly thinking of Christmas) but referring back to Day 10 and Day 11

Now in Acts ch. 6 we have a charge of discrimination brought and we see no questioning of who is or is not guilty but rather a solid solution of putting specific people in charge to make sure that the distribution to the widows is meted out fairly and properly.

Clearly the important thing here was to act quickly to solve a problem and the solution was far more important than spending time over finding who may have been guilty of the charge.

Those in charge do not have to do it all, they don’t have to make the decisions of how it is done they simply say that others are needed for the job. Perhaps it was becoming a problem because they were having to do too much but they have a good solution and then to make it even better they decide on characteristics of the best suitable people for the job.

High standards are required even if it is a manual type job in contrast to their job of preaching. The obvious signs of a spirit-filled life is a must.  Why? Because they need to have the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit to do this job too.

We see that 7 men were chosen and they were
  • Spirit-filled men
  • Respected men
  • Wise men

This was for a job to work with people on a daily basis in an organising capacity, not a preaching or teaching or discipling situation.

Yet it still required spirit-filled men.

This should be the same today in our church situations where we are working with the community around us
  • Food banks
  • Organising free dinners
  • Visiting
  • Etc.

If done on behalf of the church, it is a job done on behalf of God, so it must be done by people with these three characteristics as was expected of the 7 men chosen in verses 1 - 6.

Because these three characteristics are the signs of Godly men who will do the job God’s way and will look to God for help and be led by God and then the whole situation will glorify God.
After all as Christians our purpose is to glorify God, bring all the focus and honour to Him and not to ourselves.

What are the 3 characteristics for serving God?

So the right men are chosen for the job and the Apostles are then left in the best position from which to do their job  - in prayer and study of God’s word.

But of course someone has to be unhappy when God is working among the people and we see here that another charge is brought this time against one of the 7 men chosen whose name was Stephen.
A trumped up, false charge with false witnesses claiming blasphemy.

What will be the result? 
Join me tomorrow as we go on to the following chapter and read more about Stephen.

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, 11 October 2017

What's The Outcome? - 31 Days n Acts

Today in our 11th Day in Acts I'm continuing on from yesterday's post in chapter 5.

We are now looking at verses 22 to the end of the chapter

In the first section verses 22-32 it is discovered that Peter & John are not in the prison but no-one saw them leave it even though the guards were still in place.

The reaction of the leaders was concern about the final outcome.

My reaction would have been so different.
I would have been focusing on the question How did they get out? wanting to know the solution to the mystery.

Someone then has news that the two Apostles are teaching in the Temple; the very thing that they had been told not to do.
When the soldiers go to bring them to the leaders the soldiers are afraid of the reaction of the people.

Now the council know where they have been but still they don’t ask about the means of getting there.
They must have accepted the fact that it was another miracle but didn't want to draw more attention to it.

Then council fear that they may be seen as guilty for the death of Jesus because Peter and John are continuing to talk about him.

This doesn’t deter Peter and John from the truth because they go straight ahead to accusing the council of killing Jesus.  No fear with Peter and John.
They simply keep on talking about Jesus.

No Fear! Just talking about Jesus.

The council now react with anger and want to kill Peter & John.

Throughout this episode the council have had no interest in God's dealings with the Apostles, they are more concerned with what is going to happen and obviously how they will be affected.

Two completely different viewpoints.

  • One with people only thinking about themselves
  • One with people still bringing the focus on Jesus

This brings us to the second section verses 33-42

A sensible voice is required at this stage and it comes from one of the council so not all of them were consumed with anger.

Gameliel  says:

“Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”

They take his advice which is the most sensible thing they could do so that they are not now adding to a possible bad outcome for themselves.

Of course they could never see far enough to know that the result or outcome of this event is still having great effect in the world today and if they could have they would probably view this as a very bad outcome for them.

1 Event - 2 Different Viewpoints.

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