Wherever you find yourself this week, in local lockdown or not, able to return to toddler groups or not, I hope that God has been speaking to you through this week’s verse. “On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word …
Author: Rachel Ridler
Well hello all the mums out there!!!
Welcome to another week of our Faith on Fire series, looking at the book of Acts. I sit here full of what I can only describe as “freshers flu” from the kids going back to school, as I get ready for the first full week of them being back. It’s been an emotional and exhausting week, as I’m sure lots of you have also experienced. If you’re still stuck at home with a baby or toddler and struggling too as most groups can’t reopen, I feel your pain too! This is such a tough time, so hang in there.
This week we were studying this verse:
“Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 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.” Acts 11:25-26
The first thing you notice about this verse is what Barnabas does. He went and he looked for Saul. He didn’t call for him and expect him to come running, or pray and think that perhaps he would run into him. He had already recognised Paul’s gifting and change of heart and helped him gain acceptance into the Christian circles, but now he goes and actively looks for him. Why you might ask? Surely Barnabas had enough on his plate with his own preaching ministry? Probably could have reached more people if they had divided and conquered and gone their separate ways! I think there are three reasons that God prompts Barnabas to go look for Saul.
- This isn’t a journey we take on our own. We say it a lot that church is a “family” and that we need to be in community. But it’s so true! Life can be tough, and if we want to get through it still loving God then we need others with us. Can you imagine going to a hostile village and being chased out, but not having a friend to cry to about how tough that rejection was? Putting it simply, Paul wouldn’t have survived his ministry on his own, it probably would have broken him. God knew Paul needed a friend to keep him going, and to provide the pattern for his future mission trips (where Paul takes various others with him).
- We all need mentoring in our faith. Paul might have known the Old Testament well, but this new way of faith would have required a bit of adjustment. Barnabas had been believing longer than Paul and so perhaps he felt this draw to Paul to provide him with mentoring and guidance. When we first become Christians our fire and zeal for the faith can be so over-powering that we don’t always do things well! We all need a mentor to guide us and help us calm down/get some perspective and grow in our faith. Perhaps it is only because of the time Barnabas put into mentoring Paul that his preaching was so powerful and effective! But one thing to note is that these young and enthusiastic Christians don’t always think they need mentoring or help, because they are so excited and enthusiastic! Barnabas had to search him out to provide this. So maybe now is the time for us to search out those who could benefit from our mentoring and approach them?
- Sometimes we don’t go to the right places. Paul was in Tarsus. Barnabas brought him to Antioch. We don’t always go to the places God wants us to be! It’s that simple! Learning to listen to God’s calling and where he leads us takes time, and that was a skill Paul had yet to learn. Barnabas had to help him a little with this.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DO THOSE THINGS
The last part of this verse shows me a glimpse of what can happen when we do life with other Christians, submit to mentorship from those older and wiser than us and go to the places God wants us in – we can do great and powerful things in His name and great numbers can become Christians. So my big question this week is – which of those things are you not doing?
I love the prison related stories in Acts, and here is the first one for you to meditate on this coming week:
“So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 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.” Acts 12:5 and 7
Happy Sunday Mummy Meditators!
We are now half way through the summer holidays (apparently!) and into week 10 of this series. And every week this gets more challenging. This week we were meditating on the following verse:
“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.” Acts 8:1-3
What causes people to act in this way?
This week I finished my book and started a new one. Normally I read quite easy things that help me fall asleep, but not this time. The book I have started reading is about a hostage situation inside an abortion clinic, with a slightly crazed gunman. The gunman believed he was doing the right thing, taking action against an something that was threatening his family and way of life. Essentially the only difference between him and those at the clinic were their beliefs on one things – abortion. And yet that was enough for him to act in a violent way against them.
It reminded me of our verse this week, and made me turn it on it’s head. I was focusing on how the new Christians must have felt, the terror going through their minds as they had to flee or be dragged from their homes for what they believed. When instead, God reminded me to think of the others. The Jews who were scared of this new thing they didn’t quite understand, but was threatening their way of life. The people who had climbed their way to power, seeing this new way of life as a threat to all they had worked for.
You see, yes it’s important to understand how the early Christians felt, but actually much more relevant to us is to understand how those on the other side feel when confronted with the powerful truth of the gospel! It is threatening, it demands change and action, whether in a positive or negative way. It can’t be ignored. And whilst I don’t agree that killing and imprisoning the early Christians was right, I do understand why people reacted that way. I can understand Stephen’s reaction last week and Jesus’s words on the cross to forgive them because they don’t really understand. They are just acting out of fear. It’s a reaction, not an understanding.
So this week, instead of concentrating on how lucky we are not to be faced with violence against our beliefs in this part of the world, lets pray for those who are threatened by the gospel, who see their lives at odds with it, and who don’t yet understand. Pray for understanding instead of reaction.
We move on to look at a different early Christian and how he reacts to the move of the Holy Spirit, as we meditate on this verse:
“The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” Acts 8:29-31
Good Evening Mummy Meditators – I hope that this post finds you surviving, or maybe even thriving, in your current phase of lockdown. There’s no doubting that this week’s verse has been a toughy. After weeks of this empowering, exciting faith that we’ve seen in …
Good Morning Mummy Meditators!
This season we have found ourselves in has brought with it lots of news things. Grappling with new things often brings conflicts to the forefront, much as the first Christians found out. And that is the theme of this week’s verse:
“Peter and the other apostles replied: We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead – whom you killed by hanging him on a cross.” Acts 5:29-30
CHANGE BRINGS CHALLENGE
When things change, it forces us to think about what we think and believe. In the time when Jesus was around, his preaching and teaching was SO different to what the people were used to that it challenged people. They were challenged about their own beliefs, about whether they were happy with the old religious ways of doing things, and whether they truly believed that a Messiah was coming. It challenged people on their motives, and whether they were really just protecting themselves and their positions. Challenge either brings growth and new realisations if you accept this the bringer of change, or it brings something else – conflict as it opposes what we belief and want, and resentment at the change maker.
Has lockdown brought growth to us as we reflect and have new realisations, or has it brought resentment and a conflicted heart?
CHANGE BRINGS CONFLICT
In Jesus’ time we clearly saw that Pharisees and Chief Priest resenting the change that Jesus represented and brought, and so they tried to stop it. This is when the conflict started. It became them versus Jesus, ultimately resulting in Jesus’ death. The Pharisees then thought they had won, but then the church was born!! This verse is the result of the church being a change that was unstoppable – God was on it’s side!
I guess you could say that the coronavirus was unstoppable too! It has swept through our country even though we don’t want it and changed things in ways we never expected. We’ve been conflicted when having to choose not to see our families because of it, or angry when we’ve seen others not obeying the rules. We’ve been upset that we cannot meet as church in the way we want to. BUT we can see the heart behind the rules – to protect us and keep people safe.
How has we reacted when lockdown has made us feel conflicted? Have we ever thought that the rules were anti-church or not on God’s side?
CHANGE FORCES US TO DECIDE WHICH SIDE WE WILL STAND ON
The crux of this week’s verse to me is this choice. “We must obey God rather than human beings“. Change certainly forces us to make decisions and decide which side we stand on. Back in Jesus day this was very clearly a choice between Christianity and accepting Jesus as saviour, or rejecting him completely. It was clearly a man vs God situation. Lockdown hasn’t been quite so black and white. We have still been able to worship in many ways, we have had amazing opportunities to serve and love our communities, all whilst obeying the rules set out by our government to stop the virus.
To me, the choice here is to be loving and protect others by following the rules, something that speaks volumes of Jesus’ second greatest commandment “to love others as yourselves”, and to break the rules and be selfish, for our own desires and wants, something that speaks of the human heart condition and desire to rule our own lives. To me it is love vs selfishness. And so if we obey God, who is love, then the choice is simple.
After seeing the conflict this week, we turn to see the reaction from the Pharisees. I found this verse particularly inspiring and surprising, and hope you all do to:
“Therefore, in the present case I advise you: leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” Acts 5:38-39
The lovely Helen Jarman will be leading our Facebook Live discussion this week, so watch the group for announcements on which day/time it will be!