Monday 31 December, 2012

Acts 17:22-34

22 Then Paul stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus. He said, “Men of Athens! I see that you are very religious in every way. 23 As I walked around, I looked carefully at the things you worship. I even found an altar with to an unknown god written on it. Now I am going to tell you about this ‘unknown god’ that you worship. 24 “He is the God who made the world. He also made everything in it. He is the Lord of heaven and earth. He doesn’t live in temples built by hands. 25 He is not served by human hands. He doesn’t need anything. He himself gives life and breath to all people. He also gives them everything else they have. 26 From one man he made all the people of the world. Now they live all over the earth. He decided exactly when they should live. And he decided exactly where they should live. 27 God did this so that people would seek him. Then perhaps they would reach out for him and find him. They would find him even though he is not far from any of us. 28 ‘In him we live and move and exist.’ As some of your own poets have also said, ‘We are his children.’ 29 “Yes, we are God’s children. So we shouldn’t think that God is made out of gold or silver or stone. He isn’t a statue planned and made by clever people. 30 In the past, God didn’t judge people for what they didn’t know. But now he commands all people everywhere to turn away from their sins. 31 He has set a day when he will judge the world fairly. He has appointed a man to be its judge. God has proved this to all people by raising that man from the dead.” 32 When they heard Paul talk about the dead rising, some of them made fun of it. But others said, “We want to hear you speak about this again.” 33 So Paul left the meeting of the Areopagus. 34 A few men became followers of Paul and believed in Jesus. Dionysius was one of them. He was a member of the Areopagus. A woman named Damaris also became a believer. And so did some others.

In the past, most people

believed in a god, at least one, but today, it seems that we can choose to believe in no God, or we explain everything away and we believe we can do anything we put our minds to, so who needs a god anymore?

When Paul enter

ed Greece and noticed altars to many different gods one altar caught his attention, the one labelled “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD” or the God nobody knows.

Worshipping many gods is not anything new; we probably have done this at some time in our life. It could be an addiction, a bad habit, a bad relationship, or sin you simply can’t seem to overcome; anything that we bow down to, is a god; even if we don’t always name it that way. The number of gods out there competing for our adoration is like having a big bowl of chips or chocolate in front of us; one is never enough!

In reality, don’t crowd your life with other gods; remove them, so the one true God is the only God in our life.

Later on, Paul addressed the people and appeals to them how the philosophers think about religion and their gods. Through using their language as a way to connect with them, he preaches to them who this unknown God is, that is Jesus Christ.

Is this the same as today? Back then people had many gods, but today, many have none. It’s easy to share our faith with others who believe what we believe. God asks us to share our faith with those to whom God is unknown. Paul preached the one true God, Christ crucified; it was enough then, and it is enough today.

Written by Cathy Croft

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Sunday 30 December, 2012

Acts 17:16-21

16 Paul was waiting for Silas and Timothy in Athens. He was very upset to see that the city was full of statues of gods. 17 So he went to the synagogue. There he talked with Jews and with Greeks who worshiped God. Each day he spoke with anyone who happened to be in the market place. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic thinkers began to argue with him. Some of them asked, “What is this fellow chattering about?” Others said, “He seems to be telling us about gods we’ve never heard of.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus. He was telling them that Jesus had risen from the dead. 19 They took him to a meeting of the Areopagus. There they said to him, “What is this new teaching you’re giving us? 20 You have some strange ideas. We’ve never heard them before. We want to know what they mean.” 21 All the people of Athens spent their time talking about and listening to the latest ideas. People from other lands who lived there did the same.

Paul wasn’t intending to come to Athens. He had fled there from Macedonia because of opposition. He was just waiting for his friends to catch up.

Athens must have seemed the most unlikely opportunity for the gospel. They were spiritually superfici

al: Paul’s troubled by the idols to every possible deity they

could find, including one to “an unknown God” in case they had missed one. And intellectually superficial: known for being entertained by new ideas, but not for acting on them. Luke doesn’t record the usual response from the Jews and “God fearing Gentiles”, and no response from those in the public square. The only response recorded was the philosophers who dismiss him as a “babbler” and preacher of foreign gods. And now being brought before the city rulers to explain himself (a painful

experience in the past) must have seemed daunting. By any rational assessment, Paul should not waste his time with Athens.

But Paul knows his God better. “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” (Ephesians 5:16). He does seek out those who fear God. He goes to where the people are. He brings substance to the superficial intellectual exercises of the philosophers. He takes the opportunity of bringing the truth to the Areopagus, and though they dismiss him, at the end some do believe.

It’s easy to dismiss the pub discussion of life or even the Christian-bating argument as a waste of time, but wherever people are willing to allow us to talk about God there is an opportunity for God to speak into the most unlikely lives. (So long as we are as positive as Paul’s speech to the Areopagus.)

Father, give me your eyes to see the opportunities and your boldness and grace to take them.

Written by David Cornell

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Saturday 29 December, 2012

Acts 17:10-15

10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. When they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 The Bereans were very glad to receive Paul’s message. They studied the Scriptures carefully every day. They wanted to see if what Paul said was true. So they were more noble than the Thessalonians. 12 Many of the Jews believed. A number of important Greek women also became believers. And so did many Greek men. 13 The Jews in Thessalonica found out that Paul was preaching God’s word in Berea. So they went there too. They stirred up the crowds and got them all worked up. 14 Right away the believers sent Paul to the coast. But Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea. 15 The men who went with Paul took him to Athens. Then they returned with orders that Silas and Timothy were supposed to join him as soon as they could.

Here we have people who are commended for two things: receiving the teaching of the word with eagerness, and also examining the scriptures to see if what Paul was teaching was correct.

This is a good model for us of how we should respond to teachi

ng.

We should be (1) eager to receive and learn new things and (2) diligent to examine what we hear and test it against the what we read in the Bible. Developing both of these qualities is essential for growth and maturity.

Some people are really eager to receive teaching and take on-board anything they hear without taking the time and effort to see if it lines up with the Bible’s teachings.

Others are so focused checking up on all the facts and the “letter of the law” that they become cynical and lose their open-hearted eagerness to learn.

Lord, help me to be an eager learner and a diligent examiner of what I am hearing. Help me to keep an open heart and to be a determined seeker of truth.

Written by Shelley Witt

1 (reply)
  1. Dina Reed says:

    In Reading this passage I became aware of how protective the believers were of Paul and Silas. They felt the danger brewing around them and acted accordingly. two points appear to me. One is that the believers acted to protect Paul and other leaders, and second Paul allowed them to protect him and went along with their decisions.
    We are totally blessed to be in a country where we do not have to protect our Christian leaders physically. However spiritually we do have the duty to protect them, that is by praying for them continually, and having our spiritual eyes and ears looking out for dangers. Leaders should also be open to hear from the believers that God has put around them.
    Lord I pray for each leader of each ministry and going up in leadership to Richard and Sue, and Phil and Chris. Lord I pray for their total protection and pray to hide them from the eyes of the enemy. Amen

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Friday 28 December, 2012

Acts 17:1-9

17 Paul and Silas passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia. They came to Thessalonica. A Jewish synagogue was there. 2 Paul went into the synagogue as he usually did. For three Sabbath days in a row he talked about the Scriptures with the Jews. 3 He explained and proved that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am telling you about is the Christ!” he said. 4 His words won some of the Jews over. They joined Paul and Silas. A large number of Greeks who worshiped God joined them too. So did quite a few important women. 5 But the Jews were jealous. So they rounded up some evil fellows from the market place. Forming a crowd, they started all kinds of trouble in the city. The Jews rushed to Jason’s house. They were looking for Paul and Silas. They wanted to bring them out to the crowd. 6 But they couldn’t find them. So they dragged Jason and some other believers to the city officials. “These men have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted. “Now they have come here. 7 Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all disobeying Caesar’s commands. They say there is another king. He is called Jesus.” 8 When the crowd and the city officials heard this, they became very upset. 9 They made Jason and the others give them money. They wanted to make sure they would return to the court. Then they let them go.

Have you ever heard the gospel preached in a way that sounds like “just put your faith in Jesus, and your life will be easy”? I sometimes wonder if that is how I have been taking it to myself when I find myself exasperated and calling out to God: “Why is this life so hard sometimes!”

While God gives us the power and peace of

the Holy Spirit and an incredible gift of forgiveness and redemption that allows us to live out of a position of grace, God also calls us to do hard stuff. Sometimes ‘cos it’s important, sometimes ‘cos it’s good for us’ and other times, it’s more of a mystery.  In any case, I can take great encouragement from the examples in the scriptures such as this one!

God, please increase my faith.

Written by Justin Ware

1 (reply)
  1. Dina Reed says:

    It always amazes me how God’s word brings out emotion that are translated into anger and frustration. However when we realize that God’s word reveal the state of our heart, it isn’t surprising that when we do not want to face it, the easiest response is anger and blaming others. When the Jews could not find Paul and Silas, they blamed the closest person, Jason. It is easier to blame others or circumstances than open our eyes to our weaknesses.
    Lord I pray that you open my eyes to my sins and weaknesses, and help me not to blame others, and thank you Lord that Jesus died so that I can overcome them.

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Thursday 27 December, 2012

Acts 16:35-40

35 Early in the morning the judges sent their officers to the jailer. They ordered him, “Let those men go.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The judges have ordered me to set you and Silas free. You can leave now. Go in peace.” 37 But Paul replied to the officers. “They beat us in public,” he said. “We weren’t given a trial. And we are Roman citizens! They threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and personally lead us out.” 38 The officers reported this to the judges. When the judges heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they became afraid. 39 So they came and said they were sorry. They led them out of the prison. Then they asked them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house. There they met with the believers. They told them to be brave. Then they left.

Paul is determined to not let the city officials get away with doing the wrong thing to innocent people so he takes a stand. There are times when we should also take a stand when things are not right. It is not right for the rich and powerful to be a

ble to do violence to those who are not. It is good to bring such situations out into the light and not let them be hidden.

It takes wisdom and guidance from God, however, to know when to speak out. We do need to be careful especially when speaking out on someone else’s behalf – we can do damage rather than being helpful. Asking God what to do and when to do it is important. This world is full of people taking advantage of others. I have had the conversation a few times lately about how often there are those people who find the way in any situation to get around the rules to make the most out of a situation with little regard for how other people

are affected. It is a failing of being human – we have to choose to be respectful and caring otherwise its easy to just go for everything we can get.

Lord help me to be aware of what is going on around me – to pay attention to the world – to notice when wrong is being done. Help me also to be bold with wisdom – to speak at the right time to help those who need it.

Written by Therese Manning

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Wednesday 26 December, 2012

Acts 16:25-34

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying. They were also singing hymns to God. The other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a powerful earthquake. It shook the prison from top to bottom. All at once the prison doors flew open. Everybody’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up. He saw that the prison doors were open. He pulled out his sword and was going to kill himself. He thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 “Don’t harm yourself!” Paul shouted. “We are all here!” 29 The jailer called out for some lights. He rushed in, shaking with fear. He fell down in front of Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out. He asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus. Then you and your family will be saved.” 32 They spoke the word of the Lord to him. They also spoke to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night, the jailer took Paul and Silas and washed their wounds. Right away he and his whole family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house. He set a meal in front of them. He and his whole family were filled with joy. They had become believers in God.

A demon possessed girl is delivered from her demon and the result is her employers are out of pocket. They stir up a mob and Paul & Silas are imprisoned after being beaten.

Paul & Silas pray and praise in the prison, the other prisoners l

isten in and the doors of the gaol fling open.

The jailer goes to commit suicide, thinking all the prisoners have escaped. Paul calls out, and the jailer’s response is to ask what must I do to be saved?

There is no

evidence that he had heard the Gospel, he simply recognized that Paul & Silas represented something true and he needed it.

I need to ensure that I stay true, living my faith, because like Paul & Silas it can have eternal impact!

Written by Ps. Richard Botta

1 (reply)
  1. Dina Reed says:

    How often in life we can overreact to what we see and assume. The jailor assumed the prisoner were gone and was about to make a huge decision based on a false facts. the verse that came to me as I read this passageis ” be still and know I am God” and that should be our motto as we are about to make a decision, is to wait on him fisrt.

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Tuesday 25 December, 2012

Isaiah 9:6-7

6 A child will be born to us. A son will be given to us. He will rule over us. And he will be called Wonderful Adviser and Mighty God. He will also be called Father Who Lives Forever and Prince Who Brings Peace. 7 The authority of his rule will continue to grow. The peace he brings will never end. He will rule on David’s throne and over his kingdom. He will make the kingdom strong and secure. His rule will be based on what is fair and right. It will last forever. The Lord’s great love will make sure that happens. He rules over all.

The description of the Messiah is unambiguous – powerful and inspiring.

The names given suggest a number of things. Divine wisdom and power, ongoing and unceasing fatherly care, the bringing of peace with all of its blessings.

When I think of

a Saviour these descriptions cover all my needs. I need a Saviour – one who doesn’t just deal with part of who I am but all that I am and hope to be.

Jesus – the child born is this Saviour.

But even more than this I take confidence from the fact that the kingdom God establishes through the Saviour, Jesus, is one of ever increasing peace and ever increasing dimension. Jesus rule and reign – His kingdom – is not geographical but in our hearts and God’s promise is that it will always increase.

That means His transforming work in me and through me is always at work by His Word and Spirit – wow what a life of joy, of peace, of fruitfulness!!

Father, this Christmas I come to you afresh, committing my life to your Lordship. May I follow you

more dearly and nearly day-by-day!

Written by Ps. Richard Botta

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Monday 24 December, 2012

Matthew 2:1-11

2 Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea. This happened while Herod was king of Judea. After Jesus’ birth, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem. 2 They asked, “Where is the child who has been born to be king of the Jews? When we were in the east, we saw his star. Now we have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard about it, he was very upset. Everyone in Jerusalem was troubled too. 4 So Herod called together all the chief priests of the people. He also called the teachers of the law. He asked them where the Christ was going to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied. “This is what the prophet has written. He said, 6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are certainly not the least important among the towns of Judah. A ruler will come out of you. He will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” (Micah 5:2) 7 Then Herod called for the Wise Men secretly. He found out from them exactly when the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem. He said, “Go! Make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, bring me a report. Then I can go and worship him too.” 9 After the Wise Men had listened to the king, they went on their way. The star they had seen when they were in the east went ahead of them. It finally stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 The Wise Men went to the house. There they saw the child with his mother Mary. They bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures. They gave him gold, incense and myrrh.

I am struck by the way God orchestrates these events to not only protect Jesus, but fulfill his good plan. Jesus, a young child, and his parents, have no way of knowing this plot from Herod who was really wanting to kill Jesus. They had no way of def

ending or protecting themselves. They were completely vulnerable to the plot of Herod and the Jewish leaders.

Yet God

was their protector. He warned the Magi in a dream not to go back to Herod, and they obeyed the dream rather than Herod. And so Jesus and his family remained undetected. Who knows the religious views and background of these Magi. But God spoke to them in a way they understood, and they heeded his warning.

This passage reminds me of God’s goodness towards His people, and me in particular, because of His good plan and purpose for us. Romans 8:28 comes to mind. It also reminds me that God has got the big picture under control, is moving events and people into position to fulfill his good purpose (even when opposing, destructive purposes are afoot), and is orchestrating all sorts of events and people to fulfill his Gospel purpose on the earth!

Thanks God for bringing me under your good purpose, which also means your care and protection. I couldn’t be in a safer place.

Written by Ps. Rob Waugh

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Sunday 23 December, 2012

Matthew 2:1-6

2 Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea. This happened while Herod was king of Judea. After Jesus’ birth, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem. 2 They asked, “Where is the child who has been born to be king of the Jews? When we were in the east, we saw his star. Now we have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard about it, he was very upset. Everyone in Jerusalem was troubled too. 4 So Herod called together all the chief priests of the people. He also called the teachers of the law. He asked them where the Christ was going to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied. “This is what the prophet has written. He said, 6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are certainly not the least important among the towns of Judah. A ruler will come out of you. He will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”

Wise men, kings, men from the east? Whatever or whoever these men were – they were watching…they were alert…they were expectant…they were on the move. We are given very little detail about them but they make it into the Christmas narrative. The

re is much to be learned from all those in this story. There must have been so many distractions on a journey from so far away – so many interesting alternate destinations, so many fascinating reasons to detour on this journey. But they came, they sought, they found

and they worshipped the King of Kings.

Oh God there are so many distractions that can keep me from seeking you. Like these wise men – may I be single minded in seeking you – not stopping till I find you and fall to my knees in worship of the King of Kings.

Written by Ps. Linda Quinn

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Saturday 22 December, 2012

Luke 2:8-21

8 There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby. It was night, and they were looking after their sheep. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them. And the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy. It is for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. 12 Here is how you will know I am telling you the truth. You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a large group of angels from heaven also appeared. They were praising God. They said, 14 “May glory be given to God in the highest heaven! And may peace be given to those he is pleased with on earth!” 15 The angels left and went into heaven. Then the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem. Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby. The baby was lying in the manger. 17 After the shepherds had seen him, they told everyone. They reported what the angel had said about this child. 18 All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary kept all these things like a secret treasure in her heart. She thought about them over and over. 20 The shepherds returned. They gave glory and praise to God. Everything they had seen and heard was just as they had been told.

The angels visit the shepherds, the shepherds visit Jesus, the shepherds tell all, the mother treasures all the events in her heart, it’s a fascinating stream of events.

I find it invigorating that the shepherds response to the ‘terrifying’ announ

cement, was to seek out the cause of the story and then the shepherds after meeting Jesus tell everyone they can. What a great response to meeting Jesus. Vs. 17 has it.

It wasn’t just that they told everyone about

what they had seen and heard but they told it in such an engaging way that all who heard it from them were amazed.

Telling about our meeting with Jesus should leave others with an appetite to meet Him as well – that’s clear to me!

Written by Ps. Richard Botta

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