Monday, 23 October 2017

A Specific Job for the Kingdom - 31 Days in Acts

Before we start into chapter 13 of the book of Acts today we need to remember back to the last time we considered Barnabas & Saul here which was in Day 20  We all Need to be Encouragers

We left them in Antioch in chapter 11 where we knew that Barnabas was an encourager and that he wanted Saul to work with him and it is mentioned that Barnabas taught there for a year.

In between then and now we see that Barnabas and Saul made a journey back to Jerusalem in Judea to take help for a time of famine from the Antioch church 

 ch 11 v. 27 - 30

27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

and then returned again to Antioch with another helper John Mark.

 ch 12  v. 25

 25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.

Now if you read Day 21  A Miraculous Escape  you will remember there was a mention of John Mark there because the house Peter went to after the angel led him out of the prison was the home of Mary the mother of John Mark.  Of course we know him better as Mark the writer of the second Gospel.

 ch 12  v. 12

12 So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.

Now here we have the three of them in Antioch at the start of chapter 13

verses 1-3
Here we have the Commissioning Barnabas & Saul who are to be sent out to do the work God has called them to do and obviously it is together.
Did John Mark go with them?
Yes we see that in the next passage.

verses 4-12

It tells us here that John was their helper/assistant and their new location was the island of Cyprus.

The proconsul there was interested in hearing the word of God and so enquired of Barnabas and Saul but another man did not want the proconsul to become a believer and Saul was led by the Holy Spirit to speak directly to him and tell him he would not stop God plans.
God then dealt with him by making a dark mist surround him and the proconsul, hearing and seeing the work of the Holy Spirit, became a believer.

We also need to recognise and to pray about situations where people are hindering others from becoming believers.  Sometimes we will see this happening but mostly we will not, but will be done in homes or in places were people gather together with friends.  This is often the result of peer pressure and can happen to all ages in all walks of life.  Let's not forget to pray for the people we have witnessed to.

Another thing to note from this passage is that the name Paul is first mentioned here

v. 9

Then Saul, who also is called Paul,

Often we hear people saying that he was called Saul until his conversion on the road to Damascus and then changed his name to Paul but this is over a year later before it has been mentioned.

verses 13-41

Barnabas and Paul then travel to Antioch in Pisidia which is not the same Antioch they had been commissioned in which was Antioch in Syria.  Apparently there were other cities called Antioch in various places.
By this time John Mark has left them and returned to Jerusalem.

Here Paul preaches in the Synagogue upon invitation by the Jewish rulers.
He speaks similarly to Peter in chapter 2  Day 4  Is There Strength in the Promise  which was going through the scriptures historically, also similar to Peter in chapter 3 Day 6  Have we Got Your Attention?  and similar to Stephen in chapter 7  Day 13  A Result of Hatred
So he is talking of the Israelites in Egypt, Wilderness 40 years and then land of Canaan, then judges, Samuel and the kings and then from David to Jesus our Saviour, john the Baptist and the salvation message to the descendants of Abraham.

But this time there is a difference because he ends up his message by warning them about not believing.  

verses 42-52
Here Paul & Barnabas preach to the Gentiles upon their invitation.

42 So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.

They were willing and eager to hear Paul's message but others were not happy

44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. 

A specific job but 2 different reactions.

This was the specific job Paul & Barnabas had been commissioned to do at the start of this chapter yet we did not see everything go smoothly for them

Two Different Reactions

  • The Gentiles heard the Word of God and were glad and glorified God.
  • The Jews were angry and got Paul & Barnabas thrown out of the area

But it specifically tells us that The Word of God spread.

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, 22 October 2017

Daily Scriptures - 31 Days in Acts

Today is our 22nd Day of 31 Days in Acts and although we have only been through the first 12 chapters so far I hope you do not mind if I take today, Sunday, to go out of sequence and concentrate on just one verse in this book that I often quote.

I'd like to jump ahead to chapter 17 to look at verse 11

We often say that this verse refers to the Bereans which would mean the people who lived in Berea or we think of it referring to the believers in Berea but if we read the verses before and after verse 11 we see exactly who it refers to and the result of the actions taken.

10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. 

verse 10 takes us to the synagogue in Berea where the Berean Jews were worshipping and these are the people verse 11 then speaks of.

        they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily 
                             to find out whether these things were so.

verse 12 (with the word therefore) then tells us that due to this attitude of listening to the word they were presented with, and checking it for truth and agreement with the scriptures they already had, many of them became believers.

There is nothing greater than the Word of God for convicting and convincing people of their need for salvation.

I do think that they would have continued to check everything they heard with scripture and it is an example to us today to do the same, do not take someone's word for it but check with God's Word and see what He has said on each matter.

So 3 things to remember here:

     Always check God's Word for all that you hear or read about the Bible and the Christian Walk.

Always trust that God's Word can convict and save because it is powerful.

Always trust that the Bible can change you daily.

God's Word is powerful to change our lives.

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, 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

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