Friday 30 November, 2012

Acts 13:1-3

13 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers. Among them were Barnabas, Simeon, and Lucius from Cyrene. Simeon was also called Niger. Another was Manaen. He had been brought up with Herod, the ruler of Galilee. Saul was among them too. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit spoke. “Set apart Barnabas and Saul for me,” he said. “I have appointed them to do special work.” 3 The prophets and teachers fasted and prayed. They placed their hands on Barnabas and Saul. Then they sent them off.

Today’s passage is another reminder to ask

God regularly about what He wants us to do but this one is more about doing it as a church or connect group or even a workplace. Groups of us getting together to pray and ask God is a great thing to do. How

beautiful to see how the early church did things. These guys regularly sat with each other and God and prayed and fasted. God showed that He was there and listening by speaking to them. It doesn’t appear to have just been a prayer meeting around asking God about a specific thing but a regular thing they just did all the time. So things like Church prayer meetings are important. We can do it on a personal scale too by regularly getting together with friends to pray – giving God space to speak.

The early church not only invited God to speak, they then acted upon what He said and sent out Barnabas and Saul to do the work God had for them. Then Barnabas and Saul started on a wonderful adventure that had its ups and downs but was pretty amazing.

Lord thanks for being interested in our lives, for wanting us to help you with your plan for the earth. Help us to give you space regularly to speak and help us to hear and act. Thanks for the wonderful opportunities that can result.

Written by Therese Manning

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Thursday 29 November, 2012

Acts 12: 20-25

20 He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they got together and asked for a meeting with him. This was because they depended on the king’s country to supply them with food. They gained the support of Blastus and asked for peace. Blastus was a trusted personal servant of the king. 21 The appointed day came. Herod was seated on his throne. He was wearing his royal robes. He made a speech to the people. 22 Then they shouted, “This is the voice of a god. It’s not the voice of a man.” 23 Right away an angel of the Lord struck Herod down. Herod had not given praise to God. So he was eaten by worms and died. 24 But God’s word continued to increase and spread. 25 Barnabas and Saul finished their task. Then they returned from Jerusalem. They took John Mark with them.

Herod had a grudge against the church, and he was also resentful against the people of Tyre and Sidon. They were not his subjects, but they

received government aid, which was distributed by Herod. These people wanted Herod’s help, so they played the

game of politics to the hilt. They arranged to have Herod speak at a banquet. They called out, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” These words stroked Herod’s ego. He received their words of false flattery; he died and was eaten by worms.

Herod died because he did not give God the glory. The crowd had given to Caesar what belonged to God, and Herod’s failure to reject the adoration and worship was the same as accepting this as truth. His silence was fatal!

When we do not give credit to God for all God has done for us…we die. If we are consumed by our own self importance, we grow smaller. We become short sighted, tight-fisted and if we do not reflect the greatness of God we live forgettable lives that are fit only for the worms to feed on.

God calls us to a kind of living that prompts to do our best and to publicly acknowledge that our talent, abilities and blessings all originate in God.

There is a type of “poetic justice” in the death of Herod. He killed James and tried to kill Peter. He played the politician, and politics killed him. He dressed in a way to depict he was divine, yet he died a dishonourable death and what a humiliating way to die. If we thank and praise Jesus for all He has done and will do, there wouldn’t be time for anything else in our day. Let us always be grateful for everything God has done.

Written by Catherine Croft

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Wednesday 28 November, 2012

Acts 12:1-19

12 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. 11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.” 12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” 15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” 16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place. 18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.

Herod Agrippa decides to persecute the church, who knows why.  The Jews were pleased with this, almost certainly from jealousy.

Herod had James killed and arrested Peter.

The response was one of prayer from the church.

Peter’s miraculous escape amazed even him.  Thinking he was having a vision Peter obeys the angel who is in fact in the act of freeing him.  The disciples had gathered for prayer and in the midst of their prayer time Peter knocks at the door.  The servant girl recognizes Peter’s voice but

is over noted and goes back to the prayer meeting to tell everyone, but they do not believe her until the knocking continues.

These events all speak about the miraculous power of God.  They also speak of how amazed the disciples were that God has chosen to do the miracles.

There was no expectation of a miracle, but there was a dependence on God.  Each of us needs to obey God and trust that in His love and faithfulness He will continually work everything together for good.

Father help me to seek You with all my heart at all times.

Written by Ps. Richard Botta


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Tuesday 27 November, 2012

Acts 11:27-30

27 In those days some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them was named Agabus. He stood up and spoke through the Spirit. He said there would not be nearly enough food anywhere in the Roman world. This happened while Claudius was the emperor. 29 The believers decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. All of them helped as much as they could. 30 They sent their gift to the elders through Barnabas and Saul.

What a great story. I am always amazed about people who “do something” after they hear the message from

a preacher/God.

I like verse 29 which says, “The believers decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters …” This action was not pushed/

requested by Paul or Barnabas, but started by the believers themselves. The believers’ lives were reflecting Jesus’ teaching.

The Bible says: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1:22)

Also, the believers provided the help according to their own ability, not to compare with each other.

Dear Lord, help me to be an action-man of God’s word, not a sitting-man.

Written by Allen Leu

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Monday 26 November, 2012

Acts 11:19-26

19 Some believers had been scattered by the suffering that came to them after Stephen’s death. They traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch. But they told the message only to Jews. 20 Some believers from Cyprus and Cyrene went to Antioch. There they began to speak to Greeks also. They told them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s power was with them. Large numbers of people believed and turned to the Lord. 22 The church in Jerusalem heard about this. So they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad. He told them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 Barnabas was a good man. He was full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. Large numbers of people came to know the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 He found him there. Then he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church. They taught large numbers of people. At Antioch the believers were called Christians for the first time.

In Antioch the believers had such success spreading the word about Jesus that Jews and Greeks believed and turned to the Lord. The response was so good that Barnabas was sent to check it out. He was glad to see God at work and encouraged Saul to retu

rn there with him to teach the people.

It makes me wonder what Saul was up to. What was it that he left behind to devote a year of his life here? I imagine there was a lot of good work to be involved in. Yet this area where disciples were first called Christians is what he devoted himself to for a year.

Life is busy and full of good things to do. I really want to make sure that I devote myself to God’s calling.

It makes me check and

ask God:

What should I leave and lay down?

Is there something new that I should take up?

Written by Lyndall Gourlay

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Sunday 25 November, 2012

Acts 11:1-18

11 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of the uncircumcised and ate with them.” 4 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ 8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again. 11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’ 15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with[a] water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Peter is back in Jerusalem. The Jewish believers are being critical of Peter going to the gentiles and eating with them. Peter then recounts what happened to him in chapter 10, how God specifically led him to the God fearing gentiles (Gentiles who had adopted the Jewish faith) and how the Holy Spirit fell on them as it He had upon them at Pentecost.

This was a sovereign move of God – Peter was not going to stand in the way, even though it screamed in the face of all his culture, previous beliefs and understanding of gentiles.

I’m reminded that God will always come and do things His way and this may mess with my head, my church culture Australia and my flex current understanding

of Him. I need to be careful not to jump in and criticise and miss what God is doing or worse, to actually stand in His way.

Lord, help me to keep my heart open to you and your ways and to not have you so rigidly put in a box that I miss the move of your Spirit.

Written by Suzie Hodgson

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Saturday 24 November, 2012

Acts 10:34–48

34 Then Peter began to speak. “I now realize how true it is that God treats everyone the same,” he said. 35 “He accepts people from every nation. He accepts all who have respect for him and do what is right. 36 “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel. It is the good news of peace through Jesus Christ. He is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened all through Judea. It started in Galilee after John preached about baptism. 38 You know how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Jesus went around doing good. He healed all who were under the devil’s power. God was with him. 39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by nailing him to a cross. 40 But on the third day God raised him from the dead. God allowed Jesus to be seen. 41 But he wasn’t seen by all the people. He was seen only by us. We are witnesses whom God had already chosen. We ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 “He commanded us to preach to the people. He told us to give witness that he is the one appointed by God to judge the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets give witness about him. They say that all who believe in him have their sins forgiven through his name.” 44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 Some Jewish believers had come with Peter. They were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on those who weren’t Jews. 46 They heard them speaking in languages they had not known before. They also heard them praising God. Then Peter said, 47 “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Peter and other Jews with him were amazed that salvation was for Gentiles as well as Jews. They had felt secure in their “favoured nation” status, and despite prophecies to the contrary still didn’t expect Jesus to have died for all – it was a very radical concept for them then. God was bigger than they had thought.

This prompts me to think “What biases do I have which are ungodly? Have I put God in a box and made him smaller than he really is?”

Lord, just as King David asked you to show him any wicked ways in him, I ask you to reveal to me any sinful biases or expectations I may have. Please help me to be

transformed by the renewing of my mind.

Written by Megan Cornell

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Friday 23 November, 2012

Acts 10:9-33

9 It was about noon the next day. The men were on their journey and were approaching the city. Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry. He wanted something to eat. While the meal was being prepared, Peter had a vision. 11 He saw heaven open up. There he saw something that looked like a large sheet. It was being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It had all kinds of four-footed animals in it. It also had reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” 14 “No, Lord! I will not!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything that is not pure and ‘clean.’” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time. “Do not say anything is not pure that God has made ‘clean,’” it said. 16 This happened three times. Right away the sheet was taken back up to heaven. 17 Peter was wondering what the vision meant. At that very moment the men sent by Cornelius found Simon’s house. They stopped at the gate 18 and called out. They asked if Simon Peter was staying there. 19 Peter was still thinking about the vision. The Holy Spirit spoke to him. “Simon,” he said, “three men are looking for you. 20 Get up and go downstairs. Don’t let anything keep you from going with them. I have sent them.” 21 Peter went down and spoke to the men. “I’m the one you’re looking for,” he said. “Why have you come?” 22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius, the Roman commander. He is a good man who worships God. All the Jewish people respect him. A holy angel told him to invite you to his house. Cornelius wants to hear what you have to say.” 23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter went with the three men. Some of the believers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them. He had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him. As a sign of respect, he fell at Peter’s feet. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said. “I am only a man myself.” 27 Talking with Cornelius, Peter went inside. There he found a large group of people. 28 He said to them, “You know that it is against our law for a Jew to have anything to do with those who aren’t Jews. But God has shown me that I should not say anyone is not pure and ‘clean.’ 29 So when you sent for me, I came without asking any questions. May I ask why you sent for me?” 30 Cornelius answered, “Four days ago at this very hour I was in my house praying. It was three o’clock in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood in front of me. 31 He said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer. He has remembered your gifts to poor people. 32 Send someone to Joppa to get Simon Peter. He is a guest in the home of another Simon, who works with leather. He lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you right away. It was good of you to come. Now we are all here. And God is here with us. We are ready to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

The thing that stands out to me in this passage is that Peter has a full-on trance and vision from God and is given some very specific instructions from God. You’d think that Peter would be so over-awed by this experience that he would readily obey w

hatever God is asking. Not so.

Peter actually has the audacity to say “no way!” to God. In fact, God even has to repeat Himself three times to ask the same thing and yet Peter still says “by no means, Lord” – three times!

Peter, obviously thought he knew better than God on this one. The funny thing is that calling someone “Lord” means that you are prepared to do whatever they ask. So “by no means, Lord” is really not a logical or acceptable answer.

Yet, it turns out that God did actually know better than Peter (how surprising!) on this one. The end result of what God asked Peter to do, and what Peter eventually came around to doing was to open up the Gospel to the gentiles, since previously they had only been focusing on the Jews. This had far reaching implications and changed the world forever. We can be grateful that Peter finally decided to obey God!

So how often do we say “no way” to God? It seems rather obvious to say this, but God actually does know better than us, so saying yes to God is really the only intelligent response.

Lord, help me to truly have you as my Lord in my readiness to obey You – even when I don’t understand or necessarily want to obey. Thank you that You see the big picture. I want my life to make a difference for eternity, so help me to not just walk the easy path, but to walk the path that You have called me to.

Written by Shelley Witt

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Thursday 22 November, 2012

Acts 10:1-8

10 A man named Cornelius lived in Caesarea. He was a Roman commander in the Italian Regiment. 2 Cornelius and all his family were faithful and worshiped God. He gave freely to people who were in need. He prayed to God regularly. 3 One day about three o’clock in the afternoon he had a vision. He saw an angel of God clearly. The angel came to him and said, “Cornelius!” 4 Cornelius was afraid. He stared at the angel. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to poor people have come up like an offering to God. So he has remembered you. 5 Now send men to Joppa. Have them bring back a man named Simon. He is also called Peter. 6 He is staying with another Simon, a man who works with leather. His house is by the sea.” 7 The angel who spoke to him left. Then Cornelius called two of his servants. He also called a godly soldier who was one of his attendants. 8 He told them everything that had happened. Then he sent them to Joppa.

In the Jewish tradition, Cornelius would have had a hard time to earn the description “devout man who feared God.” We see evidence of this unacceptability later in Acts 10 when Peter answers his invitation but hesitates to share a meal with him. I wo

nder if a modern comparison would almost be like having an alcoholic claim that they have had a message from an angel of God that they needed to invite a Southern Baptist (traditionally non-drinking Christian denomination) to their local pub for a round of beers.

The point here is not necessarily about what Christians can and cant engage in, but to be aware that God created us all and loves the world so much that he sent generic propecia his only begotten son to die for all of our sins. God can and does communicate with people outside Christianity, whether we like it or not! Lets pray that if Australia we play flex Peter’s role in their lives that we will be sensitive to God’s invite and not our own preconceptions of how people will come to know Christ.

Written by Justin Ware

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Wednesday 21 November, 2012

Acts 9:36-42

36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” 39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. 40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.

I love this passage as it speaks of great faith.  Faith on behalf of Tabitha’s (Dorcas) friends – even though she had died, they still called for Peter to come to see her. Faith on the part of Peter as he briefly & boldly prayed for her to be alive!

In 2001, during my first visit to India, I had the opportunity to pray for a young teenage girl. I didn’t know it then, but she had been mute from birth. Although I couldn’t understand what the Australia mother wanted me to flex pray for her daughter, I had faith in the knowledge that God knew her needs.  I prayed in tongues – after a minute or so, I asked the girl to say the word “Yeshu” – Jesus in Hindu. Her first word spoken was JESUS!

I know that when I step out in faith, no matter what, God will always turn-up. It’s not about me or what I can or can’t do – its all about me being faithful to what God is asking me buy cipro to do at that moment…

Written by Ps. Mandy Miller

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