Thursday 30 April, 2020

Acts 15:22-29

22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. 24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.

In this passage, the Jerusalem council recognised the issues that faced the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. This was regarding salvation and Jewish practices. The council took action by sending the letter with official representatives, to acknowledge the diverse cultural differences between them. However, the key agenda of this letter was to bring the Holy Spirit into the picture.

This demonstrates the unity that the Holy Spirit brings amongst humanity. Believers naturally have different views on things in life – but this verse reminds us to be unified by the Holy Spirit as we walk by faith. The council brought the unifying presence of the Holy Spirit into the discussion, which was crucial.

God, I thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit. Please fill me afresh today and help me to walk in Your leading.

Written by Ps. Laura Samperi

1 (reply)
  1. Claire Moore says:

    Yes great word thanks Laura.
    The unity, not the practice, is of primary importance. This is still so important for the church today so that we can build each other and be effective witnesses. That is only by the Holy Spirit in our lives

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Wednesday 29 April, 2020

Acts 15:12-21

12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon[a] has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: 16 “‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’— 18 things known from long ago. 19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

What strikes me in this passage is how much God is the central actor in James’ understanding of what was going on. 

God first intervened, and God promised to return and rebuild David’s fallen tent, and the commentary goes on from there. I am fooling myself if I think I’m the central actor in all of this. I must heed the wisdom and Spirit-led discernment of one of the founding fathers of the church. God is doing His mighty, rebuilding, intervening work in human history, and he invites me and us to be a part of it. 

What an immense privilege. And what a helpful way to reduce, even remove, some of the tension that builds in me because I am not getting my way with the Lord. If I instead start my day here, with this wise understanding, I will walk with clearer purpose, with a clearer sense of my role in it all, and see for myself the might hand of God intervening in our corner of the world. 

Lord, bring it on. Continue to work out your salvation in our midst in this time in human history. You intervene because you love us, care for us, and we can’t do this life without your power at work in it! Thank you lord! 

Written by Ps. Rob Waugh

2 replies
  1. Howard says:

    I’m interested in others’ views of this passage. As far as I know, this command to the Gentile church by James was never removed, but then again, neither was it re-emphasised elsewhere in the NT. So, to my mind, I shouldn’t eat black pudding, blutwurst or other foods made with blood. What do others think?

  2. Claire Moore says:

    Amen Rob. God was bringing his chosen to himself, building his church, and his wonderful plan is so expansive it’s no wonder the apostles struggled. They responded to his call by the Spirit. I want that power afresh today so I am ready to respond to his call on my life, not be stuck in my normal narrow thinking. Come afresh Holy Spirit

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Tuesday 28 April, 2020

Acts 15:6-11

6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

What an encouraging passage of Scripture – God went before Paul and the Jews and their thinking about what is acceptable and not acceptable to God.  Grace and faith matter, not ritualistic observance!  I find myself thinking where have I added to the requirements of grace and faith?  Where have I asked for more than God does?  I am sure the people at the meeting were zealous to do the right thing by God, but sometimes our zealotry like theirs denies faith – it is almost a race to the bottom rather an inspiration to follow Jesus.  I can add nothing to His saving grace of any value.  So may I remember it is Christ alone!

Father search our hearts that we not place any impediment to following Jesus on anyone!  Help us to stay true and close to Your Gospel which brings freedom and peace!

Written by Ps. Richard Botta

1 (reply)
  1. Howard says:

    Amen! I learned most about grace when God continued to walk with me in my sin, rather than abandoning me, rejecting me or scolding me.

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Monday 27 April, 2020

Acts 15:1-5

15 Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. 5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

They weren’t saying they had to obey the whole law: just taking the sign of membership of God’s people, as the scriptures instruct. When they get to Jerusalem, even some of the believers tell them the same thing. Moses did it, why not the gentiles?

But in this seemingly small thing lies a really important issue. Paul explains his reasoning in the first half of Romans. The law was not given in expectation that we could fulfil it and earn salvation: it was given to show us that we fall short and can’t earn salvation. We are totally dependent on Jesus fulfilling the law by dying in our place. We can’t earn it, but God gives it freely. If we place ourselves under even a small part of the law again, we undo what Jesus did. If our salvation still depends on us fulfilling even a small part of the law, his death achieves nothing.

It was a big issue in the 1st century. It was a big issue in the 16th century reformation. It’s still a big issue today: many Australians, including people in Churches, believe that whether they go to Heaven depends on whether they have been good enough. There are many Australians who desperately need to hear the good news that Jesus was good enough for all of us.

I don’t like arguments, and it’s important not to be divisive. But sometimes there are questions that are so important we need to speak up. Father, please give me humility to know when to be quiet, your wisdom and courage to know when and how to speak, and your love for those who need to hear.

Written by David Cornell

2 replies
  1. Kerrie says:

    I love your prayer: “Father, please give me humility to know when to be quiet, your wisdom and courage to know when and how to speak, and your love for those who need to hear.”
    Amen!
    Thanks David.

  2. Howard says:

    Hi David, absolutely right. And, there is an interesting corollary that comes from this. God’s choice of Abraham and his descendants (ie Isaac, Jacob and the 12 tribes of Israel) as the chosen people must have been connected with this demonstration that the Law could not save. Now, if the chosen people were weak, or even just “average”, then their failure to keep the Law would not prove that no-one else could. Maybe, there was someone, somewhere who could keep the Law. But this is not so!

    Therefore, the Jewish people must have been selected as being MOST able to keep the Law. If they could not and can’t do it, then it is straightforward that none of the Gentiles can either. I am so glad I was not born under the Law. I am quite convinced I would have made a very big hash of it.

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Sunday 26 April, 2020

Acts 14:21-28

21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders[a] for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.

Paul and Barnabas spent much time in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Antioch preaching the gospel and making disciples.  They also made it clear to the believers that following Christ would not be easy hence the need for ongoing encouragement and discipleship.  Paul and Barnabas also committed themselves to praying and fasting for suitable leaders for the churches.  This shows the importance of Godly leadership. 

What strikes me in this passage is the importance of discipleship.  Paul and Barnabas invested a lot of time into the believers and establishing leaders.  On this occasion, interestingly, Paul and Barnabas started in Antioch and finished in Antioch.  In a way this reflects the cyclical nature of discipleship.  As disciples we receive guidance and encouragement in doing God’s will.  We then implement what we have been taught and then provide feedback to leaders who in turn encourage and help us again and so it goes.  What a blessing it is to be a disciple and also to have the opportunity to disciple someone else!

Lord we thank you for the wonderful process of discipleship.  May you continue to disciple people across your church. Amen.

Written by Ainslie Woods

3 replies
  1. Sue says:

    Thank you Ainslie.
    How wonderful to be a disciple of Jesus and have the privilege of disciple others.
    We never stop learning.

    • Florence Farjandi says:

      Dear Lord Jesus Christ, thank you because you choice me, please help me by your holy spirit, i be good evangelism, talk to people about you and your love, amen

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Saturday 25 April, 2020

Acts 14:8-20

8 In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. 11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. 19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.

I’m a sucker for Marvel movies. After watching one (think Iron Man, or The Avengers) I always spend a while feeling like I’M a superhero – that I should be out saving the world from the epic forces of evil. That is the power an inspiring hero has, and right now I feel this way about Paul.

In this passage, Paul is a true hero of the faith. We find him preaching in a foreign town, having wisdom to see a crippled man’s faith, demonstrating healing power in causing the man to walk, showing great humility in the face of overwhelming public love and praise, then after all that – enduring an unjust stoning by his enemies – nearly to the point of death!

What does it look like to be a sold-out follower of Jesus? I think Paul gives us some powerful examples here. To always have the gospel on your lips, to live a life of faith, to act humbly, and to trust God no matter the opposition. I pray for myself and for you reading this, that Paul’s powerful example would cause us to question how we’re living, and that we would find the courage and strength to live as Paul lived.

Jesus, thank You that You’re worth all we have to give and more. Thank You for not just telling us how to live, but showing us how – through your own life and the life of your apostles. Help us not to live a hidden Christian life, but like Paul, to be brave and courageous in living sold-out lives for You. Amen.

Written by Ps. Matt Samperi

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Friday 24 April, 2020

Acts 14:1-7

14 At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. 4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 5 There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. 6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7 where they continued to preach the gospel.

In reading this passage, these two phrases jumped out to me straight away: “…they spoke so effectively that a great number… believed” (vs 1) and “…speaking boldly for the Lord” (vs 3).

Paul and Barnabas faced conflicting responses in bringing the gospel to the Jews and Gentiles in the synagogue. Verse 1 highlights that much of their ministry was effective in leading people to Christ. However, this opportunity also brought considerable resistance from many of the Jews. Yet despite the division, Paul and Barnabas’ response was to “speak boldly” for the Lord and not be swayed. When the hearts of the Jews became so hard, Paul and Barnabas saw that it was time to relocate and not stop preaching, but continue spreading the Word of God to others.

I am encouraged as I think about how Paul and Barnabas approached evangelism. They spoke effectively and boldly. As I reflect, I ask myself the questions; How am I sharing the gospel with others? Am I being effective in seeing lives changed? Am I speaking boldly for the Lord no matter the response I get? Paul and Barnabas did not hold back from declaring God’s grace, but they also recognised when their audience was not receptive. This didn’t discourage them, as they moved on to the Lycaonian cities, and continued to preach.   

God, I thank You for the opportunities you give me every day to share Your truth. Please open my eyes to see where I can be more effective. Help me to have boldness and not be ashamed. I ask for wisdom and direction as I seek to lead people closer to You. In Jesus’ Name.

Written by Ps. Laura Samperi

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Thursday 23 April, 2020

Acts 13:46-52

46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you[a] a light for the Gentiles, that you[b] may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. 49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Chapter 13 begins with Saul and Barnabas being set aside by the Holy Spirit for the work that He had called them too. And here at the end of the chapter we see the blueprint for Paul’s ministry and the pattern for all who have followed in sharing Jesus to others.

Some will gladly hear and believe, others will oppose and reject not only the message of salvation but reject the messenger (us) as well.

Martyrdom & rejection have been the hallmarks of Christians sharing their faith for millennium.  Where equally others, (including myself) have said ‘no thanks’ to this rejection and have kept the salvation that we have received quietly to ourselves.

What has struck me most is the last verse (52) – that despite the persecution and being run out of town .. the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. With the hardship, the sweetness of the presence of God was there, both for Paul and Barnabas and the new believers.

This gives me courage, this gives me purpose. Remembering that the Holy Spirit is with me when sharing my faith.  I’m not out there alone!  This is His work not mine. I also know the feelings of joy within me that come when leading someone to receive Jesus, let alone hearing their testimony of the spiritual exchange that has just taken place. May I not forget this.

Father I’m sorry for all the times I’ve focused on me, the negatives of personal rejection when sharing my faith or speaking about Jesus to others. Holy Spirit I ask that you would remind me of the joy that will come as you lead and fill me to speak life and the freedom of Jesus to others. May your joy come.  Amen.

Written by Suzie Hodgson

2 replies
  1. Kim Fleming says:

    Amen Suzie. To share my faith without worrying about rejection, but having the HS fill me so I can block the rejection out & feel joy instead. Fantastic!

  2. Sue says:

    Wonderful to remember that it is a privilege to share the gospel. As we know we have been saved by it. That is a gift worth giving, even with rejection.
    Fill me with joy Lord!

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Wednesday 22 April, 2020

Acts 13:42-45

42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. 43 When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. 44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.

Some people heard the good news and wanted to hear more next week. Some couldn’t wait until next week. By next week everybody – Jews and Gentiles – wanted to hear. These all seem like reasonable responses. It’s excellent news. Who wouldn’t want to hear?

But another response is really interesting. Here are some Jews who, presumably, came because they wanted to hear the good news again. But when they see the crowd, they become jealous. Maybe they were just jealous that everyone wanted to hear Paul and Barnabas (and not them), but I suspect it goes deeper. After centuries of keeping themselves separate from the Gentiles around them, separating themselves as the people that God chose from amongst all the other nations for a special relationship, suddenly it’s for everyone. I suspect they didn’t want the good news to be for all those outsiders.

Their response is not only to reject the good news they came to hear but to try to take it away from everyone else too. Paul and Barnabas’ reaction in verse 46 (tomorrow) is significant.

I’m challenged not to forget what a revolutionary thing it is that Jesus came to redeem the whole world, to save everyone, even including me. I’m challenged never to place a barrier to anyone hearing that good news. I’m challenged that my heart needs to be as open as Jesus’ heart.

I love that (usually) we remind ourselves each week at church to make room for others. Yes, outsiders will change our church, change my life. It will become so much better as they become insiders.

Written by David Cornell

2 replies
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Tuesday 21 April, 2020

Acts 13:13-41

13 From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. 14 From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.” 16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 17 The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country; 18 for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; 19 and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years. “After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ 23 “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 25 As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’ 26 “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 27 The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. 32 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “‘You are my son; today I have become your father.’ 34 God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’ 35 So it is also stated elsewhere: “‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’ 36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. 37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay. 38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. 40 Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: 41 “‘Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.’”

This story takes place in a strategic military and administrative Roman colony, that was a major trading route to the coast of Syria and Ephesus. This pagan city, with a temple to Ascaenus, was also a strategic location to preach the gospel on Paul’s first missionary journey. Here Paul and Barnabas start preaching to the God-fearing Gentiles and many are saved.  Paul begins, by giving these people a complete history lesson of God’s redemption plan from Abraham to Jesus. Many came to believe and “the word of the Lord spread throughout the whole region”. (Acts 13 v 49)

What struck me about this passage is that these people were Gentiles (not Jews, not cultured in the stories of their history and the retelling of these through their celebrations) – yet Paul teaches this journey of God and His people to them.  He unfold the story of God on earth through His people and then through Jesus – they understand and have an encounter with Christ and they are saved.

It struck me – so often I wonder how to share Christ to certain people?  What is the best approach?  My testimony? History?  Yet, here Paul is able to reach these pagan people just sharing HIStory. The journey of God and His people – completely revealed in Jesus.

How well do I know the word of God and the stories in the Bible to share it so concisely?

Lord help me to share your word, your life, your history and your truth that those who listen will come to a knowledge and understanding of you. Help me and lead me to share with people where they are at and what they need to hear from you.

Written by Ps. Sue Botta

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