Sunday 31 May, 2020

Acts 21:27-36

27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.) 30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Get rid of him!”

Once entering Jerusalem Paul tries not to draw attention to himself, he tries to keep things low key and fit in with current Jewish custom. To no avail though as he is recognised by some Jews and called out for “preaching against our people and telling them to disobey Jewish laws.”   Paul was beaten, a riot broke out and if it weren’t for the Roman commander arresting Paul he probably would have been killed.  There was so much commotion that the arresting officer couldn’t even determine what Paul had done.  All he could hear were the shouts “Kill him, Kill him!” Agabus’ prophecy of the manner in which Paul would be bound and handed over to the Gentiles earlier in this same chapter was fulfilled.

What happened to Paul did not surprise him, other believers tried to talk him out of going to Jerusalem but he persisted because God called him there. Paul’s obedience is striking.  He was also called out for challenging the status quo by preaching faith in Christ instead of obeying Jewish law as the way to be made right with God.  What Paul proclaimed – the Gospel, was counter cultural at the time and not everyone received it well.  Believers today face the same thing in that the message of salvation through Jesus is still not readily received by some.  It rubs them up the wrong way and they take offence. Nonetheless the apostle Paul stood firm and continued to declare what he knew to be true regardless of the consequences.  I am confronted and challenged by this.  God give me bravery to share my faith even if it is not always popular and help me to be obedient like Paul.

Dear Lord, although I will probably never face the ongoing opposition Paul did, please give me courage to share my faith even if it is not always welcomed and help me to be obedient. Amen

Written by Ps. Ainslie Woods

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Saturday 30 May, 2020

Acts 21:17-26

17 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. 18 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. 19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.” 26 The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.

As Paul returns to Jerusalem from his ministry travels he reports to the Christian brothers and gives them an account of what had happened in the time that they had been away. Luke says that Paul reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles. “What God had done.” These words hit hard to remind us that whenever we are working at something for God it is Him who is doing the work. Not us.

Certainly, in ministry there are many tasks to perform. We need to make plans, prepare materials, and organise people but always in the leading of God. We need to be following His lead and working with Him where He is working.

I wonder if this is always the way I see things or do I run ahead of God, coming up with good ideas and a tight timeline for when these must be achieved?

Dear God, please help me to slow down in my ministry and lean into you, asking where you are leading next, how to go about the next step and to hand over the reins to you. All of this Lord so that your name may be praised, and the glory given to you. Amen

Written by Jocelyn Petschack

1 (reply)
  1. Sue says:

    Yes a great question to ask each day –
    What has God done in me today?
    What has God done through me today?
    Who has God brought to me today?
    Thank you

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Friday 29 May, 2020

Acts 21:7-16

7 We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. 8 Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. 9 He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. 10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” 12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” 15 After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem. 16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples.

When I know a task is coming up I prepare. I plan my time, I learn what I need to know, I have my mind and body ready.

From the early warning in verse 4, to the vivid prophesy in verse 13, the Lord was preparing Paul and the disciples. Will they finish the race and testify to God’s grace, or try to hide Paul and themselves away, and retain the status quo?

Clearly this wasn’t easy for Paul, as we see his emotional reaction in verse 13. He wanted people beside him ready to stick to the task of sharing the good news. There are echoes of Jesus’ struggle here facing his fate with sleeping disciples for support.

What a powerful work the Holy Spirit is doing in his and the lives of those around him. From being compelled by the Spirit (20v22) to now being prepared by the Holy Spirit, it is just as Jesus prayed in John 16 v13 – the Spirit of Truth will guide us into all truth and he will only speak what he hears and will tell us what is yet to come. They did not have to run the race alone, unprepared, they had a Guide who would show them what glorifying Jesus really meant.

It is clear to me the Holy Spirit has prepared me for things in my life. Dissuaders have whispered into my heart or to be honest I have done my level best to veer off course at times. However, as I serve him, follow him and walk in his will for me (John 12 v 26), I am never alone, never unprepared. The Guide, the Holy Spirit goes beside me.

Dear Heavenly Father, you promise you will honour those who serve you. Rather than clinging to the safe, to the status quo, help me to walk in your will for me today as Paul did as he walked into Jerusalem. As you used him, use me today. Amen

Written by Claire Moore

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Thursday 28 May, 2020

Acts 21:1-6

21 After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. 2 We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. 3 After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. 4 We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 5 When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. 6 After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.

What stands out to me when reading this passage is the very first verse, which says “After we had torn ourselves away from them…”. This is referring to Paul and his companions ‘tearing’ themselves away from the leaders and elders in Ephesus as they head towards Jerusalem. I am drawn to this imagery as it causes me to think about why they had to tear themselves away? Why did they not want Paul to leave so desperately?

Paul‘s departure was so difficult for the leaders, because he had spent time investing into their lives and showing love to them. Paul exemplified what makes a good leader and disciple maker. He formed relationship with the leaders and they honoured and respected him greatly (e.g. Acts 20:37). Paul’s leadership challenges me to think about my leadership, both in church but also in my work, family, friends and everyday life. How am I leading people to Jesus, such that I’m making a significant difference in people’s lives?

Lord God, I thank You for appointing us to share your gospel. When You call, You equip, so I thank You for equipping me to point people to Jesus. Please help me today to lead with love and investment in those around me. In Jesus’ Name.   

Written by Ps. Laura Samperi

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Wednesday 27 May, 2020

Acts 20:25-38

25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. 32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” 36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.

Paul understood he had no time to waste. We have spent the last 2 years focusing at church on making disciples – and here is a perfect summary of just what that means. Clearly Paul has spoken the truth boldly, led by example and loved these people.

The question is, who am I doing these things with in my life? Am I speaking, living and loving like there may be no tomorrow? We cannot afford to put off our faith until later. Now is my moment. Just as Paul is speaking about the end of one season with his audience, so too are we living in ‘uncertain times’. That does not mean we should be afraid and anxious.  Instead I need to be bold, loving with those in my world, just as Christ loves me every single day. 

Jesus, thank you for all that you have done and are doing still because of your great love for me. Show me where I can be bold today. Help me Lord to love fearlessly. My I be a blessing to your kingdom by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank you Jesus! Amen

Written by Christine Knight

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Tuesday 26 May, 2020

Acts 20:17-24

17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

In this passage, Paul is on his way to Jerusalem, where the Holy Spirit has told him many times that jail and suffering lie ahead for him. If Paul had decided that this journey was going to take a long time, then I don’t think anyone would have argued with him. But is seems here that at this particular stop that he has had to defend his ministry.

And his defence is simple. That he has always spoken the truth to everyone, and that his message is the same regardless of whether they were Jews or gentiles.

All of us need to have someone like Paul in our lives. Someone who will not shrink back from telling us the truth. That might not necessarily be what we want to hear, but we always need to hear the truth, even if it makes us uncomfortable.

I am thankful for all the people who have spoken the truth to me, whether it was what I wanted to hear or not. But the truth is what I always need to hear. The truth has encouraged me when I’m down. The truth has redirected me, re-aligned me, and always encouraged me.

Speaking the truth with love, no matter what, is more important than how the message is received. Speak the truth, and let the Holy Spirit look after the one receiving it.

From the Message: Every truth and encouragement that could have made a difference to you, you got.

Father I thank you for all those who spoke the truth to me. Bless them and encourage them as I have been blessed and encouraged. Help me to faithfully speak the truth always.

Written by Andrew Martin

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Monday 25 May, 2020

Acts 20:13-16

13 We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot. 14 When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Chios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. 16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.

On first reading, this passage sounds like part of Great Aunt Hepzibah’s travel diary with a few unnecessary details. But thinking and praying about it have helped me get more out of it.

The first thing that strikes me is how real this is. Someone inventing this wouldn’t bother to include details such as Paul walking to Assos while his companions went by ship. The ‘we’ language shows that Luke (the author of Acts) was there with Paul and is giving an eyewitness account. All of this really happened! It is not just a story.

The second thing is Paul’s eagerness to get to Jerusalem – so much so that he avoided going into Ephesus, where he had many friends. Paul was going to see the elders in Jerusalem to report all that had happened on his missionary trips in Asia Minor and Greece. He was warned that hardship would await him there, but he hurried on, so he could get there before Pentecost. Why was he so eager?

Paul’s missionary trips had helped spread the gospel, and he was eager to return to Jerusalem and share the joyful news of all that had happened. Before Jesus, Pentecost, known as the Feast of Weeks, celebrated the firstfruits of the wheat harvest. Now Paul was coming with joy to celebrate the harvest of souls instead. I’m sure he rejoiced at the changed significance of this feast, and in all that God had done.

I am reminded that there is so much joy in being used by God and fulfilling what he has asked me to do, even in the mundane things like Paul’s travel.  And there is so much joy in sharing that with my brothers and sisters in Christ. It has reminded me to open myself to Jesus and ask him to use me, and then rejoice in what he has done with my faith community.

Lord Jesus, I give myself afresh to you today. Help me to be eager like Paul – eager to do your work, and eager to share the joy of that with my church family.

Written by Megan Cornell

2 replies
  1. Justin says:

    I am so thankful that the specific island and coastal destinations that Paul, Luke and others travelled is recorded here. At the time that Luke recorded this, these would have been small towns and regional centres serving travellers as they made their way along the Mediterranean coast. A melting pot of belief and value systems existed under the Roman rule that allowed diversity, as long as all people were still happy to (verbally at least) acknowledge that “Caesar is Lord”

    200 years later, this area was a majority Christian area, and 250 years later the formal religion of the Roman empire was Christianity!

    It astounds me that in the ancient world, where people tended to follow the religious and cultural traditions of their ancestors, stretching back scores of generations, that the impact of the Gospel could be so rapid and so universal.

    Thank You Lord that the power of Your Holy Spirit continues to be at work today. In our culture and society, help us to be effective like Paul, in the way that we share the Good News about Jesus.

  2. Sue says:

    Wonderful insight Megan
    It is delightful to me that the Bible is written as letters to friends…there is a lovely “casualness” about the journeys.

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Sunday 24 May, 2020

Acts 20:7-12

7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.

All is well that ends well… and because the story ended well, surely Paul was ribbed about this incident in jest by his travelling companions. “Remember that time you literally bored a poor boy to death”… they all laugh. Truth is, the moment would have been absolutely horrifying and the relief amongst the group of listeners at the young man’s return to life would have been tangible.

Paul thought he would not be in this town for even 24 hours, so he uses literally every hour he has and speaks until break of day about the glorious good news, that Jesus is King and Saviour of the entire world.

Lord, may I never cut short the ‘call of duty’ you have on my life. Whenever and wherever I have the opportunity to reveal the Kingdom of Christ may I do it to the full, in word and deed.

Written by Andrew Mellor

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Saturday 23 May, 2020

Acts 20:1-6

20 When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. 2 He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, 3 where he stayed three months. Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia. 4 He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. 5 These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. 6 But we sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.

Have you ever been tasked with a quest to complete? Maybe you were tasked with fulfilling a shopping list for the weekly family groceries? Or you were tasked with a university group assignment? or perhaps you had to climb up a tree to retrieve a cat that was stuck in the neighbour’s tree? These don’t really seem like quests do they, they are more like tasks that seem pretty menial and that could be completed by someone else. Someone else could buy the groceries, someone else to fill your spot on the uni group assignment and yes you could call the fire brigade to get that cat down!

A real quest seems like what Paul was doing when he travelled all around; here in this verse it mentions Macedonia and Greece. Paul had an ordained quest from God. He knew what he had to do. He had to visit certain places, speak to certain people and give them specific words of encouragement. He knew ahead of time what his end would be, it had been prophesied many times and he was aware of how important his quest was: He knew it would be his last time meeting these people before his capture and arrest.

We may think that our days tasks or work fail insignificance compared to the work of Paul. But perhaps others around you don’t think so. Maybe that word of encouragement you gave or that message or that gift or that important work document was particularly significant to them. Perhaps we need to be reminded that we are all significant in God’s eyes and we have been put here with a purpose to fulfil just as Paul was given. Paul was given God’s quest to complete for his life and he completed it. If you are doing work or tasks in the name of Jesus, with love, compassion, truth, humility and honesty then you are doing God’s quest for your life. 

Dear heavenly Father remind us of our significance in your eyes. All our works are seen by you and are not invaluable. Thank you for giving us Paul as an example of a man who earnestly followed your will. Amen.

Written by Susannah Ware

1 (reply)
  1. Claire Moore says:

    yes that’s so true. Being the faithful servant Paul blessed so many as he went. I love the way his friends go along to support and arrange things. I can imagine their conversations at night after the day’s events and them growing in the Lord as they traveled with Paul. Amazed by miracles, encouraged by Paul’s faith in the face of death and opposition. What a privilege it is to do this christian life with friends who stand alongside or go ahead as needed, who share words of wisdom or just listen. Thank you God you choose me to be “bringing your kingdom ” in my world and for the blessing of travelling this journey together. Amen

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Friday 22 May, 2020

Acts 19:23-41

23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” 28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater. 32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34 But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

In this passage, we see that Demetrius was a very successful business man, a silversmith making shrines for his god Artemis and he is worried that Paul will change all of this. Demetrius was focused on making money and protecting his livelihood – “let’s protect the reputation of our god and our industry” (v27). It seems good and spiritual but it’s misguided. It reminds me of another verse: having a form of godliness but lacking power (2 Tim 3:5).

Paul is also a man who has a lot of success and is influential – he persuades many people throughout the whole region to turn to Christ. Yet, he lives very differently to Demetrius. He doesn’t worry about God being discredited or robbed of His majesty. He is not focused on protecting his own livelihood but making sure people hear the truth.

How can Paul live this way? Paul’s confidence comes from knowing who God is – unchanging in nature and ruler over all. This confidence and reliance on God enables him to live a life of influence and authority. And we see the impact of this.

This passage causes me to reflect on my own life – do I live like Demetrius, have elements of spirituality yet lacking confidence and power? Or do I live like Paul, resting solely on God’s unchanging nature and sovereignty?

Lord, God, help me to know You more, as You truly are, so that I too may be at peace and live with confidence in changing circumstances.

Written by Gab Martin

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