Food for the Soul
Food for the Soul
6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
If someone said to me that they believed that the Holy Spirit was preventing them from preaching the gospel in a particular place, I would have a hard time accepting that. I mean, doesn’t God want the gospel preached everywhere? And not just preventing them from one place but another as well? That doesn’t fit with how I expect the Holy Spirit to move.
But that is the issue. I can have my own expectation of how I think God will lead me. And because I have these expectations, is it possible that I have tried to do something that I believed God wanted me to do, but was not in tune with the Holy Spirit and missed what HE wanted?
This is not about self-criticism, but rather being open to God saying no to a good thing because he had a different and better plan for me.
Not too get paralysed by always questioning whether something is perfectly right or not, but in Paul’s case, I expect there would have been clear signs that it was God saying no. So instead of pushing through opposition, to ask is this opposition from God or not? And let that be a factor in determining the direction I take when serving God.
And Paul’s response can teach me. If I can’t do one thing, then try something else and keep trying until it is clear that this is the direction God has planned.
It’s better than doing nothing, waiting for a door to open that God has no plans to open.
Father, I thank you for giving us the Holy Spirit to be our guide. Help me to be more in tune with the Holy Spirit so that I can follow your plans for my life.
Written by Andrew Martin
16 Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.
What an ordinary start to a significant partnership. Paul comes to Lystra, Timothy lives in Lystra, the people of Lystra and Iconium speak well of Timothy, Paul hears about it, I imagine Paul spends some time with Timothy and then Paul asks Timothy to join him on his journeys. From this account there is no dramatic vision, just a normal relational process – people networking – that leads Paul to begin a friendship with one whom he would go on to call his spiritual son.
Am I leaning into relationships with expectancy? Am I leaning into the everyday of life with expectancy? Am I trusting that you God will use many of the ordinary things of life for significant purposes?
Please help me to begin the day in faith, and to maintain an attitude of expectancy throughout the day and week ahead. Amen.
Written by Ps. Bethany Waugh
36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
As I write this, we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Our daily news feeds bombard us with difficult and fearful information that can make us feel like God is not in control of this world.
As believers, we need to remind ourselves of examples, both in our own personal experiences and in the bible, where God has the last word.
The bible narrative that we are reading today is one such example of God turning something that looks like a problem into something that was part of His bigger plan.
Paul and Barnabas have a dispute over whether they should take Mark with them on their next ministry journey. Their disagreement is so strong that they decide to part ways and go in two different directions.
Oh no! The break-up of the ‘dream team’ Paul and Barnabas – that’s bad, right? Evidently not, as Paul, with his new mate Silas, and Barnabas with his mate Mark were able to multiply their work by going to different locations.
As a side note, is obvious that the dispute did not last forever. Paul later writes concerning what a blessing Mark was to him and he said, “Please send Mark as quickly as possible. He’s been such a blessing to me” (II Timothy 4:11).
We do not downplay the challenges that many are facing at this time, but I am so grateful that God is in control of this world, and that NOTHING – not sickness, and not even death is able to separate us from His love through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Written by Shelley Witt
30 So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. 32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. 33 After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them.  [a] 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.
Stepping outside what I see with my natural sight to connect with and encourage other believers isn’t something that comes naturally to me.
My incredible wife has an amazing ability to think of people who we haven’t seen in ages. She remembers dates like anniversaries and birthdays of friends who live overseas and makes a point to write to them or call or message.
But I have always been the sort of person where if something isn’t right in front of me, I’m probably not going to think of it.
But in this season of social distancing and isolation, I’m trying to be more like the, Paul, Silas, Barnabas and Saul; stepping out of my comfort zone to bring connection, fellowship and encouragement by trying to call or message at least 10 people who I wouldn’t normally connect with per day.
Lord, In this season where the church isn’t able to physically gather, I wonder if we are able to maintain the unity of the church community if everyone rises to the challenge of making connections outside their normal group of friends, or beyond those they see on Facebook? Lord help your church rise to the challenges that are ahead!
Written by Ps. Justin Ware
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper. 6 They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, 7 who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. 9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? 11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.
There are three characters in this
1. Elymas the sorcerer – was blinded by God at Paul’s command so he could ‘see’ what he was doing.
2. Paul the Apostle – was blinded by God on the road to Damascus so he could ‘see’ Jesus.
3. Sergius Paulus the proconsul – who was blind but witnessed the reality for God in Paul and Silas. He saw and believed.
Oh Lord, I pray that our Nation, who are blind right now – blind in sin and brokenness and utterly lost. Awake! See the Lord Australia! See your fate without Him and turn. See the One who loves you! See and believe.
Written by Boudy Van Noppen
13 1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Here is the beginning of Saul and Barnabas’ ministry to the Gentiles (people who were not Jews.) I noticed how God had been leading his church to this point, from the vision to Peter (chapter 10), growing his church in a largely Greek city (Antioch), and bringing believers into the church from diverse backgrounds (Barnabas from Crete, Simeon and Lucius from northern Africa, Manaen from the inner Roman ruling class, Saul(Paul) from the Jewish religious elite – what a bunch!)
This church was equipped, ready for action for God. So are we, but are we ready for action?
The context of this event is persecution (chapter 12). How easy to look inward, build up their local congregation, stand strong together in the face of opposition and fear. It’s clear to me that they had been listening to God and leaning into him. Their leaders were focussed on God and his will, not their own security and needs.
When things are going wrong in my life I need to resist the urge to bunker down and rely on myself. My help is in the Lord, and coming together with his church encourages me to pursue him.
I pray for our leaders that their focus will continue to be God’s work beyond us, to be tuned into the Holy Spirit’s direction. I pray that each of us will be ready to respond as Barnabas and Paul did, not hesitantly, but knowing that the work he wants us to do is His purpose for us. We know Paul and Barnabas go on to do incredible things for God, clearly work they were made for. I don’t want to miss out on my purpose.
Dear Father God, thank you that you answer our prayers, whether they are cries of desperation or quiet whispers. I pray for our leaders that you build up their courage and seeking after you.
Written by Claire Moore
Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there. 20 He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. After securing the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply. 21 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” 23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. 24 But the word of God continued to spread and flourish. 25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.
I can easily succumb to a bad mood when woken early in the morning by one of my children, the garbage truck or my neighbour mowing his grass.
I am not traditionally an early riser and staying in bed seems like a far better option to me most of the time. But when I do rise and shine, have coffee, open the window blinds and see the light from behind the darkness, my mood generally lifts. I forget what was behind in the night/early morning and focus on the day ahead.
At times my mood can shift and sway with the rhythms of my day, and sometimes things that are unsettling me come to me to bother me. Seasons of my life can easily sway my mood. Seasons of my life have seemingly been impossible, impractical, expensive, tiring and unobtainable. Sometimes I want God to change my situation easily forgetting that God is trying to use my situation to change me. Does that ever happen to you? God using tough situations and turning them into attributes that strengthen you?
As the chapter 12 of Acts began Herod was on a rampage. He had arrested many Christians, imprisoned Peter and executed James. As the Chapter ends, Peter is free again, Herod is dead and the gospel is spreading. Despite all of what is happening “the word of God continued to spread and flourish”.
Holy Spirit…I love the use of “But the….” In the bible. It reminds me that despite everything difficult, the word of the Lord stands forever and nothing can separate me from His love. I pray that we can all remember that through tough times we can be steadfast and call on the Almighty Father for help and perspective. Amen
Written by Susannah Ware
12 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. 11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.” 12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” 15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” 16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place. 18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed. Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.
As one body, the church is earnestly praying for Peter’s release. Yet when Peter turns up their response is complete surprise and disbelief. God actually answered our prayer!? In this same passage though another brother in the faith, James, is executed. Peter’s guards, powerless before Gods purposes, are also executed.
Recently I started a practice of two columns in my prayer journal. In one column I make note of my ‘thank yous/praise points’ and in the other note of my ‘prayer points’. And at the end of the month I look back over the columns. I have been amazed at the prayers God has answered. This has sparked new praise in me as I thank God not only for the answer to prayer but also that He let me be part of his work through praying!
But this has also given me a chance to wrestle with God over the prayers He hasn’t answered the way I expected. And it’s brought me again and again to the place of Jesus before the cross. Jesus prays ‘may this cup be taken from me’, but God the Father does not answer by sparing His Son the cross. Instead, knowing the cross was the only way to have us, Jesus then prays ‘yet not my will but yours be done’ and dies for our sakes (Luke 22-23).
Dear God thank you that you hear the prayers of your people. Thank you that you allow us to be part of your incredible work in this way. Thank you that we can trust the answer, no matter what it is.
Written by Rhiannon Mellor
27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
Here we see a beautiful picture of the body of Christ at work. The church in Antioch (predominantly Gentile) was planted by Jewish believers from Jerusalem. There is unity in the body despite the Jewish and Gentile believers having very different backgrounds – something remarkable in itself.
We see the body at work – Spiritual gifts were freely being used. Christians from Jerusalem had come to Antioch to encourage and build up the newer Christians, and the Christians from Antioch willingly, quickly and generously responded to the need in Jerusalem.
This prompts me to ask myself a few questions:
Heavenly Father, I want to do your will. I want to be the part of the body that you made me to be. Please help me to use the gifts you’ve given me. Help me look for and respond to opportunities to build others up – no matter who they are or how mature they are. Amen
Written by Megan Cornell
19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. 22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
As I am writing this, Australia is in the middle of a pandemic that has changed our normal way of life. One of these changes is that people are no longer meeting in groups to worship or go to church. While new and tricky, this is a step that is helping to keep our congregations and our nation safe. I wonder if this is how the early believers felt when faced with having to change the way they lived due to the rise of persecution. A pandemic is certainly not the same as persecution, however our current situation has led to us being ‘scattered’, unable to physically come together for a period of time.
As we navigate this, I am reminded of two key things from this passage:
1. The Church is not, and never has been, a building.
Just as the believers of the early church were scattered and needed to minster in different places to different people, we too can minister to others even if we currently cannot gather in the same room. We may not be able to come together physically under one roof, but we are still the Church! Finding new ways of meeting, via online services and through the use of technology, still allows for God’s word to go out and be shared to new and vast groups of people, and His Word does not return void! (Isaiah 55.11)
2. God is still God, and He is all powerful.
In this passage, we see that the Lord’s power and grace was with His people and this caused them to be able to minister to others in such a way that many people believed in Him. Barnabas is also described as a man full of the Holy Spirit and faith. Even in the midst of what is an uncertain and unpredictable time, we can rest in the fact that God is all powerful, and that by His grace He will give us the faith we need to continue to fulfil all that He has called us to. This doesn’t mean that we should be foolish, but it does mean that through faith in God, we can find peace and rest. It also means that we can depend on God to do what only He can do, as we surrender to Him.
God, what uncertain times we find ourselves in! Yet how great it is to know that none of this takes you by surprise. You have always been, and continue to be, all powerful. We thank you that the Church was always your idea, and that we are not limited by the four walls of a building. Rather, we are your people, here to do your will and spread your goodness, love and mercy to those around us. Help us to be a people who surrender to you, who find peace in you. Amen.
Written by Ps. Madelaine Tarasenko
11 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ 8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again. 11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’ 15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
V 18 msg: “God has broken through to the other nations, opened them up to Life!”
God always prepares us. I think of Peter a devout Jew and then born again through Christ, however still culturally Jewish. He would have held mindsets and traditions of people and animals that were “unclean” to him. Traditions going back centuries that would have separated him from sharing the gospel with everyone.
God prepares Peter with a vision. God prepares Cornelius with an angel. The two come together after a 54 kilometre journey (Joppa to Caesarea) and the Holy Spirit falls on them all. He had barely spoken a few words and this powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit in their lives brings these unknown people together, now as “God’s family” – brothers and sisters.
God loves the cultures and the people of this world. He wants us to be willing to get out of our comfort zones and reach EVERYONE.
I have prayed for years for the people of Iran. Having lived there as a child, I now see in our church answers to my prayers. We have 60+ Iranian believers in our church and the privilege of journeying life with them. So my prayer is that our church would look like heaven – we would have one from every nation of the world.
Lord help each of us not to look at what divides us or what is different about us, but help us to embrace you and one another in the midst of our journeys. Help us to reach out to others no matter where they come from on the earth. Give us your heart of love and peace.
Written by Ps. Sue Botta
34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. 39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” 44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues[a] and praising God. Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
God shows no favouritism. He loves each and every one of us. He wants us to grab His outreached hand and to walk with Him. He showed this approach in the time after Jesus was crucified. He blessed all types of people with the skills needed to share the love He provides. He gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit. He didn’t keep His gifts for some but not others. He does this today as well. He created us to do what Jesus did – to bring love and blessing to those around us, to love like God loves us. These people got to see what it was like to walk with God daily through watching what Jesus did. We have the pictures painted here in the Bible to see the same.
Help us Lord to learn to love all those around us just as You love us. Help us to ask for Your help. Help us to notice what people around us need. Help us to listen to the Holy Spirit and follow His leading. Help us to be excited by knowing You, just as Peter was, to link in with Your dreams for this world. Help us Lord to live life better so that more people know and feel Your love. Amen
Written by Therese Manning
9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” 14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” 16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. 17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. 19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” 21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?” 22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” 23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. Peter at Cornelius’s House The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.” 27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?” 30 Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”
Cornelius was a Roman officer whose prayers and gifts to the poor were noticed by God. God saw that Cornelius was genuinely seeking after him and trying to live a devout life. It was Peter’s job to explain the gospel of Jesus Christ to Cornelius and those of his household. Easier said than done when Peter was a Jew and Cornelius was a Gentile. Peter received a fresh revelation through a vision of God’s purpose for the Gentiles which he initially didn’t comprehend. Peter obeyed God nonetheless and the understanding came to him and the message of Jesus was shared freely with Cornelius.
Initially Peter did not understand the vision God had presented him with concerning the Gentiles. The bible says he was perplexed and puzzled – he had no clue! Peter’s lack of understanding did not stop him from obeying God though. He knew it was God speaking to him and chose to act when it was contrary to everything he’d ever known. In doing so it became apparent to Peter exactly what God was saying and his part in it. Basically, Peter stepped out in faith. It can be like that for believers today, we know we’ve heard God speak to us about a certain thing but we don’t know where or how it will end. This story encourages me to step out anyway, with what I do know to do. An understanding of why God wants a certain thing may come, it may not. I just need to accept that God is sovereign and obey.
Dear Lord, thank you that you are sovereign and in control, help me to understand what you are saying to me and give me strength to do what you require. Amen
Written by Ps. Ainslie Woods
10 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” 4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.” 7 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. 8 He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.
Here is a classic example of a person fulfilling the purposes that God has for them in their life.
Cornelius has just been asked by God to begin the process that will see Gentiles on equal footing with Jews, a radical shift in thinking for the time. This was a huge assignment and God needed the right person for the job. Why did He choose Cornelius?
Cornelius feared God, and loved others, giving generously to the poor. He was in the habit of praying and was a leader and example of faith within his family. A man of influence perhaps.
Cornelius had the resources that were needed for the job. He was able to despatch men who could travel and collect Peter as required.
Cornelius, as a military man, had been trained and understood the need to follow directions even when you didn’t quite understand or agree. Cornelius didn’t argue that he was the wrong person, didn’t have time or needed to think about it.
Cornelius had the influence within his family to bring them together upon Peter’s return so that they may all sit under the blessing of God and hear the gospel preached, and ultimately receive the Holy Spirit.
Cornelius could never have imagined what he was about to be a part of just as we are never quite sure what God is going to do when he whispers instructions into our hearts each morning as we turn to him. But we can be confident that God has chosen the person with the right heart, resources, training and influence to be able to complete the task …. if we just trust Him and respond with obedience.
Father we ask that you will speak loudly and clearly to us each day, prompting us into action to spread the good news of your love to those we interact with. Help us to be obedient, even when we don’t understand the purpose. Amen
Written by Jocelyn Petschack
32 As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the Lord’s people who lived in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. 34 “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. 35 All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. 36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” 39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. 40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.
There are 2 things in this passage that resonate with me through the ages. Firstly, God ALWAYS puts the right people in the right place at the right time. For both Aeneas and Dorcas, God positioned Peter to do His work. It was after all God not Peter who performed these miracles. Secondly, there is POWER in the NAME OF JESUS. In this passage a man was restored to his mobility, in the second a woman raised from the dead. In both cases where there was death, Jesus bought life and from that God was glorified. So am I open to being positioned by God, to be used by Him? Am I prepared to bring Jesus into all parts of my life, all circumstances so that God can bring life from death and be Glorified? In the times we are currently facing there will be moments when you and I will be that person, called by God.
Lord help me to be your faithful witness. Position and use me Lord so that others may be blessed by you. In the mighty Name of Jesus Amen.
Written by Christine Knight
23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. 26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews,[a] but they tried to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
This is an interesting passage of what it was like for the early church and its struggles to get started. I haven’t ever lived with the likelihood of losing my life for serving Jesus like Paul did. And it is pretty creative thinking to use a basket to escape with. But this was their reality, people were seriously out to kill them for their faith. But the last verse in this passage makes an interesting statement – the church grew stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord.
The church could have been consumed with the fear of man. They could have removed the threat of death by choosing to do what the Jews wanted them to do, but the result of that would have been a weak or non-existent church.
Instead, the church grew stronger as it lived in the fear of the Lord. There is a direct connection between the strength of the church and the church living in the fear of the Lord.
This is not about being afraid of the Lord, instead it is following God 100 percent. Trusting him fully, obeying him completely.
And the same is true in my life. I become stronger when I live in the fear of the Lord and not in fear of people. When I am more concerned about pleasing people or not offending people, then I am usually all over the place, unstable, and weary with worry. But when I settle the issue that Jesus is Lord of my life and I follow him wholeheartedly, then he makes me strong.
Father, forgive me for when I have thought more about what people want me to do, than what you want me to do. You are Lord of my life and today, I choose to serve you.
Written by Andrew Martin
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. 11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” 13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” 17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
As Ananias left the place he was in and walked towards Straight Street, he would no doubt have looked liked anybody else going about their business. But I’m sure that in spite of God’s encouragement, Ananias’ heart was beating fast, his mouth dry, and his palms sweaty as he arrived at Judas’ house and asked for a man from Tarsus named Saul. Quite probably every fibre of his being was telling him to run!
How amazing then that the first thing Ananias does is to place his hands on Saul, and the first two words he says to this man who has been murdering followers of Jesus are, ‘Brother Saul.’ Ananias calls Saul by name, and he calls him brother. Ananias chooses to draw near, in obedience to God, when every natural instinct would be to run away.
I love that in his obedience, Ananias represents God, reaching out and drawing near even as we are at our worst. God, help me to be courageously obedient, and I trust that as I do so you will be gloriously on display. Amen.
Written by Ps. Bethany Waugh
9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” 7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
It’s funny how you can notice something new in a passage of scripture that you have read many times before.
After Saul’s famous dramatic encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was struck blind and instructed to go into the city where he would be told what to do next.
What I noticed was this: for 3 DAYS he was blind and did not eat or drink a thing.
Imagine what it would be like for Saul to sit there blind for 3 days and wonder when (if ever) he was going to find out what was going on, and wondering if he would ever see again.
Isn’t it interesting (and sometimes quite trying) that God makes us wait for His timing. In His instructions to Saul there was no mention of the three days of waiting, and yet God must have deemed it important to have this period of waiting.
This is a good reminder that God’s timing is generally not my timing. But God’s timing is much better than mine, so I need to embrace the wait.
So whether I’ve been waiting 3 days, 3 years or 30 years, I can trust God that He knows what He’s doing and I can rest in His plans.
Thank you Lord that you are much, much wiser than me and I can trust you as I wait for your timing.
Written by Shelley Witt
Phone: +61 2 9875 0300
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Carlingford NSW 2118
PHYSICAL LOCATION SUSPENDED
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NSW, Australia 2118
PHYSICAL LOCATION SUSPENDED
Carlingford High School Hall,
547 North Rocks Rd, Carlingford
NSW, Australia 2118