Thursday 31 January, 2013

Acts 27:13-26

13 A gentle south wind began to blow. They thought that this was what they had been waiting for. So they pulled up the anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14 Before very long, a wind blew down from the island. It had the force of a hurricane. It was called a “northeaster.” 15 The ship was caught by the storm. We could not keep it sailing into the wind. So we gave up and were driven along. 16 We passed the calmer side of a small island called Cauda. We almost lost the lifeboat. 17 So the men lifted it on board. Then they tied ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. They were afraid it would get stuck on the sandbars of Syrtis. They lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. 18 We took a very bad beating from the storm. The next day the crew began to throw the ship’s contents overboard. 19 On the third day, they even threw the ship’s gear overboard with their own hands. 20 The sun and stars didn’t appear for many days. The storm was terrible. So we gave up all hope of being saved. 21 The men had not eaten for a long time. Paul stood up in front of them. “Men,” he said, “you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete. Then you would have avoided this harm and loss. 22 “Now I beg you to be brave. Not one of you will die. Only the ship will be destroyed. 23 I belong to God and serve him. Last night his angel stood beside me. 24 The angel said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must go on trial in front of Caesar. God has shown his grace by sparing the lives of all those sailing with you.’ 25 “Men, continue to be brave. I have faith in God. It will happen just as he told me. 26 But we must run the ship onto the beach of some island.”

This passage shows us how unreliable our faith is if we are basing it on circumstance.

When Paul told the centurion not to sail from Crete, the centurion wouldn’t listen, but followed the advice of the pilot (experience) and the owner of the ship (money).

So, when a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted. They were very proud and believed they made right decision.

But, before

very long, the big storm came, neither sun nor stars appeared for many days. And finally, they gave up all hope of being saved.

No doubt, we all like these circumstances follow our decision which shows how good/wise we are. But, the truth is only God’s word is eternal and stands firm in the heavens (Psalm 119).

I am not saying “good” circumstances are

“bad” or lead to a “bad” result, but, we do need to verify/review our decision making process, are they based on God’s word or circumstance/experience/money.

Thanks God, He never gives up us (even sometimes when we make wrong decisions). He used Paul to encourage all the people on the boat and pointed out not one of them will be lost. Paul has faith in God that it will happen just as He told him.

Dear Lord, help me to keep the faith in you no matter what the circumstance is!! Amen.

Written by Allen Leu

1 (reply)
  1. Kerrie says:

    I like that even when the wrong decision was made, God still brought it around to his original purpose. Still, they had to live with the consequences of their choices and ‘weather the storm’ until it was over. It’s a good thing that God is so patient!
    Thanks for your message Allen.

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Wednesday 30 January, 2013

Acts 27:1-12

27 It was decided that we would sail for Italy. Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a Roman commander named Julius. He belonged to the Imperial Guard. 2 We boarded a ship from Adramyttium. It was about to sail for ports along the coast of Asia Minor. We headed out to sea. Aristarchus was with us. He was a Macedonian from Thessalonica. 3 The next day we landed at Sidon. There Julius was kind to Paul. He let Paul visit his friends so they could give him what he needed. 4 From there we headed out to sea again. We passed the calmer side of Cyprus because the winds were against us. 5 We sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia. Then we landed at Myra in Lycia. 6 There the commander found a ship from Alexandria sailing for Italy. He put us on board. 7 We moved along slowly for many days. We had trouble getting to Cnidus. The wind did not let us stay on course. So we passed the calmer side of Crete, opposite Salmone. 8 It was not easy to sail along the coast. Then we came to a place called Fair Havens. It was near the town of Lasea. 9 A lot of time had passed. Sailing had already become dangerous. By now it was after the Day of Atonement, a day of fasting. So Paul gave them a warning. 10 “Men,” he said, “I can see that our trip is going to be dangerous. The ship and everything in it will be lost. Our own lives will be in danger also.” 11 But the commander didn’t listen to what Paul said. Instead, he followed the advice of the pilot and the ship’s owner. 12 The harbor wasn’t a good place for ships to stay during winter. So most of the people decided we should sail on. They hoped we would reach Phoenix. They wanted to spend the winter there. Phoenix was a harbor in Crete. It faced both southwest and northwest.

Luke tells us in detail the beginnings of the sea journey to Rome with all the characters and drama, perhaps even more vivid in detail because Luke was actually sailing with Paul, as all the ‘we’ passages indicate.

What strikes me about this passage is that Paul, even though a prisoner, does have a voice

on-board the ship. His warning wasn’t listened to at this point but he did speak up, and not being listened to this time did not stop him from speaking up again later.

Taking the risk and speaking up when I see

that things are likely to go wrong is what I take from this passage.  Speaking up, even risking my heart in a matter, even if I think I won’t be heard takes courage.

Father I pray that I would have the courage to speak up even if I am not listened to, my heart not heard but that I would have your conviction that it is the right thing to do.

Written by Suzie Hodgson

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Tuesday 29 January, 2013

Acts 26:24-32

24 While Paul was still speaking up for himself, Festus interrupted. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you crazy!” 25 “I am not crazy, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things. So I can speak openly to him. I am certain he knows everything that has been going on. After all, it was not done in secret. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” 28 Then Agrippa spoke to Paul. “Are you trying to talk me into becoming a Christian?” he said. “Do you think you can do that in such a short time?” 29 Paul replied, “I don’t care if it takes a short time or a long time. I pray to God for you and all who are listening to me today. I pray that you may become like me, except for these chains.” 30 The king stood up. The governor and Bernice and those sitting with them stood up too. 31 They left the room and began to talk with one another. “Why should this man die or be put in prison?” they said. “He has done nothing worthy of that!” 32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free. But he has made an appeal to Caesar.”

Isn’t Paul bold. He just speaks out his story to anyone who gives him

the opportunity. He has had profound experiences and he wants to share them to show other people all about God. He doesn’t just talk to those who are his friends but he cares for and reaches out even to his enemies. Paul is clever too. He created the opportunity

to speak to many people in power by requesting the hearing before Caesar. He could have been set free if he hadn’t done that but he went with what God guided him to do.

Lord please help me to be so in tune with You that I know when to take a chance and speak out.

Written by Therese Manning

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Sunday 27 January, 2013

Acts 25:23-27

23 The next day Agrippa and Bernice arrived. They acted like very important people. They entered the courtroom. The most important officers and the leading men of the city came with them. When Festus gave the command, Paul was brought in. 24 Festus said, “King Agrippa, and all who are here with us, take a good look at this man! Both in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea a large number of Jews have come to me about him. They keep shouting that he shouldn’t live any longer. 25 I have found that he hasn’t done anything worthy of death. But he made his appeal to the Emperor. So I decided to send him to Rome. 26 “I don’t have anything certain to write about him to His Majesty. So I have brought him here today. Now all of you will be able to hear him. King Agrippa, it will also be very good for you to hear him. As a result of this hearing, I will have something to write. 27 It doesn’t make sense to send a prisoner to Rome without listing the charges against him.”

Paul was brought before King Agrippa “amid great pomp” in order that they might try to find some guilt in him to charge him with.  As we read this we can imagine that in this situation Paul was a prisoner and would have appeared to be a very humble and unimportant man.

King Agrippa, Bernice and Festus are all mentioned here as part of the great pomp, and yet all these years later, which of these men have changed the world history forever?  The answer is Paul – the one who appeared to be a lowly nobody at the time.

In heaven, I’m sure we will be very surprised when we see some of the humble people whom God has esteemed as important

– ones  who have changed the world through pursuing God’s Kingdom.

May my heart be fixed on eternal things and not impressed by the things of this world.

Written by Shelley Witt

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Saturday 26 January, 2013

Acts 25:13-22

13 A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea. They came to pay a visit to Festus. 14 They were spending many days there. So Festus talked with the king about Paul’s case. He said, “There’s a man here that Felix left as a prisoner. 15 When I went to Jerusalem, the Jewish chief priests and the elders brought charges against the man. They wanted him to be found guilty. 16 “I told them that this is not the way Romans do things. We don’t judge people before they have faced those bringing charges against them. They must have a chance to speak up for themselves. 17 When the Jews came back with me, I didn’t waste any time. I called the court together the next day. I ordered the man to be brought in. 18 Those bringing charges against him got up to speak. But they didn’t charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they argued with him about their own beliefs. They didn’t agree about a dead man named Jesus. Paul claimed Jesus was alive. 20 “I had no idea how to look into such matters. So I asked Paul if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem. There he could be tried on these charges. 21 But Paul made an appeal to have the Emperor decide his case. So I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.” 22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear this man myself.” Festus replied, “Tomorrow you will hear him.”

We will all face trials because of our faith in Jesus – something the Bible refers to many times. Paul was certainly not immune to this. He found himself in prison on a number of occasions,

and in fact suffered physical, mental & emotional abuse as well.

The one thing I’ve learnt from Paul out of this story and others, is that he never lost hope or faith throughout these trials. He always stuck firm in what he knew his calling was. If it meant death, then it meant death (see verse 11 in this chapter). We even find him singing songs of worship and praise during one night

in prison.

My prayer is that I will never shrink back when sharing about Jesus. That my life would be a testimony of His Grace & love towards me – no matter what circumstances may dictate.

May I (all of us) be bolder in 2013 when we speak out Jesus name!

Written by Ps. Mandy Miller

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Friday 25 January, 2013

Acts 25:1-12

25 Three days after Festus arrived, he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem. 2 There the chief priests and Jewish leaders came to him and brought their charges against Paul. 3 They tried to get Festus to have Paul taken to Jerusalem. They asked for this as a favor. They were planning to hide and attack Paul along the way. They wanted to kill him. 4 Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea. Soon I’ll be going there myself. 5 Let some of your leaders come with me. If the man has done anything wrong, they can bring charges against him there.” 6 Festus spent eight or ten days in Jerusalem with them. Then he went down to Caesarea. The next day he called the court together. He ordered Paul to be brought to him. 7 When Paul arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many strong charges against him. But they couldn’t prove them. 8 Then Paul spoke up for himself. He said, “I’ve done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews or against the temple. I’ve done nothing wrong against Caesar.” 9 But Festus wanted to do the Jews a favor. So he said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem? Are you willing to go on trial there? Are you willing to face these charges in my court?” 10 Paul answered, “I’m already standing in Caesar’s court. This is where I should go on trial. I haven’t done anything wrong to the Jews. You yourself know that very well. 11 If I am guilty of anything worthy of death, I’m willing to die. But the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true. No one has the right to hand me over to them. I make my appeal to Caesar!” 12 Festus talked it over with the members of his court. Then he said, “You have made an appeal to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”

As I read this passage, I try to really, truly imagine what it is like to be in Paul’s shoes at this stage in Acts. The Jews in Jerusalem have managed to get hold of him and to bring him to Felix (meaning Cat) the corrupt Roman governor of Judea, just because he preached the gospel. Paul tries to preach the Gospel to Felix, but all Felix wants is to make money. TWO YEARS pass with no progress and eventually Felix loses his job because things in Judea become so much of a mess. I can just imagine Paul, waiting to meet the new governor, and I can imagine what is going through his head when he learns that the new governor is named “Porcus Festus!” (Which means something like “Party Pig!”

When the same Jews that seized Paul in the first place go even further and try to execute a plot to have Paul killed or further punished, Paul realises that Porcus will not be reasoned with and appeals to the highest worldly authority of the day – Caesar.

It is not clear why Paul makes this appeal. Perhaps though he could see that an appeal to Caesar would allow him to share the Gospel to people in the Roman government who could then be inspired

by the Holy Spirit to bring about change to the whole nation.

In placing myself in Paul’s shoes, I am inspired to reflect:

– Am I willing to risk legal proceedings, imprisonment or death for the Gospel?

– How is God testing my patience? How can I be more patient like Paul when he was in prison?

– Do I think strategically about my life and where my choices will take me? Is

this strategy gospel centred, or motivated by something else?

 

God, search me and help me to answer these reflective questions honestly. Help me to continue to draw closer to you. Amen

Written by Justin Ware

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Thursday 24 January, 2013

Acts 24:24-27

24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla. She was a Jew. Felix sent for Paul and listened to him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 Paul talked about how to live right. He talked about how people should control themselves. He also talked about the time when God will judge everyone. Then Felix became afraid. “That’s enough for now!” he said. “You may leave. When I find the time, I will send for you.” 26 He was hoping that Paul would offer him some money to let him go. So he often sent for Paul and talked with him. 27 Two years passed. Porcius Festus took the place of Felix. But Felix wanted to do the Jews a favor. So he left Paul in prison.

I find this a passage of frustrations.

Felix and Drusilla are open to hearing the gospel, but are unwilling to receive it. Felix recognises the danger he is in from God’s judgement, but continues to be corrupt (keeping Paul in gaol in the hope of either a bribe, or the political favour of the Jews). He’s afraid of judgement but won’t accept God’s rescue.

So for

two years Paul’s ministry is trapped in futility. If he were not a prisoner he would have shaken the dust from his feet and moved on. But he can’t.

What do you do in fruitless seasons like this?

Paul continues to patiently discuss the gospel with the unresponsive Felix. And eventually that season comes to

an end.

Written by David Cornell

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Wednesday 23 January, 2013

Acts 24:1-23

24 Five days later Ananias the high priest went down to Caesarea. Some elders and a lawyer named Tertullus went with him. They brought their charges against Paul to the governor. 2 So Paul was called in. Tertullus began to bring the charges against Paul. He said to Felix, “We have enjoyed a long time of peace while you have been ruling. You are a wise leader. You have made this a better nation. 3 Most excellent Felix, we gladly admit this everywhere and in every way. And we are very thankful. 4 I don’t want to bother you. But would you be kind enough to listen to us for a short time? 5 “We have found that Paul is a troublemaker. He stirs up trouble among Jews all over the world. He is a leader of those who follow Jesus of Nazareth. 6/7 He even tried to pollute our temple. So we arrested him. 8 Question him yourself. Then you will learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.” 9 The Jews said the same thing. They agreed that the charges were true. 10 The governor motioned for Paul to speak. Paul said, “I know that you have been a judge over this nation for quite a few years. So I am glad to stand up for myself. 11 About 12 days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. You can easily check on this. 12 Those bringing charges against me did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple. I wasn’t stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. 13 They can’t prove to you any of the charges they are making against me. 14 “It is true that I worship the God of our people. I am a follower of the Way of Jesus. Those bringing charges against me call it a cult. I believe everything that agrees with the Law. I believe everything written in the Prophets. 15 I have the same hope in God that these men have. I believe that both the godly and the ungodly will rise from the dead. 16 So I always try not to do anything wrong in the eyes of God and man. 17 “I was away for several years. Then I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for those who were poor. I also came to offer sacrifices. 18 They found me doing this in the temple courtyard. I had already been made pure and clean in the usual way. There was no crowd with me. I didn’t stir up any trouble. 19 “But there are some other Jews who should be here in front of you. They are from Asia Minor. They should bring charges if they have anything against me. 20 Let the Jews who are here tell you what crime I am guilty of. After all, I was put on trial by the Sanhedrin. 21 Perhaps they blame me for what I said when I was on trial. I shouted, ‘I believe that people will rise from the dead. That is why I am on trial here today.’” 22 Felix knew all about the Way of Jesus. So he put off the trial for the time being. “Lysias the commanding officer will come,” he said. “Then I will decide your case.” 23 He ordered the commander to keep Paul under guard. He told him to give Paul some freedom. He also told him to allow Paul’s friends to take care of his needs.

Paul was brought before governor Felix on false charges by Ananias the high priest, other Jewish leaders and a lawyer – a credible contingent to say the least.  This contingent suggested that Felix should question Paul for himself and then

he

would find out that the charges the Jewish leaders brought against him were true.  Felix did question Paul which revealed that the charges brought against him seemed to be fictitious.  Felix was then unsure what to do with Paul as he did not want to upset the Jewish leaders and deferred his decision until after he had spoken to commander Lysias.  All the while Paul was held under guard.

Paul was glad to defend himself in Felix’s court.  Paul recounted that he had only been in Jerusalem twelve days and hadn’t caused trouble in the temple as the Jewish leadership had alleged.  Paul also explained that he wasn’t with a crowd nor had there been an uproar.  He even brought gifts for the poor.  Importantly, Paul highlighted the real reason for the charges – different beliefs.  The Jewish leaders knew that Paul believed in the resurrection of the dead and that he was a very persuasive speaker – he needed to be shut down so they falsely accused him and brought him before governor Felix.

­Paul understood what he believed would cause division.  After all, our beliefs are central to who we are so we need to be able to understand and articulate them confidently.  At the same time Paul aimed to have a clear conscience in whatever he did for God or for people.  These are great aims for us to follow as well.

Lord please help me to be ready to explain what I believe in a humble manner. Help my actions to confirm what I believe too, Amen.

Written by Ainslie Woods

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Tuesday 22 January, 2013

Acts 23:23-35

23 Then the commanding officer called for two of his commanders. He ordered them, “Gather a company of 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen and 200 men armed with spears. Get them ready to go to Caesarea at nine o’clock tonight. 24 Provide horses for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.” 25 Here is the letter the officer wrote. 26 I, Claudius Lysias, am writing this letter. I am sending it to His Excellency, Governor Felix. Greetings. 27 The Jews grabbed Paul. They were about to kill him. But I came with my soldiers and saved him. I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. 28 I wanted to know why they were bringing charges against him. So I brought him to their Sanhedrin. 29 I found out that the charge against him was based on questions about their law. But there was no charge against him worthy of death or prison. 30 Then I was told about a plan against the man. So I sent him to you at once. I also ordered those bringing charges against him to tell you their case. 31 The soldiers followed their orders. During the night they took Paul with them. They brought him as far as Antipatris. 32 The next day they let the horsemen go on with him. The soldiers returned to the fort. 33 The horsemen arrived in Caesarea. They gave the letter to the governor. Then they handed Paul over to him. 34 The governor read the letter. He asked Paul where he was from. He learned that Paul was from Cilicia. 35 So he said, “I will hear your case when those bringing charges against you get here.” Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.

This is a passage which can be easy to skip through, after all, it is mainly a historical account of Paul’s movement, under guard, to Caesarea.

However, it engenders in me a profound sense of gratitude.  Paul has been tormented, humiliated and persecuted for his faith.  Here he is, having broken no laws of

the land, and yet he is being imprisoned for his faith in Jesus.

So many of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world are in the same situation – tormented, humiliated and persecuted for their faith. I am so profoundly grateful that it is not

me, or my family.

Father God, thank you that I have been born at such a time and in such a place as this.  Help me to continue to support those of my fellow believers who have not been so fortunate. Amen

Written by Ps. Jen Irving

1 (reply)
  1. Dina Reed says:

    This passage leaves me in awe of God. Every thing He does has a purpose, no matter how small or unimportant. The fact that Paul was from Cilicia, protected him at this moment, and has affected Paul’s life im many other ways. It is important to remeber that it is no accident that we are born in our family and our country. It is no accidents that we have the children God gave us. It all fits in God’s plan.
    Thank Lord for my family, my country of birth, and my home country now. Help me be you instrument in each of them.

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Monday 21 January, 2013

Acts 23:12-22

12 The next morning the Jews gathered secretly to make plans against Paul. They took an oath that they would not eat or drink anything until they had killed him. 13 More than 40 men took part in this plan. 14 They went to the chief priests and the elders. They said, “We have taken a strong oath. We have made a special promise to God. We will not eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin must make an appeal to the commanding officer. Ask him to bring Paul to you. Pretend you want more facts about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.” 16 But Paul’s nephew heard about this plan. So he went into the fort and told Paul. 17 Then Paul called one of the commanders. He said to him, “Take this young man to the commanding officer. He has something to tell him.” 18 So the commander took Paul’s nephew to the officer. The commander said, “Paul, the prisoner, sent for me. He asked me to bring this young man to you. The young man has something to tell you.” 19 The commanding officer took the young man by the hand. He spoke to him in private. “What do you want to tell me?” the officer asked. 20 He said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul to the Sanhedrin tomorrow. They will pretend they want more facts about him. 21 Don’t give in to them. More than 40 of them are waiting in hiding to attack him. They have taken an oath that they will not eat or drink anything until they have killed him. They are ready now. All they need is for you to bring Paul to the Sanhedrin.” 22 The commanding officer let the young man go. But he gave him a warning. “Don’t tell anyone you have reported this to me,” he said.

In this passage we see God’s sovereignty at work. In verse 11 of the previous passage God encourages Paul and tells him that he will testify about God in Rome. God uses the attack on Paul, and the Roman intervention to safely transport Paul from Jerusalem to Rome. Historically, Rome was the brutal enemy oppressing the Jewish people, and yet, in this twist, it is a Roman officer that saves Paul. Roman soldiers crucified Jesus, and now Roman soldiers defend Paul on his way to Rome to preach about Jesus. How amazing that Paul’s nephew should be in the right place at the right time to hear of this conspiracy against Paul: in this we see God using a nephew as part of His

plan to protect Paul. As Paul prioritised God’s kingdom and His righteousness God took care of Paul. I am encouraged that God is sovereign, He is in complete control, and He uses whatever means He chooses to bring about His will. God is unpredictable, I don’t know how He is going to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, but I know that He will do it. Lord, please help me to trust you and to rest in your sovereignty. Help me to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness today. Thank you for working all things together for my good. Amen.

Written by Beth Waugh

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