Saturday 10 September, 2016

Acts 28:23-31

23 They decided to meet Paul on a certain day. At that time even more people came to the place where he was staying. From morning until evening, he told them about God’s kingdom. Using the Law of Moses and the Prophets, he tried to get them to believe in Jesus. 24 Some believed what he said, and others did not. 25 They didn’t agree with one another. They began to leave after Paul had made a final statement. He said, “The Holy Spirit was right when he spoke to your people long ago. Through Isaiah the prophet the Spirit said, 26 “ ‘Go to your people. Say to them, “You will hear but never understand. You will see but never know what you are seeing.” 27 These people’s hearts have become stubborn. They can barely hear with their ears. They have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes. They might hear with their ears. They might understand with their hearts. They might turn, and then I would heal them.’ (Isaiah 6:9,10) 28-29 “Here is what I want you to know. God has sent his salvation to the Gentiles. And they will listen!” 30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in a house he rented. He welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He preached boldly about God’s kingdom. He taught people about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one could keep him from teaching and preaching about these things.

I read through this passage and marvel at Paul’s persistence and ongoing zeal. He was sharing the truth and yet so many did not believe him. I wonder if in quiet moments he reflected back on his own stubborn refusal of Jesus… I wonder if the knowledge that he had once been a Jesus hater but had become a Jesus follower helped him to have faith for others. Paul had spent time zealously imprisoning and murdering those who followed Jesus, surely if he could change, others could too. I wonder if he recalled the names and faces of the many people who had accepted Jesus, and drew strength from their stories of transformation. I wonder if in his conversations with God he despaired at people’s hard hearts, and God simply encouraged him to not give up… I don’t know how Paul did it, at the end of the day he was obediently doing what God had called him to and there was grace to fulfil his purpose.

Do I have Paul’s sense of zeal and purpose? Am I focusing on the visible outcome or on obedience? Who am I looking to for affirmation or to tell me ‘well done’? Am I focused on God or people?

God, please help me to be more like Paul, focused on obeying you, rather than pleasing people. Show me your purpose for my life and help me to surrender to it with a sense of expectation and trust. Amen.

Written by Beth Waugh

[comments closed]

Friday 9 September, 2016

Acts 28:17-22

17 Three days later Paul called a meeting of the local Jewish leaders. When they came, Paul spoke to them. He said, “My brothers, I have done nothing against our people. I have also done nothing against what our people of long ago practiced. But I was arrested in Jerusalem. I was handed over to the Romans. 18 They questioned me. And they wanted to let me go. They saw I wasn’t guilty of any crime worthy of death. 19 But the Jews objected, so I had to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not mean to bring any charge against my own people. 20 I share Israel’s hope. That is why I am held with this chain. So I have asked to see you and talk with you.” 21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea about you. None of our people here from Judea has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your ideas are. We know that people everywhere are talking against those who believe as you do.”

Unpopular

In the passage above Paul is speaking to the Jewish leaders in Rome.  He tells them he is a prisoner because he believes that Jesus is the Messiah.  Their response is “…the only thing we know about this movement is that it is denounced everywhere.”

I wonder sometimes how I would fare as a Christian if the whole world was against me.  Friends, family, work colleagues, local law enforcement, government, even the ‘church’.  Would I shrink back into the shadows?  I think I’d still believe in Jesus but would I practice my faith quietly?  Not Paul.  No fading into the shadows for him no matter how unpopular he became or how much persecution he had to face.  He even instigated a meeting with his accusers! V17  He remembered that Jesus already told us about this very thing “they will hate you because you follow Me.” Luke 21:17

I need a new way of thinking about being unpopular because of Jesus.  I need correct thoughts.  If everyone hates me simply because I’m a Christian – I’ve obviously hit a nerve.  I’m on the right track.  I’m a threat to the devil.  I’m a true disciple.  But it gets better!  I get the privilege of being identified with my Hero – Jesus.  What an honour to be a Christian of such quality and calibre that I cop flack from the world.  And not to mention the reward Jesus has waiting for me in heaven!  Luke 6:22.  Denounced and unpopular?  I hope so.

Jesus, please help me think rightly about persecution.  May I be counted worthy of suffering simply because I love You.  Please help me never to shrink back into the shadows but shine for You always.

Written by Boudy VanNoppen

1 (reply)
  1. Stephen Fell says:

    Thanks Boudy. Very thought provoking comments. Fear God above fearing man. This has many elements to it and you highlight one of them today. I am challenged by it.

[comments closed]

Thursday 8 September, 2016

Acts 28:11-16

11 After three months we headed out to sea. We sailed in a ship from Alexandria that had stayed at the island during the winter. On the front of the ship the figures of twin gods were carved. Their names were Castor and Pollux. 12 We landed at Syracuse and stayed there for three days. 13 From there we sailed to Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up. The day after that, we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some believers. They invited us to spend a week with them. At last we came to Rome. 15 The believers there had heard we were coming. They traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. When Paul saw these people, he thanked God for them and was encouraged by them. 16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself. But a soldier guarded him.

Paul’s missionary journey continues, from Malta, to what is now known as Sicily, then onto Rome, where finally he had arrived to a destination, that fulfilled what the Lord has spoken of. If we go back to Acts 23:11 “The following night the Lord stood by him (Paul) and said, “Take courage. For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.

Through all the hardship that Paul endured to get to Rome, including plots to have him killed, being shipwrecked after a perfect storm that lasted over 2 weeks, then being bitten by a deadly snake, he had arrived.

This makes me ponder the faith that Paul showed through these events, knowing that God had a purpose for him at a very important destination . . . the most powerful city in the world of that time.

I so admire his determination. He never gave up, or considered these harsh events in his journey as anything but stumbling blocks, not stone walls.

I am challenged as I write this, of the journey I am on. 2016 has not been the easiest of years for me, and yet it is part of the journey that God has, and is orchestrating.

Father, may I trust You more, and always be mindful that by remaining in You, the journey is not necessarily easy, but is as You design for me, for Your purpose. Amen

Written by Steve Fell

[comments closed]

Wednesday 7 September, 2016

Acts 28:1-10

28 When we were safe on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The people of the island were unusually kind. It was raining and cold. So they built a fire and welcomed all of us. 3 Paul gathered some sticks and put them on the fire. A poisonous snake was driven out by the heat. It fastened itself on Paul’s hand. 4 The people of the island saw the snake hanging from his hand. They said to one another, “This man must be a murderer. He escaped from the sea. But the female god Justice won’t let him live.” 5 Paul shook the snake off into the fire. He was not harmed. 6 The people expected him to swell up. They thought he would suddenly fall dead. They waited for a long time. But they didn’t see anything unusual happen to him. So they changed their minds. They said he was a god. 7 Publius owned property nearby. He was the chief official on the island. He welcomed us to his home. For three days he took care of us. He treated us with kindness. 8 His father was sick in bed. The man suffered from fever and dysentery. So Paul went in to see him. Paul prayed for him. He placed his hands on him and healed him. 9 Then the rest of the sick people on the island came. They too were healed. 10 The people of the island honored us in many ways. When we were ready to sail, they gave us the supplies we needed.

The story of the snake grabbed my attention. The lens you look at life through so impacts the way you read the events happening around you. Here Paul gets bitten by a deadly snake. His lens is one of faith and a certainty of God’s bigger plans for him – he sees this as simply an interruption so he shakes the snake off! The people watching have the lens of crime and punishment. Harsh gods who would send a deadly snake because Paul must be wicked, then, when he shakes it off and suffers no harm, that same lens says he must be a god.

God wants to shift our lens to always be one of faith, focused on his bigness. He wants me to be so confident in my call, and his plan for me that I don’t let anything distract me – so I recognise the enemy and shake him off. He also wants people to know that He is the healer, and so Paul gets the chance to show that prayer to the one true God is the only way to true healing.

Father, I know that you are the one who holds my life in your hands and you are the miracle worker. Give me wisdom and faith to shake off anything that would seek to derail your plans in and through me. Amen

Written by Rosie Walker

1 (reply)
[comments closed]

Tuesday 6 September, 2016

Acts 27:27-44

27 On the 14th night the wind was still pushing us across the Adriatic Sea. About midnight the sailors had a feeling that they were approaching land. 28 They measured how deep the water was. They found that it was 120 feet deep. A short time later they measured the water again. This time it was 90 feet deep. 29 They were afraid we would crash against the rocks. So they dropped four anchors from the back of the ship. They prayed that daylight would come. 30 The sailors wanted to escape from the ship. So they let the lifeboat down into the sea. They pretended they were going to lower some anchors from the front of the ship. 31 But Paul spoke to the commander and the soldiers. “These men must stay with the ship,” he said. “If they don’t, you can’t be saved.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat. They let it drift away. 33 Just before dawn Paul tried to get them all to eat. “For the last 14 days,” he said, “you have wondered what would happen. You have gone without food. You haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I am asking you to eat some food. You need it to live. Not one of you will lose a single hair from your head.” 35 After Paul said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God. He did this where they all could see him. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 All of them were filled with hope. So they ate some food. 37 There were 276 of us on board. 38 They ate as much as they wanted. They needed to make the ship lighter. So they threw the rest of the grain into the sea. 39 When daylight came, they saw a bay with a sandy beach. They didn’t recognize the place. But they decided to run the ship onto the beach if they could. 40 So they cut the anchors loose and left them in the sea. At the same time, they untied the ropes that held the rudders. They lifted the sail at the front of the ship to the wind. Then they headed for the beach. 41 But the ship hit a sandbar. So the front of it got stuck and wouldn’t move. The back of the ship was broken to pieces by the pounding of the waves. 42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners. They wanted to keep them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the commander wanted to save Paul’s life. So he kept the soldiers from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and swim to land. 44 The rest were supposed to get there on boards or other pieces of the ship. That is how everyone reached land safely.

Paul and his companions are on their way to Rome, where Paul is to stand trial. There is an incredible sense of impending disaster in this vivid account of a shipwreck recorded by Luke, when even the sailors lose courage and try to abandon the ship and its passengers to their fate. Quick thinking by Paul averts disaster and they make it through the night.

Paul is full of faith and trust in God in a situation that even the sea-toughened sailors see as hopeless. This leads him to encourage them to eat, looking ahead to their need for strength. Paul thanks God for the food before everyone, giving powerful witness to God’s provision. Even in probably the most desperate situation Paul had ever faced, he looks to thank and honour God. And he again prophesies that they will survive.

Looking for something to thank God for even when we are in a seemingly hopeless crisis turns our hearts back to him, and off ourselves. It reminds of his love for us, love that gave everything including his Son, a love that has no conditions. To me this doesn’t mean situations won’t be difficult or painful, or cost us emotionally, mentally, monetarily. These situations may not seem to be in the plan we thought God had for our lives. God has it in control, and we will know this and remember this, when we give thanks.

Father God, in my thankfulness I cling to you. Make my thankfulness be a witness to your love, that will draw my family, friends and colleagues to you. Amen.

Written by Claire Moore

1 (reply)
  1. Justin Ware says:

    Faith and leadership in a crisis are more precious than diamonds.

    It is one thing to have confidence that God is going to work all things together for good, but to have a situational faith like Paul here and also the leadership to be able to guide people through the crisis – this is when being a witness for Christ becomes incredible.

    Lord, grow new in my faith in you and a Godly leadership of others.

[comments closed]

Monday 5 September, 2016

Acts‬ ‭27:13-26‬ ‭‬‬

13 A gentle south wind began to blow. The ship’s crew thought they saw their chance to leave safely. 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 the 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 by the wind. 16 We passed the calmer side of a small island called Cauda. We almost lost the lifeboat that was tied to the side of the ship. 17 So the men lifted the lifeboat 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. So 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 tools and supplies 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.”

Talk about adventure! This section of scripture is so exciting to read and it is terrifying to put myself into the situation of a passenger on board this ship. Previously Paul warned those in charge that they should not proceed on their journey, that they would suffer great loss if they did… Even to their own lives.

Paul was right, they end up stuck in a massive low pressure weather system. But Paul continues to be directed by God and God reveals that though they will lose their boat, not person will lose their life. In this midst of fear and chaos, Paul is a mountain of strength for the crew and other passengers, he becomes a leader. He is able to be so strong and courageous because:

  1. He trusts in God, he gave up running his own life along time ago. Paul is down with whatever God has planned… Even if it means facing death.
  2. Paul knows that nothing can stop God’s plan.
  3. Paul knew that the next step was for him to see Caesar, he knew where he was going, so he wasn’t worried about hiccups along the way.
  4. He knows the power of God. The people Paul meets get over taken by the plan and power of God as well. Rather than Paul getting derailed by the plans of others, Paul sees God derail the plans of others so that only God’s plan may stand.

Lord God, may I trust you with my life, know the next steps I am to take, know that nothing will stop you and see your plan sweep over all around me. Amen.

Written by Andrew Mellor

[comments closed]

Sunday 4 September, 2016

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.

In this passage we have a very detailed description of part of Paul’s journey to Rome.

Travelling by sea at this time of the year (late Sept) was very dangerous and with each delay they were actually getting closer to Nov when shipping shut down for the winter as it was considered suicidal to sail after Nov 10.

Paul even warned the Captain in v10 that there would be trouble if they kept going, however the captain ignored him and the storm did eventually claim the ship, but not the crew.

There are times when the journey we are on appears to be dangerous, feeling very unsafe, like we are not going to make it. But God doesn’t promise to make it all smooth sailing, BUT he promises to never leave us or abandon us. It may feel like we won’t make it but we do, and we will. If we keep our eyes on God and have faith in him we can remain calm, like Paul, even when the storm rages around us.

Father I thank you that you will get us to the destination that you have planned for us, no matter how rough our journey is. Help me to always focus on you and to trust you with my whole heart.

Written by Andrew Martin

[comments closed]

Saturday 3 September, 2016

Acts 26:24-32

24 While Paul was still presenting his case, 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

[comments closed]

Friday 2 September, 2016

Acts 26: 1–23

26 Agrippa said to Paul, “You may now present your case.” So Paul motioned with his hand. Then he began to present his case. 2 “King Agrippa,” he said, “I am happy to be able to stand here today. I will answer all the charges brought against me by the Jews. 3 I am very pleased that you are familiar with Jewish ways. You know the kinds of things they argue about. So I beg you to be patient as you listen to me. 4 “The Jewish people all know how I have lived ever since I was a child. They know all about me from the beginning of my life. They know how I lived in my own country and in Jerusalem. 5 They have known me for a long time. So if they wanted to, they could tell you how I have lived. I have lived by the rules of the Pharisees. Those rules are harder to obey than those of any other Jewish group. 6 Today I am on trial because of the hope I have. I believe in what God promised our people of long ago. 7 It is the promise that our 12 tribes are hoping to see come true. Because of this hope they serve God with faithful and honest hearts day and night. King Agrippa, it is also because of this hope that these Jews are bringing charges against me. 8 Why should any of you think it is impossible for God to raise the dead? 9 “I believed that I should oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. So I did everything I could to oppose his name. 10 That’s just what I was doing in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests, I put many of the Lord’s people in prison. I agreed that they should die. 11 I often went from one synagogue to another to have them punished. I tried to force them to speak evil things against Jesus. All I wanted to do was hurt them. I even went looking for them in the cities of other lands. 12 “On one of these journeys I was on my way to Damascus. I had the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, I was on the road. I saw a light coming from heaven. It was brighter than the sun. It was shining around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground. I heard a voice speak to me in the Aramaic language. ‘Saul! Saul!’ it said. ‘Why are you opposing me? It is hard for you to go against what you know is right.’ 15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “ ‘I am Jesus,’ the Lord replied. ‘I am the one you are opposing. 16 Now get up. Stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you to serve me. And you must tell other people about me. You must tell others that you have seen me today. You must also tell them that I will show myself to you again. 17 I will save you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes. I want you to turn them from darkness to light. I want you to turn them from Satan’s power to God. I want their sins to be forgiven. They will be forgiven when they believe in me. They will have their place among God’s people.’ 19 “So then, King Agrippa, I obeyed the vision that appeared from heaven. 20 First I preached to people in Damascus. Then I preached in Jerusalem and in all Judea. And then I preached to the Gentiles. I told them to turn away from their sins to God. The way they live must show that they have turned away from their sins. 21 That’s why some Jews grabbed me in the temple courtyard and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this day. So I stand here and tell you what is true. I tell it to everyone, both small and great. I have been saying nothing different from what the prophets and Moses said would happen. 23 They said the Messiah would suffer. He would be the first to rise from the dead. He would bring the message of God’s light. He would bring it to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

I love the way Paul is always able to give a statement about his faith which is personal but also reasoned and scripturally supported.

I wonder how I would respond – would I be panicking trying to write the perfect outline? Paul allows God to lead him in telling his story, and he is able to spontaneously speak into the heart of the matter for King Agrippa.

Lord help me to be always ready to speak about my faith. Help me to ask for and recognise the opportunities you give me to share with others. Please help me to be able to speak in a way which is personal, scriptural, reasoned and speaks to the heart of my audience. Only you can do that through me.

Written by Megan Cornell

1 (reply)
  1. Claire Moore says:

    Yes thanks Megan. Paul points to hope being his reason for going on in the face of endless hostility. A hope of eternal life. That is so encouraging and something we need to share, thoughtfully as you say

[comments closed]

Thursday 1 September, 2016

Acts 25:23-27

23 The next day Agrippa and Bernice arrived. They were treated like very important people. They entered the courtroom. The most important military 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 everyone else here, take a good look at this man! A large number of Jews have come to me about him. They came to me in Jerusalem and also here in Caesarea. 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 on 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

1 (reply)
  1. Claire Moore says:

    Yes this is so true today in our world of celebrity. Humility is not seen as valuable but it brings honour to our amazing God. Thanks for sharing your insight Shelley

[comments closed]