30th April - Acts 28
29th April - Acts 27
28th April - Acts 26
27th April - Acts 25
26th April - Acts 24
25th April - Acts 23
24th April - Acts 22
23rd April - Acts 21
22nd April - Acts 20
21st April - Acts 19
20th April - Acts 18
19th April - Acts 17
18th April - Acts 16
17th April - Acts 15
16th April - Acts 14
15th April - Acts 13
14th April - Acts 12
13th April - Acts 11
9th April - Acts 10
8th April - Acts 9
7th April - Acts 8
6th April - Acts 7
5th April - Acts 6
4th April - Acts 5
3rd April - Acts 4
2nd April - Acts 3
1st April - Acts 2
31st March - Acts 1
30th April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 28
Today we reach the end of Acts and the Apostle Paul's race reaches from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (Rome)!
Throughout we have seen the unstoppable progress of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that's how the narrative ends:
“Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.
He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! (Acts 28.28-31)
Tomorrow we start to read, the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans.
a prayer for today
Pray for those who work in logistics and distribution industries. Pray that they would be efficient in delivering supplies and pray that they would be kept from contagion and thank the Lord for their vital work.
29th April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 27
Paul runs on in his race - to take the gospel of the risen Lord Jesus to the ends of the earth! Having faced countless man made obstacles, he now is hit by a natural disaster (a storm). There are all sorts of parallels here between God's man - Paul and God's man - Jonah (look up Jonah in the OT) but here is the contrast that struck me. Jonah hears God's word calling him to go to speak his word and he runs in the opposite direction. Paul hears the call again, warned repeatedly of the dangers that he'll face and yet he goes. He goes trusting God's word to him - even as he sails straight into a storm!
In the midst of the crisis they face in the boat, it is the word of God that sustains him. In the midst of chaos, fear and stress it is his trust in God's word of promise:
So keep courage, men, for I have faith in God that will happen just as he told me. (Acts 27.25)
I'm challenged by this! I admit I have felt on a number of occasions overwhelmed by the present circumstances - both personally and for us as a church family. But here is a model biblical courage:
- No internal bravado, but trusting God's powerful provision
- No panicked grabbing for security elsewhere, but resting secure. in God's plans
- No despair but sure that God will do as he has said.
a prayer for today
A Prayer of Thanksgiving - Lord, we thank you that the number of new cases in Australia is going down, May this continue to zero, and may the rest of the world have a similar experience. Amen.
28th April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 26
Acts 24-26 detail 3 trials that Paul faced. Each of them revealing more about the gospel of the risen Lord Jesus. Over each of the past 3 days we've focused 1 aspect of the gospel that the trials reveal to us.
Here is the third aspect of the gospel the trials reveal: The trials show that gospel calls everyone to repent.
Have a look at this is two scenes from the trials
1 - Paul before Agrippa and Bernice in chapter 26
Agrippa is a King - self-ruling, morally bankrupt, but his power means he thinks he is free to set his own rules (like our culture) and to seek his own glory. Check out his entrance:
25.23…The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking military officers and prominent men of the city…
In the face of all this glitter and glory…Paul (26.1) raises his hand to begin his defence (not of himself, but of King Jesus):
I speak to great and small at God’s command, to open eyes, to call you to turn from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to the power of God, to receive forgiveness and the hope of resurrection from the dead.
There is the drumbeat of the gospel again - spoken into the glitter and noise of rebellious humanity…
Agrippa’s response, 26.28, Do you think that after such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?
He stands at a distance and above it all. He hears the call - repent! But he misses his moment.
The scene reminds me of Luke 19 and Jesus words as he weeps over Jerusalem…’you didn’t recognise the time of God’s coming to you…’
2 - Paul comes before Felix and Drusilla in chapter 24
Their backstory makes for colourful reading!
Felix was the first slave in the history of the Roman Empire to become a governor. But he made his way by treachery. The historian Josephus described him as ‘a man who often crucified his enemies at such a rate that at times the surrounding hills were filled with his victims…’
Drusilla was Felix’s 3rd wife, her second husband. She’d been married to a king of Syria, but was bored and ended up with Felix, aged 20, noted for her beauty and her craving for power. Her Father killed James (the brother of Jesus), her great uncle killed John the Baptist, her great grandfather was behind the slaughter of innocent babies at the time of Jesus birth.
They’re bored, they ask Paul to come and speak to them - What do you do if you’re Paul? Do you play it safe, protect the brand, win some friends? In Chapter 24.24, we’re told Paul talked of faith in Jesus Christ, but watch closely, 24.25, consider the audience.
3 things Paul spoke to this morally bankrupt power couple:
Righteousness – he speaks straight to this power couple of Jesus, the King’s justice, in the face of their cruel oppression. he speaks straight to this power couple of Jesus, the King’s justice, in the face of their cruel oppression.
Self-control – God called for purity not sin, he says this to a couple who deny themselves nothing.God called for purity not sin, he says this to a couple who deny themselves nothing.
Judgment – he speaks of the inevitable penalty for injustice and immorality.
It is the ultimate contextualised gospel proclamation - speaking of the problem of sin before a rightful judge, rather than a felt need before an itch! Presenting the way to forgiveness and freedom from judgment.
So the call comes to Felix and Drusilla…and 24.25 there is a profound moment of realisation for Felix, and we're told he was afraid. But, then it is gone - That’s enough for now…you may leave…if I have time I’ll call on you again later.
There is no greater tragedy than hearing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ - to have it move your heart, disturb your world view and then, shrug it off.
For Felix and Drusilla the moment came and went. They are like the rich fool that Jesus speaks of - you fool this very night, your life will be required of you.
History records that in AD 79 Drusilla and the party set where holidaying in the resort town of Pompeii, no time for the gospel of King Jesus, she’d shrugged that uneasy feeling off, must have been something I ate! Tonight was for living it up in Pompeii. As the party raged on, there was there was roar in the distance, as Mount Vesuvius exploded and swallowed up Pompeii and all within her.
As Jesus approached the city he wept over it and said, ’If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes, because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.’
a prayer for today
A Prayer of Repentance - Our Father in heaven, forgive is when we put our kingdom, power and glory before yours. Create in us a new heart and new desires. Amen.
27th April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 25
Acts 24-26 detail 3 trials that Paul faced. Each of them revealing more about the gospel of the risen Lord Jesus. Each day, yesterday and over the next 2 days we'll focus 1 aspect of the gospel that the trials reveal to us.
The three chapters are short and worth reading as a 3 chapter until - perhaps each day over the next 2.
Here is the second aspect of the gospel the trials reveal: The trials show that gospel opposition often hides the real issue
Within each trial a rap sheet is produced - a list of Paul’s crimes. Those bringing them view them as incredibly serious (25.7.
The charges can be seen in 24.5-6…
Being a trouble-maker…
Being a ring-leader of a sect (dissident)…
Desecrating the temple…
But, in each trial the case is flimsy and no conviction can be found.
23.29 – There were no charges against him…that deserved death or imprisonment.
25.7 – They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them…
26.31 – This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment…
What the heck is going on? Why is he on trial?
Paul cuts to the chase and unveils the actual issue, under these trumped up charges.
24.21 – ‘It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today…’
26.6 – ‘ And now it is because of my hope that I am on trial today…
What these trials show is that the real offense of the gospel centres on the heart of the gospel – 26.8 - the incredible truth claim that Jesus rose from the dead and (in the words of Acts 17) is King and the rightful judge, before whom we are without excuse.
This is the biblical gospel - Jesus is King, so surrender and obey.
That is our gospel - Jesus is Lord and judge.
It is the reason for its offence, which presents Christians with 1 of 2 dangers:
Either we miss the offence and tinker at the edges of people’s response to us - try to be more friendly, more relevant, more contextualised. But the heart of the offence remains - Jesus is King and calls on everyone everywhere to surrender and obey!
Or, we see the offence of this and we downplay it. Maybe we don't deny Jesus is King and judge, we just don’t make it clear. It’s like the fine print we only want people to know once they’re sold!
Such a witness is useless and any faith it produces is futile (1 Corinthians 15.14-17).
These trials help us be clear that the center of the gospel is the offence of the gospel, but that it is also - 26.23, the hope of the nations!
May we continue to passionately proclaim this light into the darkness…
A Prayer for today
A Prayer for today: Pray for the Police as they adapt to enforcing regularly changing laws and seek to maintain law and order in a time of stress. Pray that they would be granted wisdom, compassion and balance.
26th April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 24
Acts 24-26 detail 3 trials that Paul faced. Each of them revealing more about the gospel of the risen Lord Jesus. Each day, over the next 3 days we'll focus 1 aspect of the gospel that the trials reveal to us.
The three chapters are short and worth reading as a 3 chapter until - perhaps each day over the next 3.
Here is the first aspect of the gospel the trials reveal: The trials show the gospel is about Christ and not Paul.
As each trial occurs a pattern forms. Paul's defence of himself becomes increasingly matter of fact, short and unimportant. But, alongside this he takes every opportunity to shine the spotlight, at length on the person of the risen Lord Jesus.
- the only thing worth his defence is the truth that 'God raises the dead' (24.21)
- He is on trial because God has kept his promise to raise the dead (26.6-8)
- I can testify to both small and great alike...that I am a great guy! No... That: The Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to the world.
Over the course of 3 trials, Paul lives out the vision statement of John the Baptist - he must increase, I must decrease...
He disappears into a crowd of witnesses in the early church, all that can be heard is the battle drum of the gospel:
There is a God. He was raised as king in our world. To Hom we are all accountable. From him forgiveness is available. And he calls us out of the dark into the light of his people!
A prayer for today
Pray for doctors and nurses and all those directly involved in this tiring and stressful season. May they be granted wisdom, strength and protection. Amen.
25th April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 23
We come to the end of a remarkable period of ministry of Paul in Jerusalem. All of which testifies to the sovereignty of our God and the unstoppable path of the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We saw back in in Acts 21 Paul was compelled to go to Jerusalem (just as Jesus was). Each has a different outcome and yet each outcome is clearly in God's control.
Paul enters and travels through Jerusalem like a pinball shot into a pinball machine bouncing (seemingly) chaotically everywhere - seized, dragged and beaten by a wiled crowd; threatened be white hot anger; stripped to be flogged by the Romans; almost ripped to pieces by the Jewish authorise; and it the target of a binding oath to kill him.
Each time there seems no way through, and yet he is rescued. God's sovereign purposes prevail. His chosen instrument to announce the gospel of his Son to the ends of the earth travels on.
These chapters should strengthen our confidence that God is on his throne and his mission is rolling out as he plans. It should also bring us to our knees in prayer - does my trust in God's sovereignty lead me to prayer? If not, I am making the mistaken assumption that I am controlling events.
These chapters are written to real to us God is King and he can be trusted.
a prayer for today
A prayer for Anzac Day - God of love and liberty, we bring our thanks today for the peace and security we enjoy. We remember those who in time of war faithfully served their country. Make us people zealous for peace and hasten the day when nation shall not lift sword against nation. This we pray in the name of the one who gave his life for the sake of the world; Jesus Christ, our redeemer. Amen.
24th April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 22
Paul, now in Jerusalem, facing opposition, as the Holy Spirit had warned him - he is under arrest, but now has opportunity to defend himself before the Jewish crowd.
His speech is remarkable, given the audience.
He begins by citing his strong Jewish identity as his credential. He also cites his religious zeal. But, then all of that is undermined as he retells the story of his conversion - when the risen Christ confronts him.
What is fascinating is that while at first his defence follows a predicable pattern - using his identity and his achievements as evidence - his defence in the end is simply to tell the story of how none of that matters, that the reality that changed his life was meeting and surrendering to Jesus as Lord.
Ask Paul to defend his Christianity and he will simply tell you the story of his becoming a Christian - a story where all the initiate is God's not his.
I wonder if you were asked to make a defence for why you are a Christian or to attempt apologetic reasoning to convince someone of the legitimacy of your Christian faith, where would you start. An appeal to reason, a series of philosophical tactics, a citing of all the evidence. All of this may help. But, I am struck that the heart of Paul's defence (echoing the woman in John 2) 'come meet the man who told me everything I ever did' could this be the Messiah. His defence is to speak of Jesus, to tell story of when his life collided with the life of the Son of God and he bowed his knee.
We each have a story to tell of our own moment of repentance and faith before the Lord Jesus. For most of us, it is not as dramatic as Paul's, and for some of us it is a story not of one moment but a lifetime. But, whatever our story. The heart of it is this. It is not about who I am, or where I have come from, or what I have done. My story is of God's work through his Son. Come meet the man!
a prayer for today
Pray for families separated by current travel restrictions.
23rd April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 21
Paul is convicted to go to Jerusalem and after that Rome (19.21). This conviction grows so that he is both compelled and warned by the Spirit (20.22-23) of the trials that await him there. Back in Acts 1.8 we were told that the gospel of Jesus must reach the ends of the earth; Rome was about as far west as you could go, apart from Spain (which was also in Paul's sights - Rom 15.24,28).
But here in Acts 21 as he sets his face for Jerusalem we watch as his steps follow those of the Lord Jesus. Who himself set his face for Jerusalem, in spite of the trial that awaited (Luke 9.51).
The events of Acts 21 have an unnerving parallel with the garden of Gethsemane (in the hours before Jesus trial in Jerusalem).
Paul goes to Jerusalem at the call of the Spirit and the promise of what awaits (as Jesus did)
Paul is urged not to go, but to choose an easier path (as Peter urged Jesus) but he goes, for the name of Jesus.
Paul sets his path to go 'according to will of God the Father' (as Jesus did in that garden).
Here in vivid colour is the truth behind the Apostle Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 11.1, follow me, as I follow Christ.
a prayer for today
A prayer of thanksgiving - We thank you Lord that you are not restricted to time and space. We bless you that your Church is through all ages and in all places. We bless you for our church that now meet in our homes and that we can all be connected, not only by technology, but much more by your Spirit. May we know His presence and peace. Amen.
22nd April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 20
Paul's farewell and final words to the church in Ephesus is incredibly moving - in it we see the profound bonds that are formed when ministry is shared together in a local church (20.36-38). It is a wrench for Paul to leave and a wrench for them to see Him go...
His final words to them focus on committing them to the word of God's grace, that can carry them all the way to their eternal home - where they will meet again (20.32).
Within the speech are four characteristics of Paul's life. it shows us what life looks like when it is shaped by the word of grace.
A word shaped life has a bent knee (v.19)
serving the Lord with all humility
A word shaped life has a broken heart (v.19)
Serving the Lord with all humility and with tears
A word shaped life has a higher purpose (v.22-24)
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.
A word shaped life has a watchman's stance (v.28-31)
I feel this one acutely. here is my job description at St Andrew's.
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.
So let us be a church that knows the power of God's word of grace to reshape life.
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.
A prayer for today
A prayer of confession - Lord we confess our neglect of you and especially our worship of you. We have taken our freedoms and blessings so much for granted. And now that we are not able to meet together in public, we realise how much we have missed. We repent of our carelessness and negligence and look forward to encouraging one another by meeting together soon. Amen.
21st April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 19
Acts 19.11-20 is a truely bizarre story. As Paul ministers in Ephesus and as God did extraordinary miracles through Paul (19.11) it seems others want to get on the miracle making act. Seven sons of Sceva try their hand performing miracles - trying to use Jesus name as some magic formula. As if Jesus would serve at their beck and call. But it backfires badly. Instead the evil spirit they were seeking to remove, turns on them and says 'Jesus I know and Paul I know, but who are you?' - the evil spirit then beats them up for good measure.
In comparison, Paul (who has come to know the mighty reality that Jesus is King) serves Jesus, not the other way around. And the impact of this humble, servant ministry is incredible (19.17-19)- In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power (19.20).
I am struck by how easy it is to want to make an impact in Jesus name, for our own name's sake! In the end it is a futile ministry. We may become 'known' by our peers but, the powers of evil in this world are not in any way awed by such pomp (who are you?)
I am struck by the fact that the evil principalities in this world are well aware of who Jesus is and his power. And strikingly, they are also aware of the power of humble ministry that serves Jesus (Paul I know...)
a prayer for today
Pray for the government’s medical advisors. Pray for wisdom, honestly and good science.
20th April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 18
David Livingstone was a 19th century doctor and missionary from Scotland, who pushed north from South Africa through the continent of Africa, where he could see ‘the smoke of a thousand villages’ without the gospel. The cause would eventually take his life.
His famous quote, which typifies his relentless commitment was this:
I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward.’
And yet, much of his work indicated there was plenty of reason to retreat. But whatever came his cry remained - forward!
In the book of Acts we watch the Apostle Paul on mission, and he has the same approach.Paul continues to devote himself to proclaiming the message of the Lord Jesus Christ -
That God has revealed himself in his Son…
Who came to die to bring forgiveness of sins…
Who rose as King, the promised Messiah, our saviour
The judge, calling on all people everywhere to repent and believe, that they may be saved.
Time and time again, as he proclaimed that message, first to the Jews (18.5), he finds his message rejected and maligned (19.9).
And yet, his response remains - forward!
What of us, and the task God sets before us, going with Christ to make disciples in his world? It is hard and frustrating work; especially at the moment!
And yet, Livingstone and Paul say, forward!
In Acts 18, after Paul’s message is rejected by the Jews in Corinth, we read this, so Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God (18.11).
Why? Because Paul knows what we must learn - our King Jesus calls us forward!
Paul, after being rejected again in Corinth - lying on the mat, despondent - and this comes… the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” (18.9-10)
Don’t be afraid - the Lord’s most common command! And why, because of his most common answer, I am with you! So don’t be afraid, keep on speaking, don’t be silent.
Proclaim the name of Jesus Christ as Lord.
Why? Because, ’I have many people in this city…’ (18.10)
How good is this! As we go forward, the Lord goes before us. While many reject, the Lord knows those who are his, those he has purposed to come to him and find forgiveness and life.
You can almost imagine Paul there, lying in his bed, catching this vision, remembering that he too once rejected this message and that other disciples would have been told to keep pushing forward, for the Lord was not done yet. He had more people, people like Paul. Now Paul was being called to do the same, don’t be afraid, keep speaking. Don’t be silent, I am with you, I have many people yet.
He has them in our city too…do you believe that?
a prayer for today
Pray for our youth leaders, who have the difficult task of connecting with the youth online in a way that keeps encouraging and caring for them, in a time of anxiety and stress.
19th April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 17
Just the most magnificent sermon from the Apostle Paul to the melting pot of worldview gathered around the Areopagus in Athens. Please take time to read it - Acts 17.22-31 and the response Acts 17.32-34.
Here is Don Carson's take on the sermon:
In a world of finite gods (often supported by one pantheistic deity), cyclical views of history, sub-biblical understandings of sin, multiplied idolatry, dualism that declares all material to be bad and all that is spiritual to be good, tribal deities, and not a little superstition, Paul paints a worldview of the true God, a linear view of history, the nature of sin and idolatry, impending judgment, the unity of the human race and the oneness of God.
a prayer for today
Pray that each of would personally know the peace of God which passes all understanding.
18th April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 16
I am struck by how sovereign God is in regards to the mission of the gospel of the Lord Jesus. He directs the path, not us. How humbling and vital that is for a minister and for a church family to grasp - we can plan and decide regarding the future of our mission together as a church family, but God is the master and commander of this mission.
In Acts 16 we watch as he closes down paths the Apostle Paul plans to walk down (Acts 16.6,7) and then we watch has he opens up new paths that are unexpected and previously unseen, but urgent (acts 16.9-10).
So let us walk on in the mission of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, but let us do so humbly, knowing he may close paths we plan to walk down. And let us do so obediently, knowing he may yet open paths that are unexpected and previously unseen, but urgent.
What and exciting and daunting thought...We will need to trust him and rely on his mighty arm of grace!
a prayer for today
Pray for the USA - now the epicentre of the COVID-19 virus.
17th April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 15
I'm not particularly a fan of boxing, but there is a term used in boxing which I like - the forgotten arm. It is used to describe a powerful and unexpected force that comes to win the fight. A boxer keeps jabbing away with one arm, so much that the opponent forgets that there is another arm, and then then BOOM, without warning, at just the right time, the forgotten arm swings into action with the knockout blow.
Acts 15 speaks of God's forgotten arm - his mighty grace! That in the Lord Jesus, God has come into this world to take up the fight to restore a broken world. And his grace brings a victory so substantial that it wins salvation not just for one nation - Israel - but this whole world.
The chapter details a sharp dispute in the early church where the question was raised - is God's salvation just for the Jewish nation or is it for all nations? In other words, if someone from another nation was to experience God's salvation they would have to become a Jew and do the good works that jews were called to do - in order to follow God.
What becomes clear in the chapter is that the Jewish Christians (who were insisting the Gentiles become Jews) had forgotten how the arm of God's grace had rescued them too. They were not restored because of their practices, they were saved by grace alone (as had been foretold in Amons 9.11; Acts 15.16). For the nations to be saved they would be relying on that same mighty arm of grace to restore them too (Amos 9.12; Acts 15.17. Salvation comes by grace alone.
No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are... Acts 15.11
The chapter calls us not to forget God's arm of grace is why we have been restored.
The chapter calls us not to forget that God's arm of grace is still at work in our nation, as it is across our world.
a prayer for today
Praise God that in the midst of darkness and despair he has given us the good news of Jesus that is for all the world.
16th April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 14
Two things that struck me from my reading of Acts 14.
First - The relentless and consistent kindness of God, which acts as a testimony calling people to turn from worshipping worthless things to worship the living God who provides all things (Acts 14.14-17). In contrast the relentless inconsistency of humans, at one point mistakenly worshipping Paul and the other disciples and the next turning on them.
Second - The insight it gives into the shape and cost of gospel ministry, the all sufficient power of God, and the comfort and encouragement of fellowship (Acts 14.19-20)
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.
But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city.
These verses bring 2 Corinthians 4.7-12 to my mind where the Apostle Paul says:
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
a prayer for today
Let us confess our greed and materialism; our striving to be rich so that we can feel independent. Help us see all good gifts come from you and we have not earned them. Help us to be good stewards with the gifts you give.
15th April 2020 - Bible reading - Acts 13
3 things strike me in this passage:
1. The growing diversity of the early church. As the word of the Lord spread throughout the regions people from many different cultural, national and class backgrounds are gathered into the church (including Simon called Niger - probably an African slave (now a church leader), Lucius of Cyrene (of Greek background) and Manaean the noble (from Herod's own court).
2. We have another wonderful summary of the the long promised gospel of the Lord Jesus - foretold in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus (Acts 13.16-41)
3. A wonderful expression of conversion to Christian faith (that reminds us that it is the Lord's work and power, not ours) - When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honoured the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
A Prayer for today
Pray for those in the ‘gig’ economy - those who don’t have job security and now have no source of income
14th April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 12
An action packed chapter shining a light on the mighty power of God at work to defend those who serve him, the primacy of wholehearted prayer by the church (especially for those who are persecuted), the abject evil of Herod and the justice of the living God.
But above all, the chapter continues the story of what God is doing in our world.
“But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.” Acts 12.24
I’m particularly struck by the passionate prayer the church undertakes for those under attack for their faith. Let us be a church that does that for Christians under attack in our world. Here are some links to give you a sense of what’s going on and what to pray for:
A Prayer for today
Pray that we would know the health, blessing, protection and presence of the Lord.
13th April 2020 - Bible reading - Acts 11
Last Thursday we saw the first of two conversions in Acts 10-11 (Cornelius). Today we come to a second - the Apostle Peter! The man God use to convert Cornelius.
Acts 11 shows that sometimes in the progress of the gospel from churches to communities and to the nations, sometimes it is necessary to convert the church first!
Peter had to learn that. And we with him - without it we will not be curved out in mission to the community, especially to other cultures - instead we will be a holy huddle.
Statistics says that Sydney Anglican churches in a holy huddle phase - significant growth in past decades, now bunkered down. Most growth in Sydney churches comes from transfer growth - like moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic. Statistics say that only 16% of Christians in churches are able and active in sharing their faith and most of our churches that don’t reflect the diversity of the city.
Therefore Acts 11 is immensely helpful and confronting. The church in Acts is on mission from Jerusalem, Judea and to the ends of the earth, but somewhere around Jerusalem, it has got stuck. Eventually we will see the word of the Lord Jesus Christ surge forward relentlessly, but it will take 2 dramatic catalysts - persecution and conversion of the church. It is conversion of the church that is on view here.
As we meet Peter in chapters 1-11 he is a key leader in the early church, he represents where they are up to in that mission. Radical change had come early to these men and women of the church, but they will still coming to terms with it. The implications of the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus were still being worked out. They knew a few big ideas:
- They knew Jesus was God’s Messiah
- They knew Jesus died to bring forgiveness
- They knew faith in Jesus was the way into God’s kingdom…
- They knew the HS came to dwell on those who trusted Jesus…
But, as you read through Acts, they are wrestling with each other about how to practically apply these gospel realities What about worship in the temple? What about circumcision? What about the nations?
Acts shows us that it is possible to neglect the mission, because of our desire to stay as we are, to keep things consistent. It is easy to become a closed fellowship - a bunker where things that are different and diverse and changing in our community don’t affect our gatherings. Especially when it comes to the diversity of nations and cultures around us. We must ask ourselves why doesn’t our church reflect the diversity of our community, are we afraid of change, unsure how or if we should connect, if it means disrupting OUR community, OUR huddle?
We must ask - given what we know of the word of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, what changes yet need to come upon us, what territories of our hearts, that hold latent xenophobia, even bigotry need to submit to the one who is (10.36) Lord of all!?
Are we prepared to live in such a way that the only offence that we leave in place in our churches is the offence of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ? Will we hold loosely to customs and comforts, in order to speed on the gospel in this city, to the nations in this city?
The diversity of how the mission plays out in the book of Acts is an indicator of the need to be flexible. We are to guard the gospel, as the unchangeable. But in respect to how we reach different cultures, with that message, we are to be open and adaptable.
That is the challenge before us in Wahroonga. It is worth asking – what are the personal barriers and fears here? What are the examples of hidden bigotry that may not show themselves in overt action, but rather in aversion - aversion to difference, to discomfort, to change?
A prayer for today
Pray for Christian and other charitable organisations who may find themselves in a position of laying off staff due to lack of income. May the Lord richly provide for them.
9th April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 10
Acts 10-11 describe the conversion of two men - Cornelius the religious man, interested in the things of God and Peter the disciple. Today, see the conversion of Cornelius.
Cornelius is described as a god fearer, a man who takes religion seriously, who is spiritual, engaged in the things of God. The question that Acts 10 asks is, does that make him OK with God? The emphatic answer is no. Cornelius, despite all his god fearing religiosity needed 3 things:
- He needed to be forgiven (10.43)
- He needed to be saved (11.14)
- He needed a new life (11.18)
None of these things can come from simply being interested and engaged in religious matters and the things of God. It comes from coming to Jesus in repentance and faith (2.38) as there is no other name by which we can be saved and forgiven into this new life.
That's Cornelius' conversion. We'll come to Peter's conversion in Acts 11, after Easter. The next 3 daily readings will be taken from 1 Peter 3.18. A great verse to memorise to share with others this Easter.
a prayer for today
A prayer from the old Anglican Book of Common Prayer - Mighty Father, look graciously on our church family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and given up into the hands of wicked men, to suffer death on the cross; but who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
8th April 2020 - Bible reading - Acts 9
A significant portion of the New Testament was written by the Apostle Paul, writing 'God breathed' (2 Tim 3.16)words to the church throughout the nations that it may be built in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Here in Acts 9 we see the moment this man's life is turned around. We see the power of the Lord Jesus to change a life. Saul (who will be called Paul) begins by breathing murderous threats against the church (9.1) but by 9.27 this same man is preaching fearlessly in the name of Jesus. I encourage you to read the verses in between to see the power of God to change a life - a life he has set aside to be his chosen instrument to carry my name before the nations (9.15).
Also notice that the church, that has suffered a sustained period of persecution and pain, now enjoys a a time of peace...strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit...it grew in numbers, living in fear of the Lord (9.31).
a prayer for today
Praise God for the wonders of modern technology - that we are able to connect, share and support each other through these means.
7th April 2020 - Bible reading - Acts 8
The chapter details the evil and upheaval that is directed towards the gospel of the Lord Jesus and the people of that gospel. But, again, we see God using what was intended for evil, for good - world changing, life changing good.
We watch as a murderous man leads the charge of persecuting the church (Saul). This same man is about to meet the one who he has taken on - the risen Lord Jesus. He will never be the same (Acts 9).
We watch as this fledgling church is blown apart and each Christian is scattered throughout the surrounding region. Each one of them scattered like a seed, seeds of the gospel which is planted wherever they go - new life comes up wherever they go. The whole region is full of the gospel. What Saul had intended for evil, God turned for the good.
The chapter ends with the life changing nature of the gospel in full focus - one man, an Ethiopian having this gospel explained to him by one of these scattered Christians.. He reads of God's promises of old (Isaiah 53) he sees that fulfilled in the life of Jesus, and comes to repentance and faith. He leaves 'rejoicing on his way'. That's what the gospel does.
I wonder how the Lord might use this season we are in, scattered as we are, to sow more gospel seeds through us. I wonder whom he has put in your path.
a prayer for today
Pray for churches as they prepare for online Easter services - that many (who do not yet trust Jesus) will connect with the gospel this Easter.
6th April - Bible Reading - Acts 7
Please take the time to read this chapter. If you wanted a clear summary of the story of God's people - Israel - here it is.
Acts 7 is, in fact, 3 stories in 1.
It is the story of God's relentless grace to his people and to this world - he is utterly faithful to his promise to bless, even in the face unfaithfulness and sin.
It is the story of God's people and humanity's failure to listen to God's word of promise to bless - and the tragic choice to reject that blessing and instead choose curse.
It is the story (through the last moments of a man's life - Stephen) of what it looks like to open your heart to the word of God's promise to bless, and cling to it, even in the face of death.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
I can't wait to meet Stephen!
I can't wait to meet the man, who stood there as Stephen was stoned to death, approving of his murder (Acts 8.1). But more about him soon...He's part of the same 3 in 1 story...
a prayer for today
Pray for those involved in the media - that they would provide clear and accurate information - without sensationalising or avoiding the situation.
5th April 2020 - Bible reading - Acts 6
The unstoppable progress of the gospel has led to a rapid increase in the number of those who have come to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesu Christ.
With that growth has come immense need - practical needs - people were being overlooked, something had to be done. But, do you notice how the apostles will not be swayed from their primary role - witnessing to the risen Lord Jesus by proclaiming that news and praying for God's Spirit to change hearts.
However, in remaining committed to this primary role, they are equally committed to making sure that the church is marked by meeting practical needs. So people are chosen for this vital task - people like Stephen, full of God's grace, God's spirit and the wisdom that comes from heeding God's voice. Practical love is to be done by those who's hearts are shaped by the word God speaks.
Notice too, that Stephen - even though his primary job is to make sure food is distributed to those who need it - still speaks God's word. In fact he does so with such power and wisdom that it lands him in trouble.
We'll come to that trouble and his response tomorrow. We finish today's passage, with Stephen arrested, in trouble, but beaming (literally) at the chance to speak!
a prayer for today
A prayer from the old Anglican Book of Common Prayer - Oh God, who knows us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the fragility of our nature we cannot always stand upright; grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
4th April 2020 - Bible reading - Acts 5
An action packed chapter in which we see the seriousness of sin, the power of the name of Jesus and the futility of fighting against God. I am struck by the way this chapter reveals to us the bigger realities at play in the details of life:
- For Ananias and Sapphire they sinned thinking that no one saw, but what they did was seen by God and was an act not just against the church but against God. What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God” (Acts 5.4).
- For the religious authorities they thought they had the power to lock down the progress of the proclamation of the gospel, but God broke open the door so that this news of new life in Jesus could be heard loud and clear (Acts 5.19-20). In the end they are left to conclude: 'if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.' It is a fight that cannot be won. The apostles fill Jerusalem with teaching about Jesus (Acts 5.28). The news about King Jesus is unstoppable (Acts 5.42).
a prayer for today
Praise God that the death rate for COVID-19 appears to be lower than other coronavirus’s. Praise God for those who serve with skill and faithfulness in caring for the sick.
3rd April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 4
The story of the man healed (Acts 3) continues to makes waves and once again, it is the power of the name of Jesus that comes to the fore.
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
How unstoppable are God's purposes - Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom we crucified, but whom God raised from the dead? Jesus Christ, the only name by which we must be saved.
All our hope is in him. How good it is to know that God's plan of salvation in Jesus cannot be thwarted by any season, any plan, anyone.
Let us be prayerful that the mighty name of Jesus, whom God raised from the dead, would be heard around our world in online Easter services this coming week!
a prayer for today
Pray for our church leaders (at St Andrew’s and throughout our city and world) - to have wisdom unity and courage to proclaim Christ and call people to repentance and faith.
2nd April - Bible Reading - Acts 3
A chapter that begins with a powerful picture of the difference faith in the name of Jesus makes - a lame man begging for silver and gold receives so much more, in the name of Jesus rise up and walk!
A man whose life was marked by weakness and powerlessness is restored to strong life (v.16) by faith in the power of the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (v.16).
Acts reminds us of the power of the name of Jesus - it is name by which God is moving people from death to life, from brokenness to full restoration (v.16).
Why is the name of Jesus so powerful?
- The name of Jesus is powerful because he is the author of life (v.15).
- The name of Jesus is powerful because God raised him from the dead (v.15).
- The name of Jesus is powerful because he is God's promised King, who would come to bring blessing to all the world (vv.17-26).
- The call of the gospel is to repent and believe (v.19).
a prayer for today
Pray for our government (Federal and State) - for wisdom in their decisions and compassion to be mindful of the most vulnerable and needy.
1st April 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 2
A chapter all about the unstoppable power of the news that Jesus was raised and is now ascended as King and judge forever. A few things that struck me from the chapter:
This news is for all - fulfilling God's plan to bless all nations (Gen 12.1-3) and reversing the curse of babel (Gen 11) where the nations tried to unite together against God and he confounded their language. Here instead of confusion and confoundment we have clear language that is clear - and unites the nations gathered - uniting them by God's Spirit and under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This unity is the only lasting hope our world has.
This news is joyful, powerful and unshakable (2.25-28) it is founded on the sure and certain resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is founded under Jesus Christ, now ascended as King and judge. Here is the throne to come to now in an hour of need.
This news brings growth - It leads people to repent and believe in Jesus and find find this joyful, powerful and unshakable life and salvation in him. Pray that God growths his church though this season of distancing.
This news leads a church to love meeting together to be taught this news, to share in it together and to praise the God who has brought salvation. May this season of distance grow in us a longing to gather again when we are able and not to take it for granted and approach it casually.
a prayer for today
In this season, let us confess our sin and pride, and humble ourselves before the Lord.
31st March 2020 - Bible Reading - Acts 1
Acts tells the story of the unstoppable progress of the gospel of the risen Lord Jesus. We can trace our own hearing and receiving of the gospel to the events described in this book. Hear Luke (who gave us the account of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection in Luke’s gospel) carries on the story of how the risen Jesus was witnessed to - from Jerusalem the very needs of the earth (1.8), even as far as Sydney!
At the heart of this chapter is the simple task given to the apostles (witnesses to the risen Lord Jesus) - they were to share what they had seen, they were to tell all the world that Jesus is Lord. Our faith, and our own witness is build on this initial testimony, which was not based on a hunch, but the empirical evidence of ‘many convincing proofs (1.3).
Of course the power of their testimony and the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth was powered not by their strategies, intellect or effort, it was powered by God’s very Spirit given to them to declare these things. The spread and growth of the gospel is by God’s power not ours. It was then, it is now. It is not shackled by ‘lockdowns’ and ‘social distancing’. In fact, as we will see in this book, God uses the scattering of his people to spread this news even more. Let us pray he will use this season we are in to spread the news that Jesus is Lord further again.
a prayer for today
Pray for those on the ‘front line’ of caring for people affected by the COVID-19 virus.