Thursday 30 June, 2016

Acts 6:8-15

8 Stephen was full of God’s grace and power. He did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 But members of the group called the Synagogue of the Freedmen began to oppose him. Some of them were Jews from Cyrene and Alexandria. Others were Jews from Cilicia and Asia Minor. They all began to argue with Stephen. 10 But he was too wise for them. That’s because the Holy Spirit gave Stephen wisdom whenever he spoke. 11 Then in secret they talked some men into lying about Stephen. They said, “We heard Stephen speak evil things against Moses and against God.” 12 So the people were stirred up. The elders and the teachers of the law were stirred up too. They arrested Stephen and brought him to the Sanhedrin. 13 They found witnesses who were willing to tell lies. These liars said, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place. He also speaks against the law. 14 We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place. He says Jesus will change the practices that Moses handed down to us.” 15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked right at Stephen. They saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Personally, I love the example that Stephen shows me in how to be a minister and a witness to Christ.

He was appointed to take a load of the other apostles by filling the very practical role of ensuring people’s needs were met.

But he didn’t just fill his role with a spirit of excellence, he ensured that he was filled with the Holy Spirit and took every opportunity to serve the cause of the early church with passion and zeal.

For me this shows that in the church, we are not only to serve a single role, but each of us are to be naturally supernatural and serve in a way that is powerful and active.

Lord, fill me with Your Spirit that I might have the wisdom, courage and power of Stephen in the way that I minister. From the mediocre and mundane through to the public and prestigious, may I carry the Glory of your presence with me to shine your light wherever I am.

Written by Ps. Justin Ware

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Wednesday 29 June, 2016

Acts 6:1-7

6 In those days the number of believers was growing. The Greek Jews complained about the non-Greek Jews. They said that the widows of the Greek Jews were not being taken care of. They weren’t getting their fair share of food each day. 2 So the 12 apostles gathered all the believers together. They said, “It wouldn’t be right for us to give up teaching God’s word. And we’d have to stop teaching to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven of your men. They must be known as men who are wise and full of the Holy Spirit. We will turn this important work over to them. 4 Then we can give our attention to prayer and to teaching God’s word.” 5 This plan pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen. He was full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon and Parmenas were chosen too. The group also chose Nicolas from Antioch. He had accepted the Jewish faith. 6 The group brought them to the apostles. Then the apostles prayed and placed their hands on them. 7 So God’s word spread. The number of believers in Jerusalem grew quickly. Also, a large number of priests began to obey Jesus’ teachings.

This passage reminds me that God has a ‘work’ for everyone – so we can all be part of HIStory.  A journey that outlives time as we know it on earth.

The message is that everyone of us are needed in the journey of others.  Each of us has a role to encourage each another in becoming fully devoted/obedient followers of Jesus Christ and using our gifts and talents to make a difference in the Body of Christ and the community around us.  We are to be people who reflect Jesus.

We see in this passage – that a leaders’ primary role is to pray and preach/teach the word of God.  However when each of us takes up the role God has for us – we operate as the BODY of CHRIST.  This attracts people to what we are doing and why we are doing it.

What amazes me is the experience of this early church, the pastors’ delegated the responsibility of a feeding program to spirit-filled, wise members = the church grew rapidly.  The  ‘actions’ of the church through a feeding program reached the Greek and Jewish communities, saved their priests (the leaders of the day), saved the people and transformed their communities.

C3 Carlingford does so many wonderful community projects and activities (see website).  Let’s believe together that these projects will reach into the community and bring many to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Thank you Father that each one of us is needed to transform lives and our community.  That you have a purpose for each one of us.  Help us to find that purpose and do it with all our might.  Jesus, Help us to be your hands, your voice, and your feet.

Written by Ps. Sue Botta

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Tuesday 28 June, 2016

Acts 5:27-42

27 They brought the apostles to the Sanhedrin. The high priest questioned them. 28 “We gave you clear orders not to teach in Jesus’ name,” he said. “But you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching. You want to make us guilty of this man’s death.” 29 Peter and the other apostles replied, “We must obey God instead of people! 30 You had Jesus killed by nailing him to a cross. But the God of our people raised Jesus from the dead. 31 Now Jesus is Prince and Savior. God has proved this by giving Jesus a place of honor with him. He did it to turn Israel away from their sins and forgive them. 32 We are telling people about these things. And so is the Holy Spirit. God has given the Spirit to those who obey him.” 33 When the leaders heard this, they became very angry. They wanted to put the apostles to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel stood up in the Sanhedrin. He was a teacher of the law. He was honored by all the people. He ordered the apostles to be taken outside for a little while. 35 Then Gamaliel spoke to the Sanhedrin. “Men of Israel,” he said, “think carefully about what you plan to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared. He claimed he was really somebody. About 400 people followed him. But he was killed. All his followers were scattered. So they accomplished nothing. 37 After this, Judas from Galilee came along. This was in the days when the Romans made a list of all the people. Judas led a gang of men against the Romans. He too was killed. All his followers were scattered. 38 So let me give you some advice. Leave these men alone! Let them go! If their plans and actions only come from people, they will fail. 39 But if their plans come from God, you won’t be able to stop these men. You will only find yourselves fighting against God.” 40 His speech won the leaders over. They called the apostles in and had them whipped. The leaders ordered them not to speak in Jesus’ name. Then they let the apostles go. 41 The apostles were full of joy as they left the Sanhedrin. They considered it an honor to suffer shame for the name of Jesus. 42 Every day they taught in the temple courtyards and from house to house. They never stopped telling people the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

The Pharisees desperately wanted to stop the apostles from telling people about Jesus. The apostles had filled Jerusalem with their teaching and made the Pharisees look guilty of the death of, not only an innocent man, but the actual Son of God. Consequently the Pharisees were furious and wanted to put the apostles to death.

Then Gamaliel, one of the Pharisees, steps in and says one of the most profound statements that resonates with wisdom some 2000 years later. “Leave these men alone…for if their purpose is from human origin it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourself fighting against God”.

Well, with the benefit of hindsight we see that Gamaliel was absolutely right. The apostles purpose in preaching the resurrection of Jesus was not from human origin and therefore certainly did not fail, but continues to live on to this day.

This actually gives me great comfort. I want to live my life right in step with His plan, but sometimes I find myself wondering if my pursuits are ‘from human origin’ or ‘from God’.  I think that the wisdom of Gamaliel can be applied to my life as well. If what I am putting my energy to is from human origin it will not stand the test of time, but if it is from God nothing will be able to stop it from coming to pass.

In the end, nothing can stand in the way of the plans of God, both for the world and for my life. There are often set-backs and obstacles along the way, and, of course, life does not always go the way that I think it should. But today I am encouraged by looking back on the history of the Big Story that I am privileged to a part of. Nothing will be able to stop it!

Written by Shelley Witt

2 replies
  1. Richard says:

    Acts 5:27-42

    Origins! Where does this come from. Peter & John were convinced of where their authority came from, the Jewish leaders were not, they were threatened. Gamaliel, a very learned man makes a suggestion to the Jews to hopefully prevent them working against God, to simply let sleeping dogs lie, to let this play out and if it was just another political play it would fizzle out, if not and was actually what Peter & John said it was then they would be foolish to oppose God.

    Paying attention to where things come from matters. As a Christian I want to pay attention to God and His ways, not simply my own thinking, desires and preferences. The Jews end up whipping Peter & John as they go, seemingly frustrated, perhaps as a deterrent, but the outcome is plain they take heart and redouble their efforts to serve the Lord.

    Whenever I am looking to do something whether from my own initiative or in response to someone else, I need to be careful to check upon whose authority I am acting, am I truly representing Jesus and have sought Him or am I simply doing my own thing.

    Father help me represent You without fear or favour and in so doing bring glory to You.

  2. Dimity milne says:

    Yes let’s be careful not to over step our authority ploughing ahead with great ideas without checking with the boss. God is wiser, he sees the outcomes that we can’t. Only his plans will succeed and endure. Without him we build a house of cards. The only mandate we have in ministry is to remain in communication with Him.

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Monday 27 June, 2016

Acts 5:17-26

17 The high priest and all his companions were Sadducees. They were very jealous of the apostles. 18 So they arrested them and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord came. He opened the doors of the jail and brought the apostles out. 20 “Go! Stand in the temple courtyard,” the angel said. “Tell the people all about this new life.” 21 Early the next day they did as they had been told. They entered the temple courtyard. There they began to teach the people. The high priest and his companions arrived. They called the Sanhedrin together. The Sanhedrin was a gathering of all the elders of Israel. They sent for the apostles who were in jail. 22 The officers arrived at the jail. But they didn’t find the apostles there. So they went back and reported it. 23 “We found the jail locked up tight,” they said. “The guards were standing at the doors. But when we opened the doors, we didn’t find anyone inside.” 24 When the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard this report, they were bewildered. They wondered what would happen next. 25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courtyard. They are teaching the people.” 26 So the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles back. But they didn’t use force. They were afraid the people would kill them by throwing stones at them.

The fearlessness of the disciples is amazing. The Jewish leaders are filled with jealousy, due to the signs and wonders being done (5:12-16), arrest the disciples & put them in gaol. An angel of the Lord releases them & instructs them to keep doing what they’ve been doing. Without seemingly missing a beat the disciples head back to the temple at dawn and continue.

The disciples prayed after their first release from being gaoled by the Jewish leaders Acts 4:29-30, “give your servants fearless confidence in preaching your Message as you stretch out your hand to us in healings and miracles and wonders done in the name of your holy servant Jesus. (Message) I’m reminded of the old adage “be careful of what you pray for ”. The disciples were living their prayer, they were bold, they were fearless & they couldn’t stop & God loved it! He was with them all the way, with signs and wonders and an angel to release them.

How much do I want God to use me? I’m wondering whether I’m too careful in what I pray for or not careful enough!? Do I really want to be fearless and bold, do I really want His hand to be stretched out to me to be used in healings and miracles or is it just a ‘nice’ thing to pray?

Jesus I’m sorry if I have been too careful in my praying, my expectations and limiting you. I think I’m afraid to ask for ‘fearless confidence’ but I want to as I don’t want to miss out on you and the plans you have for me, so Lord I ask for boldness to speak your Word & stretch your hand in miracles and healings in your name Jesus. Amen

Written by Suzie Hodgson

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Sunday 26 June, 2016

Acts 5:12-16

12 The apostles did many signs and wonders among the people. All the believers used to meet together at Solomon’s Porch. 13 No outsider dared to join them. But the people thought highly of them. 14 More and more men and women believed in the Lord. They joined the other believers. 15 So people brought those who were sick into the streets. They placed them on beds and mats. They hoped that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he walked by. 16 Crowds even gathered from the towns around Jerusalem. They brought their sick people. They also brought those who were suffering because of evil spirits. All of them were healed.

Solomon’s Colonnade was in the temple precinct and we find Peter and John and the other Apostles there preaching and teaching and healing sick people.  It is kind of like if you were to turn up to the Rod Laver Tennis arena and while on centre court there was a match between the first and twentieth seeds you were watching a game on one of the outer courts between an up and coming star and the fourth seed with the up and comer winning.  Then in the next round you watch this lady again rather than go to the centre court but this time you bring some friends and by the time of the fourth round there are more people watching this up and comer than the centre court game.  The organisers are getting more than a little annoyed because they have scheduled the ‘best’ matches for the centre court only for the crowd to make a different choice.  Think of the religious leaders for whom temple worship was the pinnacle – but now much to their dismay, there was a crowd regularly gathering at Solomon’s Colonnade to listen to people speak about the guy they had killed just a few weeks prior, and more than that people were getting healed and the crowds kept building!  Now people were coming from the towns around Jerusalem, not just from the city itself.  Things were getting out of hand!  And this is just the point – as the early church stepped out in faith – the people who did not have faith took notice and began to seek, began to have faith.

So how impacting is my faith – does it cause those who don’t have faith who surround me to begin to question, begin to seek?  Is my witness, in word and deeds, like healing, making a difference to those who surround me?  Where am I stepping out. These guys did so in the central place of Jerusalem.  What is the central place of those I associate with so I can be there and proclaim the truth about the God I love in word and deed.

Father give me boldness and favour as I witness of my faith in and love for You!

Written by Ps.Richard Botta

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Saturday 25 June, 2016

Acts 5:7-11

7 About three hours later, the wife of Ananias came in. She didn’t know what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me. Is this the price you and Ananias sold the land for?” “Yes,” she said. “That’s the price.” 9 Peter asked her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! You can hear the steps of the men who buried your husband. They are at the door. They will carry you out also.” 10 At that moment she fell down at Peter’s feet and died. Then the young men came in. They saw that Sapphira was dead. So they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 The whole church and all who heard about these things were filled with fear.

Sapphira had a chance.  Peter asks her point-blank “Is this the full price of the land?’  She had one last opportunity to come clean and say “we lied” and she chose to reject it.  This is a frightening story and harrowing reminder that God is not to be trifled with; that lying to the Holy Spirit is something that we should never do. It brings to mind the verse in Matthew 5:37 where Jesus says “Simply let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’, no. Anything else is of the evil one”.  How true is that?!

But even in the depths of sin there is hope. I am blown away by the grace and mercy of God. Even in the face of the darkness of Sapphira’s heart and the blatant conspiracy with her husband, God offers her one last chance. I have no doubt that forgiveness could have flooded Sapphira’s heart and she would have been spared the same fate as her husband had she accepted this final gift of mercy.

Oh Lord, have mercy on this wicked heart of mine.
Forgive me of my lies and help me let my ‘yes’ be yes and my ‘no’ be no. May my life forever be testament to your incredible ‘last-chance’ mercy.  Amen

Written by Boudy VanNoppen

2 replies
  1. Rosie Walker says:

    Our God is slow to anger and abounding in love … not wanting anyone to perish. Thanks B, it’s so good to start another day, one that will inevitably be imperfect, knowing Gods grace is covering my life – helping me serve him in love but covering my weakness and humanity.

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Friday 24 June, 2016

Acts 5:1-6

5 A man named Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, also sold some land. 2 He kept part of the money for himself. Sapphira knew he had kept it. He brought the rest of it and put it down at the apostles’ feet. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why did you let Satan fill your heart? He made you lie to the Holy Spirit. You have kept some of the money you received for the land. 4 Didn’t the land belong to you before it was sold? After it was sold, you could have used the money as you wished. What made you think of doing such a thing? You haven’t lied just to people. You’ve also lied to God.” 5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. All who heard what had happened were filled with fear. 6 Some young men came and wrapped up his body. They carried him out and buried him.

The context here is that the disciples of Jesus, this earliest of Christian communities, are sharing all their possessions. Ananias and Sapphira, who are wealthy people, also participate in this sharing. However, they lie about the proportion of their wealth they are sharing. They claim to be giving EVERYTHING away, but in reality they have held back some of their wealth for themselves. I assume they have lied because they wanted to appear good and generous in the sight of the Christian community, their new friends. But this is a great offence before God. It makes a god out of approval from people and diminishes God. Making a god out of approval from people will kill me, eventually. Life is only found in the one true God, who has poured his Holy Spirit into our hearts.

Lord, Holy Spirit, may my heart desire only your approval. May I rest in your love and enjoy your promise of faithfulness to me. Go before me that people may see that I honour you and your righteousness fills me. Lord, teach me to seek your approval alone.

Written by Andrew Mellor

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Thursday 23 June, 2016

Acts 4:32-37

32 All the believers were agreed in heart and mind. They didn’t claim that anything they had was their own. Instead, they shared everything they owned. 33 With great power the apostles continued their teaching. They were telling people that the Lord Jesus had risen from the dead. And God’s grace was working powerfully in all of them. 34 So there were no needy persons among them. From time to time, those who owned land or houses sold them. They brought the money from the sales. 35 They put it down at the apostles’ feet. It was then given out to anyone who needed it. 36 Joseph was a Levite from Cyprus. The apostles called him Barnabas. The name Barnabas means Son of Help. 37 Barnabas sold a field he owned. He brought the money from the sale. He put it down at the apostles’ feet.

I can never escape from seeing the powerful expression of relationship, and community, that is described in this text. There is such a beautiful trust, generosity, and security amidst this group of early believers. I’m sure things were not without difficulty and problem, but this description of church community stirs very powerfully the desires of my heart for real community. It makes simple sense – when people are generous and lend freely to one another, all barriers to relationship and challenges to authenticity come crumbling down.

No pretending. No hiding. No self-protecting or self-preserving. Open generosity. Free sharing. No one needy. Free distribution of generous giving to those in need. Beautiful!!! I am inspired and exercised by this text – if the Spirit of God brought such authentic community about in the first century AD, who am I to say it can’t happen again…and again…and again! I can see this text as an exhortation to me from the Spirit of God; “I am the same Spirit who indwelt these believers as I am in you and your people Rob. I can bring it about in an authentic and 21st Century way. I just need you to trust me. Seek me. And allow me to take the lead.”

God Almighty, no one can stop what you start. No one can thwart what you author. You will complete what you begin. You began your church over 2000 years ago, and you have every intention of completing this beautiful community. Making it glorious. God, I give myself completely to you, and say, “show me what I’ve got to do to bring this vision of authentic, generous, secure community about.” I want it, and I believe every human being deeply desires it. But I’m not going to avoid being responsible – I choose to do ask you what I must do to bring it about. Take my lead Lord!”

Written by Ps. Rob Waugh

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Wednesday 22 June, 2016

Acts 4:23-31

23 Peter and John were allowed to leave. They went back to their own people. They reported everything the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 The believers heard this. Then they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Lord and King,” they said, “you made the heavens, the earth and the sea. You made everything in them. 25 Long ago you spoke by the Holy Spirit. You spoke through the mouth of our father David, who served you. You said, “ ‘Why are the nations angry? Why do the people make useless plans? 26 The kings of the earth rise up. The rulers of the earth gather together against the Lord and against his anointed king.’ (Psalm 2:1,2) 27 In fact, Herod and Pontius Pilate met with the Gentiles in this city. They also met with the people of Israel. All of them made plans against your holy servant Jesus. He is the one you anointed. 28 They did what your power and purpose had already decided should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider the bad things they say they are going to do. Help us to be very bold when we speak your word. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal. Do signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. They were bold when they spoke God’s word.

I love Peter and John’s response after being released from the Sanhedrin. They immediately went back to their own people and told them what had happened, and the people began to pray fervently together, that the Holy Spirit would enable them to be bold, and that more signs and wonders would take place in Jesus’ name.

I am encouraged by this example because it is just what the church is meant to look like. When we are discouraged, challenged and questioned for our faith, how incredible it is to have people that we can go to who will call upon God on how behalf, who will support us in our faith. So often when our faith is challenged we can get discouraged and our immediate response is to withdraw, yet we can see clearly here that the support and prayer of other believers was so powerful. In this case, the Holy Spirit showed up big time, the building was shaken and all who were there were filled with the Holy Spirit, emboldened to speak the word of God.

May we be people who call upon other believers for support, and who willingly support and pray for other believers, that God’s name would be glorified. Amen!

Written by Madelaine Tarasenko

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Tuesday 21 June, 2016

Acts 4:13-22

13 The leaders saw how bold Peter and John were. They also realized that Peter and John were ordinary men with no training. This surprised the leaders. They realized that these men had been with Jesus. 14 The leaders could see the man who had been healed. He was standing there with them. So there was nothing they could say. 15 They ordered Peter and John to leave the Sanhedrin. Then they talked things over. 16 “What can we do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed an unusual miracle. We can’t say it didn’t happen. 17 We have to stop this thing. It must not spread any further among the people. We have to warn these men. They must never speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” 18 Once again the leaders called in Peter and John. They commanded them not to speak or teach at all in Jesus’ name. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right from God’s point of view? Should we listen to you? Or should we listen to God? You be the judges! 20 There’s nothing else we can do. We have to speak about the things we’ve seen and heard.” 21 The leaders warned them again. Then they let them go. They couldn’t decide how to punish Peter and John. They knew that all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 The man who had been healed by the miracle was over 40 years old.

Two things stand out for me. Both from vs 13.

#1. They were ordinary men. Nothing special, nothing unusual, nothing that would normally make them stand out from the crowd. Except #2. The authorities recognized that they had been with Jesus.

What gave that away? The way they talked? Their boldness or their words? The signs or miracles? The result of having been with Jesus was that people recognised that they had been with Jesus by the way they spoke, their actions etc. Time spent with Jesus influenced their behaviour.

So I ask myself, what do my actions tell others about who I have been spending time with? Are my actions and language of faith? Or are they actions of doubt, fear, worry etc. When I’m not spending time with Jesus it shows. I worry, I doubt, and I fear. But when I spend time with Jesus, my fears and worry go, and faith replaces doubt.

Spend more time with Jesus, time in His Word, time with the Holy Spirit and we become more like him and the people will recognise that we have been with Jesus.

Lord Jesus, as I spend more time with you in your Word, let the presence of the Holy Spirit change me, from inside out, so that people will recognise that I spend time with you.

Written by Andrew Martin

2 replies
  1. Richard says:

    What a fascinating passage where the power of God is on display right next to the power of tradition and politics. A clash develops between these two powers. Peter & John have effected a significant miracle that cannot be denied and are hauled over the coals for it. They experience significant push back by intimidating authorities. They hold their ground such is the strength of their convictions and belief in Jesus. When told to stop they simply ask others to judge the rightness of what they are doing, their conviction stands, they will do what God requires not man.

    This begs the question for me, where am I at in relation to powerful authorities when they say one thing and Christ calls it differently. I cannot simply use Jesus Name for my benefit to advance my causes, I know that, but what of His causes.

    Peter & John had shown they were about Jesus’ cause by the healing they brought. They were not so much political activists as Kingdom establishers and that is what I am called to do.

    Father help me stay true to Your call at all times, even when others seek to intimidate me if I do things they do not agree with but You do.

  2. Justin Ware says:

    The Sanhedrin was the court of the temple in Jerusalem. It had been granted political and judicial power by the Roman government to give the Jewish people who were under Roman occupation a sense of measured autonomy.

    The Sanhedrin would have been made up of people of great influence. People who had worked their way through a very complex legal and social structure to a position of great authority and great responsibility.

    Yet the way that they react to Peter and John suggests that their integrity was not completely intact.

    This leads me to reflect on how I would lead and manage in a similar situation where I had been given authority in a worldly domain and responsibility for maintaining order in an environment of opposing ideas.

    My reflections are quite convicting as I quickly realise that my focus is dangerously balanced between desiring to please people and desiring to please God.

    I know that my deepest desire is to please God alone, but I know that I also make poor decisions at times because I also want to please people.

    Reflecting on this passage, I can see that the Sanhedrin and the High Priest would have been seeking to maintain order in their society to please the powerful Roman Government. Claims of miracles and people being raised from the dead could lead to an uprising and an upsetting of the already unstable social fabric of their society.

    While I have found it easy to judge the Sanhedrin in the past, today I have realised that I struggle with the same inner failings that they did. My only advantage is that I have Christ and the Power of the Holy Spirit.

    Lord, help me to recognise when you are at work around me and help me to seek first Your Kingdom, to seek to please You above all else.

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